Here we have The Spiderdemon, later known as The Spider Mastermind, the final boss of one of the biggest (and most controversial) games of 1993: id Software’s Doom. It earns the latter moniker when – spoiler! – the plot reveals this cybernetic colossus as the mastermind behind the monster invasion of the Phobos and Deimos bases you’ve had to blaze through en route to the showdown in hell itself. It’s not actually a spider at all, having only four legs and two arms, but we’re not going to argue with it.
Over the season I often get nostalgic for childhood, and a large part of that throws me back to the time I wasted in front of the TV playing games… and using said nostalgia as an excuse to do precisely that once again. In a true Christmas spirit and after chancing upon a YouTube video discussing the game, Doom was one to which we found our way back.
I was very young (too young) when I played it for the first time, at the age of about six. We were one of the four or five families in the world that owned a Sega 32X – though we got it in 1998, long after it had been discontinued! – and when my brother bought it from some second-hand shop, the vendor just chucked a Doom cartridge in without prompt or apology. He did the same with a particularly dire Star Wars game too… I guess there were a lot to be rid of.
In my innocence, my intrigue was more expended in the ‘3D’ graphics and the fact that the perilous pools of acid were animated to look like rippling liquid, than it ever was with blasting a shotgun at demons. And I was never very good at that anyway. (Playing it over the past couple of days: that hasn’t changed.) There was one time I merrily strolled up to a door, only for it to raise on me with a terrifying predatory trumpet, revealing a pair of hideous goat-esque beasts – the Barons of Hell – who promptly put me out of my misery as I’d dropped the controller in panic and ran away. But other than that one incident, and considering I found lots of kids TV puppets unnerving, I think I coped with Doom pretty well.
There are facets to the game that still impress me – things that you can observe as truly a step-up from any game that had preceded it. One I enjoy the most is the use of sound; the fact that you can hear distant enemies grunting, their increasing volume betraying an impending encounter. The sound of doors opening and closing behind you. With the clever level design, the atmosphere is still there in bucket loads – the now-dated graphics seem to add to it.
Our Spider Mastermind friend here wasn’t in the 32X version, so I didn’t see it until we acquired the PC version… this would have been a year or two later; the then-seven-year old game was about the most our pitiful machine could cope with without catching fire. Being the ultimate boss, you’d expect it to be one of the toughest enemies to beat – and you’d be right, even if the mountainous Cyberdemon that you meet halfway through the game is more damaging. That’s a super-action chaingun on the front of the chassis; drop the ball for a second and it will finish you off. As a child, I could never best it without cheating. Beating it on Ultra-Violence (hard) without sneaky codes was my crowning achievement of last weekend, or heck, perhaps the entire year.
The Doom monsters are an impressive and characterfully vile troupe. They were sketched and sculpted by Adrian Carmack and Gregor Punchatz (the latter of which built our subject, to the former’s designs). The sculptures were then photographed from eight different angles, scanned, coloured and mixed with hand-drawn sprites. Here’s the team playing around with the awesome Spider Mastermind model:
This was a time-consuming job, and not without its frustrations, but ultimately it was one of the most fun I think I’ve ever done for this blog, and certainly a departure from my norms. I might come back with some more Doom hellspawn later on!