Doom turns 30, so its creators celebrate seminal first-person shooter’s contribution to IT careers
And the joy of slaughtering demons as John Romero himself delivers a frag-tastic new level
Seminal first-person shooter Doom marked the thirtieth anniversary of its release on December 10, and co-creator John Romero marked the occasion by releasing new levels for the game and celebrating its role as the genesis of many IT careers.
The Register celebrated the game on its 20th anniversary, when we rated it "an absolute classic" and "the definitive horror slugfest against the minions of Hell." Five years later we revisited it and decided "the graphics and resolution look like they've fallen out of an old Minecraft server, accuracy is a joke, the sounds seem basic and the gameplay formulaic," before redeeming the game with the view that "those of us of a certain age will never forget the visceral thrill of our first game, and the unalloyed joy in blowing an annoying coworker's head off."
Both assessments arguably remain entirely valid.
In a livestreamed chat in which they reminisced about the game's origins, Romero and co-creator John Carmack gave us another reason to celebrate the game: its impact on the profession of IT.
The pair asserted that once players realized Doom could be played over a network in multiplayer mode, they decided to acquire the hardware and skills to make it possible.
"With Doom supporting IPX on a local area network, that made a lot of people learn a lot of stuff pretty quickly," Romero recalled.
Carmack agreed. "DOOM encouraged a lot of people to figure out the hardware," he noted. Players who wired their offices to enable LAN games gained valuable skills.
"A lot of people did wind up in sort of network administration posts and wiring up became the network guy in their office. Many offices wound up having a suspect business case put forward for why they all needed a network shortly after Doom came out," Carmack observed wryly.
He suggested that Doom's successor, Quake, "led a lot more people into software development careers, but Doom launched a lot of IT professional careers."
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In the livestream the pair also took a little credit for pioneering the release of software to the internet. The release of Doom precursor Wolfenstein 3D, they recalled, saw it uploaded to a bulletin board. Doom was the first game they released to the internet, and they argue that doing so set a standard.
Carmack, however, also recalled discussions about how best to package Doom – physically – so it had a strong presence on the shelves of software stores. He and Romero worried that using a DVD-style case would mean the game did not stand out.
The pair were confident the game was great when the released it, and Carmack believed "we could just sell this in a brown paper bag and it'll be fine."
He was wrong. Despite its breakthrough gameplay, Doom needed merchandising to succeed. Carmack misses the creative packaging and other in-store marketing efforts of the era, as they created a gaming experience that no longer exists now that the overwhelming majority of software is bought online.
That channel does, however, have its own charms: after learning of the game's anniversary The Register was able to acquire Doom 1993 from the Microsoft Store today for AU$7.45 ($4.95), and sample the new .WAD file – a game level Romero created specially for the 30th anniversary, named SIGIL.
On the modest but modern PC I used to run the game, graphics scrolled so quickly I had to slow the frames-per-second to 30 to have a chance of surviving.
Your correspondent's Doom skills are beyond rusty, so being thrust into the initial star-shaped chamber was more than a little confronting. But before long I had acquired a shotgun, blasted a demon back to Hell, opened a door and tried unsuccessfully to find my way across a series of stone platforms suspended in bubbling lava – all while being slightly unsettled by the eerie soundtrack.
I stopped there because I'm not actually paid to play games – at least not for more than a few minutes at a time.
Romero and Carmack mused that they don't see enthusiasm for Doom stopping – the game remains vastly amusing and it continues to satisfy another important audience: developers.
In their vidchat, the pair rated Quake's level editor as too complex for casual creators.
But Doom, they argued, got it right – by running the level editor alongside the game and therefore allowing developers to iterate their work easily.
Thankfully, they dared not coin the term DoomOps for that approach.
But given the game's undoubted contribution to the fields of computing and entertainment, such recognition would not be unreasonable. ®