Doom: An Indicator of Change
Way back in the distant past, we have 1993, the year that ID software's computer game Doom: Hell on Earth first debuted. Doom was a game that would change the videogaming industry permanently. It became one of the most iconic games of its time, with over two million units shipped.
Doom was an immersive 3D experience. The first one that gained mass market appeal. Castle Wolfenstein, another popular title that debuted a few years earlier, could only manage a network of identically dimensioned cubes. Doom brought true 3D with raised and lowered ledges, ceilings, moving floors, and the feeling of being in part of a larger 3D virtual world. These things had existed prior of course, but not in the general public consciousness.
Additionally, Doom introduced the concept of collaborative or competitive multiplayer worlds with networked multiplayer gaming on the PC platform, another first for many in the gaming market. Finally, it added support of user created 3D content via custom WADs, which ID released tools to create with every copy of DOOM.
When it first came out, Doom was an amazingly complex, resource demanding piece of software with lavish, expansive 3D environments that made use of a trick called binary space partitioning to fit these vast environments into hardware incapable of supporting an entire level all at once. However, to do this in 1993 required all the resources the computer could bring to bear. In some cases complex memory hyjinks were required to make enough conventional RAM available for the program to run, and the concept of running anything else alongside it, was akin to blasphemy.
Doom was quickly outstripped by its successors. Descent came out just a year later, offering true 3D models as well as three dimensional tunnels where there was no set 'floor' and you could fly in any direction. It built upon and fur surpassed Doom. Other titles emerged, Strife, Doom2, Descent 2, Heretic, Hexen, Heretic 2, Half life, Halo, System Shock, Counter Strike. The list goes on and on. All of whom owe their existence in a large part, to the massive popularity of Doom, the first such 3D environment that really captivated a generation of gamers. A killer application if you will, that created the entire first person shooter industry.
Of course, it was not just 3D shooters that Doom created the potential for. With an ever increasing number and complexity of virtual environments for combat, it was only natural that the same people who seeked to use them to blow one another up, would seek to use them to interact. 3D social virtual worlds. The first of which, Activeworlds, launched just two years after Doom. There have since been a cascade of others, including the most famous: second life.
These PC-orientated virtual environments build on the same 3D environment visuals that Doom popularised now so long ago.
Of course, a videogames like Doom is just one of countless influences which helped shape the 3D worlds the mainstream uses today, and videogaming capabilities have advanced relentlessly compared to their social cousins, often reluctant to put a toe into the murky water to see if it is safe. Still, without such killer games, our 3D social VR landscape would probably still be with us, just not as advanced or accepted as it is today, 15 years after Doom arrived.
On a closing note, Doom itself was back in the news his month, December 2008. It has returned, in its original form. Doom: Hell on Earth, no-longer consumes all of a computer's resources to run: it has returned as a flash game, found on dozens of sites across the web. A mark perhaps of just how much computing power has redoubled and changed as it adheres to Moore's law year in, and year out. The original Doom, full source code port via Adobe Alchemy, is now just something you run in a window, alongside PhotoShop, 3D studio, and three or four modern Direct X games.
Puts into perspective perhaps, what we can expect from the next 15.