Doom III Preview
Hardware editor Sam Parker summarizes all the available details of Doom III into one concise story.
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Doom is a tough act to follow. The landmark 1993 action game turned a generation of gamers and game developers onto the possibilities of the first-person shooter and spawned a lengthy series of official expansions and countless imitations by third parties. Doom's popularity allowed it to spread even beyond the PC. It appeared on the Sega Saturn and Nintendo 64 consoles and will hit the 240x160 color LCD of the Game Boy Advance handheld later this year. But none of the spin-off games and map packs have replicated the excitement of the original three episodes. It's up to id Software to give the series new life. Last year, id revealed that it would create a new Doom game, and recently we've see how the sprite-based graphics of the original are making the transition into a 3D world that pushes the envelope for atmospheric game graphics. The game hasn't been officially titled, but to avoid confusion with the original game, we'll call it "Doom III" for the time being. It should be noted that this preview doesn't contain any new information per se, but it a convenient collection of all the information that's been released by id Software and John Carmack to date.
Work specifically for Doom III didn't start until about six months after id shipped Quake III: Arena. The team explored other game ideas first, looking for fresh ground for its next project to move beyond the world of Quake that had served as the company's focus for half a decade. After little more than a year, the game is still very much in its infancy, and most of what we know so far about the game comes from
The two demo sequences we've seen of the game have shown how id is translating the essence of the original Doom game into the new graphics engine. Doom, always reminiscent of Aliens with its mix of sci-fi and horror, is a space marine game in which there's no shortage of humanoid zombies and other nasty monsters to shoot. Already, the preview sequences have shown how several familiar faces will appear in the new game, including a pink demon, an imp, and a human zombie with a whip arm--any of which look capable of dealing you a gruesome end in a dark lonely corridor. One dramatic scene we saw took place in a white-tiled bathroom. A pink demon strode up to a bloated cadaver in the center of the room and tore a bloody chunk out of its stomach, revealing its entrails and spreading a pool of blood across the floor. The sequence was cinematic in quality, smoothly and believably animated. But it's tough to say what the engine will look like from a standard first-person view. The original Doom was characterized by hordes of monsters on the screen at once, and this may not be feasible with this complex graphics engine. Having many 3D enemies on the screen at once is much more taxing for PC hardware than moving animated 2D sprites around.
The New Doom Engine
Carmack says that Doom III's graphics are a whole evolutionary step beyond the 3D-accelerated worlds of the Quake games. The heart of this change is the new real-time lighting model, which works uniformly for everything in the gameworld: architecture, objects, and characters. Of course, when it comes to lighting a scene, shadows are just as important as the lights that cause them. One environment from the demo sequences featured a spinning fan on the ceiling, with external light shining down through it. The fan cast down a wide moving shadow, even shadowing the appropriate parts of a character standing in the hallway below. Before this, we had never seen a game capable of such classic movie shots as the villain standing with his face hidden half in shadow, but now, such atmospheric shots are possible. Carmack's goal is to make surfaces look much more interesting with many-layered texture effects. In Doom III, every pixel will have at least a bump map applied, and some pixels will have layered effects of a magnitude more complex, requiring up to 50 passes for a current-generation GeForce or Radeon graphics card to render.
Naturally, the gameplay has to adapt to such a radical change in technology. Player movement should be slower than what players have seen in previous id games. The reasoning for this is that the increased photo-realism in the new graphics engine makes it look comical for characters to move as quickly as they have. We're used to seeing people run and move in a certain way, and turning up the speed of motion-captured animation looks as funny as shuttling through a video on fast-forward. Carmack has said that there will be a place for games like Quake III, which are deliberately arcadelike in appearance--for example, Quake III signaled the move to abstract, symbolic graphics for ammo pickups--but photo-realism is pushing games down a different path. Similarly, Doom III is about atmosphere rather than mad frame rates. Those used to getting well more than 100fps in Quake III will have to settle in for the steady 30fps average that Carmack targets for the game on a GeForce3. It's undoubtedly the most demanding game that id has ever designed. The game was born to take full advantage of the PC's growing graphical strengths and couldn't be ported over to the PlayStation 2 at the same level of detail, although the Xbox could handle it.
Id is already thinking about ways to use sound to further enhance the game's atmosphere. In a surprise announcement, Carmack revealed at QuakeCon that id has a verbal agreement with Trent Reznor, of Nine Inch Nails fame, to do the music for the Doom III game, just like he did for the original Quake--however, the deal is not a sure thing yet. Beyond the soundtrack, in-game audio will get a completely new sound engine, which will include 5.1 support.
It's incredibly exciting to have a game like Doom III on the horizon, but it is quite a ways away, probably much more than a year from shipping, but more probably not as far out as Raven's Doom III-powered
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