I've been looking at Usenet conversations from 1994, trying to learn which Doom mods stood out from the crowd in the very early days. 10 Years of Doom made a list of the "best" releases, but a gaming experience can be memorable for other reasons; I'm looking for the levels that did something sloppily for the first time, and the levels people played for hours and hours despite their production values. (Or perhaps because of them, the way you find yourself watching the same ninja movie once a day for an entire summer.)
I'll most likely start a handful of new articles, and any notability questions can be raised in the usual manner. First, though, a few things not often discussed about 1994:
- Just scrolling through subject lines at the start was a bit surreal. They look like those banner ads for dating services, but instead of local singles, they list DM opponents by area code.
- In January 1994, a primitive Thing randomizer promised to add endless replayability to Doom. (The difficulty level tended to get out of control.)
- Originally, third-party editing utilities could only handle Things, and the program didn't save the whole map into a PWAD when you finished, only the Thing locations. Then, editors appeared which could change linedef and sector properties by the "poke and peek" method (e.g. Renegade Graphics, VERDA), but not rearrange vertexes or create new levels from scratch. So if you've ever wondered why all those WADs in D!Zone 150 crashed your editor because they only contained Things, and why all those other WADs were just overstocked day-glo remixes of the shareware missions, now you know.
- The first serviceable node builder appears to have been the fourth and final beta of DEU v5.0. A few standalone node builders were completed almost exactly when DEU v5.0 was, at the very end of March; I assume this is because Raphael Quinet is a nice guy who shares his technical information. :> As soon as these programs were available, PWADs began to rain from the sky — four, five, six of them that first weekend. (I stopped counting individual announcements at this point.) A lot of people tried and failed to get the new node builders up and running, however, and eventually decided to stick with the one they knew, even if its BSP algorithm was less polished. (Heaven help them if they were using this.) Also, then as now, some people decided it was too much work to download more than one free utility before starting their project. So if you had Maximum Doom and wondered why there were random I_SignalHandler crashes on maps with a lot of vertexes, and why you would occasionally stumble through a long 1S wall in an outdoor area, and why authors consciously released maps with huge HOMs while claiming that they couldn't be removed, now you know.
- Human nature has not changed much in the last 16 years. 
- As I suspected, this may be the most innovative map ever created without a node builder: .
- SCREAM.WAD is an old friggin level. That guy was pretty smart, eh?
- A lot of people refused to install the v1.4 -> v1.666 upgrade patch when it was first released, because there had been so many hoax uploads.
- "For those that have been yearning to play THE alan, here's your chance." (note the avalanche of followup posts)
- "Regardless of what some of my friends may think, I am >NOT< an FTP site. Nor am I a mail-server for DOOM binaries. If I recieve any requests via e-mail for these files, I will not only immediately delete them, I will return a letter bomb."
These are mods which looked notable, but not as notable as the types of mods I described at the top: WANTON12, TEMPLE11, WADPAK1A, MTFIRE09, DAEMON2, BARREL, STARWAR4, DARKNESS, HUNTE1M1, E1M1OSKU, FLASH, PEACE, UPLIFTNG, 23CASTLE, IDMAP01. (I hate saying this, because those authors worked so hard, and I always assume we have too few walkthroughs here.)
Finally, a certain number of WADs had no maps at all, only sound replacements. (Leukart's FAQ mentions these as well.) I failed to convince myself that any of these were really as unmistakable or as widely used as the level WADs. If you were there at the time, am I wrong?
Ryan W 04:02, February 20, 2010 (UTC)