Obscure Pixels – Doom

Doom, id Software’s 1993 hit, is probably one of the single most influential games in history. Sure, Wolfenstein 3D may have been the first to ‘invent’ the first person shooter and popularise it, but Doom perfected it. It was also, for me, a childhood favourite on which I spent hours. It was a good game, and shooting demons is a fun time. Or chainsawing them. Or punching them!

Early development

It’s 1992. Wolfenstein 3D and its sequel, Spear of Destiny is out and is a success, and the team at id Software are sitting back wondering what they should make next. The team is hard at work making all kinds of engines to experiment with different types of games. John Carmack, co-founder and software wizard, had come up with an amazing new 3D engine that allowed for slopes, more textures on environments, and all kinds of cool things but was considered too slow for a fast-paced action game. Another Commander Keen game was being thrown around but was deemed a poor fit for the new engine, and the rest of the team were more interested in pursuing 3D shooters.
So, what to do?
At the time, the team had their own Dungeons & Dragons campaign going, and were also huge fans of the Aliens franchise as well as the Evil Dead franchise and decided, “hey, what if we made a game about using science to fight demons?”

The beloved Cacodemon from Doom is actually based on a Dungeons & Dragons creature called an “Astral Dreadnought”.

So, setting up a special office space called “suite 666” and taking inspiration from the morbid noises coming from the dentist’s office next door, they set to work on creating Doom. The name itself came from the film The Color of Money.
“What’s in the case?”
“In here? Doom.”
With this in mind, the team created a ‘Doom Bible’, detailing the complete lore of the monsters, characters, setting and more, deciding they wanted to create something more story driven than Wolfenstein (although, to their credit, Giant Robot Hitler will go down in history).
Originally the plot was similar, still steeped in demons, sci-fi and fast paced blood ‘n’ gore, but the elements were vastly different. For example, the lead character was Buddy, a marine on an alien planet who accidentally opened a portal to hell whilst playing cards with his military buddies. In the end, the planet was destroyed and the lead character was arrested for causing all that nonsense.
Tom Hall, the designer at id, was the man in charge of this bible which underwent several reworks, but all of them deeply steeped in rich plot-based elements. This eventually fell into the hands of the man with the most beautiful and luscious hair in all of gaming history, John Romero, who wanted something more brutal and a lot faster, which meant a lot of the plot elements had to be cut. The Doom Bible itself discarded, thrown to the harsh seas of time. Frustrated and rifts forming, Hall was later fired from the company and went to work at Apogee, while Romero went on to lead the project and create the Doom we know today.
John Romero and his soft, gorgeous, well maintained locks

Also, I’m sure many of us know that our Doomguy/Slayer is descended from Wolfenstein’s hero, BJ Blazkowicz, but do you know the complete family tree?
In the original id canon, BJ had a son, who then moved to America and became a TV star, and changed the surname from Blazkowicz to Blaze. He then had a son, William Blaze (or, Commander Keen), who would go on through the generations to have Doomguy.
Everything here though is just my speculation on how this fits into the new canon.
From here, Doom 64 implies Doomguy chills out in Hell slaying demons. It’s also possible to assume Hell is connected to a multiverse, and works as a one Hell system for several universes, because Doom 3 comes along and reboots the series but is still part of the overall canon. Lastly, DOOM is released in 2016 and Doomguy (now Doom Slayer) emerges from Hell and sees Earth in another universe is just repeating all this nonsense AGAIN. This Earth in the new timeline would have Wolfenstein as a history (leading to advanced technology faster), and would explain the new Keen games, with there being twins instead of just one Keen.

Can it run Doom?

One of the best, and my absolute favourite, memes to come out of the rich history of Doom. ‘Can it run Doom?’ is a simple question to be asked of any machine. Everything from your highschool fancy calculator to important hospital machinery that should probably be used for helping people and not this, everything is capable of running Doom.
The rise of this happens to be in part thanks to the source code for the Linux version of Doom being completely open source. Programmers quickly took this as a challenge to see what could run Doom. Turns out, it’s everything!

WADs ‘n’ Mods

It would be ridiculous of me to mention the popularity of Doom without also mentioning the history of Doom modding. Or, rather, WADding. A WAD is the format the files of the game are packaged in. It stands for, and I kid you not, ‘Where’s the data?’.
id Software already knew they had an audience for people modifying their games and wanting to add new levels and other features, as they’d seen it happen with Wolfenstein 3D. This led to John Carmack, lead programmer, making sure the game engine itself was separate from the files that went into it, such as music and textures, giving users easy access to the files and ways to change them.

From here, players went nuts, creating thousands of DOOM WAD’s with the community still thriving to this day. A lot of mods even became popular mainstream, as I’m sure a lot of readers here will have played the likes of Brutal Doom, Star Wars Doom or Simpsons Doom. They were everywhere.
A great resource to check all this out yourself is on Mod DB, which has a really well curated list of some of the coolest WADs out there right now.