Games That Changed Gaming #3: Doom (1993)

Doom is the 1993 game that revolutionized almost very way that games were built following it

And it’s time for another instalment in Gimbl’s Games That Changed Gaming!

So far, we’ve looked at Final Fantasy VII, which revolutionized 3D RPGs and storytelling in games, and we’ve looked at StarCraft, which pushed Real-Time-Strategy games to a new level and kickstarted the modern eSports era.

This week, we’re looking at a game that was so ahead of its time that some credit it with being one of the main reasons that home PC sales flourished in the 90s: ID Software’s Doom!

Through the eyes of a space marine

Doom certainly wasn’t the first FPS (first-person-shooter) to hit the market, and wasn’t even the first that creators John Carpenter and John Romero had created. Doom was, however, the first FPS title that put players in a more realistic, 3D environment and really played with mood.

Carpenter and Romero had done extremely well with Wolfenstein 3D in 1992, however the game was far from being as 3D as its title would suggest. Wolfenstein 3D had no ceilings, a uniform gray floor, consistent light in every area, and an almost cartoonish color palette. For a game that was about killing Nazis, it looked oddly charming and whimsical.

Their next game, they decided, would be different. They borrowed from 80s and early-90s action movies like The Terminator, from horror movies like Alien and Army of Darkness, and from popular tabletop roleplaying game Dungeons and Dragons. They even considered making an official tie-in game to the Alien franchise, but eventually put that idea to rest when they realised it would lead to creative constraints. This title was to be their masterpiece, and to be entirely their own.

They wanted the players to take the role of a space marine. A silent and faceless protagonist who would show up at a fortress on Mars that was infested with demons, some of whom were cybernetically enhanced. Who would blast the demons to smithereens as he descended to their source: a connection to hell.

Doom’s 3D gloom

It wasn’t enough for players to just feel powerful, though. Carpenter and Romero wanted to create an immersive experience, and any real person facing literally hundreds of hellspawn by themselves would likely feel one thing: horror.

The technological advancements they had achieved meant that they could build a game where level designs weren’t restricted by a strict grid. They could place walls wherever they wanted, as well apply detailed textures to them. They also managed to add ceiling and floor textures, giving them the ability to create more realistic levels that had inside and outside components.

Id Software also managed to make breakthroughs with the in-game lighting and draw distance, meaning some areas were darker than others, and things would become more visible and detailed as you got closer to them. A darker color palette of blacks, browns, greys, and reds also gave the game a more gloomy tone.

The biggest technological feat was arguably the ability for height to be a real factor in level design. While all other 3D games at the time existed on flat planes, Doom had multi-levelled areas, staircases, podiums and more. Players could stand at the top of a staircase and rain bullets down on the demons that were bottlenecking through. Enemies could descend from above you to surprise you.

All these things combined with the first-person perspective proved to be exceptionally immersive. Players could feel the tension rising as they could hear enemies before they could see them, as they entered dimly lit areas full of enemies. Players found themselves haunted by the things they saw in the game, they felt real fear, and real triumph when they cleared an area or took down a boss. Doom was an immersive experience of the likes we had literally never seen before.

Doom’s Deathmatches

Doom was the first title to show people that online co-op play and PvP (player-versus-player) were not only possible but addictively entertaining.

Two players could join forces to take down the waves of space-demons together by either connecting over a phone line or linking two PCs with a null-modem cable.

Even more popular was the game’s ‘Deathmatch’ mode, which had four players go head-to-head against each other. Deathmatch was so popular that certain companies needed to introduce Doom-specific policies to stop their employees from wasting too much of their workday battling it out on Doom.

Deathmatch also is credited with spawning the very first LAN parties. Before Doom, the concept of packing up your entire computer setup, taking it to another physical location, and playing a game with or against your friends was literally unheard of. Deathmatch became such a ubiquitous experience for players that other developers jumped on board too, and multiplayer PC gaming was born.

Mods for days

Doom opened the floodgates for the modding community. While most games at this time were built inside their engines, making the game and the engine one and the same, Doom was different. It was one of the first games where the engine and the assets that populated the game were separate from each other.

Some users were quick to pick up on this, and a thriving modder community sprang up in no time. Players created new maps, new character skins, level editors, and even new gameplay modes that allowed the game to be played in different ways.

From this point on, building games on top of engines, as opposed to within them, started to become the norm. Modding games became much more common, to the point that PC gaming became distinctly separate from console gaming because of all the possibilities that mods opened up to gamers.

Doom-clones

While FPS games did exist before Doom, the term “first-person-shooter” wouldn’t be coined for a while after. Following Doom’s meteoric success, a wave of “Doom-clones” flooded the market. Game designers always borrow ideas from games that they themselves have played. This is a natural part of the creative process. Now, back in 1993 and 1994, pretty much EVERYONE was playing Doom, meaning Doom’s influence was pretty broad.

1994’s Heretic, 1995’s Star Wars: Dark Forces, and 1996’s Duke Nukem 3D are some of the most notable and legitimate Doom-clones, out there, with Heretic even using a modified version of Doom’s engine.

The reason everyone as jumping to get on the Doom bandwagon was that Doom did things that no other game had done before. The fact that you could see your character’s hand in the game was a first for shooting games (even if it did look like it was coming out of the middle of your chest).

Doom was also one of the first games that had enemies fight each other as well as the player character. This is something we STILL don’t see often enough in games today!

Possibly the biggest contribution that Doom made to the FPS genre (other than, you know, creating it) was the inclusion of multiple weapon types. Back in the early nineties, shooter games gave you one, maybe two weapons. Doom had a (at the time) whopping EIGHT different weapons that could be picked up.

Games like Counter Strike: Global Offensive, the Call of Duty series, or even Bioshock wouldn’g exist today if Doom hadn’t set the standard for shooting games all the way back in 1993.

Does it run Doom?

One of the keys to Doom’s success was that the game was ported to almost everything it could be ported to back in the day. The most significant port being that to Windows ‘95.

Gabe Newell, who would go on to found Valve (the company behind Half Life, Steam, and Dota 2) was the man behind Doom being ported to Windows ‘95. He was the lead developer of the port, called WinDoom, and it was the key to Bill Gates’ plan to position Windows PCs as gaming machines.

Since 1993, though, Doom has been officially ported to almost every single games console and computing device imaginable. Doom, Doom II, and Doom 3 were all re-released to current-gen consoles just a few days ago.

Doom has also been unofficially ported to almost any device you can imagine that has a screen. Such as the touchbar of a Macbook Pro:

On an ultrasound machine:

And even on a thermostat:

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