Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

DOOM – then and now. Part 1.

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 18, 2016

wolfenstein_3d_title_screen“Guten Tag!”

If you were a computer game geek back in the early 90s, you remember that one. The greeting heard ’round the DOS gaming world. It was the intro to the boss encounter on the shareware version of Wolfenstein 3D, at least on those PCs equipped with the popular SoundBlaster card. A requirement, for those of us who remembered Muse Software’s original game, much slower paced but with the clumsy playback of actual voices on the old Apple, Atari, and Commodore sound devices.

The game was amazing, and had reportedly come out from a tiny little company of guys who were bypassing the publishers and going straight to shareware. And yet it was technologically amazing. What’s more, it was high-speed, high-action, and “voluntarily rated PC for Profound Carnage” – meaning cartoony blood and viscera on the screen. This was a big deal, because many stores and publishers still considered video games to be something intended for children.

With the design, humor, and violence level that seemed to spring from a frat-house, it probably couldn’t really be labeled as mature, but at the very least, it was clearly not intended for young children.

But Wolf3D was kind of a niche hit. Among the hardcore PC gamer set, it was amazing. It represented the brave, new world of computer gaming. Suddenly the game programming BBS forums and usenet groups (early Internet stuff, kids) were abuzz with the miracle of raycasting – the technique used by Wolfenstein 3D to render its 3D environments so quickly.

Wolf3D‘s success was relatively low-key… but more than enough to keep the tiny team at id Software happy… but afterwards, rumors of a game called DOOM from the same studio began to surface. Details were sketchy and ever-changing. A magazine ad came out that said something to the effect of, “Those of you planning to enjoy your summer… go to Hell!” Things kinda hit a crescendo (at least in the subset of the community I was involved in) in the summer of 1993 with issue #108 of Computer Gaming World: the sneak preview of Doom. It sounded amazing. Sadly, we still had many months to wait. They missed their summer deadline, but the hype was building among the gamers. All the action of Wolfenstein 3D, but with demonic enemies, more realistic environments, cool lighting, and multiplayer! Was all that even possible?!?!  (At the time, there was also supposed to be an in-depth single-player story, Tom Hall’s big focus, but that fell to the wayside).

Doom_cover_artThat December, Doom was released into the world… just hours before the end of that semester of college and I was about to leave for Christmas vacation. The release was legendary… one of those stories I can be all grandpa-gamer about. A friend who managed to acquire it copied the files on multiple 1.4 megabyte floppy disks for me. Yep, that was how we rolled, then. And for the next several months, university and business networks would be inundated with Doom packets. It was the game. While Super Mario Brothers might have been a bigger hit many years earlier and impacted the new generation of gamers more broadly, I always think of Doom’s release as the day video games started going mainstream. It wasn’t all at once, and it was hardly universal, but it seemed that was when things started to change… for better, and for worse.

It really was amazing, and had most of the technological features we expected, and more. It had a little bit of everything. Fast action. Gore. Scares. Creepy horror stuff. Exploration. Puzzles. Secrets. Competitive multiplayer. Freaking cooperative multiplayer! Tons of built-in support for modding.

It’s that variety that can make it a little hard to pin down the “flavor” of Doom. Some emphasized the jump scares and the careful, meticulous exploration of the darkened environment. Others rewarded clever tactics and problem-solving. Others were more about sheer gunslinging frenzy. Or they all but begged you to turn on god mode, arm yourself with the chainsaw, and just hack your way through teeming hordes of enemies.

But regardless of which aspects we hold up as Doom‘s signature feel, the game made a monstrous impact on gaming. Still. And while technologically it has been surpassed in every possible way, it still has big shoes to feel for any game in its genre… especially one claiming lineage.

Which brings us to the release of the newest of the series, just titled “DOOM.” A sequel? A reboot? A… well, I’m still not entirely sure. Continued tomorrow in Part 2.

Filed Under: Impressions, Retro - Comments: Read the First Comment

  • DOOM – then and now. Part 2. said,

    […] like I said yesterday, the original was a lot of different things. The “feel” varied significantly even from […]