The story of
the Wrath of Magic mod begins in the distant late 1990's, before my
friends or I could even afford to buy a computer...but what we could
afford - was a copy of Heretic, and one of Hexen, and even Hexen-2...
New to the world of the first-person-shooters, represented until that point by the rather unimpressive Wolfenstein-3D - we let our imagination get the best of us. For hours reading the games' booklets imagining how the powerful descriptions and brief images would come to life on screen.
Until the moment finally came, and armed with the brand new Pentiums of the day (it would be 166 to 333, depending on the budget of each person) we were able to, at last, to see how our fantasy-battle dreams come true. The one catch was that I was already familiar with Hexen, playing it abundantly on Sega Saturn, and so i already knew what to expect.
PC Hexen, for a good while proved to be a superior counterpart to the console equivalent, and was celebrated as such; but Heretic was rather an ambiguous case: while we did love the gameplay, - with each level the game design proved more and more uninspired, timid and kind of made for the little girls. The ridiculous colors, primitive architecture, lack of creative thought and blunt laziness on the behalf of the designers seeped through virtually everything. After the gruesome fatalities and dark castles of Hexen - we wanted to see blood and evil gothic blastathon coming at us, instead - it was more and more resembling a game of Chex Quest.
While the greatest disappointment were the weapons. The game manuals beckoned us with the descriptions of "Dragon's Claw" and "Hellstaff", but when finally got to see these things first hand (that was after wielding for some years the Bloodscourge and Wraithverge) - it was the most disappointing WTF reaction that you can imagine. None of my friends, and neither myself could even remotely and with the severe suspension of disbelief name that thing "Dragon's Claw". Most common description was "donkey's ass", and it is what it more or less seems to look like. Yet the disappointment grew hundredfold when we acquired the "Hellstaff" and the so-called "Firemace"...
For me that was enough. I took a long break from playing Heretic, no matter how great the gameplay was, the countless design flaws were a significant deterring from playing it for more than a couple of levels in the more aggressive second episode. (not the third because of that ultra-ridiculous blue theme in the levels, i just couldn't stand it).
Switching my attention to Hexen-2, i also had my share of arguments against it, mostly due to it's rather overt lack of violence...Oh yes, by then -Monolith's "Blood" set the bar so incredibly high with both violence AND gameplay, that it would be nearly impossible to match for the next decade and a half. (pretty much until Dead Space-1).
But Hexen-2 had one magnificent quality that nothing else even dreamed to approach: DESIGN. The legendary Unreal-1 had high aspirations, but could not beat Hexen-2 on the design battlefield even with it's pretty colors. The lack of colored lighting was indeed the bane of Hexen-2 for years and years, over and over rubbed in by the most inspiring 3D game ever created: Heretic-2. (to me, at least) Which came out just a couple of years after. Nonetheless, Hexen-2 offered a great and deeply tactical gameplay, which is being enjoyed tremendously up to this day.
Another couple of years passed, and the newer engines were created by dedicated fans to port the classics to modern operating systems. Most impressive engine at the time (and IMHO to this day) was "Doomsday" (then named JDoom/JHeretic/JHexen respectively). With it's arrival and the proliferation of modification software and more user-friendly editing tools for WAD files, - more and more people got involved in game modification. Including yours truly.
At that point I had a very clear picture (but not yet the means)of what I wanted to achieve. I knew that the stylistics for weapons must come from Hexen and Witchaven, (i was always heavily influenced by that game), blood and gore effects - taken after Hexen and Blood, animations quality - definitely Hexen-based and at some point - levels too must be restyled after Hexen-2 and Witchaven as well. Especially so regarding Hexen-2. It was the simply the best medieval-themed design, although a similar episode in Daikatana definitely didn't go unnoticed by me.
At first chance, I knew I had to do whatever I can to remove the "donkey's ass", "bald head" and "the plunger". To me it was the writing on the wall that amending these three disasters alone will propel the playability of the game into the stratosphere. Which it did! With a first version of Wrath of Magic (back then the mod was called T-Weapons, short for "true weapons"), and what it did was just that, the replacement of those 3 ultra-ridiculous circus toys.
Over time, with further learning of modification tools and editors, as well as professional studies of graphic design software - more and more modifications made it to the list of changes, such as animations improvement and fatalities, followed by other weapon (and later - levels) graphic replacement and restyling, gameplay modifications (most notably in Hexen) - up until the most recent innovations: level redesign and stylistic maximization.
Already at the early versions - Wrath of Magic proved to be successful and right direction of thought. Moving Heretic toward the darker, more aggressive gothic fantasy-action blastfest and away from the kiddy colored doom-clone with squirt-sticks was always a winning move. Blessed by D'Sparil, Korax, Eidolon - and even Corvus himself.
May the great games live forever.
P.S. You may ask - and where was Doom in all that story? Well, as surprising as it sounds, but to me Doom was a great disappointment. As I first met it on the 3DO system, I was very much intrigued, and kept playing it for many years. But the PC version was abhorrent to me in many respects, despite it's awesome speed. The 3DO Doom was the main inspiration behind the project GOTHIC CHAPTER.