QuakeCon 2002: Doom III details

Id Software talks about the technical and design details of its upcoming first-person shooter.

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Id Software talks about the technical and design details of its upcoming first-person shooter.

While there are a number of competitions taking place, and also quite a few games on display at QuakeCon 2002, there's no doubt that the main event of the show is id Software's presentation on Doom III this afternoon. Several of the game's developers took the stage for a 30-minute presentation on the game's technical and design elements, discussing subjects like monster animation, the in-game editor, game audio, and scripting, before John Carmack took over for his annual keynote address. In the course of the long presentation and subsequent question-and-answer session, id revealed a number of new details on the game.

At this point, id's fans are most interested in hearing about how Doom III will play. However, the developer showed a few new technical features that will add directly to gameplay. The presentation demonstrated the sophisticated new physics system in the game, built by id's Jan Paul van Waveren, which will provide real-time rag-doll physics so that monsters crumple realistically as they die, roll down stairs, and pile on top of one another. The game also has per-polygon hit detection, and the physics apply to regular objects, like boxes and hanging lights in the world. Boxes can be knocked off a shelf and pushed by gunshots across the floor, and shooting a light can start it swinging, casting dynamic shadows as it moves.

The game will contain some outdoor areas, and Carmack pointed out that some graphics effects were specifically added to add realism to the sandy and rocky martian terrain. Carmack described sequences where players will be dumped out of the airlock into the thin martian atmosphere and must find safety before they suffocate.

Doom III won't have objectives as simple as the original Doom game, which featured repeated quests for colored keycards, but there will be door puzzles. The computer consoles that control various parts of the base are actually quite sophisticated. As you approach a console, the weapon drops out of view and a cursor pops up on the console screen that can be controlled with the mouse. The animated console interface looks much like a Web page, and an id developer mentioned that putting together the interface content is like working in Web HTML. There's a mission interface that pops up in the upper right part of the screen to show objectives that you have yet to accomplish. Despite these obstacles in your path and the deliberately slow movement speed, Carmack said that Doom III will not be "an extremely long game," but it also won't be as short as some recent shooters. He predicted that there will be those who may "obsessively" play through it in a weekend.

During the presentation, we got to see some new parts of the game. One new monster we hadn't seen previously is the revenant (a creature returning from Doom II), which wields shoulder-mounted rocket launchers. We also got to see some of the game's idle animations. The pinkie monster, the fierce four-legged creature previously seen in screenshots chewing on the stomach of a fat zombie, has an idle animation where it wags a phantom tail--its hindquarters have been replaced with mechanical legs.

Doom III should have the full complement of classic Doom weapons. In the demos, we've seen a basic pistol, shotgun, and chaingun, as well as an assault rifle. Id also confirmed that there will be a rocket launcher and a BFG. The railgun and chain saw are also in the spec but are not final.

Quite a few fans have expressed concern that they won't have a fast enough PC to play Doom III when it comes out, but Carmack repeatedly said the game was designed for the GeForce256 and GeForce2 generation of cards and also commented that a 1GHz CPU will likely be the recommended minimum. Anyone can get into the QuakeCon show floor in Mesquite, Texas, and see a modified version of the demo that got people so excited at E3. At E3 the demo was running at 640x480 at medium-detail levels, but at QuakeCon, the settings were increased to 800x600 at high-quality levels. In both cases, the hardware is the same: a 2.2GHz Pentium 4 and a Radeon 9700--ATI's soon-to-be-released graphics card. The higher resolution for the QuakeCon demo was due to new ATI drivers and general optimizations.

Carmack also revealed a few surprising details about Doom III's multiplayer. Id has always said that Doom III will be primarily a single-player game, and the company stated at E3 that the multiplayer would largely be restricted to deathmatch. However, Carmack admitted that even the game's deathmatch will be limited by certain engine considerations. The games will be limited to a much smaller number of players than other recent id games. The current estimate is a maximum of four players, so it'll be better suited to one-on-one and two-on-two matches. Carmack also said that players won't be able to join a match in progress. Nonetheless, id does have real plans for more serious multiplayer options for Doom III, which Carmack said would come in a separate product, perhaps as an expansion pack.

While id's official company line is that Doom III will be released "when it's done," Carmack admitted in a roundabout way that the company hopes to have Doom III done before E3 next May, so as not to be "one of those companies" that shows a game at multiple E3 shows.

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