A Brief DOOM Demo History

The Beginning

     Before DOOM was developed, the great minds at idsoftware had taken notice of the modifiability of their previous games like Wolfenstein3D.  When DOOM was released on December 10th 1993, they proved their genius to the world for the first time.  The DOOM experience is so configurable that playing possibilities are virtually endless.  Out of the box, DOOM allows five skill settings, player speed modification, respawning monsters, fast monsters, IPX 4-player multiplayer, and innumerable ways to play in an unbounded gaming world.  Being able to create your own levels, modify the game's engine, play single-player and multiplayer games, and replay playback demos are the key to DOOM's longevity.

     Although I'm sure John Romero wasn't the sole advocate of demo-support in their games, his presence and excitement during their in-house "deathmatches" exemplified the need to ensure its existence.  From those sessions, the rules and dynamics of modern multiplayer personal computer gaming were born.  Had this developed differently at this stage, First Person Shooters as a genre would have evolved much differently.

    As with Wolfenstein, the levels were timed.  This meant the game was quantifiable.  Demo-support meant you could compare your times with others.  One must realize that in 1994, the state of the "internet" was much different than it is today.  Bulletin Board Systems and Ftp sites were dominant for file storage.  Can you say 9600 baud phone modem?

     By the time Windows95 was released, there were hordes of DOOMers playing together in online deathmatch games.  There's a famous statement that DOOM was loaded on more systems than any other piece of software1... widespread playing meant practice, practice meant competition; and the competition was intense.   20-minute one-on-one matches meant sometimes well over 100 frags; not even Quake would be this fast-paced.  DOOM became the featured game of online competitions and LAN events... true PC gaming as a professional sport was born.  As with Quake, the core DOOM deathmatch gameplay and dynamics would hardly change as the years progressed (outside the advent of the almighty SuperShotgun in Doom2).  However, single-player would see a good amount of progression and variation.

The Early Years

     The first established location for friendly DOOM competition was the LMP Hall of Fame, started by Christina 'Strunoph' Norman.  The LMP Hall of Fame's content quickly became replaced by the DOOM Honorific Titles, but the foundation that this site started was instrumental in the future of DOOM demos.

     The DOOM Honorific Titles(DHT) had several incarnations.  The DHT would create the basis for all DOOM demosites that would follow.  Created by Frank Stajano in May 1994, the DHT were designed around a notion of earning titles by successfully recording a particular type of demo on pre-determined maps in the Iwads.   These 'exams' became very popular as you had to earn each title.  People earned personal titles while the more vigilant demo watchers keep notice of the record recordings for each category on each Iwad map.  DOOM2 was released on October 10th 1994, and the DHT conformed to the new additions as well as the new DOOM version releases.  At the apex of it's popularity, the DHT had players creating new categories and playing styles.  For example, playing with only weapons 1 and 2 in a maxkills format became known as Tyson mode, obviously named after the heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson.  Pacifist-mode was playing without intentionally harming any monsters.  Each category had easy, medium, and hard maps for players to get randomly chosen for.  The players had to perform a dance during their demo(often done at the very start of the demo) as an authentication mechanism to prevent players from submitting other people's recordings.  Obviously, the skills needed to run through a map quickly were different than the skills needed to punch all the monsters to death.  The varied categories created an appeal for all types of players.  The demo runners were a very diverse group of people from all parts of the planet.  Many legends in the DOOM demoscene would play in the DHT including George Bell (Tyson), Steffen Udluft (Pacifist), Kai-Uwe 'Gazelle' Humpert, Frank 'Jesus' Siebers(Nightmare), Thomas 'Panter' Pilger(Reality), Yonatan Donner, Rich J. Sham, Jonathan 'Hunter' Hoof, Andreas 'Anthe' Kren, Adam Williamson, and Steffen Winterfeldt.  Unfortunately, the DHT always had trouble with a permanent internet location.  This, combined with the changing rules and the diminished importance of most of the titles, made public interest wane as the years rolled on.

      The natural evolution from the varied diversity of what had come before was the Compet-N.  Started by Simon Widlake in November 1994, the Compet-N focused on the record demos more than the players.  It is important to note that external activity was always present outside the Compet-N, whether in the DHT or elsewhere.  The location the Compet-N changed over time; it was even at for awhile(and that archive is still available on the network).  Istvan Pataki took over as maintainer and it moved to  From there in early 1998, it juggled into the very capable hands of Adam Hegyi, who has been the maintainer ever since. When the Compet-N started, there was only maxkill or speed demos for individual Iwad maps or entire episodes.  The early demos are somewhat silly by today's standards; for example, Map09 speedrun was done in a monstrous 15:22(the current record is a deft 1:09 by Vaclav 'Bolton' Kunes).  Like the Olympic Games, the Compet-N would swell and change under the weight of newer, better competitors and additional categories.  A good look at one moment in time is the Hall-of-fame page from March 1997.

Sifting out the multitudes

     During the DHT lifespan, between 1994 and 1997, the demoscene broadened greatly as the number of DOOMers worldwide constantly decreased.  Besides the Compet-N, the DOOM demoscene has always been a mish-mash of miscellaneous demos spread thinly over the internet.  The lack of any centralized resource crippled the development of what could have been in both the single-player and multiplayer communities.  Although many sites existed, or currently exist, featuring a few demos, locally recorded demos, personal demos, or a very confined contest.  Few sites bridged the boundless internet to satiate and captivate a large DOOM audience.

     Besides John Romero, I'd say that no one person did as much for First-Person Shooter demos than Yonatan Donner.  He single-handedly revitalized interest in DOOM for the top skilled players.  Co-authoring the hallmark megawad for DOOM demos, Hell Revealed, with Haggay Niv, Yonatan showed a passion for demos both as a player and a spectator.   His work with the Quake Done Quick team developed not only the first two QDQ DOOM demos but also the Tools-assisted tools.  Hell Revealed was as important to the DOOM demo community as Quake.
    QuakeDoneQuick does DOOM.   The three QDQ DOOM movies are non-cheated single-level runs spliced together for one smooth, near-flawless demo.  The excitement and production around these demos couldn't have been bigger and they didn't disappoint.  Allowing both the standard first-person perspective and, for the first time ever in DOOM, a moving chasecam perspective, the QDQ DOOM demos are uniquely entertaining.  Although many of the tricks have been improved since these were recorded(the first two in 1998 and DOOM Done Quicker in 2000), these gems of demo delight will never grow old.

     Andy Olivera is one of the most accomplished people in the DOOM community.  His all-in-one site was the first to be a review site, have his own demos, and make his own levels.  All with a quality that you'd think he was dedicated to only one of them; as well as being during a time when almost no other established sites were having regular updates.  Besides his own demos, he was the administrater of the Wad Master's Competition, a pwad contest done at regular intervals.  His site provided the root of the content and the main inspiration for the DOOMed Speed Demos Archive.  Besides Yonatan, Andy was the most influencial person in pwad single-player demos ever.

     Uwe Girlich was probably the first hardcore demo-watcher.  Fascinated by the game and demo-structure, Mr.Girlich recorded demos for the Compet-N while he worked on Little Movie Processing Centre(LMPC) and wrote the LMP format description.  The difference between LMPC and other demo tools was that you could convert the demo to ascii text and back to binary.  This meant you could not only analyze your demo to the gametic, but also re-engineer it (if you had the patience).  Such demos are called "Built" demos for obvious reasons and are often purely cheated.  A good example is a speedrun of E1M1: Only highly-skilled players can do it in less than 10 seconds, it requires a truly flawless run to make it under 9.

     The Head-to-Head International Doomers Competition(H2HMud), was a very short-lived competition.  Created by Mark Gundy of H2H BBS in May 1995, the H2HMud Competition differed from previous major competitions as it was played on patchwads created by people like Dave Swift and Dario Casali.  Underneath the friendly welcome-all greetings was a failed attempt to get the current deathmatch players, who obviously had more skill than the participating single-player competitors, to prove their single-player merits.  That, coupled with the lack of top international player support and the air to the rest of the community that they were the real elite, tolled the bell of doom for H2HMud.  The initial contest was a success, but it ended there.

     Started by Yonatan, with help from Esko Koskimaa and Peo Sjoblom, the Tools-Assisted demos (note the 'assisted', these are not purely cheated) (TAS) was a revolution in DOOM demo recording.  In December 1997, showing their confidence in their own progress and their dedication to their consumers, idsoftware kindly released the source code to DOOM.  TASDoom was a modification of the source port DosDoom.47.  What were already jaw-dropping record demos soon became unbelievable.  Allowing players to record with savegames and slow-motion, TASDoom created seamless, virtually-perfect recordings.  With great honor I took over this site in August 2001, and it is now hosted at the DOOMed Speed Demos Archive.

     Arno Slagboom and Ralf Schreivogel started an interesting and bold site that returned the focus to the individual player.  The Public Demo Archive of the Non-Gods(PDANG) allows users to submit demos that aren't world-record demos, as it is with the Compet-N, but your record demos.  Using a points system that is based off the current world-record time, players get to play against themselves as much as everyone else.  The encouragement and friendliness of all the players at the site was so sincere and memorable that it was the best online group I've ever been associated with.  Several top Compet-N players honed their skills at the PDANG including Vincent Catalaa, Claudio Barba, Adam Williamson, and Chris Ratcliff.  Arno selflessly maintained a personal ftp site for the use of all DOOM demos including the Compet-N, the PDANG, and the DSDA.  The reigns have been recently handed to Chris, and it is in a phase of inactivity at the moment.
     The Coop-N was another project maintained by Arno and Ralf.  It was similar to the PDANG but was for cooperative demos.  This site had sporadic updates of high-quality demos.   Although it suffered a quick demise, it was due to good news; the Coop-N was merged into the Compet-N in 2000.

     Along with Yonatan, Ilkka 'Mineral' Kurkela was another of the early Quake speedrunners.  He held contests for both games, and he was one of the only people to ever play in both camps without a noticable loss of skill in either game. Doomaniax, a DOOM clan in the Czech Republic, with an impressive members list features both deathmatch and single-player skilled demos.  Stuart 'Yeti' McKendrick, coupled with Danny Lancashire, made some record single-player demos, played in the British DOOM League, and created some of the best deathmatch pwad authors ever.  Jason 'King God Space' Henry, an integral member of several demosets, maintained his demo page during DOOM's more slender years.  Taking a vastly different approach to DOOM demos, Ledmeister has an abundance of maxkill, oddities, bug, and instructional demos for the officially released wads.  His site is filled with info not to be found anywhere else on the internet.  Lastly, Some noteworthy miscellaneous demos would occasionally arise at some more important non-demo sites like Doomster, Ricrob's site, Team Insanity, and TeamTNT.  Led by Ty Halderman, TeamTNT made many early official (Final DOOM) and unofficial megawads that continued to fuel DOOM's demofire when it wasn't burning quite so bright.

     The DOOMed Speed Demos Archive(DSDA).  A cheap knockoff(I like to think of it as a tribute ;) of the Quake Speed Demos Archive, the DSDA is home to a very large collection of demos for third-party maps.   The first major site to allow demos recorded with source ports, it was started in August 2000 by me and allows demos of virtually any type of recording.

The Compet-N

     By 1996, the Compet-N was growing beyond Simon's dreams.   These weren't someone's "Hurt Me Plenty" demos on some obscure AOL Hometown url, or even the hard work of a single visionary anymore, these were professionals.  The Compet-N is now comprised of dozens of players from 27 different countries.  I'd say no one knows more about DOOM demos than Adam Hegyi.  Assuming control of the Compet-N in 1998, he has not just maintained the site, he has shaped, expanded, and improved the boisterous, splashing beast into the vast calm ocean it is today.  An impressive compendium of demos, the Compet-N is the ultimate DOOM single-player demosite.   Adam added Pacifist and Tyson style demos in 1998 to the Compet-N tables.   Nightmare 100% secret demos were added in 1999.  All 4 DOOM episodes were conquered in Nightmare skill in 1999 as well.   In 2000, two of the game's most impressive players, Anders Johnsen and Henning Skogsto, teamed up to record the first Nightmare 32-level cooperative movie.  By 2001, almost no holes still existed in the Iwad tables and, to keep the atmosphere fresh, Adam added patchwads to the Compet-N.  The Classic_Episode, Alien Vendetta, Hell Revealed, Memento Mori, Memento Mori2, and Requiem are now featured at the ultimate DOOM demosite.  The Compet-N has regular contests, player profiles, tips, trick demo listings, points tables, an interactive database, a forum, and even a yearly awards ceremony.

1I have no idea who originally said that; and although I imagine it was probably true then, it certainly is not true today.

Opulent -- 12/2003