back to article Doom at 25: The FPS that wowed players, gummed up servers, and enraged admins

On December 10, 1993, after a marathon 30-hour coding session, the developers at id Software uploaded the first finished copy of Doom for download, the game that was to redefine first-person shooter (FPS) genre. Hours later IT admins wanted id's guts for garters. Doom wasn't the first FPS game, but it was the iPhone of the …

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  1. Mark 85 Silver badge
    Pint

    Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake. Oh happy times. Where I worked at the time, blocked playing it during business hours with immediate termination if you were caught (two were and set the example for the rest of us). But after hours, half the engineering department stayed at their desks (including management) for several hours. After playing that, I started learning programming and changed careers to IT.

    I think ID did change a lot of things with the first getting non-techies into IT. There were a lot of "engines" out there in that time and many of probably got our start working with the engines and coding.

    Have a pint, ID... for the stuff legends are made of.

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      It's amazing to think there are only 12 months between Wolfenstein and Doom. I wish we could still see leaps like that.

      1. WallMeerkat Bronze badge

        The 90s were full of huge leaps like that. If you took a PC from 1991 and a PC from 1998 it was incredible the difference.

        Whereas if you took a PC from 2011 and from 2018 there really isn't that much of a difference.

        Even in the console world we started the 90s transitioning from 8 to 16 bit, then via the 32/64 bit Playstation-Saturn-N64 era, by the end of the decade we had Dreamcasts and getting ready for Playstation 2 - many of the games of which still hold up today.

        Mobile phones too, 1990 these were rare, brick like, and still had a whiff of finance yuppie about them, by the end of the 90s they fitted in your pocket, everyone had a mobile (thanks in part to PAYG) and they were getting internet connectivity (remember WAP?)

      2. juice Bronze badge

        All credit to iD games...

        But hardware advances were a key driver of the improvements between the two games.

        W3d would (grudgingly) run on a 286 with just 640k of ram; Doom's official minimum spec was a 486 with 4mb of ram, though it would judder along on a 386 if you were desperate.

        Moore's law was very much the game developer's frenemy back then - it gave you more memory and CPU cycles to play with, but if you misjudged your release window, then your game would be either unusably sluggish or woefully primitive as compared to the competition.

        Hell, people still occasionally ask if $thing will run Crysis ;)

        1. TonyJ Silver badge

          Re: All credit to iD games...

          "...W3d would (grudgingly) run on a 286 with just 640k of ram; Doom's official minimum spec was a 486 with 4mb of ram, though it would judder along on a 386 if you were desperate..."

          Yes but it had to be a 386DX - wouldn't run on an SX. I know...I had to swap my motherboard and/or CPU.

          It's so long ago I can't really remember if it was just one or both or if they came as a unit back then.

          Didn't the original crash WAN links due to each round fired from the minigun being a while IPX packet? (None of that fangled TCP/IP back then, no siree).

          My mate and I used to have two desktop PC's (and 15" CRT's) on the dinning room table and connected by serial cables...or that might have been a bit later with Duke Nukem 3D.

          Fabulous fun though.

          1. Suncoast

            Re: All credit to iD games...

            >Didn't the original crash WAN links due to each round fired from the minigun being a while IPX packet? (None of that fangled TCP/IP back then, no siree).

            Yes! I worked for a large broadcaster back then that nearly lost it's network because of Doom. Not only affected Netware IPX/SPX, it affected the Cabletron spanning tree if I recall correctly.

            Doom was later assigned its own port # 666

          2. Justin Pasher

            Re: 386DX

            Not true. I ran it on an AST brand 386SX/25 with 4 MB of RAM. Yes, I had to shrink the game play window down about half way, but it was still playable (definitely not 30 fps, but playable). I do remember having to reboot with a clean AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS to free up enough memory to play, though.

            1. Jim 59

              Re: 386DX

              Original Doom was fully playable on a Dan 486DX with 4MB of RAM and a Spea V7 video card, I can report. As was original shareware Quake.

              That PC was a snip at only £1700, and that's 1993 money.

          3. Dabooka Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: All credit to iD games...

            So many of us experiencing identical flashbacks, especially the Dragon 32 to Amstrad 464 (and then 6128).

            Serial cables at the dining table were a thing at mine for while but soon I scored for some old cheapernet cards and hooked up a small token ring. I may be wrong but I only recall up to four players on head to head and can't recall internet play, but that might have been the limitations of my setup back then.

            I do recall LAN parties involving mates bringing base stations, CRT monitors, Soundblaster speakers / headphones, keyboards and mice for a whole weekend. Used to flip between Doom, Quake, Duke 3D, Heretic and Rise of The Triads.

            Ah the chicken spell in Heretic. Halcyon days.....

          4. Piro

            Re: All credit to iD games...

            I am certain Doom didn't need a math co-processor- a 386sx was slow, but would work. I played it that way. Quake, on the other hand, required an fpu, as we'd call it today.

            1. Pirate Dave
              Pirate

              Re: All credit to iD games...

              Yes, Doom didn't need a math-co, but Quake did. I know because at the time Quake came out, I was using a NexGen NX586, which (for reasons that elude me) didn't have a math chip in it. So I missed the early Quake bus until I saved up enough for a real Pentium. I had to while away my time playing Doom Eternal, Final Doom, etc...

            2. paulll

              Re: All credit to iD games...

              The 386SX was a 386 with a 24- rather than 32-bit external address bus; After the SX was introduced they rebranded the original as DX just for differentiation. None of 'em had an on-board co-pro, pretty sure. DX denoting an on-board co-pro was strictly 486 nomenclature.

              Ho hum.

      3. Jim 59

        "It's amazing to think there are only 12 months between Wolfenstein and Doom. I wish we could still see leaps like that."

        That is amazing. Some similarities to the home computer boom of the early 80s perhaps. Huge differences between products launched a year apart. I was lucky enough to have a Dragon 32 and an Amstrad cpc464. Admittedly, the latter was slightly more expensive and launched 20 months after the Dragon, but the difference was enourmous. Double the RAM, almost 5 x the MHz, much improved BASIC, larger keyboard, bundled tape recorder, monitor...

        For that matter, look at the Sinclair ZX81 vs the Spectrum. An even starger contrast, only 13 months apart.

    2. Jim 59

      When Doom launched in 93, I was a Unix systems administrator. We had no Doom plague on the Unix estate for obvious reasons. What we did have was pre-web Internet, enabling us to grab doom via FTP, copy the zip file and take it home on a floppy (or 3). University of Washington kindly had it in their FTP archive IIRC, one of the biggest on the Internet. What was it? www.wustl.edu or something.

      Okay we might have had the Mozilla browser by that time. Memory fades.

      1. Joe Gurman

        Niggling correction

        Wustl stands for Washington University of St. Louis, a private uni in Missouri, while the University of Washington is a state uni in Washington state.

        1. Jim 59

          Re: Niggling correction

          "Wustl stands for Washington University of St. Louis, a private uni in Missouri, while the University of Washington is a state uni in Washington state."

          Well well. I never knew that. All that FTP grabbing was actually from Missouri and not Washington. The Wustl archive was an excellent resource at the time, and very large.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        We had no Doom plague on the Unix estate for obvious reasons.

        Really? I worked for Sun at the time, and someone decided that Doom would be a cool demo for the new SPARCstations. A loaner system (SS5 IIRC) was arranged and Solaris port of Doom appeared (I don't know if money was exchanged, probably so). It was available free to customers.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Up

          Doom on UNIX

          Yep my memory as well starting uni in early 1990s. Doom was available for a ton of UNIX systems by a few years after release. Kind of remember seeing it on IRIX as well and people were amazed by the frame rate but not the people who programmed it usually in the computer lab. Remember them yawning at the graphics (didn't use hardware accel I think) but playing none the same.

        2. Jim 59

          "Really? I worked for Sun at the time, and someone decided that Doom would be a cool demo for the new SPARCstations."

          Excellent, and not surprising that somebody at Sun would do this, being an innovative place by nature. However, Unix Doom must have come some time after Doom was launched on the PC, which is the era I was talking about. By the time I left in '95, Doom had not made it to our Sun network, but the software engineers had written themselves a version of network Battlezone, seemingly.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            However, Unix Doom must have come some time after Doom was launched on the PC,

            I still have the binaries (but sadly no SPARC system with a graphics card). The earliest ones date from the Christmas holidays 1994/5, late Dec to early Jan, but I guess I'd have had them before they were widespread outside the company.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      We had 2 devs sacked for playing it. We used to play it on the graveyard shift with the security staff using the training room where the PCs where all set up. On nights we did play the network backups would take about 20% longer to complete, our daytime counterparts in Ops could never work out why! Ha ha!

    4. macjules Silver badge

      Ah, happy memories. I remember spending a weekend in early 1994 networking a minor civil service department. How did we test the network? By installing Doom on certain Windows-enabled computers and playing an all-night death match ...

  2. Trixr Bronze badge

    "Hordes" of monsters, please

    I didn't really think of the monsters as little treasure chests you got to loot.

    The only way I got through the game was after learning about the GodMode cheat. To this day, it's one of the few games I've actually completed in its entirety. (Damn open world games and their never-ending side quests for feathers or whatever!)

    1. arctic_haze Silver badge

      Re: "Hordes" of monsters, please

      It was easy to recognize the God Mode alumni during death matches, especially hen we switched to Quake.

      They were the ones who did not try do dodge rockets.

  3. C. P. Cosgrove
    Thumb Up

    It was great fun

    I was doing an HNC in Mechatronics at the time and I think every computer in the college had Doom 1 on it. I can see the sysadmins' problems even if the students didn't.

    It was great fun and the best thing about it was that it was a relatively small and simple game. Even on 486s, which is what the college was equipped with, it was quick to load. 5 - 10 minutes to kill ? You could have Doom up and running and be blasting baddies within about 30 seconds. I came back to it about 15 years later, v3 I think. Came on a DVD, about a 2GB install and took five minutes before you could shoot anything, and that was on a reasonable to good computer. It had lost the spontaneity and had become the preserve of serious gamers

    Chris Cosgrove

    1. Chozo

      Re: It was great fun

      My sentiments exactly, sometimes you just want to get your gun off. No emotional involvement with characters or complex mission profiles, clan stats, nagware for micro-payment upgrades. Just you against impossible odds screaming in the face of death long into the night. If it moves KILL IT!

      1. Korev Silver badge

        Re: It was great fun

        I liked Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon for that reason. They got rid of most of the annoying stuff and just made it fun.

  4. Phil Endecott Silver badge

    3D Monster Maze

    on the ZX81. All down hill from there.

    1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: 3D Monster Maze

      Ah, good times,.... although for the era, ('82) I think 'Phantom Slayer' on the Dragon 32 had the edge. Remember when we all had _different_ computers? Sigh,....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      REX HAS SEEN YOUR BIG F*****G GUN

      @Phil Endecott; 3D Monster Maze was impressive on a machine that was never intended to do that sort of thing (especially consider that it came out the same year as the ZX81 itself). I have to point out though, that while it had the "first person" bit, it wasn't a "shooter". (#) Now that I think of it, I'd love to see a version that let you shoot back at Rex ;-)

      @GruntyMcPugh; Yes, I agree that "Phantom Slayer" looks better- but to be fair, the Dragon 32 (and its near-twin the TRS-80)- were somewhat more graphically advanced machines than the ZX81.

      (#) Making it more what would be described nowadays as a "survival horror".

      1. Phil Endecott Silver badge

        Re: REX HAS SEEN YOUR BIG F*****G GUN

        > it wasn't a "shooter"

        That’s why I liked it. Not a fan of killing things.

    3. Jim 59

      Re: 3D Monster Maze

      Hunt the Wumpus. All down hill from there.

  5. JohnFen Silver badge

    I still play it to this day

    Yes, there are newer, better-looking FPSes around, but Doom occupies a space in my life that it shares with only a handful of other games from the general era: I still play them regularly to this day. The others? SimCity 2000, Civilization CTP, Redneck Rampage, Master of Orion - both 1 and 2 because they are very different games.

  6. Mayday Silver badge
    Go

    IPX Broadcasts

    Networking nightmare, but fun and worth it.

    1. FatGerman

      Re: IPX Broadcasts

      I worked for a LAN company, part of the official test spec for our network switch was that at least 8 people had to be able to play IPX broadcast Doom across it for an hour. Oh we had fun continually "failing" that test.

    2. jaffy2

      Re: IPX Broadcasts

      Played at lunchtime when working for a County Council. All pre rj-45 so on good ol' Co-ax, but it used to hammer the bridge between the buildings. In the end IT had a separate network for Doom (and then Wolfenstein).

      Great days!

  7. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

    Modding!

    Overhauls like Brutal Doom have even kept it (more or less...) fresh.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Dear God

      Because Doom wasn't brutal enough ?

      Hey ! That mod seems interesting . . .

      1. bpfh Bronze badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Dear God

        It's worth installing, especially now that more modern versions have X and Y axis aiming, and more weapons to put your friendly neighbourhood imps through the meat grinder.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Dear God

          Y axis is overrated. Doom did perfectly well without it.

  8. PhilipN Silver badge

    Graphics

    Ugh. Do not know whether it was actually the graphics on a VGA monitor or (or as well as) splattering organs but I succumbed to something like motion sickness in less than 2 minutes. Is it any better on modern systems? Cannot try since just thinking about it makes me queasy. Ok so it was the blood and guts.

    1. WallMeerkat Bronze badge

      Re: Graphics

      Didn't find Doom too bad, perhaps the low FPS on my 486 SX helped keep motion sickness at bay

      Whereas Wolf3D would give me splitting headaches, 10 minutes play at most.

      1. Evil Auditor Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Graphics

        Whereas Wolf3D would give me splitting headaches, 10 minutes play at most.

        We all had this. Key was, once you get beyond 13 minutes your head forgot about the ache and it was just pure fun!

    2. Andy The Hat Silver badge

      Re: Graphics

      Me too. Even watching Doom over someone's shoulder for a couple of minutes would have the pit of my stomach stirring dangerously for a couple of hours ... Never worked out what it was and never had the issue with similar games.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Re: Graphics

        I had a period of sick leave (Flu - IIRC) & recall Wolf3D\Doom inducing a worse nausea sensation in my gut if I played it for too long might of been the combo of being ill in the first place with the resolution.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Graphics

        When hungover, watching somebody else play Doom was nauseating, oddly, playing it yourself wasn't.

  9. Franco Silver badge

    I still fire up DOSBox every so often and have a play of both Doom and Wolf 3D, and these days the new titles in those series are about the only games I buy.

    Lots of nice touches in the games, such as the big shit eating grin from BJ in Wolf 3D when he found the gatling gun. The horror aspect of Doom with the dark areas was ground breaking too.

    Doom and Wolf 3D are a bit like the first Black Sabbath albums, they laid the platform for what was to come even if they seem a bit primitive in parts now. I feel justified with the heavy metal comparison given the Doom soundtrack was strongly influenced by metal, some of the level music is inspired by Metallica, Slayer and Pantera.

    1. Jim 59

      @Franco +1 for mentioning "Pantera"

      1. Franco Silver badge

        Thank you sir, loved "A Vulgar Display of Power".

        The metal influence is still there in the franchise, if anyone has played Wolfenstein: The Old Blood they will know the end title song is a cover of La Complainte du Partisan performed by Mick Gordon with Tex Perkins on vocals and it is spectacularly good.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TG_ZEovDDKk

  10. GrumpyKiwi Silver badge
    Angel

    DoooooooooM...ed

    Freshly appointed to a sys admin role (and barely understanding any of it) and with an office full of 486's and weekend access, I was "the man" to all my mates as we blasted our way through 8 man deathmatches most Saturdays.

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