How the Doom Makers Changed the Games Industry

How the Doom Makers Changed the Games Industry

It was a real bang: on September 21, 2020, the pre-sale start of the Xbox Series X, Microsoft announced the takeover of Bethesda Softworks and thus also of the traditional development studio id Software. This coup cost the Xbox makers $ 7.5 billion - the equivalent of around 6.4 billion euros. A short time later, top-class players such as Doom Eternal, which was only released in March 2020, landed in the subscription service Xbox Game Pass. Such a development is nothing new for the traditional company id Software. After all, Zenimax Media Inc., the parent company of Bethesda Softworks, took over the studio in 2009 and incorporated it into Bethesda Games Studios.

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Icons of the game industry: John Carmack

In the eighth part of our developer portrait series, we dedicate ourselves to John Carmack, one of the most visionary and best-known technology geniuses in the game industry. var lstExcludedArticleTicker = '1368085,1367180'; But these developments are only the most recent chapters in the 30-year history of id Software. Founded on February 1, 1991, the studio turned the world of computer and video games upside down more than once. With Doom, the Texans revolutionized the shooter genre in 1993 and, with Quake, did a lot of building work in terms of multiplayer gaming fun and e-sports. Id Software financed the development of Wolfenstein 3D with Commander Keen (1990). The "Nazi Shooter" was straightforward and simple, but provocative and technically exciting enough to draw attention. Source: Moby Games

The founders of id Software - John Romero, John Carmack, Tom Hall and the unrelated Adrian Carmack - are at least as well known as the company and its games themselves four men could hardly be more different.

Four characters shape the reputation to this day

John Carmack is the "crazy genius" among the four and was at id Software until 2013: gifted, visionary and sometimes even a little "over the top". When he talks about his youth in interviews, he describes himself as an "immoral little bastard" - precisely because he was smarter than most other children and liked to let it out. His passion was programming, after all, he was in control of his own creation on the computer. For example, he hacked the classic RPG Ultima 1 early on and changed the character traits of his avatar.

His "greed" for computers went so far that he even broke into his high school and was caught in the process. Since he showed no remorse during the psychological examination, he ended up in a youth home for a year. Carmack wasn't a normal adolescent. And no one is surprised that he dropped out of his programming studies at the University of Kansas and earned his living as a freelance programmer before hiring at Softdisk. There he also met John Romero, Adrian Carmack and Tom Hall.

Rock music, powerful soundblaster sounds and fast action: Doom embodied a lifestyle in 1993 and quickly penetrated the mainstream. However, critical voices also increased due to the explicit depiction of violence. Source: Moby Games

All four shared a great fascination for computer and video games, but were very different in character. The extroverted genius of John Carmack was juxtaposed with quieter personalities like Tom Hall and the artistically inclined Adrian Carmack. Then there was John Romero, who was loud and almost megalomaniac, especially in his later years, and who often portrayed himself as a rock star in the game industry. This mixture contained a lot of explosive material, but it was also the breeding ground for creative ideas that should break through the limits of gaming that had been set up until now.

The shooter big bang: Wolfenstein and the early Doom

To this day, id Software is considered to be enormously innovative and progressive. This was already evident in the underrated platformer Commander Keen (1990). Its success ultimately laid the financial basis for the coming projects that were to cause a sensation in the mainstream. Even if Doom, published in 1993, is often celebrated as a shooter revolutionary, it was Wolfenstein 3D, distributed by Apogee a year earlier, that already showed the direction in which id Software should go. A completely new feel: with Quake (1996) id Software dared to take the leap into the “real” third dimension. Finally, from today's perspective, somewhat angular polygon models replaced the established 2D sprites. Source: Moby Games

Armed with VGA graphics, the ray-casting technology already proven in the Hovertank and Catacomb 3D developed by Softdisk, and full Soundblaster support, the "Nazi shooter" Wolfenstein 3D was an enormous one Success. The gaming world looked at id Software! For many users, the fast course of the game, the brutality and of course the provocative setting were eye-openers. id Software had made a name for itself in one fell swoop, even if Wolfenstein 3D did not yet reach the masses.

That was to change suddenly with Doom. We have already examined the waves this game made in more detail in an earlier report on the occasion of id Software's 25th anniversary. It wasn't just the no-nonsense action that made Doom stand out. The gameplay and the design behind it were groundbreaking. Thanks to the integrated LAN function, the shooter allowed multiplayer battles for the first time. The deathmatch mode celebrated its premiere and is still an indispensable part of any good shooter. The network options - like today's online functions - ensured extreme popularity and longevity of the project. With the Quake series, id Software concentrated more on multiplayer. The third part of the series, which is indexed in Germany, completely dispensed with solo content and focused on multiplayer options. Source: Moby Games

Thanks to binary space partitioning, the graphics engine developed on the NeXTStep operating system also made it possible to display larger and more spacious levels - even on less powerful systems. Even so, Doom was a tech innovator who pushed current hardware to its limits. This in turn called on competitors: id Software not only earned a golden nose with the pure game sales, but later also licensed its graphics engine. Under the leadership of engineering genius John Carmack, the id Tech brand was born and grew to become one of the most important graphics technologies in the world. Licensing self-developed graphics technology is an extremely important business these days, such as Epic Games with its Unreal Engine

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The art of disgust: These games are appealing and repulsive at the same time

Why we like to be disgusted, what types of disgust there actually are and in which games we find it, you can find out in our special. var lstExcludedArticleTicker = '1368085,1367663'; Online draft horse: The Quake series

The Doom revolution was followed by the next big step with the Quake series. Three-dimensional polygon models were used as early as the first part in 1996. The engine rendered the environment in real time, additional light and texture effects made for an overall more lively look. They replaced the previously used 2D sprites and significantly changed the feel of the game. For the first time, we were able to walk around our opponents without them jumping jerkily from one animation phase to the next. This development was monumental. And even if Quake looks rough and angular from today's perspective, modern shooters work on a very similar principle. In terms of play, Doom 3 was different from previous titles and relies more on shock moments and scripted story elements. This reorientation divides the fan base to this day and makes the game the most controversial offshoot of the Doom series. Source: Moby Games

With Quake, id Software also concentrated more and more on the growing online market. In the third part, published in 1999 but indexed in this country, the developers completely dispensed with solo content and instead focused on multiplayer. John Carmack told the online magazine How-To Geek: "Each project had its moments and its value, but the third part was my personal favorite. Going on multiplayer and 3D accelerator cards was a brave decision. But that Tech design was good and I personally had more fun playing than any of the games before or after. "

The outlier: Doom 3

The Doom 3 released in 2004 is certainly the smallest light on it the id software pie. The shooter plays on the spot and, in addition to the action, focuses on atmosphere and lots of shock effects. The Mars adventure is still controversial among fans to this day - and our author Olaf Bleich also described the offshoot in a column as "groundbreaking and yet unimportant".

Doom 3 however showed that id Software is ready to take risks and try something new. They returned to the single player focus and strengthened the storytelling with the help of scripted events and a gloomy atmosphere. The 2016 Doom reboot looked impressive in its time, introducing the infamous Glory Kills, among other things. However, the game turned out to be a bit monotonous and lengthy in the long run. Source: Bethesda

In this case, however, the id Tech 4-based engine played the main role, as it pushed the hardware of the time to its limits. No wonder, dynamic light and shadow effects calculated in real time ensured unprecedented illumination of the levels. In addition, the character models now had skeletons inside, which made natural animations possible. Extended texture effects with bump and normal mapping made the surface appear more three-dimensional. In short: Doom 3 was another technology milestone.

Puzzle Shooter: Doom Reboot and Doom Eternal

In the recent past, id Software attracted attention by rebooting the Doom series. In terms of gameplay, the possibilities of the Doom Slayer were adapted here: the super soldier should be faster, more agile and more versatile. While Doom, published in 2016 on the basis of id Tech 5, was praised for its fun Glory Kills, there was also criticism for the rather monotonous processes in the long run.

That should change with the Doom Eternal, which was released in 2020: Here the proven massive shooter dynamics and resource management interlocked seamlessly. In the past, quick reactions were necessary to survive in Doom, but now a good portion of skill has been added. The multiplayer options that are now typical for the genre rounded off the splendid overall package.

Were Doom and Doom Eternal revolutionary? No, but they proved that id Software moves with the times and is not afraid to innovate.

Doom Eternal is not a tube shooter. Instead, the levels are comparatively spacious and even contain skill and puzzle passages. Source: plassma media agency What will the next chapter be?

Doom Eternal was id Software's last big hit. The company is currently supplying this with additional content and extensions. In December, The Ancient Gods - Part One was the fourth major update with a new master level, a master level mode and lots of challenges. In an open letter to the community, they initially thanked for their support in times of the global corona pandemic and emphasized the associated switch to home office operations. At the same time, id Software also confirmed that they are working on the finalization of The Ancient Gods - Part 2 and thus also at the end of this story. Doom Eternal was even released for the Nintendo Switch at the end of 2020. id Software entrusted developer Panic Button with the port. With success: the game was convincing despite graphic concessions and, above all, ran smoothly at all times. Source: media agency plassma

More interesting, however, are the rumors that have haunted the net in recent months. The company is apparently working on a brutal VR game that was given an age rating in Australia under the name "Project 2021A" and is also said to have online options. This could of course be a VR version of Doom Eternal or a completely new game.

Whether this is the next big chapter of the id software saga or maybe just another page will have to show. Even if the four creative minds from back then, i.e. John Romero, John Carmack, Adrian Carmack and Tom Hall, left the company a long time, their early handwriting can still be felt today.

This was also confirmed by John Carmack himself: "Looking back, some decisions in the past could have been better. But I am proud of what id Software has achieved and happy that the current team is continuing this legacy." After the takeover by Microsoft, id Software will hopefully be able to continue exactly where the journey began in 1991: with tough, technically mature action that will push gamers and hardware alike to their limits.

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