The Dig Commentary

There isn’t much to say about The Dig other than it was a very fun map to build… and is more of a designer indulging himself than a level that other people should play. I’ll just let the review speak for it as I have to agree with him on most points. Note: When he wrote the review he just assumed Tom Mustaine built it. Years later when he found out it was me he seemed pleased to see an increase in the range of levels I could/would build, but of course still felt it wasn’t a success from a fun factor standpoint.

This really is one of those maps that you have to move around in to get a proper feel for it, as no images can really capture it.

I’ve preserved the one written by Squonkamatic as he is by far the most thorough of all the critics/reviewers.


CTF_Dig aka The Dig
by Cranky Squonk

Aye, yiy yiy …. You gotta hand it to Tom “Paradox” Mustaine: when he gets an idea for a map he pushes it to the point where it might just go fall off the edge of the world, and he doesn’t have one problem with that at all. Levelord is the King of Shooter Design and Tim Willits The Consummate Craftsman, but Mustaine is the Experimentor/Visionary. Usually those visions pay off big time, like his glorious CTF_Para and the overlooked Desolate, a deathmatch level not included in the SiN package. Other times you end up walking on the ceilings, unsure of which way is up and trapped in some claustrophobic, dyslexic nexus of utter, deliberate confusion. Sometimes the result is infuriating, whereas others just inspire laughter. This time I choose to laugh so that I may not cry.
Dig is an awful map, but I admire it for the totality of its awfulness and the professional nature with which it was executed. I have been taught to admire well made trash — Christopher ‘Saruman the Snow Miser’ Lee’s Hammer Horror Dracula films, Larry Flynt’s various periodicals, the music of The Sex Pistols, and those dopey little ceramic figurines you get in boxes of Red Rose tea are all precious to me. Dig’s trashy issue is not that it’s silly like Spool or cataclysmically redundant like Mustaine’s Paradox [God I hate that map] from SiN’s deathmatch game, but is imbued with a sense of such sheer, terrifying confusion that you just have to marvel at it. How do people think crap like this up? Inhaling Drano fumes, maybe. Drug abuse? Nahh, Mustaine is far too much of a pro [and that’s Levelord’s territory anyway — the Stoned Mapper]. Voluntary asphyxiation might be an answer — remember INXS’s Michael Hutchence’s ultimately lethal, tragic game of self-gratification involving hanging himself from various hotel room door fixtures while doing … well, you know … I sense the same kind of logic here: “Let’s disrupt the oxygen supply to my brain, cut the rope at the last moment and throw myself in front of SinEd and see what happens.” The best part about contemplating this map is reminding one’s self that he got paid for making it. Hahahahaha.

WHAT A GREAT WAY TO MAKE A LIVING!! Screw all this struggling artist/writer nonsense — where do I send my resume and work samples? Not that I would be capable of creating something like this, just that it seems like a fantastic way to make a buck.

Where was I? Oh yeah … For almost a solid year now I have been debating how to describe The Dig to my readers. The most vivid description I can come up with is that the map is like some kind of giant interstellar alien insect hive, where the players are the insects and walk around on the ceilings and walls while this God-awful, knuckle whitening, annoying space machine sound grinds out in our ears. Lights flash and the surfaces swim with texture animation while you search desperately for the flags, and all the while people are shooting at you. What fun. I suppose the map is intended to represent some sort of extraterrestrial mining operation in a place where gravity is an interior decoration option, not a Law of Nature. Fortunately or no, SiN’s distinct surface flag definitions allow a mapmaker to assign differing gravity, friction and animation coefficients to individual surfaces. What Mustaine has done with The Dig is to indulge his fantasy about having conflicting planes of gravity set within the same room, much like he did with Paradox. But where Paradox was essentially a giant box with opposing gravity values on the walls, The Dig seems more like a mutated genetic experiment in using gravity that got loose from its cage, fed itself on nuclear waste, learned how to reproduce by fission and duplicated itself into two more or less identical “base” zones linked by hallways that have no floor or roof, in the middle of which is this huge room filled with these big crystal “things”. One of my lost pals from high school coined the phrase that best defines the nature of the map — Space Junk.

I mean, the hallways DO have floors and roofs, but just which is which depends on what team you are on or what player start you spawn onto [much like in Paradox]. SinTek players will be confronting HardCorps players who are upside down and facing the other way, standing on the roof with their heads pointed at the floor or vice-versa. The two ‘team base’ areas are distinguished by having such improbable structures as huts sticking out of the walls, control consoles on the floors and construction tools strewn about here and there in addition to the traditional boring game elements like weapons, ammo and armor items. If you look at certain areas it is actually quite interesting how he created the various forms that compose this highly improbable world — crates, bunks, pickaxes, hammers, toolboxes and other mundane, everyday items are juxtaposed against animated lit textures that remind one of the climactic “V’ger” scene in the first Star Trek motion picture [which is what I think was the inspiration for the map]. There is absolutely no footing in “everyday reality” in the level: it is a vision of science fiction masquerading as a shooter map. I prefer one or the other.

So why do I dislike it so much? Because I am a boring, old twat. I like maps set in jungles, swamps or even just some stupid Gothic Death Castle with has-been game concepts like rooms, stairs and courtyards. I like knowing which way is up, and I get annoyed when a player comes upon me sticking sideways out of the walls and shooting at me backwards while I sit in my chair asking myself What the %$@# is going on, and Wasn’t I just playing SiN? The Dig keys into that scenario, and players who enjoy being frustrated, confused, irritated, manipulated and mentally imperiled will go bonkers over this level. The rest of us will need a handful of Advil and 200 cc’s of Librium injected into the base of our skulls after about ten minutes of such nonsense.

But let’s be clear about something: I don’t ‘hate’ this map, I just think it sucks. It’s too much too quickly. I am reminded of Miles Davis’ classic rock/jazz breakthrough album Bitches Brew from 1969. Being a big Miles fan I purchased the album with baited breath, went home, fired up a Squonk-sized spliff and put it in the CD player … and four days later traded it to a co-worker for her boring old copy of Frampton Comes Alive. It’s not that Bitches Brew is unlistenable or ‘bad’, it’s just that listening to it made me feel like I had a colony of wasps crawling all over the back of my neck. The Dig has a similar effect upon my sensibilities — while I admire its technical sophistication, playing in it gives me about as much pleasure as a healthy case of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

One of the regular “features” of these articles is my attempt to draw a parallel between the level in question and a previously well known example of shooter design that it reminds me of. The Dig does not remind me of any previous examples of shooter level design that I am aware of. Usually this would annoy me — my courses in Critical Theory trained me to classify forms and use descriptive analysis to place a mental picture of the work in question in the mind’s eye of the reader. The Dig defies any such attempts at classification, but I’ll let it slide this time. Not only is there nothing else that looks like it, there shouldn’t be, in my opinion. One Dig is plenty.

I do wish I could be more descriptive about exactly what the map looks like [try the screenshots if you are curious — that’s what they are there for, Einstein], but frankly I haven’t spent more than about 10 mind-numbing minutes in this level at any time, usually by hosting a match in the map that quickly becomes an empty server with poor Skwank wondering “What the Hell do you people want?” — it’s in the game, you know … If you want to play a given game you have to learn to put up with some of the nonsense that comes with it. But you can almost rest assured that this is also one of the maps that you will NEVER see running on one of the “commercial” SiN CTF servers [if any go back online, that is] simply because no person in their right mind will play it unless they are totally desperate for a game and don’t have a bathroom to clean, plants to talk to or toenails that need clipping. So in that sense I am reminded of the Railroad aka Tunnel of Love, a SiN deathmatch level that I was initially enthusiastic about [but have seen too much of on the active servers, just like last week’s Pride] because it kept nicely with the esthetic of SiN’s overall game flavor, but now cannot stand because it is such a nut buster to play, falling off the train and dying horribly over and over and over again. Dig’s frustration comes not through arbitrary death but because it is almost impossible to remember where the flags are and how to get back to your team base, and so the match just grinds on and on and on in search of a timelimit, just like with the Railroad. Bahh.

I like games that go somewhere. I like to be entertained. I like to have fun when I take time out of my busy day for a match. Sure, it’s a gas to have material to bash and trash in an article like this, but I really wish it wasn’t so. The Dig is a level that belongs in the SiN package, though. It should be there to help players like me, the “boring old twat” sect, more fully appreciate the Dead Simple brilliance of SinCity, the wonderful overkill of the OilRig and even Spry’s playfully cunning Alice in Wonderland surrealism. If it wasn’t for levels like Dig, the grandeur of CTF_Brafish wouldn’t be as apparent, and Mustaine’s wonderful CTF_Para/Military Strongholds [either of which are arguably the best teamplay maps ever designed, IMHO] wouldn’t blow me away with its110% convincing nature.

All that The Dig convinces me of is that we live in a crazy, messed up world and it is mavericks like Mustaine that get all the cool jobs, while I’m left working on a loading dock at a grocery store chain ’till midnight five days a week.

Lucky bastard.



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