On December 10, 1993 history was made.
It’s not the momentous history that most people are aware of, but it’s the type of history that changed and influenced an entire industry and form of entertainment. On this date a small software company called id Software released a little game called Doom. It wasn’t a particularly deep game, it possessed a razor thin plot, and it was initially distributed via the risky and unproven shareware model. Regardless, gaming was never the same since its release . . . because the game was visceral and the technology powering it was groundbreaking.
Why? Watching the video above makes the game look utterly mundane, drab, uninspired, and downright crappy compared to today’s standards. But once you start peeling back the layers of what was actually accomplished in 1993 you begin to realize what a masterpiece Doom really was.
3D Technology: Even though most of the dynamic characters in Doom were sprite based, it was the first 3D engine game that allowed texture mapping, lighting, non-perpendicular walls, height differences, stereo sound to place your character in the environment. Every game that was to follow, including the monster 3D games today like Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty, owe their existence to the ground breaking engine technology that was first developed in Doom. It was the first stepping stone to the amazing gaming experiences we’re able to enjoy today.
User Mods: Doom was the first game to popularize user made modifications and levels through the use of its WAD (Where’s All the Data) file structure. This allowed users to create custom levels, sounds, and graphics for their own use or distribution. It spawned the first thriving mod community (that’s still active today) in personal computer gaming. Once again Doom was a trailblazer. There are a plethora of mod communities for innumerable games today, thanks to Doom.
Network Play: Possibly the most influential and game changing feature in Doom, and one that John Carmack believes to be so, was the ability to play against other players over a network, much to the chagrin of college network managers everywhere. You could play Doom in either cooperative mode or “death match” mode. This network mode was eventually expanded to TCP/IP (internet) mode, opening up the game to a vast new world of players and competitive game play. This technology is now prevalent in nearly every game on the market, including incredibly popular MMORPGs, real time strategy games, military battleground type of games, even silly mobile games like Words with Friends and Candy Crush. It allows gamers from all corners of the world to connect and share a common passion. Doom popularized it first.
Engine Licensing: Doom was one of the first game engines (the Tech 1 engine) that was licensed to other developers to create their own games. The licensing was limited, but it was a model that has become increasingly popular over the years. It helps keep costs down while allowing developers to focus on creating the game and not having to focus on the technology. Popular engines today include Unreal Engine 3, CryEngine 3, id Tech 5 . . . all of which can be found underneath the hood of some of your favorite games. The id Tech 1 engine did it first.
Prior to 20 years ago today none of these things existed in PC gaming. With one epic swoop John Carmack, John Romero, and team, changed gaming forever. They transformed PC gaming from a colorless, flat, lifeless world into a vivid, three dimensional, dynamic world. And their inspiration came in to existence on a shoestring budget with a handful of people.
Happy 20th Doom!