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You've Never Seen a DOOM Mod Like This

There are still designers happily working in John Carmack's DOOM engine. Sam Prebble, developer of the ambitious and impressive Total Chaos, is one of them.

When most people think about DOOM II, here's what comes to mind:

DOOM II was released in 1994, but people are still making new content for DOOM II. Total Chaos is one such mod, and 24-year-old Sam Prebble of New Zealand has somehow come up with this:

There's really only one way to respond to that video: holy shit.

Mod, or modification, is the shorthand used to describe alterations of code, assets, and other aspects of an original game. (Remember the Alien TC?) id Software's releases, from DOOM to Quake, have been famous for energizing and embracing community-driven content long before it was popular to do so.

An important reason DOOM II and other id Software titles have maintained relevance long past their shelf life is because the source code was eventually released. Programmer John Carmack, now at Oculus, has long advocated for open source software, even with his own games. It's allowed the community to make significant alterations the original developers either have no interest in or have no time for.

Prebble has been working on Total Chaos since 2005, which means he's been developing this DOOM II mod since he was 15-years-old. These days, Total Chaos is an open world survival game in the vein of S.T.A.L.K.E.R., but it wasn't always that way. Prebble has been kicking Total Chaos around in various forms for years. The original version was simply a series of sprite replacements, but Prebble found the DOOM engine creatively limiting when it came to generating a sense of tension and atmosphere.

Mods kept interest in DOOM alive for years. The Alien total conversion--sprites, sounds, levels--is a perfect example.

But it's the video above, which circulated in late May, that really caught people's attention. When Prebble started making games, there was no Unity or Unreal Engine. Your options were limited.

"So I just stuck to modding DOOM, said Prebble. "I’ve been modding DOOM for longer than I’ve been looking at anything else. I got the game when I was 7, and I’ve just been playing it since."

Who hasn't had their experimental DOOM phase? Even I loaded up a few map editors back in the day, though I distinctly remember having real trouble figuring out how to make doors work.

"A lot of my friends, when I talk to them," he continued, "are all 'why are you modding DOOM? It’s such an old looking game!' It’s nothing really specific. It’s just the appeal of trying to make something old look new, I guess."

But when is a DOOM engine still a DOOM engine? Good question. The community has heavily modified the original DOOM source code that includes support for modern graphics APs like OpenGL, mouse look, and more. These additions have allowed Prebble to build with the ambitions present in Total Chaos.

Nobody, for example, fondly remembers DOOM II because of its open world environments.

"There are many tricks that I have to work around," he said. "Working with the DOOM engine is fun and all, but there are a lot of hacks and tricks you have to do to get around the constraints you are give, [including] working on modding systems to get rid of things that you don’t see. A lot of that stuff has to be done manually."

Prebble isn't a full-time game developer, either. DOOM mods don't exactly pay the bills in 2014. (Did they ever?) By day, Prebble works in television, though he's hoping to make his mark in the games industry. That means about everything in Total Chaos--art, code, design--has been crafted by Prebble.

"A lot of my friends, when I talk to them, are all 'why are you modding DOOM? It’s such an old looking game!' It’s nothing really specific. It’s just the appeal of trying to make something old look new."

"It’s probably why it’s taken so long," he said. " [laughs] Back in 2008, when I put that first video together with the 3D stuff, I don’t know barely any of that. It’s just been seven years of learning this stuff."

A friend has been helping Prebble craft the game's sound effects, though, and in late May, he recruited an artist. The hope is a full-time artist should accelerate development. Right now, Total Chaos has technically been in the works for almost a decade, but it's coming together, partially because people are paying attention.

The plan wasn't to have people start caring about Total Chaos right now. Prebble had hoped that would happen later. But you work with what you have, and he's newly motivated to finish the mod, even if the articles, interviews, and unexpected web traffic has caught him by surprise.

"It’s never happened to me before," he said."[It] was quite scary. I had to go back and make sure the information was accurate on my blog. [...] It is quite ambitious, and I do want it to live up to being something that’s fun, not just a tech demo."

Prebble hopes to have a beta version of Total Chaos available by the end of the year.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
73 Comments
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Posted by AuthenticM

Looks interesting, but I wonder how much it'll feel like Doom.

Edited by CaffeineOD

Some really intense atmosphere going on there, probably one of the most impressive mods i've seen since ICEnhancer.

Edited by sigspec

It's incredible how much life people have been able to squeeze out of that engine.

Edited by cyberfunk

Interesting. I wonder how much of the original DOOM 2 code is left. This raises another question: How much does a mod need to change the original game before it stops being a mod and is now a new game? It reminds me of the Theseus' Ship paradox http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_Theseus

Posted by CaffeineOD

@cyberfunk: They could always just slap on the "Total Conversion" name and it would be okay i guess.

Edited by conmulligan

Good piece! I think it's a little weird to call it a mod though, even if it started that way. I mean, it would be kind of like calling Thirty Flights of Loving a Quake II mod, which would be a pretty reductive way of looking at that game.

Posted by TheHT

Holy shit! That thing looks nuts coming from Doom 2.

I was big into Half-Life 1 mods. Sven Co-op, Action HL, The Specialists, Brainbread, They Hunger, HL: Gold, Scientist Slaughterhouse, Wanted!, . I guess CS and DoD could technically fit in there. Also loved the "retail mods" i.e expansions or other games with the engine (OpFor, Blue Shift, Gunman Chronicles). Great modding scene.

Doom and Quake I played pretty straight, though with Quake 3 I was all about collecting player models and skins.

Posted by SnakeVSGiantBomb

Looks amazing.

Posted by lightsoda

Wouldn't call it a mod if it's using an evolved engine without any connection to the game.

Not knocking on what he's doing though, looks great.

Edited by cloudymusic

When most people think about DOOM II, here's what comes to mind:

Cacodad loooooooooves Fridays.

Posted by Grimpopo

The one thing I would take exception to though is the lack of available game tools at the time. There were Quake (1&2) tools available in 1997, UnrealEd first appeared in 1998, and by 2005 there were several game engines available (including Unity).

That said, this is all the more impressive if for nothing else than the tenacity to stick with it.

Posted by MrMazz

Wow that's amazing

Posted by Hassun

Thanks for taking the time to talk to these guys @patrickklepek. I was hoping to see some of this since the splash they made with that video.

Posted by AMyggen

Okay, this looks pretty incredible. The amount of great mods that has come out of Doom and Doom II over the years is almost stupid.

Posted by Baal_Sagoth

Very interesting! I'd love it if this came out and was actually really fucking good. STALKER is an ambitious goal in my book though. I do like that game quite a bit.

Posted by Mister_Snig

Awesome write-up, Scoops! Can't wait to play this thing!

Edited by fisk0

@lightsoda said:

Wouldn't call it a mod if it's using an evolved engine without any connection to the game.

Not knocking on what he's doing though, looks great.

I guess it still requires the Doom II IWAD and the ZDoom or Zandronum source ports, technically making it a mod rather than a stand alone game based on the source code. But, it's kinda stretching it.

@cyberfunk said:

Interesting. I wonder how much of the original DOOM 2 code is left. This raises another question: How much does a mod need to change the original game before it stops being a mod and is now a new game? It reminds me of the Theseus' Ship paradox http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_Theseus

Most of the features this mod/game is using have been independently added to the most popular source ports over the years. Most of the source code probably comes from Hexen rather than Doom, since it added support for polygonal objects, more open level progression through a hub system and the ability to look up and down. Polygonal monster models, originally just (somewhat poor) recreations of the Doom enemies were added to ZDoom, jDoom and Doomsday about ten years ago, as was colored lighting, Duke Nukem 3D style support for "room over room" (like in Duke Nukem it's still faked, with two 2D sectors put on top of each other, so you still can't build tall structures with several floors) and particle effects.

This is the first mod I've seen that makes use of all these features added to the game engine over the years, and using them to create something that does not look like Doom at all.

Posted by JHebbel

Looks like an impressive resume to me, be surprised if a studio didn't try to contact him.

Posted by ultrapeanut

I love that the grunt at ~50s is the only indication this has anything to do with Doom. Also, that stressful-looking realtime lock/key mechanic is baller.

Posted by SeraphSlaughter

he's 24 and can do stuff like this? ugh im 25 and finally put out something creative this year. WUT M I DOIN

Posted by Fitzgerald

Bethesda should just hire this guy and call this game Doom 4.

Posted by MrBubbles

The fact that that's the same engine as Doom II is crazy, I mean it looks nothing like it and there's jumping! and an inventory! I didn't think that game had it in it!

Edited by ghostNPC

Great writeup Patrick. Shit that game looks scary.

Posted by Praxis

So in ten years' time he's produced a two-minute trailer. I foresee a Mordeth Award in this man's future.

Posted by Grondoth

One Weird Trick That ID Software Doesn't Want You To Know!

Posted by csl316

Interesting stuff.

Online
Posted by Murdoc_

There was very little chaos for a game called Total Chaos. Aside from that, looks neat, the fov and head bob looks pretty natural, especially for something in Doom 3, but I'm not sure if I dig the whole scan line effect.

Posted by zig

Yeah it's kinda neat that this is (sorta) based on Doom code, but other than the novelty I'm not sure what it brings to the table that other options in 2005 were doing better.

Posted by barleyscotch

hi, hey there, please write something about all the awesome Doom WADs that are notable for being awesome Doom WADs rather than Doom WADs that only run in source port and are trying to pretend they aren't Doom WADs

Posted by Jeff

you're a doom wad

Staff
Posted by CairnsyTheBeard

Cool......but 16x Motion Blur? I think not!

Edited by bcc

@barleyscotch: While I think this is a pretty cool project from a technical standpoint and it's still worth covering, I would also love to see more about the Doom modding community, including all the great megawads throughout the years that don't require source ports. It's kind of a niche area of PC gaming though. I'd be willing to put together a forum post with a list of noteworthy wads and a quick start guide but I'm not sure how much interest there would be.

Posted by artofwar420

Would love to play it.

Posted by StingingVelvet

Man I love PC gaming.

I still play Doom/Quake/Heretic and the rest to this day, using source port mods that make them feel more modern (WASD, high-res, etc.). Still so fun, better than singleplayer Call of Duty for sure.

Posted by jiggajoe14

Holy hell that looks intense and terrifying. And it's amazing to hear how much work the creator is putting into this. Good work Scoops.

Posted by fisk0

@bcc said:

@barleyscotch: While I think this is a pretty cool project from a technical standpoint and it's still worth covering, I would also love to see more about the Doom modding community, including all the great megawads throughout the years that don't require source ports. It's kind of a niche area of PC gaming though. I'd be willing to put together a forum post with a list of noteworthy wads and a quick start guide but I'm not sure how much interest there would be.

Yeah, there was a pretty good article linked by John Romero a while back talking a bit about the mod community, the cacowards etc. available here: http://blog.danbo.vg/post/50094276897/the-most-misunderstood-game-of-all-time

Worth Playing should probably have a weekly Doom WAD.

Posted by Death_Unicorn

The fact that you had to define mod is hilarious to me.

Edited by Rebel_Scum

@barleyscotch

What the heck is a Doom WAD?

This looks pretty good. @patrickklepek is this meant to be a survival horror like game? I honestly was waiting for this dude to pull out the shotgun from his backpack and just starting firing at these ghoulies.

EDIT: Crap I re-read the article and answered my own question. Sorry.

Posted by chilipeppersman

@authenticm: wow this looks amazing given what he had to work with! pretty creepy too

Posted by zombiemantra

Thank you for reminding me I am inadequate as fuck :(

P.S. This looks amazing. Can't wait to check it out.

Posted by Tolkienfanatic

You've never seen a DOOM mod like this because it isn't a DOOM mod... even if it did start out as one.

Posted by ripelivejam

@jeff said:

you're a doom wad

zing!

Posted by Darek006

@jeff said:

you're a doom wad

Ugh what a lame joke go awayyyyyyyy someone ban this man

Posted by Rotnac

That looks incredible. It's basically a completely different game. Was hoping to see a shotgun and Imp throw a fireball but Total Chaos looks to be more survival horror than DOOM platforming/shooting.

Still impressive though! Can't wait to see more.

Posted by jouhn

@cyberfunk: When it is called a new game instead of a mod. Same with the ship. Whatever they call the Ship of Theseus is the Ship of Theseus. It's really that simple. Same thing with defining a new species. When did we stop being apes? Why aren't we just another sub species of apes?

There are many examples of modded games being released as new full priced games, most notoriously from a really big publisher with yearly releases of a series: (Name of big publisher with a game series with an annual release).

Edited by Zelyre

Angled ceilings in your Doom Engine? It may be more likely than you think!

Posted by Pudge

He turned Doom into a survival horror game with Zombies. Because that's what we need more of! ZOMBIES!

Edited by Vuud

@cyberfunk said:

Interesting. I wonder how much of the original DOOM 2 code is left. This raises another question: How much does a mod need to change the original game before it stops being a mod and is now a new game? It reminds me of the Theseus' Ship paradox http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_Theseus

The way I see it, as soon as you start making changes to the source code, it's not Doom or the Doom engine any more, it becomes a fork. This would be the latest in a long line of source ports and forks designed to run Doom an modern hardware and add features to the engine, which was necessary before Dosbox came along (thank God). That's been my response to stuff like Brutal Doom; it's not really Doom, they're doing a lot more than compiling some PWAD's. And when I want to play some Doom, I fire up Dosbox and play some DOOM ASSED DOOM. None of your bells and whistles can beat the original.

A good example is Call of Duty. Would you call CoD a Quake mod? They have used a heavily modified version of the Quake 3 engine (idTech) since the beginning and have been changing it ever since. There is probably still some very basic Quake code left in CoD, like the some of the netcode, getting the main menu to display text, or the code to draw textures on polygons, that sort of thing. So this thing in the article is really like a whole new game based on a chopped up and tricked out source port of the Doom engine.

Posted by Vampire_Chibi

i really like the time he has on screen

Edited by TouchFluffyTail

I really like the look of this; the camera view is something I've always loved.

My only concern is the ability for him to make good monster animations and AI in that engine. I'm sure it's doable, but what kills the preview video for me is the obviously low frame animation (or possibly low interp) on the walk cycles of the monsters, as well as the goofy animation itself. Bad animation/AI really kills a horror game. For example: Dreadout was only effective for about 5 minutes because of this; the AI on the big guy was so atrocious he lost all impact after the first major encounter, which subsequently killed the game.

This is early and mostly made by one guy though so, I have hope!

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