Chocolate Doom has been designed around a careful and deliberate philosophy that attempts to recreate the original (“Vanilla”) DOS executables for Doom, Heretic, Hexen and Strife. This document describes some of that philosophy and the reasoning behind it.
This document is descriptive, not proscriptive.
Ideally Chocolate Doom aims to recreate the behavior of the Vanilla binaries, but different aspects of Vanilla behavior are held to varying degrees of importance. It can be imagined as different “tiers” of compatibility:
- The game and gameplay itself is of central importance. Here, the Vanilla behavior ought to be maintained as accurately as possible. This includes the look, feel and sound, and things like demo compatibility.
- The surrounding aspects of the game that aren’t part of the central gameplay experience can be extended as long as there’s a good reason and Vanilla behavior is respected.
- The setup tool is not required to reproduce the behavior of the Vanilla setup tool, even though it reproduces its look and feel.
“Vanilla” is defined as:
- DOS Doom 1.9 (although there are actually multiple “1.9”s).
- DOS Heretic 1.3.
- DOS Hexen 1.1.
- DOS Strife 1.31.
- DOS Chex Quest.
Compatibility with older versions of the DOS binaries is also a secondary goal (though not pre-release versions). Other ports (either official or unofficial) are out of scope: this includes console ports, non-DOS ports, Doom 95 and Doom 3: BFG Edition.
Chocolate Doom aims to be compatible with Vanilla Doom in several different ways. Examples are:
- Bug compatibility: the aim is to emulate compatibility of the original game down to bugs that were present in the DOS executables. This includes maintaining the limitations of the original engine: for example, the infamous “visplane overflow” bug is intentionally still present, where other source ports have removed it; this allows mappers targeting Vanilla Doom to use Chocolate Doom as a faithful substitute.
- Demo compatibility: Doom was one of the first games to develop a
‘speedrunning’ community, and thousands of recordings of Doom
.lmpdemo files) exist in the Compet-N archive. Chocolate Doom aims for the highest standard of demo compatibility with Vanilla Doom, a goal that is often complicated by obscure behavior that can be difficult to reproduce.
- Configuration file compatibility: Chocolate Doom uses the same configuration file format as Vanilla Doom, such that a user should be able to reuse their existing Vanilla configuration file without making any changes. Extra non-Vanilla options are stored in a separate configuration file.
- Savegame file compatibility: Chocolate Doom uses the same savegame file format as Vanilla, such that it should be possible to import and use existing savegame files.
Chocolate Doom includes some features that aren’t part of Vanilla Doom but exist for compatibility with DOS tools that interact with it. These are considered part of the Vanilla experience and ought to be treated as such. Some examples are:
- The novert setting, which reproduces the functionality of
-dehparameter, which loads Dehacked patches like dehacked.exe does under DOS. Chocolate Doom imposes the same limitations that Vanilla Dehacked does.
Chocolate Doom differs from Vanilla Doom in a number of ways. In most cases these are subtle, minor differences. Nonetheless they deserve some explanation and justification. Here are some examples of situations where changes are considered acceptable:
Vanilla behavior can be broken that is harmful, eg. can damage the player’s computer, or is just outright misleading. For example:
- Vanilla uses unbounded sprintf and strcpy (security issue).
- Vanilla has crashes that force the user to reboot the machine.
- Vanilla has an out of memory message that recommends tweaking CONFIG.SYS. As Chocolate Doom doesn’t run under DOS, reproducing this message would not be helpful.
Subtly extending behavior is okay where it’s not clear what the Vanilla behavior is anyway. For example:
- Opening the menu releases mouse grab in Chocolate Doom.
- Chocolate Hexen’s graphical startup screen runs in a window.
Supporting obsolete technology is not a goal: it’s considered acceptable that Chocolate Doom does not support every type of hardware from 1993. However, Chocolate Doom should aim to recreate the functionality in a modern way. Examples of technologies that aren’t supported are:
- No support for IPX networks, but TCP/IP is supported instead.
- No support for dial-up/serial connections; modern operating systems have features that do that for you.
- No MS-DOS version.
Changes are acceptable that allow the player to be able play the game. For example:
- There are new key bindings for actions that can’t be rebound with Vanilla Doom, because it’s useful for portability to machines that don’t have a full keyboard.
- There are additional mouse and joystick button bindings that let you perform actions with them that can only be done with the keyboard in Vanilla Doom.
- Chocolate Doom includes some hacks to support the Doom 3: BFG Edition IWAD files. The assumption is that being able to at least play is better than nothing, even if it’s not Vanilla behavior.
- Chocolate Strife does not emulate the save bug from Vanilla 1.31, which could corrupt saves when overwriting a slot, if the old slot was not part of the current game’s progression. Vanilla behavior is unexpected and potentially devastating.
Adding extra options to Vanilla functionality is acceptable as long as the defaults match Vanilla, it doesn’t change gameplay and there’s a good reason for it. For example:
- PNG screenshots are supported because PCX is an obsolete format.
- Chocolate Doom has the vanilla_keyboard_mapping option that allows the user to use the native keyboard mapping for their computer, rather than always assuming a US layout.
Changing configuration file defaults is acceptable where there’s a very good reason. For example:
- Vanilla Doom defaults to no sound or music if a configuration file is not found. Chocolate Doom defaults to having sound effects and music turned on by default, because modern computers support these; there’s no need to configure hardware IRQ settings to get sound working.
Things can be changed if they’re really just inconsequential. For example:
- The startup messages in Chocolate Doom are not identical to Vanilla Doom and are not necessarily in the same order.
- Vanilla Doom has command line options named
-regdevused by id internally for development; these have been removed.
Expansions to the vanilla demo formats are allowed, to make recording and playback of vanilla gameplay more convenient, with the following restrictions:
- Such expansions are not supported in WAD files (they are not an editing feature for WAD authors to use).
- Support for these features can be completely disabled using the
-strictdemoscommand line argument.
- A warning is shown to the user on the console (stdout) when a demo using one of these features is recorded or played back.
A good litmus test of when it’s acceptable to break from Vanilla behavior is to ask the question: “Although this is Vanilla behavior, is there anyone who would want this?”
For example, emulating Vanilla bugs like the visplane overflow bug is something that is useful for people making Vanilla format maps. On the other hand, painstakingly emulating Vanilla Doom by starting with no sound or music by default is not helpful to anyone.
Chocolate Doom aims to be minimalist and straightforward to configure; in particular, the setup tool should have a sane interface. Part of the inspiration for Chocolate Doom came from Boom’s complicated maze of options menus (and a desire to avoid them). Too many preferences lead to a bad user interface; see Havoc Pennington’s essay on Free Software UI:
Chocolate Doom has some options that are quite obscure and only really of interest to a small number of people. In these cases, the options are hidden away in configuration files and deliberately not exposed in the setup tool. The assumption is that if you care enough about those obscure features, editing a configuration file by hand should not be a huge problem for you.
Also inspirational was the README file from Havoc’s Metacity window manager, where the list of features begins:
Boring window manager for the adult in you. Many window managers are like Marshmallow Froot Loops; Metacity is like Cheerios.
I’d like to think that Chocolate Doom’s philosophy towards features is similar. The idea is for a source port that is boring. I find the best software - both proprietary and open source - is software that is “egoless”: it does a job well without pretentions about its importance or delusions of grandeur. A couple of other notable examples of software that I feel embody this spirit of design in a beautiful way are Marco Pesenti Gritti’s Epiphany web browser and Evince PDF viewer.
Other philosophical aspects
Chocolate Doom aims for maximal portability. That includes running on many different CPUs, different operating systems and different devices (ie. not just a desktop machine with a keyboard and mouse).
Chocolate Doom is and will always remain Free Software. It will never include code that is not compatible with the GNU GPL.