A decade is an eternity in technology. When Doom 3 released in 2004, Twitter didn’t exist, there were no YouTube celebrities, and Apple had yet to invent the iPhone. In the 11 years since, Activision has released 19 Call of Duty games, the motion-gaming fad has come and gone, and console dominance has shifted from PlayStation to Xbox and back to PlayStation again. But some things are timeless, and regardless of era, seem comfortable in their own skin. Count Doom among those rarities.The first-person shooter credited for popularizing the genre, Doom introduced many gamers to shareware, 3D environments, modding, and multiplayer deathmatches when it released in 1993. The breakneck pace of its combat, the colorful enemies, and explosive gunplay all left an indelible impression on gamers, becoming so popular that it was estimated to be installed on more computers than the Windows 95 operating system in late 1995. Mothers and politicians raged against the ultraviolence, yet the game’s allure was undeniable. But with only three numbered entries in the 22 years since its debut, it holds a unique position in the genre it started. Few first-person shooters today play like Doom, having grown in new directions by introducing more tactical gameplay, creating open worlds, or focusing solely on multiplayer.
As we sit down in the new Richardson, Texas headquarters of id Software, it’s clear much has changed at the studio in the last 11 years as well. The fiercely independent company joined the Bethesda family in 2009. Legendary programmer John Carmack joined fellow founders John Romero, Tom Hall, and Adrian Carmack among the ranks of id alumni, leaving the studio to pursue his interest in virtual reality technology by joining Oculus. While the founders may be gone, Doom still carries forward. After playing extended sessions of the rebuilt singleplayer and multiplayer, it’s clear this game preserves all the signature elements of the original, while modernizing the long-dormant franchise with best-in-class graphics and a new user-generated content system unlike anything the studio has attempted before. Doom is back, and after 11 years away, it looks poised to shake up the first-person shooter scene it put on the map.
JUMPING BACK INTO THE FRAY
When a game franchise takes this long between releases, the first question that naturally arises is, “What took so long?” With Doom, it’s complicated. In the years after Doom 3 launched to strong sales and critical acclaim, id Software began working on the follow-up while also creating a new game called Rage. Once Rage shipped in 2011, the company focus shifted back to its most renowned franchise. But development had its hiccups, and when the studio took a step back two years later, it realized the game just “wasn’t Doom enough.” Rather than resuscitate the project, id and Bethesda agreed to scrap it altogether and start anew. The reboot began in earnest in 2013 with a team led by Marty Stratton, a former Activision QA tester who worked his way up to the game-director role over the course of his 16 years working with id Software. Stratton assembled a team with a healthy mix of id veterans who have been with the studio for decades and new talent. Their first goal? Agree on a new tone. In the early 2000s, id Software shifted the tone of its big franchises. Both Doom 3 and the Raven Software-developed 2009 Wolfenstein embraced a serious, moody aesthetic driven by atmospheric environments, leaving the comicbook sensibility and sense of humor found in the early titles by the wayside. This decision became a focal point of the reboot conversations. “When we started talking about it we asked, ‘What are we going to be inspired by?’” Stratton recalls. “Are we going to be inspired by Doom 3 and the more modern Wolfenstein games, or are we going to be inspired by Doom and Doom II? What do we feel like a new Doom should feel like and what should the attitude be? We all just kind of gravitated to that original feel.”Not only does the freewheeling combat vibe of the original play differently than Doom 3, it also feels unique in today’s shooter landscape. Outside of occasional releases like Painkiller and Bulletstorm, the majority of shooters (think Call of Duty, Battlefield, Gears of War) opt for uber-serious military campaigns about saving the world from doomsday scenarios. Not this new Doom. “Our mantra for this game is ‘make it fun,’” says creative director Hugo Martin. “We try not to take ourselves too seriously. We’re not a campy game, but we’re not a serious spaceopera game either. We’re sort of in the middle.” This back-to-the-basics approach wowed fans when id took the veil off the reboot at Bethesda’s E3 press conference last year. The crowd laughed delightfully at the over-thetop gore and cheered the explosive combat. The action felt completely in sync with the original, yet had a modern sheen that made Doom look new again. Leaving the impressive demo, many wondered aloud if id could sustain that breakneck pace of combat over the course of an entire campaign, or if it would eventually succumb to repetition.
CRASHING THE DEMON PARTY