by Ben Beck
DOOM is 25 years old. Hard to believe, isn’t it? We’re all getting old.
The game is maybe one of the most influentials computer titles of all time, a First Person Shooter that defined the genre through most of the 1990s. It replaced the simple, maze-like level designs of Ultima Underworld and Wolfenstein 3D with immersive, layered worlds of hell to fight through.
Everything about the game is iconic, from the health and ammo bar with your grizzled marine getting progressively bloodier and angrier the more he’s injured, to its Panera-inspired thrash metal score, to its memorable monster designs.
And the game plays great today, and on every platform imaginable! Thanks to creator John Romero posting the source code online in 1997, DOOM has been ported to dead systems like the Commodore Amiga and even the ZX Spectrum, as well as off-the-wall platforms like the LCD display of a smart refigeration, or the GUI of a Ferrari’s digital control panel.
With DOOM (2016) being a surprisingly great game, more and more new fans have been discovering the classic shooter. But where did it come from?
DOOM was the brainchild of id software, who previously innovated in the first person shooter genre with Wolfenstein 3D, but they knew DOOM was gonna blow the socks off of it. With a new engine developed that allowed for dynamic lighting, layered levels, and the ability to look up and down, id knew they could create a game that was heavy on atmosphere and visceral thrills.
The hype cycle for DOOM started early, fueled by Usenet groups clamoring for a new killer app for their expensive PCs. At the time, IBM-compatible PCs were not the top gaming platforms: the majority of games were being developed for consoles or home computers like the Commodore Amiga or the FM Towns.
DOOM’s first part was released in 1993 as a Shareware download. Shareware was a popular distribution method for games at the time — a section of the game was released for free, and if people liked it enough they could order the full game.
Well, people liked DOOM. The game was such a smash that the servers hosting its download, at the University of Wisconsin-Racine, crashed immediately with an estimated 10,000 people trying to download the game on its initial launch.
DOOM ‘s success was followed up by a sequel, DOOM II, and then Ultimate DOOM, a boxed retail version of DOOM that included five sections over the original mail-order’s three.
DOOM immediately opened the floodgates for first-person shooters. They became the du jour genre, with games like Rise of the Triads, Duke Nukem 3D, Alien Breed 3D, Gloom, System Shock, and Star Wars: Dark Forces quickly following.
Here’s to 25 years of demons, guts and gore!