To draw up an exhaustive list of FPS (or rather “Doom-like”, as we said at the time) released after Doom is totally futile. Let’s try instead to make a chronological selection to understand the influence of Doom on the history of video games in general, and shooters in particular.
1994: The Clones
The release of Doom had the effect of an electric shock. In the eyes of developers and enthusiasts, id Software had just pushed a frontier, creating a space for games that no one would have dared to imagine before, rich in possibilities. In the eyes of publishers, he had made first-person games the center of attention, had made them the fashionable genre, which guaranteed a good return on investment. In the twelve months following the release of Doom, taking into account only games published, distributed and tested by the specialized press, we arrive at an average of more than one shooter every two weeks.
Operation Body Count (Capstone Software, march 1994, PC MS-DOS)
As you can imagine, most of the games that have sought to capitalize on the release of Doom have turned out to be mediocre, if not to say crap. Listing them would be both tedious and pointless, so let’s just cite for the record – or rather shoot for example – the catastrophic Operation Body Count. A member of the special forces sent alone (?) to liberate the UN building which has been invaded by terrorists (??) and whose basements are invaded by giant rats (???), OBC pulls off the fine performance of to be as bad at the level of its gameplay as its engine, a doctored and incredibly slow version of that of Wolfenstein 3D. In the big poo contest, honorable mention to Corridor 7: Alien Invasion – it’s almost the same game but in space, spawned by the same developer and released in the same month. This is called wanting to saturate the market.
Alien vs. Predator (Rebellion, octobre 1994, Jaguar)
Certainly, Alien vs. Predator wasn’t very good, and its gameplay paled in comparison to Doom’s. But the FPS of Rebellion (which will transform the test with the reboot of 1999) was all the same one of the rare FPS of the post-Doom period to try something original, with its three characters with radically different gameplays. For the record, and to stay in film adaptations, let’s also note Super 3D Noah’s Ark, a Christian game using the Wolfenstein 3D engine in which players feed the animals on board Noah’s ark. What relationship with cinema? Well, the studio behind the game, Wisdom Tree, had originally acquired the rights to the horror movie Hellraiser, which they intended to adapt. But development lagged, and when Doom came out, the makers realized they couldn’t beat id Software in 3D gore. They then decided to refocus on the Christian gaming market.
Marathon (Bungie, December 1994, Macintosh)
If Doom proved to the world that the PC had a future in video games, Marathon did the same for the Macintosh – and finished making the FPS the “genre killer” that a platform had to have to be credible. Qualified at the time as “Doom of the Mac”, the very nice second FPS from Bungie, the future creators of Halo, (the first being the fun but still very limited Pathways into Darkness) has long enraged PC owners , disgusted at not being able to play one of the only worthwhile Doom clones.
Rise of the Triad (Apogee Software, December 1994, PC MS-DOS)
Fired from id Software a few months before the release of Doom, Tom Hall of course did not intend to stop there. Quickly recovered by Scott Miller, who offered him to work directly for Apogee, and now totally free, he decided to create his own FPS. The result will be called Rise of the Triad, and will use a heavily modified version of the Wolfenstein 3D engine, with outdoor passages and dynamic bullet holes on the walls (a feat that the Doom engine was incapable of). Always so whimsical, the creator of Keen, breaking with what was the norm since Wolfenstein 3D, created the first FPS-comedy, with absurd levels, full of trampolines and bonuses that turn the player into a dog or make him bounce against the walls. Curiously, if Tom Hall gave certain names imagined for his “Doom bible”, like Thi Barrett, to the protagonists of RoTT, he did not take advantage of his newfound freedom to create the scripted FPS that he would have wanted Doom to be. RoTT is a very classic shooter, with a succession of more or less abstract levels and a scenario-pretext, a dark story of a millenarian sect entrenched on an isolated island.
Heretic (Raven Software, December 1994, PC MS-DOS)
Who better than id Software to compete with id Software? As Carmack began work on what would become Quake’s engine, John Romero, who enjoyed people’s company more, took advantage of his newfound notoriety to multiply projects. Bombed producer of the new game of his old friends from Raven Software, a medieval fantasy action-RPG, he encouraged them, as before at id, to favor purity and speed rather than complexity. The result: Heretic, a medieval take on Doom that, aside from adding inventory and the ability to raise and lower its head (at the cost of a gross tech hack that Carmack would never have tolerated), looked like furiously to his model, with a magic wand as a pistol and an enchanted crossbow as a shotgun.
The evolution between Heretic and its sequel Hexen, released in October 95 and full of innovative ideas in an FPS, such as non-linear levels and character classes, is a good summary of the gap between the first and the second generation of Doom-like. While the first, that of 94, was content to imitate the canonical model created by id Software, the second had understood that, in order to find a place in the sea of shooters which swept over the PC shelves of distributors, it was necessary to offer something original.
Dark Forces (LucasArts, February 1995, PC MS-DOS)
It is said to be the Star Wars mod for Doom that gave LucasArts the idea for Dark Forces. Whether that’s true or not, Dark Forces, like all games developed by LucasArts during its heyday, was close to a masterpiece. If it has remained in history above all for its graphic quality, the diversity of its levels and their fidelity to the sets of the series (and of course as ancestor of the Jedi Knight, whose first episode will be released in 97), it also offered an impressive 3D engine, including platforms and mobile structures totally out of reach of Doom’s. A remarkable performance for an engine developed internally by a company with no experience in the FPS, and which proves once again that the shooter had become the genre to explore for all developers.
The Terminator: Future Shock (Bethesda Softworks, February 1995, PC MS-DOS)
Determined to wring the Terminator license to the last drop, Bethesda has pushed the limits of the era’s technology with The Terminator: Future Shock, made in true textured 3D, with open levels and the ability to look into all the senses using the mouse. Critically acclaimed upon its release, Future Shock almost should have taken Quake’s place in video game history. But it was too slow, too poorly optimized, to deliver the kind of technical slap that made id productions legendary. Descent (Parallax Software, March 1995, PC MS-DOS) also offered real 3D levels, and exploited them in an interesting way, placing the player at the controls of a ship capable of moving and turning in all directions. .
Duke Nukem 3D (3D Realms, Jan 1996, PC MS-DOS)
The first game to exploit the full potential of Ken Silverman’s Build Engine (Witchaven and Tekwar, released the previous year, were less convincing), Duke Nukem 3D replaced Apogee (which developed it under its 3D Realms label) at the center of attention. Ken Silverman, meanwhile, was quickly presented by the press as the great rival of John Carmack. Opposition a little artificial but interesting because if the two men had in common to be young prodigies of the code (Silverman was then just 20 years old), everything else opposed them. Carmack was obsessed with purity, and refused to add a feature if it required adding a single line of inelegant code – which is why he hated the Build Engine. Silverman, on the other hand, wanted results, and stuffed his engine with crappy tinkering: hidden teleporters that give the illusion of superimposed rooms, sprites drawn parallel to the ground to create pools of blood… Show off, but show off works: the city environments of Duke Nukem 3D seem much more alive than those of Doom, the game is acclaimed and the Build Engine becomes the new fashionable engine: Blood, Redneck Rampage, Shadow Warrior and so many others will use it . This will not prevent Ken Silverman from forfeiting seeing Quake: convinced that he could never compete with Carmack, he will abandon the creation of 3D engines.
The FPS triumphed. As before it, the cinema had ended up replacing the theatre, real-time subjective 3D gaming, long seen as a technical curiosity intended to have fun between two rounds of “real” games, has become the norm. In a magnificent example of convergent evolution, all the other genres are gradually starting to come close to it: the old croutons of SSI abandon the dungeon crawlers square by square in favor of real-time movement, Bethesda pushes the limits of the game of computer role with Arena and its 9 million square kilometer virtual kingdom. The catalog of Sony’s PlayStation, released in 1994, is stuffed with 3D action games, and returns the Super Nintendo and the Megadrive to the rank of children’s toys. The software even begins to bend the hardware: with the S3 ViRGE (1994), the Matrox Mystique (1995), the ATI 3D Rage and the 3Dfx Voodoo (1996), appear components exclusively dedicated to the display of universes in 3D. The FPS is so ubiquitous that little Americans are surprised to discover, instead of the traditional toy offered with their Chex cereal, a CD-Rom containing Chex Quest, a non-violent FPS created with the Doom engine.
Quake (id Software, Jun 1996, PC MS-DOS)
In the interviews he gave to the press during the development of Quake, John Romero, faithful to his character, chained bombastic remarks, such as “Quake will not be a game, it will be a cultural movement”, or “Quake will be to Doom what Doom was to Wolfenstein 3D” – so much so that the rest of id Software eventually asked him to tone it down, lest players be disappointed with the finished product. Yet, and even if it was not obvious at the time of its release, Quake was to Doom what Doom was to Wolfenstein 3D, and even more. Not necessarily in terms of gameplay: Quake wasn’t a major evolution from Doom, due to chaotic development where, after trying to move away from FPS again but unable to choose a direction, id ended up create a 1992 fashionable shooter again, without even an inventory. But on a technical level, Quake is probably one of the most important titles in history, almost the common ancestor of all modern video games. First to offer, with correct performance, a true 3D environment with believable physics, Quake has realized, certainly in the service of an ultra-simplistic gameplay, the dream of Warren Spector and other creators of immersive sims: a coherent virtual world, operating according to its own rules. The QuakeWorld update (December 1996) then laid the foundations for all modern network code, with game over TCP/IP and prediction to compensate for the latency of connections, allowing game over the Internet under good conditions. Finally, GLQuake (January 1997), a draft of what would become Quake II, took full advantage of OpenGL and early 3D accelerator cards. The posterity of the Quake engine has been considerable, and portions of its code (notably that used for collision detection) are still used today, among others in Call of Duty and Valve’s Source engine.
Unreal (Epic Games, May 1998, Windows PC, Mac)
While Apogee/3D Realms and id Software seemed to monopolize the FPS, the other shareware heavyweight of the early 1990s, Epic Megagames (more modestly renamed Epic Games), is making an impressive comeback with Unreal and its incredible engine. 3D created by Tim Sweeney. First serious competitor to that of Quake, then used by almost all FPS, it marks the beginning of the end of id Software’s monopoly on 3D engines. With the Unreal Engine and Monolith’s LithTech Engine, released a year earlier but a little less impressive, John Carmack’s technological supremacy comes to an end. Other programmers have done, and will continue to do, as well as or better than him. It is also the end of a romantic era where a single individual, equivalent to a Newton or an Einstein, is able to push back the limits of the possible. 3D engines will become more and more complex and, like scientific research during the 20th century, the work of teams and no longer of isolated geniuses. In 2010, 40 people worked full-time on the development of the Unreal Engine. They are now 250.
Half-Life (Valve Software, November 1998, Windows PC)
If Doom demonstrated the technical viability of the 3D action game, Half-Life, which used a modified version of Quake’s engine, proved that it could also tell a story. No perspective other than that of an FPS could have given Half-Life its Hollywood blockbuster vibe. Even the best cinematic platformers seemed ridiculous next to these pursuits in a laboratory overrun with monsters after a failed experiment (well, then…), this brilliant scenario which made the player bear the responsibility for the disaster, this cutting into various sequences at the amazing level design. The long hallucinatory sequence shot that constitutes a part of Doom or Quake would no longer be enough. From now on, the FPS would need a scenario, a cutting, a staging. Gradually, until the true interactive feature film that will constitute Call of Duty (2003), the FPS will become more cinematographic. Even id Software will end up giving up its obsession with pure gameplay: Doom 3, the 2004 reboot, with its NPCs and its various sections built on a very rigorous progression, resembles Half-Life much more than the game of 1993. With Half-Life, the Tom Hall approach ended up winning: players really needed “a better reason to go through the levels than a switch to find”.
Quake III and Unreal Tournament (id Software and Epic Games, November 1998, Windows PC, Mac, Linux, Dreamcast, PS2)
If the solo FPS looks more and more like a Hollywood production, its multiplayer side is gradually approaching a sport. LANs are exploding, online gaming is made possible on a large scale with the democratization of Internet connections and the increase in their speed. Definitively breaking with the custom that wanted deathmatch, like co-op, to be a secondary mode added to a product intended to be played alone, Quake III and Unreal Tournament were pure multiplayer games, only PvP, offering only bots to keep lone players busy. Against Half-Life, of which they were the perfect complement, they established the second great pillar of the modern FPS: a brief and heavily written single-player experience, a multiplayer component based solely on competition. Neither changed much over the next two decades. It will be necessary to wait until 2016 and the return to grace of the fast-FPS, of which some curiosities like Serious Sam or Painkiller seemed to be the last descendants, so that the cards are finally reshuffled.