For over 20 years I am actively and creatively part of the community. For over two decades I wasted spent a lot of time into modding, put a lot of dedication into creating mods, wrote a lot of posts in the ZDoom forums (mostly asking for help, currently a total of 13339 entries - ugh). When is the right moment to end something? When you feel exhausted - or stop when it's best just as people say? I asked myself the same question for several times now and I came to the conclusion that - at least this time not connected to any kind of drama, so decisions are less emotionally heated - I can answer this question with one single word: now.
In the upcoming weeks, I will share my memories and experiences with you, how I did get into modding, into gaming. I will tell you stories about friends, stories about family, stories about competitors. And I will share a few "behind the scenes" informations about my releases from the past and maybe also some notes about my current projects and my future plans. I can't promise you a good writing style and proper english, but I can promise you: It's worth reading. So have fun, and enjoy this little retrospective, this little autobiography.
If you have watched the aftermath after the Soccer World Championship 2014 in Brasil, you might have seen that Philipp Lahm, our captain, has retired from his duty after winning the contest with the german soccer team. He said that he has achieved all he ever wanted - I actually think he simply wanted to remember himself as world champion instead of seeing him getting worse and silently disappearing from the theater. "Stop it before it starts getting worse because it can't get better". When there is one essential thing that I have learned while developing Blade of Agony, then it's the right time now to end my active part as a developer in the community. So this is it, my long farewall - and this time for real and with a good feeling.
I grew up in times where gaming studios and publishers like Apogee, Epic Megagames and 3D Realms were at the peak of success. There was no way you could get around titles like Monster Bash, Civilization or Wolfenstein 3D because actually everyone was playing them - at least kids like me who where lucky enough to have a personal computer at home, which wasn't a usual thing in the early 90's.
It was in December 1993 when I played Doom the very first time. For people who are used to hyper-realistic graphics like Call of Duty WWII or Far Cry 6, Doom's pixelated 2.5D visuals might not be the most thrilling and exciting visual. But for me at the age of 9, Doom was the most scary thing I have ever seen in my whole live.
From 1994 on, a huge interest in mapping evolved and people produced numerous quality and not-so-quality material - WAD-CD-ROMs from this era proof that id software's decision to make Doom modable was a clever good choice to increase the game's popularity and is still responsible for the ongoing success of Doom. It still took me about 4 more years to discover the potential when I bought one of these discs (it was called "Boom - Levels und Addons") in our local computer store - fun fact: Doom was on the index in Germany, addon discs were not.
It was the summer of '69 1998, my friend Acidflash31 called me at home (yes, no mobile phones in the late 90's, so he had to do the casual parent-gate procedure: "Hello, this is Boris, is Daniel at home?") and he was totally excited and talking as on steroids: "Dude, I found something! Doom! With better resolution! For Windows! And you even can play it in Splitscreen on one computer!" At first I thought he was kidding me, so I had no expectations when I took my bike and drove the 5 kilometers from home to my friend's flat. Good lord, the surprise was overwhelming.
One week of sleepless nights, one week of mapping like crazy. Newdoom's Wad in a week contest has awakened unknown abilities in myself. Failure was not an option. With enough effort and dedication, I thought that I should be able to win that thing. A few days, sleepless nights and cups of coffee later the results were up and I got my reward: A white t-shirt with a Doom logo on it, the prize for the first place. But it wasn't for the physical object, it was more for the acceptance that I earned with this release. The map was well-received in the community and a game-changer for my mind. I felt like with enough sweat and more than just one week, everything I imagined could be turned into an entertaining piece of data.
Over 13 years have passed now since the release of Knee-Deep in ZDoom. Looking back and having the same experience that I have now, I would have done a few things in a different way. But as it is with decisions in general, I tend to not regret any of them. Making a decision involves considering every relevant factor in this particular moment. You can't know every aspect of its consequences but you try to make a reasonable choice according to the circumstances. And that's why every decision is right in the first place - you simply do not know any better. Only when some time has passed you can tell if it was either a good decision or a bad one.
By the end of the 2000's, two larger-scale projects have been in the pipeline: On the one hand there was Stronghold - On the Edge of Chaos, a mod introducing a completely new game-mode with a huge set of maps and original assets and on the other hand The Shores of ZDoom, the successor to Knee-Deep in ZDoom. Both projects had high ambitions and a unique vision, powered by a line-up of people you could only drool over as project leader. There were have been differences as well. The community's expectations towards one of the project was insanely high, for the other one, well... there were no expectations at all, so there wasn't either a pressure to succed. What was the most influencal reason for one project's upset and the other one vanishing in the shadows of vaporware?
Operation: Arctic Wolf, Astrostein or Eisenmann, the collection of Laz Rojas' WolfenDoom releases is almost endless. I was always a big fan of Wolfenstein 3D's background story: An allied spy trying to escape from a nazi fortress during World War II is a great scenario, but the implementation could have been more immersive. You can't blame id on that, considering the game's release date. Therefore Laz' inofficial sequels combining this setting with the idTech1 engine was a revelation back then. I can't remember when I lost hope for Operation Rheingold Episode 3 ever to be released, but in fact I do remember that I never stopped dreaming about creating my own WolfenDoom operations.
For two decades I was actively working on mods as part of the Doom community. I experienced drama and happyness, as a spectator and as an affected. I worked on projects that had success and I spearheaded projects that failed. With the release of Blade of Agony now, I think I reached my personal peak of a long ascension. Right now, I can enjoy the view from this unique perspective. And after a while it's time to get back, settle myself to the ground and then get used to be part of the game as a player, as a consumer, as a guide.