DooM: The Shores of Nostalgia
Dead tree. Gargoyle blood fountain.Gargoyle blood fountain. Dead tree.
The Shores of Nostalgia
Yellow candelabra.Yellow candelabra.

Doom menu skull. The Siren's Call of Doom

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Cacodemon. Indisputably one of the greatest games of all time, Doom's cultural influence is so wholly pervasive that I can safely assume that anyone visiting a website such as mine has either played it or at the very least is quite familiar with it. Indeed, it almost feels like narcissistic futility for me to bother devoting an entire article to my memories and thoughts of the game. Nonetheless, Doom and Raptor were the first two games I ever played, and I cannot bring myself to exclude either of them. Moreover, I feel there is some amusement to be derived from just how outlandish my childhood reactions to much of Doom were, as a very easily stimulated autistic child with no previous computer game experience.

Although the first person shooter (FPS) genre dates all the way back to 1973 (a subject worthy of its own article if I ever feel that I've somehow managed to do enough research on it...), when a group of students at NASA created the bare bones maze-centric deathmatch game Maze War, it was not until Doom arrived in December of 1993 that any game in the genre featured such stunning luxuries as varying light levels, varying elevations, or even levels that did not consist entirely of a grid of nearly identical giant squares.

For reference, the previous peak of FPS technology, Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold, came a mere five days before Doom's release and it was essentially Wolfenstein 3D with the addition of one ceiling/floor texture per level and a bunch of interesting gameplay features such as friendly NPCs, vending machines, and the ability to revisit previous levels. A still amusing yet sadly very rapidly outdated adventure through futuristic bases built by an evil mad scientist that seems to be waging a two-front war against both humanity and the idea of interesting architecture.

Needless to say, Doom blew countless nerd minds when it obliterated the grid prison the FPS genre had been marooned in for 20 years, and still manages to stand as one of the greatest games of all time 30 years later. While I was too young to take part in this craze when it occurred, Doom still rocked my world just as hard, after fate wound up making it and Raptor not just my first experiences with any computer game, but one of my first experiences with a computer at all.

Small torch with green fire.Small torch with green fire.

Doom menu skull. First Adventures

Red skull key door sign.Red skull key door sign.Red skull key door sign.Red skull key door sign.Red skull key door sign.Red skull key door sign.

Baron of Hell.Although I cannot say that it is my absolute favourite game anymore (certainly in the top 3 however), Doom might be the one work of fiction that has had the most extreme impression on me, one that I find difficult to even elucidate because it was such a product of how excitable and easy to captivate I was as a child, something perhaps at least partially caused by how hyperactive the amygdala in my autistic brain is. As a very small child, before immigrating to the United States, things were so bad that I apparently ran out of the room in terror because of a television commercial where a man in a costume appeared and proclaimed he was a space alien.

For younger readers, Doom may be nothing but an antiquated pixelated relic and the decrepit grandfather of the modern iterations of the game, but back when I first encountered it on our first American Windows 95 computer and had no experience or knowledge of any other games other than it and Raptor, it was genuinely terrifying to play due to how realistic it felt at the time. I distinctly recall id Software's website back in the day carrying the verbiage "The texture-mapped virtual world is so real, you don't just play DOOM - you live it", and it certainly felt that way for my impressionable child self.

Beyond the mindblowing 3D graphics and demon/horror imagery, another thing that caused Doom to be frightening for me was how dark the CRT monitors that came with our first two computers were. Indeed, I recall trying to load a modern WAD presumably designed for brighter LCD monitors in the early 2000s and finding it to be virtually unplayable because I could not even see where I was going. This in turn led me to completely avoid some dark areas such as the computer maze in E1M2 because I was so averse to being jump-scared by an enemy that I would not be able to see before it managed to attack me.

Of all the monsters I encountered in the back then, I especially feared the Former Human Sergeants due to their mean appearance (screenshot), and avoided higher difficulty levels partially because they were more prevalent on them. I can still remember attempting to play E1M1 (Hangar) on Ultra-Violence, only to discover that, to my horror, the normally safe haven housing the green security armour next to the start room was now a watering hole for four disgruntled Former Human Sergeants.

That is not to say that I would have spent much time on those higher difficulty levels even if I was not as high-strung I was. Being a child with dyspraxia meant that playing any game that involved good coordination was a supreme challenge at the time, and Doom was perhaps the worst of a bad lot for me because for many years, I did not even know how to play it properly!

Embarrassing as it is in retrospect, for probably over half a decade after I first touched Doom, I did not know how to strafe and had no idea that it was a key part of proper movement in the game. I do recall attempting to try it but wound up deciding that it was just a novelty feature, and found it too complicated to execute properly. As anyone who has played Doom can imagine, this in turn made portions of the game, most especially any that involved battling the dreaded rocket-launching Cyberdemon, completely impossible.

Back in those days, I played games excruciatingly slowly (I'm pretty sure it took many, many months if not literal years before I left the first level of Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, to give the most extreme example), so I got to know E1M1 like the back of my hand, if I was studying the hand with a microscope and diligently cataloguing bacteria specie. Everything was so brand new and exciting that I did not mind spending ages re-exploring the same areas over and over again, trying to see if I could find something else. Sometimes I would just carefully study textures and structures in an attempt to deduce their nature and/or learn something new about the game world. It also helped me deal with the horror aspect of the game, as I felt comfortable being able to stay in "safe" areas that had no more surprises for me indefinitely.

E1M1 is of course easily one of the most perfect opening levels of any game ever made, as it not only does an excellent job at showcasing what the Doom engine is capable of, but also has a number of excellent secrets designed to either reward returning players with surprises, or reward ones such as myself who play less like a lightning-fast space marine and more like an overly obsessive detective. I still remember how elated I was when I finally solved the mystery of the unknown "descending elevator" sound after finding the secret elevator behind the "Imp tower", which automatically lowers when entering or leaving the neighbouring nukage pool area.

One funny anecdote about E1M1 that stems from my unorthodox way of playing the game. The very first time I got to the penultimate room in E1M1 right after the nukage pool area, I had apparently run right past the Imp on top of the tower, unaware that it had lowered. I then went to get a drink and returned to find my character dead at the hands of the liberated tower Imp. I believe my father had previously beat the level out of curiousity and also to help me out, and I recall swearing to him that there was a third Imp that we were unaware of and that he never told me about, and sniffing around the last two rooms trying desperately to determine where it had emerged from. I held on to my belief in the mythical Third Imp for years someone online finally explained to me what had occurred.

Aside from the life-altering experience that witnessing the timeless locale of E1M1 in all of its splendour, my other most memorable Doom memory is undeniably the first time I played E1M8 (Phobos Anomaly). Although I do not know how long it took me to get there, I know that between my awful playing skills and childhood tendency to play very slowly and explore and try out everything I possibly could instead of pushing on forward, it had to have taken months. The journey proved more than worth it however, for the timeless conclusion that was waiting at the end.

There were a great many shareware games that I enjoyed playing as a child and spent many long years yearning to play the full version of, but none of those obsessions could hold a candle to Doom, and the fact that it ended on such an awe-inspiring note was undeniably a large factor in this.

The entire first part of the level prior to the battle against the Barons of Hell that serve as the twin bosses of episode 1 is hauntingly foreboding. Even with no knowledge of the fact that this is a boss level, Phobos Anomaly instantly gives the player the impression that something tremendous is impending. The background music for the level is arguably the best in all of Doom, and the entire level features an atmosphere wholly unlike that of anything in the previous levels. Although Hell's influence is subtly present in a few areas in earlier levels, this is the first time in Doom that the player finds themselves in a structure that is clearly entirely not of human construction.

A quick side-note: the background music on this page is the music that plays on Phobos Anomaly, as it sounds with the SC-55 soundfont, which accurately mimics the Roland Sound Canvas SC-55 MIDI module that Doom's music was created with and intended to be listened to with. It's worth giving the entire soundtrack a listen with this soundfont, as it will almost certainly sound significantly better than you've ever heard it before.

Although higher difficulty levels require the player to battle through a battalion of Pinky Demons and Spectres throughout the level, the lowest difficulty setting, I'm Too Young to Die, only features an easily vanquishable oracle of Pinky Demons in the opening area, standing in a circle around a glowing pool of radiation and surrounded by explosive barrels. Almost as if they were either in the middle of performing some unholy ritual, or were deliberately set up to be used as a sacrifice by some particulary cruel demonic being that is willing to use even its own kind as offerings. Either way, the level remained quite ominous for me as I carefully creeped down the long and suspiciously empty corridor towards the pentagram-shaped main chamber, picking up ammunition along the way akin to a pig being fed some extra treats on their journey to the abattoir.

Needless to say, the first time I entered the main chamber and triggered the emergence of the Bruiser Brothers from their sarcophagi, I was promptly massacred. Fighting two Barons at once when you have dyspraxia and have no idea how to strafe or move via the mouse is an onerous task as it is. Doing it while frozen in abject shock at the sudden emergence of such majestic, almost divine (in their own demonic way) beasts is impossible. (screenshot)

Unlike any of the enemies prior to them, minus the humble Imp, the Barons of Hell attack by firing projectiles. This consequentially meant that fighting them was a hefty difficulty spike compared to anything beforehand, seeing as I still could not use strafing to dodge their attacks and my movement was pitiful even if the lack of strafing could be excused. It took quite a few tries and gaming sessions to finally defeat them, and their seemingly indomitable might coupled with everything else about them and the level, led me to downright revere them for a long time. At some point I even had a night terror where I was attacked by a Goatman, which led me to do some research and learn of the existence of a Goatman cryptid in the general area I lived in, something I desperately wished was true for years.

Now, the designs of the Barons are hardly unique in their general nature (the basic idea of a Satyr has existed in mythology for thousands of years), but the artistic genius with which they were handled has made them, to this day, the most memorable boss monster I have ever fought. The sheer ferocity and memorability of the sounds they emit, particularly their trumpeting greeting roar and their fierce animalistic death howl, are truly peerless among computer game monster sounds, and their designs are still impressive today, and in my opinion, objectively superior to their iterations in the more modern Doom installments, which are vastly more complex yet simultaneously more generic and forgettable.

Of course, the madness of E1M8 does not quite end with the fall of the Barons. Unlike the case in most games, where a level ends as soon as the boss perishes (as is also the case in the last level of episodes 2 and 3 of Doom), defeating the so-called Bruiser Brothers causes the walls in the arena in which the battle took place to suddenly come down, revealing a large, surreal outdoor landscape with no landmarks save another enigmatic structure (screenshot) with a triggerable staircase. All, of course, with no context as to what is transpiring.

Part of the reason this made such an impression on me is because the level designers brilliantly set the entire area outside of the pentagram arena to not appear on the player's automap, even if they have obtained the Computer Area Map, which would typically reveal the entire map to the player, and/or are already physically in the area themselves. So far as the automap is telling the player, this vast, ominously serene courtyard they are now in does not actually exist. (screenshot)

Once the player descends into the outdoor area and triggers the raising of the staircase that permits them access to the top of the mysterious aforementioned structure, they find themselves facing an artefact that, at this point of the game, is still rare enough to be quite mysterious - a demonic teleporter. Triggering this sends them into a pitch black room where they are ambushed and nearly killed by a swarm of demons. Cut to an intermission where one of the most memorable tracks in any computer game history plays as text scrolls across the screen broadcasting the Doom Marine's shock and dismay at things ending like this after he seemingly slaughtered the "big bads" and liberated the moonbase, and revealing that he has been transported to the lost Deimos base on the Shores of Hell.

However simple and dated the entire experience may seem when viewed through the lens of today's gaming landscape, it was easily one of, if not the most exciting experience I have ever had in a computer game. I still vividly remember the entire experience of beating E1M8 to this very day, and being so enthused that I left the computer and started excitedly infodumping to my father about what I just saw despite him being occupied speaking with my uncle who had just come over for a visit.

In retrospect, thinking about the impression this made on me has caused me ruminate on the unexpected benefits of the old days when games were limited by a complete lack of scripting, and developers had no way to lead players around by the nose and/or pelt them with hints, as has become so common in modern games. I find myself unable to keep a straight face when I attempt to imagine the enigma and grandeur of the original E1M8 being spoiled with incessant mission objectives and hints constantly popping up on the screen, along with cutscenes during every major event. How much more profound and memorable it is when things are left to the player's imagination! Speaking of which...

Small torch with green fire.Small torch with green fire.

Doom menu skull. Childhood Legends

Red skull key door sign.Red skull key door sign.Red skull key door sign.Red skull key door sign.Red skull key door sign.Red skull key door sign.

Soulsphere.An excited and obsessed young child's imagination is a magical thing, able to conjure up endless whimsical possibilities without the burdens or limitations that years of experience slowly shackle them with. Between my obsessive years-long preoccupation with Doom and terrible lack of understanding at how computer games worked, I wound up developing many outlandish theories about the game that are quite entertaining in retrospect.

A belief that perfectly sums up how little I understood the mechanics behind computer games in my early days of Dooming is that the mountains shown in the outdoor areas of the first episode of the game, Knee Deep in the Dead (screenshot), were an actual location somewhere in the game that I could theoretically reach and explore. I wound up wasting much time attempting to leap out of windows and escape the game world to set off on my journey towards the fabled mountains before I finally realised they were just a texture.

Interestingly, the famous Knee Deep in the Dead mountains are an actual location in real life. The reason they look so realistic is because they were taken from a photograph of mountains in the Yangshuo Cavern in China, taken by Tom Atwood. Beautiful as the mountains are, they seem like an odd choice for the background on the barren dwarf moon Phobos, given that they clearly harbour vegetation. The mountains and skies in episodes 2 and 3 also came from stock photographs but were edited beforehand to give the impression of being in Hell.

Another humourous minor detail that I recalled while writing this article was my interpretation of the shotgun shells the very first time I saw a pack of four of them in E1M1. English is not my first language and although I am now able to speak and write it so fluently that no one would ever guess, at the time I first played Doom I was nearly completely illiterate in it. Not being able to read "picked up 4 shotgun shells" and not having any context for what a shotgun shell even was, I came to the assumption that, based on the appearance of the item, it was a pack of fries dipped in ketchup. (screenshot) Needless to say, I spent a spell pondering what exactly this item was doing in the game and what I was supposed to do with it until I finally found the shotgun on E1M2 and connected the dots.

Yet another goofy misunderstanding that I recall came from the Doom manual, which came as a sublime Windows 3.1/9x Help file (.hlp), which I (of course) read from cover to cover far too many times to estimate once my understanding of the English language was sufficient enough to permit it. On two occasions in the manual (the descriptions for the Lost Soul and the hidden description for the Cyberdemon), the verbiage "'nuff said" is present. For quite a few years, I had no idea that this was short for "Enough said", and assumed there was someone named Nuff out there who was a mysterious expert on the Doom bestiary.

Many of my other ludicrous theories stemmed from having very limited access to any parts of the game beyond the shareware episode. While the first computer that we ever owned in the United States, back in the mid-90s, contained demos of Doom and Raptor: Call of the Shadows, it would not be until some time in 2002 or 2003 that I actually obtained the full version of Doom. My parents saw no value in computer games and so I rarely received any as gifts, and finding full versions of games on the Web was extraordinarily difficult back in that era. It took years of tireless searching before I was finally able to locate a now-defunct French language warez site that contained the full versions of Doom and a number of other games I had been looking for.

Before that miraculous day occurred, the biggest taste I had of the full version of Doom came from a computer-centric camp that I was sent to for the summer at some point early on in elementary school. I quickly became notorious for aggressively hogging the "recess" games computer and the Doom CD, playing levels at random via the Doom95 launcher (more on this later) with "god mode" and "noclip" turned on and trying to get as good of a feel of the game as I possibly could in the limited time that I had. My poor father became exasperated after listening to my infodumps when he picked me up, and came to assume that the only thing I was being "taught" was Doom.

Aimlessly playing Doom with cheat codes enabled most likely seems like a senseless endeavour, but this was one of the many odd byproducts of how much of an effect the game had on me. My obsession with even the most minute details of the game (many of which I will mention) as if I was an archaeologist studying some illustrious artefact left behind by an enigmatic lost civilisation, coupled with my lack of skill at playing, meant the best way to use my limited time was to zip through the levels and gobble up as much information about what was in them as possible. Even minor details like "there's a Baron in E4M6" or "there's this weird circular pedestal with an invulnerability sphere and weird demonic artefacts around it in E3M6" would make my day.

Because even my beloved parents could only so much infodumping on the same subject and I was not yet capable enough of making my own website (although I did already have an interest in doing so even back in those halcyon days!), I wound up sating myself by creating "informational booklets" comprised of print-outs of websites, the Doom manual (from the Doom95 .hlp file), and screenshots I found, writing down whatever information I was able to find on the pages, and then stapling them together. Miraculously I still have two of them and decided to take two photographs purely for the humour value.

Needless to say, because of my downright pathological obsession with Doom, my lack of access to the full version, and my overly vivid imagination, I wound up filling in all of the blanks that I had in some comical ways.

Perhaps among the most amusing of these whimsical and uninformed fantasies centered around one of the three screenshots teased on the tantalising Order screen in the shareware version of the game. (screenshot) Alongside two beautiful screenshots showing the Plasma Rifle being used to do battle with Cacodemons on E3M2 and E3M6 of the game, there is also a screenshot of the battle against the Cyberdemon alongside another player in Cooperative mode at the end of Episode 2 present. As you can see, half of the Cyberdemon's body is obscured in the screenshot, most likely to build mystery and makes its triumphant appearance in E2M8 more surprising.

Although I am unaware of how long it took until I somehow obtained proper context for this scene (I vaguely recall speculating about my theory to another child in 2nd grade), for quite a while, due to having no idea that Cooperative mode even existed, I assumed that the green Marine in the screenshot was either an evil doppelganger or a friendly NPC who would show up to help you. Much more amusingly, I also believed that the Cyberdemon was an unknown monster who was made entirely out of fire, due to the right part of his body being covered in a reddish-orange glow from the rocket he was firing out.

Another one of my preposterous beliefs stemmed from my brief experimentation with playing Doom on NIGHTMARE! as a child. This is a joke difficulty level which makes all of the enemies obscenely fast, and causes them to respawn from death approximately 30-40 seconds after they die. Seeing as only a infinitesimal minority of fantastically talented Doom players can beat Doom on this difficulty level, it is no surprise that my child self stood about as much of a chance as a fly slamming into a speeding truck's windshield. I did last long enough to note the endless respawning however and remember staring in wonder after dying as enemies I had killed steadily rose from the dead, wondering how anyone was supposed to stand a chance against such grim odds.

During one of my first sessions with the full version of Doom, having already encountered NIGHTMARE! difficulty on the home computer, I went straight to episode four due to it being the very last one, not realising that the difficulty level on this episode was on an entirely different level than the rest of the game. The very first level, E4M1, is arguably the toughest level in the entire first Doom game, and the opening area has a fight with a number of Former Human Sergeants that teleport in one after another. Being completely overwhelmed and unable to keep up with the action, I mistakenly confused the teleportations of Former Humans for respawning (both phenomenon share the exact same animation) (screenshot), and assumed episode 4 was so unfair that it even incorporated the same mechanics as NIGHTMARE! difficulty.

I should add that this belief is amusingly ironic given that E4M1 is so notoriously difficult on NIGHTMARE! difficulty that no one was able to beat it until an exploit was discovered that allowed for entirely skipping a portion of the level.

In retrospect, this ostensible inaccessibility is probably why episode 4 always held a special reverence for me in my childhood. I had no experience with it for years beyond briefly warping to a few of the levels with Doom95 and zipping around with noclip enabled, but the unique architecture, atmosphere, design motifs, and even the mystery of where exactly the episode even took place (some say it's on a corrupted part of Earth while I maintain that the Doom Marine had to make it through some unknown dimension between Hell and Earth that was also taken over by demons, who then moderately modified their architecture to bear their cultural symbols) captivated me deeply.

I recall being particularly fascinated by just how pervasive the venerable Barons of Hell were in this episode, as I still considered them to be these almighty boss monsters, and it seemed quite shocking to encounter them one after the other as if they were mere commoners. The surreal oddness of E4M4's (Unruly Evil) exit, which consists of a hole in the ground leading into what appears to be something identical to the sky above (screenshot), was also something that stuck with me for a long time and led to hours of rumination as to how this was possible and what it could mean.

E4M6 (Against Thee Wickedly) with its vast, majestic emerald castle also took me in as one of the most impressive sights I had ever seen. (screenshot) (screenshot) (screenshot) Even moreso, of course, after I ran into one of the Barons dwelling inside of it. (: The "skull key bars" in E4M3 (Sever the Wicked) (screenshot) and later E4M6 were also an extremely memorable touch for me, given simple doors were used for the purpose of locked entrances in all previous levels containing them.

One of the other levels I got a good glimpse of early on was E3M6 (Mount Erebus) in Inferno, which featured a hellish sea of lava dotted by a bunch of surreal small islands with various odd buildings. This level made a monumental impression on me, to the point where parts of it, most notably a little area that features an Invulnerability Sphere and a cluster of various demons are permanently branded into my brain. (screenshot) (screenshot)

Although I retained very vivid and accurate memories of what Mount Erebus looked like, I did not actually remember what part of the game it was in. However, because it was literally a sea of lava, and the second episode was named "The Shores of Hell", I assumed that it came from there, and further assumed that the entire episode consisted of "sea" levels more or less like Erebus. Even after finally beating E1M8 and reading that the Doom marine was teleported to the Deimos base, I assumed that the Deimos base had landed in an ocean in Hell, which... was not entirely untrue.

It's not really a misconception so much as a possible theory, but like many other players I also assumed that the mysterious Soulsphere, which appears as a blue orb with a pained, animated human face inside, was the product of a poor human's soul being trapped inside of a sphere, and found it rather disturbing how the Doom Marine will happily consume it on contact with no hesitation. (screenshot) I similiarly also felt bad whenever I had to kill one of the Pinky Demons, as their corpses always seemed to display a melancholic, betrayed expression of "How could you do this to me?!" (screenshot) and I often wondered if they were truly evil like the other monsters, especially since the pure white, almost glowing eyes they display prior to death makes them appear possessed, with the possession presumably breaking during their last, pained moments of life.

The iconic Cacodemons, despite how little experience I had with them prior to obtaining the full version of Doom on my home computer, also led me to speculate on their alleged wickedness, as they always seemed far too cute and cheerful to be the monsters the game made them out to be. If anything, Cacodemons always gave off a very "Christmassy" vibe to me (screenshot), and I thought they would look right at home without any modifications as the main enemies (or allies, if a port like MBF that allows friendly enemies is used!) in a zany Christmas-themed WAD. After encountering the hordes of Cacodemons and Barons in E2M9, who will always wind up in-fighting with each other at computer camp, I also started to believe that the two groups of demons universally loathed each other or were at least rivals of some sort in Hell.

The Spider Mastermind, whom I admittedly spent very little time around, is one that left a lasting impression on me due to the sheer mystery of what she was supposed to be. This demon gets a lot of flak for her role as the final boss of the original Doom game, which is quite understandable. The level she appears in, E3M8 (Dis) is quite generic compared to the suspenseful and stunning boss levels that harbour the Barons and the Cyberdemon. Not to mention the Mastermind herself is pitifully underwhelming, especially if the player has acquired the BFG 9000 (which they certainly will have if they were awake when they played the previous levels and did not lose it by dying.)

However, I think id Software deserves credit for how utterly original and unexpected her design is. As glorious and memorable as the Barons and other monsters are, most of them are hardly original at their core and all resemble something you'd expect to find in a demon-centric game (aside from the Cacodemon, who is actually heavily ripped from the Beholder in Dungeons and Dragons). The Spider Mastermind however, is entirely in a league of her own as this massive brain with an arachnic metal chassis supporting it. I believe my first time seeing it was on the Doom95 installation screen, after which I asked my older cousin what it was and who built it, to which he responded to my amazement that it was the leader of the demons and that it built itself.

At any rate, even if Doom 2 did not do anything with the idea beyond using it (and the design of the Cyberdemon) as an inspiration for other cyborg monsters such as the Arachnotron, I thought it was wonderful that they ended the game with such a unusual and enigmatic beast. A perfect move to keep the player asking questions and wanting the story to continue onward.

Small torch with green fire.Small torch with green fire.

Doom menu skull. Knee Deep in WADs

Red skull key door sign.Red skull key door sign.Red skull key door sign.Red skull key door sign.Red skull key door sign.Red skull key door sign.

Lost Soul.After finally being sated with the base Doom games, I went wandering the whimsical world of WADs (essentially Doom's term for modifications). Between Doom's immense popularity and the ease with which WADs could be created, even by people who had absolutely no clue what they were doing, it should not be surprising that the sheer diversity of Doom's modding world surpasses that of any other game out there, even that of my beloved ZZT.

Indeed, a long walk down Doomworld's /idgames archive (the monolithic trove that contains the overwhelming vast majority of Doom WADs that have ever been released) will reveal anything from a recreation of Jazz Jackrabbit, to a fantastic adventure where you travel back in time to fight demons in Ancient Egypt, to a puzzle megaWAD where you have to evade and kill Cyberdemons without firing a shot, to a colourful spinning void where you can shrink, walk on ceilings, and fight your doppelganger, to a WAD where you infiltrate and move up in the Doom community by alternately conducting diplomacy with and killing fellow Doomers in the form of demons, to... a WAD depicting Doomguy fornicating with an Imp.

Even after all of these years I can still actually remember the very first WAD that I ever played - Death Tormention by Paul Corfiatis.

I was up early one morning while on summer vacation and had decided to start checking out Doom WADs, but was unable to figure out how to load them from the command prompt. I begged my father to help me since he was far more DOS-savvy than I was, having used the actual operating system full time himself for work before. Since he was leaving for work and did not have time to explain everything to me, he told me to choose one WAD and he would load it for me. Strapped for time, I wound up choosing Death Tormention purely because the review I read on the still-operational WAD review website Doom Underground mentioned that it contained four Spider Masterminds and a Cyberdemon on the last level and I was ecstastic to see such a spectacle in action.

I, of course, also asked my father to use the command line to warp me directly to that level so that I could witness it right off the bat. Thankfully, the episode itself is actually very high quality, so the endeavour was not a waste of time. And best of all, I was able to retrace my father's steps and figure out how to load WADs on my own and start branching out into many additional ones.

Downloading Doom WADs was an incredibly magical experience for me back in the day because of the limitations that came with having to use dial-up Internet. Although smaller WADs were still relatively quick to download, larger ones that included many levels, custom graphics, and/or music could take so long that I would sometimes (very uncharacteristically) wander off from the computer to look for something else to pass the time with to avoid the long wait.

Other times, however, I would sit there for the entire time re-reading whatever verbiage inspired me to download the WAD and looking at the screenshots over and over while imagining what the actual game would be like. WolfenDOOM's website especially is one I have many fond memories of doing this on (the download links on the site no longer work but they can all be downloaded here.) Not only does the website contain a wild assortment of Wolfenstein-themed Doom WADs complete with screenshots and enthralling descriptions, but there's even a catchy Wolfenstein background MIDI that could be listened to on Internet Explorer (the browser which just about everyone used in the days when I discovered WolfenDOOM).

As ludicrous as it may seem, I feel some level of pity for the lost souls who had the misfortune to be introduced to Doom in the modern era of high-speed Internet, when even the largest WADs are just bite-sized morsels that can be plucked from the branches of the Web instantaneously whenever one desires. While I do not deny the many, many benefits of having high-speed Internet, and do not desire to trivialise the struggles of anyone who is still stuck with dial-up Internet in this day and age, I feel that there was something magical behind spending half an hour waiting for an interesting looking WAD to download with nothing better to do but to speculate on whatever information the author provided, like a child lying in bed on Christmas Eve night.

A side-note about Doom sites. Being that the game was overwhelmingly popular in the 90s and 2000s, it is no surprise that the Web used to be positively covered in silly Doom fanpages (many of which can still be found today), and aspects like background music from Doom, (universally MIDIs back then) and designs comprised of animated .gifs and static textures from Doom were very common to see and is something that still does not fail to put a smile on my face. Having an opportunity to create a second page in that style is the main reason this page doesn't share the design of the other reminiscence pages. At any rate, some of these pages simply offered general information on Doom but a great many also had reviews of and links to WADs, including ones that could not be found anywhere else.

Low quality as so many of them may have been, I had a lot of fun back in the day playing a lot of older WADs that are now universally reviled or ignored, because they felt so novel and exciting to my younger self. Two of my favourites were Dragon Ball Z Doom and Sailor Moon Doom, both of which replaced the weapons (and some of the enemies in Z's case) with equivalents from the anime. Both are of abysmal quality in just about every way when looked at objectively, but back then there was something immensely fantastical about seeing an anime I watched religiously (Dragon Ball Z) and one I saw sometimes and vaguely understood (Sailor Moon) on the television being transported into Doom.

Also, invulnerability in the Dragon Ball Z WAD caused your player to go Super Saiyan, and even better, the Chainsaw in the Sailor Moon WAD was replaced with the player holding up a cat that scratches enemies to death with her paws. How could anyone not love that?!

Hellraiser Doom, which can still be found on its own website here, was another one I loved, and I recall it being genuinely frightening for me when I first tried it. Lamentably, I booted it up again while writing this page and see now that the fear factor arose entirely due to how terrifying the Hellraiser movies were for me as a child, and not anything to do with the quality of the WAD. Granted, perhaps there is something a tad disturbing about swarms of pixelated zombies all reciting Frank Cotton's "come to daddy" line from Hellraiser, complete with the inexplicable background music (random movie clips as sounds were a common trope in old, bad WADs). It almost feels like one of those nonsensical yet frightening nightmares you have when you're wearily sleeping off a bad flu.

Another one that I adored was a WAD that allowed the player to play as a black cat. It was very poorly done and looked to be unfinished, but it did replace the player's face in the status bar with the face of a black cat, and replaced the weapons with black paws. Needless to say, given that I am a life-long cat fanatic, I found the WAD to be tremendously enjoyable despite its dismal "production values". Being a child, my imagination was easily able to paint over everything that the WAD lacked to turn it into something truly enjoyable. Unfortunately, due to being hosted on an obscure website instead of the /idgames/ archive, it looks to have been lost to time, as I have been unable to find so much as a whisper of its existence anywhere since I first encountered it.

The vast majority of 1994 WADs in particular get a very bad rap in the Doom community, which I personally find quite unfortunate. Yes, they are undeniably vastly less polished than anything that comes out today, when WAD-makers have decades of existing WADs to look up to and emulate, and any WAD that doesn't adhere to various expectations will get torn apart. Nonetheless, I have found that many of them carry an exquisite charm that no remotely modern WAD can replicate.

As mentioned, in 1994 the many capabilities of the Doom engine were brand new to the world, and there were no standards or expectations to look up to, nor any notorious failures that crashed and burned to show the futility of executing certain wild ideas. This created a complete "wild west" atmosphere where countless people were happy and willing to try any crazy idea they could possibly think of. From a monolithic and infuriatingly complicated rat maze, to a level that takes place under the ocean, to a realistic subway system, to a quasi-photorealistic replica of the college the author was attending at the time, all sorts of fascinating ideas flourished and burned in those heady days.

Although the aforementioned cat WAD has almost certainly been swallowed up by the voracious sands of time, there is a set of other obscure ancient WADs that I had the blessing of finding again. All the way back in 1994, a Danish man known only as Jez crafted a three episode replacement for the original Doom, as well as a number of individual level WADs that he hosted on his personal website. The levels show their age, and I would imagine not even a single person would consider them to be even remotely good by today's standards, but they had a very alluring charm that led me to preserve and replay them many times since I first found them back in the day.

Although JezDoom and Jez's other works are exactly what you would expect from someone goofily playing around with Doom soon after its release with no idea what he's doing (you can tell the exact moment when Jez gleefully discovered how to import new textures as you play through JezDoom, when soda machine textures and images of Saturn start inexplicably decorating walls in episode 3), the levels feature quite a few very amusing and creative ideas, even if Jez did not always know how to execute them well. It is also fascinating to me to see how Catacomb 3D/Wolfenstein 3D-esque many of the layouts are, suggesting perhaps that Jez previously dabbled in modding one of those games. The starting area of E3M2 especially looks like it was ripped straight out of the opening level of one of Wolfenstein 3D's episodes.

As mentioned in the introduction, the FPS genre had been plodding along for 20 years by the time of Doom's release, yet even as technology became more and more advanced and the genre outgrew its maze ancestry and allowed for more and more complicated textures and detail, it nonetheless remained perpetually stranded in an oddball world where every area consisted of a grid of identically-tall giant square blocks all the way up until Doom's release at the tail end of 1993. If one looks at alpha versions of Doom, it's evident that even id Software's own developers were sometimes struggling to adapt to mapping in a unprecedented complex world of sectors and linedefs, so it's no surprise that Jez and other early WAD-making pioneers were also not quite able to hatch out of the Wolf3D mentality.

Jez's excellent Web 1.0 website thankfully lives on at (worth checking out even if Doom isn't your cup of tea, as there's more to it than just that!), but his WADs unfortunately do not. Seeing as I am likely one of the last people on the planet who still has copies of them, I decided to archive them all here because I find them to be very charming time capsules of early Doom WAD-making, warts and all, I had the great pleasure of replaying them recently in Cooperative mode over Zandronum with a dear friend who is relatively new to Doom, and I hope someone else gets a kick out of them too.

I'll avoid ranting further on this, but at some point (hopefully in the near future), I do want to start a new page dedicated to reviews and analysis of (mostly) old Doom WADs to help give some much-needed exposure to them. I believe there's a wealth of excellent WADs out there that are still very worth playing today, even for people who aren't autistically attached to Doom's early eras.

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Doom menu skull. On Source Ports

Invisibility sphere. Following the release of Doom's source code in 1997, numerous source ports have been created, both in the interests of running Doom on operating systems other than DOS, and adding additional functionality to the game. This is something I embraced initially, and I have fond childhood memories of playing quite a few WADs that took full advantage of ZDoom's power to create complex worlds that vastly transcended anything previously created in Doom.

Chief among those was probably the Adventures of Massmouth series by Cyb, three zany cosmic adventures (two main ones and a Christmas special) from the perspective of a cute and lovable green space alien named Massmouth that features a voiced protagonist, interactible NPCs, cutscenes, multiple endings (in the second game), and endless impressive special effects. I remember playing the first one and thinking it was an astounding yet comfy example of just what great feats were possible to achieve with ZDoom, then being completely awestruck after the sequel came out and thoroughly blew its predecessor out of the water in nearly every department.

As time went on however, I found my attitude towards source ports to become increasingly sour as I became quite turned off by what they were turning my beloved childhood game into. It was probably in 2006 when I first heard about GZDoom, a source port that drastically extended ZDoom by adding a slew of modern graphical features such as an OpenGL renderer, 3D lighting, 3D floors, and so forth, that I started becoming increasingly conservative with my views on source ports.

Although ZDoom was certainly littered with unnecessary features itself, the fact that most of them came directly from Doom clones created in the same general timeframe (notably Heretic and Hexen) made it acceptable in my eyes. GZDoom on the other hand, was garishly shoving graphical effects from an entirely different decade into the game, utterly perverting it in the process. I can certainly appreciate modern graphical effects, and am not entirely a stranger to playing modern 3D games. However, there is a proper place for such luxuries, and a game designed in 1993 for CRT monitors is not it.

While, admittedly, I largely stopped paying very much attention to the Doom modding scene a few years after GZDoom's 2005 release, I did at least make a yearly effort to read Doomworld's Cacowards, which honours the so-called greatest WAD releases of each year. As the years went on, I became increasingly disheartened by how many of the WADs displayed therein were reliant on GZDoom, and were nothing but a tacky attempt to coax Doom into being another flashy and forgettable modern first person shooter game. Eventually, my disgust was enough to completely drive me away from touching source ports and towards almost exclusively playing classic 90s WADs.

Doom being an artistic masterpiece is as much of an indisputable fact as the fact that it was very crafted to be viewed and played on the CRT monitors that were used during its era. Any side-by-side comparison of Doom with and without CRT filters, such as this one, makes that abundantly clear. Playing Doom on an anorexic monitor without CRT filters is already blasphemy in my eyes, butchering it yet further by slapping out-of-place modern graphical effects all over it is akin to a boorish amateur haphazardly slathering the Mona Lisa with arbitrary Photoshop filters and then proudly presenting it as an artistic revolution.

Although I am objective enough to be able to acknowledge the effort put into many modern Doom WADs and still find genuine enjoyment in a handful of them, such as the Adventures of Massmouth series, it vexes me to see a game that brought me so much joy being repeatedly warped and twisted into something entirely different from what it used to be.

In retrospect, I suppose my slow turn away from the new world of Doom may have stemmed from my extreme disillusionment with its goofy sequel Doom3, which thoroughly abandoned everything that made the original games great in favour of focusing entirely on high quality graphics and horror. Like many others, I spent years looking forward to Doom3's release with bated breath, obsessively consuming and ruminating over every screenshot and tidbit I could find online about it, only to be disappointed when I was finally able to get my hands on it and slowly discovered that it was an obnoxiously tedious slog through an endless series of beautiful but linear rooms, littered with tiresome jump-scares and uninspired modern remakes of the classic Doom bestiary and armoury.

It did take quite some time for me to renounce my stubborn fanboyism of Doom3 and accept that this new world was not the promised land I thought it to be, but it slowly led me to appreciate the eternal splendour of the original Doom games as they were made to be played with renewed vigour. This only grew as Doom3 and other graphical goliaths of the time were surpassed by the steady stream of shinier successors, and their warts became more and more apparent, while the original DOS games of my youth still looked as gorgeous as the day they were born, at least when properly viewed on a CRT or through CRT filters.

Because of thse sentiments, I have almost entirely abandoned source ports quite a few years back in favour of playing Doom using the original DOS executible both on my 1999 Compaq with a CRT monitor, or in DOSBox using CRT filters (something that is available via the DOSBox SVN-Daum fork). I also mostly limit my Doom playing to either the original games or to various classic Doom WADs from the 90s that properly sate my nostalgia. I do occasionally use Zandronum for playing multiplayer with my friends (long-distance multiplayer even with Chocolate Doom is lamentably untenable, as I learned the hard way) and do still greatly enjoy a small minority of "modern" WADs such as the illustrious Alien Vendetta, but I take care to ensure that I do not stray too far and risk tainting my Doom experience with heretical and unnecessary modern modifications if at all possible.

There is however, one source port that I still cling to in spite of everything, including its own objectively shoddy construction.

Very long-time fans of Doom may have had a feeling of déjà vu upon seeing the header image for this page. If you did, this is almost certainly not a coincidence, as this image was very closely inspired by the splash screen featured in Microsoft's infamous Doom95 source port for Windows 95 that was created in 1996 to piggyback on Doom's popularity and promote Windows 95.

Although it is perhaps amateurish and goofy by modern sensibilities, Doom95's splash screen is something that has been permanently burned into my brain due to how much significance I had assigned to it as a child. Much like I had my own little tales about the events occurring in the screenshots depicted in the advertisement in the shareware version of Doom, I became convinced due to how epic (I loathe using that word, but in this case, I find it fitting) that banner appeared to me, that it depicted the final battle in Doom itself - a fateful final battle between the Doom Marine, an unknown hulking cybernetic caprine demon, and another one of the sublime Barons of Hell, in some unknown realm characterised by a burning city and a surreal orange sky.

Beyond running natively in Windows 95, Doom95's other claim to fame was a graphical launcher interface that allowed you to start the game from any level and at any skill level, which I took advantage of to haphazardly run amok all over the game when I had access to the full version at the aforementioned computer camp. It should be noted that everything the launcher offered was already possible to achieve via the original Doom via command line parameters, but I did not yet know how to accomplish this at the time.

Beyond the launcher and the sublime splash screen, another "feature" that captivated me about Doom95 was the glitchly sound playback that, for whatever reason, played back all of the sounds with a noticeably lower pitch. Whatever the reason behind this, I was very fond of this as a child because it made many of the monster growls sound noticeably scarier and more menacing. It also granted a much grittier and tougher sound to many of the weapons, including the sound that plays when a gun is picked up. Even a quarter century later, I still enjoy this aspect of Doom95 enough to play the game with it sometimes, in spite of the port's many flaws.

In the interests of objectivity, I want to make it crystal clear that unlike my other, more reasonable attachments to the past, my fondness for Doom95 is founded on nothing but blind nostalgia, and no one should actually play Doom using this source port. It suffers from a myriad of serious issues, is barely usable at best outside of ancient versions of Windows, and brings little to nothing redeeming to the table. Still, it has serious historical value that is worth mentioning here.

The reason Doom95 was created was because Microsoft was alarmed by the fact that more computers were running Doom than were running their own (still explosively popular) Windows 95 operating system, and decided to take advantage of Doom's popularity for promotional purposes. They also briefly contemplated buying id Software out altogether, something which actually did wind up happening decades later after Microsoft bought out Zenimax, who had previously bought id Software.

Perhaps more interestingly, Doom95's creation was spearheaded and overseen by none other than the now-famous Gabe Newell, a Microsoft employee who later left and founded Valve and led the development of Steam. There also exists a hilarious promotion that was done for the port, which featured Bill Gates imposed into Doom95 itself, at one point shooting a zombie with a shotgun for interrupting his speech on the virtues of Windows 95 as a gaming platform.

If you are using Windows Vista Whiskas or any other version after XP and wish to give Doom95 a spin out of curiousity, you will need to do a bit of work to get it running. Instructions on this can be found on the port's Doom Wiki page.

Limiting myself to the original vanilla Doom game, an archaic bare bones source port, and ancient Doom WADs may seem torturously tedious to some, but Doom is far from the only DOS game of my childhood that I am still deriving oodles of enjoyment from even a quarter century after I first experienced it. Moreover, it is worth pointing out here just how much life the original game actually has, enough that new tricks and exploits are somehow still being discovered by speedrunners such as Zero Master and others.

Feats as astounding and ostensibly completely impossible, such as beating E1M8 without killing the Barons to speeding through the entirety of episode 4 in 3 1/2 minutes have been achieved through the combined efforts of many ingenious players over the decades. Even after nearly three decades after Doom's release, the ongoing march of new achievements and discoveries has still yet to grind to a halt.

From pressing switches through walls to clipping out of the map to using fantastically specific movements to "jump" seemingly unreachable gaps to making monsters with melee attacks infight (screenshot), there's no shortage of brilliant tricks Doom players have managed to discover to break the game engine. In early versions of the game, it was even possible to get monsters to willingly commit suicide (screenshot), something that was sadly patched but that I remember doing as a child after learning about the trick on Lee Killough's website and downloading an early version of the shareware game just to try it. As shown in the screenshot, I wound up doing it again while writing this just for lulz and nostalgia.

On my end, speedrunning the original Doom is a pastime I have taken a half-way serious interest in some time ago, as has playing on the aptly-named NIGHTMARE! difficulty as much as my steadily-growing ability allows. Obviously I am lamentably far too "jaded" to derive anything akin to the "hyperactive clingy kitten whose long-lost human suddenly reappeared to embrace them in a tight hug" wonder and euphoria that Doom blessed me with back in the 90s, but frantically running for my life on the utterly unforgiving NIGHTMARE! difficulty and knowing that a single key mispress or random inconvenient monster movement will put my entire run thus far into the grave is still as pulse-pounding of an experience as ever.

Indeed, it is these things that give Doom an especially unique place in my heart. As I went into detail at the end of my Raptor reminiscence, although I view games like Doom and Raptor as high quality games that can stand on their own merits, I will admit that a large part of what draws me back to them is the fact that they never fail to be comfortable reminders of more innocent and blissful times in my life. But Doom stands alone among its peers in being a comfort food that is still capable of putting up one heck of a fight even to this very day.

Small purple mailbox.Thank you for taking the time to read this article! If you have any feedback at all, please feel free to leave a comment in my Guestbook and/or stop by my IRC network at, main channel # and let me know what you think. It always means a lot to me. (: