When taking the long view of video game history – and there really isn’t that much history since we are talking at most fifty years – there have been a few games which altered the landscape of the past time in a drastic way. One of those games is Doom, and in this episode of The Origin of the Series, we are going to take a look at Doom and how the Doom Franchise has evolved over the years. For the sake of this video, we will be calling the new Doom game, Doom 2016.
HISTORY of the SERIES: BEFORE DOOM
The first Doom is the embodiment of metal. It’s vicious and violent, and yet mischievously clever. To say it is a dumb shooter is to underappreciate the brilliant design and aesthetic choices that tied the game together. Before we go into how the series evolved though, let’s go over how it came to be.
John Romero, John Carmack, Adrian Carmack (no relation) and Tom Hall all met while working at Softdisk in the late 80s. Unsatisfied with the work they were doing for the company, which was a software as a subscription service, they began to moonlight and develop their own games. These initial games were the Commander Keen series, which were distributed through Apogee Software via the Shareware model. Commander Keen was also a shining example of John Carmack’s ability to solve what seemed to be an unsolvable problem, namely, recreating the smooth scrolling of a Super Mario game on notoriously weak PC hardware.
The four eventually left Softdisk, and struck out on their own, developing games solely for Apogee. It was around this time their company name, originally Ideas from the Deep or IFD was shortened to just ID or, id. For more detailed information about the Softdisk days and their jump into independent development, I definitely recommend checking out the book Masters of Doom, which John Romero has said is a very accurate high level account of the events.
3D was an idea that Carmack had been chewing on for a while. He had previously programmed two 3D games, in Hovertank 3D and Catacomb 3D. Scott Miller, the owner of Apogee knew they had something on their hands, and asked the id team to develop a 3D shareware title.
The result was Wolfenstein 3D. The game was a remake of the classic Silas Warner title from the early 80s, Castle Wolfenstein. The game had been a huge influence on a young John Romero and since Muse, the owner of the copyright, had gone into bankruptcy the title was in the public domain.
Wolfenstein 3D turned out to be a defining moment for the gaming industry. The first-person shooter genre was turned on its head because up until this point there had been nothing that moved so fast, and so violently. It made the id team rockstars and gave them the cache of fans they would use later to hype Doom.
While Spear of Destiny, the Wolfenstein prequel, was in development using the same engine, John Carmack began work on a new engine. It was initially licensed for a game by Raven Software called Shadowcaster, and unlike Wolfenstein, it allowed for changes in elevation. It was this engine that would ultimately be refined into the DOOM engine, or as it is now known, id Tech 1. With the rock star attitude the group had developed, id decided that they would self-publish their own title as a shareware, moving away from Apogee.
There had not been anything like Doom. It was fast, brutal and fun. It had changing elevations unlike its predecessor Wolfenstein, and it had dynamic lighting changes. Carmack’s elegantly programmed engine allowed this game to run smoothly on PCs which were still underpowered compared to workstations like the NeXT on which the game was programmed.
The plot, conceived by Tom Hall, was initially complex, and was eventually whittled down – you are an unnamed marine on Mars and the Union Aerospace Corporation has done some bad science and opened a portal to hell. Your character went from a military complex on Mars, to Hell, and then Back in the course of ultimately four action packed episodes.
The eponymous Doomguy moved quickly and ferociously. The maps were fun and well designed and the monsters were imposing and quite frankly, frightening. For as powerful as you felt with your character, the first time you encountered the Barons of Hell or the Cyberdemon you were definitely nervous that you were not going to be able to overcome their brutality.
The game also featured multiplayer modes that would ultimately cause havoc on University networks, forcing some network admins to create programs designed to shutdown instances of Doom on their networks.
One of the big side effects of Doom was on the modding community. Romero and Carmack had grown up has computer hackers, which back then basically referred to anyone in the subculture of looking into how programs were made, changing them, essentially, hacking them. When they first heard about people modding Wolfenstein 3D, they were reminded of their own youth doing much of the same. The problem, was that mods for Wolfenstein were destructive: the modders would have to overwrite the original game files. Carmack knew that Doom would ultimately be modded as well, so he organized the file structure so that modders could add to the game without needing to destroy the original files in the process. These file structures become famously known as WAD, which stood for Where’s All the Data.
The game was also the lumped in with a few other games that were the target of Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who figuring he knew best, threatened the gaming industry to come up with a ratings system or the government would do it for them. This eventually led to the ESRB we know today.
IN BETWEEN DOOM 1 and 2
The success of the first game would give the guys at id a ton of money, but would weaken the bond that they had when they were poor renegade developers. Romero leaned more on his gaming celebrity status while Carmack retreated further into the code. Tensions were mounting as Doom 2 entered development.
The first game to receive an “M for Mature” rating from the ESRB would be Doom 2. The game picks up where the story of the first one left off, with the Doomguy back on Earth, dealing with the invasion of Demons. The game used the same engine as Doom 1, which allowed Carmack to get back to work on future research.
All things being considered, not much changed between the two games. Some of the textures were updated with slightly higher resolutions. The action remained much the same however. One of the big changes though was behind the scenes. While Carmack was working on various ports and other side projects, John Romero had grown very interested in the “fun” of his growing celebrity. Where Romero had designed most of the levels on the first Doom game, the majority Doom II ended up being designed by Doom I vet Sandy Petersen, and relative id newcomer American McGee.
Doom 2 was another financial and critical success for id. Following DOOM 2, there would be one more “official” Doom game released by id using the Doom engine called Final Doom. This game, started in the modding community was eventually picked up by Id and added to the catalogue of PC Doom games.
After Doom 2
Doom 2 was the last Doom game with both Romero and Carmack at the helm. During the creation of Quake, Carmack and Romero’s relationship began to fracture more than it already had. Lack of a cohesive design for the game raised everyone’s tensions, and when the game was finally released, what should have been another watershed moment for the company quickly turned sour. Carmack forced Romero to resign, even though privately, Romero had been considering making an exit.
Romero would reunite with original id team member Tom Hall to found Ion Storm and Carmack would continue to be the de facto leader of id. While at Ion Storm, Romero poured all his budget and his teams energy into a game called Daikatana, while Carmack decided to revamp the engine he had just built for Quake for Quake 2.
Ultimately Daikatana was a massive failure for Romero. A poorly worded marketing campaign and poor critical reception killed any chance the game would have had. Though Ion Storm would go on to have a critical success with Deus Ex, it would be without Romero. Carmack and id continued on, and after Quake III Arena, turned their attention to…
Despite the objections of Id veterans like Adrian Carmack and Kevin Cloud, ID went to work on Doom 3. The game stated production in 2000 and was released in 2004 as a critical and financial success for id. Doom 3 was a story based game with heavy influence taken from the popular survival horror genre. Additionally, it was another graphical improvement for Carmack’s id Tech engines.
Gone was the fast-action of the original games, and it was replaced with a very detailed narrative featuring the misanthropic activities of the UAC. While people loved the game it did feel like a far cry from the DOOM games of old.
THE INTERVENING YEARS
In 2009, id Software was acquired by ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda. The company created a new IP for the first time since the development of Quake with Rage in 2011. The game was very well received. After Rage, Carmack started on what would be his last engine for id. He eventually left the company after trying to part-time as the CTO of Occulus Rift in 2013. Realizing that he could not do both, Carmack was the last founder to leave id Software. Id hired a new lead programmer to finish Carmack’s work on the new engine which would be used for a new Doom game.
Doom 2016 was released this year to strong reviews much to the surprise of anyone who had been following its development hell. In fact the game was entirely scrapped and started over at one point! The game was also not provided to any reviewers prior to its release, which is typically a move of a company with a product they want to shield from pre-release negativity.
The game tosses aside the idea of a slower, horror style shooter and returns to the roots of old-school Doom. Never stop moving, and never stop to think, just rip and tear. Much like Doom 3, the game is a reboot to the series, with a more fleshed out story than the first game. However, the great thing about the story is that it is easily ignored. The Doom Marine that you control in Doom 2016 just doesn’t care about the circumstances, he simply hates demons and wishes to kill them. If you as a player wish to absorb more story, it is there to absorb.
OTHER DOOM GAMES
There have been other Doom games to come out over the past 20 years as well. Doom 64 was one of them and it had a story that was somewhat of a sequel to Doom II, in which the Doom Marine is sent back to one of the moon’s in the solar system in order to deal with another outbreak of demons. The ending (spoiler alert, I guess) features the Doom Marine deciding to stay in Hell to prevent any more demon invasions. In fact it’s this game that many use to try to tie Doom 2016 into the main series as a sequel, rather than a reboot. Doom 64 was not developed by id Software, and I will be skipping over it in the comparisons later in the video.
There’s also Doom II RPG. Which is a thing. It doesn’t seem to load on my phone so… moving on.
EVOLUTION OF THE SERIES
Now that we’ve gone through the history of the series, let’s take a comparative look at all the games.
Ignoring the obvious fact that the games are made years apart, I think it’s important to compare the aesthetic and intent behind the graphics, rather than pure pixel and polygon counts.
Here is how the various Demons have changed over the years. Keep in mind I’m skipping Doom 2 for the most part, as it was created with the same engine and mostly the same assets. Two of the main enemies that were added were the Revenant and the Icon of Sin, which is less of an enemy and more of a giant evil wall that spawns enemies. What is really noticeable is the difference in Doom 3. Whereas in 1, 2, and 4, the demons tend to be somewhat colorful, in Doom 3 they have a tendency to blend into the surroundings. Now this was probably done intentionally, as targets you can’t get a good bead on are slightly more frightening than those that you can.
Speaking of surroundings, let’s look at the levels. Doom 3 is somewhat more washed out compared to the others.
Doom was designed by John Romero at the top of his game and focus and Doom 2 saw the emergence of American McGee. The layout of the levels are fun and creative and allowed for the player to explore. The limitations of the engine prevented rooms from being on top of each other though. Doom 3 took a different approach, with a more claustrophobic feeling, meaning the enemies always felt right on top of you.
Doom 2016 is much more open and allows the player room to run and gun. The level design feels much more like older doom maps.
Doom 1 and 2 were sound designed by Bobby Prince. The games riffs of classic metal and rock songs to set the music bed and creepy creature effects for each of the baddies in the game. The first two Doom games were pretty badass when it came to sound, even if they sound very “midi” by today’s standards.
Doom 3 deviated a bit from the sound stylings, but that was intentional, as the design reinforced the horror genre mood, rather than the action of the first two. Music was rare as most of the audio was from the environment, the weapons, the monsters and the random radio cackles of other survivors trying to survive the onslaught of demons elsewhere in the base.
Doom 2016 sounds like a loving tribute to the first two games, with plenty of non-diegetic music that seems to ramp as your adrenaline does.
Doom 1 and 2 rewarded two things, being fast, but also exploration. There were weapons and secrets to be had by those who were willing to take a pause from the rip and tear action. The games carefully balanced the two. Doom 3 was less about exploration, and more about straight survival. As mentioned in the level design segment, everything felt a bit tight and leading the player in a particular direction. Doom 2016 on the other hand rewards exploration with all sorts of little collectables and upgrades available for your character. The new Doom takes the concept of exploration from the originals and enhances it to a new level.
As I mentioned a second ago, being fast was something that was really stressed in early Doom games. You had to keep moving lest be overwhelmed by hordes of demons. Doom 2016 is a return to that form. The modern Doomguy is fast, agile, and unlike his early counterpart, can jump and even DOUBLE jump like a mo-fo. Something that is worth noting, is that between Doom 3 and Doom 2016, id decided to go back to the original Doom games and do away with clip reloads. This is a welcome addition, because while it takes a step away from realism, it definitely helps with the pacing.
Something interesting to note about the gameplay in Doom 2016 is the addition of Glory Kills. These are hand to hand combat executions that the Doomguy performs on staggered enemies and they are not seen in any OFFICIAL version of Doom. But they do appear in an unofficial modded version of Doom called Brutal Doom. Brutal Doom is a mod on the original games that adds more blood and weapons as well as violent hand to hand take downs on the demons. I haven’t heard any official statement from id about the influence Brutal Doom may have had on the development of Doom 2016, but it would be a hell of a coincidence of parallel development if they had not seen Brutal Doom before implementing the Glory Kill concept.
There is definitely a world for Doom 3. In fact, on its own, it’s a pretty great game using the set pieces of Doom to create a moody and utterly frightening experience. However, when looking at the series as a whole, Doom 3 begins to stick out a little bit. I don’t feel that id made the wrong move with Doom 3, but it was refreshing to see them go back to their roots with Doom 2016. As Capcom has shown with the Resident Evil series, the gradual change of tone and style of a game is not always a good thing, but THAT, is for another video.
As of this video, neither Romero or Carmack have commented on the new Doom game, but I personally would be interested in hearing their thoughts on the development especially since Romero released a new Doom level for the first time in 20 years in April of 2016 in anticipation of a new first person shooter that he is working on.
Hey everybody, thanks for watching. This is the first video in my new show Origin of the Series, and I really hope you enjoyed it. If you liked this please like, share, and leave a comment below. And in that comment, let me know what other series you would like for me to tackle in this format. Also, here are other videos that I have done that you may enjoy. Check them out! My name is Spoiler Kevin, and you can follow me on twitter @SpoilerKevin. I hope you have a fabulous day.