Doom was launched 20 years ago

Screenshot from Doom secret level
Screenshot from Doom secret level

On December 10, 1993, id Software made ​​available the MS-DOS computer game “Doom” in its shareware version on the first of a series of bulletin boards and an ftp server giving rise to one of the most legendary stories in videogame history. The shareware version included only the first episode, titled “Knee-Deep in the Dead”, while the commercial version offered for sale included two more episodes: “Shores of Hell” and “Inferno”.

“Doom” was created following the success of the previous year by “Wolfenstein 3D“. The graphics engine represented a significant step forward compared to that game but the basics are the same: it’s an FPS, which is played from a first person perspective so the experience of the action takes place through the eyes of the protagonist.

In “Doom”, the player has the role of a space marine in service on Mars. When something really bad happens, he’s alone facing hordes of monsters of various types on Phobos. In an adventure between science fiction and horror, the player must go through a series of levels using various weapons he finds here and there with the ammunition collected as well.

The dangers don’t consist only of assorted monsters but also traps of various types. On the other hand, the player can find medical kits, armor and other items that provide temporary special abilities that can be useful in the fight against the enemies. Among the weapons available, although only in the third episode of the game, there’s the BFG 9000, considered one of the most iconic weapons in videogame history.

The success of “Doom” was immediate for various reasons. The game was great for its time and had possibilities that emphasized its gameplay. It was one of the first games that included the multiplayer mode, which allowed to have matches with up to four players on a local network or two connected via a modem or with a null modem cable.

Another reason for the huge success of “Doom” was the possibility to change and expand it through programs specially written by various fans. Cleverly, id Software didn’t object to these practices, asking only that they were applied to the commercial version of the game and not the shareware version.

Hackers from around the world started creating various utilities and that determined the birth of an ecosystem around “Doom” with changes to elements of the game. Above all, there was the proliferation of WAD files, which contained new maps whose circulation further increased the game’s popularity.

Just like “Wolfenstein 3D”, even “Doom” was at the center of controversy for the level of violence content in the game, even greater than in its predecessor. The use of magical symbols, considered satanic in a summary manner, contributed to the controversy. In the end, all this was just more publicity.

The success of “Doom” led to the production of a sequel, “Doom II: Hell on Earth” in 1994, which refined the elements of the first version. Personally, I admit I’m more tied to the sequel than to the first “Doom”. In subsequent years, various “mission packs” were produced: “The Ultimate Doom” in 1995, which is a version of “Doom” with a fourth episode, “Master Levels for Doom II” in 1995 and “Final Doom” in 1996.

The various “Doom” versions and sequels were ported to other platforms, starting with Windows and Mac OS, but also various gaming consoles. When the graphics engine was released as open source, the game was ported to even more platforms, starting with Linux.

The big news came in 2004, when “Doom 3”  was released, essentially a reboot of the game that used a much more advanced graphics engine. Despite some criticism, this new version of the game was a success. About a year ago “Doom 3 BFG Edition” was released, which celebrates the legend of this series of games.

The fame of “Doom” has reached such levels that over the years it’s been adapted into a comic book, four novels, a board game and a movie. Honestly I haven’t been interested in any of them because for me “Doom” is a videogame series with the adrenaline flowing while I face the monsters in a series of maps and in the other formats it’s not the same thing.

This anniversary comes while there are also expectations for “Doom 4”. Its story is getting complicated because John Carmack hinted at its production in 2007 and the announcement came in 2008. Last year it was revealed that due to various problems the development was restarted in 2011. It will use the id Tech 5 engine, the one used for “Rage” to be clear.

It’s difficult to understand when “Doom 4” will be actually released but the name “Doom” has already been made legendary by the early versions of the game. Enormous technological advances have been made in the past 20 years and the realism of the latest versions has become incredible but at the time “Doom” and “Doom II” were something extraordinary, so much as to remain in the history of videogames.

Screenshot from the last level of the first episode of Doom
Screenshot from the last level of the first episode of Doom

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