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Thursday, July 18, 2024

This site lets you play any Doom WAD file just like that

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One of the classic PC meta-games has always been, “Will it run?” I’ve got some decent kit nowadays but in the mid-2000s all of my PC gaming was done on a crappy laptop with integrated graphics, and I either played ’90s classics or, every so often, would try something contemporary and watch the poor thing sputter through some 5FPS slideshow. Hell this thing could barely run Quake, but optimism sprang eternal.

Which is why I retain a kind of childish amazement at seeing the technical behemoths of yesteryear effortlessly recreated on contemporary tech: a recent favourite was Doom on a fridge. But there’s Doom on everything now, heck it’s even in your kids’ Hallowe’en candy, and so now we’re getting meta with a website that has a name straight out of the ’90s: WAD Commander.

According to legend, WAD is an acrostic for “Where’s all the data?” It’s the file format used by Doom and all games that use the Doom engine, and since time immemorial has been the mechanism by which Doom modders distribute their work and players get hold of it. Even Doom co-creator John Romero still pops up every so often with a new WAD file.

You did this by heading to one of the many Doom WAD depositories on the internet, downloading what you wanted, and depending on the client you were using either loading up the WAD directly or inserting it in the appropriate directory. Using WADs was never difficult, but WAD Commander simply removes the download and all the busywork.

Seriously: you just go to the site, drop your WAD on it (sorry), and after a few seconds’ loading you’re off. This is a dream (if you just want to check the site out, it will auto-run certain popular shareware versions of Doom), and should definitely not be passed around the office with a big list of great Doom WADs like Brutal Minecraft, and certainly don’t share the one that lets you have sex with the demons (NSFL!).

WAD Commander is one of those things it would be easy to be blase about. But looking at how simple it makes a process that once seemed like dark magic, I’m left in a kind of minor awe. Doom’s ongoing afterlife is something to behold, and creations like this are one of the things that keep it feeling vital.

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