After some quiet time to let the adrenaline settle, we get together with Id Software executive producer Marty Stratton to talk about the studio’s pulse-raising rebuke to an industry that felt like it was leaving this sort of thing behind. The game took a long time to make – how do you feel now that it’s finally out? Great! We spent that Friday, the entire weekend and a lot of Monday literally just watching people play the game on Twitch. It’s a fascinating window into how people experience your game, and I haven’t experienced that with a launch before, so it was really cool. Were you nervous about releasing a game with an old-school backbone into the modern FPS market? You’re always a bit nervous with any game, just because you’ve only shown it to such a small sample of people. But I was more anxious about other things, like the way the upgrades work, the runes, and even the story to an extent. I’m really happy to see people enjoy the way that we approached storytelling in the game. Doom Slayer isn’t particularly compliant throughout – is that a nod to players who would likely prize action over narrative? Absolutely. If there was a mission statement, it was that players aren’t coming to a Doom game for the story, they’re coming to blow things up and kill demons. That fed into how we approached the opening: you have a gun in your hand within the first few seconds. But subtler things, too – that scene where Dr Hayden starts talking to you and you grab the monitor and throw it to the side. We wanted to say, ‘A Doom story is something you push to the side.’ You can invest in it, but you’re not just going to sit around and take orders. Was it tough to balance the game’s downtime with such intense combat? I have to credit our design group, and everyone on the team, because we just played it a lot. We hit a couple of milestones through development where you’re making a level where it’s like, ‘That’s it, that’s really good. More stuff like that.’ We’re lucky to have a couple of guys leading our design team, Jerry and Jason, who have both been Id designers for over ten years. They’re both big Doom fans – they understand that balance. In multiplayer, the weapons feel less hefty, which is a shame given their strong presence in the campaign. I know what you’re saying, and I think there are a couple of contributing factors. Another part of making players competitive right off the bat is that we wanted them to have longer engagements – a kind of dance, not just run into a space and get hit by a rocket or a vortex and you’re dead instantly. We wanted it to be that when players get shot, they have an opportunity at that point. I think that probably contributes to that feeling. Also, one of the things that we spent an immense amount of time on is enemy hit reactions, and that’s part of what makes the game feel so visceral and connected. When you hit an enemy with a gun, you really feel it. But you can’t blow a multiplayer guy’s arm off or do the same level of hit reaction and force them to step back when they’re hit by a Super Shotgun. Why remove the weapon wheel in multiplayer? There were several contributing factors there, but the biggest one was that we wanted to put people on a more level playing field out of the gate. Up until Doom, Quake III was my favourite game we’ve made, but there’s an aspect of it in the way a skilled player can absolutely lock down a map by controlling weapons, and it’s what a competitive player likes about it. We made a conscious decision to try to give players more of a head start right out of spawn. I still feel like it was a good decision. I know there’s a lot of discussion about it, but we’re considering changes and updates as we go forward to give people what they want to play. And how about the bosses? Despite the spectacle, the more prescribed nature of their design can jar against the game’s freeform combat. Y’know, bosses are hard. I’m looking forward to doing more on them, because I think we got our feet on their ground and they’re good, but there’s a part of me that… honestly, I’d love to continue working on them. But we don’t do anything where you’re on rails – we never put you in a helicopter and force you to shoot from a mounted position. I think that the bosses are fun, and what works for me is that they’re a nice pace-breaker in a game where you don’t do a lot of set-piecey type stuff. While SnapMap is extremely user-friendly, the trade-off is that it constrains creativity to a degree. SnapMap is one of those things that we’re going to feed like nothing else. I totally get the sentiment, and I understand exactly where people are coming from who’ve had more of a mod or level-building experience. And it’s a mission of ours to really close that gap as best as possible. I feel bad because I can’t go into a lot of specifics on future plans, but we want Doom to have legs for a very long time, and a big part of that is continuing to support SnapMap and the people who are making content with as many new assets, features and functionality as we can.
“If there was a mission statement, it was that players aren’t coming to a Doom game for the story”