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Wacky Wednesday: The “Doom”ed Trilobyte

Prior to the 1990s, people looked at the IBM PC as a joke of a gaming machine. Long diskette load times, clunky processor speeds, and a choice of CGA or EGA graphics were no match for the fast-moving sprites of the NES or arcade-quality graphics of the Sega Genesis. But 1990 saw the release of Wing Commander, a fast-paced space combat simulator that pushed the systems of its time to their limits, and suddenly gaming on the IBM PC didn’t seem like such an outlandish proposition. When Rand and Robyn Miller served up Myst in 1993, the flood gates opened as the storage capacity of the CD-ROM made almost anything seem possible. Quick to jump on this ability to store phenomenal amounts of data, including full-motion video, Trilobyte Software developed The 7th Guest, a horror-themed multimedia adventure that sold over two million units in an era where five-figures was considered successful for home computer software, and six-figure sales numbers were fantasies on par with Trilobyte’s creation itself. Waiting in the wings to steal their thunder was a little company called iD Software, working on a project called Doom.

Maybe you’ve heard of it?

The release of Doom almost single-handedly spelled the downfall of the adventure genre as gamers saw for themselves the type of lightning-fast gameplay made possible with iD’s technology. The addition of multiplayer deathmatch introduced the sorts of competitive elements that adventure games by their very definition lacked. With a game like Myst, one could boast of a faster completion time than the guy in the next cubicle over. With Doom, you could boast of making the guy in the next cubicle suck on your plasma cannon over lunch without anyone mistaking this for a dick joke.

Trilobyte Software never intended to compete with iD, at least not directly, but they knew if they were going to do so it would have to be on technological merit, not twitch mechanics. Therefore the sequel to The 7th Guest would ship on 4 CD-ROMs, and incorporate more advanced graphics, puzzles, and full-motion video than ever before. The 11th Hour would be everything Doom wasn’t–hell, iD was even shipping Doom and its sequel on 3.5″ disks, and even though they did offer CD-ROM versions, it was still the same game, the same levels, and the same music with nothing updated or enhanced.

Nevertheless, even members of Trilobyte Studios had a complicated relationship with Doom. One man in particular was Mitchell Feldman, a member of The 11th Hour‘s Quality Assurance team, who took it upon himself to render a version of the Stauf mansion that could be played in DoomDoom II: Hell on Earth, and even Heretic, a fantasy FPS created by Raven Software using the Doom engine. Since the Internet as we know it was only just coming into its own as a thing, Feldman figured the best way to let other people play his Stauf map was to give it away for free on the very CD-ROMs containing The 11th Hour he was responsible for quality checking. The best part was, not only did Feldman not lose his job over this, he actually got showcased in the game’s credits “Staufwad Author,” something he hopefully listed on his resume once Trilobyte shut down in 1996.

If you put the first disc of The 11th Hour into your PC and open it up to explore, you’ll find a directory labeled WADS, containing the files STAUF.WAD (for Doom), STAUF2.WAD (for Doom II), and STAUFH.WAD (for Hexen). If you don’t have a copy of The 11th Hour handy for some reason, you can always download the file off the internet, but where’s the fun in that? Copy the proper version into your game directory, load it up using the -file parameter from your DOS command line, and you can do what Carl Denning should have done to begin with: enter Stauf’s house armed with a shotgun and a desire to blow away some demons. Check out YouTuber BobTheViking01 playing it in a modified version of Doom right here. Special maps for a different game made by a competing game developer and distributed on their own media? We’d say that’s downright wacky, wouldn’t you agree?

Michael Crisman

In 1979, Michael Crisman was mauled by a radioactive Gorgar pinball machine. After the wounds healed, doctors discovered his DNA had been re-coded. No longer fully human, Michael requires regular infusions of video games in order to continue living among you. If you see him, he can see you. Make no sudden moves, but instead bribe him with old issues of computer and video game magazines or a mint-in-box copy of Dragon Warrior IV. If he made you laugh, drop a tip in his jar at http://paypal.me/modernzorker (If he didn't make you laugh, donate to cure his compulsion to bang keyboards by sending an absurdly huge amount of money to his tip jar instead. That'll show him!)

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