Dr. Wily's sharp-edged robot

cutmanmikeWhen thinking of heartattacks, the first thing that comes to my mind is The Ghoul's Forest. It is one of the most well-known horror approaches that has ever been made for Doom, and it is definitely doing good as several Youtube videos and countless spinoffs already proof. So, who is the man behind this and other ambitious projects like Impings, ZPortal and the classic Platformers he started with? You'll be much brighter after reading this interview, that's for sure.

CutmanMikeCutmanMikeCutmanMikeCutmanMike

Tormentor667
Cutty, I've just checked your profile again over at ZDoom.org and you've registered on October, 6th 2003. That's already been a very long time, almost 6 years. But when did your addiction actually get started? And what was your first Doom experience like?
Cutmanmike
Unlike most Doom fans, my experience started when I first got my paws on the Sony Playstation. I'd always loved the idea of exploring detailed 3d worlds since forever. Doom provided that, along with violence, gore, monsters, guns and killing things. Just what every kid my age wanted! It was fantastic. Some great memories there, bringing over my TV and Playstation for my friends house just for some 2 player Doom action. Anyway, it was a very long time before I got a hold of the PC version of Doom. Level editing was another craving of mine when I was young, and anything with a level editor was gold in my eyes. Knowing that it was possible to mix these two great things together, I could not WAIT to get a computer for the sole purpose of making my own levels in Doom. About a year passed before I discovered ZDoom and joined the forums to ask for editing help.

Tormentor667
As far as I know the playstation port of Doom was released several years after the PC version, so doom customization has already gone a long road. Do you think it was a benefit somehow that you joined the community when sourceports like ZDoom had already a certain range of new features and possibilities?
Cutmanmike
Definitely. There were already tons of levels and mods out for me to play and inspire me to make my own. I didn't actually know what ZDoom was capable of other than it could link up players over the internet, and that alone was important to me. Only when I started downloading more WADs did I come to realise that there was more to ZDoom that meets the eye. It's strange just how long I was left in the dark over what can be done in Doom these days, and it makes me wonder if there's anyone else out there who still thinks classic Doom and Doom 2 are the only ways to play.

Tormentor667
At least for you these times are over I guess. Taking a look at your work from the past few years shows, that you are always trying to push the border a bit farther - regarding what Doom's gameplay was in 1994. Platform maps, Ghoul's Forest and ZPortal are only a few prominent examples. So what makes you come up with yet another wicked idea after you've just finished one project?
Cutmanmike
Other games and music. Other games, mainly the classics, always offer great ideas for mods. You can look at one of my WADs and if you happen to know where my ideas come from you can easily spot where I got the idea to do this, that and the other. For example, Ghoul's Forest was inspired by a ancient game on the c64 called The Forbidden Forest. Playing that after playing Ghoul's Forest 3 you can definitely see where I got a lot of ideas from. The final boss on that game requires one hit to kill but teleports around and is difficult to get a shot at, but if you wait long enough your game is over. Sound familiar? I wouldn't exactly class it as a remake or a ripoff though because I try to change the ideas into something new. Take ZPortal for example. There were almost no ties in ZPortal to the actual game Portal other than the portal teleporting system itself. After all, that one was based off the very first Portal trailer. I have tons of ideas stored away in my head but it's just a matter of getting the resources and the motivation to make them.

Tormentor667
Speaking of Ghoul's Forest, it's definitely your most succesful project as of now. You are currently working on the 5th instance of this series ("Ghoul's vs Humans - Endless War") and this most propably won't be the last one, but what do you think makes it so special?
Cutmanmike
Well, GVH is a bit different to the first few Ghoul's Forest WADs so I'll get to that in a bit. Ghoul's Forest probably appeals to people for two reasons. One, it's different. Two, it scares the crap out of you. There's something about photo realistic looking monsters running at you at top speed in a dark forest that seems to either anger or please people, I still don't quite get it myself. It's no secret that I hate being scared, and play testing my mods is a nightmare for me. Another possibility is that they just love to share the experience with others. There's a ton of youtube videos of people playing Ghoul 3, usually with their friends and I have to admit it's pretty funny listening to what they come out with. Ghouls vs Humans is a completely different from the old scare 'em up Ghoul's Forest. GVH's main focus is fun online multiplayer team based action. I think playing as or fighting the Ghouls is the main attraction, and the varied classes keep it from getting stale. It's been a blast trying to make it all work and I really think all the effort I put into it has paid off. Even people who hated the Ghoul's Forest are getting into the GVH groove simply for it's addictive gameplay. GVH:EW is a GVH "expansion" that will hopefully feed that addiction with more levels and classes to play as.

Tormentor667
I guess you watching the YouTube videos was definitely some kind of ratification of the effort you put into Ghoul's Forest :-) Now, the Ghoul series is one of the ongoing and still active projects you are working on but - at last for me - another series introduced you as mapper to the community: Your platformers. Are there any plans in the near future for another jump'n'run style doom map?
Cutmanmike
Probably not, but I'd love to. I really would. I have so many ideas for crazy platforming maps but they just don't seem to be appealing anymore. I was even considering remaking my previous platform levels and putting them all in one big pack with a time trial option (like in ZPortal). The problem is that these days there's a huge, HUGE demand for quality these days in terms of mapping, and I'm more of a gameplay guy. If there's one thing I can't do it's stare at a grid drawing lines next to more lines and aligning textures all day. Not to mention that there's already similar projects popping up over at the SkullTag forums. One of them includes JumpMaze, which is pretty popular over there and I have to admit is pretty damn fun online. So if there happens to be people who actually remember my platforming levels, you should probably take a look at that. So the short answer here is no. Sorry!

Tormentor667
JumpMaze is definitely something that can be compared to your platformers but for some reason it seems to be more like a hardcore version of that :-) I just don't get it done without cheating all the time... nevermind. You just lead me to my next question which is certainly the crucial question in the community. For you - a "gameply guy" as you expressed yourself - what is more important: Gameplay or Visuals?
Cutmanmike
Gameplay. In a Doom mod I'm not going to walk around checking every nook and cranny for little bits of detail. I want guns, and monsters to use my guns on. It doesn't matter how many linedefs, models or hi-res textures a map has. If the map has crap gameplay, it will always have crap gameplay no matter how many layers of paint you give it. Okay okay I'm not saying wolfenstien-esque maps are the way to go but people tend to try really really hard to get people to notice their WADs by cramming as much detail into their maps as possible. Yes it works, but when I come to play something like that all the hard work they put into it pretty much goes down the drain if I'm not having fun playing the actual WAD. I would prefer to have a new monster pop out and do something I haven't seen in Doom yet like... I dunno... Pick me up and throw me through a brick wall with it's tail, rather than the equivalent of a Doom Da Vinci.

Tormentor667
Do you have any examples in mind that hit the "little detail but great gameplay" vision?
Cutmanmike
Off the top of my head, I can remember Nightwing. That particular one you may notice gave me inspiration for those jumping maps of mine, and I did a little review of it on my site. Coils of the Twisted Tale by Phobus was a pretty good one. It had many map designs into it. Many old retro WADs come to mind but I can't quite remember the names. Oh and of course, Doom.wad. Can't argue with that one can ya? :-)

Tormentor667
Definitely not :-)  As your projects tend to be not that overdetailed but still very popular, I guess - or actually know after being a huge Cuttstuff fan -  there must be something special about their gameplay. Now, for all those mappers out there, what does a map need to be entertaining in this term? What raises the replay value?
Cutmanmike
That depends on who your asking but for me, new ideas. It's probably the hardest thing to do on your own, but WADs that come with a fresh new way to play Doom is what appeals to me. Things like Phocas Island 2 or Action Doom. Those are instant winners in my eyes. For a general Doom map you should always have lots of monsters, stay away from chichés (pick up a key, 20 revenants spawn in the room etc), introduce new challenges for the player and don't make it too difficult. Not everyone is a hardcore Doom player, especially not me. Also having some new monsters and weapons helps, but don't go overboard. If you're going ZDoom, end with a kickass boss fight. The only way to end a decent ZDoom mod in my opinion. It's tough to make something original, especially if you can't sprite something yourself, but originality is the key to make a good WAD an awesome WAD.

Tormentor667
Considering all these things, what project has been your favorite in the past 3 years and what made it so special?
Cutmanmike
That's a tough one considering how many good WADs have come out in 3 years, and even harder for me since my favourites are in the past. I don't know if it counts because it's not completely finished, but Demon Eclipse definitely stood out for me for being an excellent co-op mod. Everything about it was awesome. All the monsters were created by Eriance himself, most of them being original and fun to fight. The new weapon graphics were a breath of fresh air from the usual recycled stuff we get these days, and the maps were long and fun to beat. Episode 2 stands out though, it's a great hellish collection of maps and the Heretic-like stuff mixed in was a nice touch. Me and my best friend had some good times on that one, and we can't wait for it to be finished.

Tormentor667
That's definitely true, Eriance did a great one-man-show with Demon Eclipse and I hope that he will find some time in the upcoming weeks for ... well... an interview or stuff... but, what I personally would find very interesting is the question about your thoughts on the future of the Doom community. What do you think will happen in the upcoming 5 years concerning ports, mappers and all the other things involved?
Cutmanmike
I have no idea. Secrets are well kept in the Doom community (Action Doom 2) and you never know what's going to happen next (Raven GPLing Heretic and Hexen). I assume that the new map format (UDMF) will be in full force by then and DB2 will be making mapping even easier. All I know is as long as Randy, Graf Zahl, Torr Samaho and all the other developers keep doing what they're doing there will always be people willing to bring new great mods to the table.

Tormentor667
And what about your future? Anything you have in mind that might become a project as soon as GvsH:EW is done?
Cutmanmike
I promised people I would make Impings work. That's lemmings Doom btw. Yes it sounds crazy but I'll make it fun. Somehow... I do have lots of other projects I'd like to make, none that I've started. I like to keep my ideas to myself until I have something I can show. Stops people from stealing them and gives me time to work out what I can and cannot do.

Tormentor667
That's at least a good-looking forecast. So, we almost reached the end of this interview, well done in sweating that out :-) Only one last question for you: Have you ever noticed the imp's anus in TROOM0?
Cutmanmike
I'll be sure to let you know when I figure out what you're talking about. :-)

Tormentor667
You should definitely take a look, it's disgusting if you spot it. So, thanks a lot for sharing your time with us, it was definitely a pleasure to do the interview and I am sure it's not less informative for others to read it. We'll see each other again over at ZDoom.org for sure, until then good luck with your ongoing projects and future plans!
Cutmanmike
Thanks, glad to add to Realm667.

So that's it: The master of Ghouls in the forest has revealed his secrets. Though, we already got a certain tease of things to come, which makes us even more excited of the upcoming releases from Cutmanmike, thanks for your entertaining time and keep Doomin' to make us stay happy and entertained as well.

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