DOOM II - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Dominic Tarason)

Leather-clad raiders with neon green mohawks roam irradiated monuments to capitalism, their acid-spitting lizard-dogs in tow. Ashes 2063, by modder Vostyok is about as 80s an apocalypse can get, even after filtering it through a 2018 iteration of a 90s game engine. It’s a free post-apocalyptic FPS (or total conversion mod, if you’re old-school) built on the ever-popular GZDoom engine. Its first episode launched yesterday.

While 98% new, Ashes 2063 still requires some manner of Doom data file to fill the gaps. Fortunately, the (free) Freedoom will suffice, if you don’t own Doom 2. Below, a launch trailer.

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DOOM II - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (John Walker)

John Romero has just congratulated Doom guru Zero Master on discovering the last hidden secret of Doom II, some 24 years after it was released. A secret that had previously been thought impossible to actually find.

(more…)

RAGE

2016's Doom and the original Rage are now both available via Xbox Games Pass - their arrivals timed to coincide with this weekend's QuakeCon 2018 festivities.

It's especially well-timed as publisher Bethesda and developer id Software have spent the weekend chatting about both games' upcoming sequels: Doom Eternal and Rage 2.

This weekend we learned Rage 2 won't have multiplayer but will have "a social component", then saw our first look at Doom Eternal gameplay and found out it would also launch for Nintendo Switch.

Read more…

Commander Keen

Great moments in PC gaming are short, bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories. 

You never know what’s going to become A Thing. Take the Dopefish. He appears in one level during the shareware game Commander Keen: Goodbye Galaxy, which describes him as "the second dumbest creature in the universe. His thought patterns go, 'swim swim hungry, swim swim hungry.'" And yet somehow, this chunky green wonder became something of an industry mascot in the 90s, hidden in everything from Quake to current Early Access game Dusk. Not to mention assorted callouts, including the classic bit of digital graffiti "DOPEFISH LIVES". He even appeared on Tiny Toon Adventures, as a scientific example of zero-intelligence. Which is all the more impressive/terrifying given that the top of this specific scale was a chicken drumstick.

Over the last few years though, it has to be said there's been a distinct absence of gaming's favorite piscine. When people talk of True Gamers, it's always tiresome nonsense about 'skill' or whatever. Clearly, the real definition should be people who encounter that gap-toothed smile deep in the bowels of some secret level and take a moment to nod in recognition at one of gaming's furthest-traveled fishies. The Dopefish must live again! In every game! No exceptions! We want to see the Dopefish in Silent Hill! The Dopefish in Fifa '09 The Dopefish in Dota 2!

Maybe not the Dopefish in Just Fishing though.

That would be… most unfortunate.

Wolfenstein 3D

The Wes Maneuver.

Last week, I tossed a comment about my pinky into the PC Gamer Slack channel, and it was like I'd just walked into a room and mispronounced the word bagel. I'd said something so immediately, obviously wrong to everyone but me that the five dudes and one woman up in orbit right now probably felt the shockwave of wrong reverberate through the International Space Station. Somehow there were no casualties, except my innocence. 

Until 5:34 pm, I'd assumed I play PC games like a Totally Normal Person.

I do not.

Okay, so, look. Here's the thing. Like most kids who grew up in the '90s, I mainly learned to type on PCs and Macs in keyboarding class, and to this day I'm a home row typist. Around the same time I was learning to type,  most games still defaulted to the arrow keys for movement. I definitely played Wolfenstein 3D with the arrow keys, and rarely played other PC shooters until years later. I was too busy with Command & Conquer and Warcraft.

So whenever I got back around to games with WASD controls—it might've been Halo: Combat Evolved around 2004—I did what my brain considered natural. I kept my fingers on the home row, and moved my ring finger from S up to W to walk forward and backward. This seemed perfectly normal. But, um.

Here's how I play PC games, which was quickly coined The Wes Maneuver:

  • A: Pinky
  • W/S: Ring finger
  • D: Middle finger
  • R/F/C/etc.: Index finger

I hope this revelation hasn't caused you physical or mental pain. Honestly, I'm still reeling. Not at the thought of doing it wrong, because the great thing about PC gaming is we can customize our games however we want. If you prefer to move with ESDF, that's perfectly fine! But it did not even occur to me, until last Wednesday at 5:34 pm, that anyone else would press the WASD keys differently. Then everyone started typing at once.

My pinky goes where?

No one on staff could remember how they learned to position their fingers for WASD, but the general consensus seemed to be that the pinky is weak.

If you'd asked me to guess how most people positioned their fingers on WASD, I'd have be totally stumped. What else would even feel natural? My way is so obvious. As the rest of the team reacted to my heretical fingering, I had to Google around for what I was missing and found tons of photos like this. The pinky lives on Shift???

I tried to contort my hand into this position. At first it felt freakish. I was tenting my fingers to stand on A, W, and D, but my brain still insisted the pinky belonged on A, too. I had to shove it to the side like a dead limb. After a few tries, I realized the natural orientation was simply shifting over to the left, and resting on A/S/D. The middle finger moves up to press W when needed. That still feels like madness to my 15 years of muscle memory, but I'll admit resting my pinky on Shift does feel pretty great. It's like a vacation: my pinky gets to sprawl out on a spacious, less-used key, and isn't responsible for strafing at pivotal moments. It's a lot of pressure, moving left.

No one on staff could remember how they learned to position their fingers for WASD, but the general consensus seemed to be that the pinky is weak and unfit for the responsibility of an important movement key. Better to trust it with lower-frequency actions like sprinting and crouching, they said. Also, I finally understand why most people find Ctrl to crouch much more convenient than I do.

But this is the part that just boggles my mind: how did this position make its way into the collective unconscious of PC gaming?

The Wolfenstein 3D manual.

Evan conjured up the best theory: the typical WASD positioning actually carries over from using the arrow keys from back in the Wolf 3D days. If you used your right hand on the arrow keys, you almost certainly had your index finger on Left, middle on Down, and ring on Right. No pinky. And if you used your left hand, the pinky could reach out and press right Ctrl. This makes a whole lot of sense. And in original Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, Ctrl was the default Fire key.

I'm going to say "I didn't play enough Doom" is as good an explanation as I'm ever going to get. It's true: I didn't play Doom back when it came out. Then again, plenty of people who did play Doom went on to play tons of Quake and other first-person games like System Shock, which often had radically varying control schemes, and they mostly still migrated to the "proper" WASD. To make myself feel better about my apparently weird way of WASDing, I turned to someone I knew would have my back: former PC Gamer managing editor Chris Comiskey.

If I'm a mere heretic, Chris is the Archangel of Chaotic  PC Control Schemes. Here's what he had to say: 

"WASD? Vanilla, boring, and conformist. Behold my ultimate control scheme, picked up in Duke Nukem 3D, the best game ever made with the word Nukem in it: right mouse button to go forward (naturally), pinky on Left Ctrl, thumb on Left Alt and Spacebar, ring finger on Shift, middle finger on A and W, index finger working W, Z, S, X, and occasionally, the almighty C. And you better believe that my mouse is inverted. This is how I rock my PC games, and I always have. Your way is wrong and stupid. Mine is the best."

The Chris Comiskey Maneuver. Or should we call it the Duke 3D?

Honestly? Ctrl/Shift/A/S is pretty comfortable. I don't think I could ever get used to walking forward with a mouse button, but I dig the rest of it. As Chris says, PC gaming is all about bending the platform to your preferences. "Choice in graphics, choice in mods, choice in hardware. It’s no different with controls. If I have the sudden urge to use Scroll Lock as jump and F8 as strafe left, well, that’s my business, dammit."

Embrace your strange control schemes, PC gamers. If you're young, try not to totally mangle your hand using the default keybindings for Fortnite. It's okay to rebind. And if you see someone out there using their pinky on A, ease them into the wider world of WASDing gently.

DOOM II - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Dominic Tarason)

Rekkr

When it comes to mods for old games, I love seeing just how far their structure can be pushed with modern engines, but there’s still some wisdom in the old ways. Viking-themed Doom mod Rekkr takes it all the way to the old school and back again, uphill both ways in freezing snow.

Built to authentic retro specs (making it compatible with even the original DOS version, should you so wish), there’s no vertical aim, crouching or jumping here, just 25+ levels of weird techno-magical viking violence, with new enemies, weapons and art.

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Quake III Arena - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Dominic Tarason)

Google Deepmind

Google’s DeepMind research division have made a pretty solid argument that the future of game AI is in self-teaching neural networks. Not content with destroying chess forever (credit to the BBC), their most recent project was to have a team of AI agents learn how to play a Quake 3-derived game of Capture The Flag from scratch. Not only did they master it, but after nearly half a million simulated games, these bots aren’t just better than human players, but more cooperative than a human if paired with one as a teammate.

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DOOM II - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Dominic Tarason)

Doom: The Golden Souls 2

Doom 2 mega-mod Doom: The Golden Souls 2 is the sugary treat we all deserve today. Take one part Doom, one part Super Mario World, put them in a blender until smooth and brightly coloured then garnish with fresh gibs and candy sprinkles. It’s a full game in its own right, with lots of bouncy platforming across dozens of levels with new weapons and enemies from prolific modder Andrea ‘Batandy’ Gori, who previously brought us the excellent Castlevania: Simon’s Destiny.

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QUAKE - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Rich McCormick)

quake-champs-headerUpdate Night is a fortnightly column in which Rich McCormick revisits games to find out whether they’ve been changed for better or worse.>

If, for some reason, you needed reminding of Quake Champions 90s heritage, then you need look no further than Anarki. One of Quake Champions 12 playable characters, Anarki (1) rides a hovering skateboard, (2) has a pink-dyed mohawk, (3) sports a pair of space JNCOs tucked into his metal legs, and (4) talks like the galaxy s spaciest stoner dude.

He s the video game version of The Simpsons Poochie: an attitude-by-numbers toon cooked up by an undead focus group whose members all died when Papa Roach released their first album. But he s not even the most 90s thing about Quake Champions. That would be the game itself, a resolutely old-school arena shooter that in full flow feels as fast and fluid as Quake 3 did in 1999. (more…)

QUAKE

1996: the year of both classic FPS Quake and of the famous viral video of a dancing virtual baby, which spawned an equally famous GIF that was emailed across offices around the world. Joshua Skelton, lead artist on first-person rogue-like Delver, has now combined the two, as you can see above.

As he says in the tweet, it's not all about getting the babies into the game: he's creating a tool to convert GIFs into in-game sprites. It's apparently quite simple to pull off. "I just renamed baby.spr to soldier.mdl! The Quake engine treats 2D sprites and 3D meshes (and 3D maps!) generically as models and they can (mostly) be used interchangeably," he says.

Another Twitter user replied with an important question: what if you shoot your grenade launcher at the babies? Thankfully nothing, Skelton says: they just keep on dancing.

My money is on a smiling Robert Redford making it into the game next.

...

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