The “Doom” franchise has had a measurable effect on the game industry over the past 26 years. The first game, released on PC in 1993, helped define the first-person shooter genre as we know it today. While some series see new installments every year or two, there have only been four core entries released to date, with a fifth due out later this year: “Doom Eternal.” To cap off E3, we sat down with id Software’s Marty Stratton and Hugo Martin to talk about “Eternal’s” gameplay, “Doom’s” legacy, and the ongoing fight between good and evil.
Stratton, “Doom Eternal’s” executive producer, has been with id for over 20 years. Before being acquired by Bethesda parent company Zenimax Media in 2009, id had already established itself as a leader in the FPS genre, thanks to series like “Wolfenstein,” “Quake,” and, of course, “Doom.” One thing the studio hasn’t lost sight of over the years, Stratton believes, is the importance of teamwork.
“The people make all the difference,” he told us. “Not just the talent, but how well they work together. That’s been as much as a focus for us… to redefine ‘Doom’ over the last five years, it’s really been to redefine our team and establish a group of people that truly could make almost anything they put their minds to.”
Stratton hired Martin, whose background is in visual effects and advertising animation, about six years ago. He called working with such an established developer “amazing,” comparing id to Disney in that both are companies “with a legacy” that span generations of employees.
As Creative Director of ‘Doom Eternal,’ Martin is committed to his team’s vision of the series: a “push-forward combat” game in which the only way to survive is to face your demons head-on. “We have to stick to our guns,” he said. While offering multiple paths to a solution works in titles like Arkane’s “Dishonored” series, “Ours is just about solving it one way, which is just guns blazing and aggression… You buy a ‘Doom’ game, you have a certain set of expectations that we have to meet.”
So where does ‘Doom Eternal’ fit into the series? The developers said that it builds on 2016’s “Doom” reboot with an epic story in which “you’ll travel to the depths of hell and the heights of heaven,” as Stratton put it. The title itself refers to “the eternal struggle between good and evil and the Doomslayer’s eternal fight against the demons… The universe of ‘Doom’ is expanding and it explores some of those grand ideas of good versus evil.”
Some shooters aim for a gritty, photorealistic experience, but “Doom” has always been more cartoony in its demon-slaying. That “comic book silliness,” as Stratton called it, is part of what makes ‘Doom’ what it is.
“You’re killing demons. I mean, you’re doing God’s work,” Martin explained. “You know, they’re not people. I think we don’t really reference real gore in any way. Like the artists don’t necessarily have to look up any at any gnarly references in order to understand how to make the gore. It’s literally like a cartoon. So I think it’s escapism, it’s all in good fun.”
Both Stratton and Martin were visibly excited about “Doom Eternal’s” multiplayer, Battlemode, which expands on “Doom 2016’s” online mode in a two-on-one fight to the death. “It’s basically everything players love about ‘Doom’ combat, but social and with their friends,” Stratton said. While the reboot’s multiplayer felt “disconnected,” as he put it, “What we’ve done with ‘Doom Eternal’ is take that DNA and create… this player versus demon experience. It’s a highly tuned, highly skilled slayer. He’s got all of his guns, all of his mods, and he gets to take on two player-controlled demons.”
“The multiplayer’s going to blow them away,” Martin reiterated. “It’s every bit as engaging as the single-player.”
It’s hard living up to a legacy, but given the positive reception of id Software’s last ‘Doom’ title, the franchise that put first-person shooters on the map appears to be in good hands. You’ll be able to see for yourself on November 22, when “Doom Eternal” launches on PC, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Google Stadia.