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Doom. DOOOM!

No, seriously — Doom, the computer game. Steam was offering the whole franchise for a few pounds over the holidays, so I bit.

While not technically the very first First Person Shooter, it was the first large, really functional, major mega-ass hit FPS. It’s hard to overstate how popular this thing was when it was released in 1994. It was a phenomenon. It was HUGE. It gummed up computer networks and ate up productivity from coast to coast.

It was a great game. But there were two additional clever things id software did that helped make Doom a gorilla: they gave a third of the game away for free, encouraging players to make copies and spread it around (unheard of in those overpriced, aggressively copy-protected days). And they allowed users to modify the game — change the graphics, build new levels, make it a whole ‘nother game.

I worked in a corporate art department, so we got an official boss sanction to play, provided we didn’t spend an obscene amount of time at it and were able to couch our activity in the corporate bullshit language of Learning New Things. We developed a whole office vocabulary of Doom, full of Pink Boys and Scratchy Guys.

First time I’ve played it in a decade and a half, anyway, and I’m horrified to report the grooves worn into my head are fresh and clear. Turn right, turn left, there’s a secret door behind the green panel, watch out for the Eyeball Monster coming through the teleportation pad. I remember more Doom than High School algebra.

It’s nigh impossible to believe we ever saw this goofy, clunky thing as a challenge to play, let alone an existential threat to American society. But the violence, the gore, the kinda sorta Satanic iconography was viewed with great alarm by the usual Great Alarm Viewers. Particularly when it turned out the Columbine shooters were big fans.

‘Twas ever thus.

p.s. I can’t pass the topic without mentioning my great invention. I am inordinately proud of that.


Comment from Gromulin
Time: January 10, 2013, 11:50 pm

Oh, That screenshot. When it first came out, only the owner of the company had a 486 and a 17″ (!) monitor. When he was out of town, the Sales Manager would unlock his office and we would “work late” just to play DOOM!. DOOM and DESCENT were (and are) the only PC games I ever spent enough time with to actually enjoy. Maybe Redneck Rampage, but that was mainly for the hilarious dialog.

Comment from MikeW
Time: January 11, 2013, 12:05 am

Ahhh, the good ole’ days…

I never played more than the free stuff, I think I was afraid I would spend way too much time on it. Duh! More than the freebie Doom though, I really liked Rise of the Triad. You must recall that one. Ludicrous Gibs, anyone?

Honestly though, I really stayed away from computer gaming. Never got a console (except for my niece for Christmas long ago). The freebies from the early ’90s was it.
Until about a year ago. Got Portal One when it released for free. That was great and innovative. Then I saw WoW was going for free through level 20, I though I’d give it a try. After all, my niece (the same one) met her husband through WoW. To note; she lived in Virginia Beach, he in Melbourne, AU. I still haven’t gotten a straight answer to how they got on the same server.
Anyway, WoW took over my brain for quite a while. (I was right all along!) But truly, as a longtime programmer myself I was stunned at the amount of features and teritory in there. Yadda Yadda Yadda, I’m on Drenden if anyone else is. Just a maxed out lvl 20 warlock who runs around a bit now and then.
Oh, and in a prior life I had found myself in a maze twisty little passage, all alike.

Comment from Rich Rostrom
Time: January 11, 2013, 12:17 am

One of the very cool aspects of DOOM was that the game engine could be separated from all the operational elements of the game. A user/developer could define an entirely new suite of creatures, weapons, terrain, everything.

One application of this was Marine DOOM. As in U.S.M.C. The Corps used the DOOM engine as the basis of an infantry combat simulator, where everything was made as realistic as possible. It could support up to four users – a fire team. It allowed Marines to practice small-unit tactics for really cheap, and was reported to be quite effective.

Another application was a Unix administration tool. Processes, users, volumes, and devices all got visual analogs, and admin actions were converted to movements or shooting things.

Comment from Ken
Time: January 11, 2013, 12:26 am

I remember the Wired article on Marine DOOM. At the time in my shop we were mostly Mac, and we used to perform “network throughput tests” after hours using Marathon.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: January 11, 2013, 12:26 am

Rise of the Triad! Thank you, Mike! I was trying to remember the name of that one. I remember the bouncy plates, and the Hand of God.

And for heaven’s sake, get Portal 2.

Comment from Skandia Recluse
Time: January 11, 2013, 12:28 am

I liked Doom, never played it well. Now you tell me you could memorize the path through the game? It never occurred to me that there was a fixed path. Now I really feel inadequate.

“You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all different.”

Jeeze, I am so naive.

Comment from Brad
Time: January 11, 2013, 12:39 am

According to the wikipedias, Wolfenstein 3D predated Doom by a year or so. Not saying it was better, but to me it was the more memorable of the early 3D games. That’s what I thought your screenshot was from until I spotted the spiky bits on the bad guy. Nazis are somehow more satisfying to shoot than demons (“Mein Leben!”).

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: January 11, 2013, 12:42 am

I knew some smarty pants would bring up Wolfenstein 🙂

What was the vampire one, where you set priests on fire?

Comment from Brad
Time: January 11, 2013, 12:52 am

That doesn’t ring any bells. But then I’ve never been that into vampires, even before they sparkled.

I remember Hexen from somewhere in that time period. It had magic and evil and all that, but I’m pretty sure you played as a non-priest-immolating hero type.

Comment from surly
Time: January 11, 2013, 1:23 am

I had Hexen 2, check out the devil box art.

Comment from surly
Time: January 11, 2013, 1:35 am

This is the Wolfenstein I started with. Yeah, Commodore 64 baby!

…boy did that suck.

Comment from dissent555
Time: January 11, 2013, 1:37 am

yeah, baby. Descent FTW! I suck at it but I still play it from time to time. Never played Doom.

Comment from Oceania
Time: January 11, 2013, 2:39 am

I wonder if i can post with Sweasels filter not tripping this time?

Comment from Nina
Time: January 11, 2013, 4:37 am

My first computer was a Commodore 64. Memories…

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: January 11, 2013, 11:06 am

Descent: you could actually look up and look down! (Hey, it was a great innovation at the time). Hexen, Hexen II and Heretic, which moved in a more Rogue/Hack/D&D direction, with character classes and levels. Quake, which continued down the FPS line.

Comment from surly
Time: January 11, 2013, 11:41 am

Did you have the floppy drive Nina, or the lovely tape drive?

Comment from Argentium G. Tiger
Time: January 11, 2013, 12:13 pm


> What was the vampire one, where you set priests on fire?

I remember one where you were an undead gunslinger up against zombies, crazed cultists, etc… One of the weapons (flare gun) allowed you to set fire to the cultists with much screaming of “Aaaaah, it burns, it burns!” and then they exploded into little bits. Great fun.

Is that the one you’re thinking of?

Comment from Becca
Time: January 11, 2013, 12:14 pm

Nina, we started out with a TSR-80, blazed forward into the Commodore Vic-20 (with tape drive, as I recall) and THEN got seriously uptown with the 64.

Still got all of them, too. Along with boxes of pirated games for the 64.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: January 11, 2013, 12:24 pm

That’s the one, Argentium. The flare gun. The screaming. I remember it well.

Comment from Argentium G. Tiger
Time: January 11, 2013, 2:00 pm

Stoaty: gog.com (Good old Games) has the license for it now and sell it for a regular price of $5.99. I wait for 50% off sales or better because I’m a cheapskate. 🙂 They have huge sales at Christmas (50-85% off.)

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: January 11, 2013, 2:28 pm

Oooo…thanks for the tip.

Boo, they don’t have Dr Brain. Or Life and Death.

Oh, but they do have 7th Guest and 11th Hour! I stole animation techniques from those two and made a (if I do say so myself) neat walkthrough/simulator app for my company.

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: January 11, 2013, 3:49 pm

Someone made up a total conversion of Doom to Aliens and it was not just incredibly well done but massively creepy, with all the right sounds and effects. It was the best conversion I’ve ever seen.

Comment from jwpaine
Time: January 11, 2013, 4:48 pm

I remember playing the ’94 version of multiplayer Doom with a buddy (direct-dial modem connection between our computers)
It was the first experience with MP for both of us, and I nearly pissed my pants laughing several times watching his surprised character panick-run from me as I was shooting him (“assholes and elbows” was the perfect term for his movement). I think the final score of that first game was something like Me: 100, HIM: 2.
When we took a break and called each other to talk about the match, he asked me how I was always able to find him so easily. He was convinced I was cheating.

“Don’t you ever hear me coming up on you?” I asked.

Silence. Then, “Hear?

“Um, you don’t have a sound card, do you.”

So from then on (until he got a sound card), I had to turn mine off. Too bad, since that was probably my finest hour in multiplayer fps’ing.

Comment from mojo
Time: January 11, 2013, 5:33 pm

Descent was my favorite, I loved the 3-D flying. Got myself a high-end joystick, and I was in hog heaven.

Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: January 11, 2013, 6:34 pm

More heart-pounding action: http://robotfindskitten.org/

Comment from Poindexter
Time: January 11, 2013, 6:44 pm

Many years ago (late 90s), I was having a private e-mail exchange with a reader over something I had written. He made some mocking comment about me getting in touch with my inner child; my prompt response was, “When I want to get in touch with my inner child, I boot up Doom.” ..pointy..

Comment from Argentium G. Tiger
Time: January 11, 2013, 7:41 pm

Stoaty: abandonia.com has “Dr. Brain”, “Life and Death” as well as “Life and Death II – The Brain”.

Christopher: I remember that conversion for Doom, that was truly an amazing feat!

Comment from bad cat robot
Time: January 11, 2013, 8:17 pm

Anybody remember Eye of the Beholder? That was my timesink of choice back in the early Holocene. With a bit of Castle Wolfenstein. Oh, and Dungeons of Moria! Kids with their silly graphics, ASCII art was how we used to do it! I still fear the letter L.

Comment from Argentium G. Tiger
Time: January 11, 2013, 8:26 pm

bad cat robot: Don’t remember that one specifically but the fact that it was released by Westwood studios instantly makes it worth looking at! This looks to have been released around the same time they released “Dune 2”, which I still play in DosBox to this day.

bestoldgames.net has Eye of the Beholder, if you want to take a trip down memory lane.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: January 11, 2013, 10:28 pm

Aiii…the deadly Lich! I played Moria, BCR. I played many, many of the Roguelike games. I had a particular taste for them, probably because the very first program that completely blew me away was Nethack. It took my 24 years, but I finally beat it.

We’d played single player for a long, long time before we ever played the Multiplayer Doom, jw (on account of we weren’t networked together, believe it or not). When you’re accustomed to seeing all the monsters running at you, it’s astonishing to realize they can run side to side and away from you, too.

Me, I almost pissed myself laughing watching one of those flaming skull thingies chase my boss down a corridor.

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