The History of Doom: Building A Classic Series


Doom is about to be reborn.

As one of the most popular FPS games ever made, the original Doom is regarded as a crucial step in the evolution of the genre, bringing a whole new level of maturity and atmosphere to shooters.

Understandably, anticipation for the imminent reboot is high. The new game means different things to different people: for those who have only played Doom 3, this is a chance to enjoy similar gameplay with a fresh story and gorgeous visuals; for those of us old enough to remember the original Doom’s release, it’s a blend of the old and the new, bringing the beloved fast-and-furious action up to date with today’s technology; and, for those players who’ve never been near a Doom game before, this is the perfect opportunity to become acquainted with the series before going back to explore previous titles.

To celebrate this new release, we look back at the history of the Doom series and the massive impact it’s had on the industry…

Starting Strong: Doom

doom 2Before Doom, there was Wolfenstein 3D.

This Nazi-busting shooter was a continuation of a 2D series, and evolved into a massive franchise in its own right. The innovative engine laid the foundations for an entire new movement that is still inherent in today’s FPS genre, putting players in 3D environments with varying textures and fast-paced action. It may not have been the first first-person blaster, but it ushered in so much change.

Doom was an extension and an evolution of the Wolfenstein 3D engine: changes included variations in the heights of ceilings, floor levels, and lighting improvements. While the first Doom game looks ropey today, and may even feel virtually unplayable at first, its world felt remarkably more detailed and real at the time.

id Software was focused on making Doom a bloody, scary game in the vein of the Alien movies (they were even interested in picking up the license, before realising this would limit their creativity). Still, elements of the films’ styling appear in Doom, not least in the protagonist being a grungy space marine well out of his depth.

However, rather than taking on extraterrestrial beasts, Doomguy (as he came to be known) faced down hordes of demons, battling through monsters from the heights of space to the depths of Hell itself. This structure set the scene for a grotesque adventure filled with nightmarish enemies and imagery – something we may take for granted now.

Beyond its plot, the influence of cinematic horror was also clear in Doom’s visuals: the dynamic lighting created a more sinister atmosphere, an innovative feature at the time (this was ramped right up in Doom 3, as you might remember).

While the extreme gore and kick-ass weapons (such as the chainsaw and BFG, both hallmarks of the series now) helped make Doom more appealing to gamers craving something different in an age of Sonic and Mario, it also led to controversy. Religious groups took exception to the game’s content, while others attempted to tie it to real-life shootings (including the tragic Columbine incident); furthermore, the Genesis 32X version was one of the first games to rceive an M for Mature classification from ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board).

Still, the game survived this onslaught – just like so many other controversial titles since.

As well as revolutionising what action games could be, Doom also fuelled interest in mods, allowing players to create their own custom levels and features. While such tinkering was nothing new, Doom was the first game to secure a large mod-making following, which is now a major aspect of PC gaming. The game was released as shareware, distributed from one player to another with more content available in the paid registered version – a novel way to put building a fan base ahead of immediate profit.

Multiplayer gameplay also helped Doom’s release enjoy immense success, with the bloody action and proliferation of PC gaming encouraging more and more players to take part in early online deathmatch battles, via a modem or linking two units together.

How successful was Doom? Well, more than 15 million people are believed to have played it in just the first two years of its release alone.

A sequel was inevitable.

Second Helpings: Doom II

doom 3Unlike its predecessor, Doom II: Hell on Earth was a commercial release available for purchase in shops. The game wasn’t a huge leap in terms of its technology, but rather it featured more complex, more expansive levels – the graphics may have been almost the same, but players had more freedom to explore away from a set path.

The number of demons and enemies throughout the game was also doubled from the first, with characters serving as bosses in the original now standard enemies. The Super Shotgun was added to the player’s arsenal, and the Megasphere was a new power-up that boosted Doomguy’s armour and health to a whopping 200 percent (the creepy face on its centre was a nice touch, too).

Doom II was a massive hit, shifting a staggering 500,000 copies at launch alone. Following its release, the modding-community created a huge amount of custom features for the game, filling their own maps with characters from popular movies – including Star Wars. This mod was so popular that LucasArts eventually pushed a Doom clone set in their own galaxy far, far away into production. Dark Forces was the result.

Doom III: Third Time’s A Charm

doom 4Following Doom II’s release, an army of clones continued to appear, as well as Final Doom (a refined and expanded version of the game). However, word on a third main entry in the series was nowhere to be seen.

It wasn’t until 2001 that Doom III was actually announced, ending fans’ calls for a continuation of their favourite franchise, and the game eventually surfaced in summer 2003.

The long wait would have made any disappointment even worse, but thankfully Doom III was a huge success with fans and critics alike. This was a reboot of the series, featuring a deeper and more engrossing storyline than previous games, enhancing the player’s sense of immersion in the action. Unlike before, Doomguy was able to encounter NPCs during the campaign, and the horror-centric tone was taken to a new degree: the game was played in extreme darkness, and while a flashlight was available, players were (originally, at least) unable to carry both this and a weapon at the same time. Having to choose between defence and visibility lent the game more of a survival-horror feel, and, combined with more visceral violence, made it the scariest entry in the series so far.

All in all, Doom games have sold more than 10 million copies across many consoles, and the third game counts for a large portion of this.

Doom (2016): What Does the Future Hold?

doom 5In a world of Black Ops, Advanced Warfare, and Halo, can a new Doom game achieve the same success as its predecessors? There’s no reason why not – gaming is more mainstream today than ever, and this being a reboot opens it up to a whole new audience.

Maintaining the same fast-paced gameplay has been a priority, and id Software has also taken care to streamline the storytelling to minimize interruptions. Players can immerse themselves in the plot and background at their leisure, or simply concentrate on the experience itself. While weapons and gear can be upgraded (an essential feature in most games today), this appears to have been implemented as part of a simple system, reducing the amount of time players have to spend poring over menus.

So far, it seems that id Software have taken the right approach to reinvigorate the franchise for new and long-term fans alike: paying attention to what made the series a hit in the first place, while not being afraid to add features today’s buyers expect to see. Glory Kills, for example, might have seemed an unwelcome addition for some purists, but a closer look at the game reveals this feature does nothing to slow the action down or detract from the run-and-gun chaos at its heart.

There’s no pleasing absolutely everybody, of course, but Doom looks like it has all the right ingredients to bring the series into today’s gaming world beautifully. Even if players feel the single-player campaign isn’t for them, the multiplayer mode should have plenty to offer the online community.

At least there’s not long to wait now to see the finished game in all its glory.

What’s your favourite Doom game so far? Let us know!

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