Here we go again. It’s 2004, id Software is coming out with a new game, and I have no idea how well I can run it.

In this case it’s DOOM 3, and it’s actually going to hit stores on August 3rd or so. I’ve bought the last several id Software games on day one or as close as I can. I bought Quake II, Quake III: Arena and Quake III: Team Arena all on day one. I ordered Quake as soon as it hit shareware status. I think I even bought the floppy disk version of DOOM II the day it came out or that week. For DOOM II I was hindered by a 486SX 20 (yes, they did make them that slow) but on low detail it played acceptably. I had upgraded to a Pentium 133 when Quake came out, so it’s DOS-based software renderer ran fine, but I had issues with Quake II‘s Windows-based renderer. Fortunately I had upgraded to a Pentium 3 500MHz and Voodoo3 card just prior to Quake III: Arena.

DOOM 3‘s listed minimum system requirements are just below what I have (GeForce 3, Athlon XP 2000, 768MB RAM) which concerns me, but hardcore PC gaming site HardOCP has stated that more or less what I have actually does a decent job at playing the game, so I’m hopeful. I figure – worst case scenario I can run it about like an Xbox would until I can upgrade my video card. Which of course will be another thing I’ll need to buy at some point. Wish me luck on bouncing that off the Wife.

It’s been interesting to witness the recent DOOM 3 mania. I personally never minded the delays the game saw – I figured it would help me in the long run on upgrades. But here it is – oh well. I’m sure I can run it in some capacity. It’s kinda a bummer that I won’t be able to bells-and-whistles it from day one but hey – it’s guaranteed to look better and better. Hell, it’s desgined to look its best on 512MB video cards – of which there are none on the market yet. I need to upgrade my sound setup to do 5.1 so I can do the surround sound thing – but I don’t even have a TV/theater setup designed to do more than stereo and I don’t really know how surround speakers would work in the corner of the office I have.

All of this seems like a little far to go to play a game, but besides being an id Software game, we know DOOM 3 will be powering a lot of games in the near future.

More interesting is the reaction. id announced the game over four years ago, so we’ve had that long to know it was in the works. Contrast this to Valve and Half-Life 2, where the game was secretly in development for five years before being announced in May of 2003. Valve boldly announced the release date as September 30, 2003. id Software then had to concede that DOOM 3 was not coming out in 2003. I completely lost my bet that it would ship on December 10, 2003 – the 10th anniversary of DOOM shareware. But then Valve delayed Half-Life 2 for various reasons, not the least of which was the source code leak. It still hasn’t shipped and has no release date. Many people thought (some still think) that Half-Life 2 will be the better of the two games and that id had every intention of releasing DOOM 3 in 2003, but retreated from that for retooling due to Half-Life 2. No one knows if this is true or not, but it’s somewhat ironic that DOOM 3 is coming out first.

Sites like Blue’s News and Shacknews wouldn’t be here were it not for id Software. They were started by people who were fans of Quake, and most of them were fans of DOOM back in the day. While they have branched out to all things FPS and most things computer/video games in general, but their loyalty to all things id Software (and the people who are on them) shows. The “gone gold” thread on Shacknews has amassed over 7,000 Posts. Blue’s is running 2-3 DOOM 3 related stories a day.

It’s funny – one of the the things that’s always been id Software’s strength and weakness is that for the last twelve years or so they’ve been making essentially the same game. The game is “guy with gun runs around and shoots things”. Every so often the atmosphere changes (Nazis, Aliens, Demons), every so often the renderer changes, every so often the motive changes (key cards, multiplayer, etc.), but it’s always been “guy with gun runs around and shoots things”. For all DOOM 3‘s innovations, it’s also “guy with gun runs around and shoots things”.

What really kills me is how not cut and dry it all is. I’ve been seeing a lot of things on id Software recently – the G4 Icons special, the Masters of DOOM book I’ve taken to reading again, etc. After Wolfenstein 3-D they were considering doing a racing game. Quake was originally a 3rd person RPG. For all their verse/chorus/verse, id Software didn’t really mean for their games to be all versions of each other.

And yet there’s all these things id does to surprise us. Quake was the first game of theirs to require CD-ROM. Quake 2 was the first to feature prerendered cutscenes. Quake III: Arena was their first to require a 3-D accellerator and not feature a single-player mode. Now DOOM 3 is their first game to attempt the often unused PC Horror genre. It’s also the first since DOOM to be throttled down to a 4-player online mode. It’s also the first with a level editor in the box. Sure, it’s at its core another “guy with gun” game (and not, say, a flight simulator) but it’s still some different directions for them.

One thing they did that I think is kinda retarded (and I know I’m the only one that cares) is to change the number they’re numbering it with. There was DOOM, then DOOM II, with roman numerals. They went for a long time with a logo for DOOM III that also had roman numerals like DOOM II, then they went with DOOM 3, with the number three in that “cubed” fashion, like the posters and such for Alien 3. I don’t like this – I liked the big ass roman numerals. But hey, what do I know. Perhaps associating themselves with Alien 3 will work (though it really didn’t work for that movie).

Of course, perhaps this is to underscore the notion that DOOM 3 is not really a traditional sequel to DOOM and DOOM II so much as it is a “retelling” of the first game (at least). This is another big difference for id – a game that’s overtly a remake of an older game of theirs. Of course, Quake II wasn’t really a sequel to Quake at all, and of course the multiplayer universe of Quake III: Arena had nothing to do with the previous games either. Carmack let it slip in an interview that they kicked around the idea of a remake of Quake II with the DOOM 3 engine to show how it could be done quicker but they nixed that idea. That was probably either not a real idea or they didn’t want to storm on the thunder of Raven who is currently doing Quake IV with the DOOM 3 engine, but still it shows that id is still trying to be unpredictable after fourteen years (confusingly enough, Quake IV is a sequel to the storyline in Quake II but not a sequel to anything in Quake III: Arena).

On that aforementioned 486/20 is where my first experiences with DOOM went down. I had of course played Wolfenstein 3-D to death and loved it, but DOOM was one of the first games to introduce me to the concept of “you don’t have enough to play it”. Specifically, I had 2MB of RAM in my system and DOOM needed four. RAM was something my feeble mind didn’t know of until I went and bought Comanche, the helecopter sim, and the thing wouldn’t run since I didn’t have enough RAM (actually, I think I somehow knew I didn’t have enough but that I could sneak past it somehow). My friend at the time, Bill, did have 4MB of RAM in his 386, but for reasons I’m not sure I could troubleshoot even today, he couldn’t get it to run – except once or twice for some reason. He kept telling me about how amazing the game was (the head bobbing and the witnessing of the gloved hand pumping the shotgun in particular amazed him).

So I ordered 2 SIMM sticks, 1MB each. I opened up my machine, popped them into two of the four slots, fired up my PC – and nothing happened. Try as I might, I couldn’t get it to recognize the extra RAM. I was pretty pissed off if for no other reason than I had conviced my mom to buy these things for me and I couldn’t get the fuckers to work.

For reasons that have been lost over time, I came into possession of Bill’s computer. For reasons I don’t remember, I thought it would be perfectly OK to open his computer up. For reasons related to wild hunches, I took two SIMMs from his PC (I think he had tried the upgrade trick and also didn’t get it working) and popped them into mine. All four slots, a whopping 6MB of RAM – and it worked. And DOOM worked. And there was no going back. And for reasons that baffle me to this day, Bill didn’t murder my ass for opening up his PC. We both upgraded to more RAM and it continued to work.

We played the snot out of DOOM and downloaded tons of levels off of CompuServe. Getting DOOM to work over a modem was like pulling teeth – but man it was fun when we did get it working. I had the high school computer lab hooked up with DOOM – we played when our work was done. Not sure if I could get away with that today. I made levels (nothing releasable really) and generally loved it.

Quake wasn’t released until after my first year in college. To some degree, the fact that it was less mainstream popular than DOOM II and the offspring of that made it more likeable. I was ready, PC-wise, for Quake – I wasn’t ready for Quake II. Kinda sad really – I never got to upgrade in time to really enjoy that game. When Quake III: Arena came out, I had just upgraded my PC. But here I am, right before DOOM 3 and I have no idea if I can handle it. I think I can, but with a lot of bells and whistles turned off. Oh well, it’ll look better every single time I upgrade.

And the DOOM 3 hysteria is continuing. For starters, Chris Vrenna, the guy who did the theme song, is releasing a limited pressing of 500 7″ records with the theme on them. I bit – I don’t have a turntable but that’s too cool a collector’s item to pass up. I actually got a copy as soon as it went on sale – I thought somehow it would sell out quickly. Oh well, maybe I’ll get copy #1. Steven Kent, author of The First Quarter, is finishing up The Making of DOOM 3 – it should make a great companion piece to Masters of DOOM by David Kushner, a book I’m working on right now which is fascinating to say the least. I preorded the game at GameStop and it seems all the major chains got these boxes to give to people who preorder – with a pewter monster inside. The GameStop monster is the Baron of Hell from the original game. Pretty nifty for $5 – I wonder if there’s people who are preordering the game at different places to get the different monsters.

One thing about the game that does bug me though is this – the day it went gold, people were getting their copies of PC Gamer in the mail, with their exclusive first review of 94%. It’s still the only review of the game. But with the lead time of a print magazine it means either one of two things – either the game was done a lot longer than expected, or PC Gamer reviewed an incomplete game. Either way is intriguing, but the incomplete game angle is probably more likely. That’s not so bad, except that it makes you wonder what bugs they excused. Also, what are the odds they would fight hard to get the first review and then trash the game? Granted, 94% is hardly the best review they’ve ever given, but with their “Id’s Masterpiece raises the state of the art form” quote on the cover of the box – it’s obvious some people were scratching each other’s backs on this one.

But who cares – the Frisco GameStop told me on the phone today I can pick up my copy at 7PM tommorow. It’s on.