When I was 13, I got my first home computer, a Toshiba MSX machine. The OS and the BASIC interpreter were on ROM, but the rest had to be loaded from cassette tape. Of course, everyone freely traded in illegal software: most of it games. Konami made the best stuff for MSX, and I had quite a library. I have been playing computer games ever since: on the MSX, later on the MSX-2, and then on to PC and the Playstation.
When I was studying Computer Science, out came Wolfenstein 3D. Running around a maze-like castle, shooting nazi guards — I had never seen anything like it. I played it a lot.
And then, a year later, twenty years ago now, out came Doom. This was during the days that many game companies released the first levels of their game as shareware, and you could buy the full game from them. (Think of it as a precursor of BitTorrent, really: someone downloaded the shareware version, then distributed it with his friends, who then shared it with their friends, etcetera.)
Doom added a whole new level of sophistication to the newly created genre of the first person shooters: the walls didn’t have to stand on right angles anymore, there was a height difference, and the lighting effects were enhanced. With the addition, sci-fi textures and the wide variety of monsters, Doom was certainly a new experience to play.
And it was exciting. You never knew what was around the corner, and you could hear the monsters moving around in the dark ahead… Some levels really stressed me out because of this — I really dislike blundering about in the dark amongst powerful monsters, an emotion I’m revisiting often while playing Dark Souls these days!
Even if I say so myself, I was pretty good. I played it on keyboard, and all of my years training on the MSX keyboard gave me good hand-eye coordination. I set up a network with my flatmate — first through a long serial cable, then through a BNC network — and we played against each other a lot in a deathmatch. I often won, and even when he got one of his friends in for a three-way deathmatch, I often bested them despite them cooperating.
The multiplayer deathmatch was what made the game immensely popular. And then the level editors were released! Suddenly you could create your own levels — some made devilishly hard levels, others gave you the most powerful guns right off the bat. Most of the levels were built for deathmatches, though some people created whole new episodes and there were even a few ‘total conversion’ projects to re-create, say, Aliens in Doom.
Our student association once organised a Doom deathmatch competition, and I was one of the authors of the level. Good fun.
And then Doom II came, and suddenly you had to use a mouse for targetting. In Doom, there were height differences, but it was as if a sheet of paper was draped across a table with things under it: there were no over-passes. So if you saw a player straight ahead but above you, you could simply shoot and still hit: the targetting ignored the height difference.
But with the new FPS’es, the new engines allowed real vertical differences. And I just couldn’t use a mouse for targetting — still can’t, which is why I completely suck at FPS’es and never play them anymore. I simply lost my edge due to technological progress! 😉
(That didn’t stop me from playing. I have fond memories of playing many, many rounds of Quake II with xaviar_nl on Fridays to blow off steam. Most of the time, he bested me without too much trouble.)
There’s not much point to this entry — I just wanted to point out that Doom was released twenty years ago, and that everyone played the hell out of it. It was the game that defined a whole genre. And if you start it up nowadays, the graphics are quite dated, but the gameplay is still there. That’s really something.