Doom 2, General, Level Design, Personal Projects

A look into the development cycle of the first episode of Doom II: Annie

Since I’ve received quite some emails with questions about my Annie project since it got featured in a PC Gamer article, how it came to be, why it took so long to release the first episode and why I gave the Spider Mastermind the name Annie, I decided to write an article about it in hopes of clearing some things up and giving you a little more insight into the development history of the project.

How it all began

I started to take an interest in level design from the first moment that I played the shareware version of Doom many years ago. In the years that followed, I released some small Doom II levels but I always wanted to go for that one big project. Somewhere in 2005, I drew the first line in DoomBuilder for a project called Annie, that would see the light of day 12 years later.

My original intention was to put together a megawad consisting of 32 levels with a particular emphasis on action and a modified Spider Mastermind named Annie as the main attraction. Since making 32 levels was quite the undertaking, I browsed the Doom forums, looking for a partner to make it all happen. Together with a member of the Doomworld community I was able to release a 3-level demo somewhere in the year 2006. The demo was quite well-received and praised for the interesting level design and gameplay. This demo would eventually be released in 2016 as a standalone project called City of Sin, containing a brand-new fourth map.

One of the first versions of Doom II: Annie, which eventually became City of Sin

Altered versions

The project underwent many changes during the years that followed and I continued my work without a partner. While Annie was initially going to be designed with the Boom engine in mind, I decided to go with the GZDoom engine because I had seen the amazing new features and was eager to implement these into my own maps. That was the reason I started to completely rework the first map up to the point it was no longer recognizable.

Back then I had a lot of other things going on so it wouldn’t be until 2012 that a new demo of the project was released – only one level this time. This demo level had many GZDoom features implemented, such as fog, 3D-bridges, slopes, scripts, etc.

The new plan was to release 16 levels instead of 32 because it would take significantly longer to add all those extra features and GZDoom allowed me to increase the level of detail in my maps, soaking up even more time.

The first level built for the GZDoom engine, released as a demo in 2012

Annie revived!

After a while, the further development of the project shifted to the background. A few more concepts for later maps were worked on, but the maps themselves were never realized. The reason for this was that I had only worked with ID Tech 1 and wanted to explore the capabilities of other game engines. So I went and created projects for Hexen II, Quake, Quake II and Unreal. Annie never left my mind, however. After I finished my last project in the beginning of 2018, I decided it was time to step up and continue development.

With some more experience under my belt and the ability to work faster and more dedicated than so many years ago, I managed to build the other 3 levels that would eventually become the first episode in mere months.

The answer as to why I eventually made the decision to release each of the episodes separately is fairly simple. As the GZDoom engine continues to evolve, so will the episodes of Annie. I can implement added GZDoom features in each new episode without having to worry about conflicting parts in the other ones. It also allows me to add new textures, weapons and monsters without breaking consistency, thus making each episode look totally different while keeping the core elements that define the levels of Annie.

The third map of episode 1 that was created in a much shorter timespan than the first map

What’s up with the name?

This is a question that was asked quite often during the years, so let’s finally answer it. My ex-girlfriend’s nickname was Annie and, like many others, she suffered from arachnophobia. I always tried to explain that most spiders have more to fear from humans than the other way around. I used to joke about it and told her that in order to overcome her fear, she needed to become the fear herself. When I showed her a picture of the Spider Mastermind and told her I named the creature after her for my new project, she was not amused. Maybe that’s the reason we’re no longer together, who knows?

A cool titlepic of Annie, which I worked on with the talented Geraldo Ramos Falci Júnior many years ago

Episode 2

I know what you might think and no, it will not take another 12 years before the second episode is released! At the time of this writing, I’m working together with a very talented level designer on episode 2 and we’ve already got quite some work done. You’ll find many screenshots and lots of information about episode 2 on this website, my Twitter, YouTube, Discord and Twitch channels so do check them out if you want to learn more about it.

If you like to know more about the project or are interested in helping out in some way, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll be happy to answer!

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