Doom’s significance to video game history is rarely debated. While not the first ever first person shooter, Doom is often credited with popularising the genre and introducing gamers worldwide to the guilty pleasure of multi player ‘death matches’. Back in 1993, Doom’s fast, frantic gunplay and realistic looking enemies earned it plenty of controversy as the gaming world got a taste of just how violent games could get. By modern standards of course, the game seems anything but realistic, but for those of us who fell under the games spell originally, the chance to Doom ourselves again is just too good to miss.
Playing Doom on modern PCs
To play Doom on a modern PC you need two things. Firstly, you need a way to run the Doom game engine on your modern PC. Secondly, you need some WAD files. These are the level files from either Doom, Doom 2 or perhaps from a user created or special level pack. Finding the WAD files should be easy. If you have an original CD copy of the game, you can find them on your game disc. If not, you can still buy Doom and Doom 2 from popular digital download services such as Steam.
Deciding how to run the Doom game engine is a little more tricky. The enduring legacy of Doom means that there are dozens of ways you can go about playing the classic title on your modern PC. ZDoom, GZDoom, Skulltag and Odamex are just a handful of Doom game engines that have been updated for modern PCs. These replacement game engines bring Doom to your modern PC with a host of enhancements that wouldn’t have been possible on the PCs of the early 1990s. Of course, if you want to play the game just like it was back in the day, you could also use DOSBox. There’s no right or wrong way to go shotgun a demon, but in this article we will be focusing on a program called Zandronum.
We chose Zandronum for this article since it is still actively developed and has excellent support for multiplayer matches. You can download the latest build of Zandronum here. Be sure to select the “Installer (Bundled with Doomseeker)” link. Once the download has completed, double click on the file or choose “Open” or “Run” from your browsers download manager. This will start the installation process. Once installation is complete, it is simply a matter of copying the WAD files to your hard drive.
Look at my WAD
Using WAD files with Zandronum is pretty easy. If you’re looking to play an original copy of the game, simply insert the CD-ROM (or even the floppy disks if you can find a suitable floppy drive) into your computer. Now, create a new folder anywhere on your computer and simply copy the entire contents of your original game disc(s) to the folder. Repeat the process for each version of Doom or Doom 2 you want to install. Make a note of where these directories are as we will need to tell Zandronum where to find these files later.
If you purchased Doom from a service like Steam, the WAD files will already be on your hard drive as soon as you install the game, you simply need to figure out where. By default Steam games are installed to “C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\SteamApps\common”.
Depending on how old your WAD files are, you may need to patch them before you play. If you are trying to play Doom 2, the Ultimate Doom CD-ROM or the Steam version of Doom you do not need to do this as your WAD files will already be up to date. If you have an earlier copy of the game however, patching may be necessary, but don’t worry the process is very straightforward.
To patch a WAD file, first download the Java IWAD Patcher program here. The file is downloaded as a zipped folder, so simply extract the contents to any folder on your system once it has downloaded. IWAD Patcher is a Java program and so you will need to have Java installed on your PC in order to run it. You can get Java here if you don’t have it already. To use the WAD patcher, simply click on the “JIWadPatcher” file. A small window will then appear.
Click on “Choose an IWAD and patch it” then simply browse to your WAD file. If the file needs patching the program will go ahead and patch it, otherwise it will let you know that no patching is necessary.
The first time you start Zandronum, the window shown below will appear.
Simply click on “Browse…” and browse to the directory where you copied your Doom WAD files. Zandronum will automatically detect the correct files and then start.
If you ever need to add additional WAD files (for instance, if you want to add Doom 2 as well as the first Doom) you will need to edit a file within the Zandronum directory. The file will be called zandronum-(username).ini, where “username” is your account name. Open this file in Notepad or your preferred text editor and find the section beginning “[IWADSearch.Directories]”. This should be right at the top of the file. Below the last line beginning “Path=” add a new line. On this line enter “Path=” and then type the path to your Doom WAD directory (do not type the quotation marks). So for instance the line might read “Path=D:\Games\DOOM” if your DOOM WAD was copied to “D:\Games\DOOM”. If you’re unfamiliar with editing files like this, see this tutorial.
If you have several WAD directories, Zandronum will ask you which one to load each time you start the program.
Tweaking visual quality
Zandronum has dozens of options for improving the visual quality of Doom, choosing which options to use often comes down to a matter of taste. Start the program and from the main menu, use the arrow keys and enter to choose “Options”. First of all you should choose a video mode, so move down to “Set Video Mode” and press enter. There are several options to configure on this screen. If you are using a widescreen monitor, make sure that “Aspect Ratio” is set to “16:9”. Renderer should be set to “OpenGL”. Naturally, for the most immersive gameplay the “Fullscreen” setting should be set to “Yes”, though you may want to set it to “No” for now while you follow this guide.
For the best image quality, you should choose your displays native resolution. For 1080p displays, for instance, that is 1920×1080. Choose this from the list of modes at the bottom of the screen and then press enter. Press the escape key when you are done configuring these options.
Before you go any further, exploring the rest of the settings we talk about here should be considered an optional step. If you’re the kind of person that baulks at the idea of wading through settings menus and options then simply jump down to the “Tweaking sound quality” section of this guide. The rest of the visual settings will only make a minimal difference to the game anyway.
For those of you who do want to tweak, your next port of call is the “Display Options”. There are a mind boggling number of options available here, so we’ll just look at a few that affect visual quality. Our recommendations here should be considered guidelines only, you may need to dial back some of these settings if your PC does not run the game smoothly.
Rocket Trails, Blood Type and Bullet Puff Type – For these settings you can choose between “Sprites” and “Particles” (or both in some cases). Sprites are generally more detailed, so choose “Sprites” or “Sprites and Particles” if your PC is relatively modern.
Stretch Short Skies – Leave this On. Without it the sky textures may not repeat properly on high resolution modes, this effect can actually cause motion sickness.
Cap Framerate – On very fast PCs this may be necessary if the game doesn’t appear to run smoothly.
Once you have configured these settings, there are even more visual quality settings on the “OpenGL Options” menu. Select this menu and you can configure the following options.
Vertical Sync – Turn this ON to eliminate screen tearing
Rendering Quality – Set to “Quality” for best results
Dynamic Light Options – For best quality, turn on all the sub-menu items under “Dynamic Light Options” except for “Force Additive Lighting”.
Texture Options – Textures should be enabled. For best quality, set the filtering mode to “Trilinear”. “Anisotropic filtering” should be set to 16X and “Enable Hires Textures” should be set to “Yes”. “High Quality Resize Mode” can be set to taste, each of the filters available here will have a subtly different effect on the textures. “Resize Textures”, “Resize Sprites” and “Resize Fonts” can all be set to “On”.
Shader Options – Again, turning all these options on is theoretically the best option for highest visual quality. Using “Shaders for Fog” can have a detrimental effect on sprites when standing close to them however, so you might want to keep this one turned off.
Preferences – As you might expect, these are settings that can be set to taste, rather than there being a right or wrong setting for best quality. Experiment and see what you like best.
Finally, before you leave the Display Options menu, you might want to go into the “HUD Options” sub-menu. Doom originally had a HUD (heads up display) at the bottom of the screen which showed you your health, ammo and various other settings. If you cannot see this while playing, try reducing the “Screen Size” option down by one notch, it should then appear. Other options on this menu can be set to taste.
Tweaking sound quality
Sound options can be configured by going to the “Options” menu and then choosing “Sound Options”. Settings such as volume can obviously be set to taste, but make sure you set “Output Format” to “32-Bit” for the best possible quality. “Speaker Mode” should be set to match whatever speaker setup you currently have. Change it to 5.1 or 7.1 if you have a surround sound system, for instance.
With sound and visual options tweaked to taste, you are finally ready to fight the forces of hell. Good luck marine, we’re counting on you.
Playing Multiplayer with Zandronum is very easy. Most servers will require you to have Doom 2 in order to play online. Simply start “Play Zandronum (online)” from the Start menu or Start screen. A “Doomseeker” window will then appear with a list of servers you can connect to. Such is the enduring popularity of Doom that there are usually opponents online to play against any time of day. Choose a server close to you geographically for best results, then right click on the server and choose “Join”. If everything goes smoothly you’ll shortly be duking it out in the arena. If not, try again and choose a different server.
Problems saving games or configuration settings:- Zandronum saves its game data into the same folder as the program itself. In some instances on more modern versions of Windows, this will mean that save games and configuration files cannot be written. To solve this problem you can either run the program as administrator (right click on the games icon and choose “Run as administrator”) or, better still, set the permissions on your Zandronum game folder so that your user account has full control. You can find a tutorial on how to configure folder permissions here.