WHAT DOOM DID FOR GAMING
Doom – The true beginning of modern gaming genealogy A handful of 3.5” floppy disks, a screen burned and seriously stained monitor and a PC that didn’t smell quite right and sounded like a harrier jet, this is where the true beginning...
Posted by koopa42 on Dec 11, 2010 20:50 (Dec 11, 2010 20:50)
Doom – The true beginning of modern gaming genealogy
A handful of 3.5” floppy disks, a screen burned and seriously stained monitor and a PC that didn’t smell quite right and sounded like a harrier jet, this is where the true beginnings of the modern gaming era were spawned for on those disks lay Knee deep in the dead, the very first installement of Doom. The original Doom was of course a technical marvel, years ahead of anything around at the time - obviously a direct decendant of Wolfenstein but truly peerless at the time. As a game most (if not all) gamers had seen nothing like this both in gameplay and design. Is Doom the greatest game of all time? Many believe so and equally as many believe not quite, one thing is for sure – it’s legacy is clear to see throughout gaming since and even saturates the modern era.
On a personal level I count Doom as one of the best and most influential games of all time, a game that even now has something that won’t die, not only does it live on, it continues to drag new players kicking and screaming to it’s cause. For those gamers who had played it first time around it still has a spark that hooks us back again and again, multi platform, multi format, the game is immortal. What is it that Doom has? I don’t believe it’s just about it’s technical merit, graphics or gameplay etc but more about the combination of all of the game’s attributes coming together for a real ‘big bang’ moment in gaming which is an ironic analagy especially as it seems gaming is currently heading for a ‘big crunch’ but that story is for another time.
I often think about key moments in gaming when at the time you thought ‘this is it, I can’t believe this is real’. Whether the first time you played a survival horror or some hugely deep RPG. For me the obvious one would be Resident Evil on the PS1, I locked myself away for the entire weekend and literally played it from beginning to end with maybe 4 hours sleep inbetween but amongst the many jaw dropping moments it’s the first time I played Doom that really set my gaming heart on fire. Before doom for many years I had played games, starting with simple character (and I do mean actual characters like the letter A inverted and surrounded with a block as you gaming character) based platformers such as Krazy Kong on the ZX Spectrum but also in the years that followed some seriously great games on the 8bit and deranged, one off systems of the time. Of course you have to include the early arcade video games ranging from the basics such as Pacman or Frogger to the trend setters like Street Fighter II (again Ironically my favourite game of all time released a mere 2 years before Doom). It is important to note that some of these games were great, real solid games again a few broke the mold and should (rightly so) be known a gaming classics, yet none of them were that crux that seemed to set us on the way to what we now call modern gaming.
Lets look at what perhaps should be classed as early FPS games, straight off the bat I’d go with Operation Wolf and Thunerbolt (1987 & 88) these were games that actually had a fucking gun controller, surely these are the real base models for the modern FPS? Then there are the Duck Hunt type games on the home consoles, again with actual gun controllers for the kids of the time to coo over. They have to me in with a shout? No, it’s Doom that is the daddy, the granddaddy, the real matriach of not only the FPS genre of games but of online PVP play, online and local co-op and many of it’s more subtle nuances are clear as day to see in almost every aspect of gaming.
It’s strange to think that Doom as a game isn’t what you might call complex, it’s point and shoot, get from A to B and occasionally C, pick up better weapons, weapons that number but 8? There are games out there that have more actual characters to choose from than weapons in Doom but that doesn’t matter, the premise and design of Doom is gaming purity, it’s the perfect moment, the god particle of gaming. If you read the manual of Doom (yes, even the game manual is great) that even points out that the game is simple ‘yes you’re a bad ass marine, your buddies are all dead, you have a pistol, and it’s up to you to defeat the hordes of hell! Go on sort it out’ again the simplest of premises.
The A to B part of playing Doom is decepivly shallow, yes you can always head stright to the exit but it’s the introduction of an actual percentage of item collected, enemies killed, and secrets found that is perhaps the biggest moment of genius in Doom. Gamers by definition are usually OCD types who want to find or see everything and get that buzz from doing so. The combination of those 3 percentages is awesome, you finish a level and are watching with bated breath hoping that the three 100% marks come up, when they do it’s like sex, when they don’t it’s like having sex again because you didn’t do it right the first time. Some of the secrets in the original Doom games are awesome taking real patience and time to actually get to culminating in entire secret levels which blow your mind when you first encounter them. Once again we see the effect that this sort of mechanic has directly on the modern gaming industry, no more so apparent then with the modern phrase of content toruist – a person that wants to see the most out of a game in the breifest of time. Modern games are only now cottoning on to something which the ID boys hit upon 17 years ago. I don’t like to compare this too much because in Doom you really have to work for your supper so to speak, Doom doesn’t bend over and show you it’s wet spot, you have to go hunting and be ready for the long haul. A content tourist would encounter spontaneous cellular death if he tried to see all of what the likes of Doom has to offer in a short space of time.
I’m not the most technically understanding person in the world, I couldn’t explain the gubbins behind the Doom game engine but it did have something I always noticed and was impressed by. I think there are 2 sorts of attack in Doom, projectile based and not projectile based. If you fire the rocket launcher, plasma gun or BFG2000 you see the projectile fired and if you strafe you can clearly see it travelling towards it’s targets immenent death yet weapons such as the pistol, chaingun and shotguns (I also assume melee attacks) don’t actually show anything other than a hit point on the target or background. I couldn’t tell you how it works, I assume it’s some sort of percentage chance of a hit dependant on range and bullet spread but again it’s a really good combination of stuff that works so well. I hadn’t seen that it a game before. This all adds to a true twitch shooter of a game, you mess up? You die. You run and gun? You die. You shoot all the time? You run out of ammo and die. It’s important to recognise that playing doom at it’s higher difficulties such as ultrviolent will involve resource management of ammo, tactics for hordes differing types of enemy and most importantly blind luck, sometimes you will come a cropper getting caught in a tight room or on a piece of scenery that you’ve gotten past 100s of times before but luck can be a bitch and in Doom? You die.
For the best Doom experience it has to be the playstation 1 versions of Doom and Final Doom, minimal preparation (just put the disk in) and maximum fun but also the versions available on XBLA are a welcome distraction with some fun little extras including leaderboards for those of us wanting to prove our Doom worth.
If something isn’t broken, don’t fix it. The creators of Doom have taken this saying to heart, right up to the re-boot that was Doom3. As a gamer I can’t stress enough that sometimes more of the same outweighs going in a new direction. Look at Doom, Doom II, Doom the master levels, Final Doom – all basically the same game just with new levels, I mean there is only 1 additional weapon in Doom II and that’s your lot. For me this is the key to Doom’s longevity, they took what they had in Doom (a perfect game) and stuck with it for most of the 90’s and that game fucking sold, you know it did. Everyone has played Doom, everyone has fragged the fuck out of mates online in Doom, everyone has ‘chum’s up lets do this’ moments of online co-op in Doom. This is all way before PSN or XBL, this was the empire of the Jasper’s, the revenge of the nerds, the more technically minded people sitting sorting out LAN stuff, all to slay demons (or each other) in the world of Doom.
Doom 3 was the end of all of this, a good solid game for sure but part of the big crunch gaming is heading for in my opinion. Nice to look at, all the clichés you expect to see in FPS games these days but s real departure from the original Doom. The best thing about Doom 3? The inclusion of the original Doom on game in most releases. You can’t blame the ID boys for this, they run a business after all and need to keep up but nothing will ever recapture the greatness of the original Doom games played on the original Doom engine.