Once upon a time, more than a decade ago in fact, id Software was SUPER interested in the iPhone market. Well to be fair, this was mostly due to John Carmack being a huge fan of the iPhone and tinkering around with developing for it, which led to excellent touchscreen-capable ports of Wolfenstein 3D and DOOM. But those ports sold rather well and that led to id creating a couple of mobile-exclusive titles, the on-rails shooter Doom Resurrection which was an original spinoff of their classic series, and RAGE: Mutant Bash TV which was a spinoff of their about to be released console and PC first-person shooter RAGE. Yes, those early years of the iPhone and the App Store were great for id Software and its fans, but when John Carmack left id for Oculus in 2013 it seemed the company’s passion for developing games for mobile left with him. Here’s an OLD video of us playing DOOM when it first arrived on the iPhone way back in 2009.
Sadly this means we never got any more id Software games on mobile, not even ports of their older games, which is a real shame as Carmack at one point had indicated a Quake mobile port was basically finished and ready to go but it never saw the light of day. Worse still is that there was nobody actively maintaining the games that id Software HAD put out on the App Store, and once the 32-bit Appocalypse rolled around, well, that’s all she wrote for those games as they no longer worked on modern devices. My heart weeps just thinking about it.
Anyway, I’m not the only one saddened by the fate of id’s mobile games, as mobile developer by day and hobbyist mobile developer by night Tom Kidd was also feeling the pains of losing these great ports. But unlike me who just sits around and sulks, Kidd decided to do something about it and last year took it upon himself to dig into the open-sourced iPhone version of Wolfenstein 3D to see if he could get it up and running. He totally did and, at the same time, decided to tackle DOOM while he was at it. Not long after getting both to play nice on iOS 11 devices, Kidd also figured out how to get them to work on an Apple TV. Here’s his tvOS port of DOOM running on an Apple TV.
Enjoying the process of figuring out how to fix these old games, Kidd then began to wonder if he’d be able to get a game that hadn’t already been ported to mobile, Quake, running on an iPhone. And as he says “it just sort of snowballed from there." So far Kidd has Wolfenstein 3D, DOOM, DOOM II, Final DOOM, Quake, Quake II, Quake III: Arena, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and DOOM 3 all up and running on iOS 11 devices and the Apple TV. Well, all except DOOM 3 which currently isn’t playing nice with the Apple TV, but DOES in fact run just fine on an iPhone. Here’s a lengthy video of DOOM 3 being played on an iPhone using an MFi controller, followed by a much shorter video showing Return to Castle Wolfenstein being played on an iPhone using an MFi controller.
Are you drooling yet? If you check out Kidd’s YouTube channel, you can find many more videos of pretty much all the titles listed above running on both iPhone and Apple TV, and all of them have full MFi controller support. It’s important to point out that while Kidd has done much of this legwork on his own, he’s also benefited from work others have done over the years on these open-sourced id Software games, so this has truly been a community type of effort. But it was Kidd who really nailed down versions specifically for iOS 11 and tvOS, and in the case of Return to Castle Wolfenstein and DOOM 3, I believe this is the first time either of those have been ported to mobile in any form. It’s really impressive stuff.
So what does this all mean? Well, that’s the tricky part. While the game engines that run all of these games are open sourced, the games themselves are not. There is no way for Kidd or anyone to release official App Store versions of these ports without id Software and especially its parent company ZeniMax swinging their legal hammer of justice. At this time Kidd has provided working versions of all these games for both iOS and tvOS, MINUS the actual game files themselves, on GitHub, and you can find links to them as well as a TON of information about each of these ports on Kidd’s website. So technically if you have a Mac, a copy of Xcode, an Apple Developer account (even just a free version), and the correct game files from legally owned copies of each of these game, then you can compile his work and get it up and running on your iOS device or Apple TV.
Realistically though, not everyone is going to want to or even be capable of going through that type of process to play these games. What we really need are for these ports to become official. Similar to what happened when Christian Whitehead began a proof of concept port of Sonic CD for iPhone way back when and SEGA officially got on board, which brought forth the fantastic remastered versions of Sonic 1, 2, and CD as well as the wholly original new entry Sonic Mania. A similar situation brought us the iPhone port of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 many years back, as a hobbyist ported the game to iPhone just for fun and Activision caught wind of it and decided to put it out on the App Store officially. Wouldn’t it be amazing if ZeniMax/Bethesda/id Software decided to do the same thing with these ports Tom Kidd has spent the last year putting together? Wouldn’t that be GRAND?
Our best shot of doing that is to make as much noise as possible so that the powers that be can see that there’s an interest in this sort of thing, and that even though mobile might be small potatoes compared to everything else they’re doing on console and PC, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth investing a little time into. Share this article far and wide, tweet at Bethesda and id Software, send carrier pigeons and smoke signals, do whatever it takes to get them to notice and then cross your fingers that someday these fantastic mobile versions of some of gaming’s all-time classics will officially make their way to our iOS and Apple TV devices.