Look, let’s be real: game design is hard work. Whether it’s balancing units in a turn-based strategy game, calculating physics in a racing sim or constructing levels in a fast-paced first-person shooter, a lot of care is needed to meet players’ expectations and have everything feel just right.
How does the team at id Software do it for DOOM? Well, sadly for those looking for a cure-all ‘secret sauce’ for gaming magic, DOOM Eternal’s executive producer Marty Stratton says there isn’t really one technique to making DOOM – or any game, for that matter – instantly enjoyable.
“Every game is different and the way that we make DOOM is not a formula that you just necessarily apply to every game or every shooter,” says Marty.
“There's many different brands of fun, you know?” adds creative director Hugo Martin. “That'd be like (asking), 'how do you make good food?'”
There is no silver bullet that miraculously makes a game fun, but id Software’s current work still strives toward a set goal – understanding and meeting what the player expects of a game like DOOM Eternal.
“It’s important to emphasize that this is not the only way to make a shooter fun,” says Hugo, “but it’s important that all aspects of it - narrative, sound, gameplay, level design, weapons - are all in sync and that the product as a whole meets your expectations."
So…what are the expectations of DOOM?
"I think DOOM's expectations are 'fun first’ and ‘fun fast.' That fun has to be there within, well, seconds,” says Marty, explaining that players can enjoy a game like DOOM (2016) for four minutes or four hours, and in both cases walk away feeling thrilled and satisfied.
“We always use this analogy for DOOM that it's like an exotic sports car. Some other cars hold more people, carry more stuff, go further…but DOOM is very much a lime green Lamborghini just sitting there..."
“…on the track.” adds Hugo.
“Right, and you take one look and are like, ‘oh…I know what I'm gonna do with this car,’ right?” says Marty. “You’re gonna haul ass, and it's gonna be fun.”
This approach is best demonstrated in the opening seconds of DOOM (2016), where the DOOM Slayer is chained to a stone sarcophagus. Within a single moment, the Slayer breaks free from captivity, arms himself and is already smashing in demon faces before the first door of the game cracks open.
"It was awesome. We'd see people on Twitch grab the pistol and start shooting zombies and we'd see that response” says Marty. “They'd go 'oh...oh! OH! OH OH OH OH OH OHHH!’ and it's like flooring a Lamborghini."
While not every member of the Slayers Club knows the feeling of slamming the pedal down of a souped-up sports car, they probably do know that sensation of high-speed gratification DOOM (2016) offered and there is no sign of things letting up when DOOM Eternal takes its lap around the track.
“To beat this car analogy into the ground, there's a lot of SUVs on the lot and a lime green Lamborghini stands out,” says Hugo.
“The fact that we get to make a Lamborghini is pretty f----- awesome."