Doom (lost reference photographs for first-person shooter game cover art; 1993)

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Doom's cover art.

Status: Lost

Doom is a first-person shooter game developed and published by id Software. Originally released in December 1993 for the MS-DOS, the game has since been declared as among the best and most revolutionary titles in gaming history, with numerous ports and sequels subsequently produced. One aspect for Doom's commercial success was its cover art illustrated by Don Ivan Punchatz, which showcased the protagonist, Doomguy, holding his own against a relentless horde of demons. In July 2017, id Software co-founder, designer and programmer John Romero revealed that the cover art's lead portion was based on a series of reference photographs featuring him as Doomguy.


Following the release of Wolfenstein 3D, id Software began developing Doom, which would harness the cutting-edge Doom engine.[1] Months before the game's release in December 1993, Don Ivan Punchatz was brought in to illustrate the cover art.[2][3][4] The artwork shows Doomguy on top of high ground providing significant resistance against several enemies not too dissimilar to the Barons of Hell.[5] Doomguy is seen killing one demon with a chaingun, but is baring the scars on his exposed torso and left leg. One demon has grabbed Doom Guy's right arm, while another from behind attempts to latch onto his left leg. Another demon launches a fireball, as others begin to swoop in from afar. An unidentified second Marine can be seen presumably offering assistance.[2]

The cover art has been hailed as among the most iconic in gaming history, and certainly contributed towards Doom's critical and commercial success.[2][4] GameSpy would place it second among the Top 10 Best Box Arts, behind only the NES cover of Ninja Gaiden.[2] Interestingly, the artwork's size meant that significant cropping and other alterations were required to properly fit the MS-DOS and later SNES game boxes.[6] This led some Doom fans to seek out the clean version of the cover. Harnessing a canvas print sold at Bethesda's European Union merchandise website, Doom World user Revenant100 was able to produce a high-resolution clean variant of the famous cover art. Not only does it fully showcase all nine demons, but it also reveals the battle occurred during a night sky.[6]

Reference Photographs

By mid-1993, significant work was still being undertaken in Doom's development.[1] Whereas artists Adrian Carmack and Kevin Cloud were busy working on the game's textures, designer and programmer John Romero welcomed Punchatz into id Software's offices in Dallas, Texas.[3][4] Punchatz was tasked to create the box art; to provide useful references for the cover's lead portion, he brought along a male body model to portray Doomguy in a series of poses. Romero and other id employees assisted by constructing a prop Plasma Gun for the model to pose with, and explained they wanted him to depict the Marine firing down from a hill against an infinite horde of demons. For reasons unclear, the model opted to remove his shirt for the poses. Alas, despite the model's enthusiasm, the initial ten-minute photoshoot proved underwhelming. Romero explained that the model's gun poses simply failed to produce the required cool factor. Despite frequently instructing the model on what he wanted for the cover, the model simply could not visually replicate it, frustrating Romero considerably.[3][4]

Romero soon realised that if he could not verbally describe his desired scene, he could surely visually display it. Thus, he inexplicably also took his shirt off and replaced the model, altering the gun placement and proclaiming that "This is what I'm talking about!" when it came to the proposed scene. Punchatz agreed, taking several photos in quick succession. While demoted, the model still fulfilled the critical role of a demon grabbing onto Doomguy. After some gun placement changes, and having the model grab Romero's leg and arms, Punchatz eventually settled on a photo showing the model grabbing Romero's right arm, deeming, with consensus reached that it was the best pose.[3][4] Punchatz soon produced the famous cover art, and later also provided a Doom illustration for Electronic Gaming Monthly.[7]


Romero originally provided the story behind the reference photographs in July 2017.[3][4] Despite providing extensive detail, he ultimately decided not to upload any photos from the shoot to either his website or on Twitter. While some news websites like Ars Technica reportedly contacted Romero for the photographs, as of the present day they remain publicly unavailable.[4] It is unclear whether Romero and/or id Software even still retain possession of the photographs. Nevertheless, if Romero does still have access, there is a strong chance the photographs may publicly surface, especially as Romero has previously uploaded unseen art from the game. This included team photographs and Doom art in December 2014, to mark the 21st anniversary of the game's release.[8]

See Also

External Links