Doom's legacy: 20 years of brutal FPS action

We look at how the blood-drenched first-person shooter, today celebrating its 20th birthday, changed the world


Prepare to feel old: Doom was released 20 years ago today.

The iconic game hit the PC on 10th December 1993, when the first public version was uploaded to an American university server for ‘shareware’ distribution (more on that below). And to say it was revolutionary is something of an understatement: Doom changed the world of gaming.

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The shareware version of Doom

Shareware Doom

Developer iD Software decided to distribute Doom – or at least a substantial portion of it – via shareware. In other words, the first chapter (around a third of the entire game) was made available for free distribution – the idea being that people, once they’d experienced Doom for themselves, would be willing to part with cold hard cash for the remaining two chapters.

I personally remember being given the game by a schoolfriend on a pair of 3.5in floppy disks (each capable of storing a whopping 1.4MB of data), only to find I couldn’t install it on my parents’ computer. Cue a trip to a family friend’s house under false “I need to write an essay using your PC’s word processor” pretences…

In many ways, shareware gaming was the precursor to today's 'free to play' titles, which tempt you in with their lack of price tag then entice you to spend money on 'premium features'.

Image credit: Pelle Wessman

We're all doomed

The Doom movie

Doom movie

Doom even became available on iPod

Doom on iPod

Doom 3

Doom 3

iD released several versions of the original Doom, and it spawned two sequels (one using the same engine, one several years later and with a more survival horror feel to it) and even a movie starring The Rock. But with other FPS games grabbing the torch, it seems like the franchise may be permanently retired: iD’s plans for a fourth game were recently scrapped, and both John Romero and John Carmack, the two developers most closely identified with Doom, have now left the company.

But next time you’re playing Call of Duty or Battlefield, spare a thought for a game that they would not exist without – a simple game where a space marine shot hundreds of pinky demons in the face, then punched a few dozen more to death. Happy birthday Doom, and thanks for all the blood-drenched memories.

iPod image credit: Scott Kellum