Feature Article

Doom Co-Creator's New FPS Blackroom Has a Story That Matters

John Romero's new shooter reflects the games of his past like Doom and Quake, but it also brings a larger focus on narrative.

Doom co-creator John Romero's new studio Night Work Games has announced Blackroom, a new first-person shooter that is set to recapture the gameplay and action that his previous games like Quake are known for. We got the chance to talk to Romero about the game's story, its environments, and exactly what type of shooter Blackroom is.

Blackroom's story revolves around Hoxar, Inc.'s Blackroom, which is a holographic simulation technology that can be used for everything from entertainment to military training. This is called Predictive Memory Technology, and it was designed to make the most realistic experience possible. Of course, technology isn't without its bugs, and the Blackroom has some pretty significant issues. You're put into the shoes of Santiago Sonora, Hoxar's chief hNode engineer, and you have to find the problem and solve it by travelling through several different simulations--some of the environments mentioned include a Victorian mansion, a Wild West ghost town, and pirate ship galleons.

With the story taking place across several very different simulated locations, we asked Romero how Night Work Games is ensuring that Blackroom as a whole isn't watered down by the vast changes of setting.

"So, first, everything that is happening is happening inside Blackroom. This is a company, Hoxar, that happens to deal in mixed realities. They have military sims and entertainment sims and many more. This gives us a huge range of options to play with. However, what they also have is a pretty serious problem, and that problem is the unifying conflict that ties all this together," he explained. "In order to address what's happening in Blackroom, they have to explore where its happening at the source across these various HoloSims. Ultimately, all these things come together in the seriously abstract level design that is my thing. Obviously, I've designed the game to play to my strengths."

I know the player is smart, so I'm going to assume they know what's going on half the time.

Romero added that his upcoming shooter will feature similar gameplay to what he's done in the past like rocket jumping, strafe jumping, and circle strafing (and of course shooting), but he added that Blackroom will also see a large focus on narrative.

"It's going to be that kind of classic gameplay. The experience that you had there is what I want to make happen in Blackroom," Romero said. "But I also want to have that narrative that Half-Life 2 does so well that's integrated into the gameplay.

"In my stuff, I always have pauses and then lots of combat and then pauses and suspense and all that stuff. The parts where there are pauses and suspense might be these narrative sections that are tying the story together, but they won't be long pieces. I know the player is smart, so I'm going to assume they know what's going on half the time."

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On top of the single player, Blackroom will also feature a variety of multiplayer options like co-op, 1v1 deathmatch, and free-for-all arena in six built-in multiplayer maps--the game will also include full mod support and the tools to create community maps. However, Romero says that he isn't going for the esports crowd.

"This is a single-player campaign shooter, and with everybody jumping into esports, I think people also want to play a single-player campaign, so I'm super happy to make one," he said. "I think the Challenge modes that I'm putting in Blackroom are going to be really fun for people who play both single player and multiplayer."

The Challenge modes will present players with unique and difficult goals as opposed to the ones you'd find in the main solo campaign.

"You're going to be able to choose basically whichever level that's in the game and run it as fast as you can with whatever kind of stipulation you want in it," he explained.

"If you want to go through the game and just punch and get a Tyson title then you can say, 'I'm going to do the Tyson challenge on Boot Hill Showdown Saloon' or something. And then, bam, it starts and you go as fast as you can and if you get killed it starts again. It's recording your playthrough and when you're done it will upload your demo to the leaderboards, so everyone can see how you did a Tyson and what time you did it in."

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Blackroom marks the reunion of Romero and Id Software co-founder Adrian Carmack (no relation to John Carmack, another Id co-founder), who Romero said is "incredible to work with" again. Carmack serves as Night Work's art director and says the setting of Blackroom offers a lot of "artistic freedom."

"It's been great working with John again, and we're really setting out to produce a visceral FPS," said Carmack. "Because of the Blackroom's setting, we have a lot of freedom to create environments that players might not expect in an FPS. Blackroom technology lets its users enter just about any universe imaginable, and gives them the power to alter the world. That gives me lots of artistic freedom."

Romero created a new Doom level back in January, which he called "a warm-up" in the readme file. Now that he's announced Blackroom, it's clear what he was warming up for.

Blackroom is set for release on PC and Mac in winter 2018. It's currently on Kickstarter with a funding goal of $700,000. Backing the project at $29 will be enough to get a digital copy of the game, while kicking in more money can get you rewards like a physical edition box with the game stored on a thumb drive, assisting in the design of a monster, and a two-hour weapon design Skype session with Romero. You can find out more on Blackroom's funding page.

Romero and Carmack teased the announcement of Blackroom with a video reminiscent of a scene from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. You can check that out for yourself right here.

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