Doom Survives a Long and Troubled Development, Coming May 13

Doom Survives a Long and Troubled Development, Coming May 13

Eight years after its first announcement, players will finally be able to purchase a game called Doom.

Bethesda Softworks and id Software have announced that the new Doom finally has a release date: May 13, 2016 on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. (Yes, that's a Friday.) We're talking a single player mode and a few multiplayer modes, all in the same brutal, super-fast style that id Software pioneered with Doom and Quake. Players can also use the new SnapMap feature to craft new maps and game modes, not unlike Halo 5's Forge.

There's also the requisite Collector's Edition for the game. For $119.99, players will get a 12 inch tall status of Doom's Revenant and a metal case for the game. Doom also offers a pre-order bonus, called the Demon Multiplayer Pack. The pack includes "a unique demon armor set with three skin variations, six metallic paint colors and three id logo patterns that can be applied to weapons and armor." It also includes a set of six Hack Modules, which seems to be one-time consumable items that will "give you an edge in a multiplayer match." I admit, that gives me a bit of pause, sounding like microtransactions that help PVP, but we don't know the specifics yet.

It's kind of amazing to see Doom finally within spitting distance of release. It's been a long road to get here, with almost 8 years in full development to reach this point.

Doom was originally announced as Doom 4 all the way back in May 2008, with id Software looking to hire developers to work on the title.

"Doom is part of the id Software DNA and demands the greatest talent and brightest minds in the industry to bring the next installment of our flagship franchise to Earth," said id CEO Todd Hollenshead at the time.

At the time, the team behind Doom 4 had some involvement from John Carmack, one of the developers behind the original Doom. The game was intended to be a throwback to the original games, instead of the horror experience that categorized Doom 3. Doom 4 was being built in the id Tech 5 engine; the hope was that most of the work had already gone into Rage, so the development period would be shorter. The game was also targeting 30 frames per second for a framerate, instead of Rage's 60 fps.

ZeniMax Media, the parent company behind Bethesda Softworks, acquired id Software in June 2009. That meant that the forthcoming Rage and the planned Doom 4 would be published by Bethesda Softworks. This sounded like a win-win: ZeniMax Media gained access to id Software's catalog and technology, while id remained mostly independent and no longer had to worry about finding a publisher for its titles.

And then there was nothing. id Software would occasionally comment on Doom 4, but no real details were forthcoming. The game just sort of disappeared. According to a later expose on the game published by Kotaku, the original Doom 4 was intended to be a title set on Earth with far more scripted set pieces, not unlike Call of Duty.

Rage finally launched in October 2011 and following that, id Software management turned their attention towards Doom 4. They apparently didn't like what they saw.

"[Studio leadership was] coming over and looking at Doom 4," a source told Kotaku, "and it was like, 'Now that I'm actually looking at this after ignoring it for three years, I see a ton of things I want to change.'"

"It was a very long overdue reboot that was accompanied by internal team management changes," added another source. "Morale got a lot better during this short time as people were encouraged to participate and there were cool ideas floating around."

At the same time, Rage's reception was lukewarm at best. ZeniMax Media apparently stepped in, cancelled Rage 2, and put all resources on Doom 4. That idea was backed up by comments from id Software studio director Tim Willits at QuakeCon 2013.

"It wasn't like the art was bad, or the programming was bad. Every game has a soul. Every game has a spirit. When you played Rage, you got the spirit," said Willits. "And [Doom] did not have the spirit, it did not have the soul, it didn't have a personality. It had a bit of schizophrenia, a little bit of an identity crisis. It didn't have the passion and soul of what an id game is. Everyone knows the feeling of Doom, but it's very hard to articulate."

"We focused everybody. All hands on deck," he added. "If you have everyone marching to the same drummer, you can get places."

So Doom 4 died that a new Doom might live.

By early 2014, id Software had enough put together that it felt good about offering Doom beta access when players pre-ordered Wolfenstein: The New Order. That was also the first time the game became known as Doom. No "4", no subtitle, just "Doom". 2014 was the year Doom came out of the shadows, with trailers for the game at E3 2014 and QuakeCon 2014. But the game wasn't really ready to show to the public yet; the trailers were just to quell fears about id Software and Doom going away.

"They're like, 'Look, we don't want a stream to go up for a game that isn't at the point where we would formally show it to the world, and now that thing is getting picked apart, and digested, and gone through frame-by-frame and getting nitpicked to death, when normally we wouldn't be showing this to anybody at all,'" explained Bethesda VP of marketing Pete Hines to PCGamer. "I really wanted to put something out there that, in a strong way, said, 'id is working on something that we think is really cool.'"

"And now we're going to go away and go back to making the game, but to be able to counter other people talking about us and we're sort of just sitting here staying silent, or operating from this negative space of like, 'Oh, it got rebooted, oh it's in trouble.' All of that stuff just bothered the hell out of me."

By this point, the team at id Software had also moved to id Tech 6 and were targeting a 1080p/60 fps presentation on PC, Xbox One, and PS4. They kept their heads down and worked. A year later at E3 2015, they finally had gameplay to show. Demons were shown, bodies were torn apart, shotguns were fired, and id Software finally got to show off something that lived up to the name "Doom".

In October, players were finally able to participate in the game's Closed Alpha. It's here that id Software showed off a game that was an equal to the old Quake deathmatch titles. Lots of guns, a smooth framerate, and a lot of fast movement.

It's been a long road for Doom. From May 2008 until May 2016. 8 years of hard work, 2 names, 2 engines, 1 reboot, and a host of changes in the development team. It's a development period only rivaled by another planned 2016 release, Final Fantasy XV. But soon, players will become the Doomguy once again, hoist their shotgun high, and dispatch the minions of Hell.

Looking forward to it?

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Mike Williams

Reviews Editor

M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.

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