Doom Eternal's gameplay debut at QuakeCon 2018 managed to hit all the right notes while highlighting the carnage of a one-man war against the forces of Hell. The follow-up to Doom (2016) manages to make its predecessor look tame by comparison, with a set of new abilities and weapons, along with an expanded traversal system through a grappling hook attached to a shotgun. With the return of the Doom Slayer--a reimagined take on the enigmatic yet equally dull DoomGuy of the original games--the developers want players to feel even more immersed in the role of the silent and imposing protagonist.
One of the biggest surprises is the new Invasion mode to complement another robust campaign, bringing enemy players into a traditional single-player experience. To go with greater focus on unique content, Doom Eternal will drop its predecessor's SnapMap mode, in favor of new DLC focusing on the exploits of the Doom Slayer. In our talk with creative director Hugo Martin and executive producer Marty Stratton, they spoke about how much the game has changed since its 2016 predecessor, and why its new features will make it more exciting than ever.
Since its unveiling at E3 2018, the reception for Doom Eternal has been very positive. Do you have any reactions to the overall response from E3 and from QuakeCon as well?
Hugo Martin: It's been amazing. We're really excited to be able to give them something to look forward to. We've been working on it really hard and we're just very excited to share it with the fans and to see their reaction; it's very validating.
Marty Stratton: Yeah, we basically started on the game from a pre-production perspective right after we finished Doom that released in 2016. As a team we've been working on it for a couple years now so both the tease at E3, the CG teaser at E3, and then certainly [Friday] with the fans here has been amazing. They give us so much passion and energy and enthusiasm, and we had our entire team in the audience so they got to feel it as well. We did it in 2014 at QuakeCon kind of revealed the game to a crowd there, and doing it again like that this year at this QuakeCon was tremendous, it was awesome.
Looking back, were you surprised to see just how much people enjoyed Doom 2016?
Martin: I mean we believed in it. Internally, we all loved it and we knew it was fun to play, so I wasn't surprised. I was just relieved to see that it had caught on with people. I was surprised to see just how far and how much some of the stuff caught on, to what degree it caught on, whether it's lore or just subtle mechanic things or just the tone, just a lot of things you spend time on and you see more and more people recognize it. That was really satisfying.
Despite the protagonist being silent, and the groundwork laid by the original games being somewhat bare, the last game had a lot of personality to it. Can you talk about how you plan to not only expand the lore of the Doom Slayer, but also the world itself?
Martin: It's definitely a continuation of what we started in 2016. We laid the groundwork for a lot of this stuff and we hope to answer a lot of the questions that we put in players' minds in 2016, and then maybe leave them with some new ones so we have somewhere to go. We want to take fans to some really interesting locations beyond just Hell and Mars. So we're going to Earth this time and there are a few other places that we haven't revealed yet, but we showed some concept art that I think hints heavily towards some really epic locations. But at the end of the day, it's about killing really cool demons with awesome guns in fantastic locations. We want to make sure that that universe is full of that stuff.
Stratton: I feel like our team has really started to hit a stride with this [game]. When you get better at something you're able to expose more to people through the experience and I think that's what's kind of hitting the mark now with this stuff. And honestly we're just [at the] tip of the iceberg and I hope we just continue to plow forward for years getting better and better and being able to give the fans more and more of what they want.
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One thing that was unexpected was the new Invasion mode. It's got vibes similar to Dark Souls, where other players will encroach upon your solo space at surprising moments. Can you talk about the initial ideas for that and how it fits into the ideal Doom experience?
Martin: For the invasions, as we showed in the gameplay video, it seemed like the best way to do it and stay within ourselves as a Doom game. It's really fun. We're only teasing it because obviously there's a bunch of other stuff related to it, but we can say that it will take incidental combat areas, take all you know about them, and make it really interesting. If your game hasn't been invaded and you walk down a hall, it's no big deal, it's just a hall with a couple zombies, whatever. But if you walk down that hall and you know you have invaders in your game it's gonna make that experience really thrilling 'cause you don't know where they are, you don't know what they're gonna do, or when they're gonna attack. It sort of makes the 'Doom dance' social. Overall, it's good for the game and it's fun for the invader and the person being invaded.
There's clearly a lot more focus on mobility in Doom Eternal. With the grappling hook and new dashing mechanic, it seems like you're going all in with the new movement style. What was the motivation for that?
Martin: I think we wanted to make sure that the incidental combat areas, which are the spaces in between the large combat arenas, would be more interesting in Doom Eternal. But when you take those abilities into combat, you start to take those moves and combine them together into what we call traversal combos, and you're gonna do some really cool things. You can cover a lot of ground with a monkey bar swing, a double jump, two dashes, and a grapple hook--and then you add wall climbing to that and I think it's going to make for some really interesting traversals. It has an impact on the way the levels are designed; they're designed maybe not so two-dimensional and flat, and now we can do a lot more different things that we couldn't do before. We've provided ourselves with the tools to be able to make some really compelling spaces.
Staying on the move and in the air seems a lot more challenging and engaging this time around. But at the same, it ties into player expression during combat.
Stratton: That's the game. It feels good to stay in the air as long as you can. We give you a bunch of these things to allow you to do that. It happens. It's just intuitive, you feel like you want to do it, so we provide you with the chance to do it.
Martin: Yeah, in fact that second gameplay video we put out has a player on mouse and keyboard, and he's one of our better players in the office. He plays so well. He'll leave a Pain Elemental flying around so that he can use it, 'cause you can only grapple [or] meat hook to demons. The grappling hook is not a world grapple, like you can't grapple onto the side of a building. You have to grapple to a demon, so he leaves a demon flying around so that he can use it as a grapple point to get wherever he wants in the space. It creates more opportunities, more things to think about as you're playing the game. More opportunities to kind of improv your way through the fight choreography.
Usually when you make sequels, you gotta go bigger. So when you look at Doom Eternal, did you face any challenges to not only not over do it as a sequel, but also to keep things consistent with what people expect from Doom?
Martin: I think as long as you have the right filters in place, everything was built around the simple question: how do we make the player feel aggressive or encourage them to become more aggressive? Anything that falls under that category will be successful, it will feel like Doom. It begins with the questions you ask yourself as a creative, if you're getting the wrong answers then you're probably asking yourself the wrong questions. If it was like, how do we make the Slayer feel more stealthy? Or how do we avoid enemy contact more easily? Those are the wrong questions to ask. It's just basically like the whole thing about Doom 2016, and why it felt refreshing. Nothing was holding you back, so combat is just about an expression of aggression.
Stratton: It's not even just about asking yourself those questions as a creative, it's about asking yourself those as a player. We spend a lot of time playing this game, and spent a lot of time playing Doom (2016). It's all about that playable experience, first and foremost. I think that's the first filter, from a gameplay perspective, from a player's perspective-- you ask yourself, "what do I want to do?"
Can you talk a little about that bridge scene in the second gameplay video? The Doom Slayer is walking in, and the people in the area are clearly afraid of him. It almost felt like an inverse of a scene from Halo with Master Chief, who's a largely stoic and noble space marine.
Martin: Yeah, it's just mostly to make the player feel strong. Definitely not Master Chief. I love Master Chief, absolutely. We're Halo fans, we love those games. Not to say anything negative about their game but we actually looked to scenes in films, like when RoboCop enters the police station for the first time or when The Terminator enters the area. We likened it to a tiger entering the room, like how would a bunch of scientists act if a huge tiger entered the room? You know what I mean? They'd all back up, and especially when he slowly comes up on that guard and kind of stares at him for a beat, you hope the tiger just keeps on walking and for everybody else he does, but then we've all seen that movie where the tiger stops at the one guy and kind of sniffs him and he's just terrified. That was kind of the touch stone there, to just make the player feels powerful and to tell that story.
You could see that there's an internal struggle going on within the UAC, not everybody's on board with this. Clearly Top Brass at the UAC is trying to bring about the demon apocalypse and not everybody is aware of this 'cause they're actually fighting against the demons. They know who The Slayer is based on their reactions, or at least they've heard of the legend of The Slayer. It's fun. We're glad that people liked it, it seems to have resonated with people. I think the best part is the story and the tone of that, and the way it makes the player feel is very consistent with the way they feel when they play the game. There's no disconnect between the story and gameplay moments. It's funny to call it our cinematic story moment. It is a walk down a hall but that's good, we're proud of that. It's very lean, but it resonated with people and mainly it's consistent with how you feel when you play.
Stratton: The fact that it's done in a video game medium, you're telling the story as only video games can--in a good way. Which is: you're in the helmet, it's not third person, it's not some fancy camera shot that you're seeing, you're not observing the Doom Slayer walk through that space, you are the Doom Slayer walking through that space and you see it through his eyes. You get the sense of power represented in you. It's why I'm such a fan of it too. You couldn't do that scene that way in a film and have it pulled off the same with that kind of first-person perspective. The fact that it's truly made for a video game, where a cinematic scene for a video game is told in a very consistent way is just the cool part of it. Definitely.
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