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Doom: A Retrospective

Feature; Jan. 11, 2011; Channels: Video Games; By Jenner David Cauton
Subtypes: Opinion
Fall in love with Doom all over again.

"This ultimately wonderful classic is truly the most inspirational first-person shooter ever created, and if you had to choose between Doom and another game, I don't care what it is, Doom would always be the winner." 

David Keyes

Doom. What would the world be like without it? Completely devoid of such games like Halo, Call of Duty, Gears of War, Counterstrike, Half-Life, or just about any good first-person shooter game that ever came to the market. So just what makes Doom so special? While definitely not the first FPS game released, Doom was the first to make the genre a mainstream. Search the term "first-person shooter" on Wikipedia, in fact, and it's the first picture you see.

Okay, so by today's standards, Doom is ugly. Butt ugly. Polygon count? Please, Doom uses sprites, there ain't no such thing. Monsters in Doom had 4 sides of their own sprites that the game's engine drew depending on which side you were looking at it. Front, back, and both sides. Nothing at an angle. (And once the monster noticed you, it would always face you anyway.) The rest of the objects, like ammo clips, first aid kits, enemy corpses, lamp posts and bodies hanging from the ceiling all eerily rotated to face the player because there was only one sprite for it -- one view. Every object in the game was a cardboard cut-out from a circus fun-house, and someone you couldn't see kept rotating it whenever you looked at it or moved around it. 

Doom's auto-aim was also a lot more heavily assisted compared to today's games. There wasn't any crosshairs, but the player merely had to aim in the general direction of an enemy to hit it, and projectiles would automatically fling themselves toward their prey. Because the player couldn't look up or down, shooting enemies higher or lower than the player simply required the player to line up their gun right on top or below them and shoot. 

The aim was far from perfect, though, and in some situations, it ended up hindering the player. In 3-D programming, the X axis in a three-dimensional plane takes account for anything to the left or right one's perspective (i.e., the player). The Z axis handles the front or behind, and the Y axis above and below. (Flat, 2-D games don't have a Z axis, as there's no "depth.") Because Doom had a problem with the Y axis, this made shooting rockets a pain. If you tried shooting a rocket at an enemy in front you at the same level with an enemy below you that was closer, you'd end up with the rocket aiming downward and ultimately exploding in your face. The game's engine also made it impossible to walk underneath anything that was flying, like cacodemons, or land on top of monsters, not that you'd ever want to.

If you're a young gamer, or only became a shooter fan recently, you've probably only played Doom 3, and you're most likely tearing your eyes out at the pixelated mess above. A few things have been made in the past decade that have dramatically enhanced the game, but have gone under the radar. These programs have been long in the making, but unless you've been actively digging deep into the bowls of various forums, half broken websites, (or for the brave, Youtube comments), you'd never know they existed. So, if you're looking for an excuse to put this baby back in, read on.


Doomsday is an engine that keeps the same gameplay as Doom but throws in modern technology, such as high-resolution textures, surround sound, and mouse-look. This means you can use a typical WASD + mouse set up and have precise control while being able to look up and down as well. You can also jump, though doing so more or less breaks the level design for levels that don't support the new engine. The game's physics have also been reworked, and running underneath cacodemons and landing on top of monsters is now possible, no longer making them invisible mobile walls that could kill you. Because of the addition of the mouse, you can now also turn auto-aim completely off, giving you the full freedom to shoot rockets at far away enemies, not the ones two feet in front of you. The biggest graphic enhancement is that all monsters, objects, and guns in the HUD now all have 3-D models. Don't expect Doom 3; it's more along the lines of Quake 3 Arena, but since the original Doom series has a lot more user-created levels (probably more than any game, in fact) it's hard to complain.

Ultimate Doom (Doom I) isn't the only game Doomsday uses its new engine for, however. You can also use it for Doom II, both Final Dooms, Heretic, Hexen and its expansion, Dark Citadel. Doomsday simply needs the .wad file of these games, and the rest is personal configuration.

But this configuration is Doomsday's downfall. The enhanced models, textures, sound effects, and just about everything else are all separate files which you simply throw in certain folders, but finding the files themselves is a different story. Doomsday's hosted website has had problems in the past hosting all the extra goodies, and now currently relies on bit torrents for them instead. (Don't worry, they're safe.) The website doesn't have all of the included files any longer either. For the most part, it has all of Doom's files, but finding complete 3-D model and texture files for Heretic and Hexen can be quite a pain.

Still, if you miss Doom, but don't want to go back to keyboard controls, or prefer to push "W" instead of moving your mouse forward constantly like a spaz, Doomsday is a must for lovers of the series.

GZDoom - ScoreDoom

GZDoom is another source port for Doom (seemingly a different version of another one, ZDoom), though its focus on 3-D modeling isn't as strong as Doomsday. In fact, it does not have anything 3-D or high resolution readily available, so you'll still be seeing sprites. (Although the game does use a smoothing OpenGL effect, so it doesn't look that horrible.) Aside from graphics, it still has the same enhancements that Doomsday has, such as mouse control, proper physics, and no auto-aim. What it lacks in graphics, however, GZDoom makes up in acting as a base to create a whole slew of other mods that are based on the original GZDoom that makes the game do wondrous things, such as entirely new weapons, new monsters, or even scripted sequences.

Some mods are only just a single level, but one famous GZDoom mod in particular is ScoreDoom, which takes the original game play of Doom and turns it into an arcade simulation. While the original Doom simply has a kill percentage for each level, ScoreDoom gives you points when you shoot a monster, kill it, gib it, get consecutive kills, and more. The base of the mod simply enables the score options, but using the enhanced add-on found on its website throws in a load of power-ups, secondary fire to some of the weapons, and more than 250 new enemies, borrowing character sprites mostly from other games. Because it's still GZDoom, however, none of ScoreDoom's monsters are ever rendered in 3-D, but considering the sheer amount of them, it's easily forgivable. The best part of ScoreDoom is that it's universal and uses an alternate process when placing monsters, so even levels designed without ScoreDoom in mind will still be populated with enemies.  Doomsday simply ups the graphics, but if a change of the rules is what you want, ScoreDoom is the way to go.


So you've played every single level, and every user-made level out there. What do you do now? Make your own! Wait a minute, vertices? Linedefs? Sectors? You don't understand any of this crap, and you want to play now!

Level editors exist in order to prolong a game's life by adding new levels so a player has something new to go through. Players upload their levels online so others can play it. But the ironic thing is that a level that can be completed in about 5 to 10 minutes takes 5 to 10 hours to actually make. Make one yourself, and you can make it as long as you want, but nothing is actually "new" because you're the one that made it. That's why some games, such as Diablo or Torchlight have random level generation -- it keeps a game fresh. But let's face it, those games are RPGs, where loot and stats are more of a concern than actually exploring a maze and blowing things up. 

While Doom may not have random map generation built in, Oblige is a separate program to do just that. Run the program, change your desired parameters, and you're done. The level will save in the same .wad format Doom uses for any user-made level. OK, so the level structure is nothing more than a bunch of math equations randomly put together, and eventually you'll notice some patterns, but Oblige is ongoing in development, which means the editor can only get more complex. It already has a lot of options to fiddle with to provide a lot of variety. Monster control, weapons, level structure (a list that keeps growing), and availability of power-ups are just a few. It can also be used to create levels for other games such as Heretic and Quake, though the options aren't as robust as they are for Doom, at least for the time being.

And yes, levels in Oblige can also be used in ScoreDoom, so prepare to lose a lot of sleep.

Doom may be old, but it's definitely not forgotten, and with these programs, you probably won't ever. So what are you waiting for? There's demons to toast, so grab a chainsaw, and find some meat!



rfludwick - Jan. 19, 2011 at 7:43:52am

That was you? Wow! I must have played it against both you and my friend Damian, because I do specifically remember playing against him...


JCXanirus - Jan. 18, 2011 at 3:35:09pm

Yeah, it was with me on a LAN.

You and your damn plasma gun covering any walkable area and me trying to matrix dodge in between them, lol.


rfludwick - Jan. 12, 2011 at 3:21:39pm

I played Doomsday for a little bit a few years back. Haven't touched it in awhile though. :(

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