Doom: A Road Map to Hell

The new Doom game is just around the corner and many of us a chomping at the bit waiting for it. The small amount of gameplay videos and multiplayer teases are barely enough to hold fans in check, but with the closed beta releasing this weekend we get a glimpse at what the next generation of Doom has to offer. That being said it has been a long and meandering road to get here. Doom was first announced in May of 2008 but rumours surfaced of a troubled development which lead to another announcement in 2011 saying that development had been restarted from scratch and now had Bethesda as its publisher. During this time fans waited patiently for something … anything to show up online and at last year’s E3 they got their wish in spades. Bethesda delivered the goods in the form of a fifteen minute demo which stirred the crowd into a frenzy. It show cased impressive, fast paced gameplay which harkened back to the original games arcade style, along with a new melee system with which to wreak havoc on the minions of hell. Doom, like always, has left its mark. However, to understand the importance of this new game in the series, we need to go back and look at where it has come from. We need to go back and look at the group of young guys who first created Doom, who were wildly creative and serious about gaming. We need to look at their early games like Catacomb 3-D and Wolfenstein 3-D. But most of all we need to look at Doom itself and the impact it had not only on gaming culture, but also on the company that is now known as id Software, and the people that were involved in creating it.

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The general belief is that Wolfenstein 3-D was the precursor to Doom, but in truth if we look back further we discover a game called Catacomb 3-D. Catacomb 3-D was released in November of 1991 and was created by the guys that would become the founders of id software, they were John Carmack, John Romero, Tom Hall and Adrian Carmack. Catacomb 3-D used an early version of the Wolfenstein 3-D engine, but what makes this game unique is that it was the first game to allow the player to see the characters own hand from a first person perspective without driving a tank or a jet fighter. This gave the game a heightened sense of immersion and urgency and made the player feel like they were actually in the game itself. The games plot was straight forward, you played as a wizard who entered the catacombs of a cemetery to save his friend and do battle with an evil lich and his minions. Instead of shooting guns, or using a sword, the wizard shot spells from his hand at enemies. The game also implements a face of the character on screen that would slowly turn into a skeleton when the player took damage. These two elements, being able to see the characters hand as well as a face as an indicator of health would go on to play large parts in future id Software titles.

Enter Wolfenstein 3-D. Originally released in May of 1992, Wolfenstein 3-D would be the game that paved the way for the first-person shooting genre. The game was a reimagining of the Wolfenstein games developed by Muse Software for the Apple II. Set during WWII, the player took control of captured Allied spy William “B.J.” Blazkowicz who must escape the Nazi prison named Wolfenstein and then go on to continue the fight. From the initial screen of Wolfenstein that shows a ‘voluntary rating’ of PC for ‘profound carnage,’ you know this game is going to be different. It has a quirky sense of humour, the best example of which is the difficulty selection screen which actually taunts the player. The player is presented with four different difficulty types, they ranged from ‘can I play daddy?’ to ‘I am death incarnate.’ Besides this is a face that changes accordingly to the difficulty chosen, the easiest having B.J in a baby’s bib sucking a dummy, the hardest gives him red eyes with a devilish demeanour on his face. The games head up display is similar to that of Catacomb 3-D in that it has the head of B.J next to the health indicator and ammo counter. The levels themselves are all similar in objective, the player must reach an elevator to finish the level, fighting different types of guards and dogs and bosses on the way and sometimes having to find keys to reach the end. At one point the player must take on the Fuhrer himself in an epic showdown. The game is riddled with secret passages and rooms with extra weapons, health, ammo and treasure. At the time the games depiction of violence turned a lot of heads. It was a more mature game, far removed from the majority of commercial games of the time such as Mario Bros or Sonic the Hedgehog. Through its use of violence and frantic gameplay it established itself as a different beast altogether, but this was merely a shadow of what id could offer and no one expected what was to come next.

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Doom. The story goes that id had the title for their next game before they even knew what it was going to be or what it was going to be about. John Carmack got the name from the film The Colour of Money in which Tom Cruise, who plays a billiards hustler, names his black billiards cue that he uses to win, Doom. Carmack thought it was the perfect name, as that would be what their next game meant to other games in the industry as well as other developers. Doom was released in December of 1993 to immediate commercial and critical success. It was similar to Wolfenstein 3-D in presentation, the heads up display with the characters face, ammo and health count was similar, but the game itself greatly surpassed the bar that was set by its predecessor. In place of the WWII setting the player is taken to Mars. Instead of fighting Nazi’s, the player must fight off hordes of demonic demons. There are possessed marines, imps, bull demons (or pinkies are they’re affectionately known by fans), spectres, barons of hell, spiderdemons, cyberdemons and more, and all of them are trying to kill you. The sound is incredible, with that looping, buzzing music that would make awesome heavy metal tunes. The music fed the tension as well as the players’ adrenaline. It had a look and feel that would go on to inspire films like Event Horizon and even modern games such as Dead Space, but it was the play style that so many other developers tried to replicate.

Doom was fast, much faster than Wolfenstein 3-D and had a way of throwing enemies at you from all angles. However, it was also far more violent. Demons crumbled under shot gun blasts and completely disintegrated from a rocket launcher, becoming nothing more than a red mess on the floor. The game drew attention for its violence, not just because enemies could be shredded into pieces with a chainsaw or ripped apart with the Gatling gun but also because of its satanic imagery. The liberal use of pentagrams and horned enemies turned the heads of not only concerned parents but also several religious groups. None of this stopped the forward momentum of the game and the rapidly growing fan base. This was only reinforced by the inclusion of multiplayer. Doom offered two options, there was a cooperative mode in which up to four players could play the game together or there was Deathmatch. Doom was the first game to have what the developers called Deathmatch, which would go on to become a common parlance in first person shooting multiplayer. In Dooms version of Deathmatch only two people could go head to head against each other, initially through a LAN line but eventually it would go online to take over the internet and thus create a genre in its own right.

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From this one game, id Software established themselves as a leading developer in the industry. It was the game that made the company, but also became the grandfather of the first person shooter genre. Sadly this was also the game that split the original founders of id Software apart. Tom Hall left the company halfway through the production of Doom due to creative difference, one of the major factors being that he didn’t believe in the amount of violence that was being put into the game. After the release of Doom and the fame that came with it, John Romero tried to push the company in different direction. He would have a less hands on approach with Doom II, turning his focus onto the companies’ new game Quake. After several months of difficulties in developing Quake, Romero would leave id Software after being outvoted in which direction to take their new game. Adrian Carmack would go on to work there for several more years, eventually leaving of his own volution in 2005. John Carmack would be the last founder to leave, in 2013, to go and work at Oculus VR. Id software is now owned by ZeniMax Media, who are also the owners of Bethesda Softworks.

John Carmack, Tom Hall, John Romero and Adrian Carmack created gaming history, not once, not twice but several times over. While their careers may have taken them on different paths after they left id Software, the fact that these guys revolutionised a whole genre as well as the gaming industry itself can’t be overlooked. Even though they’re no longer at id, I still have faith that the next Doom game is going to be an intense ride through hell, in a good way. If a modern Wolfenstein game can do what The New Order did, I have no doubt that Doom will deliver the goods this year. For further reading on the creation of Doom, check out the novel Masters of Doom by David Kushner, or have a look at the Machinima documentary series All Your Histories Belong To Us on id Software.

DOOM closed Beta commences March 31 and concludes April 3. The Game is releasing May 13 on PC, PS4 & Xbox One.

Be sure to check back with Just Game for all your DOOM needs.

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Samuel is a writing and philosophy student based out of Brisbane. When he’s not writing or theorising about the depiction of time travel in Star Trek he is a constant gamer, willing to play nearly anything anywhere. All disagreements can only be settled by Mortal Kombat.

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