Franchise Festival #55: Doom

Welcome back to Franchise Festival, where we explore and discuss the history of noteworthy video game series from the last four decades. Older entries can be found here.

This week we will be ripping and tearing through the guts of DoomCover art, unless otherwise noted, is from MobyGames. Please consider supporting that website, as its volunteers tirelessly catalog key information and art assets for an often ephemeral medium.

Sources for this article are numerous, and will be identified below in the article, but I’d like to call out the big ones here:

Unfortunately, I was unable to read David Kushner’s seminal Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture (2003) in time for the article but recommend it as the most in-depth coverage of the early days of id Software and Doom‘s development.


Though the foundation of id Software is covered in Franchise Festival #28: Wolfenstein, a handful of key developments which pertain to Doom occurred before the studio’s official 1991 establishment and after their successful launch of 1993’s Wolfenstein 3D.

The Necronomicon was artist H.R. Giger’s first published compendium and would influence Ridley Scott’s decision to hire him for Alien (1979). Source: Futurism-Media

In particular, the influences for the studio’s next project were laid during the time that id founders John Carmack, John Romero, Tom Hall, and Adrian Carmack worked at Shreveport software company Softdisk around 1990. According to Romero, John Carmack led a Dungeons and Dragons tabletop role playing session that led down the path of humans battling demons through the use of technology. At the same time, painter H. R. Giger’s book The Necronomicon (1977) was highly influential on the team’s art design. 1980s cinema would be a similarly important touchstone, with John Carmack confirming in a 2013 interview that he intended id’s next game to be a fusion of Aliens (1986) and Evil Dead II (1987).

Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead II was influential on quite a bit of horror media throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Source: Bloody Disgusting

id was in a state of flux following the commercial success of its debut first-person shooter, though, and not all of the studio’s founders moved on to id’s next project. Designer Tom Hall would part ways with his fellow creators following the launch of Wolfenstein 3D. Hall had worked and repeatedly reworked a document known as the Doom Bible, first based on an expansive narrative inspired by the team’s Dungeons and Dragons campaign and then constrained repeatedly by lead programmer John Carmack, before finally being fired from the studio.

The line from Microprose’s Civilization to Doom is a peculiar one, but careers often take strange turns. Source: The Atlantic

Two new team members were added in his place. Sandy Petersen, creator of the Call of Cthulhu tabletop game and former developer on Microprose’s seminal computer game Civilization (1991), was hired to design levels only ten weeks ahead of the game’s release. Recent graduate and programmer Dave Taylor also joined id during this period, shoring up a team that would soon conquer the medium with one of its most enduring titles.

Doom (1993)

Though the last ten weeks of production would prove to be pivotal, Doom had been in development for a year by the time the original MS-DOS version was published in December 1993. The original vision of the game had been a story-driven battle against the forces of Hell in an open world. This was slowly modified over the course of development due to concerns about pacing, a sense that the early architectural design was too similar to Wolfenstein 3D, and 1990s computing technology requiring the world to be broken into discrete levels. While Tom Hall had created the initial stages, Sandy Petersen and John Romero would be responsible for stage layout and design in the final build.

Doom‘s opening menu, with its blood-red text, exclamation points, and an image of Doomguy in the game’s standard UI below, instantly conveys the heavy metal indie character of the game. Source: LongplayArchive

These areas are highly distinct from Wolfenstein 3D despite some superficial similarities. Floors and ceilings are now textured or, in outdoor environments, feature skyboxes. Three dimensional space is simulated through vertical structures, though these actually all exist on a 2D plane; no space exists above or below another space, and firing beneath an enemy overlooking the player character’s position will strike that enemy as though it was directly in front of the player character. Windows between areas are also used to generate anticipation about rewards or challenges in adjacent rooms. These level design improvements were made possible through the use of John Carmack’s innovative Doom Engine, which would later be renamed id Tech 1 and be put to use in other titles like Heretic (1994) and Chex Quest (1996).

Each stage ends with a tally of the player’s accomplishments and compares his or her time against a predetermined par. This arguably set the stage for the speedrunning gameplay craze that would grow up around games in the 1990s and 2000s. Source: LongplayArchive

Distinctive enemy design is perhaps Doom’s most immediately noticeable feature. Much of the responsibility for this fell on the shoulders of Adrian Carmack, one of the four founders of id Software, though the final look of the monsters was a collaboration between Adrian Carmack and Kevin Cloud. The former had a background in fine art and was heavily influenced by his experience working with photographs of emergency room patients at a hospital prior to joining Softdisk. The two artists, later joined by Don Ivan Punchaz, would first sculpt most of Doom’s creatures and characters with clay before digitizing them into the game world.

Adrian Carmack sculpting Doom‘s iconic Baron of Hell from clay. Source: DoomWiki

The result was a game that looked as visceral as it felt to play. Enemies burst out of hidden cells, race towards the player against hellish backdrops, and spew gore when shot down. These iconic foes include the Baron of Hell, a tall minotaur-like boss enemy; the cyberdemon, a monster fused with machine parts; the imp, a basic enemy type which serves primarily as fodder for the player character’s weaponry; and the cacodemon, a floating spherical cyclops inspired by Dungeons and Dragons’ astral dreadnought. Numerous other enemies are present, representing a marked advancement from Wolfenstein 3D’s comparatively reserved set of antagonists.

A marauding enemy officially called the Demon but popularly referred to as the Pinky. Source: LongplayArchive

The player takes on the role of an unnamed space marine – commonly referred to by developers and fans as Doomguy – who is stationed on a Martian research base run by the Union Aerospace Corporation (UAC). A portal to Hell opens and most of the base’s residents are transformed into murderous monsters. Demons pour through the portal and, along with the transformed humans, can only be stopped by the Doomguy. Across three episodes comprised of nine stages each, Doomguy explores industrial environments and Hell itself while acquiring new weapons.

The chain gun cuts through foes with disturbing efficiency. Source: LongplayArchive

These weapons include standard fare, like the pistol and shotgun of Wolfenstein 3D, alongside new sidearms and tools. The plasma gun rapidly fires blue energy blasts and staggers enemies. A chainsaw cuts rapidly through foes engaged in melee combat. The game’s most iconic armament, the BFG 9000, fires a single shell which expands to destroy all enemies in a wide horizontal radius. No weapons need to be reloaded, allowing the player to fire constantly as he or she navigates Doomguy around the game’s corridors.

The BFG makes a big… fiery… green explosion. Source: LongplayArchive

Critically, two additional modes were included alongside the basic single-player campaign. Up to four PC users with a local area connection could play through the main game cooperatively or could compete with one another in the original first-person shooter deathmatch. The latter mode sees players running around an enclosed arena and attacking one another while trying to be the last one standing.

The game’s quasi-3D allows enemies on ledges to be struck without aiming upward. Source: LongplayArchive

Doom would be distributed initially through the shareware mechanism characteristic of the id founders’ time at Softdisk. Copies of the first episode, Knee Deep In The Dead, were delivered to video game retailers to be given out freely to customers. A copy was likewise uploaded to the internet for free download by anyone with a strong enough online connection. Once the first nine stages of the game were completed, players would be prompted to purchase the remaining two episodes through mail order from id Software. This distribution method is believed to have been a key step in establishing the popularity of the game and, indeed, and entire genre. Doom was so emblematic of a type of game that similar titles were known as “Doom clones” before the term first-person shooter (FPS) came into fashion.

Each episode of Doom features a world map depicting the player’s progress through a map between each stage. Source: LongplayArchive

The popularity of the game would ensure ongoing support, as a rudimentary online multiplayer connection which let remote users play competitively or cooperatively with one another was added to the game in 1994 after its successful debut in Doom II. An expanded version of the single-player campaign featuring a fourth episode, The Ultimate Doom, was then released in 1995. Ports of Doom with varying levels of fidelity to the original would be published over the following two decades on nearly every PC configuration and video game console.

Mods are innumerable, but many of the most immediately engaging feature characters and environments pulled from entirely unrelated series. Source: Mike MacDee

Perhaps even more important to Doom’s legacy than official ports, however, is a robust modding community. During the development phase, project lead John Carmack sought to structure files in such a way that ambitious modders or level designers could expand on the game’s officially supported content; with this in mind, he built the game with a user-friendly file format he called WAD. WADs allowed users to develop and distribute mods, levels, and even level creation tools easily, and these were available online as early as 1994. Their popularity only increased as internet connections became more prevalent across the world and id freely distributed the original source code, with mod creation remaining steady decades after Doom’s original release. Developer John Romero even announced that he would be celebrating Doom’s 25th Anniversary by independently publishing an unofficial fifth episode in 2019.

Doom II: Hell on Earth (1994)

Given the vast critical and commercial success of Doom, readers should not be surprised to find that its sequel was iterative rather than revolutionary. Development was underway shortly after the release of the first title and Doom II was on store shelves only nine months later. Its publication history actually constitutes one of the most significant changes to id’s process, as the studio’s three preceding games – Commander Keen (1990-1991), Wolfenstein 3D (1992), and Doom (1993) – had been self-published using a shareware model. Doom II would instead be released as a single retail package by GT Interactive, a company which would become noteworthy for its willingness to let developers retain intellectual property rights. Shareware was fading as a distribution model during the mid-1990s as the games industry grew increasingly corporatized and nothing could emphasize the transition more potently than its abandonment by id.

As with Wolfenstein 3D, the difficulty settings of Doom and its sequels are in keeping with the game’s tone. These include “I’m Too Young To Die,” “Hurt Me Plenty,” and “Nightmare!” Source: LongplayArchive

Weapon and enemy offerings in Doom II are similar to the preceding title with a few exceptions. The super shotgun represents a loud, aggressive expansion of Doom’s already powerful shotgun. Revenants, skeletons with shoulder-mounted cannon, make their debut here and would go on to appear in almost every later series entry. Mancubi similarly make their first appearance here as stocky, machine-gun wielding demons. Boss enemies from the first game also appear as standard enemies in Doom II, conveying a sense that the stakes have been raised.

The fearsome mancubus. Its a succubus, but also a man! Source: LongplayArchive

Those raised stakes are likewise present in the game’s narrative. Following his eradication of the demon invasion on Mars, Doomguy returns to Earth and discovers that another portal to Hell has opened there. Demons slaughter much of the Earth’s population and keep the survivors from escaping on spaceships. The Doomguy is tasked with eliminating a fiery barrier erected by the demons to cut off humanity’s exodus.

Note the presence of a white radiation suit in the lower-right of this image. Though the first game featured many diversions and secret paths, the expanded levels of Doom II offer more opportunities for the player to explore irradiated streams and dank caverns than ever before. Source: LongplayArchive

This articulates as a quest through 30 expanded stages designed by John Romero and Sandy Petersen. Since they were familiar with the id Tech 1 engine and had more time to play around with stage configurations, the developers were able to offer more distinctive locations. Doomguy battles his way through an underground industrial facility, a spaceport, a city, and then Hell itself. Text presented between each section contextualizes the journey. Stages themselves are much larger than those in Doom, featuring a more diverse palette of textures and opportunity for environmental puzzles.

The super shotgun is among the Doom II‘s most satisfying armaments. Source: LongplayArchive

Multiplayer would represent Doom II’s most important step forward for the franchise and genre. Prior to its release, players of the original game could only play with other users on a local area network. Doom II pioneered the internet multiplayer deathmatch using a connection service called DWANGO, and this was quickly ported back into versions of the original game. Though later title like Quake and Unreal would further popularize the format, Doom II served as many players’ introduction to online multiplayer FPS combat.

Nazi soldiers and Wolfenstein 3D environments serve as easter eggs in two maps. Source: DoomWiki

Mods and fan-made levels were as numerous for Doom II as they had been for its predecessor, and an official compilation of 20 additional stages called Master Levels for Doom II would be published by id Software in 1995. A later expansion pack would be bundled alongside the original game when it was re-released on Xbox Live Arcade in 2010. Ports would be fewer in number than those produced for Doom, however, and the game would remain largely locked to MS-DOS, Windows, and Macintosh users. Some notable exceptions to this dearth of official ports exist, including versions published on the PC-98 (1995), Game Boy Advance (2002), and Tapwave Zodiac portable entertainment device (2004).

Burned out cityscapes feature prominently in the game’s middle section. Source: LongplayArchive

Unfortunately, Doom‘s short-term future would be marred by controversy. Media reports linked the 1999 mass shooting at Colorado’s Columbine High School with id’s franchise due to the shooters’ alleged fascination with the game. These links would later be contradicted by research into games’ impact on violence among players, but Doom and the medium more broadly would receive no small amount of criticism during the late 1990s.

Doom 3 (2004)

id Software’s next major project after Doom II was Quake (1996). The development of this game was fraught, not least because it required the creation of an entirely new fully 3D engine. During the process of hashing out whether John Romero’s more narrative-driven approach or John Carmack’s more action-driven approach would define the final product, Romero was cut from the team. John Carmack would consequently become the primary voice behind Doom 3‘s development process a few years later.

The title screen of Doom 3 instantly sets a different tone from its predecessors. Source: LongplayArchive

Initially announced at Macworld Conference & Expo in 2001, Doom 3 was instantly recognizable as a major artistic shift for the franchise. It was originally presented as a multiplayer shooter – in the vein of id’s highly successful Quake III: Arena – but had already evolved into an atmospheric single-player adventure by the time a demo leaked on the internet in 2002. This direction, along with the buy-in from id team members who had previously expressed reservations about returning to Doom, was influenced by the positive critical and commercial performance of Return to Castle Wolfenstein (2001).

Zombies climb out of darkened corridors in a thoroughly spooky fashion. Source: LongplayArchive

Doom 3 would be released for PC and Mac operating systems in 2004. The level of technical polish is perhaps its most instantly recognizable feature, as it is powered by the studio’s then-new id Tech 4 game engine. This engine was programmed by John Carmack specifically for Doom 3, but was intended to be the standard for id’s next generation of FPS releases. The software was so cutting-edge, in fact, that Doom 3‘s highest setting were inaccessible to any contemporary PC hardware. It produced some of the most life-like graphics of its era and was used by id as recently as 2009’s Wolfenstein; in a manner consistent with John Carmack’s earlier efforts, a version of the engine’s source code was made freely accessible online in 2011.

An opening cutscene and lengthy dialogue sequences have more in common with Half-Life than earlier Doom games.  Source: LongplayArchive

Doom 3 was itself quite controversial. Without the influence of John Romero, the series shifted away from freewheeling action and towards straight horror. Some of this was down to the detailed lighting and darkness made possible by id Tech 4, but much of it was clearly a stylistic choice. The lengthy opening sequence, in which the player becomes acquainted with the game’s setting and movement mechanics, features extensive dialogue and no gunplay for the first time in the series’ history.

This game has PDAs. And I don’t mean public displays of affection. Source: Noah Caldwell-Gervais

The player character is an unnamed space marine in a rebooted version of the franchise’s universe. He is newly arrived on Mars and is stationed at a research base run by UAC, a sinister research outfit bearing the same name as the organization which ran the original Doom‘s Martian facility. The interactive introductory section of Doom 3 sees the player character exploring UAC’s still-active facility and becoming increasingly aware of eerie events unfolding on the periphery of the corporation’s ethically-ambiguous experiments. As one would expect, a portal is eventually opened and demons pour through as base residents transform into vicious zombies. Unlike any earlier entry in the franchise, four other NPCs regularly appear and interact with the player character over the course of his efforts to beat back the forces of Hell. Extensive audio logs and emails augment the storytelling offered by these NPCs.

Not a good thing when there are zombies and all you have is a flashlight. Source: Mr. Black

Even once the player has moved past the opening chapter’s exposition, gameplay is slower-paced than in earlier Doom titles. Much of the game is confined to extremely dim interior hallways, necessitating the use of a flashlight for illumination. Guns cannot be used when the player character wields his flashlight. The resulting conflict between prioritizing environmental awareness or defense against enemies pouring relentlessly from so-called “monster closets” is the central tension of Doom 3, and is tied inextricably with the powerful lighting technology of John Carmack’s newest engine. For better or for worse, though, one of the first fan-developed mods introduced the ability to use the flashlight and a gun simultaneously; this upgrade would be integrated in later official re-releases of the game.

The Demon/Pinky has been heavily reimagined as a dog-like critter. Source: LongplayArchive

Multiplayer deathmatches are possible online or over a local area network. The base game included support for up to four competitors, though this cap would be removed first by the fan community through mods and later through official support for up to eight players. Contemporary reviews confirm that the multiplayer modes – the aspect of Doom which had evolved least from earlier franchise entries – fell short of alternate titles which had flooded the multiplayer shooter market in the decade since Doom II‘s introduction of online deathmatches.

Touch panels can be interacted with in real-time, which is neat if an odd decision for a relatively fast-paced game. Source: LongplayArchive

An expansion pack called Resurrection of Evil was developed in collaboration with Nerve Software and released less than a year after the base game. It includes new monsters – most of Doom 3’s enemies were new takes on foes from earlier series entries – including the bizarre Bruiser, a cybernetic demon with a television for a mouth. A new physics-oriented weapon called The Grabber is also introduced with a nod towards similar mechanics in Valve’s seminal Half-Life 2 (2004). Surprisingly, Resurrection of Evil otherwise leans more on the tropes of the original Doom than the base game and is heavily oriented towards guns-blazing action.

How great is the Bruiser? He’s got a TV for a mouth! Source: DoomWiki

Microsoft’s Xbox would receive the only home console version of Doom 3 in 2005. This port was developed by Vicarious Visions and largely translated the lush visuals of the PC/Mac version to a less powerful hardware configuration while integrating new functionality like the ability to play the story mode cooperatively with a second player. Xbox Live Arcade, a relatively early example of online multiplayer in the world of home consoles, also facilitated deathmatches until servers were shuttered in 2010. Later versions, including a heavily remastered update titled Doom 3: BFG Edition (2012), would be released to generally positive reception over the following years.

DOOM (2016)

The next Doom was announced by John Carmack at QuakeCon 2007, but the next nine years would be a bumpy road for the game and its developers. id Software was acquired by Zenimax Media in 2009 after nearly two decades as an independent studio. Still, John Carmack and id CEO Todd Hollenshead would be left to run projects with no serious interference from their parent company. Much of the studio’s time in the late 2000s was actually dedicated to a new IP, Rage, which would release to middling reviews in 2011.

The original prototype of Doom 4 had much more in common with the atmosphere of Doom 3 than the final game would. Source: Noclip

Even as work on Rage was progressing, though, id Software had another team producing Doom 4. Kotaku‘s Jason Schreier shed light on the game’s messy development cycle in an exhaustive 2013 expose, confirming that this early version was effectively an unsuccessful attempt to marry Doom‘s demonic aesthetic with the mechanics of modern Call of Duty games. Doom 4 was set on Earth, echoing Doom II, and would see the player character engaging in scripted action set-pieces and even vehicle sequences as he or she helped a resistance movement battle demonic invaders. Facing widespread employee dissatisfaction, the project was rebooted following the completion of Rage.

There is a reason that this version of Doom 4 was popularly referred to as “Call of Doom.” Source: Noclip

The second version of Doom 4 would prove equally contentious, unfortunately, in spite of early optimism. Integrating team members and leadership from Rage caused extensive friction among id Software staff who had already spent three years on the game’s first iteration. An excellent documentary by YouTube channel Noclip, which includes extensive interviews with the development team, indicates that there were several aborted project reboots during this phase. By 2013, John Carmack would depart id Software for virtual reality hardware developer Oculus under a cloud of litigation. Longtime CEO Todd Hollenshead likewise left id in 2013. Fans feared the worst for the future of Doom.

The opening moments of DOOM, in which the player character crushes the head of an imp in visceral detail during a scripted event, is very different from the game’s original concept. Source: Noah Caldwell-Gervais

Against all odds, though, the development team delivered on a decade of expectations when the successor to Doom 3 was published by Zenimax subsidiary Bethesda in 2016 to near-universal acclaim. The simply titled DOOM launched simultaneously on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 underpinned by the studio’s new id Tech 6 engine. This new software proved to be a versatile replacement for id Tech 5 and represents a promising start for John Carmack’s replacement as lead programmer, Tiago Sousa.

Hell is full of spacious interiors. Source: Noah Caldwell-Gervais

DOOM hews closely to the model established by the series’ first entry while making a handful of major updates. It largely abandons the survival horror trappings of Doom 3, instead emphasizing fast-paced action and wide-open arena combat. Corridors are still featured but are reduced to the role of transportation between larger spaces.

The recovery of the Doomslayer’s sarcophagus by cyborg Samuel Hayden is depicted through holographic flashbacks. Source: Noah Caldwell-Gervais

The heavily-scripted narrative of Doom 3 and id’s Doom 4 prototype is similarly abandoned in favor of a stripped-down plot inspired by the original Doom. The player takes on the role of the Doomslayer, a mythical hero buried long ago in a sarcophagus within the bowels of Hell and retrieved by UAC scientists on Mars. These scientists, led by cyborg Samuel Hayden, are investigating the use of Hell-powered Argent Energy at their Martian research base in pursuit of a solution to Earth’s energy crisis.

Sinister scientist and demon deal-maker Olivia Pierce regularly appears on monitors throughout the game. Source: Noah Caldwell-Gervais

The Doomslayer awakens from his lengthy slumber as the base descends into chaos amidst a demonic invasion caused by UAC scientist Olivia Pierce. No real exposition is provided, as the game begins with a tense action sequence, and much of the aforementioned narrative is delivered through textual codex entries along with audio and holographic logs discovered throughout the base; Hayden and Pierce also appear in-person to deliver monologues to the disinterested Doomslayer.

The Doomslayer cares not for complex machinery. Source: Noah Caldwell-Gervais

Gameplay is extremely fast-paced and visceral. From its opening moments, DOOM establishes a rhythmic pace to its combat encounters: the player character collects guns, ammunition, and health before being beset by waves of enemies in an isolated space. Following each of these battles, the player character explores the base and then encounters another combat sequence. This rhythm is occasionally broken up by NPC monologues or the discovery of secret areas with either collectible character figurines or throwback sequences featuring the visual style of the original Doom.

Secret zones feature pixelated graphics inspired by the original Doom even as the player character’s weaponry and UI are firmly entrenched in 2016. Source: Noah Caldwell-Gervais

Another significant wrinkle in battle sequences is the presence of brutal melee finishing attacks. These become available once the player has staggered an enemy through the use of gunfire, feature one of several semi-randomised gory first-person kill animations, and reward the player with a generous helping of ammo and/or health recovery packs. This innovative mechanic directly encourages the player to confront enemies up-close, wading into the heart of charging demons, rather than the comparatively conservative cover-based gun combat of earlier series entries.

Fiery industrial zones are among the game’s most memorable areas. Source: Noah Caldwell-Gervais

Doom‘s lush visual design dovetails elegantly with its focus on close-quarters combat. Mars and, later, Hell are rendered with grotesque imagery that would not be out of place on a heavy metal album cover; Hell’s beautiful, twisted art design was inspired by the art of Zdzisław Beksiński. Despite winding passages and messy gore-covered surfaces, interactive computer panels and climbable ledges are clearly identified without the need for garish visual overlays. Enemies are particularly impressive, as DOOM features virtually all of the series’ classic creatures rendered as fully articulated 3D models. The Doomslayer frequently dismembers these models as he completes a finishing move, but player character death animations are similarly horrifying as the player watches his or avatar carved up in graphic detail from a first-person perspective.

Doom‘s iconic cyberdemon is so cool that it gets a scripted debut in one of the game’s very few boss fights. Source: Noah Caldwell-Gervais

Though id’s efforts were clearly focused on DOOM‘s extensive single-player campaign, a multiplayer mode is also available. This has more in common with other FPS games of the 2000s than the innovative single-player mode, emphasizing deathmatches between networked competitors. It would be criticized as the weakest element of an otherwise revolutionary series entry.

Brutal kills are aptly named. Source: Noah Caldwell-Gervais

SnapMap, on the other hand, is an especially welcome addition to DOOM‘s functionality. This mode allows users to develop their own single-player and multiplayer maps and campaigns, distributing them online and dramatically increasing the content available to new players. Creators can apply dynamic particle effects and even determine the frequency with which specific enemy types attack the player in single-player stages. To encourage participation, users are given points for creating content which can then be used to unlock additional in-game assets. SnapMap does not permit the use of assets aside from those provided by Id, however, unlike the WAD system popularized by Doom and Doom II.

SnapMap is slick and more user-friendly, as indicated by this blueprint editor, but lacks the rough-hewn adaptability of John Carmack’s WAD system. Source: DoomWiki

Though its initial 2016 launch was impressive, id would collaborate with Austin-based developer Panic Button to deliver a virtual reality version – DOOM: VFR – and a seemingly impossible Nintendo Switch port in 2017. Nintendo’s home/portable hybrid device is popular but sits well below other contemporary game consoles’ process power. Panic Button found a way to deliver a solid 30 frames per second performance – admittedly half the speed available to Xbox One, PlayStation 4, or PC DOOM owners – without significantly compromising the game’s core experience. The resolution likewise takes a hit, appearing blurry at times, but does not seriously erode id’s distinctive art design. Most importantly, DOOM‘s Switch port demonstrated the viability of Nintendo’s newest platform for third party developers following a decade of decreasing support. Much of this was possible due to the adaptability of the id Tech 6 game engine.


Doom has been subject to assorted spinoff projects over its 25 year history, both within the medium of games and without. This article will be concerned with the former, though I  strongly recommend seeking out information about the genuinely baffling Doom novel series or the ill-conceived 2005 film adaptation of Doom 3. For better or for worse, a 2019 trailer confirms that the franchise’s cinematic ambitions are far from over.

Final Doom is, if nothing else, more Doom. Source: Zero Master

Interactive spinoffs began early in the series’ history with Final Doom (1996). Though published by id Software, Final Doom was actually developed by two fan mapping groups: TeamTNT and the Caseli brothers. The former was responsible for one of Final Doom‘s two 32-stage campaigns, TnT: Evilution, while the latter created The Plutonia Experiment; the former had been completed as a fan project before being purchased by id while the latter was designed specifically for this package. Both campaigns contain re-purposed art and music assets from Doom and Doom II but represent a marked increased in difficulty. A PlayStation port would follow the game’s PC release.

Though Doom 64 bore the action characteristic of its predecessors, its improved lighting engine feels like a bridge to Doom 3. Source: Stop Skeletons From Fighting

Though the series had made its home console debut with Doom ports for the SEGA 32X and Super Nintendo, along with Doom II and Final Doom ports to the PlayStation, Doom 64 (1997) would represent the first entry built from the ground up for a non-PC platform. As such, it was developed by Midway – the studio responsible for Mortal Kombat (1992) – rather than id Software. id supervised the work and notified Midway when level designs fell short of their expectations. The plot concerns an off-world mission following Doomguy’s success at eradicating Earth’s demon infestation. Doomguy is tasked with halting a new outbreak caused by a mysterious entity able to revive fallen demons

The cacodemon looks very different in Doom 64. Source: DoomWiki

Doom 64‘s basic gameplay is fundamentally unchanged from earlier series entries, though the visual design has received an overhaul. Levels make use of 3D acceleration to allow overlapping vertical spaces rather than simply imitating 3D. Monsters remain 2D, but each has received a new set of sprites and two new creatures (Nightmare Imp and Mother Demon) make their first appearance; unfortunately, cartridge space issues ensured that a handful of old monster were cut. A new energy-based gun called the Unmaker is introduced, while most other weapons have been tweaked in form or function. The game’s 32 levels are embellished for the first time in the series by atmospheric visual enhancements and improved skyboxes not possible in earlier versions. Surprisingly, Doom 64 omits certain elements for which the franchise had become known – no multiplayer mode or modding capabilities are included – but was well-received nonetheless.

Doom RPG walks the walk (one turn at a time), but can it talk the talk? Source: DoomWiki

A long drought of spinoffs would follow Doom 64. The next one was Doom RPG (2005), a quirky genre experiment built for mobile phones by Fountainhead Entertainment. The game is visually similar to the original Doom, but features turn-based movement and dialogue with NPCs. Its presentation is similar to classic first-person dungeon crawlers like Wizardry.

Meeting a non-hostile NPC in Doom II RPG. Source: DoomWiki

Battles in Doom RPG occur in a turn-based manner while exploring dungeons. Enemies can be spotted in the distance and attempt to approach the player character as the player character fires at them using one of his guns. Most enemies have a weakness to one of the player character’s weapons, so success is often determined by exploiting enemy weaknesses and careful positioning while exploring the game’s five areas. The narrative is more extensive than the original Doom, unsurprisingly, and concerns two scientists feuding with one another as a demon invasion overcomes their Martian research base. A follow-up titled Doom II RPG was released in 2009.

An encounter with Doom 3‘s maggot enemy in Doom: Resurrection. Note how much brighter the game is despite using darkness-oriented Doom 3 assets. Source: android players

The same year, a second spinoff was released for Apple iPhones. Doom: Resurrection is an atmospheric rail shooter set during the events of Doom 3. Enemy art assets and environmental details are pulled directly from id’s latest core series entry, but the narrative is actually set months before that game’s events. Despite its development by an entirely different team – Escalation Studios in collaboration with id Software – one of Doom: Resurrection‘s unique characters would go on to have a cameo appearance in Fountainhead Studio’s Doom II RPG. The plot of Doom: Resurrection would also later influence a bonus episode added to Doom 3: BFG Edition.

As if you needed to ask: yes, Doom Pinball does indeed prominently feature skulls and a cyberdemon. Source: maezun

Amusingly, a digital pinball adaptation of DOOM (2016) was made available in 2016 as a free-to-play mobile app and as one of several tables in a Bethesda-themed downloadable content (DLC) pack for Zen Studios’ Zen Pinball 2 (2012), Pinball FX 2 (2010), and Pinball FX 3 (2017). The digital table sees the player defeating demon hordes by – what else – bouncing a small steel ball around an obstacle course. Aside from a virtual reality port of DOOM (2016) covered above, Doom Pinball represents the latest spinoff published at the time of writing.


Doom remains an extraordinarily prominent work 25 years after its initial release. Through sequels, mods, and spinoffs, id’s magnum opus has courted controversy and managed to wring a shocking amount of gameplay out of a simple set of core mechanics. The next title in the series, Doom Eternal, is expected to premiere on all modern game platforms in 2019.

Most importantly, while it was not the first FPS (or even id’s first FPS), Doom established an entire genre by dominating the computer game market just as that hardware was becoming common among Western consumers. Against the odds, a small independent studio in Austin would become one of the biggest names in the medium through a combination of tight, rewarding gameplay and consistently grotesque visual imagery. Long live the Doomslayer.

What do you think about Doom? Did it cause you to lose productivity at work in the 1990s, as it did for so many office employees? Was it the reason your family got a sweet new MS-DOS PC? Maybe you preferred the oppressive survival horror atmosphere of Doom 3? Or, like me, jumped on-board with the series’ newest entry in 2016. Whatever your background with the series, I’d love to hear about it.

In two weeks we’ll be rolling up the facts on Katamari. Join us at 9:00 AM EST on Friday, May 31!