You like shooting people in games, right? Call of Duty, Halo, Gears of War, Battlefield hell, now with the recent release of Grand Theft Auto V we’ve seen their shooting mechanics advance monumentally. While it can be said that first or third person shooting mechanics in games was probably first used (in loose terms) with the Light Gun in 1968 for Shooting Gallery, it was an array of brilliant first person shooters that emerged in the early 90’s that popularized the genre in the gaming world. John Carmack was the man behind that movement.
John Carmack was interested in computers from an early age, progressing through school to attend the University of Missouri-Kansas City before dropping out and gaining work as a freelance computer programmer. In the late 80’s, Carmack was enlisted to aid programming company, Softdisk, with several Apple II programs. While working at Softdisk, Carmack was introduced to John Romero and Adrian Carmack. (Of no relation) In 1990 the trio created the Commander Keen games, and after their mild success with this, they decided to abandon Softdisk and found their own game development company, Id Software.
While at Id, John Carmack revolutionised the gaming world, turning programming on its head. By far the largest titles pushed out of the company are Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein, all of which became immensely popular first person shooters. The work that Carmack did in creation of these games cannot be understated. As each game came out, so did another of Carmack’s game engines, and the more he did, the more innovative they got. Carmack also became one of the first game designers to popularise independent development and programming, releasing the Doom Engine out as free source software for editing. In modern gaming culture, Carmack’s engines have been licensed out to current popular games such as Call of Duty, Half-Life and Medal of Honour. (Already doing half the legacy work for me) John Carmack currently holds the position of CTO at Oculus VR, once again returning to pioneer gaming technology.
Wolfenstein was developed by Id Software in May 1992 for DOS (Disk Operating System) and has been credited for creating the first person shooter genre, as well as introducing the world to the run and gun shooter technique that is still widely sued today. The player is placed in the shoes of WWII soldier, William ‘BJ’ Blazkowicz, a prisoner in Nazi prison facilities. The game sees BJ fight across a variety of 3D maps, with a final confrontation against Hitler himself. The game featured top down maps, treasures, secrets, hidden rooms, and a variety of weapons and enemies.
The engine developed was Carmack’s first real independent project and opened him up to the world of popular game development. The legacy it leaves behind is a continued one, with the game still producing sequels today. It is the ‘grandfather of all 3D shooters’, which in the current ‘shooter filled’ market of gaming today is saying a lot. On a business side, Wolfenstein proved to the world that the model of game development can, and is, highly profitable. This spurred many ‘clone games’, which have continued into today’s market.
If Wolfenstein was the game that created the FPS genre, Doom is the one that popularised it. Released in 1995, Doom turned Carmack’s common shooter into a science fiction horror theme. The player controlled a space marine, tasked with the elimination of a new alien threat upon the world. The game featured the first networked multiplayer system and introduced the world to the ‘mod culture’ through the free release of Carmack’s engine. Using similar gameplay techniques as Wolfenstein, Doom became a cult hit in an instant, with almost 10 million players within two years of release, spawning a franchise that has stretched into today.
Doom is widely recognised as one of the most important video games in history. As we watch GTA V fly past highest grossing game records, its hard not to notice the shadow of Call of Duty, that still surrounds it. As one of the most successful gaming franchises of all time, Call of Duty owes its success largely to Doom. Doom led to the creation of some incredible (and some not-so) ‘clones’ such as Duke Nukem 3D, and led to the development of Quake, another of Id’s highly successful FPS franchises. The community that surrounded the free source of the Doom Engine still thrives today, as Doom was the first title to coin the term ‘Deathmatch’ and network multiplayer gameplay, it was an instant cult icon among the gaming world.
If you have read the entirety of my article, John Carmack’s legacy is fairly clear to see. Though he single-handedly did not create the games that gave him his success, the engines he designed and the levels he created cannot be looked past. The multiplayer sensation he started with Doom has only accelerated into today’s culture, with Titanfall appearing as a solely multiplayer game, heading into the next generation. John Carmack had a philosophy when creating the games he produced. He said that a game should never be given a release date and when asked when his titles would be launched he would reply, “When it’s ready”. So I am sure that Carmack will be back again with another influential game to present to us, but only ‘when it’s ready.’
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