Style Mod - Retrospective

In mid-2010, CutmanMike held a friendly competition at the ZDoom Forums: the second Doom Mutator Contest. The objective of said contest was to make a mod - however complex - that in its base format, includes no additional graphics, sounds, or maps. The only permitted lumps are ZDoom's own code lumps (Decorate, ACS, Textures, etc). Having missed the contest the first time it came around in 2009, I decided it was time I get in on the action, but I lacked inspiration until I came upon Xaser's entry in said contest, "Parkour". Xaser's mod creatively manipulated the default Doom weapon graphics (mainly simple things like mirroring the pistol sprite for dual-wielding) using the Textures lump, ZDoom's more powerful text-based replacement for the antiquated and error-prone TEXTURE1 and TEXTURE2 lumps from vanilla Doom.

Well, Xaser might have added reloading, dual-wielding and wall-jumping to his mod, I told myself, but he didn't bring things to their next logical step: doing ridiculous things with Textures. Thus, Style Mod was (re)born.

The "original" Style Mod was a conceptual test for me. I had one and a half weapons imported (I was lacking for graphics for stylish weapons, and at the time I didn't feel like finishing the "default" weapon, the Mauser pistol), but the concept was realized. That concept was that all weapons have unlimited ammo, but their alternate fires cost Style Points, something that I somewhat borrowed from the 2002 FPS game, Dead Man's Hand (except DMH's guns still used ammo). When I was hurting for ideas for my Mutator, I dove into my unfinished mods and elected to borrow the concept from that unfinished "ww-style!.wad" that just happened to be sitting there.

Style Mod's six weapons all have unlimited ammo. Even the "ultimate" weapon, the Swarmer Launcher, costs no ammo to fire. Having all six weapons never run out of ammo was difficult to balance - I'm so used to dealing with Doom's default ammo pickups that this was a new thing for me. Most of the balance here comes from earlier lessons: damage from "free" weapons (stuff you get at the start of the game) was less than damage from stuff acquired later, and damage from infinite-ammo weapons was also less. Initial tests, though, proved this didn't quite work for a concept where all weapons could fire endlessly. So what I did was set them roughly to the same damage Doom's equivalent weapons would do, but altered their behavior to make each weapon unique.

And each weapon truly is unique. The new Pistol fires as fast as you can click the trigger (the only weapon that is not automatic) and its alternate fire doesn't do any additional damage but does spew bullets in bursts, for a somewhat quicker fire rate. Initially, I had the pistol even firing at the same rate as Doom's, just with a smoother animation due to my heavy abuse of the Offset tags, but I decided it was more fun (and made the pistol more useful) if I made it a true semi-automatic. Initially, I'd used Textures to mirror the pistol sprites to be right-handed, but I decided it was more "stylish" if Doomguy were deliberately using his off-hand to fire the pistol. To quote a certain Commando from a certain popular strategy game series, "Ha, that was left-handed!"

The Tech Laser does about the same damage as the pistol, but is a projectile weapon (thus its shots take time to arrive) and it is fully automatic (but not particularly fast). What makes it stand out, however, is its ability to fire in five-shot waves, making it function roughly as the original shotgun does, but with the twist of its quick firing rate and a wider angle to encourage the player to get closer and letting loose with it. The Tech Laser was designed to be the go-to weapon for lovers of shotgun-like (but not necessarily actual shotgun) weapons, such as Heretic's crossbow. This sprite seems to have impressed the most people; I basically managed to make an entirely new graphic by merely using Textures to hack off the left and right edges of the BFG 9000 and stitch them together, and only later adding a carrying hand to it (Doom 2's super shotgun reload frame). The sound, used in Doom 2 for the secret Commander Keen's pain sound, always used to bug me in the base game - I played Commander Keen when I was 4, see, and that sound had since been burned into my mind as the sound Keen's ray gun made when fired. So I brought it back to its roots by setting it as the Tech Laser's firing sound. (This has the amusing side effect of making the Tech Laser scream in pain if you play TVR!.wad with it, and making it speak cartoon language if you use Freedoom.)

The Dual Neutron Disruptor, an idea I borrowed from Apogee's cult-classic FPS, Blake Stone, is the mod's "chaingun." It is a hitscan weapon with a relatively fast rate of fire, tight accuracy, and the additional aesthetic benefit of a neat plasma spark effect. Its alternate fire does away with the alternating barrels and just fires both barrels at once - that ended up being kind of an underwhelming alternate fire, so I doubled its damage as well. The DND is the second cheapest thing you can do with your Style Points. The graphic for this was probably the simplest in concept, but has probably the most amount of frames, due to my perfectionism and wanting to make the barrels move smoothly.

What I suspect will be the fan favorite is the Triple Shotgun. Doom mods always seem to do quad shotguns (even Parkour is no exception; it just splits the quad into a pair of doubles), so I decided to fill the perceived gap by introducing the triple shotgun. It can fire three shots before reloading, or with the alt fire, blow all three barrels at once. Its severe lack of accuracy pretty much relegates this to the realm of "melee weapon." Fun fact: I wasn't able to make the single shotgun barrel mix well with the super shotgun's, so I started looking through Doom2.wad's resources to get inspiration - I eventually borrowed a single column of pixels from one texture to use as "borders" for the top barrel.

The Overkill Cannon was the last weapon I built for Style Mod, and certainly the one that seems to see the least usage due to how extremely specialized it is. It fires two miniguns, spraying untold amounts of ammo down-range over a huge arc, with the sole drawback being that the player must stand completely still while it is firing (in the text file, I argued that it would be a physical impossibility to run while firing it anyway). The alternate fire makes it fire even faster, at the cost of draining your entire Style Points pool over the course of five seconds. I honestly find the concept of a weapon designed purely to stun-lock enemies with pure bullet spam to be hilarious, so I personally use the weapon at any opportunity I find (particularly against Arch-Viles). Even despite its tendency to stun-lock anything that crosses its path, I still don't advise using it against the Cyberdemon, since if it manages to break free from the stun long enough to even launch a single rocket at you, it could be the end for you.

And finally we have the Swarmer Launcher, effectively the game's ultimate weapon (since I completely disabled the BFG, making some crack in the readme file about it being "Schroedinger's BFG"). Primary fire launches a spread of five rockets that intelligently seek out the nearest target within their own visual range. This is thanks to ZDoom's SMF_PRECISE homing method, which unfortunately meant at the time that users had to update to an SVN build of ZDoom (which confused a lot of people who refused to run "beta" software, and one unfortunate person that wanted to run it in Skulltag). Alternate fire is my favorite part, though: what they of the TVTropes community would refer to as a Macross Missile Massacre. Holding the alt-fire button causes your Style Points to drain. When the trigger is released, the Swarmer Launcher will fire as many missiles as the Style Points you charged it with, up to 100. In very wide-open maps, it is often fun to charge this to maximum and release the payload into the air, causing the missiles to rain down on the group from above, in what I can only effectively call a reenactment of the Persian archer division from "300."

Probably my proudest achievement with Style Mod is also the most subtle - notice the item that replaces the Chainsaw. It's a rather pixelated pair of sunglasses. Those weren't in any of the Doom IWAD files. So how'd I do it? Again, there are NO new graphic resources in ww-style.pk3 - this is all from Textures definitions. I found two textures in Doom2.wad that had the colors I wanted (black and white) and then proceeded to draw the sunglasses in as small a canvas as I could without it looking too ugly. I could easily have made the graphic larger and more detailed, but I opted not to waste a lot of time - I had a concept to prove. So yeah - stylish sunglasses with no additional lumps required. Though the concept really has limited uses in more practical mods, it certainly allowed me to "bend" the rules for the mutator contest.

Hoo. I love writing these retrospectives, but they are tiring!

Download Style Mod from /idgames archive