I’ve been making snooty comments (usually involving charming phrases like “not a scrap of ingenuity” and “egomaniacs” and “cat-murdering, passionless money-men*”) about id for a good few years now, but this week I’ve been feeling an great wave of affection for the somewhat atrophied father of the modern FPS.
It’s not because of Rage, which though it sounds very interesting currently doesn’t really look it. It’s because id’s slapped their back catalogue onto Steam. It was a shock at first – id asking Valve if they can flog their wares in their great rival’s online store is a little like The Rolling Stones asking if they can sleep in David Bowie’s garage. But it makes total sense – soon enough, Valve and Google will be the only places we ever need for any information or entertainment. It’s also the final seal of approval Steam really needed to become the one true home of the modern PC game. With this done, Steam is unstoppable.
More importantly (and I realise that having a Steam press account that grants me everything on it for free does rob me of a certain chunk of objectivity here, but hey – it’s £30 for every id game ever. I’d happily pay that myself.), it’s an utter delight to have what’s in many ways the entire history of FPS laid out before me in one place.
The first two levels of Doom 2 still fill me with utter joy. I spent an hour after work shooting friends on Quake 3’s DM17, swearing like a godless trooper throughout then grinning like a six-year-old having his birthday party in McDonalds when I won. Revisiting Quake 1, of which I had only ever played the shareware levels previously, was fascinating. It now seems so clunky and so lazy compared to the stripped-down cartoon elegance of its precusor, Doom, but as a document of the time it’s hugely compelling.
It’s all so neat in Steam, too. I’ve either dug out dusty media or pirated many of these games in recent years, then faffed around with Dosbox and Windows compatibility mode or whatever, and it’s not really been worth it. With Steam, I’ve now got an arcade of my own, picking a game on a whim and staring at it with the critic’s eyes I didn’t have at the time.
It’s gaming archeology made easy. id’s place on it is only natural, and it’s made me realise that gaming does owe a great debt to them. Yes, Doom was Star Wars, the blockbuster whose unexpected success stifled a certain degree of more thoughtful fare, but it’s also the root of an awful lot of fun. It doesn’t matter that Doom 3 sucked, it doesn’t matter if Rage sucks. id did their job, and I’m thankful.
* This isn’t crazy libel, in fact. Read David Kushner’s book Masters of Doom for the whole felinicide tale.