IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY!!!
Since the unexpected success of my original Doom appreciation thread
, I've expanded my horizons and found a lot more to love about the constant wonder that is a now 18-year-old game. Like, loads more
. Anybody who's familiar with the wonderful world of Doom WADs and mods knows what I'm talking about already, but for the people who don't know about it, there's an entire world of enhancements, levels and other amazing things that can turn Doom into something completely different and new. We'll be talking here about the basics of bring Doom into the current millennium, starting with source ports and moving onto the more specific aspects to add a fresh experience to an old classic.
The Skinny on Being Port-ly
Remember the old days when Windows was just a twinkle in Bill Gates' eye and computer games used to be run on DOS? Yeah, things weren't exactly streamlined back then, but thankfully we have all sorts of newfangled ways to enjoy PC gaming, and Doom is no exception. In order to run Doom, and other games using the Doom engine like Heretic, Hexen and Strife, on modern OSes, you'll need a "source port"
- a modification of the engine that makes it compatible with current systems and in many cases adds a significant number of aesthetic and gameplay improvements. First thing's first: You'll need to own the actual games in order to get anywhere. Just hit up Steam in order to get the old Doom games on the cheap (ten bucks each) and make sure to note where the .WAD files are in the respective Program File folders. Then pick your poison, er, source port from the many available. The major ones are all roughly based off an engine called "Boom" which significantly enhanced the basic Doom engine, so if you see something requiring a "Boom-compatable" source port, they're probably referring to one of these:
- Chocolate Doom
: about as basic as you can get, Chocolate Doom
is a bit fancier than "Vanilla Doom" (get it?) in that it runs on modern systems and supports certain features like mouselook and acceleration support, but delivers Doom in its purest, no-frills form outside of running it on DOSBox.
: Now we get to the fun stuff. My personal choice of source port(s), they're two of the major Boom-compatable ports and "limit removing", meaning they can allow for programming, designing, and incorporation of effects not capable of being done with the old Doom engine. ZDoom
is one of the most widely used ports for programming, so if you're going to use one port it should probably be this. GZDoom
, a more technically sophisticated version of ZDoom, includes OpenGL rendering and functionality for even more complicated programming tricks and effects, as well as higher resolution sprites and objects.
: Capable of supporting many of ZDoom and GZDoom applications, Skulltag's
main draw is its focus on multiplayer support. It includes an application called Doomseeker that acts as a server browser displaying all the servers and games being run on Skulltag, and also allows for easy download of any missing WAD files that are being used. If you want to relive the glory days of early Deathmatching, Co-op games, or any of the crazy new game types, WADs and experiences (including Mega Man 8-Bit Deathmatch
), this is the way to go.
There are plenty of other ports that might tickle your fancy, but these should provide a nice entry point. Once you've downloaded the port of your choice, you'll need to take the IWAD files from the base Doom games (DOOM.WAD, DOOM2.WAD, etc.) and copy them into the main folder of your port. That'll allow the whole thing to run properly. I recommend downloading a handy tool called ZDL
that allows you to gather together all your IWADs and various other extensions in one place and launch them all at once rather than dragging 'n dropping everything.
Blowing Your WADs
So, just what is a WAD anyway? It's short for "Where's All the Data"
, an acronym coined by id for a catchall file where all the relevent engine data and assets are stored. The base Doom games all use their own individual IWADs, while the stuff that the community makes are all basically add-ons that use the data from the IWADs and builds around it. WADs come in all shapes, sizes and forms, from single levels, small map packs, mammoth "Megawads" that provide full length substitutions for the games they use, and just about everything imaginable inbetween. So where exactly do you find them? Well, they're all over the place, but the easiest thing to do is head over to Doomworld
, one of the most venerable community sites, and its voluminous /idgames database full of WADS and other files for Doom, Doom II, Hexen and Heretic, and other games. Doomworld also has a number of features showcasing various WADS, from the best and worst WADs from the first ten years of Doom's existence
, to the yearly Cacowards
dedicated to the most impressive efforts from community members introduced over the past year. You can also check out the various forums at source port sites like ZDoom and Skulltag, which regularly get all sorts of folks showing off their new stuff. Some notable recent releases:
Doom the Way id Did
- a community project dedicated to remaking all three original Doom episodes using the same kind of level design philosophies used John Romero and the original Doom team; it's a surprisingly well-done and not overly-complicated set of levels that really evoke the old Doom feel without resorting to insane levels of monsters or other cheap tricks that other level designers tend to use (well, mostly anyway).
A hilariously simple time-killer that puts you in five one-minute rounds of survival and completely at the mercy of an RNG slot-machine which dictates the kinds of crazy stuff you'll be experiencing in each round - from enemies to weaponry to special effects. Lots of fun, and very addictive (plus it uses a lot of SNES music to great effect!)
- a Cacoward 2011-winning Doom II megawad that manages to provide a nice stiff challenge and well-designed levels that don't overly frustrate and flow very well. Good stuff from the ten or so levels that I've played so far.
It's a Mod, Mod, Mod, Mod World
Want to play through a game of classic Doom with some extra twists to spice things up? Or would you like to introduce a whole new arsenal of gear to unleash on some unwitting hellspawn? Modifications (mods for short) are files that make changes to various Doom gameplay elements, from new weapons and enemies, increased difficulty, or other things without changing any of the actual levels within the game. They're perfect for adding a new dimension to gameplay, tweaking the challenge or providing an excuse to just go nuts with crazy new guns. Like with regular WADs, they can be found all over the place, but quality may vary, so don't expect everything you find to be a real gem. That said, here are a few great mods to start of with:
Another Cacoward winner from this year, Brutal Doom manages to turn our favorite murder simulator into the kind of nightmarish vision that would have Jack Thompson screaming from the rooftops about banning it FOREVER. . . if you can believe that. Simply put Brutal amps the violence factor up a few (dozen) notches and gives Doom a shot in the arm in terms of both challenge and viscerality: you and your weaponry are capable of doing tremendous damage, but the enemies are also faster and more deadly to compensate. A system where shots to the head can do greater damage and the Berserk pack allows you to finish off enemies in gleefully crazy fashion rounds out a package that makes good ol' Doom, well, a lot more Doomier. If you prefer, there's also Brutal Doom Lite
a pseudo-mod add-on that allows you to enjoy the gory, challenging fun with just about any basic weapon mods (read: stuff that doesn't include custom monsters or other elements that might clash with Brutal Doom's gameplay elements).
AEons of Death
One of the most vererable "Kitchen Sink" mods, AEoD throws in a whole bunch of crazy random monsters and weapons from just about any shooter imaginable (within the mid '90s - early '00s timeperiod) and asks you to deal with whatever happens. I've never tried it myself but it's one of the most popular mods in the community (or unpopular, depending on who you ask) for this reason alone. Somehow Doom and insanity seem to go well together. . .
Diaz: Last Hours of Purity
A popular weapon mod from community stalwart (and gun nut) WildWeasel, Diaz introduce a whole new weapon system into the game that uses clip-based ammo pools instead of flat numerical ones - reload before using all the ammo in that clip and you toss it all. Loads of new weapons based off real-world analogues, from pistols and shotguns to assault rifles and SMGs (as well as the PSI-Amplifier from System Shock 2, apparently, for good measure) and a number of new ballistic-based enemies added to the usual cast of baddies make it a great well rounded mod.
This really only scratches the surface of the myriad of Doom modifications and hours of play you can get from a supposedly ancient piece of software. . . it really goes to show how dedicated the Doom community is, and how flexible the old Doom engine can be with a little bit of work. If anybody has any other mods or WADs they'd like to recommend, feel free to chime in, but above all enjoy the seemingly endless (and cost effective!) entertainment that Doom still has to offer!!!