id Software's Doom turns 20 years old

By Alex Riviello , Updated Dec 10, 2013 04:31 PM EST

On Dec. 10th, 1993 id Software released Doom, but the world wasn't yet aware that it had changed. Game releases were quite different than the launch-party laden, celebrity-filled monuments to excess we see today, after all. The initial release of Doom was an upload of a 2MB file called to an FTP server at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This shareware software was downloaded by gamers who were free to distribute it among their friends, and they did so immediately. In this pre-torrent days it was uploaded to other FTPs and messageboards all over the internet. Ond one by one, download by individual download, the game made its way around the globe, setting a course for all games to come. 

id Software's Wolfenstein 3-D came out a year before Doom and is generally credited as being the very first FPS (first-person shooter), but it had nowhere near the popularity of Doom. Doom was a genuine cultural phenomenon. It was played by nearly everyone, blamed for atrocities by those who didn't, and single-handedly popularized what would come to be perhaps the most popular style of game. It was one of the first truly immersive games of that ilk and every single shooter game to this date owes some credit to it.

No game thrust you into another world like Doom. You played a solitary marine faced with terrifying glimpse of a literal hell, a firey nightmare full of horrific demons that meant you nothing but harm. The then-stunning graphics and sound worked with the perspective to make you feel like you were really there, and there was nowehre you wanted to be. Thankfully you can find all number of weapons to protect yourself, from the puny pistol to the most infamously named gun of all time- the B.F. G. Also, there was that shotgun. Has there ever been a weapon as satisfying as Doom's shotgun? To this day it's become many a gamer's go-to weapon, certainly the most fun to handle in any most shooters.

Doom was undeniably special and still holds up to this day, but another big part of its success was due to its shareware nature. Since it was free to download the opening missions of the game nearly every gamer with a PC did, with a good number of those continuing on to purchase the game. Doom helped prove that the shareware model could work beautifully as a marketing tool. How well did it work? At one point in 1995 a team from Microsoft determined that Doom had been installed on more computers than Windows 95. 

Multiplayer was certainly a huge part of that. Along with a four-player co-op mode the game introduced the Deathmatch, and millions of people found themselves immersed in online battles. Multiplayer was really beginning to take off around this time via dial-up play and Doom put the puny telephone lines to task, causing many a busy signal and annoyed relative. 

Doom II: Hell on Earth and Final Doom followed the original but were more expansions than actual sequels, with barely anything changed but a few new enemies and weapons. That was more than enough for gamers to devour them as well, though. Doom 3 came out quite a while later and was quite a financial success, even though critics were torn on the change to gameplay that saw you fighting only a handful of smaller monsters in a claustrophobic settings- a far cry from battling dozens in huge open environments. The Doom 3 BFG Edition fixes a few problems people had with the original (no more flashlight switching!) and really is worth it for anyone deciding on another look at the game, however. 

Doom 4 is in the works but id Software's dynamic creative duo is gone. John Romero left way back in 1996 to work on the infamous disaster of a game Daikatana, and just last month John Carmack recently left to help work on the Oculus Rift. But regardless of where it goes in the future Doom's influence can still be felt today in every single FPS series, from Call of Duty to Battlefield.

Happy birthday, Doom. Reign in hell. 

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