With the imminent release of Id Software‘s new game, Rage, I’ve been reminiscing about my history with Id’s games, which started at a point where I didn’t even realize Commander Keen and Wolfenstein were made by the same developer. However, by the time Doom came around I had learned to recognize that little blue and yellow logo.
Id Software appeared on the scene in the early nineties with what is often described as a ‘meteoric rise’. Think of all the cornerstones of modern gaming: the first person shooter, online multiplayer, three dimensions, you name it, Id is pretty much responsible for all of it. Most of these innovations stem from games Id released in the 1990s: Wolfenstein popularized the FPS (1992), Doom marked the beginning of the ‘deathmatch’ phenomenon (1993), while Quake saw the step to ‘true’ 3D and further refinements to the online component (1996). For all these accomplishments, Id has not been able to make as much of an impact on the following decade. They released one game, Doom 3, and even though the game was a success in critical and commercial terms, most felt the game wasn’t as relevant as some of Id’s earlier products. There could be many reasons for this, but maybe the times had simply passed Id by.
I’m willing to bet that’s not the case however. Doom 3 might not have had the lasting impact of some of its predecessors, but I still enjoyed the game for its atmosphere and graphical innovations. Furthermore, Id Software’s absence from the last decade, where a lot of the ‘game’ has changed admittedly, also means they have something to prove. Digital Foundry comments on these stakes with a question put to Tim Willits (creative director for Id Software) in an interview for Eurogamer:
Digital Foundry: So you’re working tirelessly year after year and in the meantime, the level of innovation in the shooter genre, particularly on console has been stratospheric. We’ve seen the rise of Call of Duty, Battlefield… did the competition drive you or did you focus entirely on your own vision?
Tim Willits: One of the great things about id and John Carmack is that we’ve been doing this for so long that we get exactly what we need to get done. And John has a great ability to see into the future and yes, you can get yourself into a serious trap if you pay attention to other people. Nobody else was doing any of the kind of stuff we were doing back in the early days, with Quake 3, Quake 2… changing textures and how the world was made for Doom 3. No-one else was doing these kinds of things. We were comfortable in picking a direction, putting our feet down and moving towards that. We don’t have to spend a lot of time looking at other people. We have John. (source)
If that last sentence isn’t enough to make you feel all warm inside, I don’t know what is. It’s no wonder John Carmack is revered with an almost religious dedication by most gamers. He is, after all, responsible for the technology that blew minds and wasted youths (lots of them). The question is: can he work his magic again in a generation dominated by the likes of Call of Duty? The world waits with bated breath as the release of Rage approaches. Well, maybe not everyone, but I know I am.
Rage hasn’t arrived just yet however, there’s still an eleven day wait until the 7th of October, so I’ve been playing some Doom in anticipation and pre-celebration. I used something called ‘Skulltag‘ to run the .wad files. I’m guessing you probably purchased Doom on Steam at some point and Skulltag recognizes the necessary files automatically, which is convenient. But here’s the thing, I haven’t exactly been playing the vanilla version, I tried this conversion called ‘the modern warfare 2 mod’, or something along those lines. You can find it here. And to use one of the many clichés I have at my disposal: it’s an absolute blast to play. It’s still Doom, that means it’s as fast as ever and there’s this sense of physical connection when you trounce the opposition, but now there’s the added bonus of a large collection of machine guns, assault rifles, shotguns and pistols. And all of them feel really good, I’d say a lot of that has to do with the translation from 3D models to the no-nonsense Doom sprites. It’s glorious and I recommend you waste some time with it.
As for Rage, expect me to chime in on that subject once I’ve gotten my hands on it.