'Doom' Turns 20: We Take A Look At The Game's History

The classic FPS celebrates 20 years

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Think back to a simpler time: 1993. Miley Cyrus was still in diapers. Ace of Base was playing on the radio. “The X-Files” was in its pilot season, and sci-fi horror first-person shooter “Doom” launched in December. The influential and innovative "Doom" followed the mission of an unnamed space marine as he battled demonic enemies on Mars. Though “Doom” may look primitive compared to modern first-person shooters like “Call of Duty: Ghosts” or “Battlefield 4,” the game quickly became a cultural phenomenon in the early '90s.

"Doom" launched at midnight on Dec. 10, 1993. An executive at Texas-based id Software uploaded a file to an FTP site on the University of Washington’s online network, and players immediately began sharing the 2MB file, uploading it to other FTP sites and downloading it to their PCs; “Doom” eventually made its way around the world.

Id Software, which launched in Mesquite, Texas, in 1991, is also the creator of action game “Commander Keen” and popular 1992 first-person shooter “Wolfenstein 3D.” The company quickly found itself making $100,000 daily from $9 shareware purchases. Yep, $9. Sales figures vary, but experts estimate that the game sold approximately 2 million to 3 million copies in six years and was played by 10 million people within 24 months of its launch.

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In 1993, “Doom” shocked gamers in the same way that today’s games like “Grand Theft Auto V” spark parent protests. The game was full of gore, violence and blood, and although tame by today’s ESRB standards, was often seen as appalling in 1993. Six years later, it was revealed that Columbine shooters Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were avid “Doom” players. But, like any hype surrounding a gaming title, the controversy made the game all the more popular. It also helped that "Doom" was the first of its kind: The detailed levels were elaborately constructed and packed with enemies. Players could also create their own levels, monsters and entirely new games.

At the head of the game’s development was id co-founder and programmer John Carmack. Carmack stayed with the company for 22 years and decided to leave this past November for a CTO position at Oculus VR, an organization working on a head-mounted gaming virtual-reality display. Carmack, who played a crucial role in the development of “Wolfenstein 3D” and “Doom,” felt that both games were imperative to the advancement of the first-person shooter genre. “I think that first-person shooter is a stable genre that’s going to be here forever, just like there are going to be driving games forever," he told Wired magazine. "There’s something just intrinsically rewarding about turning around a corner and shooting at something.”

Carmack is also pleased at how the gaming genre has evolved. “There was a cycle where FPSes seemed to be in a little bit of a wane. And I thought there was a rational reason why, in many cases for gaming, third-person would become the dominant genre, because third-person lets you use all the tools of the film director…I had resigned myself to the fact that that likely would be the more dominant form. And I have to say I was pleasantly heartened when the “Call of Duty” wave came over in more recent years and really took first-person back to the top of the heap in prominence.”

Several installments followed the original title. “Doom II: Hell on Earth” launched in 1994, “Final Doom” was released in 1996 and “Doom 64” hit shelves in 1997 for the Nintendo 64. Two more titles were released, along with four spinoffs. “Doom 4” is set to be released in the future and the title has been in development for five years. The game was slated for release on the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC, though developers may be reconstructing the game entirely for the recently launched next-gen systems.

Twenty years ago, “Doom” shocked players (and some parents) with its ingenious FPS viewpoint, creepy theme and violent graphics. Today, we're going to take a few minutes and travel back to good ol’ 1993, blast some Dr. Dre, boot up our old computers – and spend some time shooting some demon Hellspawn.

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