This week was the twenty year anniversary of Doom. Ars Technica has a fun collection of Doom memories, and Wired has an interview with Chris Carmack that touches on the game’s design and technology decisions, and its long-lived effect on gaming.
I was in my senior year of high school when Doom was released, and I ran a BBS that experienced a lot of downtime while I shotgunned imps. For some reason, I was a keyboard-only player, and I recall being stunned at how quickly players using a mouse in a deathmatch (deathmatch!) could spin to take me down while I pursued them. As it happened, however, I didn’t play much multiplayer until going off to college the following fall with my shiny 386DX4 built by a friend who worked at a local computer store.
Aside: I spent a lot of time hanging out at Pro Computer. There’s a good story that involves my high-centering my mom and dad’s car in the parking lot by backing over a sizeable ledge that seems in hindsight to be awfully poorly placed. Somewhere somebody had an animated ANSI of the whole episode, including three friends helping rock the car back onto its wheels.
Also, This is where I tl;dr my own rant about how kids these days have it easy with their mostly reliable PC hardware. That custom DX4 was a speed demon in its day, but I was forever troubleshooting problems between its Sound Blaster and sketchy CD-ROM drive. I never did get that damn thing to play Myst.
I lived in a former frat house converted my year into a freshman men’s dorm. It wasn’t wired for Ethernet with the campus network at the time, but it was only about half full, which means it had a lot of unused phone lines that, as it happens, were nonetheless live. So, we had a reasonably high tech group of college freshmen slightly isolated by geography from the bulk of campus, with lots of high-spec hardware, 14.4kbps modems (I would upgrade to a 28.8 that winter), and an extra phone line for just about everybody.
So, yeah, we played a lot of deathmatch Doom that year.
One epic game sticks in my mind, ending with two of us, down to the last scraps of ammo and health after a furious series of frags, stalking one another for one final hit. It was the kind of finale that had housemates gathered around our CRTs in each of our rooms (also because it was time to go to dinner, come on guys, let’s do this). I had the rocket launcher and he had the plasma gun, and I rounded a corner just in time to find him — camping! — at the far end of a room. The slight travel time for both our weapons’ fire meant that we had enough time to watch, but not quite dodge effectively, as a rocket traversed one direction and plasma came the other way, for a devastating simul-frag. I recall seeing him drop, briefly mentally celebrating, and then going down myself, to hoots around me and down the hall. Brutal.
So thanks, Doom, for twenty years, you big gateway FPS you.