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Thirty years after its original release, it's impressive to see that the modding community around DOOM remains active to this day. The recent port of Doom by Bethesda has a few hand-picked add-on level packs, including a few new releases, including Anomaly Report by valkiriforce and SIGIL II released this month by John Romero, one of the designers of the original Doom game.

What interest me more is how new technology and ideas can be integrated into Doom's game engine. While nowadays Doom is better known to be ported to as many "computing environments" as possible, integrating new technologies into its engine can be more challenging.

A common modification to Doom was to make it "full 3D", which often involves replacing the game's objects with 3D models. But that often visually clashes with Doom's original design, and our sense of nostalgia regarding its "chunky" 2D sprites. Instead, the Voxel Doom II mod by Cacoward replaces the 2D sprites with cubic voxels. At a distance and at right angles, the voxel-based objects look nearly identical to their original 2D form, but when looked at closely or at new angles, you can see that they "shape out" of their original flat designs. This is especially more visible when looking at corpses, which originally had only a single "angle" and would always face the place, or when looking up or down at objects using the ZDoom engine. The result looks amazing, with impressive amount of detail to match against the "spirit" or the original graphics while still have some artistic license for those "unseen" angles. This YouTube video from Lagoonatic inspects in-depth (pun intended) this mod: "DOOM in STUNNING 3D! Voxel Doom II".

Another interesting mod adds ray tracing rendering to the PrBoom port of the Doom engine, called prboom-plus-rt. What's impressive isn't just the addition of ray-tracing (including DLSS and FSR), but also that, unlike later id games like Quake and Doom 3, the original Doom maps don't have any light sources, so normally they would be pitch black using ray tracing. Their solution was to patch the Doom 1 maps by adding ray tracing light sources to some objects and some surfaces like lava and slime. It isn't perfect, so a flashlight option like Doom 3 was added. The result does look different from the original maps' color palette, though most of the time it adds a scary mood. This video from Digital Foundry goes in more detail about this mode: "Doom's Ray Tracing Upgrade: A Game-Changer For The PC Classic?".

Published on December 28, 2023 at 13:45 EST

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