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Doom WAD is the default format of package files for the video game Doom and its sequel Doom II: Hell on Earth, that contain sprites, levels, and game data. WAD stands for Where's All the Data? Immediately after its release in 1993, Doom attracted a sizeable following of players who created their own mods for WAD files—packages containing levels, graphics, and other game data—and played a vital part in spawning the mod-making culture which is now commonplace for first-person shooter games. Thousands of WADs have been created for Doom, ranging from single custom levels to full original games; most of these can be freely downloaded over the Internet. Several WADs have also been released commercially, and for some people the WAD-making hobby became a gateway to a professional career as a level designer.
There are two types of WADs: IWADs (internal WADs) and PWADs (patch WADs). IWADs contain the data necessary to load the game, while PWADs contain additional data, such as new character sprites, as necessary for custom levels.
Extensibility in Doom
When developing Doom, id Software was aware that many players had tried to create custom levels and other modifications for their previous game, Wolfenstein 3D. However, the procedures involved in creating and loading modifications for that game were cumbersome.
John Carmack, lead programmer at id Software, designed the Doom internals from the ground up to allow players to extend the game. For that reason, game data such as levels, graphics, sound effects, and music are stored separately from the game engine, in "WAD files." This allowed players to make their own data without making any modifications to the engine. According to Doom's initial design document, WAD stands for "Where's All the Data?"
The idea of making Doom easily modifiable was primarily backed by Carmack, a well-known supporter of copyleft and the hacker ideal of people sharing and building upon each other's work, and by John Romero, who had hacked games in his youth and wanted to allow other gamers to do the same. Not everybody in the id Software crew was happy with this development, however; some, including Jay Wilbur and Kevin Cloud, objected due to legal concerns and in the belief that it would not be of any benefit to the company's business.
Utilities and WADs appearing
Immediately after the initial shareware release of Doom on December 10, 1993, enthusiasts began working on various tools to modify the game. On January 26, 1994, Brendon Wyber released the first public domain version of the Doom Editing Utility (DEU) program on the Internet, a program created by Doom fans which made it possible to create entirely new levels. DEU continued development until May 21 of the same year. It was made possible by Matt Fell's release of the Unofficial Doom specifications. Shortly thereafter, Doom enthusiasts became involved with further enhancing DEU. Raphaël Quinet spearheaded the program development efforts and overall project release, while Steve Bareman lead the documentation effort and creation of the DEU Tutorial. More than 30 other people also helped with the effort and their names appear in the README.1ST file included with the program distribution. Yadex, a fork of DEU 5.21 for Unix systems running X, was later released under the GNU/GPL license. (Carmack additionally released the source code for the utilities used to create the game, but these were programmed in Objective-C, for NeXT workstations, and were therefore not directly usable for most people, who were PC users.)
Jeffrey Bird is credited with creating the first custom WAD for Doom, released under the title Origwad, on March 7, 1994. Soon, countless hobbyists were creating custom WADs and sharing them over AOL and CompuServe forums, and other Internet-based channels. Many of the WADs were made in the style of the base game, others were based on TV series, movies, or original themes. Some of the id Software staff have revealed that they were impressed by some of the WADs; John Carmack later said the following about a Star Wars-themed modification:
I still remember the first time I saw the original Star Wars DOOM mod. Seeing how someone had put the death star into our game felt so amazingly cool. I was so proud of what had been made possible, and I was completely sure that making games that could serve as a canvas for other people to work on was a valid direction.
Even though WADs modified Doom by replacing graphics and audio, the amount of customization was somewhat limited; much of the game's behavior, including the timing and strength of weapons and enemies, was hard-coded in the Doom executable file and impossible to alter in WADs. DeHackEd, a Doom editing program created by Greg Lewis, addressed this by letting users modify parameters inside of the Doom executable itself, allowing for a greater degree of customization.
Around 1994 and 1995, WADs were distributed primarily through BBSs and via CD collections found in computer shops or bundled together with instruction guides for level creation, while in later years Internet FTP servers became the primary method for obtaining these works. Although the Doom software license required that no profit be made from custom WADs, an id Software member claimed to have taken some measures against distributors of CD-ROM compilations of WADs, some WAD sets and shovelware bundles were nonetheless obtainable for a price at certain outlets.
At the time, id Software was working on their next game, Quake, using new technology, but started projects picking up the most talented WAD makers from the Doom community to create official expansions and to compete with the unauthorized collection CDs. The team produced the 21 Master Levels, which, on December 26, 1995, were released on a CD along with Maximum Doom, a collection of 1,830 WADs that had been downloaded arbitrarily from the Internet. In 1996, Final Doom, a package of two 32-level megawads created by TeamTNT, was released as an official id Software product.
Additionally, various first-person shooter games released at the time used the Doom engine under a commercial license from id Software, as such essentially being custom WADs packaged with the Doom engine. An example is the 1997 release, Hacx: Twitch 'n Kill.
In addition to the many people who contributed to commercially released WADs, various authors became involved with the development of other games:
- Kenneth Scott, who contributed artwork to Hacx: Twitch 'n Kill, later became the art director at id Software and 343 Industries on the post-Bungie Halo games.
- Tim Willits, who contributed two levels to Master Levels for Doom II, later became the lead designer at id Software.
- Dario Casali, author of a quarter of Final Doom, was hired by Valve to work on Half-Life.
- Sverre Kvernmo, designer of five levels in Master Levels for Doom II and member of TeamTNT, was hired by Ion Storm for Daikatana.
- Iikka Keränen, author of several Doom WADs and later Quake mods, was hired by Ion Storm to create levels for Anachronox and Daikatana, and by Looking Glass Studios to create levels for Thief II: The Metal Age. Keränen was later hired by Valve.
- John Anderson (level designer), also known as "Dr. Sleep", author of five levels in Master Levels for Doom II and E4M7 in The Ultimate Doom, later worked on Blood, Unreal, and Daikatana.
- Matthias Worch (level designer) joined Ritual Entertainment to work on SiN. He later contributed to the Unreal series.
Source port era
Around 1997, interest in Doom WADs began to decline, as attention was drawn to newer games with more advanced technology and more customizable design, including id Software's Quake.
On December 23, 1997, id Software released the source code to the Doom engine (initially under a restrictive license; on October 3, 1999, it was released again under the terms of the GNU General Public License). With the source code available, it became possible for programmers to modify any aspect of the game, remove technical limitations and bugs, and add entirely new features.
These engine modifications, or Doom source ports, have since become the target for much of the WAD editing activity (although some purists prefer the original, unmodified engine). As of 2018, several source ports are still actively being developed, and Doom retains a strong following of people who still create WADs.
Types of WADs
Levels and level packs
The most common type of WAD consists of a single level, usually retaining the theme of the original game, but possibly including new music and some modified graphics to define a more distinctive setting or mood. Both single-player and deathmatch multiplayer levels are common.
Also common are WADs which contain several levels, sometimes in the form of an episode, replacing nine levels, and sometimes in the form of a megawad, which replaces 15 or more levels in the game (27 in Doom, 32 in Doom II, 36 in The Ultimate Doom).
Megawads often represent the work of several people over several months or years.
A WAD that gives the game an overhaul to incorporate an entirely different game setting, character set, and story, instead of simply providing new levels or graphic changes, is called a total conversion. The phrase was coined by Justin Fisher, as part of the title of Aliens TC, or Aliens Total Conversion. Add-ons that provide extensive changes to a similar degree but retain distinctive parts or characteristics of the original games, such as characters or weapons, are often by extension called partial conversions.
The following is a non-inclusive listing of highly popular, unique, or historically significant WADs that may be considered uncontroversial in its selection. See the external links section below for alternative lists and review sites.
- 10 Sectors started as a competition at Doomworld, where entrants were challenged to make the best level they could for the BOOM source port using only 10 sectors, with the winner, Michal Mesko, receiving a Voodoo 5 5500 AGP graphics card.
- Doom The Way id Did is a 27-level megawad for Doom released in 2012. It was originally proposed by Jason "Hellbent" Root and realized as a Doomworld collaboration project. The purpose of the megawad was to create three episodes of Doom levels that looked and felt as though they could have been in the original game, but without any homages to it. A 32-level sequel, Doom II The Way id Did, was released in 2013. In addition, two spin-offs were released: Doom The Way id Did: The Lost Episodes released in 2016, which contains six episodes of maps submitted to Doom the Way id Did which did not make the final cut and No End in Sight released also in 2016, which contains four episodes of maps created by three Doom the Way id Did contributors, either new or modified from Doom the Way id Did maps. Ultimate Doom The Way id Did, a 9-level follow-up episode to the original megawad, was released in 2019.
- Eternal Doom is 32-level megawad for Doom II created by Team Eternal and TeamTNT. It was released non-commercially in several versions, with the final one being released on November 14, 1997. Eternal Doom places the player and the original Doom's monsters in levels varying in the theme of medieval castles and futuristic high-tech bases, featuring a time travel sub-plot. A distinguishing aspect of Eternal Doom is the size of the levels, the average being about four times the size of the levels in Doom and Doom II. Eternal Doom has been praised for the levels' grand architecture and complex layouts, but the size of some of the largest castles, combined with level design that sometimes forces the player to travel back and forth between switches located around the map, which are sometimes difficult to find, has also been subject to criticism.
- Going Down is a 32-level megawad for Doom II released in 2013. It was created by the English freelance animator Cyriak Harris
- Hell Revealed is a 32-level megawad for Doom II released on May 2, 1997. It was created by Yonatan Donner, one of the players behind the Doom Done Quick speedrunning project, and Haggay Niv. Hell Revealed was designed with the intent of providing a challenge for expert players, and has become infamous for its difficulty: the hardest levels in the set feature battlegrounds where the player is pitted against dozens of the hardest monsters at once, some levels containing around 500 monsters in total. Second to the original games Doom and Doom II, Hell Revealed has been subject to the most Doom speedrunning competition of any Doom WAD. A 32-level sequel megawad built around the same concept and featuring even more monsters, Hell Revealed II, was created by a different team and released on December 31, 2003.
- Icarus: Alien Vanguard is a 32-level megawad for Doom II created by TeamTNT and released on March 22, 1996. It was developed as a freeware release after TNT: Evilution was picked up by id Software to be released as part of Final Doom package. A sequel, Daedalus: Alien Defense, was released in 2003.
- Memento Mori is a 32-level megawad for Doom II created by two members of The Innocent Crew, Denis and Thomas Möller, along with 19 other authors, including Tom Mustaine and both Dario and Milo Casali. It was initially released on December 10, 1995, and saw an updated release in February 1996. A 32-level sequel megawad, Memento Mori II, was created and released on July 27, 1996.
- Requiem is a 32-level megawad for Doom II created by the same people that worked on the previously released Memento Mori series, in addition to a couple of new mappers that worked specifically on this project. It was released and uploaded on the idgames archive on July 4, 1997.
- Sigil is a 9-level episode for the original Doom created by John Romero. It was announced on December 10, 2018 and released in May 2019.
- Action Doom 2: Urban Brawl is a 2008 indie game developed with the ZDoom source port, featuring cel-shaded graphics.
- Aliens TC is an 11-level total conversion based on the movie Aliens (1986), created by Justin Fisher and released on November 3, 1994. Aliens TC was the first total conversion and is one of the most famous: in the week following the release of Doom II: Hell on Earth, there was more discussion in the Doom newsgroups related to Aliens TC than Doom II. The popularity of the Aliens TC even reached outside the Doom community, for instance providing inspiration for the 1998 DreamWorks PC game Jurassic Park: Trespasser. Fisher was offered employment by various game developers (including DreamWorks for the team that would later make Jurassic Park: Trespasser), but declined in order to finish his university degree. Aliens TC was noted for its suspenseful atmosphere. The first level (E2M1) is devoid of enemies, a surprising feature considering the fast-paced action of Doom. Later on, however, the player faces the aliens and even gets to use the powerloader from Aliens as a weapon. The mod contains new enemies and weapons based on those from the film, new sound effects, and a new boss, the Alien Queen. The original WAD was made for the first Doom, replacing the entire second episode with levels that roughly follow the 1986 movie (E2M1 to E2M8) with the secret level E2M9 being the Alien ship from Alien. The bonus levels of the TC are E3M1 (the cut portion from the E2M5 map, as the original design was too large) and E3M2 (a variation of the E2M1 but with enemies added). Maps E2M5 and E3M1 are designed for more deathmatch (with proximity sensors) in contrast to the other levels which are more linear. A fan has adopted the WAD for Doom II. Fisher had gotten the idea to create the Aliens TC within his first five minutes of playing Doom in late December 1993, noting a similarity in atmosphere of Doom and the movie. Incidentally, it has later become known that id Software originally planned to base Doom on an Aliens license, but abandoned the idea in the early stages of development.
- Ashes 2063 is a Post-apocalypse themed TC created by modder Vostyok. Inspired by 80's post-apocalyptic movies, it features new monsters, weapons and an original soundtrack.
- Batman Doom is a 32-level total conversion created by ACE Team Software and released in April 1999. It contains modified game behavior along with new weapons, items, and characters from the world of the comic book superhero Batman.
- Bloom is a Doom and Blood crossover created by Bloom Team. It features a new bestiary composed by more than 50 enemy types with new mechanics and behaviours, a whole new episode and an original soundtrack among other features.
- Chex Quest is a 5-level total conversion released in 1996 by Digital Café so that Doom could be approved for younger audiences. This was originally packaged in Chex cereal boxes as a prize, though Chex Quest was later put up as freeware on the Internet after the promotion ended. Chex Quest received two sequels, Chex Quest 2: Flemoids Take Chextropolis and Chex Quest 3, released in 1997 and 2008, respectively, both of which contained five levels and were released as freeware.
- Doom 64 TC is a replication of Doom 64, a version of Doom released for the Nintendo 64, which contains different levels, graphics, and audio based on the game.
- Goldeneye Doom 2 is a Doom II modification that adds elements from the Nintendo 64 game GoldenEye 007.
- Grezzo 2 is a 2012 total conversion developed by Italian game designer Nicola Piro, notable for plagiarizing other games and Doom mods, and for its vulgar, blasphemous content.
- Hacx: Twitch 'n Kill was originally released on September 16, 1997 by Banjo Software as a commercial Doom II add-on, and was later released as freeware in 2000. On October 9, 2010, a standalone version, version 1.2, was released. Hacx includes all-new content, such as 21 new levels, new weapons, new music, new sound effects, new graphics, and new enemies, and the game behavior has been extensively modified to account for its unique cybernetic science fiction setting.
- Paranoid is an 8-level Doom II modification (using the GZDoom source port) that is intended to be a faithful recreation of Half-Life. It features new weapons, enemies, graphics, sounds, models, skies, 3D architecture, a hub structure, a story-driven mission, and additional features.
- Sonic Robo Blast 2 is a Doom modification that uses the Doom Legacy source port to change the game from a first-person shooter to a third-person platformer based on Sonic the Hedgehog.
- The Darkest Hour is a 7-level Doom II modification that puts the player in the Star Wars universe. It was followed by a 5-level "prequel" called Dawn: A Prelude.
- Void is a single-level modification based on the 2000 game American McGee's Alice.
- Doomsday of UAC (also known as UAC_DEAD.WAD after the filename) by Leo Martin Lim, released on June 23, 1994, featured what was considered one of the most realistic environments of the time. Exploiting an until-then unknown bug in the Doom engine's rendering code, it also introduced a special effect in the form of an "invisible stairway"; this trick has been used extensively later on. The map is unplayable in The Ultimate Doom due to a change in tag 666 behavior that the map relied on which allowed escaping a room once a boss has been killed. The resulting change made so only Barons of Hell can trigger the behavior, so this change broke the level and as result it is impossible to progress the part where the Cyberdemon must be killed in order to get the red key. Most modern source ports allow the map to be played properly.
- D!Zone by WizardWorks, an expansion pack featuring hundreds of levels for Doom and Doom II. D!Zone was reviewed in 1995 in Dragon #217 by Jay & Dee in the "Eye of the Monitor" column. Jay gave the pack 1 out of 5 stars, while Dee gave the pack 1½ stars.
- Origwad – Created by Jeffrey Bird and released on March 7, 1994, it is notable for being the first custom WAD to be released for Doom. Origwad consists of a single level with two rooms separated by one door; the first room contains a shotgun and a Shotgun Guy, while the second room contains three Imps, two Barons of Hell, and an exit switch.
- The Harris levels – Doom and Doom II levels created by Eric Harris, one of the two perpetrators of the Columbine High School massacre. The following levels are available to download: Deathmatching in bricks (BRICKS.WAD), Hockey.wad (HOCKEY.WAD), KILLER (KILLER.WAD), Mortal Kombat Doom (FIGHTME.WAD), Outdoors (outdoors.wad), Station (STATION.WAD), and UAC Labs (UACLABS.WAD). Dylan Klebold, a friend of Harris and the other perpetrator of the massacre, was credited by Harris for playtesting the Deathmatching in bricks level. The ENDOOM screen for UAC Labs shows the names of other WADs made by Harris, though no files of them are known to be available to download: Assault, Techout, Thrasher, Realdeth, and Realdoom, the last of which is a patch (possibly for Realdeth). UAC Labs was mentioned in Doomworld's The Top 10 Infamous WADs list.
- The Sky May Be – A notable joke WAD and the "Strangest WAD ever made", most of the game takes place in an oversized sector, where many textures are replaced with solid colors, and many sounds replaced with audio from British television programs. The WAD was mentioned in Doomworld's The Top 10 Infamous WADs list and it is sometimes considered to be one of the worst WADs ever created.
- UAC Military Nightmare – A Skulltag WAD made by "Terry" which was notorious for its use of vulgar scripts, strange graphics, unfair difficulty, and otherwise-useless data that existed to either bloat the WAD's file size or tamper with the player's settings. The WAD itself was removed from Doomworld in 2014 due to the aforementioned useless data, but has since been reuploaded with said data removed.
Freedoom is a project aiming to create a free replacement (modified BSD License) for the set of graphics, music, sound effects, and levels (and miscellaneous other resources) used by Doom. Since the Doom engine is free software, it can be distributed along with the new resources, in effect providing a full game that is free. Freedoom also allows users to play any of the thousands of other WADs that normally require the original game.
Freedoom does not require any source port to run, and can run on any limit-removing source port of Doom. It can be downloaded from its homepage, https://freedoom.github.io/
Many level editors are available for Doom. The original Doom Editing Utility (DEU) was ported to a number of operating systems, but lost significance over time; many modern Doom editors still have their roots in DEU and its editing paradigm, including DETH, DeePsea, Linux Doom Editor, and Yadex. Other level editors include WadAuthor, Doom Builder (released in January 2003), and Doom Builder 2 (released in May 2009 as the successor to Doom Builder). Some Doom level editors, such as Doom Builder and Doom Builder 2, feature a 3D editing mode. As of now those two are discontinued, but a newer fork has been released and is regularly updated, known as GZDoom Builder.
A number of other, specialized Doom editors were created over time to modify graphics and audio lumps, most notably XWE, SLADE, Wintex, and SLumpEd. Things, such as monsters and items, and weapon behavior can also be modified to some degree using the executable patching utility DeHackEd. In ZDoom, users can create new monsters, weapons, and items through a scripting language called DECORATE, made to address many of the shortcomings of DeHackEd, such as not being able to add new objects, and not being able to deviate far from the behavior of the original weapons and monsters.
The utility Slige could be used to automatically generate random levels. Slige had a cumbersome approach when creating maps, however, and a newer tool called Oblige has since been created. This tool is entirely coded in Lua.
WAD2 and WAD3
In Quake, WAD files were replaced with PAK files. WAD files still remain in Quake files, though their use is limited to textures. Since WAD2 and WAD3 use a slightly larger directory structure, they are incompatible with Doom.
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- Romero, John (February 16, 2018). "Sigil". Romero games. Retrieved February 19, 2019.
- Doomworld - The Top 100 WADs Of All Time: 1994
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- hacx on drnostromo.com
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FreeDoom, the open source initiative to bypass the legalities of Doom's code being open source, while Doom's engine isn't.
- "'Freedoom' app review: play id Software's classic on mobile".
- Blasphemer homepage Archived February 1, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
- Zak, Robert (December 2018). "The ultimate guide to modding Doom" TechRadar
- Hamilton, Andi (December 2018). "The cult of Doom: the thriving mod scene behind id's classic" PC Gamer