It’s Doom‘s 22nd birthday today, which is great because it serves as an excuse to talk about Doom again. Despite its age, Doom remains one of the best shooters ever made, only bolstered by the community that it has fostered over the years. There’s little more satisfying then blasting an imp to shreds with the shotgun, or unleashing the BFG on a horde of unsuspecting demons and reveling in the slaughter.
Doom was released in 1993, a time where the only other mass marketed shooter was its own progenitor Wolfenstein 3D. Wolfenstein isn’t the first FPS game, but it certainly helped to solidify many concepts now considered cornerstones of the FPS genre, concepts that would be later be set in stone thanks to Doom.
The idea is simple: the player moves around labyrinthine maps, collecting keys and shooting whatever moves. There’s no higher objective, no grand plot, no side objectives or factions to interact with. Just a load of guns, a horde of demons, and the promise of glory for making it through. Easy, simple, and a lot of fun.
This was Doom‘s design, and John Carmack has spoken about his dislike for overly complicated games. One of his famous quotes is “Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie. It’s expected to be there, but it’s not that important.” Games, by Carmack’s estimation, are about the gameplay, and too much plot would just dampen the experience. It’s not worth it to get bogged down in the details, just go kill some demons.
And kill demons we did, since Doom was one of the most popular games of the 90’s. Until Half Life, shooters were still referred to as Doom-clones. It sold an operating system, solidified a genre, and created an uproar the likes of which we’ve scantly seen since. People loved Doom, and people loved to hate Doom. Religious groups, parent advocacy groups, even anti-virus software all tried to stop Doom, and they all failed spectacularly. Exact numbers are hard to come by, but conservative estimates put sales for both Doom and Doom 2 in the millions, even before digital distribution.
Replaying Doom today can be something of a hassle. The fact is, most of it has aged like milk. Movement feels floaty and weird, and it defaults to the arrow keys on PC. Mouse aiming is nonexistent, and lining up shots is impossible. Thankfully, Doom and its developer, id, learned early on the benefits of modding, and there exists a slew of utilities to make play Doom better. In 1997 id released the source code for Doom and it’s sequel, and the floodgates burst open.
For the vanilla experience, there’s Zdoom, an open source port of Doom’s engine to a more advanced engine that works with not only Doom and Doom 2, but also Heritic, Hexen, and even Chex Quest. It features better graphics, modern controls, crouching and jumping, and a host of back-end features to make Doom play nice with mods. There’s other utilities, like Chocolate Doom for the purists, or Skulltag, an online multiplayer utility.
Then there’s the mods, or WADs in the Doom community. There’s Brutal Doom, a project that injects so much gore and testosterone into Doom so as to make it the game your mother thought it was in ’93. Or Pirate Doom which is exactly what you think it is, and more. DayZ remains popular, so of course someone put that into Doom 2. Maybe Total Chaos an open-world survival horror with graphics that far out-weigh it’s Doom 2 base. If you really want to get weird with it then check out The Sky May Be which features one of the best weapon features ever: “The BFG 9000, now referred to as the ‘Blessing Cannon’, deals damage in the billions. Due to integer overflow, this has the potential to “bless” the target, rendering them immortal.”
Doom remains an institution, even 22 years later. It’s legacy is a testament to what a well designed game can achieve, and it’s influence remains in every FPS game made since. The upcoming Doom 4 looks like an honest attempt to bring back this style, and has long time fans incredibly excited for good reason.
A release date for Doom 4 hasn’t been announced as of this writing, with Bethesda only commenting “Spring, 2016”. Not to worry, since until then there’s more then enough Doom to go around. 22 years old, and still kicking ass.