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volume 1, issue 16

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Good Evening, and Welcome to Hell (five years of Doom)


By Rowan "Sumaleth" Crawford


Dave "Zoid" Kirsch, who currently maintains the Quake and Quake 2 code base, remembers that penultimate boss; "I remember just about wetting my pants the first time I met the Cyberdemon. We were playing four player coop. Imagine all four of us appearing on the Cyberdemon level; we hear the footsteps, "What the fuck is that?" "I dunno?" "Holy shit! You guys,look at this!" "What?" "Aggghghhhhhh!!!!!"

I'm sure we can all identify with that scenario, most people I spoke to remembers their first encounter with the Cyberdemon above all else. T. Elliot "Myscha (the sled dog)" Cannon, level designer at Epic MegaGames, remembers him well. "...the time me and a buddy played Doom 2 map 15 co-op and we lured the Cyberdemon (who only appears in CO-OP on that level) into the elevator and into the player start room which is a small room with gray stone textures and a window that looks out over the level. We did this for total mayhem; we'd respawn, then POW, a 5 foot rocket would totally splooge us - blow ours gibs all over the room. You could get about 2 pistol shots off before he nailed ya. We kept re-spawning and doing it over and over until he finally died. It was the funniest damn co-op session I ever played!!!

The pride and joy moment was when I got blown out that window and landed some 80 feet below in the courtyard (umph) only to see, from my own death perspective, my buddy Hitman get spleeeegged out the same window a moment later. I watched as his splattered corpse flew across the level and landed on some ledge. It was awesome. We laughed like little kids so hard our sides hurt."

If Doom had one universal effect on people then that effect was to bring the child out in people. It didn't matter if you were a 13 year old at home sick or a 30 year old professional lawyer; once Doom started, everyone was a hyperactive kid. Even grandpa would be using four letter words and throwing his teeth at you if you fragged him. Fun for the whole family. Sean "Redwood"Martin remembers, "going across an outdoor walkway with the mountain backdrop and into a room that turned pitch dark after you picked up the key. I then heard multiple Imp hisses and panicked! Things like that gave me chills, they were so creepy." Creepy indeed, as our esteemed editor, Jason "loonyboi" Bergman, can attest to, "..any one of those late nights I stayed up playing Doom with the lights out...I must have scared myself stupid like a million times."

Hands up if you ever had a Doom-related dream? It's hard to get an exact count from here, but chances are that just about everyone has dreamt about walking through strange 3D environments trying to work out how to get past the next bit. id Software mapper Xian "Disruptor" Ankow, took it one step further, "...playing a 12 hour straight stint of Doom, then getting into my car and in my exhaustion I hallucinated a pink demon running towards my car..."

Not all memories were directly related to the released game, some, such as Ryan "Ridah" Feltrin who is currently coding Kingpin for Xatrix, remembers; "my favorite memory is probably making my own levels. As crap as they were, I found it amazing that I could create a world of my own, and place in monsters that would come to life (so to speak)".

It probably comes as no surprise that Levelord, a Ritual mapper who's past work includes Duke Nukem 3D and Sin, has a similar story. "…[T]he night I first downloaded DEU [a Doom map editor] from CompuServe, made a copy of

E1M1, loaded it into DEU, cut a hole in a wall allowing access to that otherwise unaccessible outside area, and nearly dropping to the floor with the feeling of supreme power when I loaded the level into Doom. I simply could not believe that I had control over levels and, although I did not completely realize at the time, that I was an addict. From that moment on, I spent every waking minute designing levels. I still remember that night as though it was last night."

Creating maps was a past time picked up by many of the more 'creative' Doom players (have a look at the Doom map archive on cdrom.com to get a feel for just how many), and looking around the employee lists for any number of game companies these days reveals a surprisingly large number of those same hobby Doom map makers now working in the industry. In fact, the sub-industry that has built up around the first person shooter (FPS) genre is largely filled with people that got into the editing side of things for fun. Whether it be models, maps, textures, code, or whatever, so many people have found what must be the ultimate career as a result of Doom. These are people that have to play games at work! The game playing community was presented with Doom in one devastating blow; there was none of the softening (or spoiling, depending on your viewpoint) that we get these days where we know the plot, how it looks, all the cool features, and the opinion of every magazine (online and offline) in the world prior to release. It was just suddenly there all at once. As David "Zanshin" Van de Ven so neatly puts it, "OH MY GOD!"

There were, however, a group of keen gamers that didn't have the benefit of an all-at-once revelation, it was revealed slowly to them over the entire length of development. I'm talking, of course, about the developers of the game. The guys and gals at id Software.

Kevin Cloud, artist at id Software, recounts his most memorable Doom moment: "we were working out of the apartment and finishing up Spear of Destiny while John [Carmack] experimented with new tech. At the time we didn't know what our next project would be, we were thinking either or a shooter, or a small car racing game. Anyway, John wanted us to see a small test he had put together. It was a room with a hill in the middle of the floor. He had taken a page of graphics from Wolfenstein - a page with a Hitler portrait on it and used it for the floor. There were no walls or ceiling, but you clipped over the slope on the floor correctly. Just running up Hitler's head on the hill and leaping to the other side was fun. I'd never seen anything like it on the PC."

And a Genre is Born

There can't be many examples in the history of gaming where a genre-introducing game not only introduced the genre, but also so perfectly exploited the potential the new genre had to offer. Examining the maps shows every feature the new environment had to offer used to the full, the collection of baddies represented the perfect mix of variety in visual style and attack methods, the difficulty level was ramped as neatly as the introduction of new features, and the weapons.. well, how about those weapons!

It says a lot that five years on, the "classic" weapon set introduced in Doom is still employed as the weapon backbone for so many new games. With the additional weapons of Doom 2, they found the perfect balance of variety and power, short and long range, and skill verses mayhem. From the one-shot-to-the-chest kill of the double barrel shotgun, through the goose bump-inducing the sound of the BFG energizing, to the perfectly balanced rocket launcher reload time and flight speed, the Doom weapons were so, so right. BOOM! The FPS genre literally exploded after Doom. id Software followed it up with the enhanced, and even better, Doom 2 (which introduced my all time favorite game baddie, the Archvile), along with some games in partnership with other companies such Rogue and Raven, with their games Strife, Heretic, and the excellent Hexen.

Eventually other companies managed to catch up, the standout "Doom clones", to coin the phrase, were Dark Forces and Duke Nukem 3D, both excellent games that were different enough and added enough new ideas to make them more than clones; they kept the genre moving forward. Whether you saw either of those games as a "Doom beater" was a matter of personal taste, but either way, id were leading the way yet again with the release of Quake. Quake wasn't the show stopper that Doom was on its release, most likely the result of major design changes late in the project, but it still managed to come remarkably close. Subsequent FPS games were no longer "Doom clones", they had now become "Quake clones", and were trying to be "Quake beaters". Quake accepted the baton passed to it by Doom, but Doom was still in the back of everyone’s mind.


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Credits: Good Evening and Welcome to Hell © 1998 Rowan Crawford. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, dangit.