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Monsters from the Id: The Making of Doom
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Monsters from the Id: The Making of Doom

August 22, 2013 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 6 Next

Cracking the Doom Crib

One aspect of Wolfenstein the Id designers didn't plan for was the cottage industry of hackers who rose to the challenge of hacking Id's code. Maybe it was Wolfenstein's modem based roots that drove people to hack map editors, bitmap editors, and sometimes entire modified games using the PD 10 level teaser file. Apogee contended that all these mutations of the game hurt sales because people had in essence much more than 10 free levels at their disposal for free.

Id designers take a different view; they don't mind and feel that people have the right to make whatever use of the game that makes them happy. They are planning the same thing with Doom and will even release some of the technical specifications. But this time, the game will run a checksum to verify that it hasn't been altered. If it has been altered, it will display a message that says the version being played is not the original and where to get the original.

Alpha and beta leaks have plagued Id from the beginning, and Doom was no exception. In the early development stages of Wolfenstein, there was an idea to have a contest where whoever found a secret room hidden somewhere on one of the levels would win $10,000. But the first person to call up was a pirate who called during the beta testing cycle, and the whole prize idea had to be scrapped.

In the early development of Doom, an alpha version of the game made it into such wide distribution that people were asking the technical support staff why the sound didn't work on their machine. The reason, of course, was that sound hadn't been added yet. The most disconcerting story has to do with an alpha version of the Wolfenstein SNES cartridge that was given to handful of game magazine editors and somehow made into the hand of a pirate in Hawaii who was making black market cartridges. To try and keep this kind of thing from happening, Id has now set its beta policy so that games are password protected and tightly controls the how many beta copies are distributed.

Foreign markets are important to Id, and designers made a greater effort to make games more accessible. They made all the characters graphically based not font based, so Id can give the graphics files to foreign distributors to be translated, and the game doesn't need to be recompiled. Foreign orders accounted for about 20% of Wolfenstein sales, and Id expects foreign orders to make up a third of Doom sales due to a better foreign distribution deal. The one snag that has lead to various rumors is that Wolfenstein has run into trouble in Germany. Id stated that Wolfenstein is banned there, not because of the Nazi content, but because of violence, and Id expects the same restriction to be placed on Doom.

Despite an average of five calls a month Id receives from venture capitalists offering to make the company public and big, Id Software is dedicated to remaining private and small. Id designers feel they have the perfect size for a development team that works on one or two projects. The Id growth plan involves working with other small developers and licensors. That plan follows what happened with Wolfenstein in which Id developed a new piece of technology and a showcase game that uses it, then licensed the technology to other software companies who used Id tools and code to make games. In the case of Wolfenstein, Id licensed the technology to JAM Productions who made Blake Stone and Apogee for Wolfenstein II.

Id plans on developing more arrangements like the one it has with Cygnus Studios. Cygnus developed some games for Apogee that Id liked, so Id made an offer to Cygnus to move to Texas and work with the Id team. Cygnus is now working on a cyberpunk role-playing game using the Doom engine and all Id's tools. When the Cygnus game is finished, Id will act as the shareware distributor.

After the release of the shareware version of Doom. Id will go to work on the commercial version of Doom the same way it made the Spear of Destiny version of Wolfenstein. Doom's commercial version will have the advantage of its experience in the shareware market and any unusual problems that occurred with the shareware version will have been fixed. This is another aspect of shareware distribution that is desirable. As irregularities crop up, usually due to the variety of hardware in the PC marketplace, they can be fixed immediately and incorporated into a new revision that can be given to the next person downloading Doom off of Id's bulletin board system.

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