Category Archives: Games

Happy birthday id Software!

This week marks id Software’s 19th birthday, and what a long, magnificent trip it’s been. I’m not going to attempt a history of the makers of Doom and Quake: you can see that here. What I’m going to do is talk about my own fondness for the company.

My first experience of id (that’s id as in part of the psyche, not short for identification) was Commander Keen, a series of platform games that saw the player take control of Billy Blaze, whose football helmet doubled as a space helmet and who had a spaceship in his garden. It was just fun and colourful, and a little bit barmy (although I hated Keen Dreams), and for me it marks a ‘golden’ era in games, partly because of the series’ association with Apogee (the now troubled 3D Realms), which produced games like Xenon 2 and others that formulated my childhood (I was seven when the first Commander Keen game was released, although it was a couple of years later before I played them).

And how could we forget Wolfenstein 3D, the game whose model went on to spawn the Doom series? This was my first first-person-shooter and I don’t even remember thinking of it as particularly violent, although I can see why people might think so. It was too cartoony violence to make an impact, I suppose, or at least one detrimental to my well-being. And at the end of the day, you got to battle Hitler (albeit Hitler in a robot suit).

DOOM. It’s easily one of my top five games of all time, a game that was at turns adrenaline pumping and fascinating. The mixture of science fiction and occultism caught my imagination, particularly the idea that you got to actually battle the forces of Hell itself. Of course, half of the fun was making sure you got the enemy soldiers near barrels so you could reduce them all to puddles of gore thanks to one well-placed rocket. Born in the days of episodic games, it spawned a sequel series of episodes and was rebooted a few years back with glorious updated graphics and a fairly similar storyline (although you’re no longer connected to the Martian moons). But for all the charm of the latest graphics and character movement, it still doesn’t have the je ne sais quoi of seeing your sprite grin evilly at picking up the shotgun or chainsaw.

Somewhat eclipsed and jumbled with Doom in my mind is Quake. I don’t really remember the first Quake game, which had more to do with an occult invasion of the Earth, but I know I played it. I preferred Quake 2 though. It was gripping and compelling, and I’ve gone back to play it time after time. Quake IV is the only game I’ve ever upgrade my computer to play, and the visual effect was worth it, although as it’s built on the Doom 3 engine it looks quite similar. I did like the grand size of the narrative and how it placed itself within a longer sequence of events, most of which are only hinted at.

As far as I’m concerned, id Software is one of the great gaming companies. Its products have been with me for as long as I’ve been using computers, and it will take something special to eclipse games like Doom in my internal ‘best ever’ lists. As for their upcoming projects, Doom 4 and Rage, we shall have to wait and see. Here’s a trailer from a few months back for Rage:


Links o' the day 17/11/08

So very tired, but here we go:

A chaffinch map of Scotland: “The work looks deceptively simple, while in fact it is a cleverly multilayered combination of poetry, cartography, ornithology, linguistics, and maybe just a hint of Scottish nationalism”. I love the oddities of the internet.

Strip websites back to basics.

Like ice, penguins, clouds and atmospheric disturbances? Then you’ll love this selection.

I can sympathise with the Transformers. But Pokemon? Super-soakers? C’mon.

And if you haven’t had enough after that, try love, romance and other natural disasters.

Even Times Square is getting climate conscious.

Living in the shadow of past glory is not easy for some Egyptians.

Well that didn’t take long, did it, Blizzard?

Links o' the day 6/11/08

While the world continues to cheer the election of Barack Obama as president of the world’s most powerful democracy, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck has been anointed king of the world’s newest, Bhutan.

Apparently you can accidentally steal a car.

Gorillas need surgery too.

Companies are turning to blogging as a way of reporting layoffs, rather than letting them get picked up by the traditional media.

It’s a beard off!

Cleantech is growing in silicon valley.

The Mars lander is guestblogging on Gizmodo 😀

Hallowe'en links and more

Hallowe’en pumpking carving with robotics (Slashdot, pic via there as well)

Looking for a Hallowe’en scare? Try the latest video games (Reuters)

Ten horror hoaxes that spooked the masses (The Daily Telegraph)

DIY Hallowe’en projects (Lifehacker)

Researchers build “haunted” room (BoingBoing)

And now time for some music.

The Misfits – Scream


Lordi – Hard rock Hallelujah


Cradle of Filth – No Time to Cry


And a horror of a different kind: Jan Terri – Losing You


Blasts from the past

Sonic the Hedgehog is apparently Britain’s favourite computer game character, beating Mario by about 3% of the vote. The vote is a nice mix of oldies and newbies, with four of the top five featuring in games from the 80s and early 90s (Lara Croft was third). The other old school characters in the top 10 were Link (Zelda) and Blanka (Street Fighter).

Unfortunately there’s no indication in the story about when the survey was conducted, or among who. If it was a general poll of gamers, then it really shows how far more recent games have to go before dislodging the classics. If it was done among people in the industry, well in all fairness they would have been around longer, and so the likes of Sonic and Mario could have dominated their formative years in computing.

EDIT because I hit “publish” instead of “save”: I would have liked a bit more detail on the survey itself; they story just says “among gamers”. Was it a web poll? How many gamers? How old were they? Regardless, the poll shows how far more recent creations have to go before they dislodge the old favourites.

I had neither a Sega nor a Nintendo in my youth, so my vote might well have gone to Guybrush Threepwood.