Toasters, pianos and trucks all pitching in to keep the 1993 game alive.
Image: “What’s inside the truck?” “Doom.” Credit: YouTube
Rick has seen Doom, the luminary first-person shooter from 1993, run on many devices. He has seen Doom run on an early-2000s digital camera. He has seen Doom run on a billboard truck. He has seen Doom run on an old Nokia phone, a SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip and a Zune. Rick (who asked not to share his last name) runs a blog called It Runs Doom!, a site devoted to all the things that can run Doom, aside from the computers it was initially released for.
Doom is largely compatible with other devices because id Software wanted it to be. After the success of their previous hit, Wolfenstein 3D, id found porting a DOS-designed game to other platforms incredibly taxing and decided that its next game should be more flexible in its code. id Software released Doom's source code to the public in 1997 for reuse, albeit the Linux version due to copyrighted sounds in the original.
Since then, numerous other modified versions of the code have been created and released. The ability for second parties to tinker with the source code, create mods and maps have kept Doom alive decades later. John Romero, one of the game's creators, released new maps for the game just last month. And they are good maps.
"Back when Doom was new and popular, a lot of the consoles couldn't just run Doom out of the box," said Rick. "There had to be compromises, and through those compromises and changes, you get the sense that there's sort of a capabilities, for lack of a better term, the personalities of those individual platforms, how they differ in various things. With the unofficial ports it's more fascinating to see how technology is advanced to the point where people can realistically run Doom on a printer."
It Runs Doom! wasn't Rick's concept, he's carrying the torch for another blog called "It Plays Doom" which, to his disappointment, vanished from the web. Rick also admits while he's fascinated with these mods, he's a "terrible programmer" himself. The submissions from fans seem to keep him busy.
Despite curating all these strange and surprising submissions, Rick is still most fascinated by an official version of Doom: the Super Nintendo port from 1995.
"It should not even exist," said Rick. "The Super Nintendo just isn't powerful enough to run Doom. id Software were very much against working with Nintendo again after complications with getting Wolfenstein on there."
The Super Nintendo version of Doom was developed by a second party, Williams (a company that specialized in pinball), rebuilt from scratch and then presented to id Software. It had a lot of limitations. The screen is compressed by a thick black border, particle effects like smoke and blood were cut, and enemies always face you with a Mona Lisa effect to free memory on the cartridge. It also, somehow, had a lot of ups on other console versions, like the cyberdemons and spiderdemons enemies, who were cut from many ports. The Atari Jaguar didn't even have music during play, while the older Super Nintendo had a score composition praised by fans.
Some of the hacks featured on the site are strictly input, nonetheless a surreal sight of seeing someone play one of video game's biggest technical leaps on a toaster or an old piano. In-flight entertainment systems, old white iPods, an ATM hackers somehow got a hold of (Rick's favourite), you can play Doom on all of these things. Oddly enough, one of the few things Rick admits didn't play Doom were arcades, despite a memorable convenience store shootout in the Grosse Point Blank where a true-blue baseball capped 90s slacker plays Doom 2, oblivious to the actual hyper-violence surrounding him.
"That seems to have been the invention of some prop designer," said Rick. "There was a Quake machine that almost got released, there's some prototypes floating around."
Correction: This article originally featured a photograph of Wolfenstein 3D running on a Nintendo 3DS, which was misidentified as Doom. That photograph has been replaced with one of Doom running on a Kodak digital camera.
This article also previously suggested that Doom for the Jaguar was released for its CD attachment, while Doom was actually released on a cartridge. This article has been updated to reflect that fact.