Doom Eternal and Doom (2016) have both received high praise for their soundtracks, composed by Mick Gordon. For many, the new Doom games' thrumming metal tracks are one of their main draws. Frankly, it's an aspect that id Software and Bethesda haven't shied away from talking up. Now, it seems, that partnership is over—or at least for the time being.
In a lengthy open letter published by Doom Eternal Co-Director and Executive Producer Marty Stratton, posted to the Doom subreddit, Stratton praises Gordon's music before responding to comments made by Gordon and fans upset by the state of Doom Eternal's soundtrack. Shortly after its release, listeners noticed that many of the tracks were mixed in a harsh and unsophisticated manner, and when Gordon alluded to not having been allowed to mix them all, many fans accused id of mishandling Gordon's music. Stratton refutes the notion that id rushed the soundtrack release, detailing strained communication and production agreements between Gordon and id Software.
While noting he's "as disappointed as anyone that we're at this point," Stratton also ends the letter with a notice that id will not work with Gordon for Doom Eternal's DLC.
Some have suggested that we've been careless with or disrespectful of the game music. Others have speculated that Mick wasn't given the time or creative freedom to deliver something different or better. The fact is—none of that is true.
The full letter provides a thorough accounting of the agreements id Software struck with Gordon regarding delivery of the soundtrack. Stratton says Gordon agreed to deliver the soundtrack in early March, timed for Doom Eternal's launch. In late February, Gordon asked for more time. The request was granted, pushing the soundtrack's release to April.
"As we hit April, we grew increasingly concerned about Mick delivering the OST to us on time," says Stratton. "I personally asked our Lead Audio Designer at id, Chad [Mossholder], to begin work on id versions of the tracks–a back-up plan should Mick not be able to deliver on time." Stratton says that the chief complaint about the tracks not mixed by Gordon—that they were assembled from pre-compressed tracks—is a result of them using the same tracks Gordon had mixed and delivered for use in the game. For soundtrack purposes, Gordon starts with his original source recordings, which Stratton notes id's audio designers "don't typically have access to."
Nevertheless, Stratton says it was Gordon who suggested that Mossholder's mixes be combined with his own for "a more comprehensive release." The soundtrack's eventual release was indeed a combination of Mossholder and Gordon's efforts, with Gordon contributing a minority of the tracks (and, according to Stratton, fewer than the 12 he was contracted to deliver).
After Gordon's public comments regarding the OST release's quality, Stratton says id had to reach out "several times via email" before being able to talk with Gordon to address his concerns and the impact of his comments:
In a reply to one fan, Mick said he, "didn't mix those and wouldn't have done that." That, and a couple of other simple messages distancing from the realities and truths I've just outlined has generated unnecessary speculation and judgement—and led some to vilify and attack an id employee who had simply stepped up to the request of delivering a more comprehensive OST. Mick has shared with me that the attacks on Chad are distressing, but he's done nothing to change the conversation.
Emphasizing that mixing with the tracks Gordon provided for use in-game was "the only way" to deliver a comprehensive soundtrack on time, Stratton also says id "would certainly entertain distributing additional tracks" if Gordon is dissatisfied.
"As for the immediate future, we are at the point of moving on and won't be working with Mick on the DLC we currently have in production," Stratton writes. "As I've mentioned, his music is incredible, he is a rare talent, and I hope he wins many awards for his contribution to DOOM Eternal at the end of the year. [...] Our team has enjoyed this creative collaboration a great deal and we know Mick will continue to delight fans for many years ahead."
While it remains true that the majority of the Doom Eternal soundtrack is mixed from tracks that were not originally intended for that use, Stratton's timeline of events paints a different picture than the notion that Gordon's compositions were reassembled without his knowledge. Regardless of how it happened, many fans will be saddened to hear that this collaboration has disintegrated—and, it still seems that the version of the Doom Eternal soundtrack out now will be the only one we've got for the foreseeable future.