Doom 4 devopment in trouble

/sad tear

Sigh. My favorite game of all time is Doom 2. After Rage and Doom 3 it was clear id had lost his touch, and Doom 4 seems even worse.

That’s too bad. I kind of with id would focus on amazing engine tech for Bethesda and others, who seem to be better at making the actual games.

The rumblings out of Id after Rage’s unimpressive sales hinted at some internal confusion regarding the direction of Doom 4. These new rumors are much more serious. Like, get-off-your-ass-or-else serious.

The part about letting them hack away for three years with no direction scares me as a tech professional. I can’t stand when my boss isn’t involved, and alarm bells go off if I don’t hear reassuring things from coworkers I depend on.

For all the derivative games we get from AAA studios, at least they understand project management well enough that stories like these are rare.

As far as Doom 4 goes, I wonder what the reboot is like. The old one sounded kind of dumb. I thought it was originally sold as Rage with more enemies, which actually would’ve been just fine with me (though not earth shattering).

At least one guy seems to have understod what people are looking for in a Doom game.

John Carmack got up in front of everyone and said something like, “Doom means two things: demons and shotguns.”

Unfortunately, I doubt any publisher is going to let that fly in this environment of CoD selling a jillion copies a year.

The more troubling part of the article to me was this bit:

Two sources told me that earlier this year, frustrated with the lack of progress on Doom 4, ZeniMax came to Id with an ultimatum: make something happen, or else. The specifics of the threat are unclear, but there are plenty of rumors floating around Dallas, Texas, where Id is based.

One rumor is that ZeniMax threatened to shut down Id if they don’t finish the game within the next year, but two people told me that seems unlikely.

What’s more likely, sources told me, is that if Id can’t get Doom 4 together, ZeniMax could clean house and refocus the company to work on tech like the Id Tech 5 engine, which is currently being used for multiple projects at studios owned by ZeniMax.

That would be an amazingly lame end for Id.

Id has always been known for its tech. Its games were nothing special, except when technology trumped design.

Zenimax should absolutely repurpose id as a tech provider then purchase something like Raven to use it, or even start their own new studio in Montreal, poaching from other studios in the area.

I wish someone at id sit down and examine carefully why Doom was (and is) so good. Because other games has tried the whole “fast paced fps with high count of enemies” and to me, they felt flat in comparison to id games.

There is no narrative or dramatic characters in Doom. And I suspect it will be the same in Doom 4. In fact, I prefer the “no story” type to having a bad story in a videogame. The weight of the game has to be supported by the gameplay, and innovations that were historical at the time like online play and moddability. Examining the strengths and influence of the old Dooms, I would say they have to focus on:

-excellent, number 1 on the industry, gunplay

-maybe some tech innovation in animation or in body dynamics (think SoF gore system) or tech destruction

-Variety inside a pure fps. You can do variety, without having to betray the genre and put other stuff genre like stealth, or dialog trees or vehicle driving. So, a good arsenal of varied weapons, varied enemies, varied scenarios. Each piece of the puzzle that has to add something new to the gameplay. For example in the enemy repertoire, I would go in to interesting enemy behaviors with special powers, think in the Pain Elemental that spawn other enemies (the flying skulls) or the Archvile that resurrect other demons, stuff like that, instead of just things that move and attack. Enemies that buff their allies, enemies that debuff you, “tanks”, enemies that go invisible, enemies that suicide themselves but can be manipulated to use that to your own benefit, etc.
In the scenarios, each level has to be bring something new, be a level open ended and non-linear, another more claustrophobic and linear, another with less combat and more moody, another where you are accompanied by other soldiers, another where you have to support them from a distance, a defense scenario where you play a kind “tower defense” with turrets and shit, etc. In this regard, Valve is pretty good, their HL2 and Eps have a nice variety of experiences.

-Exploration, while Doom it’s a pure action game at first sight, it felt nice having to explore a bit by yourself without having a linear path where to advance, without compass to know where to go, and having to think a little in some levels to advance. Apart from that, collectibles that are real (health, ammo, armor, weapons) and not bullshit like modern collective (1 of 100 tags collected, yayy!) are a nice incentive for the exploration.

-Solid coop experience up to 6 players. Maybe having some RPG metagame advancement here, but online for online.

-Easy to use, WYSIWYG level editor, with maybe used “predone” pieced modules that join together, trackmania style. And of course the “expert” editor, for the guys who can use it.

-Lots of options to customize the game without having to open the pk3 files. Have dynamic values for the damage, ammo, health, speed, enemy spawns, etc of basically everything, and later allow people doing and sharing their favorite presets. You could go from “Brutal Doom” to “survival horror” in the same game with these mini mods.

-Integration with Steam Workshop for the mods and addons.

-Some kind of innovation in multiplayer. Dayz and Minecraft showed us that not everything is already invented in the multiplayer space.
I think there is some space for innovation in the middle space between coop/horde modes and traditional pvp modes, something hybrid, mixing both. For example I think some actions games could learn some lessons of the intensity and interesting metagame of DOTA games.

The magic might be gone these days, but to downplay their past games as “nothing special” seems wrong. Doom and Quake had, and still have, incredibly far reaching influence over the shooter landscape.

The problem is Carmack is right. That is all Doom means. It was never more than that, and at the time, that was enough.

It’s not enough anymore. To compete now against Call of Duty, Bioshock Infinite, Dishonored, and other modern “shooters” (or more accurately, first-person action games), you have to co-evolve your technology, your gameplay systems, your world design, and your plot. You have to really care about creating an entire place, and you need leaders who directly believe in the importance of that and who directly drive it.

Carmack is not such a leader and never has been. I’m a colossal fan of his space exploits and his engine acumen, but he doesn’t care about world building. And his interpersonal skills don’t seem up to driving a culture with clear leadership that does care about world building.

Seems clear that Doom 4 will be the make-or-break title for id; if it flops like Rage, then id should stop making games altogether. And it’s debatable how good they will be as an engine / tech provider, though I hope Bethesda can make a go of it.

But really the writing has been on the wall ever since Doom 3, which was already falling behind in the world-building department compared to contemporaneous titles like Halo 2 and Half-Life 2, both of which also shipped in late 2004. This is just the bitter end of what happens when a company can’t figure out how to move forward.

(Of course Valve hasn’t managed to ship Half-Life 3 yet either, and therein lies a whole different tale… but Valve has shipped lots of other stuff that people like a lot since then, whereas id has only shipped Rage.)

PSA: the posts about how id doesn’t make good games and should be a tech company are really tired. We get it.

They were very simple technology driven titles. Wolf3d was cool because it was the first FPS. DOOM was cool because it invented deathmatch. Quake was cool because it was the first true 3D game, and the first 3D accelerated game, but more due to Quakeworld, online ranked multiplayer over the internet.

After Quake, id’s technology improved, but it didn’t enable new types of gameplay. DOOM2, Quake2, Quake3 Arena, DOOM3, Rage, etc, were all fine games to various degrees, but they weren’t breakthroughs.

Throughout the same time periods you had other developers focused on gameplay not tech, and they advanced the genre. Half-life. Thief. Deux Ex. Battlefield 1942. Halo. Call of Duty. Bioshock. Gears of War.

And now you’ve got Carmack saying DOOM is just “demons and shotguns” and he’s completely missing the point. He’s saying they should make a fast-paced simple shooter, like DOOM was originally. And that’s just archaic design at this point.

The thing is I like id games exactly the way they want them to be. I like the basic monster-shoot boxes. I want a ton of enemies and guns thrown into a blender and shot at my face with heavy metal 80’s design. I think the success of Painkiller shows that I’m not alone. There’s an audience for this stuff, but it’s just not the audience Zeni wants.

The problem for id (and ZeniMax) is that the kind of game id was good at making just doesn’t sell as much as CoD or Skyrim. It’s never going to appeal to the general big-money gamer. Painkiller was just the right game for it’s budget, but everyone thinks id should sell 10 million copies of whatever they make which is nuts.

My issues with RAGE were that it tried too hard to be more “modern” in design, but failed at that stuff. The minute-to-minute shooting was quite good.

Turin, your call for gameplay innovation is intriguing because I wonder what caused id to want to make stereotypical AAA shooters. Maybe another conflict among the leadership. They’ve had those before.

In any case, there’s very little chance they reinvent themselves now that they’re under Zenimax.

BTW, it always amuses me when a publisher decrees that an IP ought to be just as successful as another huge game on the market. That hit-driven mentality sets up skewed expectations.

Lol no.

I didn’t have internet (or lan…) around that time, and I loved Doom and Quake I. Hell, most people I know where in my same situation, and didn’t have internet until 1998-2001.

They were famous by their technology, I agree, by the game themselves were great.

He’s saying they should make a fast-paced simple shooter, like DOOM was originally. And that’s just archaic design at this point.

Fast paced simple shooter? Funny, most modern shooters are simpler than 90s shooters! Linear, no exploration, no resource management, health regen, cinematic set pieces, etc.

It really isn’t. DOOM and Quake are huge brands and id’s tech is gorgeous. Rage looked amazing, even on 6 year old consoles. Given sufficient support, they should be able to get there.

f*ck, just give us what we always wanted:

  1. keep the pace of gameplay fast

  2. make the 3d graphics of the game resemble the artwork on the old PC floppy disk box covers:

  1. and add some insane metal music:


Except it is nuts for the “demons and shotguns” type of game they’re good at making. I totally understand what your saying, but I think turning id into something it’s never been is a lot harder than just realizing that the games they make well aren’t going to sell like modern blockbusters.

Frankly, I’d love it if Carmack just left and started an indie hobby studio that made the types of games he wanted with no ambitions of being mega-hits.

To be fair, he’s done that, but with rocketry instead of game engines.

I don’t know the man, but I’ve seen him talk several times and my impression is that Carmack doesn’t give actually give a fig about game design. He always talks about the tech, not the games.

He’s not a designer, he’s a brilliant coder. A problem-solver, not a creative type. An engineer, not an artiste. He would love to create a mega-hit. He just doesn’t know how, because that’s not his area of expertise. When id games exploded in the past, it was due to his technology. But just having the best tech isn’t sufficient any more, because like I explained earlier, it doesn’t expose new types of gameplay.

On another note, id also doesn’t have a frontman for junkets. You’ve probably seen Ken Levine interviewed about Bioshock3 recently. Watch a couple of them-- he hits the exact same points every time. He’s friendly, and practiced, and relaxed, and he’s willing to endure incredible agony to promote his game. The man is a PR machine, a robot sent from the future to show us how it’s motherfuckin’ done. Bethesda has Todd Howard, and he did his time with Skyrim, but I don’t remember a PR blitz around Rage. That shit’s important.

Willits. Fire him (or give him some hands off job). Bring in some top game designers from Bethesda, and just use Carmack’s tech w/ id’s talented artists.