Doom. Is there anything it can’t do?
It’s one of the most influential games of all time, arguably responsible for the FPS genre (I know, it’s not the first, but its sheer influence and impact can’t be argued), and partly because of this popularity, it’s also one of the most modded games of all time.
These mods have been a part of the game’s identity since it launched in 1993, long before the days of All You Can Eat Mod Buffets like Steam Workshop.
In an interview with Wired in 2013, John Carmack, co-founder of id Software, stated that he specifically went out of his way to make Doom easily moddable for players. The default format of package files for Doom games is called a WAD, which stands for Where’s All the Data, (heh) and by design, it’s incredibly easy to work with for anyone that’s interested.
“But one of the other things that was not quite so obvious were the very explicit steps I took to make the game moddable. We saw with Wolfenstein people basically figuring everything out for themselves, and making map packs and overwriting sprites and things, and that was all not intended by us. That was an emergent property of the game.”
What’s really great about Doom mods though, is that there is an endless supply of them. Hell, since 2004, DoomWorld has hosted what they call “The Cacowards” a kind of awards ceremony for the best Doom mods, (or WADS), featuring stand-out achievements in design, technical prowess or just plain hilarity from the Doom community.
There’s ones that used licensed material, like Ghostbusters Doom, which is exactly what it sounds like. The homepage for it is particularly hilarious, a wonderful glimpse into late 90's web design. It even has a guest book, called, of course, a “Ghost Book.”
It was never finished, having last been updated in 2004, but it’s full of fun details from the film, like a stack of books in what I call the “Get her, Ray!” library, (I know, I know, it’s the New York Public Library, shut up) as well as music and sound effects from the film. You can even “drive” Ecto-1!
There’s Fistful of Doom, a Wild West Doom mod that is also exactly what it sounds like. Replacing the depths of hell for the Wild West, this WAD overhauls every aspect of the game, from the graphics, music, and even the sound effects of the weapons, to give them a much more period specific slant.
In a GamesRadar article from 2013, David Houghton suggested that this WAD could easily be mistaken for a “long lost 1994 Wild West shooter that never saw release”, and after playing around with it for a little, I’d have to agree. This one is surprisingly atmospheric, achieving that same level of tunnel vision immersion that Vanilla Doom itself has long been capable of.
And then there’s the joke mods.
Doom joke mods, commonly referred to as joke WADs, are like proto-memes. Many of them are one-note in their humor, mods of the game that have no real point outside of creating some kind of gag. Some are deliberately bugged, or just try to break the game for the sake of it, but almost all of them are ridiculous in some way, shape, or form.
There’s Ultimate Simpsons Doom, which sees Homer on a rampage through Springfield, replacing the monsters with Simpson’s characters, which is funny in and of itself, but I also love the subtle joke of the name, “Ultimate Simpsons Doom”, a play on the many releases and editions of Doom that have appeared throughout the years.
There’s the dwforums WAD, which is basically an in-joke for the DoomWorld forums. Obviously a WAD with a niche appeal, but this gives you an idea of the method of presentation that these jokes can choose to take.
And then there’s the best Doom mod, and perhaps the most famous joke WAD of all, the one simply titled nuts.
Like a lot of Doom WADs, the title here is the most succinct description of the changes it makes to the game, but the simplicity of that is my favorite part of the joke.
First uploaded in 2001 and created by modder B.P.R.D., the mod’s readme establishes pretty quickly what you are in store for.
“Misc. Author Info : This WAD is just some crap i threw together one night.
Enjoy swimming through the 100,000 monsters i’ve
laid out for ya ;)”
“Description : Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away...
THE STORY SO FAR...
You are assigned to destroy the final Hellspawn
army on Litrivin IV. The government sends you all
alone becuase you got drunk at the General’s
Birthday party last year and he never liked you
since. Since this is the biggest Hellspawn army
ever esstablished, the cheap-ass General sends
you with nothing but a pea shooter. Good luck.”
In nuts, you are placed in a huge courtyard, with over 100,000 of the game’s enemies, a few weapons, including the infamous BFG-9000, some invincibility power ups, and a pat on the back.
As you can see, it’s basically a Trump rally.
Part of the design and joke of the mod seems to be almost break the game, or your computer, whichever comes first, and it really is a performance hog. My PC isn’t exactly a beast, so maybe it’s just me, but I was surprised that a game from 1993 was capable of giving me a bit of a stutter.
I find the comments on the WAD’s original download page to be particularly hilarious, like an unintentional extension of the joke. Here are some true gems.
According to the Doom Wiki, it is beatable, but I’ve never actually put in the effort. I just like to see how long I can watch the Imps and Cyberdemons murder each other before they kill me. Spoiler: it’s usually not very long. It’s the perfect mindless distraction when I just want to completely shut off my brain for a minutes, and feel the tug of nostalgia.
Bethesda’s Doom reboot should be out on May 13th, only a day out from the time of this posting. It looks Doomy-enough, I suppose, though the beta doesn’t seem to have been too well received.
Still, I don’t know that the magic of the original Doom and that hot WAD life can ever truly be recaptured, no matter how many times the game is rebooted. Doom and its charm are very much a product of a specific time and place, a child of innovation and the EXTREME 90s, mashed up with midi versions of Metallica songs and whatever else the guys at id Software were listening to at the time. Seriously, can you imagine the lawsuits today if a game copied music for its soundtrack so blatantly?
Regardless, I hope someone makes a nuts2K16 mod for Bethesda’s Doom. I’m dying to melt my graphics card.
What about you? Are you excited for the new Doom? Do you have a favorite Doom mod? Let me know!
Poey Gordon is a journalist, poet, and fiction writer living in the Bay Area.
Follow him on Twitter at ThePoey for more about comics, Gilligan’s Island 2K1 fan fiction, or decades old Simpson’s quotes.