It was a real bang: on September 21, 2020, the pre-sale start of the Xbox Series X, Microsoft announced the takeover of Bethesda Softworks and thus also of the traditional development studio id Software. This coup cost the Xbox makers $ 7.5 billion – the equivalent of around 6.4 billion euros. A short time later, top-class players such as Doom Eternal, which was only released in March 2020, landed in the subscription service Xbox Game Pass. Such a development is nothing new for the traditional company id Software. After all, Zenimax Media Inc., the parent company of Bethesda Softworks, took over the studio in 2009 and incorporated it into Bethesda Games Studios.
But these developments are only the most recent chapters in the 30-year history of id Software. Founded on February 1, 1991, the studio turned the world of computer and video games upside down more than once. With Doom, the Texans revolutionized the shooter genre in 1993 and, with Quake, did a lot of building work in terms of multiplayer gaming fun and e-sports.
Source: Moby Games
The founders of id Software – John Romero, John Carmack, Tom Hall and the unrelated Adrian Carmack – are at least as well known as the company and its games themselves. And that, although the four men could hardly be more different.
Four characters shape the reputation to this day
John Carmack is the "crazy genius" among the four and was at id Software until 2013: gifted, visionary and sometimes even a little "over the top". When he talks about his youth in interviews, he describes himself as an "immoral little bastard" – precisely because he was smarter than most other children and liked to let it out. His passion was programming, after all, he was in control of his own creation on the computer. For example, he hacked the classic role-playing game Ultima 1 early on and changed the character traits of his avatar.
His "greed" for computers went so far that he even broke into his high school and was caught in the process. Since he showed no remorse during the psychological examination, he ended up in a youth home for a year. Carmack wasn't a normal adolescent. And no one is surprised that he dropped out of his programming studies at the University of Kansas and earned a living as a freelance programmer before hiring at Softdisk. There he also met John Romero, Adrian Carmack and Tom Hall.
Source: Moby Games
All four shared a great fascination for computer and video games, but were very different in character. The extroverted genius of John Carmack was juxtaposed with quieter personalities like Tom Hall and the artistically inclined Adrian Carmack. Then there was John Romero, who was loud and almost megalomaniac, especially in his later years, and who often portrayed himself as a rock star in the game industry. This mixture contained a lot of explosive in itself, but was also breeding ground for creative ideas that should break through the previously set limits of gaming.
The Shooter Big Bang: Wolfenstein and the early Doom
To this day, id Software is considered to be enormously innovative and progressive. This was already evident in the underrated platformer Commander Keen (1990). Its success ultimately laid the financial basis for the coming projects that were to cause a sensation in the mainstream. Even if Doom, released in 1993, is often celebrated as a shooter revolutionary, it was Wolfenstein 3D, distributed by Apogee a year earlier, that already showed the direction in which id Software should go.
Source: Moby Games
Armed with VGA graphics, the ray-casting technology already tested in the Hovertank and Catacomb 3D developed by Softdisk, and full Soundblaster support, the "Nazi shooter" Wolfenstein 3D was an enormous success. The gaming world looked at id Software! For many users, the fast course of the game, the brutality and of course the provocative setting were eye-openers. id Software had made a name for itself in one fell swoop, even if Wolfenstein 3D had not yet reached the masses.
That should change suddenly with Doom. We have already seen the waves that this game made in an earlier report on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of id Software illuminated in more detail. It wasn't just the no-nonsense action that made Doom stand out. The gameplay and design behind it were groundbreaking. Thanks to the integrated LAN function, the shooter allowed multiplayer battles for the first time. The deathmatch mode celebrated its premiere and is still an indispensable part of any good shooter. The network options – like today's online functions – ensured extreme popularity and longevity of the project.
Source: Moby Games
The graphics engine developed on the NeXTStep operating system also enabled the display of larger and more spacious levels thanks to binary space partitioning – even on less powerful systems. Even so, Doom was a tech innovator who pushed current hardware to its limits. This in turn called on competitors: id Software not only earned a golden nose with the pure game sales, but later also licensed its graphics engine. Under the leadership of engineering genius John Carmack, the id Tech brand was born and grew to become one of the most important graphics technologies in the world. Licensing self-developed graphics technology is a hugely important business these days, as is Epic Games with his Unreal Engine
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Online Draft Horse: The Quake Series
The next big step followed the Doom revolution with the Quake series. Three-dimensional polygon models were used as early as the first part in 1996. The engine rendered the environment in real time, additional light and texture effects made for an overall more lively look. They replaced the previously used 2D sprites and significantly changed the feel of the game. For the first time, we were able to walk around our opponents without them jumping jerkily from one animation phase to the next. This development was monumental. And even if Quake looks rough and angular from today's perspective, modern shooters work on a very similar principle.
Source: Moby Games
With Quake, id Software also concentrated more and more on the growing online market. In the third part, published in 1999 but indexed in this country, the developers completely dispensed with solo content and instead focused on multiplayer. Opposite the online magazine How-To Geek John Carmack explained: "Every project had its moments and its value, but the third part was my personal favorite. Going on multiplayer and 3D accelerator maps was a brave decision. But the tech design was good and personally I had more fun playing than all the games before or after. "
The outlier: Doom 3
Doom 3, released in 2004, is certainly the smallest light on the id software pie. The shooter plays on the spot and, in addition to the action, focuses on atmosphere and lots of shock effects. The Mars adventure is controversial among fans to this day – and our author Olaf Bleich also referred to the offshoot in a column as "Pioneering and yet unimportant"
However, Doom 3 showed that id Software is ready to take risks and try something new. They returned to the single player focus and strengthened the storytelling with the help of scripted events and a gloomy atmosphere.
In this case, however, the id Tech 4-based engine played the main role, as it pushed the hardware of the time to its limits. No wonder, dynamic light and shadow effects calculated in real time ensured unprecedented illumination of the levels. In addition, the character models now had skeletons inside, which made natural animations possible. Extended texture effects with bump and normal mapping made the surface appear more three-dimensional. In short: Doom 3 was another technology milestone.
Puzzle shooter: Doom Reboot and Doom Eternal
In the recent past id Software attracted attention by rebooting the Doom series. In terms of gameplay, the possibilities of the Doom Slayer were adapted here: the super soldier should be faster, more agile and more versatile. While Doom, published in 2016 on the basis of id Tech 5, was praised for its fun Glory Kills, there was also criticism for the rather monotonous processes in the long run.
That should change with the Doom Eternal, which was released in 2020: Here, the tried and tested powerful shooter dynamics and resource management meshed seamlessly. In the past, quick reactions were necessary to survive in Doom, but now a good portion of skill has been added. The multiplayer options that are now typical for the genre rounded off the splendid overall package.
Source: plassma media agency
What's the next chapter?
Doom Eternal was id Software's last big hit. The company is currently supplying these with additional content and extensions. In December, The Ancient Gods – Part One was the fourth major update with a new master level, a master level mode and lots of challenges. In one open letter to the community) we initially thanked for the support in times of the global corona pandemic and emphasized the associated switch to home office operation. At the same time, id Software also confirmed that they are working on the finalization of The Ancient Gods – Part 2 and thus also at the end of this story.
Source: plassma media agency
More interesting, however, are the rumors that have haunted the net in recent months. The company is apparently working on a brutal VR game that was given an age rating in Australia under the name "Project 2021A" and is also said to have online options. This could of course be a VR version of Doom Eternal or a completely new game.
It remains to be seen whether the next big chapter of the id software saga will be opened here or perhaps just another page. Even if the four creative minds from back then, i.e. John Romero, John Carmack, Adrian Carmack and Tom Hall, left the company a long time, their early handwriting can still be felt today.
This was confirmed by John Carmack himself: "Looking back, some decisions in the past could have been better. But I am proud of what id Software has achieved and happy that the current team is continuing this legacy." After the takeover by Microsoft, id Software will hopefully be able to continue exactly where the journey began in 1991: with tough, technically mature action that will push gamers and hardware alike to their limits.
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