The Joy Of… Old Versions

2016 Artwork The Joy Of Old Versions

Well, for today, I thought that I’d talk about earlier unreleased versions of well-known creative works and why they’re so absolutely fascinating.

Although I’ll mostly be talking about classic computer and video games here (since there are loads of examples I can use), everything in this article also applies to drafts of novels, sketches/plans for comics, scripts for movies, pilot episodes of TV shows etc.. too.

Anyway, one of the cool things about computer and video games is that they often go through several versions (eg: “beta” versions and “alpha” versions) before they are finally released. Like a writer preparing several drafts of a novel before publication, this allows the designers to see what works and what doesn’t, to correct mistakes and to make any changes they feel are necessary.

These “alpha” and “beta” versions of computer games are absolutely fascinating for all sorts of reasons. The most notable of these is that there are often substantial changes made to a game between these early versions and the published version.

This often means that footage of a “beta” version of a game (or the beta itself, if the developers have released it) will show a fascinating alternative version of something very familiar. It gives us an intriguing glimpse into what could have been. It’s almost like taking a look into a parallel universe of some kind.

For example, as you can see from this footage of the beta version of “Resident Evil 2”, the game actually contains a totally different selectable main character than the final game does. Instead of playing as Claire Redfield, you play as a totally different character called Elza Walker instead.

Likewise, in this footage from one of the alpha versions of “Doom”, you can see that the player is given a rifle (instead of a pistol) at the beginning of the game. This makes much more sense in the context of the story (given that you’re supposed to be a space marine and some of the zombified space marines you encounter in the finished game are all carrying rifles).

Plus, as I mention in this article about the beta version of “Duke Nukem 3D”, the beta version seems to have originally been intended to be much more similar to it’s predecessors than the released version of “Duke Nukem 3D” was. It also contains much cooler-looking weapons and a few extra features too.

As well as giving us an intriguing glimpse into the thought processes and design decisions that went into creating something great, seeing old versions of great things can also be a surprisingly powerful motivational tool too.

If you get to see part of the unedited draft of a story, the pilot to a classic TV show or the rough sketches for a comic, then it can remind you that the people who created it are only human. It shows you that even your favourite authors and artists make mistakes and don’t produce perfect things on their first attempt. This can take some of the pressure off of you and can help you to feel slightly better about your own creative works.

For example, although I’m much more of a “Star Trek” fan than a “Star Wars” fan, this article about the first draft of “Star Wars” is absolutely fascinating. The first draft of the script for “Star Wars” was titled “Adventures Of The Starkiller, Episode 1: The Star Wars” and, from everything else I’ve read about it, it’s hilariously terrible.

Yes, thanks to a lot of revisions and re-writing, it ended up being the classic sci-fi movie that made George Lucas famous. But he certainly didn’t get it right on his first attempt.

So, yes, old versions of well-known creative works can be absolutely fascinating for all sorts of reasons.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

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Mini Review: “Doom Tribute Project (Beta 1. 1)” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “GZDoom”)

2015 Artwork Doom Tribute Project Beta 1.1 mini review sketch

Late last summer, I was looking at the “ZDoom” forums when I happened to spot a really interesting-looking “Doom” WAD called “Doom Tribute Project” by the creator of the “Temple of The Lizard Men” series of “Doom” WADs.

At the time of writing this “first impressions” article, the WAD is still in beta and it will possibly have changed by the time that this article out. Likewise, since this is a first impressions article, I only had the chance to play this WAD for a few hours before writing. I also used the “GZDoom” source port whilst playing “Doom Tribute Project”.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Doom Tribute Project (Beta 1.1)”:

Screenshot_Doom_20150828_075651

As the name suggests, “Doom Tribute Project” is an attempt at re-making a condensed and heavily reworked version of the first two “Doom” games that will fit into a single WAD. One of the very first changes that you will notice is that you now have seven episodes to choose from:

 Nice! Why don't FPS games have episodes any more?

Nice! Why don’t FPS games have episodes any more?

Although I’ve only played through the first, second and part of the third episode at the time of writing, I took a brief look at a couple of the other episodes. Interestingly, both “Civilisation Lost” and “Final Fray” appear to consist of new and original levels at first glance. However, the “Thy Flesh Consumed” episode from “Ultimate Doom” doesn’t seem to be present here, probably because it doesn’t fit into the storyline of the main “Doom” games.

Talking of storylines, this WAD also starts off with a voice-acted cutscene and there’s also “Temple Of The Lizard Men III”-style text narration between levels (without any voice acting, in this beta at least). Although these text narration screens were obviously present in the original “Doom” games, there are a lot more of them here and they’ve been re-written slightly:

Yes, the game actually starts with a cutscene!

Yes, the game actually starts with a cutscene!

As I mentioned earlier, many of the levels in this WAD are based on classic “Doom” and “Doom II” levels – although they’ve been altered and updated quite significantly.

There are lots of extra rooms and other changes to these levels which help to keep them fresh and interesting. Not only that, the settings in “Knee Deep In The Dead” look a lot more like a realistic sci-fi military base than they did in the original game:

Yes, this is what E1M1 looks like from the outside...

Yes, this is what E1M1 looks like from the outside…

The hell levels also look significantly more epic too.

The hell levels also look significantly more epic too.

These changes work surprisingly well since, although there’s lots of places that you’ll recognise instantly, you can’t just rely on your memories of the original “Doom” games to get you through this WAD. The levels are familiar, yet excitingly new . They’re also a lot larger and significantly more challenging than many of the levels from the original “Doom” games were.

Most of this challenge comes from both the increased number of monsters in this WAD and the fact that, in the early levels at least, ammo is in slightly short supply. So, this is an enjoyably challenging WAD for slightly more experienced “Doom” players. Then again, if you’re still playing “Doom” in 2016 then you’re probably fairly experienced with it already.

This level is from "The Shores Of Hell" but, as you can see, you occasionally end up "knee-deep in the dead".

This level is from “The Shores Of Hell” but, as you can see, you occasionally end up “knee-deep in the dead”.

One of the coolest changes in this WAD is the sheer variety of new monsters that you’ll face. Although many of the new monsters are ones that you’ve probably seen in other WADs, there are significant improvements to the zombies in this WAD.

Seriously, there are probably at least ten or more types of zombie here. Although some of the new zombies carry more powerful weapons, they aren’t just the usual additional zombies that you’ll find in many other WADs.

Why? Because they’re actually realistic. Yes, they still use sprite-based graphics, but the zombies are based on what zombies in a futuristic military research facility would probably actually look like.

The military zombie in this screenshot also seems to be a reworked version of one of the player sprites from "Temple Of The Lizard Men III" too.

The military zombie in this screenshot also seems to be a reworked version of one of the player sprites from “Temple Of The Lizard Men III” too.

In other words, there are several types of scientist zombie (eg: a bald man, a woman with brown hair, a man with blond hair, a woman with red hair, an older woman, a scientist in a biohazard suit etc..).

There are also a plethora of different military zombies with different weapons, hair colours and uniforms. Plus, the military zombies also realistically include a variety of different male and female zombie soldiers – rather than the same few guys that appear in most WADs.

So, yes, the first episode of this WAD seems a lot more realistic because it actually sort of looks like an off-planet facility that has suffered a zombie apocalypse.

Seriously, why haven't any other WADs done this?

Seriously, why haven’t any other WADs done this?

Another cool realistic touch is that when you find any imps that are lurking near toxic waste, they will often have some rather gnarly-looking mutations too:

Hmmm... It looks like someone forgot to wear their safety goggles...

Hmmm… It looks like someone forgot to wear their safety goggles…

In addition to this, “Doom Tribute Project” is significantly more gruesome than the original games were. Although it doesn’t reach the cartoonish excesses of something like “Brutal Doom“, expect to see large blood sprays when you shoot a monster and expect to see “Quake II”-style gibs (accompanied by a squelching sound) when you blow up a monster.

Plus, like in some other WADs, the cacodemons have blue blood at the Barons Of Hell/ Hell Knights have green blood.

Plus, like in some other WADs, the cacodemons have blue blood at the Barons Of Hell/ Hell Knights have green blood.

In addition to this, many of the monsters also have new death animations too – many of these are very similar to the ones that you’ll find in “Brutal Doom”, but they’re done in a slightly more understated and far less sadistic way. In other words, the creator of this WAD just uses quicker death animations, rather than any “Brutal Doom”-style animations that show the monsters dying slowly and/or in agony.

This WAD also includes at least one new weapon too. In the second of third level of the first episode, you’ll find another pistol that you can dual-wield. The dual pistols are actually one of the better weapons in the game, since they have a surprisingly high rate of fire and a decent level of accuracy. In other words, even though this WAD includes a chaingun, you’ll probably be using the dual pistols instead:

It also looks a bit more badass too.

It also looks a bit more badass too.

According to the documentation that comes with this WAD, “Doom Tribute Project” also includes a railgun too, which sounds pretty cool.

Many of the “standard” weapons have new sounds, some of these are better than the sound effects in the original game, but some aren’t quite as good (eg: the rocket launcher and the shotguns in the beta sound a bit underwhelming). In addition to this, the basic pistol has some additional animation (eg: the hammer on the back of the gun actually moves whenever you fire it) and the BFG has a totally new sprite too.

I'm not sure whether I prefer it to the original sprite, but it certainly looks a lot more futuristic.

I’m not sure whether I prefer it to the original sprite, but it certainly looks a lot more futuristic.

Musically, the beta of “Doom Tribute Project” is pretty cool and it features slightly heavier and/or more ambient covers of all of the classic MIDI music from the original “Doom” games.

All in all, I really liked what I saw of the “1.1” beta of “Doom Tribute Project”. It’s an improved version of a classic game – with intriguingly altered levels and a gigantic variety of new and interesting monsters to fight. It’ll be interesting to see how this WAD changes over time too.

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

Review: “Lameduke” [The Beta Version of “Duke Nukem 3D”] (Computer Game)

2013 Artwork Duke Nukem Beta Sketch

[Nerd Alert! This review requires a good knowledge of “Duke Nukem 3D”, “Duke Nukem II” and classic 1990s FPS games in order to be fully enjoyed, or even understood.]

Well, since I seem to be playing a lot of the old “Duke Nukem” games recently and I’m always absolutely fascinated by pre-release beta versions of games (since they always look fairly different to the final game), I thought that I’d “review” the pre-release beta of “Duke Nukem 3D”.

Since it’s an unfinished game and more of a demonstration of the game engine than anything else, I won’t really be “reviewing” it in the conventional sense of the word. This is more of an article about the differences between the beta and the final version of the game, as well as some of my speculations and theories about what could have been….

Anyway, there’s a beta version of Duke 3D called “Lameduke” and 3D Realms put it on the internet for anyone to download( It’s #9 on the list of downloads at the end of the “3D Realms” page, although you might need to use DOSBox to get it to run). It’s also surprisingly different to the final game which came out in 1996.

In fact, it’s almost like they were trying to make a different “Duke Nukem” game entirely, but more on that later….

Anyway, let’s start with the intro screen:

Unfortunately, Duke was behind the menu when I took this screenshot.

Unfortunately, Duke was behind the menu when I took this screenshot.

(Interestingly, the video behind the intro screen shows Duke flying around using a jetpack. Whilst this feature was obviously included in the final game, I couldn’t find it anywhere in what I played of the beta version. )

In many ways, it’s clear that a lot of features hadn’t yet been added to the game, since you have infinite health, no ammo counters (your weapons just randomly stop working after a certain number of shots) and some of the enemies/NPCs aren’t animated.

If you’re looking to play this beta for fun, then you’re going to be disappointed. However, if you’re looking at it out of geeky curiosity and 1990s nostalgia, then there’s lots of interesting stuff. Like this very early version of part of one of the levels from “Duke Nukem 3D” …

This looks familiar...

This looks familiar…

WEAPONS

One of the first differences you will notice between the beta and the final version of “Duke Nukem 3D” are the weapons. Although there are only five of them in the beta, most of them (apart from the pipebombs) are fairly different and, dare I say it, better than their counterparts in “Duke Nukem 3D”.

Anyway, let’s start with the default weapon – instead of a boring old boot, Duke gets a “Red Faction”-style electrified baton.

Interestingly, this is also about as gruesome as the beta gets. But more on that later..

Interestingly, this is also about as gruesome as the beta gets. But more on that later..

In many ways, this weapon functions a lot like the chainsaw from “Doom II”. This weapon also seems to have limited ammunition since, if you use it for long enough, then Duke will just start using it as a club rather than as an electric baton.

The basic pistol looks fairly similar, but it has a slightly faster rate of fire and, interestingly, it also includes a laser sight too.

It's the red dot in the middle of the screen.

It’s the red dot in the middle of the screen.

Yes, Duke’s pistol originally had a laser sight and 3D Realms decided to remove this cool feature from the final game. Why?

Although the rapid-fire weapon in the beta looks a lot like the chaingun from the final version of “Duke Nukem 3D”, it’s actually a rapid-fire energy weapon. The projectiles kind of look like a blue version of the shrink ray’s projectiles in the final version. Interestingly, Duke also has a barcode tattooed on his hand too:

This later became the chaingun. I think I actually slightly prefer the gun in the beta version....

This later became the chaingun. I think I actually slightly prefer the gun in the beta version….

Finally, we come to the rocket launcher. This looks a lot better than the final version of the weapon, since you can see more of it when Duke’s holding it and it has a really cool placeholder animation when you fire it (which makes it look a lot like a flamethrower).

But that’s not all, when you initially select the rocket launcher, Duke doesn’t aim it at anything until you press the “fire” button. He just holds it in the way that you would realistically expect someone to hold a gun that they’re not using…

Note the [rather blurry in this picture] radiation warning in the top right of the screen which appears when you step into environmental hazards.

Note the [rather blurry in this picture] radiation warning in the top right of the screen which appears when you step into environmental hazards.

Again, I’m completely puzzled as to why 3D Realms left this cool little detail out of the final game.

LEVELS

As for the levels, most of them are very different to the levels in the final game and it’s pretty clear that the game was originally going to have four episodes too. I’m guessing that the titles (“Mrr Caliber”, “Mission Cockroach”, “Suck Hole” and “Hard Landing”) were placeholder titles. Or at least I hope that they were.

The bizarre episode titles.

The bizarre episode titles.

There are also a few interesting features which weren’t implemented in the final game – for example, the lifts in E1M6 (probably the best level in the beta) come up with a (non-functional) directional menu when you enter them.

Interestingly, this wasn’t included in the final game (probably due to the limitations of the Build engine) and the concept of lifts where you can choose the direction seems more like something from a traditional 2D platform game than an old FPS game…

The direction option when you enter the lifts in E1M6.

The direction option when you enter the lifts in E1M6.

Another amusing thing in E1M6 is the fact that the developers managed to find a way to sneak some posters from “True Lies” into the level too. Yes, Duke is basically just an exaggerated fictional version of Arnold Schwarzenegger, but I was surprised to see such a blatant reference to this:

Duke's inspiration?

Duke’s inspiration?

Whilst quite a few of the levels look like something from “Duke Nukem 3D” or “Doom”, a fair number of them have a very “classic sci-fi” kind of feel to them, which is more similar to “Duke Nukem II” than anything else (can you see where I’m going here?….).

This, coincidentally, brings me on to the…..

ENEMIES

All of the enemies in the beta are different from the enemies from the final game. Whilst there are a few mostly non-animated human NPCs (a muscular man in a vest, a man in an orange shirt and a punk woman), all of the animated enemies are robots of some kind or another. And, believe it or not, they look random enough to be a collection of enemies from one of the really old 2D “Duke Nukem” games…

"Ha! Ha! You will NEVER defeat me! Wait a minute... YOU aren't one of the Power Rangers!"

“Ha! Ha! You will NEVER defeat me! Wait a minute… YOU aren’t one of the Power Rangers!”

Bizarrely, one type of robot (although it could be an astronaut, it’s hard to tell) actually bleeds when you kill it. However, this isn’t the ludicrous gibs and blood spatter which we all know and love from the final game. If anything, it’s more like the relatively tame death animations from “Doom” and “Hexen”.

Yes, the beta is a lot less violent than the final version – to the point where it could almost be a possible German version of the final game (although the blood would probably have to be green or something like that too).

MY THEORY ABOUT THE BETA

Anyway, this got me thinking about the game as a whole. For starters, a lot of the settings are sci-fi based and most of the enemies are various types of random robots.

If anything, this beta seems like it was at least partly based on “Duke Nukem II”. The fact that one of the weapons is a laser/pulse gun and the rocket launcher acts like a flamethrower also seem to add extra weight to this, admittedly very unlikely, theory.

So, I guess that my wish to see a FPS version of “Duke Nukem II” has been at least been partially granted by none other than 3D Realms. How cool is that?

Anyway, since it’s an unfinished beta version of a game, I won’t be giving it a score out of five. So, this is the end of this review – or is it?

duke beta ending