Doom: The Classic vs Modern Debate

By Alec Meer on May 29th, 2009 at 12:18 am.

Behind the scenes, in the gelatinous chamber where the RPS Hivemind’s life-sustaining anti-plankton is grown, Jim and I had a brief debate. “We should have a weekly iPhone post”, quoth he. “But so many people will be angered by such a thing”, quoth I. We both then stared at our own iPhones with a mixture of pride and shame, and we wondered. How would the goodly, but sometimes distressingly irate, readers of the Rock, the Paper and the Shotgun feel about such a thing? While we continue to wonder, we can at least justify this: John Carmack, the Great Brain of id Software, talking about the trials and tribulations behind the upcoming iPhone port of Doom, and the issues inherent in visually tweaking (or not) a true-blue PC classic.

It’s interesting regardless of whether or not you own one of dem phones, dem phones, dem iPhones because it offers a few (tech-centric) insights into the making of the original Doom all those years ago, as well as that aforementioned discussion of whether graphical updates for a modern age are greater or lesser in import than retaining the game’s original aesthetic – regardless of whether it was initially intended to look that way or was merely limited by the hardware of the time. This being Carmack, half of what he writes is so technical as to be insensible, but there’s certainly a few interesting talking points thrown to the crowd.

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179 Comments »

  1. Craymen Edge says:

    To quote your “about” page : “Quite simply, RPS is about PC gaming – all of PC gaming, rather than just one of the weird and wonderful niches most other PC-centric sites confine themselves to. It’s written by four of Britain’s top games journalists, and it aims to cover everything from the latest breaking stories about the biggest releases to esoterica from the format’s obscurest peninsulas.

    To contact us, just click… no, wait. Wait. Before you send that press release about your new PSP game or link to a dog playing Sega Genesis music on a noseflute, please remember that we are a PC-only site. That’s PC only. P.C. O.N.L.Y. Honestly, you’d be amazed how many people don’t realise that.”

    I read RPS because it’s about PC gaming, and offers the kind of content you don’t often get elsewhere. If I want to hear about iPhones, I’ll listen to any of the million US gaming podcasts out there. They never shut up about the things.

  2. Mr Popov says:

    A weekly feature certainly wouldn’t hurt anyone. However I’m sure many readers would wonder why you wouldn’t include a weekly (insert other platform here) feature either.

  3. Novotny says:

    Well if you must, then what about Blackberries? Should do one for them too, weekly. But why stop there? Maybe it is hightime you covered consoles too.

    Don’t you dare start posting about iphones.

  4. jalf says:

    Well, I wouldn’t mind. But how would it fit into the PC-only thing you have going? Why should you cover iPhone news, but not, say, NDS? Why not make a weekly non-PC-gaming-stuff roundup then? If and when there’s something interesting happening on other platforms, I’d just as soon read about it here as on other sites.

    The only question is how you’re going to brand RPS. It’s hardly PC-only if you talk about non-PC phones. (and you’re pretty explicit on the About page about “PC ONLY”. You’d have to update that page, at least).

    I dunno, I don’t have a strong need for more iPhone news, but it’s not something that’d ruin my day either.

    It also depends on what angle you’re going to take? Are we talking about the iPhone in general? Games on it? Indie games specifically? Developers talking about developing on it? The economic viability of developing for it? What are we talking about here, exactly?

  5. Freudian Trip says:

    Really don’t get the point of iPhones but then with my Samsung that wouldn’t look out of place alongside a Nokia 3330 I’m probably not the demographic they’re aiming for.

    It’s your website, you pay for it, I don’t, do as you wish.

  6. Dominic White says:

    Purity is overrated. I don’t even own an iPhone (or anything capable of playing games that isn’t a dedicated portable gaming system), but I’d love to hear more about what the RPS crew find interesting.

    Bring on the iPhone articles.

  7. Kez says:

    Honestly, I think you’re all overreacting because it’s an iPhone game but that’s not the emphasis here.

    The reason I feel the article is relevant to RPS is that it relates to the difficulties with modernising one of the great classic *PC* games, regardless of the target hardware.

    We’re going to see a lot more upscale ports of our old favorites being made in the future, and I’m not opposed to reading about how people are doing that right/wrong.

  8. Tim says:

    This is one of my favorite websites (you know this is prefacing an interjection), but I think a regular iPhone post would be annoying as hell. I already think there are too many random indie game posts about the latest flash in the pan, but maybe that’s because I read those sites as well. In either case, save it for some of the good ones.

  9. Garu says:

    If you guys can maintain the current level of coverage, PLUS a weekly iPhone roundup, then great. But more likely you’ll have to cut something else and I’d much rather have another retro feature or something like that than coverage for a platform I neither own nor plan to anytime soon.

    That being said, it would be reasonable idea for you guys to have a weekly “Elsewhere in Gaming” feature where you briefly talk about all the non-PC things that have been keeping you interested. Please don’t limit it to just the iPhone, though.

  10. Saul says:

    @Kez: Did you actually read the post?

    I’m not really a fan of adding iPhone news, as it is really rather inconsistant. I wouldn’t be against a weekly “non-PC” roundup, because I’m sure you fellas would only pick the most interesting bits to go in it, and I really don’t care to read any other gaming sites.

    I don’t have any consoles or fancy phones, but sometimes I’m sure there are still stories worth reading about them.

  11. Fede says:

    No problem from my point of view: the more you write the more good and interesting writing to read (even if I don’t have an iphone)!

  12. Thranx says:

    Blasphemy. Does it require a mouse and keyboard? Nay. Thusly does it belong on RPS? Nay.

    My confidence in the foundations of this site are now shaken. What’s next? News about how awesome FPSs are with two thumbsticks? *shudder*

    Don’t cave to the fad.

  13. Steve says:

    iPhones? RPS, I am disappoint.

  14. sinister agent says:

    You could make all sorts of cases about this being a PC site almost by definition, but anything we whinge about is trumped by the simple fact that it’s your site. Personally, I’d have no interest at all, but then I have no interest in a lot of things. I’d still hang about for a lot of the other stuff you lot put out.

  15. Andy`` says:

    Did everybody forget who Carmack is and where Doom came from? And how often there’s an iPhone focused post on this site, ever? This is the fourth that’s iPhoney enough to even be tagged for it. If you can’t click links and need the history: the first was LucasArts games (same as this, really – PC game goes to iPhone, PC vs. iPhone debate occurs), the second was a comparison to the PC as a gaming platform, and the third was Alec controlling a PC with an iPhone while falling backwards off his chair. Four since November 2007. Hardly regular, yo.

    Interested to see how this handles though. I keep hearing from everyone I’ve spoken to about this how it will be impossible to get right. But if Carmack’s doing it, it cant be impossible, can it?

  16. Junch says:

    I sincerely dislike that the iPhone is attempting to become the handheld gaming device of the century. I remember reading a PR statement a year back, the guy actually said he thinks the iPhone is the best gaming device there is.

    Seriously? No, seriously? Wtf about the Nintendo DS? Or the PSP? Proper games-focused only handheld devices to lose out to some stupid iPhone!? It just makes me hate Apple all that more.

  17. Joflar says:

    As a fat American I don’t mean to throw my sense of entitlement around but their site should be interesting to their viewers.

  18. Z says:

    To quote Yahtzee:

    “Fans are clingy, complaining dipshits who will never ever be grateful for any concession you make. The moment you shut out their shrill, tremulous voices the happier you’ll be for it.”

    Not one for grammar, Yahtzee.

  19. CMaster says:

    The stated purpouse of this site is to be about PC gaming. Not about phone games, pocket PC games etc etc.
    Now, if you feel the PC centricness is getting a little stale, then maybe you want to branch out into other games (and of course, some of the flash games featured here can be played on other formats).

    If you do start doing a weekly iPhone post though, what about when some really exciting iPhone gaming news comes through? Does that have to wait, or does it go up straight away? Once iPhone post become regular, then another writer decides he wants to start adding stuff on his favourite other format. In a while, what is there to sperate you from Kotaku or IGN, say? Also, if it becomes “PC and mobile games” blog, the claim that you don’t hate consoles starts to look a little thin.

    On the actual article, reading Carmack is interesting but difficult as ever. He moves so fast from concept to concept it can be hard to keep up.

  20. Citizen Parker says:

    Look, ultimately you chaps can make this a site dedicated to implementations of Tic Tac Toe and I’ll read it and subscribe to it. So take this with a grain of salt.

    Even though large parts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the iPhone and all the odious apparatus of Apple rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in many genres, we shall fight on cross-platform releases, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the indie scene.

    We shall defend our PC gaming, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on Ventrilo, we shall fight on PBEM, we shall fight in monthly subscriptions and in micropayments, we shall fight in the Talk-o-Tron 3000.

    We shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Rock Paper Shotgun or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our fellow PC enthusiasts beyond the seas, armed and guarded by Steam, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New Game Journalism, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of our fair site.

  21. solipsistnation says:

    I’m not incensed at the very concept of ongoing iPhone articles, as if talking about iPhones would suddenly dilute the whole site into Just Another Generic Game Stuff Blog, but you guys do only have limited time, and I’d rather the site stay focused. There are plenty of Boing Boing Offworld-type sites out there to post generic gaming news. RPS stays interesting by maintaining its unique editorial voice and sticking with stuff that is, for the most part, genuinely interesting over the long term and is relevant to that core of PC gaming. It does open you up to a lot of “What about [MY FAVORITE PLATFORM]?” whining, though, and I doubt you want that.

    This article, though, I think is interesting because it’s tied directly into the core of RPS– it talks about one of the cornerstones of PC gaming as we know it and how hardware has evolved. It’s borderline– Carmack’s post is very technical and gets into a lot of interface stuff with the iPhone, which isn’t a PC. (GASP.) He does talk about the choices they made way back when, though, so it’s relevant here.

    Personally, I’d stick with “PC Only” and maybe do an “other platforms” writeup weekly or something, but make sure stuff lines up with the core values of RPS. (Sonic III released for the iPhone? Not so relevant. “Elite” ported to the iPhone? OKAY!)

  22. Vinraith says:

    I agree with others here that if you’re going to start covering the iPhone (hiss, spat) you should be covering other (real) gaming devices as well. Either this is a PC gaming only site or it’s not. PC and iPhone gaming only doesn’t make much sense, and I find it hard to believe the cross over audience is all that extensive.

  23. Ziv says:

    I guess it does kinda destroy that only PC thing here, but if it doesn’t go on expense of other articles then why not.

  24. invisiblejesus says:

    I’d be much more into the idea of a weekly non-PC gaming roundup than a weekly iPhone bit.

  25. CannedLizard says:

    Gotta say, not a fan of the idea of iPhone content. For one, it doesn’t seem to fit with the mandate of this site. For two, it will make me want an iPhone or iPod Touch even MORE than I already do.

    For three, you guys DO break your mandate every so often, but VERY carefully. And only in situations where you can justify it somehow. Like here! Or here! Honestly, the desperate justifications are what make it worth the entry fee.

  26. Vinraith says:

    @invisiblejesus

    Now see, that’s a good idea.

  27. solipsistnation says:

    @Junch: The iPhone is a platform. It has the potential to be a fantastic gaming platform. It may or may not end up any good at it in the end, but it has possibilities.
    Look at the early days of the DS– how many games were released with crappy touchscreen controls tacked onto what would have been (or actually was) a decent GBA game, and then had words starting with “D” and “S” stuck on the name to make the point? There was a lot of skepticism there, for good reason. It took a while for developers to figure out how to actually use 2 screens and touch controls. We’re still in the “Recycled Game: Dual Strike!” period of iPhone games.

  28. Nox says:

    (Warning: I just reread this post and discovered that I’ve rambled like I’m off my meds, which is funny since I don’t take any. Most people should just move past this message and on to the next person’s, which will no doubt be more rational and less verbose.)

    I’m going to regret typing this (in fact, my fingers are protesting already, making this even more difficult), but as RPS is the last bastion of PC-centric gaming of which I am aware, coverage of alternative gaming offerings would absolutely kill me.

    My early professional career was spent in retail management–first Babbage’s then Software, Etc. After that I jumped ship and went to work for the enemy: Electronics Boutique. I rounded-out my ‘hard time’ in retail by returning to Babbage’s. Over the five years I was employed, I saw a transformation in each store’s layout which has continued to this day. What was once the cornerstone of each store–PC games–was eventually whittled down to either an island display or a couple of end-caps. And thanks to the thriving trade-in market, you can bet your signed copy of Civilization II that you’ll always be asked to trade in your old console games at checkout–even if you’ve never purchased anything but PC titles from the store.

    I still remember when Gamespot sent all of its readership an apology e-mail explaining that in order to thrive they were going to have to start covering consoles.

    At one point I had a subscription to every PC gaming mag available on this side of the pond. One of them–I cannot recall which–started including a section called something like “What They’re Playing” with the pronoun indicating console gamers. I promptly canceled my subscription.

    It’s bad enough that Bill Harris @ Dubious Quality likes consoles–he apparently has a loving family and is an avid sports fan, too.

    The point I’m making is that literally everyone covers all-format gaming. RPS is unique in that it’s the only place that caters specifically to my interests. For that, I check it several times a day. Because it makes me feel special. That may sound lame, but it suggests that there are others, like me, whose primary hobby is PC gaming. Community, to me, is significant. And the only thing I’m aware of that’s as strong as, say, the instant camaraderie that all smokers share is the knowledge that the person you just met is a mostly PC-gamer, which is hardly en vogue.

    I fear that I may be coming across as a bit of a PC snob, despite my intentions. I don’t begrudge others their entertainment platform of choice. I simply find the input devices more elegant & comfortable and the offerings more varied. These are my preferences. I like to multitask. I prefer a desk to a sofa, a monitor to a television. I like to fiddle, modifying .ini files and figuring out which obscurely named extensions in an install can be renamed to .mp3 and played in VLC media player.

    My last console was the 3DO. After owning one of everything ’til that point except a NEO-GEO, I decided that I needed to focus on one entertainment platform to simplify my purchasing. I was tired of the ‘which version of the game do I buy’ gymnastics that I was performing with major game releases.

    There are tons of reasons I’m a PC-only gamer, and I’ll stop boring everyone with my rationalizations. I realize that my single-mindedness doesn’t translate directly into why RPS should be a PC-only gaming site, but I’d totally use up one of my wishes for freeing a genie to make you guys ignore other platforms. The other two wishes would go toward something involving Joss Whedon and another thing regarding a car made of weather-proof cinnamon.

    Man, I really need that magic lamp.

  29. Andy`` says:

    Oh I seeeee…I finally see what all the nerd rage is about. I should read the posts before I comment on them, yes? Apparently I was just pulled straight into the gravity well of Carmackness on the other side of the link.

    But yes. Do it! Do it to spite them!

  30. Mystic Smeg says:

    I’ve got Snake on an old Nokia…..

  31. squadman says:

    I agree that I would rather you stayed PC focused. I have plenty of other console sites bookmarked, and I come here for PC specific news!

    I love that this site has a real focus on PC gaming, as there are so few sites that do. There’s so much to cover, and so much has already been forgotten about the history of PC gaming – so it’s nice to come to a site that celebrates PC gaming exclusively!

  32. Vinraith says:

    On a partially related note, has anyone else played the Doom port on Nintendo DS homebrew? The control’s terrible, but it’s a very faithful port nevertheless.

  33. Dead Fish says:

    Practically iPhone gaming = handheld gaming. I don’t see how this is related to a PC blog. I don’t own an iPhone myself, so I’m personally not interested.

  34. iincompetent says:

    Linking to a legendary PC developer spouting technicalness is all well and good. I applaud, as I love any insight into how John Carmack ticks … but I really don’t see any value in a regular iPhone thread on RPS.

    In my opinion the only thing the iPhone has going for it is its high geek-market penetration and low low prices for crappy games that I could play for free in flash (or those that were released on the PC 15 years ago). Touch screen gaming is better served on my DS and I coudln’t care less about tilt controls.

    I would much rather see RPS do a weekly feature on interesting console games that should see a release on the PC. Perhaps even a look at how developers could exploit our favoured platform to improve said games.

  35. jeffthewonderbadger says:

    Dear God. Alec, what have you done?

  36. PleasingFungus says:

    Man, Carmack’s great. Purchased Wolf 3D on the iPhone – only thing I’ve actually bought on the App Store! – and am looking forward to buying iDoom when it comes out. (Admission: never played the original. Was three years old when it came out.)

    Also: no opinion on iPhone posts.

  37. MD says:

    I AM IRATE :-[

    Nah but if you do go with the iPhone thing, please do make a point of keeping it to undiscovered oddities, awesome homebrew etc. — the kind of stuff that a) people will not be able to read about in 50,000 other places, and b) will interest those of us who don’t own an iPhone, and don’t care about any of the widely-reported/boring pieces of iPhone-related news.

  38. MD says:

    Oh and more Carmack please! In fact I’d much prefer a weekly Carmack post than a weekly iPhone post.

  39. Radiant says:

    Do what you want it’s your website?

  40. Radiant says:

    Or are you that scared of Gillen?

  41. john t says:

    I like the idea of a single weekly Sunday-papers style roundup of “Non-PC related Gaming News” — or even “Non-Gaming Related PC News.”

  42. jarvoll says:

    Noooooooooooooooooooo! The rest of the world is poisoned by console/portable madness! Keep RPS sane, healthy, & PC-only!

  43. I am beginning to understand this comment system says:

    I honestly don’t care what platforms you guys choose to cover. A good game is a good game, regardless of platform and by the same token, a well written piece on a console game is the same to me as a well written piece on a PC game.

    However, I do enjoying about hearing about indie games that I would miss otherwise and those are predominantly released on the PC.

    Switching gears, Carmack is the man. His dedication to his fanbase / open source is inspiring.

  44. Angel Dust says:

    What the hell if wrong with all you whiners? Sure it’s not 100% PC but the article was interesting, intelligent and written by bonafide PC royalty about the porting of one of the definitive PC games. I would have no problem with RPS posting about stuff like this and I trust that they won’t use that as an excuse to go crazy on not strictly PC posts.

  45. jalf says:

    @Angel Dust: There’s always one, isn’t there?
    I don’t know which thread you’ve been reading, but until your little rage explosion, I haven’t seen anything that could be interpreted as “whining”. What exactly are you so angry about? Who’s whining? Why do we need to discuss whining in this otherwise pretty peaceful discussion?

    And I don’t think anyone has a problem with the article they linked to. That’s not really the issue. The question is if they should make a weekly iPhone post.

  46. Andy`` says:

    Actually, there’s two (see my other posts further up thread).

    The ‘mack hole’s power is growing. We might need to eject the generators to blow us free. Shame the iPhone doesn’t have a removable battery.

  47. Devan says:

    I would prefer not to sift through mobile, handheld or console news, but it wouldn’t be a huge deal.

  48. invisiblejesus says:

    @Angel Dust: I think you’re misinterpreting some posts, here. I don’t think anyone, or very many people anyway, object to the Carmack article. The question was asked how readers would feel about a weekly iPhone piece. The responses about iPhone coverage are about that, they aren’t necessarily objections to the Carmack article.

  49. bhlaab says:

    I’m sick of hearing about the iphone as a gaming device period. It’s clearly– clearly not.

    As for sprucing up old game, I’m fine with the Zdoom approach where you add new features that don’t alter much beyond added playability (like mouselook) and new environmental effects with high res textures.
    But then there’s jdoom and the duke3d hd project where you’re putting 3d models in an engine not meant to house them and it just looks awful.

  50. James T says:

    A maxim not only for the RPS staff, but for all the world: no-one cares about your Iphone. It’s not a very complicated maxim.

    (…You’re still the best poster though, Jim.)