How the New ‘DOOM’ Remixes the Classic Shooter for Modern Gamers

Made possible by Bethesda: As part of VICE Gaming's DOOM Week, we speak to id Software's Marty Stratton about rebooting a true gaming icon.
May 11, 2016, 8:00am

All screens courtesy of Bethesda

This article is part of DOOM Week on VICE Gaming, exploring the legendary 1993 title and its 2016 counterpart, released on May the 13th, and the wider world of shooters. This content is made possible by Bethesda.

DOOM is back, rebooted and switched up and quite possibly prepared to tear you a new one. Certainly, there'll be blood – though hopefully more of it from them than you, oh new recruit in this odds-stacked battle against the demonic hordes of Hell.

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If you played DOOM back in the 1990s, or its sequel, then you know roughly what to expect from id Software's imminent return to the game that made its name. This is fast. This is loud. This is brutal. This really is DOOM. Of course, it's not just an exercise in revivalism – its makers have worked hard to modernise the mayhem of what plays out on screen, and today's hardware ensures that, visually, it's a veritable symphony of violence (whether you approve or not).

The game wasn't always like this, though – what we see today, or rather what we will see once the game's released on May the 13th, is a very different beast from the game that was coming together, under the working title of DOOM 4. That game was canned in 2013, for reasons that the new title's game director Marty Stratton, executive producer at id, explains below.

VICE: Why press the reset button on DOOM, as a series, rather than pursue what was to be DOOM 4? Did you feel the third game had run itself into something of a narrative corner, leaving a fourth with no room to grow?

Marty Stratton: So we have this kind of motto that we use, when developing what we want to release, where we just never take ourselves too seriously. We take the brand seriously, and the opportunity to work on this very seriously – it all means a great amount to a lot of people at id. But the DOOM games of the past, they never really took themselves that seriously. They were very bombastic and over the top, with a lot of humour in there. So where we were just before we rebooted this game, in 2013, that was a more serious approach to DOOM. And that's probably why we felt it had to change. When we looked at it, it didn't feel like the game we needed to be using as the basis of the DOOM series, moving forwards.

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We asked ourselves: "What is DOOM?" That generated a massive amount of conversation, and ideas, and we landed at this feeling, this attitude and personality of the original DOOM, and as developers, that was the kind of game we wanted to make. But obviously we had to make it for a modern audience. So what I'm happy about, and most excited about, is seeing people play the game for the first time and tell me: "This feels like DOOM." There's a familiarity there, and a lot of winks and nods to the 1993 game, homages for those who are familiar with it. At the same time, it's fresh enough to mix it up with the modern crop of shooters. We started with the mechanics, and the style – movement and the way enemies use projectiles – that feel of combat; and then visually, the attitude and the personality comes through, in the violence and the gore. It all comes together to feel like DOOM, but with a modern freshness. I hope that players feel that way, amongst all these other experiences they have to choose from.

You mention the speed and these tenets that we all took away from the first game, but also this modern audience that you need to be speaking to. To me, that sounds a lot like two very different audiences, which a single game might not be able to typically appeal to. So what level of research has gone into making sure that even total DOOM beginners are getting sucked into this?

Well, we've had three years of development, with all kinds of micro-decisions made along the way, and we've been looking at other games and seeing what makes those fun at the same time as remembering what made DOOM fun the first time. I would say that we've taken these core tenets from DOOM, and while we've not duplicated them exactly, they're in there. Like, you don't reload your gun. You didn't in the first game, and you don't in this one. That's a fundamental thing. But in all respects, this has been about seeing how the player feels, and how they felt then. And if they can see the connection between this game and the original, then we're on the right track.

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And then we add a whole lot of stuff to make things modern. There are weapon mods, which can be upgraded, and that was never in DOOM. So having cooler, more badass weapons that do more stuff, that can work for this DOOM, and it's fun. There are perks that will suit certain play styles, and that's something that we couldn't have done on the first game. If we do those things but with the original spirit of DOOM, then we'll go for it.

'DOOM', launch trailer

The original DOOM multiplayer mode was four-player deathmatch on single-player levels. As much as some people might want that again, it's not an experience today. Well, you can do exactly that in (the user-generated mode of) SnapMap, actually. We have deathmatch mode for four players in that, and it feels exactly like the original DOOM. You can take that to outlandish levels, and there will be hundreds, thousands of levels that you can play like that. But the multiplayer approach for this DOOM was very much about finding that simple essence that informed the original. That was fun off the bat, not particularly complicated, and I think that's evident in our multiplayer. As we've gone through alphas and betas, people have found it very approachable. There's definitely a skill ramp to it, but you can jump in and be competitive off the bat. And a focus on fun was there from the start.

We give you a lot of opportunities in DOOM to be competitive, out of the gate. And there's still a skill ramp – you can get better, or just have fun across the game modes. I don't think people really got into all the nuances of the multiplayer during its alpha and beta stages, because they were such limited time periods. When you start to get into how things like our Hack Modules work, and how you can combine them with equipment, or weapons, there's depth there which is ready to be figured out.

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"I don't think people come to DOOM for a bunch of cutscenes. You come to blow shit up, and kill demons."

Outside of the multiplayer, plenty of people are going to be checking out DOOM alone, in the single-player campaign. There was never a great deal of story to DOOM, back in 1993, so can you elaborate on what a solo player will see?

We've not taken the same approach that MachineGames did with rebooting Wolfenstein, with The New Order. They really got into the story, and did a great job of it, and that works really well with that franchise. But with DOOM, I don't think people come to it for a bunch of cutscenes. You come to blow shit up, and kill demons. But at the same time, we've got more lore, more backstory, and all of these juicy nuggets – that's what we call them – that people can just grab hold of. But we do that through a lot of environment storytelling, and you can find these codex entries that give you information about what's been going on, and information about who you are, the invasion, and what the demons are all about. So if you want that detail, and you want to dive into it, it's there. But we try not to force-feed players, because our focus is on this high-action, super fun combat against demons.

I really think that we've created something that people with fond memories of DOOM, that knows what DOOM feels like; I think they'll play our campaign and be "back there". But also, I hope they'll feel something new, in how there's so much verticality in the combat spaces, and in the way you switch weapons. There are just so many new aspects in there, but all contained within this framework that feels like DOOM.

Related, on Motherboard: Watch This Incredibly Violent 'DOOM' Claymation

The violence, Marty. We need to talk about the violence. When DOOM, your DOOM, was shown at E3 in 2015, some people got very upset about how gory and violent it was.

It's part of the DNA of the game, and the thing I find… Well, I don't know if "funny" is the right word, but for people to react so extremely to the violence, which is totally over the top, it's fascinating. Because these are demons. Like, you just slit the throat of this big, pink demon. It's funny when it happens, it's bombastic, and very comic book-like. I find it funny, and interesting, that someone would criticise the violence in DOOM, but be okay with games where you mow through hundreds, or thousands, of humans.

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But look, everyone has their own sensibilities. Violence is a big part of this game, and we embrace it. Our approach has always to keep it in this all-for-good-fun sort of framing, so that you're laughing at the violence as much as anything. You shouldn't be cringing at it. It's never overly serious.

This new DOOM has been a long time coming. Presumably this isn't "it" for the franchise, and this game is to be the foundation for something more in the series?

You know, you can't work on a game like this without trying to keep that level of context. You never develop something this big without thinking about how it can continue on, what the next iteration of this stuff is. If you're doing things right, you get to the end of development, and you're already looking ahead to what you can do next. And that's absolutely happened here. Even when we were "resetting" things, that was important to me, because it meant we were better positioned to introduce whole new people to a DOOM game. We get to inform their understanding of DOOM, moving forwards. And that's something that's really cool about this.

Get more information on DOOM at the game's official website.

@MikeDiver

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