After watching a people play Doom multiplayer for the first time at QuakeCon, an energetic Marty Stratton, id Software's executive producer, sat down to talk to me about the state of development for this 2016 release. Stratton wouldn't go into specifics about key components that haven't been discussed yet, stating id wants to keep a few more "surprises" under lock and key until closer to launch, but did provide further details about multiplayer and the bloody executions.
You showed off a significant chunk of single player at E3, and a small tease of multiplayer here at QuakeCon. Where are you at in production?
We're doing really well. Saying we're coming out spring of next year is a big deal for us because it focuses us on the home stretch. We have the alpha test for multiplayer coming up, which is super exciting because it means more people are getting their hands on the game. We're confident in the way it plays. [QuakeCon] is a great opportunity for us to get broader feedback. We do focus testing in the office, but to get a couple thousand people's hands on it here and be able to react to stuff is helpful. Single player is coming along great. SnapMap is super fun. We're feeling confident.
In the demo you showed off at last year's QuakeCon, you showed the fast-paced, bloody combat that everyone saw at E3, but you also had a slower-paced level that focused on exploration and the double jump. Can you talk about the overall pacing you're hoping to achieve?
We wanted to focus those initial views on the combat, which is the crux of Doom. But yeah, the game features a good bit of exploration. Your health doesn't regenerate, so you're always looking for different resources, whether its armor, ammo, or health. At E3, we showed a little bit of what we call "the echo," a story moment that takes place in the game. It's a light touch that creates questions in the player's mind. The double jumping mechanic you mentioned plays a large role in the combat and also the exploration. We put the player in some harrowing situations, and also hope they look for secrets. Those moments are nice pace breakers. We try not to do it too much. The level we showed at E3 and last year's QuakeCon, we've taken a couple of different paths through that area for both of those shows. When you walk out there and see that vast expanse, you can go wherever you want. In the E3 demo, we went to the left, but you can jump off and explore those lower areas. The game is open in a lot of areas. Even in the course of combat, you may find yourself exploring as you try to take down an enemy or look for a health pack.
We've seen a lot of focus on the combat and just a small taste of the story. What can we expect from Doom's narrative?
We haven't talked a lot about story. We're still a little ways away from release, so we kinda want to leave some juicy nuggets out there for people to talk about and be surprised by. We're tying to do the story in a way that fits Doom. We often ask, "What does a player come to Doom wanting to do? How much story do they want? How do they want it to be told?" We're really trying to use those innate feelings in us. I'm coming to kill demons. What's the story in that? We don't want to force story on the player that isn't related to why they are coming to play the game. I think we're on a really good track with the story; doing it in a way that works for those people who want to power through and wreck stuff, and also people who want to know who they are, why they are there. I think it will pique the player's interest.
SnapMap works for single player, co-op, and multiplayer. For the single-player side of it, can you just make one individual map, or does the game allow people to link them together and essentially make their own campaign?
You basically make single maps, but you can string them together in a playlist that effectively creates a campaign. You can use the conventions of SnapMap and the playlist tools to do something similar as a campaign. You can do the same thing for co-op. You can string a number of co-op levels together to create a co-op campaign.
Will people be able to create their own narrative with those tools? Can you enter text or record audio for it?
It's a long campaign and we have a plan to talk about SnapMap, but there's immense amount of depth there that I really think people are going to dig into. The examples you bring up are things we want to have in people's hands and let their mind run wild.
Will SnapMap be any different between the console and PC versions? If I create something on PC, can I play it on PS4?
It's the same across all platforms. We're still working out all of those details that involve discussions with first-parties, but yeah, that's the goal.
On the multiplayer front, any eSports integrations?
I wouldn't say it's a central focus. We didn't design the game to be just for eSports. That's a pretty limited group of people that get to participate at that level. It has so many of the elements that I think make eSports games fun to play, and fun to watch from a spectator perspective. We've already had people playing today with shoutcasters. In a game like this, the resources on the map become important. The power-ups become important. We have a rune that turns the player into a demon. Competing over that produces these great moments. I think those are the kind of things that make eSports exciting. It's a simple premise, but the thrills are there, and the depth is there. It has the "thrill of victory and agony of defeat" to it. I am anxious to see what comes of it from an eSports perspective.
Regarding the progression systems for single player and multiplayer, are you going to have a deep well for people to dive into?
Yes, we are. We haven't gone into great detail with these things yet, and we will probably hold off on talking about that too much right now, but yeah, it's an important part of modern multiplayer shooters. We're doing it in a way that works really well with an arena shooter, particularly how Doom works from a gameplay perspective. You really do expect and want to go into Doom for the first time and not be handicapped in a progression way. We'll talk about that more down the road to give people an idea of what that means. When you sit down and play it, you're going to have a great experience and hopefully those carrots will be juicy enough that you'll wan to keep going. Even from a gameplay perspective, I think we've hit on something that is fun and addictive outside of the progression. We play so much of it at the office. Even testing this pre-alpha build we have [at QuakeCon], we played it three times a week. Hour, or hour and a half session in the morning. Hour or hour and a half session in the afternoon, playing only this map. It's insane how much we've played it. We have a blast with it. There's a compulsion loop already in the game. That will be reinforced even more in the progression system.
Will you have upgrades for the single-player weapons?
We kind of showed a little of it at E3, but haven't gone too in depth with it. An example of that is our weapon mods. You start with a base gun and then through exploration you find modifications for it. They give you secondary functionality and you can upgrade those. It's a fun system, and it ties back in to combat, which is a lot of fun, and it changes a little bit how you use the guns. An example for MP, which is the same for single, is our rocket launcher. It has a mod that allows you to mid-air detonate the rocket to create splash damage. You tend to see games like Quake III from a multiplayer perspective, you were always shooting a rocket at people's feet to try and create the splash damage. In this, you can go for the direct shots, or if you miss, you pull the left trigger, it detonates the rocket in the air. Every gun has a mod or multiple mods.
How many executions are in the game? Are they based on proximately or facing position?
It's tough to quantify how many. There are a lot of them. The fundamental aspect of the system is to allow a quick finishing of these close-quarters battles that you get into, and to give the player an advantage to do it. We wanted to make them very quick and fluid and not some kind of quick-time event. When you hit that button, and depending on where you are looking at the character, it picks one of our Glory Kills from that location. You end up with these fluid and non-jarring moments. We try to reinforce those a lot throughout the gameplay.