The Treasury - Add-on Discs
My collection of official and unofficial add-on and expansion pack discs for various games, including shovelware level compilations.
Official mission packs
|Deathkings of the Dark Citadel
The official expansion pack for Hexen. Unlike Shadow of the Serpent Riders for Heretic, this expansion was sold as a separate product. Deathkings adds three new hubs with maps of mostly high quality and greater challenge than the originals, though the finale map is even more anticlimactic. Despite a flaw or two, this is better than most Hexen map sets you'll find online and well worth having for any Hexen fan.
Make sure to get and apply the music fix patch before you play.
|Portal of Praevus
The official expansion pack for Hexen II. This one adds two new regions, including the new Tibetan-themed continent of Tulku, the Demoness as a fifth playable character, and some new creatures including a new boss enemy, Praevus. Lots of new textures and props were added to create the setting of Tulku and to add some freshness to the Blackmarsh section, which is now covered with snow. Compared to Deathkings of the Dark Citadel for the first Hexen, which only added new levels, this is quite a big upgrade. The new additions are quite nice, and though this pack is sadly rather pricy to come by these days, it may still be worth considering if you're a big fan of Hexen II.
|The Master Levels for Doom II
An official add-on from id Software for Doom II. Created in response to the proliferation of third-party add-on discs, this collection rather oddly straddles the line between expansion pack and shovelware. The Master Levels proper are 21 levels created by six of the most promising level authors of the time (Christen Klie, Jim Flynn, John Anderson, Sverre André Kvernmo, Tim Willits & Tom Mustaine); these levels are exclusive to the Master Levels collection. However, the disc also includes "Maximum Doom", which is a quite typical shovelware collection of WADs off the 'net, many of which are missing their text files. As a frontend, Doom-it version 5.9c is included. Another interesting thing on the disc is the "idstuff" catalog, which offered a few id T-shirts, but also offered the opportunity to call in and order unlock codes for the encrypted copies of The Ultimate Doom, Doom II, and Heretic that were included on the disc—sort of a 1995 predecessor to the digital distribution systems of today.
|Beyond the Dark Portal
The official expansion for Warcraft II. Includes two new campaigns (one each for Alliance and Horde), a new tileset (Draenor swamp) and several new hero characters. The campaigns are quite challenging compared to the originals, and will really test your mettle, though in some cases victory seems a bit geared towards exploiting the AI's stupidities over "honorable" victory. Still, it's an excellent pack for War2 fans.
Note that AFAIK, the Battle.net edition of Warcraft II includes this expansion already, so the expansion pack disc is only relevant to the original DOS release of the game.
|Scourge of Armagon
The first official expansion pack for Quake. There are two new weapons, the laser gun and Mjölnir, as well as an alternate firing mode for the grenade launcher, which lets it fire proximity mines. There are a few new enemies as well, notably the gremlin, a combat-weak but tricksy enemy, and the centroid, a tough cyborg scorpion with nailguns. There are three episodes, the first being industrial-military, the second medieval, and the third is somewhat mixed; although each episode starts you off fresh (shotgun, 100 health) you cannot opt to skip ahead to part 2 or 3 from the start map. The pack contains a good selection of entertaining and often challenging maps, including a secret level to discover for each of the three "episodes", and the new elements mesh well with the originals. Some of the traps do occasionally feel a bit cheap, though, with spike mines suddenly appearing and generally causing instant death if you don't escape immediately. Also notable is the soundtrack, which, unlike the experimental ambient style of standard Quake, has some nice heavy metal tracks that wouldn't be out of place in a Doom map set. An excellent expansion that I recommend to every Quake fan.
|Dissolution of Eternity
The second official expansion pack for Quake. This has a different set of new powerups, and a few alternate weapon modes such as cluster bombs, as well as some new and variant enemies. The first "episode" is mostly built in similar themes to the original levels and the first mission pack, while the second episode introduces some time travelling themes that include visiting some Egyptian and Aztec themed areas complete with nice new textures, though sadly these have only one level each. There are some neat new traps like swinging axes and sawblades just waiting to chop things into gibs. Like Scourge of Armagon, Dissolution of Eternity has a soundtrack that's a bit more "traditional" than Reznor's Quake OST. Although good quality overall, the pack does have a few minor issues. Aside from reskinned variants of the original monsters, I don't think that the new enemies quite capture the "Quake feel" as well as the Scourge of Armagon ones did. I also feel that the "Elemental Fury" levels were a bit gimmicky and out of place in the map progression; I think they would have served better as secret levels, leaving the main ones to be fleshed out with some more Egypt/Aztec maps. I'm also not greatly enthused by the earthquake function that was added, which makes the player slide around randomly in addition to just shaking the screen. Still, while I agree with those who say that this is the weaker of the two mission packs, that certainly doesn't mean it's bad; on the whole it's a creative and entertaining set that's well worth having for the Quake fan.
Macmillan Digital Publishing
|Level Master II
A strange offering to start off the "Level Master" series, this is actually the book "3D Game Alchemy" in software-box style packaging. As there is, as far as I can tell, no Level Master I, I can only speculate that the decision to call this offering "Level Master II" might have been an attempt to make people think it was in some way connected with The Master Levels. As the box is the only thing unique to this release, I will discuss the book itself separately.
|Level Master III
Shovelware disc for Warcraft II. Includes some very nice editing documentation with some advice for working with the quirks of the game and its AI when designing campaigns, as well as a good selection of .PUD files which includes a couple of custom multi-map campaigns as well as lots of individual maps. There are also a bunch of utilities including the War2XEd editor, the PEACE .WAR file extractor, shareware GIF and WAV utilities and several others. If you're interested in making singleplayer maps, it could be worth it for the editing hints alone.
|Level Master IV
Less a shovelware and more a digital strategy guide for Diablo, set up with a software frontend and HTML pages for the guide itself. There are a few spots where the guide is a bit rough around the edges with broken image tags and such, but overall the information is pretty good. In addition to the standard information one would expect to be present, there are also some other goodies like the first chapter of a fanfic and winners of the "Happy Puppy Ultimate Diablo Dungeon Dive" contest which are illustrations and descriptions of ideas people had for things to be added to the game. Also includes Kevin Lambert's multiplayer character backup utility, as well as Netscape for viewing the HTML documents, if need be.
|Level Master V
Shovelware disc for Quake. Includes a Windows 9x based frontend to access the information and data on the disc. The single-player offering is a compilation campaign made up of edited versions of maps released online. The levels do seem to have had some selection for quality put into the choices, but there are still a few dodgy ones in the set. The Level Master versions have been retextured using the custom texture pack included on the disc, which is sometimes an improvement and sometimes not. It also include some new enemies in a few of the maps, most of which I'm not a big fan of. There are also nine deathmatch maps included.
Additionally, some editing documents and utilities are offered, including a shareware copy of Worldcraft and some model-making tutorials.
By shovelware standards, I'd say this disc is quite good, actually.
A shovelware disc for Doom & Doom II, published by Microforum. It uses a stylish, but not very featureful, graphical frontend, also called Deathday, to access most of the items on the disc. Included on the disc are a reasonably large selection of level WADs, a few sound / music mods and a bunch of utilities, some of which are obscure or strange (for instance, a saved game editor for cheating.) The frontend also has a reference screen telling you the Doom cheat codes. The disc feels a little bit disorganized and there are some items, such as the graphics packs, that are not readily available through the frontend. Also, many of the Doom II WADs appear to be conversions from Doom I. There's also a "VIDEOS" directory with a few short .AVI files that seem to have nothing to do with Doom.
The full release came with a box and manual. I only have the CD.
|The Ultimate Add On Collection for Doom / Doom II
This disc appears to be a re-release of Deathday, and is nearly identical to it in disc contents. Differences include slightly different labeling (althrough the same demon graphic is used on both discs), the publisher being listed as SoftKey (although Microforum is still mentioned), and the removal of a single empty directory that was probably left in by mistake, as well as some time stamps changing (Deathday was stamped 95-05-24, Ultimate Add On 95-08-30). There do not appear to be any play-relevant alterations to the collection.
Not to be confused with The Ultimate Doom, an official Doom upgrade from id Software.
Shovelware disc for Warcraft II, boasting "over 200 custom-made levels". They're a mixed bag, with some worthwhile ones as well as some that are less entertaining; some may be exclusives to the disc. There are also some demo previews of other Microforum offerings included on the disc. A graphical frontend allows the user to explore the contents of the disc and read game hints and other documentation that is included.
Some copies (such as the one I have) are branded with a "Game Empire Series" label; I believe that this is a later print of the disc.
A peculiarity of interest is that, while this was a legitimate product (as much as any shovelware collection was), this collection was also used as a basis for a bootleg disc which included a pirated copy of Warcraft II in addition to the Morecraft compilation. The bootleg version uses the non Game Empire copy of the label, and has the word "requires" sloppily edited to "free" on the "requires registered version of Warcraft II" strip on the cover. Here's a comparison shot.
Add-on for Quake with 24 custom levels designed for the pack, new textures and a Windows 9x multimedia frontend that offers to install, uninstall and launch the levels as well as a help interface with Quake tips, web links and console command listing. The textures are a mixed bag; they often emphasize the green, blue and purple tones in the Quake palette, and some are very good, others have some issues with fullbrights or weird mipping, and still others are downright ugly or unfitting, like a set of cartoony metal textures that look like they'd be at home in Wolfenstein 3D. The maps themselves mostly feel very lackluster and thrown together, with all sorts of issues like awkward platforming, poor lighting, big box arenas and other questionable design principles, and outright glitches—even WizardWorks put together a better offering than this with their Q!ZONE. Although all the maps contain monsters and some contain exits, these maps are all primarily designed for deathmatch, although I doubt most of them are very enjoyable for that either. It was a "Dark Hour" indeed for anyone who bought this back in the day expecting quality levels.