DOOM Postmortem: Toy Guns, Melted Models, and Open-World Doom?


Posted March 4, 2011 - By Guest Writer

By Dennis Scimeca


DOOM didn’t actually start the first-person shooter phenomena, but it was the title that popularized the genre, and so it’s kind of shocking that we had to wait 17 years for a proper postmortem. Tim Hall and John Romero took the stage at GDC to finally give us a behind-the-scenes look at the development of a title which has become a pillar upon which a huge segment of our industry rests. There's some fascinating information in here, so read on to hear about the beginnings of DOOM.

Here are some interesting tales from the game’s development:

  • In December of 1991, John Carmack had to walk through what looked like a few feet of snow to get $11,000 in cash out of the bank to pay a COD order for a NEXT computer rig. The rig would later be used as part of the digitizing processes that developed some of the assets for DOOM.
  • A company called Imagineer contacted id Software to port Wolfenstein 3D over to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. When the subcontractor id hired for the project failed to deliver, and Imagineer demanded their game, id had to stop all development on DOOM and build the port themselves. In three weeks.
  • John Carmack had originally wanted DOOM to be an open-world game, and so Tom Hall spent a month designing it. When the technology they were using proved inadequate to the task, all of that work was scrapped. The between-level maps were the only aspect of that work which survived into the final game.
  • Tom Hall showed a picture of a wrist-wrest his girlfriend knitted him, years before they became popular. Hall recommended that if anyone in the audience ever invented anything, they should get a patent on it. 
  • id was so confident that DOOM was going to be good that they sent out a press release in January of 1993 listing three or four features that never made it into the game.
  • At one point clay models of the monsters in DOOM were made for digitization, but the needed light from the lamps melted the clay, and the models snapped when id tried to animate them, so the work was abandoned.
  • All of the guns in DOOM were made from digitized photos of guns from Toys-R-Us. The Plasma Gun and BFG are from photos of the same toy gun that id took pieces from and slammed together in Deluxe Paint. The shotgun in DOOM is actually the “TootsieToy Dakota Cap Gun.”
  • 20th Century Fox contacted id during DOOM’s development about making a game based on the movie Aliens. The studio considered it, but decided that space marines shooting demons was more original than space marines shooting aliens. 
  • The inspiration for their space marine shooting demons was id’s fascination with Dungeons and Dragons. 
  • When the game was finished, id had to upload it to the University of Wisconsin’s server. Word had already gotten out about DOOM through a preview in Computer Gaming World, and over the usenets. id crashed the University servers twice, and eventually had to ask the sysop to lock everyone else out of the system so that they could complete the upload

Hearing all of these stories was extremely entertaining, but the most fascinating part of the postmortem was the Alpha build footage that Hall and Romero showed the audience. Seeing the development of the game’s level aesthetic, the iterations of the UI, and the evolution of the level design is something you’ll have to watch on the GDC website’s video of the presentation.

DOOM Postmortem: Toy Guns, Melted Models, and Open-World Doom?


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