The Amiga Gets Doom

A Look At ADoom 1.1, DoomAttack 0.7, ADoomGUI and GUI4Doom

By Steve Duff, Contributing Editor,

I'm a big fan of Doom, as anyone who's read my reviews of Amiga Doom-clones must realize. I've been playing Doom and designing levels for better than two years now. For all this time, Amigans who wanted to play Doom needed either a PC, a Mac, or ShapeShifter to do it. Not anymore.

Thanks to id releasing the source code for the Linux version of Doom, and thanks to some excellent and stunningly fast Amiga programmers, we now have at least seven, maybe eight known versions of Amiga Doom. We also have what may become the finest version of Doom on any platform.

This last is especially pleasing to me, since in the long run it'll show up all those naysaying nabobs in, at least those of the type who yip and yap and grouse about spending more than ten bucks for a game, or wasting time porting 1993 titles when after all Unreal is almost out, etc. etc. I can tell you I was quite pleased by the general Amiga reaction to Doom. It was highly positive, as might be expected, since the general consensus of the cosmos is that Doom is one of the best computer games of all time.

Before delving into the specific ports and utilities, it's worth taking a look at what Doom is and what makes it so strong against the also-rans. Doom, more than most other Doom-clones, is based on the tripwire trap. When you cross unseen lines in Doom, walls may open, ceilings may fall, monsters may teleport in -- there is a very large palette of options available to the Doom designer. This is not to say that Doom lacks puzzles or straight-ahead combat, but what makes Doom more special than the pretenders is the extraordinary speed with which booby traps unravel, and the very impressive effects they can generate. The Doom engine, while not a true 3D engine like Quake's, has certain strong points as well. For one, it's really fast. For another, it allows the creation of enormous virtual spaces, both indoors and out. Most so-called 'Doom-clones' are really Wolfenstein clones with limited engines, which thus become tedious, linear 'corridor shooters.' The sense of wide-open spaces in Doom is, I'm sure, one of the reasons for its enduring appeal. Doom also boasts a superbly-balanced array of monsters and weapons, along with five different skill levels. This is an area where many of the pretenders fall flat on their face, becoming too easy or too difficult. The ability to save your game at any point in Doom also allows designers great latitude in tweaking the difficulty of their levels. Which is to say that at the high end, on UltraViolence, it is possible to design incredibly cruel and challenging levels, but instead of having to play the entire level again, players can just keep trying to defeat the particular situation that stopped them. While it's true that some purists abhor the 'save anywhere' approach, it's also true that most people would get bored trying to beat a level from scratch and would move on to a less frustrating game.

Two more Doom qualities worth mentioning involve the sprites. For years, Doom was number one in sprite animation, with the possible exception of some console games. By comparison to the creatures in Doom, those of most other games seem stiff and unconvincing. Lastly, Doom is the only game I know of that can throw an army at you -- up to 64 sprites onscreen at once. Quake and Quake 2 don't even come close!

As of this date, the best Amiga Doom I've seen is ADoom 1.1, by Peter McGavin. Peter has diligently kept his version updated and optimized, fixing bugs as they appear (and occasionally introducing new ones). At this point, ADoom supports sound effects, music, Internet play, and most of the special codes and features. Earlier versions did not support, for example, recording demos, the IDCLEV warping cheat, or Turbo. I was able to verify that IDCLEV works in 1.1, but my miggy went bonkers before I could test demo recording or Turbo. Another nice touch of this version is that Peter went ahead and mapped all movement keys to the numeric keypad as well as the main keyboard -- a great boon to players like me, who use the keypad for everything but shooting. As a further bonus, support is worked in for DeHackEd files, which can radically alter the way Doom looks and plays.

But the big news in ADoom 1.1 has to be the hi-res feature. This is very remarkable, since Linux Doom is a command-line Doom, which so far as I'm aware is limited to a 320x200 resolution, just like the MS-DOS version. To play Doom at hi-res (640x400 - 640x480), you needed GUI-launched versions like MacDoom or Doom95. I have no idea how Peter did it, but in his version you can go to like 1600x1200 if you have a mind to, making it perhaps the only version of Doom capable of a res beyond 640x480. This is really cool. I tested it at 800x600 and was amazed when the game actually moved. It looked awesome, too. At 640x480 I achieved a framerate of 8.85fps on my A4060T. At a compromise res of 512x384, 12.83fps was achieved, but at the price of the sky texture tiling unattractively. In normal 320x200 modes, ADoom has managed 27.3 fps on CGX and over 25 fps on NTSC Hi-Res, though NTSC Lo-Res was a better overall choice despite a slightly slower 23.9 fps result. All in all, I'd rate this version at 95%.

DoomAttack 0.7, by Georg Steger, is the other major 68K version of Amiga Doom (VDoom and ZhaDoom are PPC versions which, alas, I can't test -- yet!). DoomAttack started mainly as a version highly optimized for '030 machines, but since then it's branched out to become, by my test, the fastest 68K version on the '060 as well, though just by a nose. My best time so far in limited benchmarking of DoomAttack is 27.78 fps at my usual 320x240x8-bit CGX test resolution. My AGA test results were abysmal, so it seems I did something wrong.

DoomAttack has a somewhat funky install routine. Whereas you simply unpack ADoom to your target directory, DoomAttack splatters files all over a given partition and has some unnecessarily complex RAD routine. As a result, I couldn't launch DoomAttack from the command-line until I found all the relevant files and made a new directory for them. Once launched, the game has a smoother feel than ADoom despite the minor difference in reported speed. DoomAttack features network support, music support, and various plug-ins. I have not yet had a chance to test whether the -makedemo or -turbo features work, but in version 0.7, the IDCLEV cheat did not function and, as I recall, neither did the -warp command. These two are very important for designers of multi-level WAD's, since without them you're forced to clip to the exit on each level until you reach your destination -- a tedious process. Nonetheless, DoomAttack is very impressive -- the fastest, smoothest version of 68K Doom on the Amiga. I'd have to give it a provisional 88% score, since I haven't tested all the features.

There's also a pair of GUI launchers available. Both of them primarily launch one or more versions of Doom along with custom WAD's, should you so desire. ADoomGUI, by Mladen Milinkovic, is a GadTools-type launcher for ADoom. In order to use it properly, you must follow the directory-structure guidelines specified in the documentation. These directories are created by the Installer script, so all you really have to do is move the relevant files into them. It's not much to look at, but it should get the job done. GUI4Doom is available in a GadTools style as well as an MUI interface. The MUI version is, naturally, the more attractive of the two, complete with the logical and intuitive button/slider layout one comes to expect of MUI apps. GUI4Doom is more powerful than ADoomGUI, since it's not limited to one version of Doom and can in fact launch all of them, but annoyingly, it cannot save preferences, so you have to set in the paths every time. Given that handicap, you might as well just launch from the command-line or double-click the relevant Doom icon instead, the latter if you have no need for using a custom level. Personally, I'm practically allergic to the Shell, so when I say I prefer it to using these launchers, you know they need work. If GUI4Doom was able to save prefs, however, it would become a truly handy tool.

There are other utilities available, such as one which strips Mac-specific headers off Mac-made WAD files and another which converts Doom1 WAD's to Doom2 WAD's -- handy if the only registered IWAD file you have is Doom2.WAD, but useless otherwise. Hopefully, we'll soon see the biggies -- a Doom level editor (especially DCK) so Amigans can make their own levels on their favorite computer -- at least one utility like WinTex to replace Doom textures with custom, user-designed equivalents, and an app to fully apply DeHackEd patches to any version of Amiga Doom. There are thousands of user levels currently available and I'm sure a few hundred levels with DeHackEd patches, including impressive total conversions like Aliens-TC and Osiris. We might as well have it all now that we got started.

I'd like to close by reminding you how lucky the Amiga community is to have programmers as talented as those mentioned above. To help you better appreciate this, I'd like to call your attention to MacDoom. MacDoom is a full commercial port representing months of effort by a now-defunct company, Lion Entertainment. The end result is an impressively attractive but slow version of Doom. For example, my first Mac, a Performa 6200 with a PPC 603 @ 75 MHz, could not play High Detail 640x480 at all. Only a slideshow resulted. By contrast, my miggy can play at that res, albeit slowly. Still it's at least twice as fast as the Performa was. MacDoom features full pull-down menu configurability but no command-line. Most command-line functions are ably handled through convenient GUI replacements, but not all of them. For example, there is no Fastmonsters option in MacDoom, nor is there a -makedemo alternative. The latter is especially galling, since without the ability to create .lmp files (Doom movies), Mac Doomers are forever locked out of the chance to earn Doom Honorific Tiles such as Doom Tyson or Doom Schwarzenegger. These titles, if they are still being administered, require that a player beat certain levels at a specified difficulty level in a specified time. The .lmp file is your proof that you can do it. Without one, you're lost. The Mac programmer community also seemed to be left at the starting gate. Only two coders distinguished themselves at producing MacDoom utilities. One, Paul Davidson, built from scratch the awesome Hellmaker level editor, an app in the same class as the incredible DCK on the PC. He also wrote The Doominator, which applies DeHackEd patches, and ported W.A.R.M., a reject-table builder that helps speed up large levels. There was also Ron Midthun, who wrote the WADenizer, which patches texture and sound files, the WAD Compositor, which turns multiple levels into a single megaWAD file, along with a couple other handy utilities. Aside from what these guys produced, there hasn't been much on the MacDoom side in two years. By comparison to the PC, it's embarrassing.

I have a feeling things will turn out better on the Amiga Doom side, given our most excellent start. I'm also betting that ADoom will become the best version on any platform. For us, unlike for the MacDoomers, it's an embarrassment of riches.