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"The Ultimate Doom" title artwork, painted by Don Ivan Punchatz, depicts the lone hero, a space marine, fighting demonic creatures.
Developer(s) id Software
Publisher(s) id Software, GT Interactive, Activision
Designer(s) John Romero
Engine Doom
Release date(s) December 10, 1993
Genre(s) First-person shooter
Mode(s) Single player
Multiplayer ( cooperative)
Multiplayer ( deathmatch)
Rating(s) ESRB: M
BBFC: 15
RSAC: V3: Blood and gore
L1: Mild expletives
Platform(s) PC ( MS-DOS)
Other versions and ports of Doom
Media 3½" floppy disk, CD (1)

Doom (or DOOM) is a 1993 computer game by id Software that is among the landmark titles in the first-person shooter genre. It is widely recognized for its pioneering use of immersive 3D graphics, networked multiplayer gaming on the PC platform, and the support for players to create custom expansions ( WADs). Distributed as shareware, Doom was downloaded by an estimated 10 million people within two years, popularizing the mode of gameplay and spawning a gaming subculture; as a sign of its impact on the industry, games from the mid-1990s boom of first-person shooters are often known simply as " Doom clones". Its graphic and interactive violence has also made Doom the subject of much controversy reaching outside the gaming world. According to GameSpy, Doom was voted by industry insiders to be the #1 game of all time.

The Doom franchise was continued with Doom II: Hell on Earth (1994) and numerous expansion packs, including The Ultimate Doom (1995), Master Levels for Doom II (1995), and Final Doom (1996). Originally released for PC/ DOS, these games have later been ported to many other platforms, including nine different game consoles. The series lost mainstream appeal as the technology of the Doom game engine was surpassed in the mid-1990s, although fans have continued making WADs, speedrunning, and modifying the source code which was released in 1997. The franchise again received popular attention in 2004 with the release of Doom 3, a retelling of the original game using new technology, and an associated 2005 Doom motion picture.

Game features


Doom has a science fiction/ horror theme, and a simple plot. The background is only given in the game's manual, and the in-game story is mainly advanced with short messages displayed between the game's episodes.

The player takes the role of a nameless space marine (referred to as " Doomguy" by many fans), "one of Earth's toughest, hardened in combat and trained for action", who has been deported to Mars for assaulting a senior officer when ordered to kill unarmed civilians. He is forced to work for the Union Aerospace Corporation (UAC), a military-industrial conglomerate that is performing secret experiments with teleportation between the moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos. Suddenly, something goes wrong and creatures from Hell come out of the teleportation gates, or "Gateways". A defensive response from base security fails to halt the invasion, and the bases quickly get overrun by demons; all personnel are killed or turned into zombies. At the same time, Deimos vanishes entirely. A UAC team from Mars is sent to Phobos to investigate the incident, but soon radio contact ceases and only one human is left alive — the player, whose task is to make it out alive.

In order to beat the game, the player must fight through three episodes containing nine levels each (see Episodes and levels of Doom). Knee-Deep in the Dead, the first episode and the only one in the shareware version, is set in the high-tech military bases on Phobos. It ends with the player fighting the Barons of Hell and afterwards entering the teleporter leading to Deimos, there getting overwhelmed by monsters and seemingly killed. In the second episode, Shores of Hell, the player journeys through the Deimos installation, whose areas are interwoven with beastly architecture. After encountering the Cyberdemon, the truth about the vanished moon is discovered: it is floating above Hell. The player climbs down to the surface, and the final episode, Inferno, begins. After destroying the final boss, the Spider Mastermind, a hidden doorway opens for the hero who has "proven too tough for Hell to contain", leading back home to Earth. The expansion pack Ultimate Doom adds a fourth episode, Thy Flesh Consumed, chronicling the marine's return to Earth.


Being a first-person shooter, Doom is experienced through the eyes of the main character. The objective of each level is simply to locate the exit room that leads to the next area (usually labeled with an inviting red EXIT sign), while surviving all hazards on the way. Among the obstacles are monsters, pits of radioactive slime, ceilings that come down and crush the player, and locked doors for which a keycard or remote switch need to be located. The levels are sometimes labyrinthine (the automap is a crucial aid in navigating them), and feature plenty of hidden secret areas that hold power-ups as a reward for players who explore.

Doom is notable for the weapons arsenal available to the player, which became prototypical for first-person shooters. The player starts armed only with a pistol, and brass-knuckled fists in case the ammunition runs out, but larger weapons can be picked up: these are a chainsaw, a shotgun, a chaingun, a rocket launcher, a plasma rifle, and finally the immensely powerful BFG 9000. There is a wide array of power-ups, such as a backpack that increases the player's ammunition-carrying capacity, armor, first aid kits to restore health, the berserk pack (a black first aid box that puts the character into berserk mode, allowing them to deal out rocket launcher-level damage with their fists and potentially splattering former humans and imps), and supernatural blue orbs that boost the player's health percentage beyond 100%, up to a maximum of 200%.

The enemy monsters in Doom make up the central gameplay element. The player faces them in large numbers, on the higher of the game's five difficulty levels often encountering a dozen or more in the same room. There are 10 types of monsters ( Doom II doubles this figure), including possessed humans as well as demons of different strength, ranging from weak but ubiquitous imps and red, floating cacodemons, to the bosses which survive multiple strikes even from the player's strongest weapons. The monsters have very simple behaviour, consisting of either walking toward the player or attacking by throwing fireballs, biting, and scratching (though they can also fight each other).

Many versions of Doom (and its sequels) include secret levels which are accessed by the player discovering alternate exits, often hidden behind secret doors or in difficult-to-reach areas. In some versions of Doom II two of these secret levels incorporate level design and characters from Doom's precursor, Wolfenstein 3D.

Aside from the single-player game mode, Doom features two multiplayer modes playable over a network: "co-operative", in which two to four players team up against the legions of Hell, and " deathmatch", in which two to four players fight each other.

  • Doom single-player gameplay demonstration
    • Video of a single-player game, in the level E3M6: Mount Erebus.
  • .


Some of the Doom monsters were digitized from sculptures. Here, Adrian Carmack creates the Baron of Hell in clay.
Some of the Doom monsters were digitized from sculptures. Here, Adrian Carmack creates the Baron of Hell in clay.

The development of Doom started in 1992 when John Carmack developed a new 3-D game engine, the Doom engine, while the rest of the id Software team finished the Wolfenstein 3D sequel Spear of Destiny. When the game design phase began in late 1992, the main thematic influences were the science fiction action movie Aliens and the horror movie Evil Dead II. The title of the game was picked by Carmack:

There is a scene in " The Colour of Money" where Tom Cruse [sic] shows up at a pool hall with a custom pool cue in a case. "What do you have in there?" asks someone. "Doom." replied Cruse with a cocky grin. That, and the resulting carnage, was how I viewed us springing the game on the industry.

Designer Tom Hall wrote an elaborate design document called the Doom Bible, according to which the game would feature a detailed storyline, multiple player characters, and a number of interactive features. However, many of his ideas were discarded during development in favour of simpler design primarily advocated by Carmack, resulting in Hall in the end being forced to resign due to not contributing effectively in the direction the rest of the team was going. Most of the level design that ended up in the final game is that of John Romero and Sandy Petersen. The graphics, by Adrian Carmack, Kevin Cloud and Gregor Punchatz, were created in various ways: although much was drawn or painted, several of the monsters were built from sculptures in clay or latex, and some of the weapons are toy guns from Toys "R" Us. A heavy metal- ambient soundtrack was supplied by Bobby Prince.

Engine technology

Doom's primary distinguishing feature at the time of its release was its realistic 3D graphics, then unparalleled by other real-time-rendered games running on consumer-level hardware. The advance from id Software's previous game Wolfenstein 3D was enabled by several new features in the Doom engine:

  • Height differences (all rooms in Wolfenstein 3D are at the same altitude);
  • Non- perpendicular walls (all walls in Wolfenstein 3D run along a rectangular grid);
  • Swaying of the weapon (in Wolfenstein 3D the arms stay fixed in front in the screen no matter what the character does), this gives the impression of fluidity while walking or running;
  • Full texture mapping of all surfaces (in Wolfenstein 3D, floors and ceilings are not texture mapped);
  • Varying light levels (all areas in Wolfenstein 3D are fully lit at the same brightness). While contributing to the game's visual authenticity by allowing effects such as highlights and shadows, this perhaps most importantly added to the game's atmosphere and even gameplay; the use of darkness as a means of frightening or confusing the player was an unseen element in games.

In contrast to the static levels of Wolfenstein 3D, those in Doom are highly interactive: platforms can lower and rise, floors can raise sequentially to form staircases, and bridges can raise and lower. The life-like feeling of the environment was enhanced further by the stereo sound system, which made it possible to roughly tell the direction and distance of a sound's origin. The player is kept on guard by the grunts and growls of monsters, and receives occasional clues to finding secret areas in the form of sounds of hidden doors opening remotely. Monsters can also become aware of the player's presence by hearing distant gunshots.

Carmack had to make use of several tricks for these features to run smoothly on home computers of 1993. Most significantly, Doom levels are not truly three-dimensional; they are internally represented on a plane, with height differences added separately (a similar trick is still used by many games to create huge outdoor environments). This leads to several limitations: it is, for example, not possible for a Doom level to have one room over another. This two-dimensional representation does, however, have the benefit that rendering can be done very quickly, using a binary space partitioning method. Another benefit was the clearness of the automap because it could be displayed with 2D vectors without the risk of overlapping.

Another important feature of the Doom engine is a modular approach that allows the game content to be replaced by loading custom WAD files. Wolfenstein 3D was not designed to be expandable, but fans had nevertheless figured out how to create their own levels for it, and Doom was designed to take the phenomenon further. The ability to create custom scenarios contributed significantly to the game's popularity (see the section on WADs below).

Release and later history

Initial popularity

The development of Doom was surrounded by much anticipation. The large number of posts in Internet newsgroups about Doom led to the SPISPOPD joke, to which a nod was given in the game in the form of a cheat code. In addition to news, rumors, and screenshots, unauthorized leaked alpha versions also circulated online. (Many years later these alpha versions were sanctioned by id Software because of historical interest; they reveal how the game progressed from its early design stages.) The first public version of Doom was uploaded to an FTP run at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on December 10, 1993.

Released as shareware, people were encouraged to distribute Doom further, and did so: in 1995, Doom was estimated to have been installed on more than 10 million computers. Although most users did not purchase the registered version, over one million copies have been sold, and the popularity helped the sales of later games in the Doom series which were not released as shareware. In 1995, The Ultimate Doom (version 1.9, including episode IV) was released, making this the first time that Doom was sold commercially in stores.

In a press release dated January 1, 1993, id Software had written that they expected Doom to be "the number one cause of decreased productivity in businesses around the world". This prediction came true at least in part: Doom became a major problem at workplaces, both occupying the time of employees and clogging computer networks with traffic caused by deathmatches. Intel, Lotus Development and Carnegie Mellon University are among many organizations reported to form policies specifically disallowing Doom-playing during work hours. At the Microsoft campus, Doom was by one account equal to a "religious phenomenon".

In late 1995, Doom was estimated to be installed on more computers worldwide than Microsoft's new operating system Windows 95, despite million-dollar advertising campaigns for the latter. The game's popularity prompted Bill Gates to briefly consider buying id Software, and led Microsoft to develop a Windows 95 port of Doom to promote the operating system as a gaming platform. One such presentation to promote Windows 95 had Bill Gates digitally superimposed into the game. The Microsoft 1995 release Excel 95 included a Doom-esque secret level as an easter egg containing portraits of the programmers among other things. It is speculated that Microsoft engineers took advantage of their experience working on the Doom Windows 95 port to place the code in the spreadsheet program.

Doom was also widely praised in the gaming press. In 1994, it was awarded Game of the Year by both PC Gamer and Computer Gaming World. It also received the Award for Technical Excellence from PC Magazine, and the Best Action Adventure Game award by the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences.

In addition to the thrilling nature of the single-player game, the deathmatch mode was an important factor in the game's popularity. Doom was not the first first-person shooter with a deathmatch mode— MIDI Maze on the Atari ST had one in 1987, using the MIDI ports built into the ST to network up to four machines together. However, Doom was the first game to allow deathmatching over ethernet, and the combination of violence and gore with fighting friends made deathmatching in Doom particularly attractive. Two player deathmatch was also possible over a phone line by using a modem. Due to its widespread distribution, Doom hence became the game that introduced deathmatching to a large audience (and was also the first game to use the term "deathmatch").


The ability to create custom levels and otherwise modify the game, in the form of custom WAD files, turned out to be a particularly popular aspect of Doom. Gaining the first large mod-making community, Doom affected the culture surrounding first-person shooters, and also the industry. Several to-be professional game designers started their careers making Doom WADs as a hobby, among them Tim Willits, who later became the lead designer at id Software.

The first level editors appeared in early 1994, and additional tools have been created that allow most aspects of the game to be edited. Although the majority of WADs contain one or several custom levels mostly in the style of the original game, others implement new monsters and other resources, and heavily alter the gameplay; several popular movies, television series and other brands from popular culture have been turned into Doom WADs by fans (without authorization), including Aliens, Star Wars, The X-files, The Simpsons, South Park, Pokemon and Batman. Some works like the Theme Doom Patch even combined enemies from several movies like Aliens, Predator and The Terminator.

Some addon files were also made which changed the sounds made by the various characters and weapons. Notable ones were samples from Beavis and Butthead and the famous orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally....

Around 1994 and 1995, WADs were primarily distributed online over bulletin board systems or sold in collections on compact discs in computer shops, sometimes bundled with editing guide books. FTP servers became the primary method in later years. A few WADs have been released commercially, including the Master Levels for Doom II, which was released in 1995 along with Maximum Doom, a CD containing 1,830 WADs that had been downloaded from the Internet. Several thousands of WADs have been created in total: the idgames FTP archive contains over 13,000 files, and this does not represent the complete output of Doom fans.

Third party programs were also written to handle the loading of various WADs, since the game is a DOS game and all commands had to be entered on the command line in order to run. A typical launcher would allow the player to select which files to load from a menu, making it much easier to start.

Clones and related products

The phrase "Doom clone" was initially popular to describe the style of gameplay in Doom-like games, but after 1996 was gradually replaced by "first person shooter".
The phrase " Doom clone" was initially popular to describe the style of gameplay in Doom-like games, but after 1996 was gradually replaced by " first person shooter".

The popularity of Doom led to the development of a sequel, Doom II: Hell on Earth (1994), as well as expansion packs and alternate versions based on the same game engine, including The Ultimate Doom (1995), Final Doom (1996), and Doom 64 (1997). Doom became a killer application that all capable consoles and operating systems were expected to have, and versions of Doom have subsequently been released for the following systems: DOS, Microsoft Windows, QNX, Irix, NEXTSTEP, Linux, Apple Macintosh, Super NES, Sega 32X, Sony PlayStation, Game Boy Advance, RISC OS, Atari Jaguar, Sega Saturn, Nintendo 64, Tapwave Zodiac, 3DO, Xbox as a feature of Doom 3: Limited Edition, and Xbox 360 on Xbox Live Arcade. The total number of copies of Doom games sold is unknown, but may be well over 4 million; Doom II alone has sold for over $100 million.

The game engine was licensed to several other companies as well, who released their own games based on it, including Heretic, HeXen, Strife and HacX. There is also a Doom-based game released by a breakfast cereal maker as a product tie-in called Chex Quest, and the United States Marine Corps released Marine Doom, designed to "teach teamwork, coordination and decision-making".

Dozens of new first-person shooter titles appeared following Doom's release, and they were often referred to as " Doom clones" rather than "first-person shooters". Some of these were certainly "clones"—hastily assembled and quickly forgotten about—others explored new grounds of the genre and were highly acclaimed. Many of the games closely imitated features in Doom such as the selection of weapons and cheat codes. Doom's principal rivals were Apogee's Rise of the Triad and Looking Glass Studios' System Shock (which, unlike Doom, featured 3D gameplay). The popularity of Star Wars-themed WADs is rumored to have been the factor that prompted LucasArts to create their first-person shooter Dark Forces.

When, three years later, 3D Realms released Duke Nukem 3D, a tongue-in-cheek science fiction shooter based on Ken Silverman's technologically similar Build engine, id Software had nearly finished Quake, its next-generation game, which mirrored Doom's success for the remainder of the 1990s and significantly reduced interest in its predecessor. The franchise remained in that state until 2000, when Doom 3 was announced. A retelling of the original Doom using entirely new graphics technology, Doom 3 was hyped to provide as large a leap in realism and interactivity as the original Doom, but received mixed reactions when released in 2004.

Doom has appeared in several forms in addition to games, including a comic book, four novels by Dafydd Ab Hugh and Brad Linaweaver (loosely based on events and locations in the games), and a film starring Karl Urban and The Rock released in 2005. The game's development and impact on popular culture is also the subject of the book Masters of Doom by David Kushner.


Doom was and remains notorious for its high levels of violence, gore, and satanic imagery, which have generated much controversy from a broad range of groups. It has been criticized numerous times by religious organizations for its diabolic undertones and was dubbed a "mass murder simulator" by critic and Killology Research Group founder Lt. Col. David Grossman. Doom prompted fears that the then-emerging virtual reality technology could be used to simulate extremely realistic killing, and in 1994 led to unsuccessful attempts by Washington state senator Phil Talmadge to introduce compulsory licensing of VR use (in fact, according to a well-known graph from the USA Department of Justice, violent crime has plummeted since the early 1990s: )

The game again sparked controversy throughout a period of school shootings in the United States when it was found that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who committed the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, were avid players of the game. While planning for the massacre, Harris said that the killing would be "like fucking Doom" and that his shotgun was "straight out of" the game. A rumor spread afterwards that Harris had designed Doom levels that looked like the halls of the high school, populated with representations of Harris's classmates and teachers, and that Harris practiced for his role in the shootings by playing these levels over and over. However, although Harris did design Doom levels, they were not simulations of Columbine High School (see Harris levels).

Continued legacy

Doom is widely regarded as one of the most important titles in gaming history. It was voted the "#1 game of all time" in a poll among over 100 game developers and journalists conducted by GameSpy in July 2001, and PC Gamer proclaimed Doom the most influential game of all time in its ten-year anniversary issue in April 2004. However, several game journalists have also contrasted the relatively simplistic gameplay in Doom unfavorably with more story-oriented first-person shooters such as Half-Life.

Although the popularity of the Doom games dropped with the release of Quake (1996) and afterwards, the games have retained a strong fan base that continues playing competitively and creating WADs (the idgames FTP archive receives a few to a dozen new WADs each week as of 2005), and Doom-related news is still tracked at multiple websites such as Doomworld. Interest in Doom was renewed in 1997, when the source code for the Doom engine was released (it was also placed under the GNU General Public License in 1999). Fans then began porting the game to various operating systems, even to previously unsupported platforms such as the Dreamcast, PSP and the iPod, and adding new features such as OpenGL rendering and scripting, which allows WADs to alter the gameplay more radically. There are well over 50 different Doom source ports, some of which remain under active development.

Devoted players have spent years creating speedruns for Doom, competing for the quickest completion times and sharing knowledge about routes through the levels and how to exploit bugs in the Doom engine for shortcuts. Achievements include the completion of both Doom and Doom II on the Ultra-Violence difficulty setting in less than 30 minutes each. In addition, a few players have also managed to complete Doom II in a single run on the Nightmare! difficulty setting, on which monsters are more aggressive, enemy projectiles are faster or, in the case of the Pinky Demon, move faster and respawn roughly 30 seconds after they have been killed (level designer John Romero characterized the idea of such a run as "[just having to be] impossible"). Movies of most of these runs are available from the COMPET-N website.

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