Doom Turns 20

Only thing happy about this is the birthday…

Yet another milestone in video gaming history occurred today. On this day twenty years ago, id Software’s horror-themed first-person shooter Doom was released for the personal computer. Doom became one of the most successful (and controversial) titles of its era and one of the most influential video games ever made. It brought the first-person shooter genre greater success, and made rock stars out of programmers John Carmack and John Romero. For the record, designers Tom Hall and Sandy Petersen (who also worked on the game) are awesome. Can’t forget them.

Doom puts players in the shoes of an unnamed space marine (affectionately known by fans as “Doom Guy”) who is lone survivor of a demon invasion that has ransacked the base he was stationed at on Mars. Initially armed with only his fists, a pistol, and an incredibly shifting brow, Doom Guy must brave the horrors of the attack on Mars and its moons then journey to hell itself to quell the invasion.

Doom features both single-player and multi-player modes. Set across three chapters, the single player mode plays out the game’s story. The multi-player mode (set up via network) allowed for death matches or a cooperative effort for the game’s story missions. True to its genre, players experience Doom almost entirely through Doom Guys eyes save  for a few cutscenes. Although not a true 3D title (Doom‘s action occurred on a 2D plane with sprite-based graphics), the game’s engine allowed the player 360 degree movement, which gave the environments an added sense of depth. With that depth came numerous opportunities to antagonize the player. Enemies could from your side, from behind, and even from the air in addition to confronting you face-to-face.

Although there had been several first-person games before Doom arrived –namely id ‘s own Wolfenstein 3D which was released the year prior– there was nothing quite like Doom at the time. It’s blending of science-fiction, horror, and action created a delightfully dreadful experience, one in which the action was fast paced and the monsters were copious.

And what terrifying monsters they are. Doom featured some of the most hideous creatures in a game for its time, adding to the anxiety one felt when traversing the already environments of Mars. From the disembodied Lost Souls, to the ever-sneering Caccodemons and the hulking Barons of Hell, Doom had minions of nearly every shape and size. And when they came for you, they came in hordes.

Such a lovely cast.

Fortunately, Doom has an arsenal for the ages, one that includes a shotgun, a chainsaw, a plasma cannon, and the holy relic of experimental weapons, the BFG9000. With a name that sounds like it was made from Binford Tools, the Big Friggin’ (not actually friggin’) Gun fires a burst of plasma that decimates anything in its path. Doom‘s weaponry was exemplary for its time, and inspired weapon loadouts in games to come. So the next time you play Gears of War and use the chainsaw on the Lancer, think of Doom Guy.

Doom was a hit upon its release, and received praise from both gamers and critics. It was the named “Game of the Year” by PC Gamer and Computer Gaming World, and earned the Best Adventure Game Award from the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences.

With success came sequels, and ports. Doom was followed up by Doom IIThe Final Doom (an expansion of the first game), Final Doom, and Doom 3. The original game has been ported to several operating systems (like Linux) and consoles, among them the Sega 32X, Super Nintendo, Sony PlayStation, and Game Boy Advance. There were also a few unofficial expansion packs which added hundreds of additional levels. Custom patch files  within the game allowed uses to create their own levels and modify the game, giving it longevity in the mod community.

Doom has ventured out into other markets outside of gaming. There have been Doom novels, comic books, and in 2005, a movie. Simply titled Doom, the film stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Karl Urban. It is loosely inspired by the look and story of Doom 3, the most recent Doom game at the time. The film was panned by critics and was a box-office flop, but at least Karl Urban became Judge Dredd years later.

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Believe it or not, this is Dredd’s happy face. Photo comes from jimsmash.blogspot.com

Adjacent to its success, Doom was the subject of much controversy. The game was blasted for its usage of extreme violence and satanic themes, and was once banned in Brazil and Germany (the later of which lifted its 17-year ban in 2011). In the U.S., the traffic from the game’s multiplayer matches put a strain on servers and causing business to ban the playing of Doom during work hours.

Perhaps the most infamy the game was received was in the aftermath of the tragic shooting spree at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Once it was discovered that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the perpetrators of the shootings, were huge fans of Doom, the game (and violent video games in general) received a public backlash from some parents and lawmakers. In 2001, families of the Columbine victims even filed a lawsuit against Doom‘s creators as well as other entertainment companies like Sony America and AOL-Time Warner.

Despite all the gore, the controversy, and the stuttering servers, Doom stands as one of the industry’s best efforts. Not bad for a game Carmack named after a certain scene in The Color of Money. Happy 20th, Doom!

Peace & Pyre

images come from nonspecificaction.co.uk and www.freewebs.com/steeldoor/doom

Da Coach Gets His Number Retired, Bears Play Like NFL Blitz

OK, here is a post that is actually (somewhat) video game related!

First, congrats to Mike Ditka on getting his number 89 retired tonight. A well deserved honor to say the least.

Second, what got into the Bears tonight? It was like a game of NFL Blitz out there! The Dallas defense is porous, there’s no doubt about it, but the Bears played some of the most inspired and efficient offense I’ve ever seen from them. Not only does the team keep its playoff hopes alive, they put on a show for the fans and “Da Coach”.

Great job, Bears! And respect again to Mike Ditka on his number retirement and his career.

Peace & Pixels

Image comes from Chicago Tribune

Amazing Grace

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The Chomp’s been a little somber lately, due to the recent deaths of Nelson Mandela and Paul Walker getting coverage here. Today, however, things are a little brighter.

Should you visit Google’s homepage today, you will see a Google Doodle of a woman typing at a large computer. This Doodle is pays homage to the late Dr. Grace Murray Hopper (1906-1992), a retired Navy Rear Admiral and computer programming pioneer who would have turned 107 years old today. If you are any type of computer geek, or just have a vague interest programming, you owe it to yourself to know the woman who was affectionately called “Amazing Grace”.

Here are some facts about Dr. Hopper that you may find of interest.

Her work on the Mark I computer: While serving in the United States Navy Reserve during World War II, Hopper worked on the Mark I programming staff headed by Howard Aiken. Built by IBM and stationed at Harvard, the Mark I ran computations for the U.S Navy Bureau of Ships. Hopper was among the first programmers for the Mark I, and the only one who was female.

COBOL: Short for Common Business-Oriented Language, COBOL is a programming language that was created in 1959. Heavily inspired by Hopper’s FLOW-MATIC and Bob Bemer’s COMTRAN languages, COBOL became one of the most enduring programming languages for businesses ever. COBOL was characterized by it’s similarity to English , which made it more readable to humans than its counterpart, machine code.

The term “debugging”: While working on the Mark II computer system, a moth got stuck in the machine and needed to be removed. By removing the bug (a term also used to describe a glitch or error), Hopper stated that she and her colleagues were “debugging” the system. Now, debugging is common phrase for ridding software programs of flaws.

Her time in the Navy: Hopper’s first stint in the Navy lasted 23 years, from 1943 to 1966. She first retired in 1966 at age 60, but was recalled for active duty the following year. She retired for the second in 1971, but again was brought back to active duty in 1972. By the time of her final retirement from the service in 1986, she was the oldest commissioned officer on active duty in the U.S. Navy, and the fifth oldest commissioned officer to ever serve in U.S. Navy history.

She has a ship named after her: Commissioned in 1997, The USS Hopper is an Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer. The Hopper is one of only two ships named after a woman who served in the Navy. The first was the World War II destoryer USS Higbee, named for Lenah Higbee, who served as the Superintended of the U.S. Navy Nurses Corps during World War I.

Honorary Degrees: In addition to her degrees from VassarCollege and YaleUniversity (where she earned her PhD), Hopper earned more than 40 honorary degrees from institutions all over the world.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Hopper! The next time I whine about what I can’t do, I’ll think of you and shut up.

Peace & Pixels

RIP Nelson Mandela

We’ve lost yet another good folks.

Nelson Mandela passed away at the age of 95, the result of a lung infection. His death comes twenty years after he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with then president of South Africa Frederik Willem de Klerk.

Mandela spent 27 years in prison for his actions against South Africa’s oppressive apartheid regime. He was released in 1990, and was elected as the first black president of South Africa in 1994.

This is sad day, indeed. I was a kid when Mandela was released, and remember seeing the news reports about his prison release then. There was even a question about him during an event my school had called the African-American History Bowl, a quiz show- style game that students participated in each year.

My thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Mandela’s family.

Peace & Pixels

photo comes from indianexpress.com