Mini Review: “Doom: The Golden Souls” (WAD for “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “GZDoom”)

2015 Artwork Doom The Golden Souls Review sketch

Well, since I’ve been playing a lot of “Tyrian 2000” and “Rise Of The Triad: Dark War” recently, I seem to have neglected “Doom II” somewhat :(

So, I thought that I’d rectify this sad situation by taking a quick look at a WAD for “Doom II” called “Doom: The Golden Souls“.

Before I go any further, I should probably point out that I played the “Definitive edition 1.2” of this WAD using the “GZDoom” source port . Plus, at the time of writing this review, I’ve only had time to play about ten levels of this WAD – so, this will be more of a “first impressions” article than a full review.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Doom: The Golden Souls”:


“Doom: The Golden Souls” is a multi-level WAD that seems to be based on “Super Mario 64“.

Although I played “Super Mario 64” a couple of times when I was a kid, I didn’t actually own a copy of it. So, instead, I have many fond memories of playing “Super Mario World” on the SNES. Even so, I was a little bit curious about the idea of a Mario-themed “Doom” WAD.

One cool thing about “Doom: The Golden Souls” is that it has a short optional “Mario Paint”-style animated intro movie that you can watch, which explains the game’s backstory.

Yay! Aren't the UAC adorable?

Yay! Aren’t the UAC adorable?

In short, UAC have been working on a project to make paintings come to life – however, as you may have guessed, they end up accidentally opening a portal to hell instead. The monsters that emerge from the paintings also steal several valuable “golden souls” and it is up to the Doomguy to retrieve them.

Like in what I remember of “Super Mario 64”, this WAD begins in a large mansion-like hub level and you can choose which level you want to play by walking up to a painting and pressing “action”.

However, many parts of the mansion don’t become available until you have collected a certain number of “golden souls” – so, this game isn’t quite as non-linear as it might appear at first.

Each of the paintings you'll find in the mansion lead to a new level of the game.

Each of the paintings you’ll find in the mansion lead to a new level of the game.

As for the levels themselves, they are – quite simply – amazing. Each level has a very unique and creative look to it and there is also authentic “Super Mario”-style background music too, which is wonderfully nostalgic.

Wow!! :)

Wow!! :)

OOooh, I LOVE FPS games that are set in Ancient Egypt!

OOooh, I LOVE FPS games that are set in Ancient Egypt!

Yes, there's even a level based on Van Gogh's "Starry Night". This WAD is sublime!

Yes, there’s even a level based on Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”. This WAD is sublime!

There's also a creepy "Blood"-style haunted mansion level...

There’s also a creepy “Blood”-style haunted mansion level…

And a pirate ship! A pirate ship!!!

And a pirate ship! A pirate ship!!!

The gameplay in each level falls into one of three types. You either just have to make your way through a level and find a golden soul, you have to fight a level boss or you have to find eight red coins.

The last of these three level types is probably the most frustrating, since some of the red coins tend to be very well-hidden and you’ll spend quite a bit of time wandering around the level in sheer frustration. Still, the inclusion of different level types adds a surprising amount of variety to the gameplay.

Since this WAD is inspired by a platform game, I was expecting lots of first-person platforming. If you’ve ever played old FPS games, then your blood will have probably run cold when you read the words “first-person platforming”. Let’s just say that it doesn’t exactly fill most retro FPS gamers with joy.

However, for the most part, the platforming actually works fairly well in this WAD and there are very few genuinely frustrating platforming sections in “Doom: The Golden Souls”:

Well, except for THIS one!

Well, except for THIS one!

Talking of coins, this game also includes lots of collectable “Mario”-style coins that you can use to buy items and power-ups between levels.

Since you can return to the hub level at any time (if you can get back to the beginning of the level you’re playing), this also allows you to stock up on health and armour before boss battles.

 So, THIS is what retired space marines do for a living...

So, THIS is what retired space marines do for a living…

One cool thing about “Doom: The Golden Souls” is that it contains an entirely new collection of weapons and they work really well. The pistol has been replaced with a revolver (don’t ask me why, but I love it when FPS games include revolvers) and the shotgun has been replaced with a realistic double-barrelled shotgun (eg: you can only fire one shot at a time and the gun’s barrels are on top of each other).

The chaingun has also been replaced with an AK-47, the rocket launcher has been replaced by a small cannon, the plasma rifle has been replaced by a “Quake”-style nailgun and the BFG has been replaced by a rainbow gun:

Yes, a rainbow gun. And it is AMAZING!

Yes, a rainbow gun. And it is AMAZING!

Unfortunately, like many modern “Doom” WADs, most of the weapons have a ‘realistic’ reloading system – where you will need to reload your guns after a certain number of shots. Although this breaks up the flow of the gameplay slightly, the reloading animations are fairly quick and they don’t get in the way of the gameplay too much.

But, like with any good “Doom” WAD, there are also a lot of new enemies here. Although many of the new enemies have appeared in many other WADs before (eg: the Cacolich) or have been ‘borrowed’ from other 1990s FPS games (eg: the mummies from “Heretic“), there are a few totally new enemies here:

Like these #+&^*%$ plants! They shoot fireballs at you and they will quickly become the bane of your existence!

Like these #+&^*%$ plants! They shoot fireballs at you and they will quickly become the bane of your existence!

The game also includes these adorably annoying cactus creatures from the old "Mario" games too.

The game also includes these adorably annoying cactus creatures from the old “Mario” games too.

All in all, “Doom: The Golden Souls” is an incredibly fun and creative WAD that will fill you with childhood nostalgia. It’s challenging, interesting and.. well… just extremely fun. If you’re a fan of “Doom”, the 1990s and/or “Super Mario” then this WAD is certainly worth checking out.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get five.

Today’s Art (11th October 2015)

Well, like with yesterday’s painting, I’d planned to paint something that was set in the 1990s, but this picture ended up looking more like something from the 1980s instead. Also, like with yesterday’s picture, this painting required a surprising amount of digital editing after I scanned it.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Grey City" By C. A. Brown

“Grey City” By C. A. Brown

Three Basic Thoughts About Writing Epic Space War Storylines In Sci-Fi Stories And Comics

2015 Artwork Space war sketch 3

If you’re a fan of the sci-fi genre, then you’ve probably found more than a few sci-fi stories, TV shows, movies, games etc… that revolve around large interstellar wars.

Whether it’s the shadow war in “Babylon 5“, the war between the Federation and the Dominion in “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine“, the war between humanity and the cylons in “Battlestar Galactica“, some of the backstory to a computer game called “Tyrian 2000” or even something like “Star Wars”, epic space wars are a major part of the modern sci-fi genre.

Although I’ve never seriously written one of these storylines in a comic or in a story (one was sort of a background detail in my short-lived “Ambitus” comedy fiction series from 2013 though), I’ve certainly watched enough examples of them to feel that I can offer a few basic thoughts on how to write these kinds of storylines.

1) Pick a side: This goes without saying, but you should probably work out who is going to win your epic interstellar war before you start writing it. Many wars in the sci-fi genre – especially after World War Two- tend to be fairly obvious battles between good and evil. In this case, picking which side is going to win will probably be a fairly obvious decision.

However, if you want to make your story more interesting and/or realistic, then it can be a good idea to either make both sides morally ambiguous or to make both sides the bad guys. This way, your audience won’t be able to easily predict who will win. Even so, it’s usually a good idea to decide which side will win before you start writing.

But, even if you’re writing a fairly obvious “good vs. evil” storyline, then you can stop it from becoming too predictable by making sure that the good guys lose a few battles, even if they win the war overall. By showing that the good guys don’t win every battle that they fight, you can add some much-needed suspense and drama to your story or comic.

2) Perspective: One of the most important questions that you have to ask yourself if you’re going to write one of these storylines is probably “Am I only going to show one side or am I going to show both?

If you only tell your story from the perspective of one side, this has the advantage of making the other side seem a lot more mysterious and frightening. It makes your audience curious about who the enemy are and how much of a threat they pose to the main characters.

It also adds some realism to your story, since most people only really see one side of a war. Of course, if you’re writing your story from a first-person perspective, then you’re going to have to do this regardless of whether you want to or not.

However, if you show both sides of a sci-fi war, then you can add a lot more depth and complexity to your story. For example, you can show that the enemy think that they’re the good guys and you can also show that not all of them are stereotypical moustache-twirling villains.

A good example of this would probably be in a sci-fi TV series called “Farscape“. In this show, the bad guys are a large military empire called the Peacekeepers – they wear snappy uniforms and they tend to be fairly authoritarian. So, yes, there’s no real doubt that they aren’t exactly benevolent.

However, throughout the show, the main characters occasionally meet rather good people who are Peacekeepers. Likewise, one of the good guys (perhaps the coolest character in the show) is a Peacekeeper fighter pilot called Aeryn Sun who reluctantly ends up joining the good guys early in the show. Not only that, the main villain of the early seasons of the show is clearly shown to be motivated by revenge for the accidental death of his brother at the hands of the “good guys” in the very first episode of the show.

3) Pick your battles: Generally speaking, wars are large and complex things. In other words, you won’t have the space to show literally everything that happens during a space war if you’re writing a comic or a novel. So, you need to make sure that your main characters are around for some of the most pivotal and dramatic moments of the space war.

But, although you might only be able to show a few epic space battles and a couple of exploding planets in your story or comic, you still need to give your audience the impression that there’s a gigantic war happening. So, how do you do this?

Simple. You show your main characters hearing about other parts of the space war second-hand. You can show them meeting characters who talk about battles that aren’t shown in your story or comic and you can show them hearing or reading reports about battles in other parts of space. If you do this, then you can give your audience the impression that they’re reading about a giant space war, even if they’ve only directly seen a small part of it.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful :)

Mini Review: “Doctor Who – Before The Flood ” (TV Show Episode)

2015 Artwork Doctor Who Before The Flood review sketch

Well, I thought that I’d quickly share some of my rambling thoughts about today’s episode of “Doctor Who” called “Before The Flood”.

Before I go any further, I should warn you that this review may contain PLOT SPOILERS.

“Before The Flood” is the second half of the story that began in last week’s episode and it focuses on The Doctor travelling back in time to both prevent the ghosts from overtaking the mining station and also to investigate why they appeared in the first place. Meanwhile, Clara is still trapped on the mining station with Cass, Lunn and the ghosts….

One of the first things that I will say about “Before The Flood” is that it’s significantly better than last week’s episode was. There’s a lot more drama, philosophy, clever plot twists, amazing special effects, horror and geeky sci-fi stuff here than there was last week.

Interestingly, the episode actually begins with The Doctor breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience about the bootstrap paradox (well, he tells us to Google it anyway) and about a time paradox that he may or may not have caused when he tried to meet Beethoven.

Of course, the Doctor then pulls out his electric guitar and starts playing Beethoven’s fifth just as the opening credits start to roll. As openings to episodes of “Doctor Who” go, this is one of the coolest that I’ve seen in a while.

The rest of the episode displays the same level of intelligence and complexity too. Although it’d take too long to explain every plot twist in this review, there’s are at least a few brilliantly clever plot twists in this episode, as well as lots of dramatic discussions about time, life, death etc.. too.

In terms of the writing and characterisation, this episode is absolutely brilliant. Not only is there a lot of drama between The Doctor and Clara about The Doctor’s (seemingly) inevitable death, but the supporting characters are still as well-written as ever. When one of them (Donnell ?) dies, it’s actually a serious dramatic moment that has effects later in the episode too.

Likewise, unlike the previous episode, this one actually includes as much horror as you would expect in a storyline that revolves around ghosts. Although they aren’t seriously scary, there are a few brilliantly creepy horror-movie style scenes (even including a jump scare, albeit a telegraphed one) during the parts of the episode where Clara, Cass and Lunn are trapped in the ghost-infested mining station.

In terms of set design and special effects, this episode is absolutely brilliant. Not only is the Soviet-style town below the dam a brilliantly desolate and creepy setting, but it also contains one of the most well-designed monsters in “Doctor Who” too. I am, of course, talking about the “Fisher King” (?) – who looks a bit like something from one of the “Alien” movies, if they were directed by H.P.Lovecraft.

The special effects are absolutely spectacular too, especially the part near the end of the episode where The Doctor destroys the dam. Seriously, the effects in this scene are pretty much Hollywood-quality.

All in all, this episode is “Doctor Who” at it’s best. It’s dramatic, it’s quirky, it has emotional depth and it contains both sci-fi and horror in equal measure. Like with the second episode of this season, the conclusion to this two-part episode is certainly better than the beginning.

But, let’s hope that the next episode (which, from the preview, seems to be an episode featuring vikings, cyborgs and Maisie Williams [who, both surprisingly and unsurprisingly, looked a lot like Arya Stark in the preview]) won’t be yet another two-parter though.

If I had to give “Before The Flood” a rating out of five, it would just about get a five.

Today’s Art (10th October 2015)

Well, although I’d planned to make some more 1990s fan art for today, I couldn’t quite think of what to draw. So, in the end, I ended up making this random digitally-edited painting which looked more like something from the 1980s than the 1990s.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"And Pixels In The Sky" By C. A. Brown

“And Pixels In The Sky” By C. A. Brown

What Can We Learn From Roy Lichtenstein?

Yes, this drawing is a shameless rip-off of a Roy Lichtenstein painting ("Drowning Girl") which is, itself, a shameless rip-off of a drawing by Tony Abruzzo. Yay for plagiarism!

Yes, this drawing is a shameless rip-off of a Roy Lichtenstein painting (“Drowning Girl”) which is, itself, a shameless rip-off of a drawing by Tony Abruzzo. Yay for plagiarism!

Even though I’ll mostly be talking about one of the better modern artists of the 1950s and 60s today, this article will hopefully also contain some advice about art that might be useful.

Anyway, although I’ve obviously heard of Roy Lichtenstein before, I suddenly found myself fascinated by his art on the night before I wrote this article. If you’ve never seen a Roy Litchenstein painting before, then there are quite a few examples on the Wikipedia page that I just linked to. But, in general, a lot of Roy Lichtenstein’s most famous works of art are large paintings that are based on single panels from various comic books.

On the other hand, his art lacks originality. I’m not saying this to be snooty or dismissive, but I’m saying it because it’s a provable fact. Many of his famous comic paintings are almost direct copies of panels from comic books available at the time.

He may have made a few subtle alterations to the colour scheme or the perspective but – were he to make his art today – it would probably be considered a criminal act of plagiarism (given how much he was selling his paintings for). In fact, if Lichtenstein was working today, he’d probably have to restrict himself to making non-commercial fan art.

I’m both jealous and resentful towards him because of this fact. On the one hand, if you’ve had a bit of practice at drawing and painting, you’ll know that it isn’t too difficult to copy other pieces of art from sight alone. The idea that you can have a multi-million dollar artistic career just from copying things, without having to do any of the hard work of actually thinking of things to draw is, well, kind of a cool one – if I’m being honest.

However, at the same time, the artists who originally thought of and designed the comic panels that Lichtenstein copied aren’t nearly as well-known as Lichtenstein is. They weren’t multi-millionaries, even though they came up with the brilliant images that Litchenstein essentially just ripped off. Technically speaking, they were far better artists than Lichtenstein ever was. So, yes, as a fairly obscure artist myself, I can’t help but feel a little bit annoyed about Roy Lichtenstein’s work.

But, saying this, seeing Roy Lichtenstein’s work also fills me with hope. It reminds me that there was once a time when people weren’t so strict about copyright as they are today.

It reminds me that there was once a time when artists could accurately represent the culture surrounding them, without having to worry about copyrights or trademarks or any of that nonsense.

Yes, you could argue that Lichtenstein’s paintings were parodies (in the legal sense of the word), but the standards for what was considered a parody were probably lower then than they are now.

Still, if you want to do something similar to this today- then you have to be more creative. I’m not a lawyer, but most copyright laws around the world only protect the specific way that an idea is expressed rather than the idea itself.

For example, nobody holds the copyright on zombies, grizzled space marines, musicians, selfie-takers, action heroes, goths, punks, hipsters, romantic vampires etc… But specific characters that fall into these groups can be copyrighted. So, you can still make art that reflects modern culture – but you have to come up with your own original characters and/or designs.

Plus, although most individual pieces of Lichtenstein’s “comic book” art don’t display much creativity, his body of work as a whole makes all sort of interesting creative points. For example, all of the characters in his work are either hyper-masculine or hyper-feminine.

This accurately reflects the way the media presented men and women at the time, whilst also allowing Lichtenstein himself to play with and parody gender quite a bit. In other words, the same artist created both the hyper-masculine paintings and the hyper-feminine paintings. It wasn’t a macho tough guy expressing his “manliness” and it wasn’t a fashionable woman expressing her “femininity” – Lichtenstein’s paintings were just one person expressing both of these things.

Personally, as an artist who has something of a complicated relationship with gender, I can also attest that both of these types of art are incredibly fun to make in an amusing kind of way.

So, although many of Lichtenstein’s paintings aren’t creative on their own – they suddenly become creative when you view several of them in a group. One Lichtenstein painting looks “derivative” or “lazy”, but a group of Lichtenstein paintings is interesting and creative. So, looking at Lichtenstein’s work can be a great way to learn about how to create interesting art series and/or to add underlying themes to your art.

Finally, another great thing about Lichtenstein’s art is the fact that it’s a testament to the power of simplicity.

Because a lot of his art was based on comic books, he had to use a fairly simple style. Comic book art is often slightly simpler than “traditional” art for the simple reason that, whilst an artist can spend a long time on one painting – a comic book artist often has to make lots of small drawings or painting before a publication deadline.

Comic book art is such a brilliant type of art because it distils what “should” be a complicated image (if it was drawn or painted realistically) down into it’s most essential elements.

Comic book art presents a simplified version of reality, which also looks realistic and recognisable enough not to confuse the audience. If you can learn how to do this, then you’ll create much better art.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful :)