I can’t remember what I’d asked Santa to give me for Christmas when I was eight – although if I have the year right, I have a sneaking suspicion that the Powerloader and Corporal Hicks action figure from Aliens were involved – but if I’d known then what I knew now, I’d certainly have been a well-behaved boy if I’d asked for Doom instead.
The classic first-person shooter was first released on the 10th December 1993, and solidified its creators, id Software, as the innovators of video game design. They’d already caused a bit of a stir with their previous effort Wolfenstein 3D but their next full release was the first to realise the vision which is still celebrated 20 years on through popular FPS games like the blockbusting Call of Duty and Halo franchises.
Looking back on the game now, it’s clearly showing its age when put up against just about anything we’re seeing on the XBox and Sony consoles, but for its time it was something pretty special; the Shareware boom allowed fringe game creators cursed by a lack of decent storage media and no hard copy distribution deals to release their games by mail order in episodic instalments, much like we see now from the likes of TellTale Games – only these days it’s by choice. A neat idea picked up by Apogee’s Scott Miller among others, the first taste was free – and as gamer reaction to the opening levels to Doom would testify, it spread like wildfire. Awestruck by the 3D elements and otherworldly chilling sound effects, players across the world did their best Phillip J. Fry impression as they overwhelmed the BBS network to which the original demo had been uploaded, urging id founders John Carmack and John Romero to shut up and take their money for the remaining episodes.
If you need any more clues as to just how popular Doom was in the big wide world of 90s computing, well, here’s Bill to tell you more in a video screened exclusively at the Windows 95 launch party to talk about how his new system can handle video games.
(I know it’s blurry, but that really is Bill Gates.)
There’s a great interview on Wired today with original lead programmer and former id boss, John Carmack, who left the company he founded last month to take up a position with Oculus. Never one to rest on his laurels, Carmack is now heading up what many are calling the next big thing in hardware.
And if you haven’t picked it up yet, I highly recommend Masters of Doom by David Kushner – a brilliant insight into 90s geek culture as seen through the eyes of the major players at id Software.
So there you have it. Guts, gore, and graphics which for their time were revolutionary. Happy 20th Birthday, Doom!