Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Why Doom is still the greatest game ever made. [The Doom Formula]

I’ve been moved to write this analysis of Doom i in response to, what I see as, a failure of the gaming industry to produce an FPS with any of the game mechanic gold introduced by Doom. Which was released way back in 1993. I hope to encapsulate what’s so great about Doom in the following passage – which is hypothetical but nonetheless represents a typical Doom experience – and then follow it with a concise summary of the definitive factors.

"Armed with a shotgun you spot a chamber up ahead and enter the room sideways. Sideways because a player can only shoot forwards and hours of play has taught you to always expect an ambush from the corners of a room.
Your fear is realised and the hiding zombie soldier is killed with a single shotgun blast. A quick 180 turn and a second zombie is also despatched.
You notice a health pickup and approach. As you approach the whirr of machinery signals the opening of an out-of-site door. Triggered by your advance on the health.
The noise of the door opening is punctuated with the hiss of a Cacodemon*. At close range dodging a Cacodemon's projectile is impossible. You must stop him attacking so you switch to the Chaingun (two taps of a shoulder button) and begin firing. The Chaingun's constant flow of bullets prevents a Cacodemon from ever attacking. Eventually the foe collapses... dead.
A box of rockets is discovered in the alcove concealed by the hidden door. You then make your way out the way you entered. Along the corridor and into a huge room visited several times before.
As you near a wall you notice bullets ricocheting off it and a green blob projectile.
The ricocheting bullets announce the presence of a Chaingun Zombie and the green blob a Hell Knight. Low on ammo you turn and, strafing to keep the Hell Knight between you and the line of fire of the zombie, attempt to get the zombie to shoot the Knight.
As planned the Chaingun Zombie's bullets start hitting the Hell Knight who turns to lob green globs towards the zombie; his new target. They get locked in a fight whilst you switch to the Rocket Launcher to end whomever emerges victorious."
*I think this exact behaviour may have been described in an article in the magazine ‘Computer and Games Video (C&VG)’ - though I think they failed to realise its general significance for the future of gaming.
[The Doom Formula TM ]:
  1. All deaths in Doom are avoidable.
  2. Enemies interact with each other - a lot - which adds a level of immersion and strategy. The player feels part of an atmospheric and living environment.
  3. The guns, such as the shotgun, have a real sense of power because they kill enemies with a single bullet and sometimes even groups of enemies, and when killed the death animations reflect this high amount of force.
  4. The weapons in Doom each have a purpose. In most modern FPS games ii the player merely uses the most powerful weapon available. When the ammo runs out the player simply switches to the next best. The player of a modern FPS never changes weapons based on the environment. In Doom each weapon has strengths and weaknesses affected by foes and environment.
  5. The armed gun sits directly below the line of site and not off to the corner like most FPS games iv. It improves the connection of the gun to the player. The majority of FPS break this paradigm further by providing a small crosshair in the centre of the screen. On-screen cross hairs limits the engagement to that of the 1987 arcade game Operation Wolf (below). A good example of gun placement in FPS is the 1999 PC game Hidden & Dangerous (below).
  6. Sound effects and visual cues, enrich the experience by arming the player with information to form tactics. Sound and visual affects are not extraneous but become additional tools for the player.
  7. The game uses recurring tricks and traps which evolve as the game progresses so the player not only battles the on screen enemies but also the game design as a whole. The game, in that sense, becomes tangible. The player is beating ‘the game’ as well as the enemies iii. There is a clear dialog between player and designer(s).
Operation Wolf

Hidden & Dangerous
What Doom doesn’t need:
  • Enemies made with 3D models
  • Improved AI
  • Scripted sequences of enemies breaking down walls and destroying surroundings
  • Vehicles
  • An involved story
  • Less enemies
  • Grenades
  • The ability to look up and down
  • A jump button

i The versions of Doom I have played most are the PSX editions Doom & Final Doom.
ii List of ‘modern’ FPS games including – but not limited to – Half Life (PC 1998), Chronicles of Riddick (Xbox 2004), Medal Of Honour (Multiple platforms, 1999-….)
iii This has also been noted by Sirlin in his article ‘The Secret of Donkey Kong Country 2’ analysing the SNES game Donkey Kong Country 2.
iv An example is BioShock (Multiple platforms 2007).

1 comment:

  1. loved this post, doom 3 is the bastard son of the doom family