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The Core Elements of Doom That Should be Retained in id Software's DOOM Reimagining
Post by Dan @ 12:03pm 23/07/14 | Comments
Originally announced as Doom 4 back in 2008 and reportedly restarted from scratch again in 2011, id Software’s long awaited sequel is now just titled DOOM, and promises to be a “reimagining” of the classic 1990s games that helped spawn the first-person shooter genre.

Publisher Bethesda offered the first look at the game at QuakeCon 2014 last week, and amazingly appears to have kept a lid on any recorded footage from making its way out of the presentation, where attendees (including our own Nathan Lawrence) were treated to a 15-minute gameplay reveal.

The various accounts from the event seemed to describe a game that ticked a lot of the boxes for what I want from a new Doom game, and it got me thinking about other elements of the original games that I hope to see resurrected in spite of the trends set by many modern shooters. What are the key tenets of Doom 1 and 2 that should survive the jump into a contemporary game?

The last attempt, in 2004’s Doom 3 arguably missed this mark for a lot of people, myself included. While the game was enjoyable in its own right, the overall experience was just too far removed from its predecessors. It showcased id Software’s prowess in rendering tech, and was reasonably true to the themes and content of a Doom game, but just played too differently.

This time around, I don’t think that it’s as excusable to diverge from those roots. If Bethesda wants to revitalise the brand, it should do so with a fitting tribute to the games that started it all, with as little artistic license as possible.



Although the Texas-based studio has a highly regarded heritage, the current development team at id Software is effectively a wildcard, as since its 2009 acquisition by Bethesda parent company Zenimax Media, almost all of the key people that had a hand in Doom’s creations have now moved on. John Carmack’s surprise departure late last year saw the last founding member of the team out the door, which to the best of our knowledge, leaves only two guys that were around in the original Doom days -- creative director Tim Willits and lead artist Kevin Cloud.

The key creators of Doom’s themes and style -- the likes of John Romero, Sandy Peterson and Adrian Carmack -- are long gone, so license to stray too far from those foundation concepts in a reboot should be off limits. Rather than the new creative leads making it their own, I want to see a game that stays true to the fans, and emulates as much of that bright colour pallette, iconic imagery and demonic mythology as possible.

It was heartening then, to hear at least some of that being confirmed in the Quakecon reports. So with that in mind let’s explore the aspects we did hear about before laying out some others that we haven’t yet:
  • Fast pace:
    It’s hard to get a good gauge from the first hands accounts, but most attendees seemed satisfied with the play speed. The original Doom games played at a frantic pace: when roughly converted to real world units, the Doom marine runs at a speed of around 70km/h (even faster when at the side of a wall). Now, i don’t expect a new game to recreate this -- modern rendering constraints and other mechanics need to be considered -- but a sense of pace is absolutely critical for a faithful Doom game. Doom 3 was too slow, but the recent Shadow Warrior reboot was about right.

  • Demons, Sci-fi and Mars:
    Doom borrows a lot from old testament concepts of hell and Lovecraftian mythology, but ends up with something reasonably unique, and a gallery of iconic monsters that most old fans can name off the top of their heads. The blend of sci-fi technology and arcane hell-dimension fantasy offers such a bountiful narrative base that you have to wonder what the screenwriters of the 2005 live action Doom film were thinking when they decided to explain its creatures as a biological accident instead of demonic mysticism.

    The Mars locale perhaps isn’t as important, but if you’re remaking the first Doom then why not? The first games didn’t have a whole lot of story to begin with, so retaining everything they did -- starting on a Mars base, venturing into hell, defending a demon invasion of Earth -- can only help. You wouldn’t remake Total Recall and not set it on Mars would you? Oh :(

  • All the weapons:
    I don’t care if console controllers don’t have enough buttons, or if it doesn’t make sense that one marine can fit an entire arsenal in his backpack, I want all of them. Reports of a radial weapon-select UI suggest that the developers agree. A shotgun, double-barrelled shotgun, rocket launcher, plasma rifle and chainsaw were all noted from the presentation, so things are looking good in that regard.

  • Exploration and Abstract Level Design:
    While some elements of the old Doom games are looked back on as antiquated -- collect the yellow and the red keys for the yellow and the red doors -- they often don’t get enough credit for something they managed better than a lot of modern shooters: encouraging exploration.

    Many levels were designed like layered puzzles that worked in an almost metroidvania style progression of each map, where you would often be able to see the later goals near the start of the level, but not be able to access them until a sequence of triggers from all over had been activated. A computer area map would help you find the likely secret door, a radiation suit or an invulnerability powerup would allow you traverse a river of molten lava -- there was a lot more to it than coloured keys.

    Building the kind of fantastical contraptions required to set up these sequences in a modern game might be more difficult for designers that are trying to keep their environments looking like believable human structures, but once again, the demonic arcane element can be used here to justify fantastically distorted areas full of floating platforms, inexplicable switches, teleport pads and pneumatic elevators to nowhere. Doom 3’s most compelling gameplay took place in its later acts, when these kinds of abstractions started occurring.



  • Gore:
    Doom is violent so there’s no sense in toning it down for a PG rating. That said, I’d be happier to see it go in a more stylised direction, rather than shoot for the more realistic horror themes that Doom 3 delivered. Perhaps it wasn’t intentional in the original games, but by virtue of their low resolution and vibrant colour palette, the gore was more artistic flair than stomach turning.

    Sure, Doom and Doom 2 had walls made of writhing intestines, human skin and the screaming faces of trapped souls, rooms filled with dangling corpses, doors adorned with skulls and vital organs, and rivers, lakes, and fountains of blood, but they were punctuated by larger than life colours (vivid reds, blues, greens and stainless steel) and over-the-top expression that took the edge off in a similar way that a lot of Japanese anime does -- violence so gratuitous and unbelievable that it sheds a bit of seriousness. The finishing moves described in the Doom presentation suggest id might be going in the right direction this time.

If reports are to be believed, the above are all things that were potentially somewhat represented in the new Doom game as it was shown at Quakecon, so lets move on to those that we’re yet to hear anything about.

  • Multiplayer:
    Although “fast paced multiplayer” was reportedly referenced during the QuakeCon demo, only single-player demon slaying was on show, even with the crowd it was being shown to, that’s completely understandable for a first look, but Doom coined the term Deathmatch, and multiplayer was a key reason that the game is so fondly remembered by many that played it. The original Wolfenstein was a singleplayer game, so the absence of multiplayer in The New Order is absolutely fine, but Doom birthed both competitive and cooperative first person shooter gaming; multiplayer is essential.

    Doom 3 failed hard on multiplayer. That id’s first game after the widely acclaimed Quake 3 -- a sequel in a series fondly remember for its multiplayer carnage -- included such a limited multiplayer component defies comprehension. A four player cap and maps designed for small encounters made the whole affair seem like a complete afterthought. Despite community modding efforts to expand it, the lack of a solid foundation can largely be blamed for Doom 3’s failure to attract a meaningful player base. A new Doom needs to get this right from day one, which leads me to my next point.



  • Modability and an open server model:
    An unfortunate trend in the current multiplayer shooter landscape is the preference for a service model, where players are forced to connect into publisher-operated walled gardens to access the game, with no alternative. There are undoubtedly benefits to these services when you’re tracking persistent character progression in a game like Destiny with an MMO-like economy, and to a lesser extent, when you want to secure the integrity of your players’ unlocks in games like Call of Duty: Ghosts, Battlefield 4 and Titanfall, but such a restriction is antithetical to the modability of the classic Doom games.

    If the game is built to support community modification and players can run their own servers, then a new Doom game has the potential to flourish well beyond the scope of its launch state, just like its predecessors did. Despite modern publisher’s apparent preference to lock us all into their online services, games such as Minecraft clearly demonstrate that’s not the only option.

    Obviously console platforms and their additional layers of service lockdown don’t lend themselves to this, but Bethesda has a good track record with the modability of the Fallout and Elder Scrolls games on PC, so perhaps it’s not a completely unrealistic hope.

  • Heavy Metal Music:
    Lastly, this one might be more personal preference, but something sorely lacking from Doom 3 was a rocking soundtrack. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the Tool-esque intro track by Tweaker, but the game’s ambiance had more in common with Quake’s industrial Nine Inch Nails soundtrack than Doom’s memorable thrash metal-derived midi tunes.

    I’m not saying that I want a new Doom game to have midi tunes, nor the Metallica, Slayer and Alice in Chains etc songs they were so shamelessly derived from, but rather some original modern instrumental guitar-driven recordings that capture the same kind of catchy pace and melody.

    The recent Rise of the Triad remake, showed how appropriate these kind of tunes can still be a game, and the composer for that game, Andrew Hulshult, actually recorded some fantastic Doom music remakes in his spare time that are precisely the kind of thing I’m talking about. If that would be too repetitive for a modern audience, then even just having some tunes like that at key climactic moments in the game, and more ambient stuff for the rest would be a good compromise.



Perhaps your own nostalgic interpretation of the pixelly old games diverge from mine, and maybe the perspective of the current developers at id Software does too, but these are all things that would define a Doom game for me.

Then of course, they’re also just baseline tenets. It’s not 1994 anymore, so we’re really should expect some serious innovation from the once great studio that needs to prove itself all over again. With Rage, id maintained its position at the forefront of rendering technology, and even with John Carmack’s departure, there’s no reason to assume they’ll stop pushing boundaries there, but a good game needs more than just a pretty face and low-latency controls. If id and Bethesda want to respectfully renovate this fondly remembered franchise they’re going to need to pull out all the stops, and hopefully that includes retaining many of these things that were so great about classic Doom and Doom 2.



Latest Comments
Zy
Posted 04:50pm 23/7/14
I never played multiplayer for Doom, I figure nothing compares with Quake anyway.

So for me:
Atmosphere
Easy to kill enemies (for the lulz)
Really hard to kill enemies (for the stress)
Intense sound effects
No boring story of Doom 3, just "you're a lone survivor, good luck not dying as you try to escape this chaos, ps here are some awesome guns"
Reverend Evil
Posted 05:06pm 23/7/14
I loved the first couple of Doom games but after the 3rd I think I'll wait for a TB preview.
deadlyf
Posted 06:25pm 23/7/14
Needs to be around 2 decades old.
fpot
Posted 07:00pm 23/7/14
A double-barreled shotgun.

Arch-Viles.

Co-op. If it doesn't have co-op it can f*** right off.

More later.
tvcars
Posted 07:04pm 23/7/14
1. Crowd control gameplay. Lots of big and small guys to fight simultaneously.
2. Dynamic gore, colourful and fluid. Smoking-flaming-flying appendages always impress in violent games. Preferably with smoke trails.
3. Reasonably level maps, less climbing up ladders and stairs
4. Constantly moving, no hide and seek.
5. Lots of boss battles.
6. Terror sounds, horror. Bone chilling.
7. Long gameplay, loads of maps to play.
8. Lava pits, demons, the feeling of being pitted against everything at once.

This lists what I prefer in my FPS's and I know the original doom1/2 didn't have some of them but the world has moved on since. Games do need a tempo, a way to keep the player alert. Having hosted and admin'd a lot of l4d2 games I think that players enjoy dynamics, craziness, and being overwhelmed by hoards. I get a lot of compliments from players for the changes I've made to games, so I'm pretty sure I'm right about a lot of these things. But you can't please everyone. Unfortunately, about 1/4 to 1/3 of players just leave when it gets a bit too silly. So I'm guessing that being believable doesn't just count for a lot for a large chunk of players but its more like a necessity for them.
Tollaz0r!
Posted 07:12pm 23/7/14
* Secret Walls, slightly misaligned textures
* Excellent ambient sounds of enemies near-by
* LOTS of enemies mixed with not many enemies
* Fodder enemies, mixed with tough enemies
* Each map constant running and gunning from start to finish, or until you clear it to look for secret doors/rooms/areas
* Coloured Keys
* Co-op
* modability (Aliens Doom anyone)
* Shotgun and Double Barrled shotgun, Chaingun, Chainsaw, BERSERK PUNCH at the least.
* Gore, over the top fun gore.
* Lots of maps
* Cyberdeamons
* Explody Barrels

Well, pretty much Doom and Doom 2 really...
Tollaz0r!
Posted 07:15pm 23/7/14
Oh and cheat codes. IDKFA, IDFA, IDDQD, idspispopd, idchoppers, and most importantly, idbeholds

Everlong
Posted 07:29pm 23/7/14
Staus bar face for health :)
demon
Posted 07:37pm 23/7/14
needs to have demons, lava, slime, shotguns, rocket launchers, chainguns, plasma rifles, bfgs & a weird evil cybernetic vibe.
ph33x
Posted 09:35pm 23/7/14
Oh and cheat codes. IDKFA, IDFA, IDDQD, IDCLIP, idspispopd, idchoppers, and most importantly, idbeholds

Fx'd.

I'm not sure what makes original Doom exactly Doom, but Doom(4) needs to be like that. I still play Zand here and there.
ravn0s
Posted 10:19pm 23/7/14
- cover based shooting
- regenerating health
- iron sights
- linear maps
- scripted action sequences
- QTE's
- DLC season pass
- the rock
Reverend Evil
Posted 11:21pm 23/7/14
ravn0s, please don't be on the Dev team.
samatt
Posted 01:46am 24/7/14
50 shades of brown
Raven
Posted 05:31am 24/7/14
I would say it needs to contain doom. If there isn't doom involved, then it's not worthy of being called doom.
trog
Posted 06:24am 24/7/14
Carmack and Romero
zaraq
Posted 06:41am 24/7/14
Strogg
trog
Posted 06:44am 24/7/14
- cover based shooting
- regenerating health
- iron sights
- linear maps
- scripted action sequences
- QTE's
- DLC season pass
- the rock
this is like a perfect list of what should NOT be in it
zaraq
Posted 07:33am 24/7/14
May be a cup of sarcasm is in order.
ph33x
Posted 08:27am 24/7/14
May be your rite.
Tepid
Posted 08:48am 24/7/14
big bright orange cacodemons with blue blood and a green eye.
beau
Posted 10:50am 24/7/14
I'd like to see the next doom damn near impossible to finish... giving you that glimmer of 'hope' that it can be beaten, but pushing you to try harder and harder to get there.
Throwback to 90's arcade
tvcars
Posted 05:39pm 24/7/14
It would be cool if they had a boss cacodemon akin to the cyberdemon. And they must have one huge cyberdemon hiding in the shadows just waiting for you to walk past to scare the craptolla outta you. Oh yeah, and there must be the ability to make demons in-fight, that was awesome in doom. Moving floors that turn into stairs to allow you to access new parts of the map should be in too. And you should start with the chainsaw and have a separate death sequence for its use on every enemy because its just a cool weapon.

And and and, make the rocket launcher cooler. And and and, huge ammo clips for less reloading. Reloading is old bling bring back long constant fire fights.
53n53l355
Posted 07:59pm 24/7/14
.monsters fighting each other
.not just secrets, secret levels.
.co-op is mandatory
.expansion packs made by other leading dev studios and charged at a lesser rate.
.al jourgensen, trent reznor or maynard james keenen for audio design or music.
.hundreds of monsters in labyrinthian levels

id set the benchmark. if they don't deliver on this they will disappear into the same realm of bad memories as words like Ion Storm.
IVY_MiKe
Posted 11:36am 25/7/14
It's all been covered in ITT... but I'll chip in by saying that they should consider bringing in the 'Brutal Doom' Mod developer... he's done brilliant things with the original game whilst maintaining the core gameplay components BRILLIANTLY.
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