UDOB4 - Released for Copper Quake on June 20th, 2019
Andrew 'than' Palmer has invented a unique sport within the world of Quake mapping: singleplayer back-conversions of deathmatch maps. Some are very faithful to the original layouts, while others are fleshed out with a great deal of extra depth, but each of his DM-RMXes manages to retain the distinct sense of place of their originals. There's an extra layer of joy to playing these remixes that you don't get from most maps, of observing and unwinding how he decides to channel a player on a linear path through an otherwise circularly interconnected level, and for what gameplay different areas are repurposed.
This is a great design exercise, and I believe I'm a much better designer on a second iteration of something than I am with a truly blank canvas, so I was eager to give this sport a try, but with every original Quake deathmatch level (including the unreleased DM7) already remixed by Palmer or other authors, I had to turn in another direction for raw material.
I mention it nowhere, leaving the joy of noticing it up to the player, but map 4 of Underdark Overbright is a DM-RMX of Q3DM6: 'The Campgrounds' (a map I've already rebuilt for another Quake). One of the reasons this map has always stood out to me is how unique each of its three primary spaces are: the bridge over the grand staircase and the distinctive sweeping curve leading to the railgun roost that overlooks it, the multistory jumppad and rocket launcher towering over the gladiator pit, and the jumbled pillars that guarantee harried cat-and-mouse exchanges.
I looked for ways the multiplayer geometry overlapped with singleplayer patterns, kept and adapted everything that worked, but stayed willing to renovate anything that didn't. The original was split vertically into three distinct levels, connected entirely by stairs and bouncepads I had no obligation to keep, so I was able to treat them as three distinct phases of gameplay. Keeping each layer largely separate let me divide and conquer by linearizing each one individually. The player starts on the bottom level and ascends to the next as they clear each, reaching the exit after clearing the upper level. Points of vertical access are disabled until activated from above, opening up return routes and shortcuts in and out of previous areas and gradually restoring a multiplayer degree of connectivity.
The dull box rooms on the lower level demanded renovation, and I took creative liberties spicing them up by making them split-level to add little loops and enable some to be traversed in two different directions. The player loops through the gladiator pit, now broken up by some ragged pillars that come in handy when grabbing the ambush-trapped weapon here, and around the map to the lower level of the pillar room, which slopes up to the second level.
The middle level is very open, providing a freedom of movement that's ideal for a huge fight. I close a few doorways to lead the player in a horseshoe path past a locked door to its silver key, sitting where the armor used to be at the top of the grand stairs (now a lift). Grabbing it triggers a fight intended to force a lot of movement, constant reevaluation, and a bit of panic, or in other words, a fight that feels like a deathmatch. Rather than spawning all at once, monsters start arriving in a trickle that gradually ramps up to a wave, coming from every direction and leaving nowhere safe for more than a second or two. An unhidden invisibility powerup nearby lets the player use the chaos to their advantage (if they were smart enough to have saved it).
The gold key watches over this entire fight from the iconic balcony where the railgun used to sit. A different kind of ambush (one where the player's movement is more restrained) greets the player on their way around the curving walkway to reach it. This key unlocks the top of the rocket launcher tower, leading to a little crushing-ceiling platforming over the tops of the east pillars as a welcome pacing break after a series of three big surprise combats.
It felt strange to end the level on this note, however, so I stole a page from Sandy Petersen: the distinctive exit archway in this room is a lie, and hides a final surprise troll fight, causing the player to have to jump across the tops of the pillars one last time to maintain a safe distance.
This is the level in Underdark Overbright I had the most fun working on. I had the benefit of starting with rich raw material in the form of Q3DM6, as well as that of Andrew Palmer having deeply explored the territory of how to accomplish a remix that crosses game modes like this. It also helped to give myself over gleefully and guiltlessly to unrestrained high-octane ambushes.