With Wolfenstein 3D celebrating its 20th anniversary this month, it’s fitting — if unexpected — to see a nearly 30-minute developer commentary track from industry legend John Carmack exploring his memories and recollections from the early days of id Software. Despite the march of time and technology since the game’s 1992 release, you can’t help but be charmed by the man’s enthusiasm for his early days in the industry.
As Carmack explains it, Wolfenstein 3D represents the “Wild West” days of development at id Software. You can hear in his voice his love of reliving those exciting times for the studio: A day and age where they were still “figuring it all out.” Back in 1992, id was a young studio in its prime, blazing a trail for the industry and the shooter genre the likes of which no one had seen before. Their work took center stage when it came to the cutting edge of gaming and controversy. They became an inseparable icon of PC gaming in the ’90s.
Times have changed, and in a lot of ways id’s reputation and clout have changed with it. In today’s world, the company is no longer seen as the alpha dog when it comes to shooters, an arrangement that upset their relationship with their previous publisher, Activision. If anything, their near-absence from the industry outside of last year’s Rage has relegated them to the back of the pack, with franchises like Halo and Call of Duty stepping up to define modern-day standards for shooters. Id may have created Wolfenstein and its even more notable follow-up Doom, but the two properties seem to exist as little more than reference points in today’s conversations about shooters.
After something of a fan revolt in response to Rage, and with constant mixed reports of whether“Doom 4″ is a troubled production or not, the future of id Software may rest very firmly on whether their next release can make them a relevant force in the market again. It’s great to hear Carmack talk about the glory days of old, and no one can understate the importance and influence id Software has had on gaming. It’s just surprising that one of the industry’s most iconic studios has turned into an underdog in the very genre it helped to create.