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Hatomo Battles the Yomi Demons

Sunday · 30 Nov 08 · 12:04 AM IST | Posted by Karthik | Category: Doom

Hatomo Battles the Yomi Demons is a set of ten levels for Doom II, created by two good friends of mine — Pablo Dictter and Tobias Münch.  It was released in August of last year, and while I "browsed" through the levels when it was released, I never really played it properly — until now.  A couple of weekends back, I decided to play through the entire thing.  So, I started at the very beginning, played through all the levels (while saving my game often).  I completed all ten levels, with the total time spent in-game being around two and a half hours.  I kept taking screenshots along the way, so now I present to you, my review of Hatomo Battles the Yomi Demons!

There isn't really a story for this level set as such, however, going by the name, one can assume that you play as a character called Hatomo, and you basically are fighting your way through Yomi, which in Japanese mythology, is the term for the underworld.  The entrance to the Land of Yomi ("Yomi-no-Kuni") is the Izumo Province, which is the name of the first level in this set.  The levels however, are done in the standard Doom II-style, and there is a gradual progression from tech-base levels to earthy/hellish levels as you go forward.  And as you'd expect, the levels become tougher and larger as you proceed.  However, all of the levels are linear, so there's never really any confusing spots or places where you'll get stuck without knowing where to go.  Difficulty-wise, there are two skill levels implemented (skills 2 & 4).  I was able to manage playing on skill 4, so it's not really a very hard set of levels.  In multi-level sets like this, there is a tendency to throw in everything except the kitchen sink by the end of the set, and to make the levels really hard.  By the end, you'd expect to throw a switch and a horde of cyberdemons to show up — but the authors here resist the temptation to do that.  In fact, the harder Doom II monsters are used less than you'd expect, and the focus is on creating smaller and more interesting battles.  This is a map set for ZDoom, though only few ZDoom-specific features are used, and none that alter gameplay over standard Doom II.  The soundtrack for the episode is by Damian Lee, and all music tracks are really great.  The WAD contains level lumps from MAP41 to MAP50, and MAP53 is a start map.  Let's go through the maps in a little more detail — I've specified the numbers and the respective authors too.

Title Screen · 53: Start Map (Pablo)

Since this is a ZDoom WAD, instead of a title picture, there is an animated intro, with a camera taking you through a certain region from the last level.  It's a nice addition.  Once you start the game, you have a start map that allows you to choose the skill level (easy or hard), like "Welcome to Quake", the intro level of Quake.

41: Izumo Province (Toby) · 42: Blour Base (Toby)

Hatomo Battles the Yomi Demons by Tobias Münch and Pablo Dictter for Doom II, Review by Karthik Abhiram — Screenshot from MAP41 and MAP42

Izumo Province, the entrance to hell, turns out to be a small techbase as interpreted here.  A nice beginning to the episode and a very small map.  Despite its size, the secrets are well hidden.  I could spot a super shotgun but wasn't able to get to it — and as a result, had to be without that weapon for three more maps!  In retrospect, that was probably a good thing, because one thing I learnt while playing Yomi is that you had to be careful with your ammo and not waste too much.  The second level is also a techbase, with some well interconnected areas.  It's brighter in appearance and slightly bigger than the opening map, but still will take you only a few minutes to complete.

43: Radical Ozone (Pablo) · 44: Cobus Regularis (Toby)

Hatomo Battles the Yomi Demons by Tobias Münch and Pablo Dictter for Doom II, Review by Karthik Abhiram — Screenshot from MAP43 and MAP44

The next map is a larger one and the overall appearance and style is a dead giveaway that it's a Pablo Dictter map.  It's high on the detail level and a spooky music track is used.  A mix of Doom II textures is used in this level.  The next level is done in dark metal or green textures, and is a further step up in terms of size.

45: Depth (Toby) · 46: Lucy Paper Sunshine (Pablo)

Hatomo Battles the Yomi Demons by Tobias Münch and Pablo Dictter for Doom II, Review by Karthik Abhiram — Screenshot from MAP45 and MAP46

True to its name, "Depth" is a dark, earthy-underground level.  While there are tech-elements here and there, some hellish features are also thrown in.  The level features a crate maze too (well, what would a good episode be without a crate maze somewhere?).  The next level is a typical, typical Pablo Dictter level with lots of little details.  While largely a mansion-type level, there's wood, pipes and some demonic elements too.

47: Stones for Yogi Bear (Pablo) · 48: Larlar's Grounds (Toby)

Hatomo Battles the Yomi Demons by Tobias Münch and Pablo Dictter for Doom II, Review by Karthik Abhiram — Screenshot from MAP47 and MAP48

Since we've crossed the halfway mark by now, the levels get larger in size and relatively, in complexity and difficulty as well.  A curious thing about these two levels in particular was that the authors each seemed to have adopted some features of each others' styles.  MAP47 is highly detailed and is a large expansive mines-type level, with some features that remind one of Episode 3 and 4 of the original Doom, and also some of the end levels of Doom II.  It has a great deal of height variation and has some shootable switches.  This one is by Pablo, who tends to work on a smaller scale generally.  In fact, at times, I wasn't sure this was a Pablo level at all.  The next level, "Larlar's Grounds" is by Tobias — and this is quite a lengthy level, with an appearance that is atypical of Toby's style.  It has a variety of themes — green textures, grey stone, bricks, some tech areas, underground areas filled with slime, and there's even a "city" bit thrown in there.  One room features a floor with set of glowy lights.  The areas are all well interconnected.  With this mix of themes, I actually thought it was a Pablo level, more than one made by Toby.  That's one thing I really liked about Yomi — the fact that both authors mixed things up and did something different from their usual styles.

49: A House at Pooneil Corners (Pablo) · 50: The Ganja Underground Pt 1 (Pablo)

Hatomo Battles the Yomi Demons by Tobias Münch and Pablo Dictter for Doom II, Review by Karthik Abhiram — Screenshot from MAP49 and MAP50

The next two levels (Yomi 9 and 10 as I call them) are the largest levels in the set, both by Pablo.  The Pooneil map is set in an underground area overgrown with vines, but there's again a mix in the texture theme that reminded me of Sandy Petersen's maps from Doom II.  For some reason, I get the feeling that I missed playing an area in this map.  The next map, though called "The Ganja Underground Pt 1", is the final map in the set, and is another long, sprawling map.  Again you have a mix of themes, but I'd say it sticks largely to a earthy bricks-vine theme.  The opening intro that plays in the title screen, is from this level.  When I started this map I found myself pretty low on ammo, so I had to do a lot of crazy things to survive here (apart from savegames) — slowly punching out Barons of Hell, chainsawing Cacodemons, chainsawing or punching Revenants, stuff like that.  This being the final map, I expected that it would end with a bang, but apart from a cyberdemon, I don't think this was really a big step up in difficulty or anything (I don't remember that well now, but I think the Spiderdemon does not even appear in this entire level set — and this cyberdemon is the only one of its kind in the whole episode).  Once you finish this level, you don't see a level statistics screen — you get a text outro that concludes the "story" (more discussion on that in the next paragraph — it contains spoilers).  I took a screenshot of the automap screen just before the ending, which shows the time I spent —

Hatomo Battles the Yomi Demons by Tobias Münch and Pablo Dictter for Doom II, Review by Karthik Abhiram — Screenshot from automap

The Ending

[BEGIN SPOILERS] Some might consider the ending of Yomi to be anti-climactic — the ending text mentions that as Hatomo (your character), enters the "exit" of the level, he finds himself back at the beginning, and things are found as they were at the start!  There is no final battle that will vanquish all evil — instead, you are cursed to repeat the "adventure" for all eternity.  Now this actually fits very well with the way the game is designed, because when you restart the game you are indeed back at the first map, and you have to play through everything again.  However, probably things might have been better if the authors would have concluded the episode with a bang — a "boss fight" or something.  But I guess at the same time, the ending that we get is a good one in its own right.

On a somewhat tangential note, I was rewatching the Japanese movie Versus today, and that movie shares some themes Yomi's ending.  Essentially, the plot of that movie concerns a group of individuals who are doomed to fight for all eternity — they are reincarnated over and over to carry on their battle.  One interesting fact about books, movies or other stories that deal with evil, is that you really can't show evil getting destroyed completely, because that's not how it is in reality!  Taken that way, the ending of Yomi makes perfect sense! [END SPOILERS]

Overall Comments

Like I mentioned elsewhere in the review, one thing that really stood out and grabbed my attention about Yomi was the fact that both authors kind of "blended" their styles.  Based on the maps of Pablo that I've played, I'd say he's more comfortable with creating smaller levels that are played one room at a time — that is, he tends to present challenges linearly.  One does not see many large-scale constructions in his levels.  On the smaller scale of things, each room or area in his levels is generally lovingly detailed, and there are certain features that he repeatedly uses — rhombus-shaped lights on the ceilings, sections inset in walls with the "tortured faces" texture, candles placed at several locations, and so on.  Tobias's maps tend to be more organic, in the sense that the areas are constructed in a more free way and are not as rigidly linear as Pablo's levels.  He has a different way of adding detail to his levels — he uses the overall architecture and not small details to make his scenes look good.  And both authors in the past have shown a preference to make Doom I levels and not Doom II levels.  But in Yomi, things were turned upside down.  You have Pablo constructing large areas that take you up and down, with a lot of interconnection.  And Toby experiments with a seemingly random mix of themes and detail (like in "Larlar's Grounds" for example).  Both authors also used the Doom II textures and monsters well in these ten levels.

I also liked the gameplay of the episode very much.  There's a certain restraint used here, which extends from the first till the last map in the set.  You get the feeling that every battle was planned really well.  There are some ambushes and surprises that are sprung on you here and there, and Toby's maps sometimes have these "false" exits where you flip the exit switch only to face one more battle (this is like in those horror movies where the seemingly dead killer comes back to life to give the audience one more scare before the movie ends).  The tougher monsters are not used very frequently, but even the medium-difficulty monsters make an impact because of the way they're used.  Both authors really make you work throughout to conserve your health and ammo.  I found it useful to stick to the normal shotgun for dispatching imps, and to generally use either the chainsaw or berserk (if I had it in that level) on the demons and spectres.  In many situations I found myself using the chainsaw or berserk on tougher monsters as well.  That way, this is probably not an episode that lends itself easily for speedrunning — the experience is better if you play all maps together.  I am not sure how it would be if you play the levels individually.  There were several secrets scattered around these maps that I didn't find, so it'll probably be interesting to go back and search for those.

The episode comes with some new music and graphics.  As I mentioned previously, the soundtrack is by Damian Lee (and Pablo also contributes one track).  While the music wasn't composed specifically for this episode, all tracks are great and suit the levels well.  There are a few textures taken from other projects (the text file mentions The Darkening and Gothic Textures), and a few graphics that have been custom made for this project (for example, the exit signs everywhere are in Japanese — I assume they say "Exit", but it could be something else).  Another curious thing about Yomi is that despite the addition of new music and graphics, they never call more attention to themselves than required, and because of that the experience is like playing through a set of oldschool Doom II maps only.

Some people were mentioning some bugs that they encountered while playing the first released version of the episode.  There was a second release that fixed the bugs (the text file mentions something like this — "We fixed all the bugs we found, hope we found all the bugs.").  I don't think I encountered any show-stoppers, though my notes (I was jotting down some comments on a piece of paper while playing, so that I could write this review) indicate that there was one part in MAP49 where you could get stuck if you fall.  I don't remember this now though, so it's a minor thing probably.

Overall, I really enjoyed these levels.  Thanks a lot guys, for a memorable experience!  In between the weekends that I was playing this, during the weekdays, I actually set my status message to "Hatomo Battles the Yomi Demons" on Lotus Sametime (our instant messaging client) at office!  If I really had to nitpick, I'd point out that there's no area/scene/fight in this set that really stands out and makes you go "wow".  But I guess that is because all the levels are of uniformly high quality, and I thought they delivered consistently in terms of interesting scenes and fights.  It's easy to make out that a lot of work has gone into this set.  Great stuff.  I'd rate the entire experience a 9/10.


Well, I guess that about does it for this post!  So if you are interested to experience this episode yourself, go download ZDoom and then Battle those Yomi Demons!

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Blasphemy!  Sacrilege!

Saturday · 22 Nov 08 · 03:24 AM IST | Posted by Karthik | Category: General

Look at this image —

Linux Wallpapers on Windows Vista

My laptop runs Windows Vista, but here are two screenshots of the desktop, with Linux wallpapers on them.  On top is the blue "Waves" wallpaper from Fedora 9 Sulphur, and in the bottom picture, there's the wallpaper from Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex.  Currently also, the Ibex wallpaper is the one I have on my desktop.  How this was done is very simple — I ran the LiveCD versions of both distros and copied these wallpapers onto the Windows partition.

Would this be considered blasphemy?

1 comment(s) for this post.

Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace

Sunday · 9 Nov 08 · 06:48 PM IST | Posted by Karthik | Category: Movies

I watched Quantum of Solace in the theatre yesterday (it was released in India on 7-Nov-08, and at Prasad's Multiplex, they are showing this movie on the IMAX screen).  As I had read that the movie picks up immediately after the events of Casino Royale, I watched that movie again before seeing this one.

I was disappointed by Quantum of Solace.  Maybe I need to see it again — after all, I liked Casino Royale more on watching the second time than I did initially — but still, I thought the first movie was more engaging and entertaining overall.

In Progress Drawing — Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace — by Karthik Abhiram, Click to see a short video

This post contains SPOILERS so you may not want to read further unless you have seen these movies —

To recap the events of the first film — international criminal Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) is the "banker" for the world's terrorist organisations, and he invests their money in various stocks.  James Bond (Daniel Craig) intervenes and foils a plan of his — thereby causing Le Chiffre to lose more than a hundred million dollars, which he desperately wants to recover.  Hence, he sets up a high-stakes poker game at Casino Royale in Montenegro, and Bond is entered in by MI6 as one of the players.  The plan is to make Le Chiffre lose, and turn him over to the intelligence agency so that he can give away secrets about the terrorists.  Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) is brought in as the accountant/banker for Bond.  Bond falls in love with Vesper by the end of the movie, but in a twist, Vesper betrays him — which is revealed to be because a mysterious organisation was holding her boyfriend captive, and they wanted the winnings from the game.  In a cliffhanger ending, Bond apprehends Mr White, one of the people thought to be behind the kidnapping of Vesper's boyfriend.

Quantum of Solace picks up pretty much immediately from here, where the organisation is shown to have people everywhere — even within MI6.  Bond is led to an environmentalist, Dominic Greene (Mathieu Almaric), who seems to have ties with this organisation, called Quantum.  It is revealed that Greene is in deals with various military generals in South America, because he wants to control the water supply in Bolivia, in exchange for political power.  Camille (Olga Kurylenko) is working with Greene — but only so that he will lead her to a General who was responsible for her mother's death.  With the help of Camille, Mathis (played by Giancarlo Giannini, an ally from the previous film) and Agent Fields (Gemma Arterton), Bond seeks to find out and stop Greene's master plan, also hoping that it will lead him to the people who killed Vesper.

I thought Quantum of Solace was underwhelming.  Yes, there is a plot, but I didn't think it was gripping enough to sustain interest.  The villain here also, didn't make as much an impact as Le Chiffre from the previous film.  The action scenes are efficiently done, and the movie is worth watching for that, though.  Overall, I'd rate it a 6/10.

Nevertheless, I started doing a drawing with characters from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.  An in-progress version can be seen above, and clicking on the image takes you to a YouTube video that I recorded.  Left to right, pictured are Eva Green as Vesper Lynd, Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre and Olga Kurylenko as Camille.  I have to add Daniel Craig as Bond to the picture, and some other characters too.

1 comment(s) for this post.

Four Letter Words — The Video

Monday · 3 Nov 08 · 03:10 AM IST | Posted by Karthik | Category: Art

I completed a drawing called Four Letter Words today.  This is the one I started doing a couple of weeks back — a mashup drawing with "Profanity in Movies" as the theme!

Four Letter Words — The Video

There are eleven — count them — eleven instances of swearing on film depicted in the drawing!  I will be adding the completed drawing to the Art Gallery sometime later.  For now, though, you can watch the "official" video for the drawing — written, edited and directed by me!  The video is a compilation of clips that I had recorded while doing the drawing, and it's uploaded on YouTube.  Click here or on the above image, to watch the video (6 mins long).  By the way, though the subject matter could be considered adult-oriented, the actual video is not.  It only contains some mildly objectionable content.

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Deadites! (An Evil Dead Tribute)

Monday · 3 Nov 08 · 02:59 AM IST | Posted by Karthik | Category: Art

I did this drawing about a month ago —

Deadites! — Drawing by Karthik Abhiram

I've now added it to the Art Gallery.  Click on the above image to view the picture and the write-up I've done on it.  Perhaps I will do a more extensive treatment for The Evil Dead trilogy later!

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Jems Bond

Sunday · 2 Nov 08 · 09:19 PM IST | Posted by Karthik | Category: General

The 22nd James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace will be released in theatres in the US on the 14th of this month.  Apparently, it is already released in the UK.  From the trailer, it looks like it will be a great movie, comparable to its predecessor, Casino Royale.  A few days back though, I spotted an auto-rickshaw near Madhapur, with this written on the back —

Jems Bond — Photograph by Karthik Abhiram

Yes, that is Jems Bond.  You can click the above image to see the full photo.  I remember that many years ago, we used to have a mascot called "Gems Bond" for Cadbury Gems, which used to be shown in TV advertisements.  But this is the first time I am seeing this particular usage.

By the way, if you want to see a slightly differently-processed version, here it is —

Jems Bond (2) — Photograph by Karthik Abhiram

The first picture was edited with Picasa which I was experimenting with today.  The second one was made a few days back.

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Karthik Abhiram

27-year old Taurean (birthday 15-May-82), Assistant Manager - HR at Tata Consultancy Services Ltd in Hyderabad, India.  Previously, did Post Graduate Diploma in Management from T A Pai Management Institute (2003-05) and before that, Computer Science Engineering from Sree Nidhi Institute of Science and Technology (1999-2003).

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