Development of Doom

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The making of Doom, id Software's video game released on December 10, 1993, began in late 1992. Doom raised the bar for realism in video games with its then-advanced 3D graphics—central to its success was the new game engine by John Carmack, whose main advances included texture mapping of all surfaces, variable light levels, and floors at varying altitude. The world in Doom materialized through the level design of John Romero, Sandy Petersen and Tom Hall and the artwork of Adrian Carmack, Kevin Cloud and Gregor Punchatz.

Doom evolved significantly during its development. Originally planned to feature an intricate plot, its gameplay instead gradually turned to focus on fast action and violence. Conflicts surrounding this development led to the resignation of Tom Hall, who had written the Doom Bible, the game's initial design document.

Early development[edit]


Following the successful release of Wolfenstein 3D in May 1992, most of the id Software team set out to finish the sequel Spear of Destiny. Since this game used the same game engine as Wolfenstein 3D, lead programmer John D. Carmack could use the time to do technology research for the company's next-generation graphics engine. One of Carmack's early experiments was the Shadowcaster engine. With significant effort, choosing to isolate himself from the rest of the team for a long period of time in order to avoid distractions, he implemented various new features, including diminishing light and texture-mapped floors and ceilings and sloping floors. The Shadowcaster engine's "speed was about half that of Wolfenstein, but since this was an adventure game, built on exploration, it seemed appropriate to have a steadier pace."[1] For Doom, Carmack implemented dynamic diminished lighting and a sector based map system (as opposed by the grid map systems of the Wolfenstein 3D and Shadowcaster engines) with wall angles other than 90°.[2]

The making of Doom began after the release of Spear of Destiny in September 1992. The initial idea was to make a movie license game based on Aliens, one of the team's favorite science fiction-action films, and some negotiations were made with 20th Century Fox. The plan was eventually ditched in order to get more creative freedom, halting the negotiations. John Carmack instead conceived of the basic theme for the game: demons versus technology. Doom was viewed to be a cross between Aliens and the team's favorite horror B movie, Evil Dead II. The idea to include demons was also inspired by their most recent Dungeons & Dragons campaign, which had ended with demons overrunning the entire planet.[3][4][5] The company told the press that Doom would be "Wolfenstein times a million!"[6]

John Romero also took inspiration from classic video games. Romero cited Pac-Man as an influence on the maze-based level design,[7] while it also had a similar emphasis on mazes, power-ups, killing monsters, and reaching the next level.[8] Romero also cited Nasir Gebelli's fast action games for the Apple II, particularly his fast 3D programming work for shooters Horizon V (1981) and Zenith (1982), as an influence on Doom's similar approach to fast 3D action programming.[9]

According to Romero, the game's deathmatch mode was inspired by fighting games. At id Software, the team frequently played Street Fighter II, Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting during breaks, while developing elaborate rules involving trash-talk and smashing furniture or tech. Romero stated that "what we were doing was something that invented deathmatch" and that "Japanese fighting games fueled the creative impulse to create deathmatch in our shooters."[10]

Tom Hall and the Doom Bible[edit]

The horror-tech theme was not accepted unanimously. Creative director Tom Hall instead wanted to continue the Commander Keen series with a third trilogy, but the others felt that the cartoon style of the Keen games would not do justice to the new 3D engine. Conceding defeat, he instead set out to create the new game's design document — which he titled the Doom Bible, while the others were programming and creating graphics.

Unlike Wolfenstein 3D, which had essentially been a plotless shooter game, Hall wanted Doom to have an elaborate story. The game was to take place on an alien planet called Tei Tenga, on which the UAAF (United Aerospace Armed Forces) had two military research bases. There would be four player characters with different personalities and abilities: Lorelei Chen, John "Petro" Pietrovich, Dimitri Paramo and Thi Barrett (some of these names would return in Rise of the Triad). Buddy Dacote was a character that was captured by the demons in the intro, and contrary to popular belief, was never meant to be a playable character, though he was planned to interact with the player via radio messages giving hints to the player during the first episode, and was to be killed by the boss of the third episode when the player arrived. Dacote stood for "Dies at the conclusion of the episode". The game would start with the five characters playing a game of cards, with creatures from hell suddenly bursting in. There would be a total of six episodes, with storylines involving traveling to Hell and back through the gates which the hellspawn used, and the destruction of Tei Tenga, for which the players would be sent to jail.

John Carmack disapproved of the detailed plot, instead conceiving Doom as a simple, action-oriented game, making the remark "Story in a game is like story in a porn movie. It's expected to be there, but it's not that important." This creative conflict, and others agreeing that Hall's levels emphasized realism at the cost of making the gameplay entertaining, finally ended with Hall being forced to resign in August 1993. According to Romero, it was important that the player character be capable and powerful, and as such, an early storyline featuring a main character who ended up on a Martian moon because they "sucked" was quickly dropped.[11]

The Doom Bible as such was scrapped, but several of the ideas were kept for the final game. As in the Bible, Doom starts in a military research base and features a trip to Hell and back, although Tei Tenga was replaced with Phobos and Deimos, the moons of Mars (though traces of Tei Tenga can be found throughout the first and second episodes). There is only one player character, an anonymous space marine. Several of the locations, items and monsters mentioned in the Bible appear, with modifications. In an earlier Doom design, the player's view was through displays and readouts inside the main character's helmet.[12] For the design that was used in the final game, Phobos and Deimos had atmospheres that were somewhat breathable so that the main character's helmet would not need to be so substantial as to limit the viewable area.[12]

Some of the ideas from the Doom Bible, though discarded for Doom, showed up in later games. Instead of employing separate levels, Doom was initially supposed to use a hub system to enable a large, continuous world; in the game, the different areas would be connected by a monorail. Hubs were later used in id Software's Quake II, Doom RPG and Raven Software's Hexen: Beyond Heretic. Monorails also make an appearance in Doom 3, although not as a Hub system. The game would include interactive computer terminals; this first appeared in Doom 3. Tom Hall additionally used concepts from the Doom Bible in Rise of the Triad and Terminal Velocity, which he designed after leaving id Software for Apogee and 3D Realms. Also, a laser weapon referred to as "the Unmaker" in the Doom Bible made its only appearance in Doom 64.

Building the game[edit]


Doom was developed on the NEXTSTEP operating system.[13] The Doom game engine was written in ANSI C, with assembly language routines.[14] and the editing tools were written in Objective-C. The engine was first compiled with Intel's C compiler for DOS, but later Watcom's C/C++ compiler was used,[15] cross compiling to generate application bundles supporting Intel and other CPUs.[13]

The bulk of the Doom game engine was programmed by John Carmack. John Romero implemented code to save and load games, interactive features such as flickering lights, doors, raising stairs and crushing ceilings. Dave D. Taylor was hired as a "spackle coder", adding things such as the status bar, sound library integration, the automap, level transitions, cheat codes, and the network chat system. The sound library, DMX Sound Library, was an external piece of software created by Paul Radek, and not included in the 1997 release of the Doom source code.

The editing tools used to build the game included scripts to generate source code for monsters from definition tables, a tool to link together WAD files from data lumps, the BSP nodes builder by John Carmack, and DoomEd, the Doom level editor. DoomEd's structure and basic functionality, such as drawing lines and reading sector information, was implemented by Carmack; Romero added texture viewers and dialogs. Among the editing utilities, only the BSP nodes builder has been released to the public.[5][16][17][18][19][20]


The Doom Bible contained detailed descriptions of scenarios that were to appear in the game. Tom Hall studied real military bases to create realistic locations, such as "Recreation and Training Center" and "Supply Depot Two". He built several levels, but as they were constructed and placed in the game, the others found them banal and uninspiring. Hall's levels were mostly flat and square, like Wolfenstein 3D, and decorated with real-life wallpapers, floor tiles and office equipment. To show off the game engine's capabilities, John Romero instead began creating levels that were more abstract. The team settled for Romero's less realistic but more vivid style, which is found throughout the game's first episode, Knee-Deep in the Dead.[21]

Romero designed the levels for only the first episode in Doom, due to being occupied with programming and other tasks. When Tom Hall resigned, an extra level designer was needed in order to complete the game on schedule, and Sandy Petersen was hired about 10 weeks before release.[22] In those 10 weeks, Petersen finished all of episodes two and three, and one level for the first episode — 19 levels in total, of which eight were overhauled versions of levels by Tom Hall. Petersen's mapping style consisted of Gigerian and Lovecraftian biomechanical design and paid less attention to aesthetics than Romero, but the others thought his levels were as fun to play.


Model of the Spider Mastermind

Adrian Carmack and Kevin Cloud were the chief artists behind Doom. Additionally, Don Ivan Punchatz was hired to create the package art and logo, and his son Gregor Punchatz created some of the monsters.

For Doom, the intent was to have graphics that were realistic and dark as opposed to staged or rendered, so a mixed media approach was taken to the artwork.[23] Most of the sprites were drawn by hand, but some of the characters were digitized from sculptures. These were the player character, the Cyberdemon and the Baron of Hell, all done in clay by Adrian Carmack, and the Arch-Vile, the Mancubus, the Spider Mastermind and the Revenant, created in latex and metal by Gregor Punchatz. The sculptures were photographed from five to eight different angles so that they could be rotated realistically in-game, and finally touched up, colored and animated digitally with a program created by John Carmack, the "Fuzzy Pumper Palette Shop". The background in Episode 1 is derived from karst mountains in Yangshuo, China.[24]

The shotgun and the pistol seen in the game are photographs of toy weapons bought at Toys "R" Us; the shotgun a TootsieToy Dakota cap gun; the chainsaw is a McCulloch Eager Beaver, borrowed from Tom Hall's girlfriend. The hands seen holding the weapons, and the brass knuckle fist, are Kevin Cloud's. Textures were both painted and created from scanned pictures. Among the more unusual sources, one texture was based on Adrian's snakeskin boots, and a bloody texture for the hell levels was created from a photograph of a wound on Cloud's knee.[25][26]

Romero himself was the body model used for the game's cover; while trying to work with a male model to get a shot for Punchatz to start from, Romero found the model unable to capture the sense of "the Marine was going to be attacked by an infinite amount of demons". Romero took over for the model since he had a better idea of the shot he felt was needed for the cover.[27]


For music and sound effects, id Software hired Bobby Prince who had previously scored Wolfenstein 3D and worked on the Commander Keen games. Initially, John Romero gave him a couple of heavy metal records and told him to create something similar for Doom. Prince created heavy metal-style soundtracks as instructed but also composed some more ambient tracks since he felt that heavy metal might not be appropriate for the entire game. As design progressed, it was decided that this was the case, and the music tracks were finally assigned to the individual levels by Romero.

Several of the music tracks are inspired by parts of songs, written by famous heavy metal bands.

In addition to heavy metal albums, several of the songs were inspired by the activities of the id Software team. Prince and John Carmack would often stay in the office at hours when no one else was around; "Deep Into The Code" refers to Carmack's habit of programming for long periods without leaving the computer, oblivious of his surrounding. Before sound effects had been added to the game, Romero was noted to energetically supply his own while playing, and Prince created the track "Waiting For Romero To Play" after observing the anticipation of people lining up to watch Romero in action.[28] The final sound effects for the monsters were mixed from various animal sounds[29] and recordings by Romero and Prince. Some of Doom's sound effects were acquired from Sound Ideas' General series sound effects library.

Prerelease versions[edit]

Five prerelease versions of Doom, originally intended for testers and the press, have since been released to the public due to historical interest. None of the prerelease versions have sound or music.

0.2 Alpha[edit]

After two months of development, this early alpha version demonstrates three of the main technological advances in Doom: texture mapping, variable light levels, and non-orthogonal walls. The player can move around one small, completely flat level and press keys to change the light level and the textures. The Imp, Demon, and Baron of Hell monsters are in place, but do not act or interact with the player. The heads-up display (HUD) is more complex than the one featured in the final game, including a small automap view and what appears to be a display for messages from other player characters; it is, however, non-functional and most likely a placeholder. The HUD also lists three items: "Captain's Hand", "Heart of Lothar", and "Sandwich", items from Tom Hall's design document for the game. Compiled on February 4, 1993.

0.3 Alpha (DOOM Pre-Alpha)[edit]

Not much is known about this version, except the fact it was never released to testers. Built on February 28, 1993[30]

0.4 Alpha[edit]

This version contains nine levels, and many of the level structures are used the final game and recognizable, but have significantly different textures and/or differences in layout. Lifts do not move. The enemies still do not attack. The player has a rifle weapon which can be fired. Compiled on April 2, 1993.

0.5 Alpha[edit]

Fourteen levels are present, though only thirteen are playable since the fourteenth level crashes upon accessing it. Notably, most of Doom II MAP10 is present as the sixth level. Platforms now move, and doors can be opened. The player can take damage from slime, and can die. Various items are present and can be picked up. Health kits, which use graphics from Wolfenstein 3D will heal the player. Ammunition magazines will give the player ammo. Keycards and bonus items, used to increase points for a high score, are also present. Lifts, which did not move in the previous version, now function properly. The enemies still do not attack, and will disappear when shot. The player now has a rifle bayonet as a melee weapon, in addition to the rifle. Compiled on May 22, 1993.

Press release[edit]

Functionally fairly close to the commercial release version, although sound and music are absent. Three levels are included, which would become E1M2, E3M5 and E2M2 in the release version. The Plasma Gun fires red shots as well as green shots. The BFG 9000 fires several such shots in a wide field in front of the player, instead of the large plasma ball and invisible rays of the release version. The accessibility date to play this version has expired, so in order to play it now, you would need FakeDate. In this release, it lists the levels as E1M2, E2M5, and E3M2. Compiled on October 4, 1993.


  1. ^ Masters of Doom, pp. 119–121
  2. ^ Masters of Doom, pp. 130–131
  3. ^ Masters of Doom, pp. 122–123.
  4. ^ Doomworld interview with John Carmack.
  5. ^ a b 5years interview with Romero
  6. ^ Walker, Bryan A. (January 1993). "Call of the Wild". Computer Gaming World. p. 100. Retrieved 5 July 2014. 
  7. ^ Bailey, Kat (2012-03-09). "These games inspired Cliff Bleszinski, John Romero, Will Wright, and Sid Meier". Joystiq. AOL. Archived from the original on 2017-02-02. Retrieved 2017-02-15. 
  8. ^ Media, Spin L.L.C. (September 1995). "Children of Doom". Spin. p. 118. ISSN 0886-3032. Retrieved May 6, 2011. 
  9. ^ Barton, Matt (19 April 2016). "Honoring the Code: Conversations with Great Game Designers". CRC Press – via Google Books. 
  10. ^ Consalvo, Mia (2016). Atari to Zelda: Japan's Videogames in Global Contexts. MIT Press. pp. 201–3. ISBN 0262034395. 
  11. ^ The Official DOOM Survivor's Strategies & Secrets. p. 249-250. 
  12. ^ a b The Official DOOM Survivor's Strategies & Secrets. p. 249. 
  13. ^ a b planet Apple-NeXT Merger Birthday! Archived 2007-03-05 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ Schuytema, Paul C. (August 1994). "The Lighter Side Of Doom". Computer Gaming World. pp. 140,142. 
  15. ^ Carmack interview, can be verified with doom.exe and a hex editor
  16. ^ Masters of Doom
  17. ^ Doom credits screen
  18. ^ Doomworld interview with Carmack
  19. ^ ProjectDOOM interview with Romero
  20. ^ lxdoom source code readme
  21. ^ MoD, p. 136.
  22. ^ – Interview Archived 2005-03-22 at the Wayback Machine.. (2002-08-10). Retrieved on 2011-04-30.
  23. ^ The Official DOOM Survivor's Strategies & Secrets. p. 257. 
  24. ^ "We Play Doom with John Romero". IGN. 30 December 2013. Retrieved 2 June 2015. 
  25. ^ Masters of Doom pp. 134–135
  26. ^ Romero's photo galleries
  27. ^ Chalk, Andy (July 19, 2017). "John Romero finally reveals who the original Doom Guy really is". PC Gamer. Retrieved July 19, 2017. 
  28. ^ Music Archived 2005-04-25 at the Wayback Machine.. Doomworld. Retrieved on 2011-04-30.
  29. ^ Masters of Doom, p. 145
  30. ^