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Fragged, fragged and thrice fragged! 20 years of id Software’s Doom

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Antique Code Show id Software’s Doom – the definitive first-person shooter – is 20 years old today.

It was uploaded to the University of Washington’s servers at midnight, 10 December 1993 in the form of a .zip file containing the game and the first set of levels. It didn’t take long to generate a massive buzz – and because id was offering extra levels for a $25 shareware fee, massive profits for the developers, among them John Romero, Mike Abrash, Dave Taylor, Adrian Carmack, Kevin Cloud and, crucially, engine developer extraordinary John Carmack.

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El Reg’s Antique Code Show covered the title back in 2011...

id Software’s most recent FPS, Rage, left a niggling feeling of déjà vu at the back of my brain for about a week after I started playing it, until I realised I was getting some subliminal Doom flashbacks.

id Software Doom

House of Doom

In 1992, game developer id Software needed something special to follow up the hit that was Wolfenstein 3D. What could be a better denouement to my battle with Hitler than an alien world full of demons and zombies where I get to don my space marine outfit?

Coincidentally, this was also around the time I was obsessed with battling space marines in Warhammer 40K with games that took over much of my kitchen floor. Those Cacodemons sure do bear a passing resemblance to squigs!

id Software Doom

Cacodemon conflict

Doom wasn’t short on story, never mind the gore and gunfire to follow, I particularly enjoyed the fact my own government had fucked things up by messing where they shouldn’t and opened a portal to hell. Damn, it’s just me left to go ultraviolent and push the legions of hell back into fiery limbo.

Faced with dual chain gun-wielding bulked up Aryans as your foe, Wolfenstein 3D was funny rather than scary. Indeed, I don’t remember being scared by a game until Doom appeared, with its engine capable of dimmed quivering lights and its repugnant textures. The nihilistic tones of Alien 3 echoed through such levels as the toxic refinery. Like the Alien series Doom’s dark corners allowed my imagination to run wild and consider turning the lights back on.

id Software Doom

Alien resurrection?

But Doom had a lot more going for it then a few scary moments, and I don’t just mean those scrambles for the health kit. Being able to carry an army's worth of gun power is not necessarily realistic but neither are angry alien demons trying to rip my flesh off. I’m never empty handed with a chainsaw, a shotgun, a chain-gun, and a rocket launcher at my disposal.

With Doom you were not only introduced to a world of cyber demons but death matches – be sure to have the BFG 9000 on hand for that one shot kill – cooperative gameplay and also a world of player mods including maps and sometimes full remakes.

id Software Doom

Lost productivity

Back in 1993, id Software boasted that Doom would be "the number one cause of decreased productivity in businesses around the world". I must confess, I played my part in living up to this statement with a fair few death matches across the network at the animation company where I worked back in those days.

Unfortunately Doom's satanic themes and slayer riffs all washed down with pixel splashes of blood horrified the moral majority and ushered in a legacy of ESRB games ratings. Still, as I boldly wield a chainsaw in the face of hell, I have yet to encounter a spiderdemon that could stop me.

id Software Doom

Harbinger of Doom

Doom is an absolute classic and this is reflected in it’s 10 million + shareware downloads. The level design is tremendous and I adore the directness of the narrative and the shadowy and jittery ambiance. Fantastic sound, prodigious monster design. Doom is the definitive horror slugfest against the minions of hell. ®

Developer id Software
Year of release 1993
Platforms DOS, Windows, Mac, arcade... pretty much everything, even the Pebble smartwatch (kinda)

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