Survival of the Fraggest

July 19th, 2003

By Nick P.

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To many people, the code above is gibberish or a product of a mixture of caffeine and boredom. Or perhaps lack of proper keyboard skills. To John Carmack, however, it shows a Zombie severing its own flesh and using it as weaponry while a blood-stained Fiend hovers in the background, ready to pounce. In reality, the code above is the futile interpretation Microsoft Word does at reading Quake's game engine. The game Quake, developed by id software, was as ground-breaking as the original and classic blood-fest, Doom, and took average people across numerous dimensions, fighting off annoying zombified rottweilers and hovering Scrags, ducking the grenades of blood-thirsty Ogres, and gladly experimenting with nail guns whilst traversing gigantic castles with satanic decors. A lot of effort led up to the game's release, and a lot of work followed it, work that spans the existence of a company called id.

The concept for a first-person shooter game at first was a difficult one; drawing out an entire level and allowing a player to wander about it was quite a task for both, programmer and computer. So John Carmack began to think upon the problem. Why draw an entire level while it simultaneously draws so much from the computer? Why not just draw what the player sees? After all, you need not worry about a 10-ton horned demon loading rockets into its arm-based rocket launcher until you actually come across it.

It is around these ideas that the first 1st person perspective game was born: Hovertank. It is this ideology that led to the first real 3D-shooter game forged: Wolfenstein. Though a milestone, its graphics were simple: squarish rooms after squarish rooms, blue-uniformed guards after, well, blue-uniformed guards… you get the point (hopefully). Hovertank and Wolfenstein solved the problem of how to create a 3D atmosphere without needing 10 Creyon supercomputers. However, viewing the same 6-planed rooms over and over was unnerving, enough to make any carpenter yawn. Work began on another game with the goal of creating a more immersive environment. People were no longed frightened by such architecture as designed by cubism artists.

Soon, Doom was released. Id had succeeded and Doom was a hit, though people simply downloaded the free shareware and never bought all the episodes, thinking that the game in its entirety was shareware (Also in part due to the first episode's somewhat awkward ending). This is where id clipped a hurdle and fell face forward on the track. Regardless, Doom held amazing architecture, numerous ghastly demons, and let's face it, it's just plain cool, when someone at the airport asks you what you have on your laptop, to simply say, “Doom.”

The story, for its 1993 release, was extremely original. For reasons not really explained by the game, a portal to hell opened on Mars and its two moons and monsters came out and began to feed like it was all-you-can-eat teriyaki chicken night over at KFC. Fortunately, you're like a rotten wing and have to fight your way through the levels until you kill Mr. Boss, and so on. An instant classic.

Doom was described as a 3D-shooter, and in a sense, it was. However, the game mostly gave the illusion of the 3 dimensions rather than rendering them in reality. There were numerous limitations, such that one room could not be created atop another one or that inclined surfaces could not be rendered, these being few among other things. Also, there was something called 'sprites'. Speaking of which, I'm thirsty. Let me get a cold Sprite.

Ok, back. As I was saying, 'sprites' are essentially flat pictures, cardboard cutouts of things. These things include all monsters, weapons, and items. It is for this reason that when you try to look at them from a different angle, objects seemingly rotate; they were flat and did not actually take up any volume in space. It was apparent that full 3D immersion was the next step in first-person shooter gaming. But before taking this step, id software developed Doom II, which was released without a free shareware as to not confuse any people too lazy to press F5 or to read the message at the end of the game (ah, the hazardous mixture of illiteracy and software). Without any such hurdles, the game outsold the original and was an even bigger hit. Id developed several different games, Hexen and Heretic, with this engine, though they were overshadowed by Doom's imposing stature and remained known to the most loyal of fans. With Final Doom released shortly afterward, id felt satisfied.

Final Doom, however, was not final. The game enjoyed an expanding community of loyal fans that spread like hell-spawn demons through the Internet, creating new levels and patches to brighten the experience. Doom will never be final.

'Sprites' had to go. And went they did, out through the teleport.

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Doom: The Portal to Hell Opens at Your Local Theatres- 2006*

May 14th, 2003

By Nick P.

*Note: This article is 87% speculation, 10% comments on personality types that annoy me, and 3% factual information. Take all information here with a grain of… no, a bucket of salt (although I wouldn't recommend actually eating all this salt: it could do some damage to your kidneys and other vital organs).

Ah, the cinema. A gathering place for many, where people come together only to silently watch a movie. If they do not abide by this, their film will be cut short by stern-faced security guards. Despite the single-minded purpose of the cinema, to play movies that have just been churned out of production studios, people go to cinemas for different reasons. Many people (particularly Americans) fancy buying 2 seats only for themselves, then going in the lobby and buying the extra large, jumbo butter-covered popcorn packet, and finally going in the theatre alone, making good use of the two seats they purchased. With several hundred pounds on tap, they fill up this extra room easily but can prove a nightmare for any unfortunate being sitting behind them. And perhaps in several years, Doom-obsessed fans everywhere will be rushing to theatres, having to put up with such idiots that flock to the theatres to eat rather than enjoy a movie. Yes, a Doom movie. And let us pray that it will be scary, so scary that the annoying guy munching loudly on popcorn next to you will spill his oil-soaked bucket of corn kernels and 2 gallon jug of coke. If it is indeed this successful, don't bring new shoes. Coca-Cola is hard to remove from white fabrics.

A Doom movie has been peeking around corners and flexing its brown claws for quite some time, not long after the original game hit shelves louder than an exploding slime-barrel. The Doom game, for all those people who have been living in caves and drawing mammoths on walls in the last decade, is one of the greatest computer creations of all time and the first truly dynamic first-person shooter game. In 1992, John Carmack began programming a computer game so good, that he would later deserve to have a street named after him. Alongside him, worked a small but talented team of modellers, designers, programmers, et cetera. After lots of hard labour and some minor quarrels, the tiny disk was distributed. The year was 1993.

The story told of how a portal to hell opened and demons poured out, taking over Phobos, Deimos, and Mars bases. Marines were sent in, but in the end, only one prevailed…

…Whatever. No one really cared about that. The magic of the game was dark corridors and beasties who could be made to dance with an array of weapons that would make any NRA member woo and sigh. And of course, the beautiful-yet-ominous artistically rendered environments.

The game was a hit, and it was natural for Hollywood to put a foot in and say, 'Hey, we want to capitalise on this great product you have!' Now would be a good time for me to jump in and say that this is not how good movies are made. Good movies are made when some new script comes abroad and a spirited director searches for funding. They believe in what they are about to make. Perhaps in that sense, a Doom movie is not the brightest of ideas. This is evident by some other films that are based on video games. Look at Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, and the most recent Resident Evil. Needless to say, these movies did not strike a satisfactory note in my mind. In fact, to put it plainly, they sucked.

Doom CAN be a good movie. No, it won't win 12 Grammies and Oscars, if it was made, that is. Don't expect the critics to say, 'An amazingly written script mixed with great talent. One of the best movies I've seen since “A Beautiful Mind”!' or 'The cast gives a phenomenal performance, sure to win an Oscar!' No, you have your award winning, make-you-sleep-faster-than-Melatonin movies, and then you have hardcore action movies. Action movies can be good, even trite scripts can be made fresh, original, and funny, as the 1992 True Lies demonstrates.

So how will the story go? As mentioned above, blasting away demons with plasma rifles was of more importance than story line itself when the game was undergoing development. However, Dafybb ab Hugh and Brad Linaweaver used whatever little info was bestowed to them, and managed to whip up a novel that, today, is treasured among Doom fans, and sadly, out of print. Perhaps this beautifully written book might have been the source for the Doom movie when it was undergoing consideration shortly after the release of the game, and the book itself, for that matter.

But forget it. Unless a light shines from the sky and says, 'Use the original Doom novel to make the movie', don't expect to see anything from it. Why?

If a Doom movie is indeed made, it will obviously be based on Doom III rather than the original. Now, Doom III has many changes and bears little resemblance to the original. When a movie is made, further changes are made, and before you know it, the finalised product has nothing to do with the original!

Id software has said that a Doom III-based novel is indeed going through consideration. Inexplicably, they felt that the original book was 'dry and empty'. Hmmm… I personally felt that the book was a masterpiece of English literature and that children going to school should be forced to read it over the summer and then write reports on it… Well, maybe not. But it does prevail in setting up the Doom atmosphere, a factor that scares me when thinking about the prospect of Cacodemons on the silver screen.

Whether a Doom III book is written or not, the Doom movie will be based on the 3rd installment of the game series. To fans of Doom III it will be a delight, but to people loyal to the original, it might be a disappointment.

So, we can expect the usual baddies to make it to the movie. Just don't expect them to look like anything from the dated classic. What can we do? Stick a BFG 9000 to some production designer's head and scream, 'if this is nothin' like the original, I'm gonna blow yer freakin' head off!'…. ? Nah, that won't work. It sure didn't help when that Cyberdemon was scratching at my back. Yes, it sucks. I know. But when it comes to big-budgeted Hollywood crap, there's nothing you can truly do.

And where will the action take place? It seems that Doom III has left Phobos and Deimos out of the story line altogether. Now, assuming that you have actually been paying attention to what I am so attentively discussing, you should have been able to figure this out. No, you do not need to be Richard Feynman to gather that there will not be a Phobos and Deimos in a Doom movie. Thank you.

Another issue that has to be addressed is this: the Doom game was intended to pursue a feeling of aloneness. That is Doom III's focus as well. However, that Hollywood screenwriter is sure to pull out that typewriter and put in a bunch of crap and new characters just so there is some dialogue. I suppose nearly two hours of silence, only broken by the screams of dying demons, can be slightly petulant and maybe hard for some to swallow. But hey, it will be a daring movie, and it's usually the daring movies that are successful. There will surely be some other characters in the beginning: perhaps the two Rons from the novel, but as soon as those bastards from hell grab them within their claws and reanimate them, the only words I expect to come from some other human's mouth is, “ROOAAAR!”

And who is gonna be the imp-slaughtering marine, the only person on Mars that can actually articulate and form words? Numerous names have been mentioned: Bruce Campbell, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Vin Diesel. For the original, good ol' Arnie was suggested, but talks failed and it all went swirling down the toilet.

So, who it will be is not determined, but the movie is being made. Whether it will get as far as several rejected scripts, or even further is uncertain. But it has entered pre-production. That is certain. Id has signed some papers and crap like that and so on… Basically, they have got everything running. But in days when 'American film' and 'good' seem to be an oxymoron, we must yet again ask ourselves: Is a Doom movie really such a good idea? We'll have to wait for Doom III to have some idea of what to expect. And whether the movie is even worse than Glitter (don't ask… I was on a cross-Atlantic flight and it was the only movie being shown) or some other forms of Hollywood nonsense (something more common these days), one thing is for sure: Doom fans will gather to view it. And that guy next to you will slurp loudly with his Coke to make sure he didn't miss a drop. Doom fans are dedicated and will weather these circumstances, and however bad the film may be, they will never feel that they have wasted the 5 dollars they paid. That is the Doom legacy.

Prelude to Doom

January 29th, 2003

By Nick P.

Doom. Noun. 1. A judgement or sentence 2. Fate 3. Ruin or death; At least, that's what some guy at Oxford would tell you. To many, Doom is far more than just some word slapped down onto the pages of the dictionary. It would account for countless nights spent staring at the computer. It is a revolution in home entertainment, a start of an era, and a nightmare for some politicians. It is a whole legacy that can now be owned on a compact little disc.

Enough crap. Doom is a game, one of the greatest games of all time. If you are reading this, chances are that you agree. You have all these modern games being spewed out from all these new software companies: Half-life, Unreal, so on and so on. But they wouldn't be here if it weren't for a little programming magic from Doom creator and god, John Carmack. Hours spent writing codes amounted into the first truly revolutionary first-person shooter game engine. And while many of today's newcomers look at its dated graphics and snicker… Well, you understand. It was a breakthrough, an enlightening, something that people still crowd around and chant like some tribes in the Amazon do around their idols and gods (and those missionaries cooking in the pot).

Id, the company to which Carmack belongs, the company that spawned this game, knows this. That is why they have taken a teleport (and I guess it wouldn't be exaggerating to say an imp-infested corridor) to making a sequel. Well, not a sequel, not a prequel, yet not quite a remake. It is Doom III, yet… This has created some discussions on some forums where certain words start being flung around that you won't find in your family dictionary. So don't listen to me… or listen to me and judge for yourself.

Hell Prince

Take a good look at the picture above. Notice the way the character's armour is peeling and nicked from all those pesky lost souls. Notice the way a small vein runs under the demon's greyish skin. The demon is an updated rendition of a hell-knight while that person is, well, about to become spineless-mush. With the release of the follow-up Doom III, id is hoping to strike more fortune than that poor marine in the picture ever will. After becoming the first truly dynamic first-person shooter, Doom became one of the most celebrated games of all time, and since its release on December 10th, 1993, it has enjoyed an ever-expanding community of fans that toyed around with the game, so that it runs on modern machines. However, Doom's graphics have inevitably become dated. With the success of Wolfenstein and Doom, the games that pushed id to the top of the food chain in first-person game design, they figured it was time Doom had a makeover. Wolfenstein had received similar treatment. Doom was a logical next step.

The urge to launch a rocket at a horde of imps is inexhaustible. Id Software understands that. John Carmack had been working on the Doom III engine for years prior to the actual decision. And what a beautiful engine it is. Perhaps that is how Doom III captures the feeling of the original: the engines set up scenes that are beautiful yet ominous. So, let us observe what treasures (weapons) this engine will behold and how they can be applied (monsters). But mainly, let us observe how this new incarnation will compare to the original that fired imaginations worldwide and frightened people with its 'measly' 20 fps engine.

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