Project Absentia Prototypes

Intro

While it’s too early to do a Post Mortem on Project Absentia, Metal Neon suggested I do a writeup on the history of Scoot Hard SDL, Scoot Hard DX, and Project Absentia for an upcoming event. The development was longer than Daytime Drama’s development, and is still on-going.

Rather than a Post Mortem of SHDX proper, this is more of a technical and graphical analysis of the difference between various milestones.

Scoot Hard DX was admittedly a very… crazy fangame. After it’s completion, several people suggested we go commercial. That’s when Scoot Hard DX was forked to Project Absentia, after some ideas were conceived.

I decided to focus on some of the major differences between the following games:

  • Scoot Hard: Rainbow Factory (aka Scoot Hard SDL, Circa 2012-2013, Code fixes in 2020-2021)
  • Scoot Hard DX Pre-alpha Build ??? (bundled with an ancient copy of WIGZDoom, dated August 2013)
  • Scoot Hard DX December 2020 Build 152 (the last version before Metal Neon came on, bundled with GZDoom 4.5)
  • Scoot Hard DX Beta 3.1 Build 798 (the last version of SHDX before the initial 1.0 release, bundled with WIGZDoom 4.6pre)
  • Project Absentia Alpha Build 1163 (a recent build of Project Absentia, bundled with WIGZDoom 4.6)

I will mainly be focusing on E1M1/MAP01/E1A1/E1L1 – aka the first level that appeared in all Project Absentia’s history. I will also be focusing on the common enemies through the series of prototypes. However, I will show off the sprites from the various enemies and how they evolved. I also will be doing my best to avoid spoilers for those who don’t want to be spoilers, so some enemies will be skipped, and details about lore that has changed that affects the story will be minimal unless it related to a core gameplay mechanic.

I will also point a bit of minutiae some people might not know about Project Absentia’s codebase.

Scoot Hard: Rainbow Factory/Scoot Hard SDL (November 2012, code patches in 2020-2021)

Scoot Hard SDL's titlepic, showing off a rough drawing of the Cloudsdale Weather Corporation and an old Waffle Iron Studios logo.
Scoot Hard: Rainbow Factory titlepic

The genesis of the project was Scoot Hard: Rainbow Factory and was released initially under the Waffle Iron Interactive label before being changed to Waffle Iron Studios in late 2012. For the sake of clarifying it not being canon to AuroraDawn’s fiction in any way, as well as for simplicity’s sake, I refer to this one as Scoot Hard SDL due to it using Wolf4SDL – a Wolfenstein 3-D game engine using the SDL library.

While not connected code-wise to modern GZDoom, the basic plot for what would become Episode 1 of Project Absentia is here. There’s some interesting concepts that would carry through to the end of Scoot Hard DX‘s development – three bosses, a weather based weapon, and some of the enemies are there. The low guard, the Pegapol, the engineer are all present. Mutants/Zombies do exist, but are the weakest enemy in terms of translation from Wolf3D.

Scootaloo sprite. Scootaloo has an orange coat and a short purple mane
Scootaloo sprite
Low Guard sprite. Has a brown coat, a dark brown goatee and hair, and a white lab coat
Low Guard sprite
Pegpol sprite. Has a skin tight black outfit and a blue arm band and a skin tight mask. Has an orange coat.
Pegapol sprite (then called the Pegpol)
Engineeer sprite. Has a yellow hard hat, blue goggles and a grey coat
Engineer sprite
Mutant sprite. A green pony made up of pegasus and unicorn parts.
Mutant sprite. Note the frankensteined pegasus and unicorn parts to make them an alicorn

Surprise's sprite. Has a grey complexion and a yellow poofy maine and a black suit.
Suprirse’s Sprite
Dr. Atmosphere's sprite. Red coat, crazy grey hair and a lab coat.
Dr. Atmosphere’s Sprite
a blue pegasus with their wings extended and a rainbow-colored mane, armed with a chaingun and a spectrathrower
The third boss’s sprite. Was in the process of becoming Maimbow before development switched to SHDX

One of the levels that existed all the way through to the end of SHDX and Project Absentia, albeit in a basic form… E1L1/E1M1. I will be using this level to demonstrate the evolution of the engine.

E1F1 from Scoot Hard SDL. Shows a bunch of simple tiles at a low res making up the map.
E1L1 as opened through Wolf Data Compiler. The green arrow is the starting point.

Wolf3D’s limited grid-based, tile-based map editor allowed for levels to be designed quickly. However this lead to the impossibility of making set-pieces like the Pegasus Device. An attempt was made. It was not very good. I refuse to show it, that’s how embarrassing it is. Play through the prototype yourself to find it.

The enemies were mostly hitscanners… the weird, Wolf3D type with damage falloff. Surprise used a Rainbower prototype – one you can wield too if you can find it. I hadn’t yet converted the final boss and their posters away from Rainbow Dash’s to Maimbow/Lightning Dust’s…

Oh, and the vending machines. You could buy all sorts of things from them – food and ammo! They are admittedly more useful in this game than in the future iterations.

There were some changes to the map format from Wolf3D’s default map to allow for floor/ceiling textures, tagged tiles that allowed objects, walls and switches to be daisy-chained along. If you’re familiar with how Rise Of The Triad or even Doom does it, it’s very similar to how they tag things.

There were 24 levels. Only 23 of them are accessible because of a bug I cannot for the life of me fix. Oh that wacky Wolf3D engine!

The story is a bit different – mainly because there are three endings. You can lose, you can win but lose Aurora, and you can win and escape with Aurora.

The boss is an asshole who immediately attacks you with little room for maneuverability – I should have given them a delay. However, the idea you could actually just do a pacifist route with the boss.

Dr. Atmosphere’s boss fight is underwhelming. If you fought Dr. Schabbs in Wolf3D, you fought Dr. Atmosphere.

The vending machines were janky but sometimes they worked – and they’d offer you food, ammo and other things.

The story was overall the same, and a bit more complex than I liked it to be. By episode 2 it completely deviates from anything to do with the main Rainbow Factory mythos aside Dr. Atmosphere’s involvement, which would carry through into the finished project.

The final note is I use Aubrey Hodges’ Doom Playstation soundtrack as a placeholder. The opening music is an instrumental for Rainbow Factory. Unfortunately it can get content ID’d on certain platforms, so if I ever stream this it’ll probably be muted.

Scoot Hard DX Pre-Alpha (August 2013 – Build ???)

Scoot Hard DX title screen (with Scootaloo looking angry) and "Waffle Iron Studios Presents:" at the top.
Title sequence from the August 2013 build. The titlepic is really low-res and there’s a glitch.

Scoot Hard DX was my first attempt at making something very bizarre in GZDoom that resembled an old Apogee/3D Realms first person shooter – namely Rise of the Triad – with the intent of showing it to the public at some point.

GZDoom offered more flexibility with DECORATE and ACS and walls that could be anything other than 90 degrees. It also supported 3D floors. Theoretically this concept could work.

…. theoretically. There were tons of problems right out the window. For one, there was no easy way to port the levels… so I was all on my own there. Also no one had written a DECORATE/ACS codebase that could serve as Rise Of The Triad’s weapon system. Not even el zee’s Return of the Triad, which I looked at for reference (mainly the Rainbower and the HUD), used this, just opting for you to have all rocket weapons at once.

This was around the time Rise of the Triad 2013 had come out… and reception was lukewarm at best. I personally liked the ROTT remake, it’s fun to play and inspired me.

Low guard. a tan pony with brown hair and a white outfit
Male Low Guard from the August 2013 Prototype
Pegapol. A brown pony with a black mask and outfit
Pegapol from the August 2013 Prototype
Engineer: a blue pony with grey hair and a white outfit
Enginer from the August 2013 Prototype
High Guard. A bearded blue pony with brown hair and a green outfit
New Enemy: High Guard from the August 2013 Prototype
Surprise's sprite. an off-white pony with a blonde poofy maine and crazy wings, and of course, armor
Surprise’s Sprite
Dr. Atmosphere's sprite. He has a red coat, a gray mane and a look that could kill
Dr. Atmosphere’s sprite

However, as much as I like ROTT 2013 (better than the original I dare say?) the motivation was not enough. For one, ZScript was three to four years off, GZDoom was not yet the de facto port to use (you still had ZDoom, which had more features but a more limited renderer, and GZDoom, which had an advanced OpenGL renderer). I was getting frustrated with the limitations… so I gave up at some point with this ambitious idea.

… not before at least a few other prototypes with full rotational enemies and more levels existed. However, I cannot find these and neither can Tom. I guess it was just sheer luck he found this. Unfortunate, it’d be neat to see how those prototypes looked compared to the direction we ended up going.

The very first map still exists, by the way… more basic, but the elements are there.

A textured blueprint of E1A1 of the August 2013 prototype of Scoot Hard DX.
Scoot Hard DX’s E1A1. You start where the gold plus is on the map (specifically the green spot next to it)

The one thing that stuck through the longest was the voice acting. I actually commissioned a VA by the name of Alabeanz. They voiced Scootaloo… unfortunately I cannot find where they ended up. They went quiet around the time the COVID-19 outbreak happened. I worry about them to this day. I have attempted to reach out on Tumblr, the only place I knew they were active.

… unfortunately the voice acting is the best part of this prototype (save for one line which Metal quotes a lot… to my grumbling and moaning). The movement is probably the weakest point. I wasn’t aware at this point you could control stuff like air control and all that.

That said there are fundamentals here – gibs, swappable weapons, and a voice acting system. This voice acting routine would become the basis for Daytime Drama’s one liner subsystem… which would eventually be used in future iterations of Scoot Hard DX, thus coming full circle.

Oh, as for the music – there is none. Not even placeholder music.

Some interesting bits – the vending machines are more simple, only dispensing apples or meals based on how much coin you have. The enemies are high-res, but use a different method than what I’d use for DD1 and beyond… and Surprise is implemented a bit similarly to what she did in SHDX’s final version. Dr. Atmosphere is present. A prototype enemy – a portable version of the Pegasus Device, loosely modeled off the NME from ROTT exists in the files, but is generally a bad boss.

The Portable Pegasus Device. A machine thatgrinds fillies up into paste and is mobile on spikey legs
The Portable Pegasus Device

There’s many levels that exist, but for the sake of showing evolution, I’m showing off E1M1’s equivalent’s screenshots.

Fun fact: this was the first iteration of WIGZDoom. The icon was from another project at the time that fell through.

Scoot Hard DX was abandoned as it was obvious this was more than I could chew. In order for this to REALLY kick ass, it would need voice acting, a better ability to get into the game logic, thus better movement… and a new coat of paint.

ZScript and Daytime Drama

Daytime Drama Screenshot demonstrating the enemy varieties and the Build-like aesthetic.
Daytime Drama screenshot showcasing the infamous Dontreldemons and a bit more Build in terms of asthetic

With the advent of ZScript in early 2017, I ported most of Daytime Drama’s ACS/DECORATE code to ZScript. The gibs, the voice overs, and inventory items. It was buggy still – it had awful sound mixing (to no fault of Sarah and Brad’s voice acting) due to my inexperience with such matters, plus relied heavily on copyrighted sound clips, and it was being worked on at a time where ZScript was definitely shaping up to be the future, but people were reluctant to make examples or port their code to ZScript because of Zandronum – a client-server multiplayer engine based on an old GZDoom branch.

In short… early on, I was on my own. I believe me, Accensus, Marisa Kirisame, and a few others had started adopting ZScript at the time, while others complained due to lack of documentation or incompatibility with Zandronum or ZDoom 2.8.1. Eventually it gained traction, but by then I had ported most of the code to ZScript, save for two ACS libraries – one which still is in use today, albeit much, much slimmer.

Daytime Drama was not the first ZScript project – but it was my first ZScript project. And boy, did it shine. Despite it’s buggy nature, a self insert protagonist that somehow didn’t meet the ire of the masses (I mean, she is a cop after all), and the insane plot… yet people liked it. I still have no idea what people liked about it. I still have people showing interest in this project to this day, 3 years after I stopped major developments on it.

So it was obvious… I needed a followup. And I tried. Many, many times. DD2 was started up FIVE TIMES before I looked at it and went “yeah, this isn’t going to work like it did before”. Lightning doesn’t always strike twice, kids.

So while working on a DD2 iteration, my friend Tom hands me the prototype. Long of the short of it, burnt out from Daytime Drama 2’s development, I cracked my knuckles and got to work.

And boy, did ZScript make an improvement! I could code a weapons system just like ROTT had… or make it even better! I could make more dynamic enemies without using DECORATE or ACS kludges. Plus my level design had… slightly improved.

Plus I knew a ton more people who could do voice acting and level design.

So we got to work on a purely passion project.

Several beta versions were released. Beta 1 was released on Halloween of 2020. However, reception was lukewarm. I think it… honestly was the ponies. Unfortunately, ponies are not accessible to some people.

Scoot Hard DX Build 152 (December 2nd, 2020)

Scoot Hard DX Build 182 Titlepic showing Scootaloo and Aurora fighting off against a low guard and a Pegapol
Scoot Hard DX Titlepic (Build 182).

However, it caught the eye of a friend of Rod – my musician at the time. Metal Neon came into the picture and started suggesting ideas. It was good to have someone who understood Boomer Shooters like I did on the team…

Around this time, there were issues with the game – the movement was still bad, the weapons all looked the same (still using the sprites from SHDX’s August 2013 build). It was obvious I needed to work on it some more.

… so we did. Metal came on initially as a beta tester, but he ended up doing more – music, model renders, level design… it was a breath of fresh air when the rest of us were not sure what to do.

And eventually we got the movement down right. More on that later.

Why did I pick the December 2020 build instead of Beta 1, 2 or 2.5? Because this is the true point of when the project began to take shape. I want to show how much this starkly contrasts with what we did next.

That said, let’s go over what this build had – 10 levels, 3 bosses, and most of the weapons are there… still using most of the prototype’s graphics. Some enemies were recreated, namely Dr. Atmosphere and Maimbow – Maimbow’s was necessary as his sprites didn’t exist.

New Dr. Atmosphere sprite. Same as before, except he has glasses and his wings are extended.
New Dr. Atmosphere Sprite
Maimbow sprite. Aqua green pony with a rainbow mane, and a shit-eating grin.
Maimbow Sprite

It was around this time I realized that I was going to need to get a new VA for Scootaloo, unfortunately, as Alabeanz was nowhere to be found.

This build has the old SWWM_GZ explosion build code and the armor system is quite jank. Both of these made it really difficult to calculate damages done by enemies.

Several of DD1/DD2’s systems are in place – the titlemap sequence, the RIP Sound Obituary, the one liners, and a way of daisy-chaining sounds together and play subtitles – I call it the Vox Subsytem. No relation to the news site. I think it was an allusion to the Vox system in Half Life 1.

The music is RodScorpion’s, albeit it doesn’t really fit the tone I was going for. It’s a combo of my direction and his style. Again, as I said in the SHDX post mortem, he’s not a bad musician, I just wasn’t feeling it.

However, there were significant changes under the hood. For one, Scoot Hard DX had been upgraded with code from the Daytime Drama 2 prototype – which had been code adapted from Daytime Drama 1, and thus code adapted from Scoot Hard DX’s original codebase. Kind of funky how that works, huh?

We also used OTEX and Ancient Aliens as placeholder textures. These were picked for their vibrant colors compared to stock Doom or FreeDoom.

So while it was rough in appearance and a bit of a rush job, technologically there was so much potential.

MAP01 (E1A1/E1M1) of Scoot Hard DX October Build

Scoot Hard DX Beta 3.1 Build 798 (April 3, 2021)

Scoot Hard DX Build 798/Beta 3.1 Titlepic showing Scootaloo and Aurora fighting off against denizens of the factory. This pic would be the last titlepic before the end of SHDX's development
Scoot Hard DX Titlepic (Build 798 Beta 3.1) – this titlepic would last until the end of SHDX’s development

Aw man, here we go! Scoot Hard DX: Beta 3.1 is the release I have the most fond memories of. It truly showed how much the game had improved. Completely new textures, overhauled maps, and the soundtrack was mostly complete at this point. It was glorious!

Just to show how much work we did in four months – that build number is almost 4x what we had before. To give you an idea, each time we commit a change to Git, it increments the build number by one. Archaic, I know. I prefer this as no one is going to remember a hash the length of Kansas. For a standalone game, this will do.

Scoot Hard DX 3.1 had all the voice acting done for the most part, had all the textures drawn over to be original instead of OTEX/Ancient Aliens/stock Doom/Shadow Warrior/whatever the fuck else I was using. The levels were completely overhauled, and some new levels were added… some were even frankensteined together from levels that sucked to make… a level that frankly I’d sooner forget (the infamous Tchernobog Laboratory).

The enemies were full rotations at this point, as opposed to the always-facing-frontwards enemies from the earlier prototypes.

Low guard. a tan pony with brown hair and a white outfit
Low Guard sprite

Pegapol. A brown pony with a black mask and outfit
Pegapol sprite

High Guard. A bearded blue pony with brown hair and a green outfit
High Guard sprite
Engineer: a blue pony with grey hair and a white outfit
Engineer sprite
Light Enforcer sprite. A white unicorn with a grey armor and helmet, a red shield and a bomb collar
Light Enforcer sprite

Scootaloo crouched sprite
Surprise’s sprite
Dr. Atmosphere’s sprite
Maimbow’s sprite

The weapons were overhauled completely to make them less samey, in both silhouette and in color scheme. Adding brightmaps to the sprites did help. Here’s some examples.

A grey and black rocket launcher made entirely of cylinders.
The missile launcher in SHDX from August 2013 to the December 2020 prototype
SHDX 3.1's Missile Launcher: A dark grey rocket launcher. Hoof mounted!
The missile launcher in SHDX from Beta 3.1 onward
A grey and black rocket launcher, made entirely of cylinders, with an antenna on the top.
The “Fillyseeker” in SHDX from August 2013 to the December 2020 prototype
SHDX 3.1's Fillyseeker: A dark grey hoof-mounted rocket launcher with orange accents and lights and an antenna.
The “Fillyseeker” in SHDX from Beta 3.1 onward. The orange accents light up in OpenGL or Vulkan
A grey weapon with blue accents
Hailer in SHDX from August 2013 to the December 2020 prototype
A yellow weapon with a bright cyan core and blue nozzles.
Hailer in SHDX from Beta 3.1 onward. The blue cyan core lights up in OpenGL or Vulkan

A grey weapon with a black barrel, cyan tubing and a rainbow gradient representing the tank
Rainbower in SHDX from August 2013 to the December 2020 prototype
A grey weapon with a muzzle break and RGB tubing hooked up to a tank with RGB components
Rainbower in SHDX from Beta 3.1 onward. The tubing lights up, as does the inside of the tank, in OpenGL or Vulkan

We also gave each weapon an alt-fire and tweaked the primary fires a tad. Scoot Hard DX originally had no alt-fires. Examples of this include the heat seeker’s cluster grenade, the freezer’s fire and alt-fire acting like a rapid-fire weapon and a hail core shotgun respectively, and the tornadozer has been overhauled a bit. Rainbower is pretty much the same, with a devastating alt-fire used as a panic button type situation.

Scootaloo’s movement is tighter and suffers less from what Metal calls “Simon Belmont Syndrome” – basically once you commit to a jump, you gotta finish it. Air control and better glide implementation definitely helps.

The cutscenes are there, albeit not in their final forms. I remember we needed to clear up the past tense/future tense issues.

Metal’s soundtrack is present, and boy is it a major improvement with what we had before. I think most of the tracks are present here.

New enemies were added. The iconic Enforcers… still a bit rough, but they’re there. There’s also better Zombies, SpectraWasps (mechanized death with wings), and the Engineers throw sentries. The bosses have been completely overhauled, with Surprise fighting in an arena that when she’s at 50% health, she drops the floor – literally – causing you to have to traverse a Spectra filled pit. Dr. Atmosphere and Maimbow’s boss fights are now in stages too.

Alabeanz’s voice lines were replaced entirely by Victoria Prater, an acquaintance of Metal’s.

I got rid of SSWM_GZ’s Explosion code at some point between the December 2020 build and this build. The armor system works pretty much as it does in the latest version.

Weapons and some items were starting to be turned into voxels.

All the levels started employing different lighting methods to make them, stand out. E1M1 is a great show of this.

Another thing added was the presence of tutorials in the first few levels of Scoot Hard DX. These were hit or miss. I designed them to introduce things like alt-fire, jumping and gliding, among other things. However people ended up just whizzing by and wondering why they failed XD. I guess unless you stop the action and make people read them before they move on, people aren’t going to pay attention.

The textures were also completely re-drawn using a cartoony pixelated look. We went for that to offer a contrast to the sprites, which are higher res Adobe Animate (Flash) art.

Finally, the biggest change was we revived the old Waffle Iron Studios fork of GZDoom – WIGZDoom!

I know the 1.0 release was the true milestone, but… this release is the release I remember fondly. I even made a special boxart parodying the Windows NT 3.1 boxart.

A parody of the Windows NT box with the Cloudsdale Weather Corporation logo and Scoot Hard DX at the bottom, and the Waffle Iron Studios logo in the upper-left corner

It was glorious. I like this release. It makes me happy.Arnok

E1M1 in it's near final state, showing off the colored lighting and small but noticeable changes.
E1M1’s overhead blueprint showing off the colored lighting

Project Absentia Build 1163

Project Absentia Build 1163 titlepic, showing Abby wielding a tommy gun and a rocket launcher, wrecking a bunch of Enemies shit on a rooftop. Phoenix with his orange hair can be seen grinning in the background, transparent over the shining moon
Project Absentia Build 1163 titlepic

We forked Scoot Hard DX right after the 1.2 release after we decided the concept could be commercialized, as long as we separated it from the MLP mythos. I will be only sharing small bits of information and graphics here to not spoil the game. However, as you can see above in the titlepic, several of the enemies have been given a non-pony overhaul

We first had to gut the “RIP Sound Obituary” – a system that mocks you when you die… due to the use of copyrighted meme materials. Sampling is a tricky thing. Metal wants this back with stuff we know we have the rights to such as the Average Joe™

Next was replacing every single sprite and asset with a non-pony version. Right now there’s no pony assets, save for an Easter egg I insist upon keeping.

The biggest change herself? Scootaloo, the relatively clean, no-swearing filly, is now a sadistic angel with a bloodlust and a vulgar mouth – and this angel calls herself Abby.

Victoria Prater didn’t want to come back for the role of Abby, so we went with someone else – one of Metal’s friends, SinsAndSmokes… who’s performance was pretty fucking psychotic… so we went all ham on Abby’s background, including making her quite more vulgar. It’s been fun being in the recording sessions with Metal and Sins. So yeah, that’s the biggest change you’ll notice right away.

With the help of AuroraDawn himself, we came up with some concepts. The Cloudsdale Weather Corporation became the Orkan Corporation, and instead of Pegasi would be angels in Heaven with nefarious motives.

The Orkan Corporation logo, which is a blue cyan upside-down triangle, with a white I-like shape in the middle, and a yellow, red and blue parts on the top
Orkan Corporation logo, based on a sketch by AuroraDawn, inked and colored by SanyaWaffles

The big difference? This is just Episode 1 of 4. The story has been greatly expanded, and the game will go from Heaven to Hell and beyond! I won’t go into the specifics of what’s going to happen next… you’ll have to see. [chuckles]

Some enemies were dropped for Episode 1 – the zombies have been replaced with robotic canines called “Doggos”, but those won’t appear in the demo we’re presenting. Neither will the changes being made to Dr. Atmosphere or Phoenix (formerly known as Maimbow).

The voxels were replaced with brightmapped models made from voxels. Some 3D models were made from scratch by Metal Neon.

Speaking of boss fights – Asphodel’s arena (formerly Surprise’s arena) has been modified to allow better flow. There’s now teleporters and vents that allow you to “Pac-man” your way through the level.

Some additional changes were made to the weapons’ functionality and their names. Some alt-fires were tweaked or replaced – like the cluster bomb becoming a firebomb, straight out of Rise of the Triad. Namely now the SMG – a Tommy Gun – has infinite ammo, but you have to reload, as opposed to having unlimited ammo with no catches. You can also swap out the default ammo for hollow point ammo. There’s also headshots now, backported from additional code from the DD2 codebase, based on the work by Mikk.

Speaking of the DD2 codebase, Build-like explosion controllers were added from this codebase. I didn’t see much use for them initially in Scoot Hard DX, however one of Metal’s complaints were the explosions in Scoot Hard DX weren’t big enough. So I decided to bring them back. One advantage to this over traditional ACS is the fact you can use these objects without any knowledge of ACS – but if you do know ACS, then you can use them to make even more powerful effects.

We decided to demonstrate this in E1M1 by radically changing the intro to this level.

E1M1, showing a rooftop that has a vent shaft that drops to the bottom
E1M1, with the new rooftop and some other minor changes
The new opening to E1M1, showing a rooftop and a bunch of explosive barrels.
E1M1’s opening.

Those barrels explode. You can jump over them and into the vent shaft below, but why do that? Explosions are cool. Reception to these have been extremely cool overall.

So as you can see, E1M1 has evolved over the years. As it’s beginnings of just a Wolf3D level to it’s Build-esque modern iteration.

Some other minor tweaks include us tweaking the fonts on the menus and HUD to be kosher with commercial usage, as Crewniverse is a Steven Universe thing and Revue just looked ugly.

Interesting bit: Scoot Hard DX Version 1.3 was released in the interim, which includes some silent hotfixes I added to Version 1.2 of Scoot Hard DX, as well as updating WIGZDoom to a newer version. This version was separate from Project Absentia in terms of the source code’s lineage

Boot Screen

Boot Screen for Project Absentia

it reads out:

Waffle Iron Studios Project Absentia Build 1163 Private Alpha 3

HAL: Version 1.12 1/07/2011
HAL: Processor is an Orkan Corporation Workstation Rev. 3.3
HAL: Angel Revision 2.4
HAL: L2 cache is not installed.
WI/GZDoom 4.6 Compatible Multithreaded Enabled

It has the Waffle Iron Studios in the background.
Waffle Iron Studios boot screen

The boot screen is a reference of Windows NT 3.1, 3.5x, and 4.0’s boot screens. It serves as more than a reference. That build number is updated every commit until we go Gold. For Early Access, we plan on not doing this until the game’s four episodes are done.

As for what a “HAL” is? Another reference to Windows NT – the Hardware Abstraction Layer. Unlike the Windows NT version, this is purely graphical and doesn’t do anything, except if you change Abby’s name to something else it’ll get rid of it. I might get rid of this to avoid confusion, alas.

Trying the builds yourself

I’ve included everything except the Project Absentia build here. You are free to look at these and analyze them, just know I offer no support for these and they are provided on an as-is basis.

I hope this has been an interesting look at E1M1 through the development cycles as well as some interesting bits I felt were worth mentioning about the build’s differences.

In Conclusion

As you can see, Scoot Hard DX has evolved from a fangame into Project Absentia, a completely original IP… and boy has the journey been long.

With the experience we had under our belt for Scoot Hard DX, we hope Project Absentia will be even better.

Thanks for sharing a part of the journey with us.

-Sanya, on behalf of Waffle Iron Studios

TWTW – CakeofRage

Cake drew herself for the Scoot Hard DX credits.

Here I interview CakeofRage, who voices Surprise/Asphodel in Scoot Hard DX/Project Absentia, and will be voicing Roshni, an important character in Project Absentia, as well. She also helps with some of the lore, specifically with the Atmosphere family and the mythology of the worlds.

Cake has written fanfictions before, and has helped with some of the lore for the abandoned Daytime Drama 2 – which has since been reincorporated as parts of Project Absentia. She’s dabbled a lot in fandom.

Sanya: First off, yes. We know. We get it. You like the Atmosphere family.

Cake: Shush xD

Sanya: In all seriousness, how did you and I meet? I forget, it was something to do with discourse on Tumblr if memory serves correctly.

Cake: I remember Tumblr and Deviantart, but it sort of blurs together… If I think about it, it makes sense that it was Tumblr first? 2015-2016 was around the time I was trying to change my way of thinking about things… I think the chain of events started with a discourse blog who was friends with Taka, who was friends with you? Wait hold on, I’m pretty sure Danganronpa was somewhere in the process because of the first Daytime Drama game. There are some missing puzzle pieces here and it’s gonna bother me if I think too hard about it…

Monokuma Biting Pear of Salamanca drawn by Cake
Monokuma Biting Pear of Salamanca drawn by Cake

Sanya: We’ll get back to Scoot Hard DX and Project Absentia in a bit… But first, tell us a bit about yourself.

Cake: This is always the hardest question, isn’t it? I like (mostly mainstream) anime and cartoons, plushies, pink, possums, and cats. I think I’m a basic bitch. I have a lot rattling around in my head and I think it shows. I tend to go off on tangents. A lot. And I talk too much. I feel emotions very, very strongly, and most of the time I can’t immediately translate them into words (which is the reason I wish I had expressive body parts, like a tail or wings). Because of this, I’m better at communicating when memes, emojis/emotes, and reaction images are involved. (I’m doing my best to answer these with as little of those as possible, of course!) Also I love love… if my shipping habits didn’t already make that glaringly obvious.

Sanya: What’s the origin of your name “CakeofRage”

Cake: Sometimes my hyperfixations + boredom make a Very Interesting mix. But long story short: found some trivia on an item in the Johto Pokemon games (Rage Candy Bar) about how it could have been localized as a pun on the in-game location, Lake of Rage, as “Cake of Rage.” And here we are. I think it’s kinda funny how one of my first interests stuck with me for so long and shaped my online identity.

Sanya: How did you get into voice acting?

Cake: I’ve had interest in doing vocal stuff in the past (mostly song covers), but I didn’t really think of myself as being good enough to voice a character until you recruited me to be Navy in DD2. I’m gonna be honest… I didn’t enjoy it as much as I do now. My voice for Navy was just my regular voice, and ironically, the sound of my own natural speaking voice makes me cringe so hard. Trying to sound like something else, though? That’s much more tolerable, and much more fun.

Navy from the DD2 Prototype
Navy from the cancelled Daytime Drama 2 prototype.

Sanya: Do you have any hobbies? If so, tell us.

Cake: I draw fanart and design OCs. I write too, just not long projects like I used to do; writing is writing, though, and I’m grateful for the ability to paint a picture with my words! I also sing, for fun and to soothe myself. I’m not exactly the greatest, but I do like seeing what I can do with my voice.

Sanya: Scoot Hard DX (And Project Absentia), like it’s inspiration – is gory, over the top and has themes dealing with fascism, among other things. A lot of people claim this stuff should be heavily regulated – either by the government or at a corporate level. What do you think as a content creator of such things?

Cake: Simply put, humans are biased. Bias dictates decisions, and what’s a government official or head of a corporation going to decide what counts as inappropriate? Besides, stories like this have been told since the beginning of human history. Old fairytales used to be dark and gritty by today’s standards, but they reflected real life situations and consequences. They were stories people could relate to in some ways. Why fix what’s not broken? Why take away from others what you personally don’t like? Why bother engaging in content you don’t like?

Sanya: What do you do for a dayjob?

Cake: I live in the hell known as retail. Send help.

Sanya: What do you want to do for a living?

Cake: Hmmmm. I don’t usually think about that, but honestly? I wouldn’t mind voice acting for a living. I have a lot of fun doing it!

Sanya: Your boyfriend is the voice of Dr. Atmosphere and will sometimes just randomly start talking in his voice. That’s funny to me. What’s it like dating someone with such strong bastard energy?

Cake: I don’t think I can describe this more accurately than this: I’m never bored, because I never know what to expect lol. I remember some advice about having a partner who can make you laugh, and I think I lucked out on that one! Even better: he says the gross/dark humor things I think but can’t say out loud. God I love this bastard so much.

Surprise's sprite
Surprise’s sprite

Sanya: Scoot Hard DX is your first major role in a public WIS project – as the first boss, Surprise Atmosphere. How does it feel being the voice of an insane CFO that’s gender identity is “insane murderous crackhead”.

Cake: God this is so much fun. It’s the “letting out my inner bastard” for me!

Sanya: What’s your process for getting into character?

Cake: I mostly just talk, really! My process is like 90 percent just fucking around to loosen up. Sometimes I even bitch at noisy weather conditions or cars passing by while I’m recording. 

Sasha Kamen, drawn by SanyaWaffles
Sasha Kamen (drawn by SanyaWaffles), an Aysburg soldier and one of Sanya’s friends in the reboot of the Daytime Drama mythos
Sarah Stone, drawn by CakeofRage
Sarah Stone (Drawn by Cake), who’s design was used as the basis for Sasha Kamen

Sanya: Even though you are a voice actress, you have a ton of input on the lore of Project Absentia. Your design for Asphodel (Surprise’s counterpart) was so good. Same with Roshni… You also had a character that we adapted into Sanya’s comrade from Aysburg – Sasha. Have you ever considered becoming a freelance character designer too?

Cake: Until this question, I didn’t really think of it as an option. But that sounds really cool and now I’ll have to think about it!

Sanya: I don’t mean for this to be wordy… but here we go. Scoot Hard DX/Project Absentia has LGBTQ+ themes, but often shows LGBTQ+ characters in shades of grey, rather than what I’d call… “precious smol been uwu”. I feel when I write stuff, it’s more natural and honest to show LGBTQ+ people can be good, bad or downright ugly. I’ve seen some people argue this is bad representation because it shows LGBTQ+ characters as bad. I don’t agree with them, as they’re not bad because they’re part of the alphabet. What do you think about that?

Cake: If the characters have depth and motivation beyond a single trait, it’s good writing. It’s realistic.

To avoid being too wordy, I’m just gonna say this: I’ll take “realistically and respectfully written villains who just happen to be queer” over “no story for this hero, only gay stereotypes” any day.

Sanya: How does it feel being part of a team as diverse as ours – in the truest sense, not in the corporate “safe” sense.

Cake: Certainly interesting!

Image
The origin of “I’m fucken sorry, man” – from shittynewyorkercartooncaptions

Sanya: Waffle Iron Studios has a tendency to have a ton of in-jokes. What’s your favorite in-joke?

Cake: I’m fucken sorry, man

Sanya: One of the things you and I both struggle with is mental health, and this year has not been the best for either of us – from the political climate, to the COVID-19 outbreak, to just stuff in our personal lives. What’s it like?

Cake:

“Depressing” is much too simple an answer, and doesn’t really describe what it’s like. It’s sometimes a black hole, sucking me in but also leeching into other parts of my life like a poison. I worry I might poison others with it. It’s so hard not to get caught in a spiral of hopelessness, wondering if anything will ever get better, and fearing the future. Even right now I’m finding this hard to answer, because I want to be candid, but I also don’t want to bring down the mood. I need to be that person who lightens the mood, but realistically, that’s just a lot of pressure to put on myself. I have a lot of work to do, learning how to just… exist.

Some advice: bottling up your feelings and avoiding them aren’t healthy; they always find a way out. You’re human… it’s human to feel. It’s okay to feel hurt, and scared, and tired sometimes.

Sanya: I think you’re awesome, despite the challenges you face, to give it all you got. Don’t let other people tell you otherwise.

Cake: Thank you so much! Likewise! 💜

Sanya: It was through you I found Monaka – who has a voice for a character that hasn’t been properly introduced yet in the Project Absentia mythos. She’s also the voice for Dominika, Sanya’s arch-nemesis in a potential future Daytime Drama sequel/reboot. She’s also a cool friend. How did you two meet?

Cake: The magic of the Tumblr Danganronpa fandom!

Roshni's dark form, designed by CakeofRage
Roshni’s dark form, designed by CakeOfRage

Sanya: Most of Blitz/Roshni was your idea. There’s no analog to MLP or Rainbow Factory for this character at all. In fact I believe Roshni was mostly your design. And now she’s becoming a major character with an arc of her own. What was your thought process for coming up with her?

Cake:

I like making fankids. It makes me happy.Arnok

…In all seriousness, that’s almost always my main starting point, but this time I was waiting for you to suggest it because I thought I was going overboard 😂. I have a lot of fankids for ships I like (including another character who ended up being adapted into the Daytime Drama lore)!

For Blitz specifically, I originally had the idea of a character similar to Sally from Black Clover, but somewhere along the way that changed, probably around the time we realized “wait, if we killed her parents… what happens to her?” That’s super tragic. So all that grief eventually turns to anger and a need for revenge; she has someone to blame for losing everything. And while we never actually got to do this before shifting gears to Project Absentia, there was supposed to be a side story about Blitz and a possible redemption arc. And I thought, what if when it was all over, she was just tired of spending a huge chunk of her life angry? She felt like she didn’t deserve to be a pegasus and needed to earn back her wings, so she became a human who was Tired™️ and had a habit of forgetting she was bipedal. (It was at this point I realized a recurring theme with my characters and their need to work to feel worthy again… Oops, all vent characters! /j)

As for where this all translates into Roshni, it’s sort of the same deal; I just needed to adapt her into an angel, so the design was the main focus. I designed what she looks like as a boss first, and it’s drastically different from how she is as a humanized pony. First, I was thinking of what type of wings she had… Basically, I was like “Asphodel’s wings are based on a raven!! Do more corvids!!”

The dark transformation scene during one of the musical numbers in Descendants 3 just hit all the right buttons, so I ended up with “Queen of Mean” on loop for the next week or so while designing Roshni. Her wings ended up being a magpie (a corvid) with the idea of “what if her wings reflected her corruption, like the white feathers being replaced with black?” Magpies have really cool wings. The dress I gave her was based on a gown I’d come across online while looking for inspiration. 

This is a lot wordier than originally planned… can’t say I’m feeling too apologetic about it, though.

Tl;dr Ma’am, this is a Wendy’s.

Sanya: You used to do Sims stuff a great deal until you stopped recently. What draws you to that game?

Cake: I used to like watching dramas and soap operas and stuff when I was younger, but after some point I started getting… annoyed, I guess, with the writing, and a lot of the daytime soaps I’d actually enjoyed went off the air years ago. I’d started playing The Sims 2 when I was 12-13, with the dreams of one day making machinimas like the ones on YouTube at the time. I never finished any, obviously, but I still played with a story in my head. Of course, there’s the question of “why not just write it then?” but the answer is simple: coming up with plot is hard, but describing actions and feelings is easy (for me, at least). Why not have the characters act it out themselves?

All of it was just a sweet little bit of escapism for me, acting out my own drama or a fanfic (There’s a reason people used to call it “OTP Puppet Theatre”). I could turn off my brain for a bit and immerse myself in a world of my own. I do miss it a lot, sometimes, especially the sims I made and the stories I’ve gotten attached to. I have to stop myself here or else I’ll go on forever lol.

Sanya: As a developer, game modding is important and a civil liberty we shouldn’t take for granted. It’s one reason I chose GZDoom – the engine itself is very moddable. How do you feel about modding and its effects for content creators?

Cake: You’re talking to the bitch who downloaded a bunch of Sims mods to the point of “my computer is on fire.” I feel like that kind of answers itself lol.

Sanya: I want to state that you’re like a sister to me. You have done a great deal for me. Not just on the project, but over the years as I grow and deal with the world around me. I know shit isn’t the best at times, but you are awesome and have stuck by me through thick and thin. I appreciate you being a part of all this.

Cake: Ahhh stop, you’re making me blush! I’m happy to be a part of all this! I’m so happy I met you. Thank you for showing me just what I’m capable of, thanks for helping me find a purpose in life, and just, thank you in general for being such a wonderful person.

Sanya: Anything else you want to add?

Cake: I keep designing attractive characters. This is the opposite of a problem. I’m not fucken sorry, man

You can find the adorable, very fascinating Cake on Twitter.

@CakeOfRage

Is it about my cube?

TWTW – AuroraDawn

AuroraDawn’s ponysona

Here I interview AuroraDawn – author of the infamous My Little Pony fanfic Rainbow Factory. Based on the grimdark song by Wooden Toaster, the tale of the fascist weather production company is one well known in the Brony fandom.

Rainbow Factory has spawned a trilogy of fanfics, with a cult following for almost a decade. Rainbow Factory serves as the inspiration for Scoot Hard DX: Daytime Drama Zero as well as the upcoming commercial version, Project Absentia.

I sit down with AuroraDawn and ask some questions.

Rainbow Factory by WoodenToaster/Glaze

Sanya: First off – gotta get this out of the way. Your fic is infamous, and one of the first grimdark My Little Pony fics I ever read. It’s gut churning. It’s sad… and definitely not for kids. What inspired you to do such a thing?

Aurora: Well, the song did. I had just gotten into ponies (Like… just. Like a week basically) when I found Glaze’s Rainbow Factory. I was deathly ill at the time with flu, was running a dangerously high fever and on various cold medications and… it just sort of popped into my head. I had to get it out onto paper, and so I wrote it in a night, listening to the song on loop.

Sanya: Rainbow Factory has been pretty divisive for its fascist imagery, gruesome violence, and generally being grimdark… among other things. What kind of research goes into such, if any.

Aurora: There’s not too much research I do for the dark stuff. I’ve got an adequate understanding of anatomy and basically I write what I find is disturbing or would be painful or grotesque. I will do some research when writing any story, usually wikipedia articles or niche blogs, but basically it’s -heh- gut feeling

Sanya: Alot of people think such content should be harshly regulated, either by corporations or by the government. I know people do that all the time with the medium I’m in, video games.

Aurora: They do, but I’ve always been a proponent of thorough labelling and warnings, combined with self-policing. Tag your shit, and then block what you don’t want to see instead of demanding it be removed or banned.

Rainbow Factory's page on FimFiction, clearly showing the tags involved and a rating of M for mature
Rainbow Factory’s page on FimFiction, clearly showing the tags involved and a rating of M for mature.

Sanya: We’ll get back to your trilogy of works, and their effect on Scoot Hard DX and Project Absentia in a bit… But first, tell us a bit about yourself.

Aurora: Well, I’m a youngish white dude from Canada. I’m a fan of dark and monstrous things. I value Honesty over pretty much anything else. Not sure what else you’d like to know!

Pegasus Device cover
Cover for Pegasus Device, featuring the infamous Cloudsdale Weather Corporation logo

Sanya: You’re known for Rainbow Factory, but you’ve done other fics too. Tell us about those if you’d like.

Aurora: Well, there’s the Pegasus Device novels, and new Rainbow Factory stories like Weather Worker’s Song that have come out. I have other genres I’ve dipped into, as well, such as romance. Heart of Hearing is one I’d like to see get more popular; it’s a love story between two Pegasi, one of which is recently disabled via the loss of his hearing. There’s no dialogue in the story, and it’s first person; very experimental for me, and I’m extremely proud of it.

Sanya: Do you have any hobbies? If so, tell us.

Aurora: Writing is pretty much my main hobby! Asides from that, I play video games and Magic: the Gathering.

Sanya: I know the lockdown has affected all of us – how are you holding up as things slowly reopen?

Aurora: For the most part, lockdown didn’t affect me; I’m very introverted, and my job was not particularly affected insofar as me not working or anything. Lockdown helped me rediscover my love of writing and make a bunch of new friends online. Right now it’s most affecting me because I can’t travel to meet my boyfriend, who I met during this time.

Sanya: How did you come into contact with me and Waffle Iron Studios?

Aurora: Twitter! I check the Rainbow Factory and Pegasus Device tags frequently, and Scoot Hard DX had a promo tweet made a few months back, which got me in contact with the Waffle Iron Studios crew!

Sanya: What was it like finding out that someone made a game based on your story?

Aurora: Absolutely incredible. I was reeling. Every single bit of fan content blows my mind; anything that shows even the slightest bit of proof that something I’ve created has inspired someone else or helped them create… well… it’s indescribable.

Sanya: I was shocked when I found out that you acknowledged and liked Scoot Hard DX. I consider that the highlight of the year for me. I NEVER would have imagined that happening. When Ellie mentioned that to me, I about shat my pants.

Aurora: Hah, that’s cute! I’m glad I could help repay some of the joy I had felt upon finding it :3

Sanya: I know for a while there you went completely absent. I was worried something really bad happened to you.

Aurora: In February of 2014, I went through a major upheaval in my life, a relationship that ended brutally. I had been diagnosed with situational depression in the past, and was living with undiagnosed General Anxiety Disorder. The breakup triggered an episode of Major Depressive Disorder that went undiagnosed for several years and then took even more to manage. It wasn’t until September of 2020 that I finally started feeling like a normal human being again. In that time frame, nothing brought me joy, and I stopped writing, or doing pretty much anything that wasn’t sleeping or going to work. There’s not much to talk about then; I didn’t do anything.

Sanya: I know depression can affect people’s ability to work. It certainly does mine. How do you deal with bad days?

Aurora: These days, with it well managed with therapy and medication, when I have a bad day I allow myself to have the bad day. I take a break from most of my self-imposed expectations and let me feel sad, accepting the day is a write off. In the times before my remission, there was no managing it. Every day was a bad day.

Sanya: One of the VAs, CakeofRage, absolutely adores Dr. Atmosphere in both the canon Rainbow Factory lore and Scoot Hard DX/Project Absentia. How does that make you feel?

Aurora: It’s great! It’s awesome having written a character that someone either connects with or feels some attachment to! Means I did my job well and made them, if not believable, then at least enjoyable or thought-provoking[2:58 PM]I’m gonna have to leave off here for now but I’ll come back to it later

Dr. Hide Atmosphere sprite in Scoot Hard DX
Dr. Hide Atmosphere as he appears in Scoot Hard DX. Unfortunately not a lot of fanart of canon Dr. Atmosphere exists

Sanya: This might seem like an odd question to ask in an interview, but I’m not the only one on the dev team who’s curious. We know that Dr. Atmosphere’s name is “Hide Atmosphere”. Why Hide Atmosphere? Is it a play on words I don’t get?

Aurora: It’s not really any subtle joke. I was looking for a first name for him and Hide sounded A. kinda wise old-guyish and was a pony-like term (Animal hide)

Sanya: I know that Aurora Dawn in the fics isn’t necessarily your persona – at least not that iteration. That confused me. Do a lot of people get confused?

Aurora: So many people get confused. I’m often accused of Aurora in the story being a self insert, which is weird because A. I’m not female, B. She fucking dies brutally, and C. I took my username from her after the story was published.

A dramatic reading of Rainbow Factory by TheLostNarrorator and her friends

Sanya: Scoot Hard DX is not just loosely inspired, but it is a slight satire of Rainbow Factory. One of the reasons the enemies say “BITCH” many times – especially Maimbow – is because Rainbow Dash swore in Rainbow Factory. I’m not even really bothered by that, I just found it funny is all. I lost it when I heard TheLostNarrator say “WELL THEN BITCH…” in her dramatic reading.

Aurora: Neat.

Sanya: Continuing the satirical elements, I feel my AU where it was Lightning Dust controlling the Cloudsdale Weather Corporation… was because I kind of thought in hindsight, Lightning Dust could have been a neat head of the CWC. I wonder what your thoughts on that are.

Aurora: Lightning Dust cares only about herself and not others, and so in the Canon Universe she’d be a terrible fit for the company. Dash is fiercely loyal to the CWC and would do anything for it to succeed. Dust would bail the second she might get caught with any wrong doing. But, I’m all for alternate interpretations! It’s not “Wrong”! It’s how you view the world and the story.

Lightning Dust as she appears canonically in MLP:FIM
Lightning Dust as she appears in the show
A comic depicting the events of Rainbow Factory by Doom1945. Rainbow Dash in panel one was Aurora’s icon on Twitter for the longest time. Rainbow Dash’s depiction, including the grin, influenced Maimbow’s design.
Maimbow Undash, Lightning Dust's new identity
Maimbow Undash, Lightning Dust’s new identity.

Sanya: How do you feel about me turning Lightning Dust into a trans femboy Nazi. For the record, I understand how ludicrous that sounds.

Aurora: All power to you!

Captain Hook The Biker Gorilla as featured by Rainbow Dash Presents – a parody of Rainbow Factory

Sanya: Scoot Hard DX is not the first loving satire of your work. I’ll never be able to top Rainbow Dash Presents Captain Hook The Biker Gorilla… god that title cracks me up. You remember that?

Aurora: I sure do. I quote it almost daily.

Sanya: Even though you aren’t in the day to day operations of Waffle Iron Studios, you are on the dev team – essentially a co-author of Project Absentia, due to you and I brainstorming concepts on how to turn Scoot Hard DX into a commercial project. How does it feel to be a part of that?

Aurora: It’s fun. It’s really quite cool to do something that gets my name in the credits of a game. Game dev is not a field I see myself ever being in, so to be able to show people that is really fun.

Sanya: What do you think has evolved with your stories as you gain more experience?

Aurora: When I write something, I go back over it and figure out whatever it is I’m least happy with, and generally try to work and improve that aspect of my writing in my next project. Generally I’ve been dissatisfied with my descriptive writing, so over many projects I have worked hard to improve it, and that’s been what’s really changed recently.

Sanya: I don’t mean for this to be wordy… but here we go. Scoot Hard DX/Project Absentia has LGBTQ+ themes, but often shows LGBTQ+ characters in shades of grey, rather than what I’d call… “precious smol been uwu”. I feel when I write stuff, it’s more natural and honest to show LGBTQ+ people can be good, bad or downright ugly. I’ve seen some people argue this is bad representation because it shows LGBTQ+ characters as bad. I don’t agree with them, as they’re not bad because they’re part of the alphabet. What do you think about that?

Aurora: I agree with it. Inclusivity doesn’t mean LGBT characters must be portrayed as infallible.

Sanya: A common thing I hear from “antis” is how by making highly violent content with fascist themes makes us basically bloodthirsty Nazis, and that we’re trying to convert kids by using “problematic” fan content… yet you are as far from a Nazi as I can tell, and I personally can say I don’t like any government or corporation which tells me what I can do in my own home by myself – lest I face some grave punishment. In your best guess/educated opinion – why do so many people assume creating and engaging with dark content means endorsement?

Aurora: I haven’t the slightest idea why. Some people can’t separate content from creator.

Sanya: The Motherload of In The Keep described us as “very Egalitarian”. For those reading this, this means “everyone is on equal footing”. I agree with him on that, as I strive to make sure everyone at WIS is on equal footing. What do you think of that goal?

Aurora: It has its benefits and drawbacks. Some people work better with supervision and direction, others work better with freedom to do their own thing. Valve I think tries to live by that philosophy and while they’ve had some amazing things come out of it, they have suffered with back end issues like customer support for years because of it.

Sanya: Do you have any tips to say to potential creative people – be it in writing or in video game design?

Aurora: Do what you enjoy and ignore what people have to say about it. Write what you’d want to read. If other people want to read it, even better; but ultimately, if you enjoy doing it, do it for the reason of keeping yourself happy.

Sanya: I’m sad that you and I only got to know each other recently… However, I don’t want to focus on what could have been – I want to focus on what is going on – You are a cool dude and an inspiration to me. Your ideas have helped greatly, but more importantly, your fight with depression is nothing short of inspiring for me to keep going. I love that you took your time to help us out with getting a basic premise set up for Project Absentia… and I can’t overstate how cool I think you are, dude. I’m glad you came back to the fandom, and I’m glad that you’re part of this team.

Aurora: Thanks 🙂

Sanya: Anything you want to say before we wrap this up?

Aurora: I think that about covers it! Stay in drugs, don’t do school, all that fun stuff

AuroraDawn, you are an odd fellow… but I do say, you Factory a good Rainbow.

No seriously, you’re awesome and I’m glad you’re doing okay.

You can find AuroraDawn at Fimfiction and Twitter.

Oh my god, they’re going to grind us into rainbows! EVERYBODY PANIC!

TWTW – EllieJojo

EllieJojo's ponysona, Electric Arc
EllieJojo’s ponysona, Electric Arc as done in PonyTown

You have probably heard me joke about my wife’s girlfriend. That’s not entirely a joke. More than one of my lovely girlfriends, Ellie also helps with sound design, level design and other aspects of development. She is also a fan of Daytime Drama.

I decided to ask Ellie some questions.

Sanya: So, hon, tell everyone how you discovered me and Waffle Iron Studios

Ellie: I first discovered WIS and Sanya via Icarus’ video on Daytime Drama 1. Safe to say I got hooked on the game – to the point where I pushed myself to ‘pro’ it. 100% and on the hidden discourse difficulty. Sometime later I interacted with Sanya via Twatter dot com and the rest is history.

Sanya: Tell us a bit about yourself.

Ellie: Just a bitch out west that’s into gaming, gaymareing, and whatever neat shit she orders online. In her early twenties she just wants to get out and have fun and spread the peace yo, and dem liberman infuriating video games. Blonde, likes big cool things, likes big chaos, that’s pretty much all you need to know.

Sanya: Do you have any hobbies or interests?

Ellie: Like I just said, I like gaming. Pretty much the only thing I have in my area but I also love gmod machinima. Practically grew up on that wackiness and would like to take part in it one day.

Also I have a weird fascination with food science, not like the kinda cancer causing shit in Mcdoonkies but the kinda study that goes into MRE’s and such. No idea why I just find it neat!

Sanya: I’ve been asking everyone this, but how’s lockdown treating you?

Ellie: I’m probably gonna be in the handful that says it’s actually been pretty decent? Like I found my first job (barring the work in WIS of course) and I got to hang with some legit cool peeps.

Daytime Drama 2 Prototype screenshot
Screencap from the abandoned Daytime Drama 2 concept

Sanya: You helped initially with the prototype of Daytime Drama 2 before it got cancelled. I know that probably made you sad, considering you were a big fan of the first project.

Ellie: Not too bothered by it honestly, It was a great way to ease into doing this kind of work. It was a great learning experience all around!

Sanya: I want to assure you some proper followup to Daytime Drama will happen. Sanya’s story isn’t over. In fact, it’s only the beginning.

Sanya: You were – and still are – big on My Little Pony: Friendship is magic. Tell us how you got into the series, and how it’s affected you.

Ellie: Back in early 2012 I came across a little song in the community called ‘Beyond her Garden’, safe to say after that I fell in love with the show and community. Ever since then the show and the friends ive made along with it have helped me through life in many ways. I can’t properly describe it, it’s had that much of an impact on me. Neigh.

Sanya: Let’s talk about Scoot Hard DX – first off, hard to believe this was in development longer than Daytime Drama, and is now infinitely more polished than DD was. I am shocked, so I wonder how you feel about it.

Ellie: SHDX is surely something to be proud of. Watching the whole dynamic change and shift with the team was amazing and the fact we made a pastel horse game that’s actually really fun to play just totally amazes me. Here’s to all our future projects getting better and better!

Sanya: What did you do on Scoot Hard DX specifically?

Ellie: I mainly worked on the weapon sounds and designed some of the levels, most notably the Pegasus Device level. I loved setting up the foundation(s) for that and the set piece for the Device level!

E3M2 – Pegasus Device Overhead. Most of Ellie’s work was the Pegasus Device itself, in the upper-right corner of the map

Sanya: What was it like doing a few levels for Scoot Hard DX?

Ellie: Very interesting. I haven’t really touched Ultimate Doom Builder before working on the project. Enjoyed it very much however!

Sanya: I know it’s been a mixed bag with Project Absentia being a non-pony continuation of Scoot Hard DX with more content and even more polish. How do you feel about that?

Ellie: Honestly, I’m completely fine with it. SHDX is a great pony mod but I do know it sorta limits our reach and capabilities. I’m very excited to see where Absentia and beyond takes us!

Sanya: I know you have connections to Bree and some other pony related content creators. I think that’s cool.

Ellie: Uh… Neigh Neigh Whinny. Whinny Neigh Neigh, Whinny!

Sanya: Speaking of brony content, I know you had an experience being on Brohoof, a brony themed Minecraft server that I believe is now defunct. I also know that’s where you met Jenna if memory serves correctly. What was your involvement there?

Ellie: Brohoof was… definitely a life changing experience for me. By the time I found it I was a miserable little high schooler to say the least. Brohoof helped me break a lot of mental health issues I was experiencing at the time, and basically helped me break out of Social Anxiety and all of that crap.

A recreation of Ponyville on the Brohoof server
A recreation of Ponyville on the Brohoof server, from archives of the world gathered by EllieJojo

Sanya: Name some of your favorite boomer shooters.

Ellie: The entire Doom series for one, but my all time favorite HAS to be Blood. Blood is good. Blood is eternal. Blood should really have an actual continuation at this point. Atari please give more Blood you useless company.

Sanya: Name some of your favorite non-boomer shooter games.

Ellie: I definitely have a wide variety of tastes for games, but Minecraft and Garry’s Mod are for sure in the top 3. Killing Floor 1 then has to be #3 for me. It is sooooo friggin’ intense and satisfying, and while KF2 is very good, KF1 just hits all the right spots for me. Intense action, Gore aplenty, and Great Co-op play. You have to pay attention or else it’s your head basically! Not to mention it managed to hold it’s own around the time big zombie games like Left 4 Dead 2 and Dead Island were coming out. (Even though, despite popular belief, the specimens/zeds are NOT zombies!!!)

Killing Floor 1 Screenshot
Killing Floor 1 Screenshot

Sanya: how does it feel that there’s a ton of retro themed shooters now, offsetting the AAA game industry and their insistence on microtransactions, in-game ads, and mundane single player. What’s it like to be in a boomer shooter renaissance?

Ellie: Amazing honestly. The amount of talent and unique ideas being tossed around now is just, unique. All the experience from Doom mods and such are finally culminating in a 2nd wave of pure action, no bullshit. My hat is off to everyone who is participating, whether that being developing projects, or purchasing and playing said projects.

Sanya: What’s been your experience at Waffle Iron Studios?

Ellie: Nothing short of amazing. Y’all are so friendly it makes me feel so warm inside haha! I’m just sorry I haven’t been around much recently due to IRL shite.

Surprise going 'Bonjour'
CakeOfRage’s sketch of Surprise going ‘Bonjour’, inked and colored by SanyaWaffles. One of the many injokes at Waffle Iron Studios.

Sanya: Waffle Iron Studios is full of injokes. Name your favorite.

Ellie: Bonjour. Bonjourno.

Sanya: I don’t mean for this to be wordy… but here we go. Scoot Hard DX/Project Absentia has LGBTQ+ themes, but often shows LGBTQ+ characters in shades of grey, rather than what I’d call… “precious smol been uwu”. I feel when I write stuff, it’s more natural and honest to show LGBTQ+ people can be good, bad or downright ugly. I’ve seen some people argue this is bad representation because it shows LGBTQ+ characters as bad. I don’t agree with them, as they’re not bad because they’re part of the alphabet. What do you think about that?

Ellie: Fuck the twitter idiots, Anyone who is anyone can be whoever they dang well please. I just want to be a big blonde with big tits, not some neon haired twitter-physco… this too much?

Sanya: Let’s talk about weapon design as I know you’re into guns, fictional and real – it’s important that a weapon has a nice, unique design that makes it stand out. Is there anything else important for weapon design?

Ellie: Be as creative as you want, but make sure it’s functional from a design standpoint as well. How does it work? What is it’s ammunition source? How does it load? I sometimes even create entire fake guns n such by just mimicking how it’ll work with my hands .w.

Sanya: I want to let you know you changed my life so much. I met you and my other partners because of you. You also showed me that even today, my projects can stand out. You inspired me to keep going. I’m grateful to know you, love. I want to let you know I’ve got your back as long as you’ve got mine.

Ellie: Awww haha, you too Babe ^^

Sanya: Anything else you want to add?

Ellie: Ding Dong Dingle Doo, your mcdongle is now a noodle

EllieJojo is an interesting girl as you can see. I look forward to what our future holds.

…boobs good

TWTW – AndromedaHawking

A depiction of Drom

AndromedaHawking – or known as Andromeda, or Drom for short – is the VA for two important – but currently rarely appearing characters to the Project Absentia/Daytime Drama mythos. She voices the mysterious known as B’hordou, and voices Sanya’s main rival and antagonist – Dominika Dorogayova, who is going to be an antagonist in what will become Daytime Drama 2. Both these characters will be more important and appear as the mythos expands. Andromeda also helps with shaping these characters, showing her understanding of what makes them tick.

I sat down with Andromeda and asked her about her time at Waffle Iron Studios.

Sanya: How did you come into contact with me and Waffle Iron Studios?

Drom: I remember we first got to know each other back in mid-2018 through Eri’s little hangout server on Discord. The three of us got together fairly regularly to chill out and watch Steven Universe on Rabbit, with plenty of cursed memes to go along with it. We talked on and off about the work going on at Waffle Iron Studios, but I didn’t properly join the team as a VA until last February.

Sanya: Tell us a bit about yourself.

Drom: I’m a college-age lass based in northern California. I’m a very creativity-oriented person, from writing to acting to composing, and I have a killer memory for historical trivia and movie quotes. I’m a very big fan of puzzles, connect-the-dots, DIY furniture, and I do all my handwriting in pen. Even math problems. Especially math problems.

Sanya: Where’d you come with the name “AndromedaHawking”?

Drom: That’s actually something I don’t think I’ve ever shared the backstory on with anyone. It dates back to 2016: I took my first stab at writing an original story that summer, a cyberpunk drama set in 2084 where androids are fighting for civil rights (which sounded much more original before Detroit: Become Human came on the scene). The top producers of androids in this story, a company called Hawking/Turing, kickstart the plot when they unveil the first androids designed to be sentient, named Perseus and Andromeda Hawking. When I figured out my gender identity in 2017, I thought “Andromeda Hawking” would be a great screen name to start the transition with. Four years later, it’s serving me well.

Sanya: Do you have any hobbies or interests?

Drom: Oh yes. I’ve gone through several phases over the years, so I’ve got no shortage of niche trinkets and activities. At the moment, I’d say most of my free time is spent doing worldbuilding for my writing, or making election maps. I also compose music from time to time, mostly experimenting with different styles and sounds.

Sanya: I’ve been asking everyone this – but how’s lockdown treating you?

Drom: Lockdown has been exhausting. I’m grateful the worst passed me by, and I don’t regret committing to it, but it is absolutely a warning sign when you begin to get nostalgic about eating by yourself in a crowded school cafeteria. I’m fully vaccinated now, thankfully, so I’m eager to start being around other people again without being worried about anyone catching the ‘rona.

Sanya: What’s your process/equipment for recording?

Drom: I use a Blue Yeti mic and record my lines on Logic Pro. Usually I record in my room, but since I live on a busy intersection my best hours for uninterrupted recording are usually limited to late at night. I read through the lines a couple times to warm up and get into character, so by the time I feel ready to record I can go through the lines in one or two takes. Sometimes I add an EQ to make my voice sound a bit more feminine, but usually I just pass along the unedited WAV to Metal Neon for mixing. I finally found out about Audacity’s awesome room tone filter, so going forward I know how to trim that out.

Old design for B'hordou, rendered by SanyaWaffles
B’hordou in their prototype state – a Steven Universe OC called Bordeaux Pearl
B'hordou concept sketch
Concept art clip for B’hordou as they’re going to appear in Project Absentia

Sanya: So, B’hordou is an important character in the lore despite how she hasn’t shown up much – at least not in name. What’s it like voicing a mysterious figure beyond the depths?

Drom: It’s a lot of fun. I’ve always loved characters who you know very little about at the beginning, but over time you learn just how central to the story they are. Voicing B’hordou and getting to play the shadowy figure is a blast, even though there isn’t much of them early on. It’s so damn exciting to be able to hint at a greater mystery with only a few lines.

Sanya: You shaped a ton of B’hordou lore and character details. Like you going for an androgynous Irish accent based on my request, you came up with some in jokes, like them not being able to say Cool Whip or, when they were a SU fancharacter, White Diamond.

Drom: That’s very flattering of you to say. Fleshing out the details on who/what B’hordou is and coming up with memorable quirks like that is one of my favourite parts of character creation. Many of them were spur-of-the-moment ideas or quick jokes, so it makes me happy to see those get incorporated into the character.

Sanya: B’hordou is the oldest original character in the mythos who isn’t Sanya, yet they rarely appear – in Scoot Hard DX they don’t even appear in the main levels, but rather a secret level. We’re going to change that. With that in mind – what would you like to personally see from B’hordou as Project Absentia and the Daytime Drama mythos grows?

Drom: Personally, I’d like to see their effect on the story start to become more apparent. Starting out, you can go light on detail and generate the aura of power and mystery without needing much to back it up, but as the story builds and the lore starts coming together, it’s important to steadily add more information on who they are and what they do. There’s a lot of ways to do that well, and depending on where they make their full entrance, you can continue having limited cameos and have their influence revealed through other characters until it’s time to take the stage.

Dominika Dorogayova render by SanyaWaffles
Dominika Dorogayova, drawn by SanyaWaffles
Dominika drawn by RodScorpion
Dominika Dorogayova, drawn by RodScorpion as part of an art trade

Sanya: So, Dominika Dorogayova… is probably a character that I think you can get into character ever a lot more. She’s kind of like if the Joker had hot hate sex with Vegeta from Dragonball Z, and they had a child, and that child grew up and at puberty fell into a vat of liquefied Spironolactone and somehow got superpowers because of that. She is the embodiment of androgyny and furious anger. What do you think of her?

Drom: Dominika is a very special kind of person. I know that if I ever actually interacted with her, I’d loathe every second of it, but as a character in the story, she’s just so much fun to work with. I think part of that is because compared to most of the antagonists, she’s aggressively out of sync. Instead of leaning into the more suave, galaxy-brain attitude that world domination plans tend to come with, she’s just… ass-blastingly crude and straightforward. She’s not concerned about her image, she’s just here to get what she wants and break as much shit as possible on the way. Seriously. The only reason she’s still not banned at Wendy’s is because she buys so much of their food that it pays for all the property damage and emotional trauma she causes.

Dominika avatar with her pride flags in the background
Dominika avatar with the Intersex and NB flags in the background.

Sanya: How does it feel to voice characters who are canonically non-binary (and one of them being intersex)?

Drom: I really enjoy it! I’m still in the very early stages of my transition, and voicing non-binary/intersex characters means I can use my natural voice without the discomfort of “playing a guy” and also get a chance to work on sounding more feminine. I also really love that there’s so many characters that identify with so many different parts of the LGBTQ+ community. Having nearly everyone as representation means it’s not even necessary to make a big to-do about how ~woke~ it is because there’s a trans person or something—it’s so normal there’s no need to point it out! Getting to be part of that is an awesome feeling.

Sanya: I think my favorite thing about Dominika is the in-jokes we come up with. One you recently did was “They told me Pride Month was a time to celebrate my identity, so I told the Wendy’s cashier I’ve committed thirty war crimes in twenty-two states and still haven’t been brought to justice”. That is peak Dominika. Her gender is literally being a war criminal and a mad bomber.

Drom: Vegans hate her. Cis men fear her. Wendy’s workers… tolerate her…

Sanya: Dominika, like every other character, is some flavor of queer. However, these characters are of various moral gray areas. I’ve seen the argument that LGBTQ+ villains and shady morality is bad for representation. I disagree, as them being bad in most cases has nothing to do with them being LGBTQ+. What do you think of this?

Drom: I’m with you on that. I think it’s important to have LGBTQ+ characters appear in any role, heroic or villainous. It’s demeaning to imply that sexuality or gender are in any way related to morality. Letting both good guys and bad guys be LGBTQ+ means we don’t have to argue about that anymore.

Sanya: On the subject of problematic content – it is often a point of controversy, even if it’s portrayed as something that’s not meant to be emulated. An example of this is the fact in Duke Nukem 3D, the main character – Duke Nukem – can kill unarmed, often sexually provocative, female NPCs in an over the top fashion – but the game doesn’t reward you, it punishes you by spawning more enemies, and sometimes making Duke cringe and go “damn it!”. I personally think it’s stupid to police such things and it harms the creative process. There’s aspects of Dominika that are definitely NOT meant to be emulated, like her tendency to just blow shit up or drop-kick people she doesn’t like. What do you think?

Drom: Problematic content has the same problem as satire: if it’s not written in big bold letters at the top that you made to illustrate why it’s wrong or bad, someone will inevitably miss the subtext and think you’re supporting it. Sometimes creators send the wrong message with their work, but content is a two-way street; it’s not the creator’s fault if you think it’s wrong to portray something no matter what. The world is messy and no two people interact with it the same way. Shit, I’ve written stuff that made me, the person writing it, wildly uncomfortable, because that was the intended reaction. Sometimes I write really dark and ugly scenes to cope with stuff. If you’ve done your part and made your message as clear as you can, you should not be held responsible if someone repeatedly fails pick up on that.

Dominika, Sasha and Sanya in their Aysburg soldier getups
Dominika, Sasha and Sanya in their Aysburg Soldier uniforms. The Aysburgs are based on a Saiyans if you couldn’t tell.

Sanya: One thing I like about Dominika is her ability to swear in Russian. We chose Russian because it’s a language you know a little bit and fits her Eastern European Soviet aesthetic.

Drom: Yep. It may not be super original, but it’s something that adds some personality. Plus, considering her constant, unbridled rage, it only makes sense that she’d look beyond English for ways to tell someone “Go fuck yourself.”

Sanya: What’s your favorite Russian expletive?

Drom: Подонок—“Podonok”, roughly translates to “bastard” in the sense of “you scum”

Sketch of Dominika by Rodscorpion
Sketch of Dominika by RodScorpion. Probably after a vegan harassed her. Or seeing Amogus.

Sanya: Waffle Iron Studios has a tendency to have a ton of in-jokes. What’s your favorite in-joke?

Drom: *(posts pic of white rectangle on red circle)* “get outta my head”

Sanya: So, you’re one of the few friends I know who follows political trends and can somehow not go insane and is fascinated with mapping – be it based on real politics or your own worldbuilding. Without getting into partisan politics, explain to us your fascination with such a thing.

Drom: Making political maps is my emotional support hobby. It’s a great way to take something as complex and divisive as political issues and try to understand how someone’s circumstances influence their beliefs. Plus, you can compare the present with the past and see how things changed, and make predictions about where the future might go. Understanding the background of who supports what, and why, makes it easier to talk about the issues beyond “I’m right and they’re wrong.”

Sanya: Want to share anything specifically you’re working on?

Drom: I’m hoping to get enough material together in the next few months to start a YouTube channel. There are a few people who make great historical map animations (Ollie Bye, Emperortigerstar) and I’d like to try applying that to elections and referenda. The goal would be to find a way to present those maps without the comments section going nuclear on itself.

Sanya: What’s it like being the only Mac user on the team? (not counting Tom, he mains a Linux laptop)

Drom: It’s a little bit of a pain, but since I’m not involved with playtesting or coding it doesn’t affect my ability to do my voice work. It is possible to set up GZDoom and play the beta builds for myself, but boomer shooters aren’t really my kind of game, so I prefer watching others stream it on the dev server. Plus, generally speaking, trying to get primarily PC-based things to work on a Mac can be very tedious, but that’s a limitation that is not specific to WIS stuff.

Sanya: The Motherload of In The Keep described us as “very Egalitarian”. For those reading this, this means “everyone is on equal footing”. I agree with him on that, as I strive to make sure everyone at WIS is on equal footing. What do you think of that goal?

Drom: I’m very much a fan of it. Working on a project with multiple people is always going to have moments of contention, but it’s much easier to work together when everyone feels like they’re treated with equal respect. It’s not easy to sustain that beyond a certain number of people, but I believe that making the effort to keep the team on equal footing goes a long way towards helping everyone collaborate.

Sanya: Mental health is important to take care of. Many people here, myself included, have been on a road to recovery so to speak. Do you have anything on the subject of mental health you want to share or talk about?

Drom: I’ve recently gotten back on the road to recovery after a pretty miserable 2020, and I’ve been kind of shocked to realise how deeply being that sick can affect you. I knew I was clearly in a bad place, but I didn’t notice how much of that was actually because I was reinforcing those feelings. It’s a hard lesson to teach someone, unfortunately, because there’s no way to convey the change in perspective they need with words. Still, it’s worth trying, so I’ll say it the way I think I might have understood best: You might be stuck in a downward spiral because you’re actually so depressed you’re reinforcing it at every opportunity. Try to catch yourself when you get upset over small things. Recognise that being that upset is actually more of a problem than the actual issue. Learn to notice that behaviour, and consciously choose to defy it, as much as you’re able. Train yourself to stop beating yourself up over the tiniest inconveniences, and over time you’ll realise how much energy you were spending holding yourself back. You deserve better from you.

Sanya: I know we’ve had our rough spots over the years, but you’ve grown a great deal. I’m glad to know you, and I’m glad you can be not just a part of the team, but a cool friend. Thanks for being cool, Andromeda.

Drom: Thank you for being cool too, Sanya. It’s been a pleasure working with you on this and I’m proud of how far we’ve gotten together.

Sanya: Anything else you want to add?

Drom: Wendy’s should still exist in a socialist utopia. Debate me.

We’ll see more of Drom’s voicework as the time goes on and the characters she plays appear. Meanwhile, I wouldn’t dream of revealing that Dominika is Sanya’s sibling… wait.

Scoot Hard DX – A Post Mortem

NOTICE

This is in no way comprehensive. I left out a bunch of stuff for the sake of brevity. I also in one case hid the name of someone. If you piece together who it is, please keep your nose out of it.

With that said… the Scoot Hard DX Post Mortem

Origins

Scoot Hard DX started out as a Wolfenstein 3-D mod called Scoot Hard SDL. In a sea of mods that took place in the Wolfenstein 3-D mythos – with shooting Nazis, mowing down Hitler in a mecha, and other such stuff. This stuff isn’t bad – but I wanted to create something that stood out more in a sea of Wolfenstein 3-D mods that stuck to the original setting.

Rainbow Factory by Glaze/WoodenToaster

So, being the autistic (no, really) person I am, I decided to draw inspiration from the My Little Pony Community. I had recently discovered Rainbow Factory by WoodenToaster (or better known as Glaze). The song talks about Cloudsdale – a city in the My Little Pony mythos where Pegasi reside, harboring a dark secret in the clouded walls of the Rainbow Factory, and how it ties into Clousdale’s responsibility of weather stability with the use of something called the Pegasus Device. Aurora Dawn, recovering from an illness, wrote the story very quickly after being introduced to the show, the fandom, and the song.

By late 2011, Aurora Dawn’s fanfic, Rainbow Factory, was hot off the presses. The story elaborates on the premise of the song – with Scootaloo, a filly and secondary character in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, failing her flight exam, thus meeting the same fate as her friend Orion and another pony, Aurora, did. For this they are sent to exile.

Except… it turns out there’s no exile. Instead failures are ground up into the components to make Rainbows. This infernal machine is called the Pegasus Device. And who’s running the show? Scootaloo’s sister figure – Rainbow Dash!

The themes of extreme nationalism, failing a system rigged against the weak, and wanton and gratuitous violence. For me, this story had it all. Despite how crazy the story was compared to the source material, I related so hard to Scootaloo. I still do to this day. I fucking love this story so goddamn much, flaws and all.

A year after it’s release, and it was still sending chills and controversies through the Brony community. Some loved it, some hated it, and some wanted it banned, claiming kids could see it easily – even though many people, including Aurora, tagged it and hid it behind content warnings. It was made abundantly clear this was not for kids, and was for a mature audience, as well as for horror fans and not… you know… people with a weak stomach.

I started thinking… how cool it would be to actually make a Wolfenstein 3-D mod based off of this concept. By November 2012, Scoot Hard: Rainbow Factory was released… to a bunch of my friends. It unfortunately didn’t get very far, aside someone mentioning it on a Wolf3D forum somewhere.

Boxart of Scoot Hard SDL
Scoot Hard: Rainbow Factory boxart mockup
Screenshot of Scoot Hard SDL
Scoot Hard: Rainbow Factory starting room

Scoot Hard: Rainbow Factory (now called Scoot Hard SDL) was overly ambitious. Breakable glass, touchplates that opened traps, live wires you could turn on and off… and crude attempts at making a flamethrower. It was buggy… and it wasn’t finished. I remember working on adapting an idea I had – making an alternate universe where it was Rainbow Dash’s rival – a character on the show named Lightning Dust. Lightning Dust had motives… she hated Rainbow Dash for getting kicked out of the Wonderbolts Academy. What better way than to punish Scootaloo.

This plot point was being integrated into the codebase, when I decided just to scrap Scoot Hard and start working with the GZDoom engine.

Reinventing The Wheel… Twice

Since it was effectively a deluxe edition of Scoot Hard, I decided to call it Scoot Hard DX… and I dropped the Rainbow Factory to make it clear this was not officially sanctioned nor intended to be canon to Aurora’s story.

Scoot Hard DX Prototype Screenshot
Scoot Hard DX Prototype (Circa August 2013)

By mid 2013 I had a rough prototype – I believe this is the one I showed my friend Tom at the time, who was in the Brony community around this time. Tom kept ahold of the prototype. I’m glad he did, because at some point I got frustrated with what I wanted to do with Scootaloo – making her glide – and I decided to drop the project. I have no idea if there was anything else, but I remember the scripting – still relying on DECORATE and ACS kludges – wasn’t quite there yet. At some point these prototypes were lost. Not even screenshots or the asset trees remain. I know it got farther than the prototype Tom showed me later on… a shame no other prototypes exist.

Fast forward to 2020. Daytime Drama was released, has a cult following. I met one of my partners because of it, and I met my other partners because of her. We were thinking of a followup, and I really wanted Scoot Hard’s plot to be relevant, as it technically was a prequel to the Daytime Drama mythos. However, Scoot Hard SDL was still buggy and I lost the Scoot Hard DX prototypes. Oddly, Scoot Hard SDL’s source code was still up there… and I still had a copy of that. I attempted to fix it to no avail. Wolf4SDL’s code is just too jank for me to understand.

While taking a break from what was going to be Daytime Drama 2, Tom hands me an old prototype. It has not only an old WIGZDoom build from the day – but also a prototype PK7 of Scoot Hard DX from 2013. It was a glorious find! I wondered, could I actually get this running in modern GZDoom… and fix the problems with it.

And I did. Slowly but surely, I refactored the code and updated E1M1. We were really excited at this prospect. A team formed around Scoot Hard DX. Development on DD2 stalled for reasons beyond the scope of this post mortem. However, we were having more fun working on Scoot Hard DX, and it was technically a new entry. Thus I decided to rebrand Scoot Hard again – as Scoot Hard DX: Daytime Drama Zero. Ellie and I worked on the levels. Rod was composing an ambient soundtrack. An initial beta was released on October 31, 2020.

This beta of the game… were received lukewarm at best. Massive amounts of hitscanners, bad air control, and other issues plagued the game early on. Plus me and Rod were having creative differences over the soundtrack. Plus… I was not sure if ponies was a good idea. It was getting to the point that I was about ready to slap a 1.0 on it and call it a day and go back to working on DD2… a cursed project on it’s own.

However, one of Rod’s friends – Metal Neon – is brought on the playtest. After some initial silence, he gives his feedback. He also shows off a track he made – a remix of Ecco the Dolphin that has yet to be released (so I won’t demonstrate it here). That said, his ideas on how to make the game better – improve the lighting, make the weapons stand out, make enemies that are meant to challenge the player than just lettting them spam the Fillyseeker (a Heat Seeker). At this point, the project was starting to get some actual feedback from someone who knew the genre as much as me and Ellie did – if not even more. While implementing these ideas, Metal ended up composing a track to go with Dr. Atmosphere’s boss battle. I was impressed with it.

Me and Rod had some admittedly nasty arguments over our creative differences and his tendencies to be a bit difficult to work with… I regret having those arguments and I could have done better. Eventually after some discussion, Rod left the team for personal reasons, and Metal was brought on to replace him. Me and Metal both feel bad about what happened. I do assure people that I have talked to Rod since, and there’s no bad blood between the three of us.

However, Metal’s sudden contributions was starting to affect one of our team members – someone I hired by giving them a laptop as a form of payment – to help with game assets. A risky move I know, more on that later. This person, we’ll call Person A, was starting to cause problems for the team. Metal could be a bit direct at times, and sometimes a bit temperamental. However, he handled it professionally and apologized and made genuine strides to improve… this person wasn’t having it. I should have seen it early on that this was going to be trouble.

Metal also introduced a colleague of his who could help us rig a pony model so I could use it for reference. The guy however, was incompetent at what he did, and constantly failed to save his work. However, worse yet, the guy kept using ethnic and racial slurs and making trans jokes that even I was uncomfortable with. I tried several times to tell him to stop, but he wouldn’t. Ironically a rule change got him to leave, and he Alan Smithee’d the project. Oh well.

New Blood

One of the things Metal thought could use improvement was the weapons. Person A helped redesign the weapons… however their weapon designs were overly complex, requiring me to simplify them at times to fit the art style more. They were as much theirs as mine at this point.

A Heavy Enforcer Sprite
An Enforcer sprite
A SpectraWasp
The new and improved Tornadozer. At least in functionality. It looks like a Dr. Seuss looking ass.

Back to Metal’s contributions – he designed an enemy called the Enforcer. It used a shield to deflect explosives, and later on in development, react to certain damagetypes with a volley of grenades. A heavy variant had cluster MIRV grenades and a psychic “whip”. He also suggested balance changes to the Tornadozer – a weapon that gave us so much trouble in development because balancing it was hard.

A One Liner from Scootaloo by Victoria Prater

We also replaced Scootaloo’s VA with Victoria Prater – the sister of a friend of Metal, who did a bangup job. She really captured what I was going for with Scootaloo. The original VA, alabeanz, has not been on their Tumblr since the pandemic hit. I genuinely hope they’re okay.

Much of the original voicework was re-done as well – Ben, Tabby, Cake, redsoilder55… and Metal himself voiced the cast of characters. However, Jenna Pepper voiced the delightfully effeminate fellow known as Maimbow – Lightning Dust’s new identity. Originally Maimbow wasn’t going to be a trans femboy Nazi, but at some point we decided on that

Maimbow Undash – the CEO of the Cloudsdale Weather Corporation in Scoot Hard DX
Screenshot of Scoot Hard DX in it's final stages
Scoot Hard DX in it’s final version

AuroraDawn notices!

At some point during development, I mention on my recently recreated Twitter that we were making a game based on Rainbow Factory. At some point AuroraDawn – who had been away from the fandom last I checked – had responded on Twitter. When Ellie told me about that… I was so overjoyed. He liked the concept.

I started messaging him to see what he thought and if he was okay with it… he was okay with it, as long as I made it clear it was not canon to his works. I agreed. We talk on occasion – more on that some other time, as it’s important to what we do next.

Requiem For A Friend

However, not everything was grand around this time. I hit a wall. My depression was severe. The ZDoom community’s relationship with me was collapsing.

Also trouble with the game’s code. Most of the code was a weird hybrid of Scoot Hard DX’s old code and Daytime Drama 2’s source code – all in ZScript, save for some auxiliary ACS functions for maps. Oh and there was a bit of SWWM_GZ in there. It seems ironic now, but Marisa and I were good friends for the longest time – she was my first friend outside Accensus and WatchDaToast in the community. I still have very mixed feelings about what happened – but it’s mostly not good.

Demo-Chan and Scootaloo
This image, showing Demo-Chan (from SWWM_GZ) and Scootaloo is probably the most painful thing to look at.

Most of the SWWM_GZ code, save for custom subtitles for dialogue and some other functions, was removed – not even because of any bad blood between me and Marisa, but because the code was causing unpredictable issues. The way stackable armor worked was completely re-written to use my own formulas, and we went back to using the default explosion code because SWWM_GZ’s explosion code – which offered spherical, rather than cylindrical, damage, was causing inconsistent results. Direct hits sometimes caused no splash damage – even on enemies that take splash damage, the velocity of enemies thrusted was weird… in general the code was not usable.

I frankly have no idea why I even used this code, looking back. The way I did it works much better. I typically write my own code now. Using other people’s code – even with permissive licenses like MIT – sometimes causes trouble for me.

That said, I still am sad about losing my first friend in the Doom community, as well as being ostracized. This put me in a real bad spot for several months… I still am recovering.

It’s been hell. Many sleepless nights with Metal and Jenna helping me.

The issues with the code causes many frustrating work sessions… again, it seemed like the best thing to do was to write my own and just keep at it. I feel really bad for the stress that caused all of us.

That said… my coding was not the best either. I was often frustrated, especially with adding UI elements. The worst one was reworking the Boss’ Health Bar. Christ that was bad.

Shaking Things Up

The worst part, was Person A was starting to grow even more manipulative. As the project got more recognition, they kept stressing the work they did. They knew my mental state was not the best, and they started gaslighting me. The level that nearly broke us apart was Tchernobog Laboratory. We couldn’t agree on that level. Person A started gaslighting me. This lead to an argument between me and Metal that nearly ripped the project apart. We worked it out – and I’m really sorry now that I listened to my friend of two years. No wonder I’m paranoid as fuck.

Person A kept causing trouble… and at one point we calmly approached them to work out something. What happened next was infuriating – basically deflecting the blame entirely on us for why they were being so awful. Basically a thirty minute tirade. I should have fired them there… why I did I have no clue.

As time went on, Person A’s role became less and less, and I think that’s what started to upset them. More people started coming on – Dane of MovieUnleashers fame came on as the voice of the Engineer. One of the in-jokes with his role is the line “Looks like we caught ourselves a bogie”. I think it comes from a movie, and the line was being used to troll someone in Tower Unite. Oh the fun shit we come up with.

That’s one thing that absolutely makes Metal really cool. I’m not the best with putting myself out there – but Metal is so energetic and puts himself out there where I can’t. He gets us noticed. He also is willing to learn. He started working with voxel editors and Blender to make voxels to give the game even more of a Build-like aesthetic. The voxels in this game are all his.

Because Metal got around – We got noticed by In The Keep’s Motherload. He was interested in our work, despite the connection to pony.

By March the project was reaching the final stretch. Most of the music was done, with a few tracks being worked on. There were some bugs still needing to be done, and Maimbow’s arena had to be completely redone.

April 3, 2021 was the day Scoot Hard DX Beta Version 3.1 came out. I made a boxart based on Windows NT 3.1 to commemorate this release.

Scoot Hard DX Version 3.1 Box, based on Microsoft Windows NT 3.1's boxart
Scoot Hard DX Beta Version 3.1 Boxart

This would be the final beta released to the public. 3.5 was going to happen, complete with a Windows NT 3.5 inspired boxart, but we decided against it as we were so close to release.

Scoot Hard DX 3.5 boxart
The planned 3.5 variant, mimicking the changes of Windows NT 3.5’s boxart

Release Day

Scoot Hard DX Version 1.0 – the first stable release – was released April 16, 2021. You play as Scootaloo, who has been sentenced to death at the Cloudsdale Weather Corporation. She gets away, kills a guard, and works to rescue her friends from the fascist Pegasus Reich.

Scoot Hard DX’s final boxart, inspired by Quake’s gritty, industrial boxart.

Weapons at your disposal? Rocket launchers, a freezer called the Hailer, a gun that shoots ball lightning, a giant gun that fires a wave of rainbows that atomize everything in it’s path, and a gun that generates tornadoes that home in on enemies, or barrages them with gusts of wind. You could also turn into a chicken – which was a two pronged joke. First, the joke is an old fandom gag where, because of one scene, and Scootaloo canonically not being able to fly… made her doomed to be called a chicken even today. I turned the cringe into a powerup! Also the chicken? Graf’s avatar. I have no beef against Graf by the way. People have not picked up on it yet. I’ll probably get in trouble if it’s found out. Oh well.

For those who haven’t played it – Scoot Hard DX is a mix of Shadow Warrior, Rise Of The Triad, and Blood. It has a lot more vertical movement than most Doom projects. Scootaloo can glide and control her descent. This up/down motion makes it play differently than many things. I think the movement stood out to most people. Also you can’t deny playing as a disabled filly fighting against a fascist corporation is kind of a neat, albeit hilarious concept.

Scoot Hard DX screenshot showing off eye candy
Scoot Hard DX’s E1M1 showing off some eye candy – the voxels, the brightmaps on the weapons, the high-res sprites and HUD elements.

Also from a technical standpoint it was cool. Many projects are still using ACS and DECORATE. Scoot Hard DX, like Daytime Drama before it, was entirely written in ZScript – save for some functions in ACS where ZScript would be overkill, like cutscene stuff. The boss routines were entirely ZScript. The Rise Of The Triad weapon system? ZScript. Everything was powered by ZScript. I don’t think Scoot Hard DX could exist without ZScript… well, it could, but it would be very, very jank.

I have no beef with people who use ACS or DECORATE still. But many things are requiring ZScript now – such as getting the date, cross-mod services without hard-coded dependencies, overriding how items work, fine turning damage control… many things ZScript can do but DECORATE alone and ACS can’t. I see so many people on the ZDF ask how to do something. It’s easy to do in ZScript… but they insist upon supporting Zandronum or sticking with ZDoom 2.8.1. It’s annoying to say the least.

Coverage

So Scoot Hard DX wasn’t featured on Icaruslives yet. I don’t think it got much recognition from the ZDoom regulars… except one who happened to see the Doomworld thread…

It got covered by DavidXNewton, who does Doom related videos. He says Scoot Hard DX was the most violent thing he ever featured and added a disclaimer at the beginning, lest YouTube Kids accidentally picked it up and showed it to kids.

David Does Doom – Scoot Hard DX. David claims this is the most violent thing he’s featured on his channel.

I was honored by David covering it and saying that.

As an aside – I really wish YouTube allowed for more than just “for kids” and “not for kids” and more than just “age restricted”. I prefer the old RSAC advisory myself – based on content and not just age. I also wish they’d not force their bots to decide that. Let us decide for ourselves.

The video shows off most of the campaign. We fixed the Enforcers to be more fun to fight.

Also BryaStar covered it in a Twitch stream. I was there for two of the three streams. She seemed to enjoy it, especially after the many bugfixes and balance changes.

Part one of BryaStar’s LP
Part two of BryaStar’s LP – age restricted because of an Easter egg she found
Part 3. I wasn’t here for this unfortunately.

The movement took some time for BryaStar to master. It was this and feedback from other people that made it so we introduced a run/walk speed modifier – which defaults to shift. Q became the quick kick.

Version 1.2 fixed the enforcers. Several mini-hotfixes were pushed to the 1.2 release to fix bugs that I felt didn’t warrant a major release, such as a bug with the titlemap that caused a print formatting error and caused ZScript to abort.

We were featured on In The Keep’s podcast. Me, Metal and Jenna were there talking with The Motherload about Scoot Hard DX and the history behind it.

I didn’t discuss some of the things discussed on this page because I wasn’t quite ready to – mainly some of the specific things with the ZDoom community. I’m now at the point I feel I can be honest about that shit to the public. I do talk candidly about some of the issues I faced growing up too, as well as my experience with the LGBTQ+ community not being the best, despite me being trans and all that jazz.

And it was here we announced… this was not the end. Scoot Hard DX was a decent enough of a hit we were going to adapt it into a commercial project – and that AuroraDawn was helping with some of the concepts to get us started.

… but that’s another story for another time. Around this time, Scoot Hard DX forked into Project Absentia, but we still maintain bugfixes for Scoot Hard DX. 1.3 was released, updating WIGZDoom to a 4.6 version of the GZDoom engine, as well as addressing an issue with newer devbuilds.

It was around this time that two major things happened. First, Person A and I had a falling out because I had enough of their bullshit. I let them go as gracefully as I could. They started spreading rumors that I didn’t pay them (despite me doing so) and dragging my friends into the dispute. I was angry to say the least.

On top of that… Jenna, my girfriend, and one of my best friends, fell ill. For those who don’t know, Jenna is blind, and has been since 2017. She had hearing loss and severe vertigo. This put her into a bad mental spot that terrified me. I was worried I was going to lose her. It took her about a month to get back to normal. It nearly broke our relationship apart because she was acting so nasty at times, taking out her anger on us. I felt like a horrible partner.

However, love prevailed in the end and we’re stronger than ever. And she wants to come back for Project Absentia. And we’re excited. The strife and turmoil made us stronger… and we’re going to make this even better than Scoot Hard DX.

I want to talk about Project Absentia so bad. But you are all going to have to wait another day.

So… here we are. The end of Scoot Hard DX’s development. This development cycle was… all over the place.

… but it was worth it. We got a project out the door. It got us noticed in a sea of boomer shooters. I am happy about that.

We’ve made safeguards to make sure the drama that plagued the development is no longer going to be a problem. We’ve grown as a team, and as individuals, and as friends. And for that, I am grateful.

In Conclusion

Scoot Hard DX was my first big project as a team. I thank everyone involved. There’s so much other stuff I want to mention – like Korzodin helping us out a bit, Zan telling us how to change the air control, my conversations with AuroraDawn, the fact we got to meet General Mumble and Koa, two MLP fan musicians, and the bunch of injokes we accumulated during development. And of course, the Atmosphere family – Cake’s pride and joy. There’s even more than that.

Alas, I don’t want to ramble too much.

As tough as it was – I feel like I’m a better person now, and I strive to keep improving.

I feel with Project Absentia, I hope to accomplish my dream of going commercial… and making my grandparents proud.

Love ya Grandma Sue and Grandpa Bob. ❤️

TWTW – Metal Neon

Metal Neon's icon. It's a purple sillouette of Oregon with the Smash Bros. symbol and the words METAL NEON on it, with a synthwave background.

The music of Scoot Hard DX is definitely something people like. The man behind the music is a very interesting dude, and has integrated well with Waffle Iron Studios, and has become one of my best friends. I sat down with Metal to ask about his experiences, not just at Waffle Iron Studios, but in other aspects of life.

Sanya: Okay, first off, I gotta ask – how does a guy like you end up working on something as crazy as Scoot Hard DX?

Metal: That’s a story in two parts. The first part was me becoming aware of Scoot Hard DX. I was talking with my friend Rod (the composer for Daytime Drama), and streaming a shitty Doom Wad to him, and he told me “I’m working on doom wad too”. I was curious, so I asked if I could try it. When I played it I had a hard time not being embarrassed at what I was playing, but I also pointed out some gameplay flaws at the time, like the weapons looking identical. Rod thought what I had to say was interesting, so he put me on the team initially as a playtester. After a while I had a random bit of creative inspiration for the boss theme for Doctor Atmosphere. I made it, and the team was impressed with what I did that they wanted me to do some of the music. After Rod ended up leaving the dev team for personal reasons, I was basically the full-time composer for Waffle Iron Studios.

Sanya: What have people’s reactions been when you tell them you worked on a game like that?

Metal: The reactions people have are always in this exact order: 1) Either cringing or laughing out loud hysterically. 2) Looking at the gameplay and saying it looks interesting. 3) Saying the music is really good. They’ve been interesting to say the least.

Sanya: We’ll get back to Scoot Hard DX and Project Absentia in a bit… But first, tell us a bit about yourself.

Metal: First and foremost I am a nerd at heart. I am passionate about video games, synthesisers,  computer hardware, and a bunch more. I used to be super involved with the Project M Smash scene, but due to the pandemic I haven’t had a lot to do with it. I always try to push myself into new and unfamiliar projects in an effort to better my skills, so I can become a one-man wrecking crew. In all seriousness I’m one who believes that a person is a culmination of the deeds they do, and thus I look to do those said deeds.

Sanya: What’s life like in Oregon?

Metal: It’s pretty good, assuming you aren’t talking about the state’s response to the pandemic. The landscapes are beautiful, both the pacific northwest, and the high desert to the east. The only hugely negative thing I can say about this state is how we’ve handled the pandemic, which has negatively impacted the mental health of a lot of friends around me. At least we have no sales tax I guess? If anyone is considering moving to Oregon (if pandemic restrictions ever lessen over here), then I’d advise moving to a place like Bend.

Sanya: Have you been musically inclined all your life, or did it take time to develop?

Metal: When I first started out in Middle-School Orchestra, I found out I had perfect pitch. Perfect pitch is a good thing to have when you’re composing music and trying to tune your own instruments, but it’s a horrible thing to have in a Middle-School orchestra, where off-pitch notes was the equivalent to nails on a chalkboard. In High-School I took an absence from music, mostly because the band teacher disliked me initially (we later were cool with one another, but that’s a story for another time). That interest was gone until 2019, when I decided to study music in College, as I want to become a sound engineer for video games. While sound-design is a still that I am still learning, I do think music comes naturally to me.

Sanya: Who’s your favorite composer – doesn’t have to be a video game composer.

Metal: For video game composers, In no order I’d say Alexander Brandon, David Wise, and Marty-O’Donnell. For “Traditional” composers, I like Enya a lot, and Beethoven is a classic.

Sanya: Who do you draw influence from for your music?

Metal: Definitely Alexander Brandon the most. Am a huge fan of his works, and it’s really encouraging when I get comments about my music thinking it’s just music from Unreal.

Sanya: I know personally it’s been rough the past year, with not only the pandemic, but with my mental health crisis at the beginning of the year. What’s your advice for people who are going through stresses like that?

Metal: Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. As a wise man once said “No matter who you are and how smart you are, there is always someone else who is smarter. Which in my case is good, because I need some help.” My one other piece of advice I can give regarding this is to not put your mental health on the backburner, because it will not end well when it catches up to you.

Sanya: We try to have a less corporate, more co-op oriented structure at Waffle Iron Studios. Do you think that’s a better way to do things, and if so, why?

Metal: I can’t say how it compares to corporate environments as I haven’t worked in one personally, but I can say that it does seem to work well for what we’re doing at such a small scale. It remains to be seen how well it will scale if and when more people are added to the team, but for what we have it works.

Sanya: Back to Scoot Hard DX for a bit – before you came into the picture, Scoot Hard DX was struggling, admittedly. It didn’t do very well feedback wise on the ZDoom Forums, probably due to the pony content. What drove you to give feedback on this?

Metal: Mostly it was two things. Firstly was because my friend Rod wanted me to give you guys the feedback that I gave, since I’d like to consider myself at least somewhat familiar with boomer shooters. Secondly was because I saw the potential in this project, as it had some areas with solid level design for the most part, and I felt it needed just a little push to really start to become good.

An Enforcer from Scoot Hard DX. A purple unicorn with dark purple armor and a visor and a red hard light shield.
The Enforcer was Metal’s first enemy.

Sanya: You were brought on initially as a playtester, but now you’re a composer, and a jack of all trades. Tell us what you do aside from music!

I make and implement the game’s Voxels and 3D models. I do some sound design and mixing. I also do level design for some of the levels, as well as coming up with dickish enemy designs.

Metal sitting at a computer desk with the words PC GAMERS in block text in the front and center
A still from a video Metal made long, long ago. Now an in-joke at Waffle Iron Studios due to the ironic cringe factor.

Sanya: What do you use for music? Tell us about your process.

For my DAW I use Reaper, as it’s extremely easy to use, very inexpensive, and platform agnostic. So yes, you can run it on a raspberry pi. As far as synths go I tend to go for synthesizers that sound “retro”, with a mixture of Software VSTs and hardware synths. My favorite software synths are synths like Dexed and the Korg M1 VST, and my favorite hardware synths are the Behringer TD-3, the Korg Minilogue XD, the Roland Sound Canvas (SC55mkII), and the Roland JV-2080. My process for making music usually stems from getting a visualisation of a location, say a mine for instance, and trying to come up with what that location and mood would sound like. I also like applying reverb, probably too much for my own good, but fuck it LOL. Mostly I want the music I make to sound like it could actually come from some game in the 90s, and given the comments comparing some of my tracks to Unreal, it seems to have worked.

Sanya: You have a tendency to find out new features of GZDoom not even I knew of. And sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming… but in the end, the payoff is great to have the game even more polished. What’s it feel like being able to help out like that?

Metal: It’s always interesting how some features work in GZDoom. For instance, me learning how to implement 3D models in GZDoom was something I learned as a form of optimizing how Voxels are rendered. I like pushing myself and my understanding of something more and more.

Sanya: I want to say for the record, some corporations often punish people who go beyond their expected duties. We don’t do that – you obviously are a very self-reliant person, but you also know when to ask for help… and that’s, in my opinion, a very awesome skill to have.

Why thank you. I try to act how I’d like others to act.

Sanya: What was the most frustrating aspect of Scoot Hard DX to work on?

Metal: In regards to things I directly worked on, It was definitely mixing and mastering the sound-effects. As I stated before, sound-engineering is something that I’m still working on, and trying to adjust the levels of the sound so they sound correct ingame can be a pain in the ass.

Sanya: What was the most rewarding aspect of Scoot Hard DX to work on?

Metal: Seeing all the pieces of the puzzle come together to create the experience that we now have with Scoot Hard DX, and knowing that my work paid off in the end.

Sanya: Scoot Hard DX‘s cult following got us thinking about going commercial. How do you feel about Project Absentia becoming that?

Metal: I think Scoot Hard DX going commercial was inevitable. Even before Project Absentia was a thing, we talked about turning Scoot Hard DX into a commercial project if Hasbro ever C&Ded us. I am for it, and am excited for what it can bring.

Sanya: I don’t mean for this to be wordy… but here we go. Scoot Hard DX/Project Absentia has LGBTQ+ themes, but often shows LGBTQ+ characters in shades of grey, rather than what I’d call… “precious smol been uwu”. I feel when I write stuff, it’s more natural and honest to show LGBTQ+ people can be good, bad or downright ugly. I’ve seen some people argue this is bad representation because it shows LGBTQ+ characters as bad. I don’t agree with them, as they’re not bad because they’re part of the alphabet. What do you think about that?

Metal: I think you did a good job with the writing on that front. I’m one who believes that the only way that LGBTQ+ people will be accepted in society is for them to be normalized. IMO this style of writing honestly doesn’t focus too much on those aspects, only making it a passing note to who the characters are, which I think is a good thing overall.

Sanya: You voice many of the characters… a femboy nazi grunt, a brainwashed armored motherfucker, robotic dogs, and an energized wasp with hard light wings… that’s quite a repertoire. What’s it like voicing characters?

Metal: It’s interesting, and sometimes hilarious. When I told a friend that I voiced a dog in a video game and showed them, they couldn’t stop laughing.

One of the Pegapol/Orkanpol spotting the player lines

Sanya: Your voice is even the basis for some of the sounds in the game. I forget which ones though.

Metal: The wind sound that’s used in game, and the plasma rifle shots.

The plasma firing sound from Project Absentia

Sanya: Scoot Hard DX/Project Absentia has more of a focus on a story than the shooters that inspired it. In fact, for a Boomer Shooter, it’s becoming more complex. How important is a story to you?

Metal: The story is the means to drive the gameplay, and the gameplay also drives itself. It’s like adding spices and herbs to pasta sauce. It’s not at all needed, but it helps a lot.

Sanya: For me, lore is important – but minutiae is not. Some people insist upon obsessing over oddly specific details of the game’s story, mechanics and design to the absolute nanounit. Where do you draw the line on what’s important and what is not?

Metal: What’s not important is pointless shit that will not ever appear in the game itself. Stuff like how long it takes for an Orkanpol to take a shit. It’s not important, and you’re weird for obsessing over it.

Sanya: When working on a team like this, it’s important to get along with people. However, some people can be very belligerent. Name some of the challenges and how you overcome those challenges.

Metal: I just stuck to my principles, and used my experiences as a TO for my local Project M scene to guide my decision making process, while doing my best to treat those people with respect.

Sanya: Do you have any hobbies? If so, tell us.

Metal: As stated earlier I am very much into Video Games, Retro-Electronics, Synthesizers, and CRTs of all damn things. I used to be big into the Project M Scene, but have taken a step back since the pandemic. One of my biggest hobbies is creating shit, whether it’s developing Project Absentia, making a fight stick from a box I found at goodwill, or doing reviews of FPS games for my youtube channel. Some of them have been negatively impacted either directly or indirectly by the pandemic, and I have no idea if or when they will recover, but I do my best to be thankful for what I have and what I have done.

Sanya: Waffle Iron Studios has a tendency to have a ton of in-jokes. What’s your favorite in-joke?

Metal: I like Arnok, he makes me happy.

Sanya: The Motherload of In The Keep described us as “very Egalitarian”. For those reading this, this means “everyone is on equal footing”. I agree with him on that, as I strive to make sure everyone at WIS is on equal footing. What do you think of that goal?

Metal: I am very much for Egalitarianism myself. How much respect you have should be determined by how much you put in, as it helps encourage others to do work in a non-forced way.

Sanya: One of your jobs at WIS is being one of the community managers, as well as the Twitter PR guy in essence. What’s it like being the voice of WIS?

Metal: Interesting. Haven’t dealt with much negative stuff yet being a PR manager, but maybe I’ll be put to the test if we ever get canceled or something LOL.

Sanya: For WIS, keeping our creative vision is important. So is retaining the rights to the characters we make. Those are things we want from potential publishers. What are other things you want?

Metal: My big thing is that I have complete ownership of the music that I produce, and that I’m simply allowing the publisher/developer to use the music in their game. To my understanding this is a common practice with indie games, but less so with AAA stuff.

Sanya: I know we’ve had our differences, but I want to state publicly that I appreciate all that you’ve done, not just for the team, but being my best friend through one of the hardest times in my life. Thank you for all that.

Metal: You’re welcome, I do what I’d like others to do for me.

Sanya: Any last things you want to talk about?

Metal: Working at Waffle Iron Studios has changed my life and opened up new opportunities that I would have never expected to have beforehand. Thank you for this opportunity.

Thanks to Metal Neon for doing this interview! You can follow Metal Neon on Twitter, buy a lossless version of the SHDX soundtrack, or check out his YouTube channel.

… only purple was added.

Toby Accessibility Mod

Note: This is not one of our projects, but I wanted to share this all the same.

Alando1 over at the ZDoom Forums has made a mod called Toby Accessibility Mod which aims to offer accessibility options and features for people who are blind.

Inspired by Toby Ott, a blind gamer featured in the Gaming Through New Eyes documentary, ZDoom Forums user Alando1, has been working on making a mod that incorporates some neat features – like a dropoff detection system (to detect if you’re approaching a ledge that’ll cause you to dive off a cliff head first), as well as incorporating Jarewills’s health and ammo readouts and an audio feedback compass script. The health and ammo readouts works based on an ammo’s percentages, and the dropoff detection emits a high pitched beep when close to an edge with a significant dropoff. The thread has videos that demonstrate it. Most of these commands are accessed by keys on the keyboard.

There’s a few other things I noticed in the videos – there’s audible footsteps in time with the player’s movement, detection when colliding with walls or objects. The mappack seems to also have positional ambient noises to help navigate the player. The compass uses pre-recorded cardinal directions (even diagonal ones) to indicate what direction the player is facing. There’s a few other things, such as indications if enemies, health, armor, and ammo are nearby. There also seems to be unique pickup sounds for each item class. There’s also audio indicators for if a door is locked and requires a key. There’s also another neat feature I really like – if a switch or interactive panel is in front of you, it will emit a sound for that as well. These all have unique sounds that make it very clear what is going on. This is just a few of the things implemented. If you or someone you know has trouble seeing – no matter the degree, this might help make playing Doom a much better experience.

A ton of effort went into this project, and it shows. I appreciate this, as someone who is dating a blind person.

As an aside, Jenna and I have discussed how such accessibility would be implemented in GZDoom, given a recent heated topic on the ZDoom Forums, and she said there’s many approaches – all with their pros and cons. I hope technology and modding – or replacement/augmented vision technology – gets to the point Jenna and people like her can enjoy her hobby again.

Accessibility mods are something I really like to see – especially in an engine where accessibility is hard to integrate. Doom was unfortunately never designed with visually impaired people in mind – even colorblindness is something that hasn’t been addressed easily, either by mods or engine-side. It’s not an easy task to integrate accessibility into a visual, tactile experience, but It’s nice to see something that works within the framework of the engine to make it as accessible as possible.

The only thing it seems to lack which I think would be good, is audio cues on what GZDoom menu element is being highlighted and what menu is currently active. With ZScript it’s certainly possible, however menus are admittedly my weakest point in coding with ZScript so I could offer little advice except to say it’s in the realm of possibility.

Also some people have reported improvements can be made to the dropoff detection.

However, I have faith this person, or another contributor, can figure it out.

That said, if you need something like this – load it with your copy of GZDoom. It includes a mappack as well. If you just need the mappack or the accessibility project standalone, you can get that too.

Check out Toby Accessibility Mod below!

https://forum.zdoom.org/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=71349

Announcing Project Absentia + Site Overhaul

We want to announce that we’re adapting Scoot Hard DX into an original IP. This project is called Project Absentia and is going to be commercialized. Scoot Hard DX will remain up as a freeware project (and always will be), while Project Absentia will add so much more – including three more episodes, and a whole new story direction. We don’t want to spoil too much.

Abby, the heroine of Project Absentia, holding a Tommy Gun.
Abby, the anti-heroine of Project Absentia

AuroraDawn, the author of Rainbow Factory, Pegasus Device, and Pegasus Device Reckoning, has helped with some of the concepts to turn Scoot Hard DX into it’s own thing – separate from Rainbow Factory and MLP in general. We thank him for being so good to our dev team.

I have added a page for Project Absentia. Expect more as time goes on.

Another thing we have done is added a Discord widget to the site. It allows you to connect to the public Discord server, as well as see who’s currently online. Come join us sometime. We’re on frequently.