Posted by Rampant Coyote on June 30, 2014
I spent a little bit of time playing Doom this weekend. Yes, twenty-year old Doom. Updated a little bit with some new technology to take advantage of modern hardware and to make it nicely mouse-playable and everything, but it was still the same game. Running in Doomsday with a fan-made high-quality texture pack. There are some other add-ons which I haven’t installed, like higher-quality audio, 3D models for the enemies, etc. Pretty cool stuff for an old game.
Who needs a remake?
Oh, I guess we do:
Ah, well. I can’t say I’m not a little excited about what Bethesday might come up with.
I’d recently finished a somewhat more recent first-person shooter, Spec-Ops: The Line, which I thought was a pretty decent game. Okay the game part was pretty straightforward to the point of being generic. At times it felt like one of those old arcade shooters like Time Crisis. Shoot, duck, reload. Face bad guys with different weaponry appearing in surprise directions in a cover-based shooting gallery in a highly scripted combat. To distinguish the game from the pack of “modern combat shooters,” the developers incorporated a pretty decent storyline, which redeems things.
Going from that to playing the original Doom a little bit this weekend, I was struck by the purity of the game. After all, it was designed like a 2D game, with some tried-and-true mechanics transposed into a 3D (well, 2.5D) world. It felt a lot less scripted – partly because there wasn’t much by the way of scripting mechanics for the game.
But that wasn’t the only reason. I went and played a bit of Final Doom. I grabbed it from the Steam sale, since I’d never played it before. Final Doom – created by third parties and sold by id Software – feels a lot more like the modern shooters. In lieu of true scripting, there are environmental constraints and triggers everywhere to make the game more challenging – a twisted shooting gallery of pain without much margin for error. Maybe I just suck too much, but after a couple of levels I went back to the original (or Ultimate Doom). It was more fun and more interesting.
After Doom, everything changed. It was the Star Wars of the gaming biz. Even though the original shareware release didn’t post the kinds of numbers to compete with the best-selling mainstream games of the era, its popularity shook up the industry. After Doom, games industry attracted a lot of people from other sectors, including a non-insignificant infusion of people from television and the movie industry, who sadly sometimes saw games as movies with a little bit of troublesome player interaction. That trend didn’t go away with the death of “FMV games.” A few years ago this amusing comparison of FPS maps went viral:
The map on the left is from Doom, of course. To be fair, with the keys and switches limiting access, the actual progression through a level is a bit more linear than it appears. And the picture on the right only applies to single-player levels. But it’s still funny.
Going back and playing a somewhat souped-up Doom really did feel refreshing, though. Maybe it was nostalgia for the days when I was less jaded as a gamer, and it reconnected me to old memories when Doom was absolutely revolutionary and stunning. Maybe it reminded me of an era before the games industry had changed so much – changed in part due to this game. Back to an era where Doom conked the gaming industry on the head and made gamers and game developers alike believe that anything was possible.
But maybe it’s just that there’s something to be said for simple, visceral gameplay. You couldn’t just imitate Doom today, of course. That well has been drained pretty dry. But it was all about combining basic elements – the building blocks of the game – into lovingly elaborate, deadly self-contained challenges with plenty of leeway for the player to work things out his own way. The behaviors of the monsters weren’t necessarily realistic, but they were predictable, and could be used against them. Some of the best solutions involved getting monsters to fight each other in wild melees of infighting. Or clever use of exploding barrels. These were not complex, specially-scripted “solutions” – they were simply the tools at both the designers’ and the players’ disposal.
And seriously,within its own self-contained world, it ends up feeling far more realistic and believable than the carefully orchestrated, cinematic, advanced AI of the modern era. To me, that’s putting on a show for my benefit.
Sure, post-Doom, almost anything seems possible today. But sometimes its questionable as to whether or not all that is truly more fun and enjoyable than what’s been possible for 20+ years.
Filed Under: Design, Retro - Comments: 10 Comments to Read