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Marcos Abenante - Brütal Doom - An Article for GameBanana.

Chatting with the modder behind Brütal Doom

> Doom. The mere mention of the name evokes the classic and iconic looks right into your mind. A game that’s older than many gamers nowadays, who may not even realize just how much impact it had in the genre of FPS, to the point where “Doom-Clones” was used to describe many of the first attempts at copying the formula (and to some extent, is still used to this day) > > Throughout it’s life, Doom has had a myriad of mods, some which have been silly, others which have been amazing, but very few seem to hit the sweet spot for gamers across the world. One of those very few is Brütal Doom, a mod made by the controversial Marcos Abenante, also known as Sergeant Mark IV. > > His mod brought Doom to the mainstream spotlight once more, arguably being the “best” way to play the classic in a more modernized environment. We took some time to talk to Marcos about his creation, and his status as one of the very few South American modders who’s gained mainstream popularity
Let’s start with the basics, what brought you into modding for Doom? It’s a very old game, after all. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- On 2009 I had a very bad PC for its time. The most advanced games I could run were Quake 4 and GTA San Andreas, and I had to reduce the screen resolution to 800x600 to achieve 30fps. I had an awful GeForce MX4000, and it couldn't run any game that used Pixel Shading. I was basically stuck on the 6th generation while everyone else was having fun with Modern Warfare and Gears of Wars on the Xbox 360, it was a very expensive console here back in the day, I couldn't afford one, so played almost every PC game released before 2006. I ran out of games to play, so I decided to look back at the classics. Doom was a good idea, because Doom 3 left me a bit disappointed, so I downloaded the JDoom engine, loaded with fancy 3D models, and played all the Doom and Doom 2 maps. I must admit that this was the first time I ever finished Doom 2 on PC and defeated the Icon of Sin (I was introduced to Doom with the Saturn, which contained the modified Playstation levels, so, the final battle of Doom 2 was replaced with a big arena with some dozens of barons and two Masterminds). After that I wanted more, and after some time searching on Google, I found about a mod called Zbloodpack, a mod for Zdoom that has 32 new levels, 50 new monsters and 50 new weapons. When I played that, it was amazing! A few days later and I was already reading tutorials on the Zdoom wiki, downloading Doom Builder, and making my first map. What were your first experiences with mods? How was the learning process? ------------------------------------------------------------------------- I started making maps for Warcraft 2, then I unsuccessfully tried to make maps for Duke Nukem 3D. At mid-2000's I started to make maps for Warcraft 3, where I first experienced what it was to completely change a game. The learning process was slow. My best source of learning was looking into the game's maps and seeing how things were done, then copying the whole code and resources to an empty map, and then modify one line of code, one argument per time, and watching what these changes affects. Doom has had two decades of continuous fan support thanks to mods and a dedicated community, what is your opinion on this phenomenon? Would you say the Doom modding community is friendly and easy to get into, or hard to catch up to? ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I find it pretty cool. A half decade ago I had absolutely no idea that this existed, and it was pretty exciting to find out that there is a whole hidden culture behind my childhood's favorite game. Doom modding is essentially divided by the old school and the new school: The old school modders, mostly represented by Doomworld, cares about new maps and is usually not interested in gameplay mods. The new school modders, mostly represented by ZDoom, enjoys pushing the engine to it's limits, and making weapon mods. The new school modders usually lacks skills for mapping, so they decide to focus only on making gameplay modifications and it's very rare to see projects involving new maps on Zdoom or Zandronum forums, while the oldschool modders, believes that Doom is perfect the way it is, it doesn't need to be changed anything, and all it needs is more maps, hence you usually not see gameplay mods being posted on Doomworld forums, and when someone posts it, it's pretty rare to find somebody interested, and the thread is usually ignored and falls to the second page in less than 24 hours. Getting into mapping for Doom is fairly easy, but it requires a lot of practice and patience. It takes many months for you to able to make a really good map, but the community is usually very friendly towards new mappers. Now, making gameplay mods is much easier, you can get on the right tracks on a few weeks, but you will have less people supporting you, and you are more prone to get "undesirable attention". What inspired you to create Brütal Doom? ---------------------------------------- My frustrations with Doom 3. Brütal Doom originally started as a gore mod with some gameplay tweaks, but I soon noticed that it could be the "Doom 3 that I ever wanted to play". When I was a kid I used to imagine what Doom 3 should be, and the actual product looked absolutely nothing like what I was expecting. When Brütal Doom started to become a popular gameplay mod, and the fans were asking for more changes that allowed me to deviate a bit from the original game, I thought that it would be a good idea to put my old ideas on it... and it worked! When you first made Brütal Doom, did you expect it to get this big? What do you think makes it so dominant over all other mods for the game? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- No way. Brütal Doom started just as a gore mod, a testing ground for another mod called ArmageDoom. I could never predict this. I think Brütal Doom became popular for two reasons. First, because it can appeal to people from outside the community. Everything is faster, the enemies, the weapons, everything responds faster. People who are more used to modern FPS feel much more comfortable when playing the game with the mod. Second, because I think it's the only mod around that makes the game feel more alive. There are several other cosmetic mods around, some even replaces the sprites with 3D models, but none of them have success into making the world more plausible. In Brütal Doom is all about feedback. You are free to do almost everything, you have more control over your body, you can kick, you can do a combat roll, you can flip off enemies, rip their heads off with your own hands, the guns fells more alive, animations are smoother, and monsters are not just some vectors that throws projectiles on you until you can bring their health down to zero. They behave and look much more like demons from hell wanting to tear your arms off, stomp on your face, and have your guts for dinner. They also want to stay alive, a Lost Soul and a Cacodemon can try to dodge your rockets, Zombies and Pain Elementals, which can't engage in melee combat, can notice if you get way too close to them and will fall back to a safer distance, a Baron of Hell is more aware of his surroundings and can use the body of dead enemies as a weapon against you, and monsters will react differently to the damage you cause to them depending of the weapon and where you hit them. Brütal Doom makes the game more immersive and realistic. Your mod has spurred a lot of amazing - as well as incredibly violent - fan art. How do you feel about this? ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Truly badass. I'm always glad to see people getting inspired by work. A lot of the features in Brütal Doom come from more modern games, like the ironsights on the rifle and shotgun. What made you choose to add this and no other modern gaming tropes, such as regenerating health/armor or quick throw grenades? ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Iron sights already existed in Doom in some way. Some people believe that weapons in Doom are all centered because Doomguy is always aiming down the sights, and never holds his guns from the hip at any moment. But I decided to add it because it's the only modern feature that could actually improve the gameplay. Also, the ironsights in Brütal Doom doesn't works in the same way as in modern games. In most modern games, your weapon magically spreads it's projectiles all across the room when firing from the hip (very few games such as Red Orchestra 2 are able to realistically simulate the effect of firing an automatic gun from the hip), and even when aiming down the sights, if it is an automatic weapon, it still magically spreads the projectiles, but on a smaller arc, and the player is penalized by having it's movement speed severely reduced. That's not how the iron sights works in Brütal Doom. Your guns are already even a bit more accurate than Vanilla Doom's weapons, and when you aim with them, they become almost sniper rifles, zooming-in the camera by 2x, and not reducing the player's movement speed. This allows the player to have much better options to face enemies from a long distance, and make the assault rifle and the shotgun have a big differential over the minigun and the super shotgun respectively. About the other features, regenerating health would completely destroy the immersion of a game such as Doom, it would no longer force the player to fight for survival. It would make the player feel safer, knowing that it can always just run away from the battle, hide in a corner for a while, and everything would get better. One of those features was the Reload system, which you actually implemented before some open source versions, like Zdoom, had an option to reload. What made you pick this particular feature before it was even that widespread? --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Because when used correctly, reloading is a great feature. It makes the weapon feel more alive and beautiful, and improve the overall immersion. In most games, reloading usually takes a long time, and forces the player to leave combat, retreat, and get into cover. But in Brütal Doom, weapons reloads in less than two seconds. They just force the player to stop firing for a short while. This time can be used to take a better look at the surroundings and analyse the situation. The reloads also prevents the weapons from being overpowered due their highly increased fire rate and firepower when compared to the original game. How do you balance out new ideas with the original game? What about ideas, like the good ol’ mighty foot, that come from other classic games such as Duke Nukem? ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I follow two rules. Rule one: Every feature added to Brütal Doom must be somehow connected to the original game. The mighty foot actually came from the Doom Comic, in a scene that Doomguy brings down a reinforced door with a kick, so does the ripping-and-tearing. The player has an assault rifle as a starting weapon instead of a pistol because the player actually had a rifle on the early alpha versions of the game. The player can aim down the sights with the weapons because as I mentioned earlier, it's already implied that the player was always aiming down the sights in the original game. And rule two: a new feature cannot be added if it interferes with the balance, and makes something become useless. For example, some people ask me to add back the pistol, but think of it; if the player wants a fast weapon that can deal the highest dps without having to reload, and not caring about accuracy, because he will be dealing with a huge wave of enemies, he will use the Minigun. If he wants a more stable and accurate fire, with a higher damage per shot, but accepts to have to reload after every 30 shots, so he can calmly and accurately deal with individual monsters, he will use the Rifle. Then, where the pistol would come in? There is absolutely no way to balance it. Some people argue that I should make it have a separated ammo type, and be used as a last-resort weapon, but then, why the player would use the Chainsaw then? Brütal Doom is known for the sheer amount of gore and chaos that is displayed on screen all the time. Has there ever been a point where you said “Maybe I should tone it down a little”? Or perhaps, have you thought “I could have done this a lot more gory”? --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. On the early versions, until 2011, my design choice was to make things as bloodier as possible. Versions until v12 had ridiculously unrealistic amounts of blood. A single bullet would make a gallon of blood to come out. Then I started to analyze things closer, and noticed that I was heading to the wrong way. A single death scene in the anime Elfen Lied has more liquid blood than an entire movie of the Saw series, but a single death Scene in a Saw movie is more gruesome than what you would see in an entire season of the anime. Why? Because just putting blood everywhere doesn't make something gruesome. In early versions of Brutal Doom, shooting a rocket into a zombie would leave a lot of dense blood pools, with some generic body parts and organs on the floor. Now there is a much more detailed gore system, you can see much more clearly and recognizable dismembered arms and legs, smeared with blood, and with broken bones being show. You can also see their entrails, pieces of the torso, teeth, pieces of the jaw, pieces of the skull with some piece of skin and hair still stuck on it, etc. This kind of gore is much more visually pleasant than just gallons of blood and generic gibs (and also greatly improves the performance). One of the key features of your mod is the “fatalities”; Specific animations that are the cherry on top of the already chaotic environment. Do you have any favorites? Where did this idea come from? ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- This idea was included on my expectations of Doom 3. In Vanilla Doom, the player gains supernatural inhuman strength and is able to explode enemies with punches after he gets the Berserk Pack. I have always seen these exploding enemies as a figurative representation, and always imagined that Doomguy would able to grab a zombie by it's shoulders and tear it apart if they had the technology to do it at time. At first, I planned to do the "fatalities" in first person mode, but it didn't worked. Drawing everything with a good enough detail would require unimaginable amounts of work. (It took two artists and a month just to draw the three sprites used for the meatshields, now imagine having to draw all the over 200 frames used for the fatalities on such quality. It would literally take years!) so I decided the third person view approach, which worked fine. Well, right now, I can only think about the Revenant fatality, which Doomguy rips it's arm off, and uses it as a baseball bat to do a home run with it's skull. I remember laughing during the whole process, from animating the sprites, to coding, and testing. Brütal Doom has had a lot of modifications since you first started. How do you decide what to tweak and what to keep for future versions? --------------------------------------------------------------------- A lot is based on feedback of the fans, but mostly by my personal experiences. I play the mod a lot myself, and I never really find myself satisfied, I think there is always more room for improvement. You’ve stated before that removing the pistol from the base of Brütal Doom was for balance and consistency purposes. Has there been other items that you were forced to remove, or new ideas that you had to abandon for the sake of this balance? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. On a very old version, there were Dragon's Breath shells. They only lasted one version, I don't even know why I added them in the first place, they were a rare drop from Shotgunguys, but still, they were so horribly unbalanced that they could take down a whole room of low and medium enemies with a single shot. Every weapon was also supposed to cause shrapnel damage, but it meet with overwhelming negative feedback, so, it had to be removed. There were also destroyable bodies, but I had to remove it because they were causing bugs on maps that abused of monster teleports by blocking the teleportation spots, making the monsters not able to use the teleports. But I am still trying to look for a way to solve this bug, and bring this feature back with v20. Have you ever had something that you really wanted to add to Brütal Doom, but just weren’t able to at the time? For that matter, what are some of the things you’re looking forward to adding to v20? ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes. So many. V20 was supposed to have many enemies to be able to keep walking and chasing the player after losing an arm or a leg. It was also supposed to have more rescuable marines, different type of marines’ carrying different guns, and looking different (such as helmetless marines, a bald marine such as the shotgunguy, and even a female marine) and everyone with different fatalities to perform on other monsters. I also had planned a feature that would allow the player to grab gibs and body parts to throw at enemies and use it as a grotesque last resort weapon, or as a bait to lure enemies, or break traps. I also wanted every item to get drenched in blood when an enemy exploded near it (currently, only barrels and trees will make use of this feature). Seems like all these ideas will have to wait for v21. You’ve shown some interest in modding other classic videogames in Brütal Doom’s facebook page, and I think I ask this for many players out there: Any news on Brütal Hexen, or any other Brütal Projects? --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I have big plans for Brütal Hexen, but it still is on hold. I already implemented some interactive objects, giving the player the ability to grab and throw many objects, such as stones, pots, and torches. I have plans to introduce new enemies, new items, new spells, and a new class: The Huntress, which is focused on long-ranged combat, stealth combat, and ailment spells. But still, no big advances on Brütal Hexen will be taken until Brütal Doom v20 and my map packs Extermination Day and Recurring Nightmares gets finished. Being a modder from Brazil, you have a very unique position to look at the Gaming community. What do you think about the way modding communities work? Especially considering the lack of accessibility to people who speak languages other than English, like Portuguese or Spanish? ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I think the biggest issue with modding communities is that in almost everyone, there is a huge war of ego going on everywhere. Communities tends to split themselves in internal groups and make passive-aggressive attitudes towards other members, or openly start a war against other internal group. And almost everyone takes too much pride on their work, and they don't want to share what they got with other members. On the Doom scene, Skulltag is a good example, at some point, a group of members unhappy with the directions that the creator CarnEvil was taking, practically stole it and re-hosted the project on a private domain. Years of drama some later, the Carn found a way to get it back regain control of the forums and the master server, and decided to just unplug everything, and take his creation down for good. Since the code was open-source under a GPL and Carn could never claim ownership over it, Skulltag was reborn by it's former captors some weeks later as Zandronum. In the end everything ended well, but a lot of problems could have been avoided. Another example is Legacy of Suffering - the mod that killed the Brazilian Doom community forever. The project was a collective effort by the BrDoom community, several people worked on it, some of them even did meet IRL to discuss about the project, but when the project leader LoganMTM released it on Doomworld, he credited himself as the creator of the mod, and when the mod awarded a Cacoward, Logan was the only one credited, when in fact, he was only a mapper, and the other members claims that he never contributed with a single line of code, or a single pixel of art. Everything could have been settled up, but everyone's ego was too big, friendships were broken, and Logan banned everyone that disagreed with him, and after banning literally over half of the active users, he deactivated the forums one month later. These banned people created a new forum called Doomed Force that didn't last long. The whole Brazilian Dooming scene practically died because somebody's ego. Things were even worse in the Warcraft 3 community. There was a practice called "map protection" that consists of using a third party program that causes damage to the code of a map in a way that makes the game still be able to run it normally with any, but make it completely impossible to the World Editor to open it, so you can't extract the custom resources, and you can't even look at the code and learn something. 95% of the community adapted this practice, and I have seen countless huge Warcraft 3 projects having to be halted and stuck with a version forever because the developer never uploaded or made a backup of an unprotected version, then lost its HDD, or left the community. I think every modder out there should learn once and for all that we are just making what we do for fun, nobody is paying us for it. We are not trying to make the best work possible so we can show it to our boss and ask for a raise. Sure, there are some despicable practices such as taking someone's resource or code and claiming that it was made by yourself, but uploading something to the internet and asking other people to not reuse it, even if proper credit is given is just the most pointless thing that you are going to do in your life. About people having problems with language, I recommend them to make more frequent use online translators, and don't try to write the posts themselves if someone points out that they can't write something understandable, because you can't interact with a community if nobody understands what you are trying to say. Nowadays translators are much more reliable than it was used to be ten years ago. What do you feel about the Gaming community in South America? Brazil, as well as many other countries in the region, have had a huge boom of gaming as of late, and I imagine that can be both good and bad for a community --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- It's not quite as good as I wish it could be. Most of the players have a very narrowed taste, and only communication with foreigners is often hard because most people here don't speak English and have no interest on learning it. The average Brazilian gamer often gets into an American or European server and start spamming "br?" until either other Brazilians responds, or he get banned. The recent boom of gaming was caused by the surge of Lan Houses around 2006 (some kind of Cyber Cafe that is exclusively used for gaming, and people plays pirated copies of Counter-Strike in LAN games, or F2P games over the internet) and the great devaluation of 7th generation consoles that started around 2011. Not every game maintains dedicated servers here on Brazil, so it brought more uneducated people to spam "BR? BR? BR?" everywhere. Lately these people have been contained in League of Legends and Call of Duty, but they often come to other games to spam Brazilian Funk on their mics. Heh, sometimes I can understand why there are people all around the world that hates us. The language barrier is one of the hardest for many South American gamers to get over. How was that like? Did you have a previous knowledge of English? ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- No. The majority of Brazilians believes that they can perfectly live their lives without ever speaking a single word in a different language, the schools doesn't care about teaching English, and the students don't care about learning it. English and Spanish are just secondary and unimportant subjects here, and 80% of a Brazilian student's time in school is spent with mathematics and Portuguese, and even story and philosophy are considered secondary. Most public secondary schools keeps trying to teach how to conjugate the verb "To Be", and translate words such as "airplane", or "tree" until the senior year. Some people can take language schools, but they are expensive and not effective since most people who take them are on their late 20's, and completely unable to learn anything more than translating individual words. The teachers are so unprepared that even I, a person that never left the country, was able to work as an English teacher for a while. I had to learn everything by myself. My first interactions with the Warcraft 3 community were atrocious to say the least, I had to explain the same thing two or three times so they could understand me. It's was not exactly the best place to learn things because half of the community were composed by Russians and other Brazilians that also had a terrible grammar. Things only started to get better around 2009, when I began to frequent imageboards. Has the popularity of your mod attracted “less than desirable” attention? ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes, already happened a lot of times. I got in some pretty bad discussions on the Zdoom forums about features. Some people even claim that I am "not the developer that Brütal Doom deserves", saying that the guy that works on the sub-version Sperglord Edition should take over the project, sometimes even "demanding" me to change things like if they were my employers, saying that they wouldn't play the mod anymore if I don't change something they don't like, even in face of many other people disagreeing with it's opinion. And there are also a lot of people that think I have destroyed the Doom modding community, that Brütal Doom brings Call of Duty players to it and they keep demanding every modder to make their mods compatible with Brütal Doom, but I finally noticed that the best way to deal with this kind of people is to simply ignore them. But even one year after I was banned from Zdoom forums, they like to make fake accounts on Youtube and attempt to say things like I am the bastard son of Paul Fish and Britney Spears, that I am also the second coming of Hitler and that I am a jungle monkey that should die. Well, I guess that you can't please everyone, right? Have you ever considered creating a full-blown standalone game after what you’ve learned modding for Doom? If not why? And if so, would you use the original Doom engine, or something entirely new? ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Yes I did. I actually have lots of ideas of games that I could make, but I try to not put any expectations on it. My country's offers absolutely zero opportunity for this, there is literally not even a single Brazilian studio focused on making PC or console games, and the very few studios we have are only focused on mobile games. Once I even tried to write a game design document about a RPG, but I soon discarded it, because it would be just a waste of time. How did you feel when your mod won the CacoAwards? It’s one of those key moments for Brütal Doom, after all. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ It was pretty awesome. I could never predict that a once simple gameplay mod would get this far. First I went to hit the bars with my friends to celebrate, then when I got back home at dawn, the first thing I did was to go to Doomed Force forums and rub it all over LoganMTM's face. One year before, when we started to criticize Legacy of Suffering so he could improve things on the sequel he told that everyone should just shut the fuck up, because he was the first Brazilian to get awarded by a Cacoward, and nobody in that entire forum could criticize his work, and would be banned for doing so. Then there I was, remembering him that I didn't just won a Cacoward like him, but Brütal Doom was also decisive for changing the way Doomworld looks at gameplay mods, making them give more recognition to Zdoomers and change the Cacowards forever. Nowadays I am fine with him, and I am even helping with some minor coding on LOS 2, but I still laugh everytime when I remember that day. Even three months after the celebration, I was still finding people on Brütal Doom's servers congratulating me. As a last question for now, what would you like to say to your fans, as well as the modders and gamers from all over the world that may be inspired by your work? ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- To my fans, I want to thank them all for following me until here. Every time I see a comment on Youtube of people thanking me for making the mod, I get more and more motivated to never stop working on mods. To the modders, I want to tell some of them to be less protective about their work, and see modding as a passion, and not a competition. I also ask their fans to don't treat modders as employees. If you want something to be changed in a mod, submit your ideas to the modder in the most clear and technical possible way, and be always prepared to receive a "No" as response, because it's somebody else's mod after all. Oh, and talking about people inspired by my work, I would really want to hear soon about the guy working on Brutal Half-Life, he hasn't posted news for a while. Well, I think that I am in position to talk about violence in videogames since I did one of the goriest mods ever, so, I want to tell the gamers in general to rethink the way they see violence in videogames. It doesn't matters if you are killing a violent terrorist in Call of Duty, or executing a helpless civilian that is begging for his life in Hatred, you must be aware that in the core, you are just deactivating the scripts that controls the AI of a voxel hitbox that is represented by a hollow 3D model. Violence in a virtual world doesn't needs any justification at all. Some people try to defend violence in games only when it is justified, when it's inside a context, that it's okay to kill a soldier in a war, but not okay to kill a civilian for no reason. These people are, in fact, being the kind of people that Jack Thompson feared. The kind of people who unconsciously can't tell the difference between a 3D model and a real person, that the 3D model can't be erased without a reason, and it has the same rights to exist as a real person. No, it doesn't. Human Rights and the Geneva Conventions are not applied to videogame characters. One of the reasons that games are made is to allow you to do things that you would never do in real life. > Download Brütal Doom Here: