[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Doom is 20

December 9th, 2013 by Benj Edwards

id Software Doom for Atari Jaguar Ad Advertisement - 1994One of the best reasons to own a Jaguar circa 1994

Twenty years ago this week, id Software launched one of the most important and influential PC games of all time: Doom. It started as a modest shareware download but grew to change the entire video game industry. To explain how, here's 2009 Benj writing about the title for a PC World slideshow:

Id's archetypical first-person shooter triggered a sea change in the PC game industry, which had formerly been dominated by slow, plodding strategy turn fests, brainy simulations, and stilted PC action titles of yore.

In contrast, Doom was the first of a new generation of fast-paced, smooth action titles that utilized new visual techniques to push PC hardware to its limits. With Doom, PC gamers could experience fluid gameplay, graphics, and sound that easily topped what was found on home game consoles of the day — an uncommon achievement at that point.

Moreover, it introduced exciting new network multiplayer options that are widely imitated to this day, coining the term "deathmatch" in the process.

From its lowly roots as a MS-DOS shareware title, Doom spread like a weed to other platforms, including game consoles, which now count first-person shooters as one of their best-selling genres.

"Doom defined the 3D shooter genre and made multiplayer gaming mainstream," says Tim Sweeney (founder of Epic Games and creator of the Unreal Engine), "And it did them with such incredible polish, artistry, and foresight that it created an industry."

Considering that Doom launched in 1993 via shareware channels, I'm not aware of when or in what publication the first advertisement for Doom appeared. (I believe GT Interactive became distributor for the full, boxed PC version of Doom much later, but I could be mistaken.)

So instead, I found this nifty November 1994 scan for the Atari Jaguar version of Doom. I received this version of the game for Christmas in 1994, and it was an amazing gift.

Pushing the PC Limits, Jaguar Relief

Most people don't remember how much horsepower Doom required in a PC at the time — at least 4 MB of RAM, a mid-range 486 CPU, and a sound card to run passably well. So I had trouble running the game on any PC up to that point.

In 1993, we had one 486 in the household with exactly 4 MB of RAM (to contrast, my personal PC sported a 16 MHz 386 and 2MB RAM), and I had to make a special 5.25″ boot disk that loaded fewer resident DOS drivers, etc. so I could run Doom on that 486 at all. If I recall correctly, I didn't have enough spare RAM to load the SoundBlaster drivers at boot, so the experience was limited. My friend had to run Doom on his mom's 486 the same way. Even then, the game didn't run at full frame rate. Doom pushed the limits.

So coming from that environment, it was an amazing convenience to just plug a Doom cartridge into the Jaguar and play, full-speed, full-screen, with glorious sound and no hiccups. My brother and I played a lot of Doom on that console well into 1996 — until I got a more powerful PC that could run Doom with ease.

Until the PlayStation port of Doom came out (late 1995), the Jaguar port was widely considered the best port of the game (in terms of screen window size, lighting effects, monster interaction, sound, controls, and frame rate) available on consoles. Its biggest drawback was lack of a soundtrack during gameplay. I think that's because John Carmack used the Jag's DSP co-processor to handle graphics routines instead of music, which was unconventional on that platform.

But I digress. What a great game. I still play Doom regularly via modern source ports on the PC — most recently on my new 1080p big screen TV set. Add on Xbox 360 controller support via ZDoom, and you've got Doom heaven. It's a game that never seems to get old for me, even 20 years on. That's the mark of a true classic in my book.

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, November 1994, p.109]

Discussion Topic of the Week: How did you feel when you first played Doom? What are your memories of the occasion?



11 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Doom is 20”

  1. Bean Says:

    Those interested in Doom should also check out the book "Masters of Doom", an excellent chronicle of the times at id software through the doom and quake years.

  2. Multimedia Mike Says:

    The first time I remember seeing Doom was in a computer shop. They were showcasing a machine with an enormous (for the time) monitor and I was stunned by the outdoor mountain vistas seen through the fortress windows. Crazy to think that it was just 320×200 resolution blown up really large.

    I also remember helping to teach a basic internet skills class circa 1997. One unit was about finding games on the internet. I guided one woman along the journey of downloading and playing MacDoom. Blasting her first virtual monster was truly a transformative experience for her.

    I wrote this up in detail if you care to read further: http://games.multimedia.cx/doom-for-everyone/

  3. Space Harrier Says:

    I remember Doom being quite scary. The sound effects were very atmospheric and the darkness and blood added to the eerie feeling. When you faced a tough monster it was genuinely frightening.
    I think all the best games evoke a feeling, that is what sets them apart from the others.
    Looking back at it now, it is pretty crappy and the graphics are basic. At the time is was awesome. The inspiration behind minecraft I think.

  4. SirFatty Says:

    I downloaded it from the Apogee BBS….

    The company I worked for back then was very small, we manufactured equipment that interfaced to PCs. We had several computers on hand at any given moment. I talked the owner into letting us install a 10b2 network ostensibly as a way to increase productivity. We wanted to play Doom multiplayer. One evening he came by the lab (around 8:00p) and was none too happy. But man, we had a lot of fun.

    So, not only was it the first FPS (for all intents and purposes), but multiplayer as well… I still have the box and 3.5″ floppies from when I purchased it.

  5. TNLongFellow Says:

    I can remember playing Doom on my 468 33Mhz machine with a mega 8 megs of RAM and it bogging down so much at the end that it became unplayable.

    However to this day I still love the game and was delighted to see that my copy of Doom 3 for the 360- had the original Doom on it! Yay!

  6. Dan Helton Says:

    Don't know why, but this dumb Doom 2 mod popped in my head. It always makes me laugh.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aJjMOy-Ops

  7. technotreegrass Says:

    Doom blew my mind, being my first real exposure to PC gaming. Prior to that, I knew nothing but console gaming and games on the Apple ][. When my grade school FINALLY got the funding to put in PCs in 1996, my fellow classmates passed around a disk so we all could play. Come high school, we passed around a CD of the whole NES library. Any classes involving a computer always featured the same conversation: asking for help involving whatever we were working on, and then asking for tips for whatever NES game they were playing at the time.

  8. arlandi Says:

    agree with Space Harrier, first time playing this game was quite scarry. the monsters, the atmosphere of the game. it was the most advance game of the time.
    i've played castle wolfenstein before, but Doom is way better, imo.
    too bad i no longer able to play FPS games because of the motionsickness i will experience after playing more than 15 minutes…

  9. Forth Says:

    oh! just found a new site where i can read these retro games.

    really wonderful game, i had that finished on my friend's computer, but i wanted more. during the time i played this, the top of the line pc i know is anything that runs intel pentium 4, which costs alot here in our country. definitely a good game, it had me playing up until now.

  10. Ant Says:

    DOOM rocked!!!!!!

  11. Gorka L Martinez Mezo Says:

    I remember jumping into the Doom wagon without any hardware problems; at the time it was aboard either a 25 Mhz 486SX with 8Mb RAM or into its 100Mhz Pentium 1 replacement. In any case, the experience was quite trouble free compared with Strike Commander (from the Wing Commander series) wich included a complete tutorial on extended memory, how to get as much memory free as possible from the first 640kb, etc. Game support included telephone contact to set up the computer, something I had never seem before (at least in Spain). That was though to install but REALLY awesome once running. But I disgress….

    Doom was very popular and from time to time we set up LAN games using null modem cables at friends; Internet and such were absolutely unknown and nobody even knew what a modem was. We had to carry all the impedimenta (computer CPU, CRT, monitors, keyboards…) so it was time consuming and needed somebody with access to a car. But absolutely worth it.

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