Ah, Doom. This game will always have a special place in my heart. My very first video game. I was so young. I have fond memories of this little marvel and its unrealistic world. What a game! This is where it all started for me: my passion for web development, video games, and English.
Yes, computer stuff and English. As a non-native speaker, Doom is the game that taught me the meaning of words such as “armor”, “exit”, and “save”. A weird list of words, huh? I could tell you about all the names of fantasy creatures I learnt from Heroes of Might and Magic II (did somebody say sprite?) but that’s a different story. Video games taught me how to speak English, and I wouldn’t be fluent in this language without them.
I believe that I was somewhere between 6 and 8 when I first played Doom. Not the first Doom. I was a little too young for that one. I’m talking about the second one: Doom ][. Yes, yes, these square brackets are not a typo. Although, they would probably look better with a fixed-width font. Anyway. The name of the game was spelled exactly like that. At the time, it was really cool to refer to this epic game that way. Alternatively, Doom II (or DOOM II, in big bold caps, so badass!) was tolerated but it was not the same. Even better, if you were l33t, you would throw a nice little ASCII art like that in the description of your custom level:
Doom is the only game that I still play up to this day. In fact, I was kicking the ass of some imps in E2M2 just yesterday. Twenty five years after its release, id Software’s creation continues to amaze me and keep me interested. Maybe this is due to the fact that I consume the wonders of this franchise very slowly. I just finished Doom 3 a year ago. I was genuinely scared to play and yet relished these moments. I’m considering playing the 2016 reboot and Doom Eternal as well, but no rush here.
I remember how, as a teenager, I would hold on to a stack of graph paper and draw Doom maps during long car trips with my parents. I composed dozens of levels that way. Unfortunately, most of these creations are now gone. I only have one of these drafts left, a deathmatch level soberly named “UAC Base”, in reference to the fictional corporation that conquered Mars and its moons.
Having access to the Internet was much rarer at the time. My multiplayer experience was limited to local deathmatch (a word coined by one of the creators of this game) with my step-brother. Deep in my brain is a memory of MAP11 aka Circle of Death. I distinctly recall the sound of the in-game notification when you receive new messages from players. My opponent wrote a laconic message saying “vuf” (which is somewhat the sound, in French, of a rocket being fired). Then, the actual sound of a rocket being fired. Me being turned into a pool of blood. And the hilarity. Ah… good times.
I became quite good at drawing levels by hand. The size of the player was exactly one square on the graph paper. I had no idea what that size actually was in the game but decided on my own that it would be a good reference point to build maps around. Many years after I started drawing levels for Doom, my older brother came to me one day and said “I think you’re going to like this: Did you know that there are level editors that allow you to create actual levels?” My mind was blown. Really?! I couldn’t believe it. A whole other universe opened up to me. I discovered WADED and making my dreams a reality was a blast. Finally, I could bring my sketches to life. I was hooked–even more! A friend of mine had this heavy book all about map editing. I taught myself the basics, learning about all the subtleties of the engine that I had overlooked when I was conceiving levels on paper. Turns out the size of the player was an odd 40×40 whereas the rest of the objects and texture all seemed to fit within a scale based on 64×64. Also, I had completely forgotten about verticality. My levels had no concept of height at all.
What does all of this have to do with programming? Well, as I slowly discovered the magic of the World Wide Web, I got into making websites. The first WYSIWYG editor I used was called NVU. I remember learning the glorious <blink> and <marquee> HTML tags. These are not used anymore, which is probably for the better. I think I was something like 13 or 15 at the time. Quite naturally, I had the idea of making a website about… yes, you guessed it: DooM ][.
Unfortunately, these archives are long gone. I hadn’t actually published that website that I spent long hours building. I was still a few years away from learning what FTP was (you remember FTP?!). However, I remember that the website I created listed the different cheat codes, maps, weapons, etc., present in the game. In French.
I also remember vividly the color scheme I used for my webpages: black background, red text. And the hilarious GIF on the homepage that I made by hand with images extracted from the game thanks to DeHackEd and DeuTex. The animation showed a marine entering the scene from the left, walking towards the right, stopping, firing one shot, and running in the other direction, followed by a rocket fired by a cyberdemon. What happened to the marine was left to the viewer’s imagination–but wasn’t too hard to guess. As often with Doom, the marine ended up in a pool of blood. I was very proud of myself for putting this together. And, still to this day, the thought of this GIF makes me laugh.
So, yes, thanks to Doom, I taught myself HTML and CSS when I was a teenager.