The Video Game Software Wizardry of Id

Behind the action and terro of Id’s video game software lies a revolution in desktop technology

14 min read
Screenshots showing Id Software’s graphics
Over the last 12 years, the evolving realism of Id Software’s graphics has set the bar for the industry. Among the games (bottom to top, left): Commander Keen (1990); Hovertank (1991); Wolfenstein 3D (1992); Doom (1993); Quake (1996); and Return to Castle Wolfenstein (2001).
Image: Id Software

It’s after midnight when the carnage begins. Inside a castle, soldiers chase Nazis through the halls. A flame-thrower unfurls a hideous tongue of fire. This is Return to Castle Wolfenstein, a computer game that’s as much a scientific marvel as it is a visceral adventure. It’s also the latest product of Id Software (Mesquite, Texas). Through its technologically innovative games, Id has had a huge influence on everyday computing, from the high-speed, high-color, and high-resolution graphics cards common in today’s PCs to the marshalling of an army of on-line game programmers and players who have helped shape popular culture.

Id shot to prominence 10 years ago with the release of its original kill-the-Nazis-and-escape game, Wolfenstein 3D. It and its successors, Doom and Quake, cast players as endangered foot soldiers, racing through mazes while fighting monsters or, if they so chose, each other. To bring these games to the consumer PC and establish Id as the market leader required skill at simplifying difficult graphics problems and cunning in exploiting on-going improvements in computer graphics cards, processing power, and memory size. To date, their games have earned over US $150 million in sales, according to The NPD Group, a New York City market research firm.

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