Doom 4 has been a long time coming since it was originally announced back in 2008, and since then, it’s become hell on Earth, both in terms of its concept and development.
In a recent Kotaku story by Jason Schreier, the publication talked to Bethesda’s vice president Pete Hines, who stated that in 2011, the initial form of the game was scrapped and the team ad id Software completely started over from scratch due to the project not being of satisfactory quality.
Hines had the following to say:
“An earlier version of Doom 4 did not exhibit the quality and excitement that Id and Bethesda intend to deliver and that Doom fans worldwide expect… As a result, Id refocused its efforts on a new version of Doom 4 that promises to meet the very high expectations everyone has for this game and this franchise. When we’re ready to talk about the Doom 4 Id is making, we will let folks know.”
What exactly made this first version of Doom 4 so unappealing? Kotaku interviewed several anonymous sources from id Software, who chimed in and stated it was to be a re-imagining of the premise from Doom 2, in which demons invaded a near-future Earth and you, the player, were to be cast as a marine caught in a desperate fight to vanquish the forces of hell.
“People referenced Call of Duty,” an anonymous source said. “There were jokes like, ‘Oh, it’s Call of Doom.’ They referenced it because of the amount it was scripted—there were a lot of scripted set pieces. There was kind of the recognition that in order to be a big shooter these days, you have to have some amount of the big, bombastic movie experience that people get pulled through.”
The game was to include several vehicle and turret sections, and the combat encounters were to be influenced by more modern shooters as opposed to traditional Doom games. It’s likely that the Doom 4 screenshots and concept art that were leaked early last year, which showed urban environments amidst a hellish backdrop, represented this early version of the game.
“There was lots of concept art and prototype missions set up showing different parts of the earth being taken over..” another anonymous source said. “…being warped and twisted into a hellish reimagining… It’s not just the demons: everything around you is changing. Humans are starting to struggle to go through an environment that is partially familiar, partially unknown now.”
It wasn’t long before many employees saw the project as an identity crisis, lacking many of the unique elements inherent to the Doom franchise and taking the form of a supposedly samey and uninspired modern shooter. It didn’t help that development soon became unproductive and messy due to miscommunication between the developers and a lack of proper management from the higher-ups at Bethesda.
In an effort to salvage the project, id Software then held meetings wherein they reevaluated the project, keeping in mind the signature gameplay and design elements that made the Doom franchise stand out. John Carmack notably stated at one of these meetings, “Doom means two things: demons and shotguns.” It was quickly decided that Doom 4 would be rebooted and development would start over from a clean slate. Only this time, the game would be built for next-gen platforms.
It was shortly after that when id’s other big project, the post-apocalyptic shooter Rage, released in late 2011, greeted with tepid sales and critical reception. The decision was made to cancel plans for Rage 2, which was already in early planning, and instead focus the entirety of the team’s efforts on Doom 4.
“Rage came out, and it wasn’t the splash success that everyone hoped it would be,” a source claimed. “Eventually what kind of came down was, ZeniMax said, ‘Okay, look, we gave you guys a bunch of chances and you guys are having a lot of trouble managing multiple projects, so you guys are gonna have one project: Just do Doom 4.’”
“There was not only effectively another creative reboot, but a tech reboot,” another source said. “[Id] started from the Rage code base, and took some big leaps back in certain areas of tech. [They] spent a lot of time merging Doom features to Rage.”
For a while, the team got a significant boost in terms of energy, effort and morale as a result of the reworked concept for Doom 4. Unfortunately, this advantage quickly faded away, and development once again descended into a disarray and lack of focus.
“Larger creature ambitions turned into mediocre garden variety behaviors,” said a source. “[The story] again became lame and unfit for a late night sci-fi channel, and the team didn’t feel a whole lot of ownership and contribution to the project. Cue the exodus of talent leaving ever since.”
“It’s not going well,” another source said. “Poor management, poor organization… [Id] just couldn’t nail down design… It’s just a mess.”
In light of hearing about the chaos, Zenimax, the firm that owns Bethesda and consequently id Software, hastily visited the developer and essentially issued them what Kotaku calls ‘an ultimatum’. Either they’d get into gear and finish Doom 4 in an effective and timely manner, or they’d be restructured and repurposed for other means, such as assisting with the effort to make their most recent engine, id Tech 5, compatible with other future Zenimax and Bethesda titles.
Which brings us to right now. Things are looking shaky for the fate of Doom 4, but who knows? Perhaps id Software will get back on track once and for all and the game will eventually release on next-gen consoles. As usual though, it’ll be ‘done when it’s done’, so fans still have a lot of waiting to do on their part. Time will tell whether or not the game is truly doomed or not.
Stay tuned for more BFN (big freaking news) on Doom 4‘s development here at OnlySP.