Good Evening, and Welcome to Hell (five years of Doom)
By Rowan "Sumaleth" Crawford
By the time Quake had arrived, the FPS was no longer the realm of a single game; the community had already begun to fragment heavily, with some players preferring the RPG style of Hexen, others enjoying the tongue-in-cheek style of Duke, a large number unable to enjoy anything new since Doom, and the rest spread out around the many other titles. Quake changed that to a degree, it refocused the community back to a single game, although the days of a single game entrancing everyone were well past so even Quake had to be one of the crowd. It simply managed to gather a bigger crowd than the other games.
Post-Quake came an avalanche of FPS games, an event which is still very much in full swing. The introduction of engine licensing suddenly gave everyone with some talent and money the opportunity to make FPS games without the overhead of creating a new engine from scratch, and so, not surprisingly, many of the FPS games to come out in recent years have been based around licensed engines. Doom's engine was used for games like HACX, Outlaws used the Dark Forces engine, Duke's engine ended up in a number of games such as Shadow Warrior and Redneck Rampage. Quake's engine was the most expensive of the lot to license, yet still proved to be incredibly popular with titles such as Hexen 2 and Half-Life. However, most games that originally licensed the Quake engine switched to the Quake 2 engine mid development.
And then there was Quake 2.
Id Software were back again in almost no time at all with a nicely updated version of their own Quake engine (although I suspect they didn't have to pay the license fee) for a semi-sequel. A sequel by name and engine only; the story, graphics and gameplay were all substantially different from Quake, yet the result was one of the best examples the genre had yet seen.
Following the release of Quake 2 came more licenses for games such as Sin, Anachronox, and Kingpin. However, the big Quake 2 engine license from an general interest point of view, is probably the one for Daikatana, the brainchild of John Romero at his new company Ion Storm. John was (do I need to say?) one of the names behind our birthday boy, Doom, so to say there's a buzz of anticipation in the gaming community for his first personal project is something of an understatement. Unfortunately there have been a number of large delays and problems with team members leaving, but there are plenty of other great games coming out that I think we can wait a bit longer without bursting.
It took a while, nearly 5 years to be exact, but with the release of Quake 2 (or shortly after) the rest of the industry began to catch up in the art of 3D engine design (although the Duke Nukem 3D 'Build' engine did lead the pack briefly before the release of Quake). While there are still a number of games being produced based on the Quake 2 engine, there are also an incredible number of games licensing other engines, and a surprising number of companies producing their own engines. Unreal warrants a mention here, not only because it seemed to take nearly 4 years from the start to the end of the project, but also because it introduced some major enhancements to the genre. The new features included, for the first time, massive (massive) outdoor environments, and the inclusion of ingame cinematics to the extent that they became part of the game, not simply the occasional break between maps. This second concept was to be heavily exploited in the recent Half-Life.
The other interesting effect of Unreal's release was that some companies that had already licensed the Quake 2 engine, or at least announced they were going to do so, actually moved mid-production across to the Unreal engine (requiring a second, expensive, engine license in some cases), such as the Duke Nukem Forever project.
The list of games in production or released utilizing the Unreal engine include; Duke Nukem Forever, Deux Ex, Klingon Honor Guard, Wheel of Time, and the list goes on and on…
Monolith recently released two FPS games based around their Lithtech engine, Shogo: MAD, and Blood 2. Cavedog is producing an inhouse engine for Amen, Dreamworks created their own engine for Trespasser, Rebel Boat Rocker has created one for Prax War, Prey has its own engine, as does Requiem, Jedi Knight, Rainbow Six (with its strategy orientated slant on the genre). Not to mention a number of new companies starting up now. Oh, and I can't forget to include The Varginha Incident in this list!
Lets not also forget that while Doom may have introduced the 'first person' genre to the big time, it also inadvertently introduced the 3rd person genre as well. If you follow the influences back from hit games such as
Tomb Raider, Heretic 2, and even Mario64 you invariably end up back at Doom. I've also failed to mention all the mods that have surfaced for many FPS games such as Capture The Flag, as well as the mission packs etc (see my
loonygames feature article from last week for more on 'addons'). Doom didn't just introduce new game genres, it also touched on a number of completely different industries. The prime example has to be the Doom movie that has been mentioned on and off over the last couple of years. According to Todd Hollenshead, CEO of id Software, "Sony/Columbia/TriStar insists that it is a priority with them and that they are diligently working on it."
They can mark me down for a ticket right now if they like.
Then there is the US army that used a modified version of Doom as training for their soldiers. I'm not sure how they explained respawn to the troops. Other items include a range of pewter miniatures based on the Doom characters. You actually got a Cyberdemon model (along with a TON of other cool stuff: a Doom Comic book, the book of id, a limited edition t-shirt, dog tags, poster, etc.) if you bought the id Anthology. The latest and greatest Doom-child is Half-Life by Valve Software, a game that put its hand up and offered to take the FPS to a new level in gameplay through the use of artificial intelligence (AI that, for once, actually seemed intelligent), and an interactive story that literally is the game. It pushes deeply into territories discovered in only the last 12 months - plots, non-player characters, interactive environments, ingame cinematics etc - territories that open up vast acres of potential for the FPS genre, and the gaming community as a whole. The future looks very bright indeed.
To Infinity and Beyond
And what exactly is the future of the FPS genre? The main game of the moment has to be id Software's current project, Quake 3: Arena. With its emphasis on deathmatch based gameplay, Arena sees id departing from the traditional FPS design (i.e. the one they created) in an attempt to again try something different. The world's collective breath is well and truly baited.
Duke Nukem Forever is definitely one to watch. The Ion Storm series of games - Daikatana, Anachronox and Deux Ex - are heavily anticipated releases since the heavy hyping of the company’s birth. Cavedog is currently working on Amen, their attempt to do for the FPS genre what they did for the realtime strategy genre with Total Annihilation. Prey? Well, it sounds like it's still coming.
It might be a good time to look back over the last dozen or so paragraphs and try to comprehend that all these fantastic games are the direct, irrefutable, result of that game of the moment, Doom! And that is only a very partial list of all the games that could be considered children of Doom.
The children of Doom story may well come full circle in the future, with John Carmack recently uttering that magical phrase; "Doom2000". The title was mentioned as a possible future title, depending on the success or otherwise of the Arena experiment and many other contributing factors, but there can't be many people who aren't now dribbling uncontrollably at the thought of the Doom universe revisited using the Trinity engine and the combined talent of the id Software team. A Steed version of the Cyberdemon sounds almost too good to be true!
There you have it, the remarkable impact of Doom condensed awkwardly into a single article. One game that took on a life of its own, and in the process, become firmly cemented in the halls of history. Life without Doom, can you imagine what it might be like? I would probably have a lot more spare time on my hands for one thing, and I suspect there'd be a lot of people out there scratching their ass and bumping into things. Doom, and all its subsequent offspring, provide so many of us with an interest, a hobby, something creative to do, an adrenaline kick, a reason for meeting new people, a reason for staying up late, a job, a goal for the future, an outlet for whatever needs out letting, and, finally, a reason for being.
Happy birthday, Doom Guy.
|Credits: Good Evening, and Welcome to Hell © 1998 Rowan Crawford. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, dangit.|