For many gamers of a certain age, the first experience they had with a first-person shooter was the iconic game Doom from iD Software. Graphics and game developer Sylvian Lefebvrehas designed a device called the "Doom-Chip" with the sole purpose of running the first level of Doom. Lefebvre said in a tweet announcing his creation that it would run "E1M1 till the end of times" or until it runs out of power.
Lefebvre was able to get the game running on an Altera Cyclone FPGA board. The feat means that the first level of the classic shooter is embedded directly in hardware rather than being software as gamers remember it. The developer said in the tweet that the algorithm is burned into wires, LUTs, and flip-flops. Doom-Chip needs no CPU, opcodes, or instruction counter.
The DooM-chip! It will run E1M1 till the end of times (or till power runs out, whichever comes first).
Algorithm is burned into wires, LUTs and flip-flops on an #FPGA: no CPU, no opcodes, no instruction counter.
Running on Altera CycloneV + SDRAM. (1/n) pic.twitter.com/wd7j4JnfWn
— Sylvain Lefebvre (@sylefeb) May 8, 2020
Lefebvre did have to use some code to get Doom playing on the hardware using a hardware description language called Verilog. The lines of code required to make the hardware device work totaled 666, which is appropriate considering Doom is a game about fighting demons. As cool as this project sounds, there are caveats.
The most significant caveat is that there are no monsters or shooting in Lefebvre's hardware creation. That means there is no nostalgic play with this hardware implementation. It is interesting to see someone get the first level running on hardware alone. As for why Lefebvre wanted to build the project, he said that Doom was released when he was first learning to code, and the game was an inspiration. He spent "countless hours" making levels and hacking the game.
The project uses original source code for Doom along with other resources, including the Doom Game Engine Black Book and Unofficial Doom Specs v1.666. It's interesting that the core level environment from the original Doom game could be embedded in hardware while the latest game in the franchise, Doom Eternal, can bring gaming a PC with modern hardware to its knees. Fans of Doom Eternal trying to get the best gameplay and graphics from their PC should check out our Doom Eternal optimization tips.