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Some games are not just great, they are so good that they become groundbreaking. We are talking about classics that defined whole new genres, introduced groundbreaking technique or gameplay, and impacted whole generations of gamers. We want to dedicate the first part of our series “Games that started it all” to a very special title: DOOM.
Nowadays, First Person Shooters (FPS) are among the most popular genres in computer and video gaming. Games such as Call of Duty, Halo, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and PUBG are a staple in the modern industry with millions of players each.
In the early 1990s the now legendary studio id Software revolutionized gaming. After their first successful release Wolfenstein 3D (1992), the developers led by John Carmack, Tom Hall, and John Romero further developed the formula of the much-acclaimed game and basically defined a whole new genre all by themselves.
Dawn of a new era
The result of their efforts was DOOM (1993), a fast-paced action shooter in which the players fight their way through monster-filled mazes, solve simple puzzles and get access to a more powerful arsenal of weapons. Although the game looks very washed up in comparison to today’s standards, DOOM came up with some technical innovations that were taken up by all its successors.
The engine allowed for a more complex level design than any other 3D game. Things that we don’t consider to be special nowadays such as stairs, windows, moving platforms and elevators were novelties that made the world of DOOM more authentic, interesting, and diverse.
DOOM (left) was the first FPS to make use of innovative lighting effects to invoke suspense. This technique has been brought to perfection in modern games like Alien Isolation (right). Source: id Software/Creative Assembly, YouTube
By diminishing lighting, colors could gradually fade into darkness thereby creating the illusion of spatial distance and variable lighting. The dynamic lighting contributed much to DOOM’s atmosphere, inspired fear and horror in the players like no game before. The play with light and darkness has become a staple in horror shooters ever since, with games such as Dead Space and Alien Isolation carrying this effect to extremes.
A source of inspiration
id Software was influenced by several pop-cultural texts, from action films such as Terminator and Aliens, to the satanic imagery used in fantasy role-playing games, to thrash metal and science fiction. Half-Life was one of the games reusing ideas from DOOM. Later on, a Half-Life mod called Counter-Strike would eventually become one of the most popular esports in the world. Without DOOM this would have hardly been possible.
The levels in DOOM are full of demons. Many games copied this style and reused concepts introduced in DOOM. Source: id Software
Father of Multiplayer
The long-lasting popularity of the game is strongly tied to its multiplayer mode. Players could engage in direct competition against each other and find entirely new challenges after they ended the game. Such a multiplayer mode was added to almost any other FPS that came after DOOM and boosted the development of network play.
DOOM’s successor Quake (1996) was probably even more impactful in this regard. It is probably the classic in esports that has spawned clans and teams galore; the basis of international organizations like SK Gaming and others. Today’s most popular shooters Fortnite and Apex Legends have still much in common with these titles of old: the action-packed, superfast gameplay and the relentless competitiveness of the multiplayer experience are characteristic trademarks shared by both generations of shooters. Considering the progress of the genre has made in the last 25 years, it is quite remarkable how one single game fundamentally changed the whole gaming industry.