December 10th, 1993 was no different from any other December 10th that preceded it. It was cold. It was wet. It was almost Christmas. For much of the world it was business as usual, just another Friday in a long line of Fridays. For the rest of us though it was the beginning of something new, something dark, something…ultra violent. You see, for people like you and I, December 10th, 1993 will live on in infamy as the day that Doom first hit the shelves of video game stores around the world, and Hell followed with it.
The history of video games can be separated into two distinct periods; the years before Doom and the years after Doom. Prior to that cold December morning 23 years ago, the First-Person Shooter genre barely even existed. There had been MIDI Maze on the Atari in 1987, but it was simplistic and largely LAN based, and was quickly forgotten when a relatively unknown developer named Ideas from the Deep (now id Software) blew everyone out of the water with the hugely popular Wolfenstein 3D (1992).
Wolfenstein 3D was groundbreaking for many reasons, but its main success came from opening up a pseudo 3 dimensional world to the action genre, removing the need for side-scrolling and giving the game the realistic feel of being in the thick of the action. With such huge success came demand for a follow up, but rather than revisit the world of Wolfenstein id decided to reinvent the wheel once again.
Welcome to Mars, sight of the Union Aerospace Corporation’s secret labs. You’ve just been posted here to work as security for the multi-planetary conglomerate, as punishment for assaulting your commanding officer. Ask any Marine and they’ll tell you the same thing: “Nothing ever happens on Mars”. They would have been right too, had the top secret experiments the UAC were carrying out not gone horribly wrong, opening up a portal between the world as you know it and unimaginable Hell releasing unknown horrors hungry for human flesh.
As the last surviving Marine on Mars you have no option but to fight your way through the labs at UAC, blowing the holy shit out of anything that moves. You are the last thing standing between the Earth and damnation. Suit up soldier. Surrender is not an option. It’s just another beautiful day in the Marine core, right?.
The minute Doom exploded into the human consciousness it was deemed a massive success. Not only was it a novel concept but it’s improved 3D experience meant it was like nothing the gaming world had ever seen. Even after only 18 months Wolfenstein 3D seemed dated – aged by its inferior engine.
Almost a quarter of a century has passed since Doom launched, and the villains of the piece are as terrifying and relentless today as they were back then. Time has not diminished these demons.
Whether it’s a huge flying Cacodemon, a grunting Hell Knight or even one of your fallen comrades, this is a world filled with creatures who will stop at nothing to spill your guts or wear your skin like a coat.
You can dress it up as much as you want but there is really only one objective in the Doom universe (from here on in referred to as the Doomiverse) – get yourself from Point A to Point B by killing everything in front of you. There is no mercy, no reason even to stop and think. Just point your weapon in front of you and do not stop moving.
Starting out with the humble pistol, the player progresses to a shot gun, a chainsaw, a Chaingun and eventually the notorious BFG-9000. Locating these weapons, mastering them and keeping them stocked with ammo are the key to staying alive.
The popularity of Doom lead to it being ported from its original DOS format onto every imaginable console. To date it has been released on 33 platforms, including a Commodore VIC-20 from 1980, making it arguably the most ported video game in history.
The first official sequel came in 1995, and was set immediately after the original. With minor tweaks to the plot id Software admitted that the second Doom was just an excuse to make the game bigger, thanks in large to the developments in technology since 1993. Reviews for Doom II were largely positive, but it wasn’t until a decade later when Doom 3 was released that the world once again stood up and took notice.
Unlike its predecessors, Doom 3 was the first genuine 3D entry into the franchise and believe me when I tell you, it was terrifying. The game uses unconventional lighting and shadows, which combined with the new realistic look of the demon foes reduced grown men to tears. It took some serious balls to play Doom 3 in the dark.
The third installment in the franchise was a huge success for id, and everyone involved, but it would take another decade for a fourth game to crawl from the pits of Hell. After Doom 4 was shit canned in 2011, the good people at Bethesda took the concept back to its roots releasing a new Doom earlier this year. You can read all about what we thought of the the newest Doom here.
As gamers we owe a lot to Doom. Without it there would likely never have been the Doom Engine. Without this superior engine the modern video game would look very different. It is thanks to the Doom Engine that the id Tech engine was developed, which is the reason games in 2016 look so damn realistic. Gone are the days of pseudo 3D, in which 2D pixels are pasted into environments to make them look like they belong. Today’s monsters – from those mentioned here to other id Tech engine creations, not only look like they belong they make you feel like they’re right there with you, breathing down your neck.
But perhaps Doom’s most enduring legacy is that it redefined a genre while simultaneously creating a new one. Without Doom there would be no Duke Nukem, no Halo and certainly no Call of Duty. It could have so easily been a forgotten prototype, referenced in features much like this one but seldom played in today’s sophisticated market. But yet, almost 25 years after its inception it is as fun, refreshing and essential as ever. Games may have gotten bigger and prettier in the last 23 years, but they sure aren’t better. Doom took the video games industry straight to Hell, and it may take another 20 years before it recovers.
What are your favourite Doom memories? Let us know in the comments section below.