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Most Wanted Next-Gen: Doom 4

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Doomtop

On December 10th, 1993 the world of gaming was shaken to its core with the release of Doom. Two years and ten million souls claimed later, Doom had given birth to a new culture of gamers and solidified the shooters as a key genre in the gaming industry. Doom II: Hell on Earth followed shortly after and further cemented the IP’s legend status.  The term “Doom clone” was coined in reference to games who sought to get a taste of that pie, and eventually evolved to “first person shooter”, a term we use widely today. Just over ten years later, in August of 2004, id Software gave us Doom 3. This re-imagining of the original Doom title was critically acclaimed for nearly every aspect of the final product. And now, as we approach the release of next generation consoles, we can expect to dive right back into Hell with Doom 4.

I believe the Doom franchise is something that every gamer must take part in. The role this series took in shaping the rest of the gaming timeline is too important to miss. I don’t care if you’re 65 and your kids bought you a Kinect just for the giggles or if you’re 8 and still fighting your folks for the permission to play Call of DutyGet your hands on any one of these installments. I have a personal preference for the third, but any will suffice.

Without this experience, there just isn’t a way to properly convey to anyone who wasn’t apart of gaming subculture during the time that the first Doom was relevant, how huge it was. The engine alone, id Tech 1, was a massive leap in the field of gaming. Little things we take for granted because they’re expected for realism just didn’t exist because the technology didn’t allow it. Thanks to John Carmack’s engine, we were getting a vast improvement in full texture mapping and custom color palettes. These are the most basic things of what make an environment believable and Doom delivered it to us.

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The future!

A little further down the timeline, id Software did it again with Doom 3 in 2004. Remember how big of a deal the first Crysis was? Small time computer retailers would spend ten thousand dollars building a PC far ahead of its time and put it center room in their stores and let Crysis run at max settings just so the store owner could attract customers. Doom 3 was pushing technological limits years prior. The id Tech 4 engine was so progressive that only top of the line rigs would see its full potential. When the game finally made it to Xbox some six months later, while no where as impressive as the PC counterpart, it still raised the bar.

The most important thing Doom 3 gave the world of gaming were indeed its graphics. Rather than saving lighting in map data and booting it up during map generation as per the usual routine, id Tech 4 used unified lighting and shadowing. This allowed every object, both static and dynamic, to be shadowed in real time per pixel, at the expense of global illumination. We were also given a new take on interacting with the environment. GUI Designer Patrick Duffy wrote half a million lines of code and produced over twenty thousand images for various computer screens and displays throughout the game. A lot of these interfaces were so dynamic that the player could use the crosshairs as a mouse cursor to operate the screens right there in real time.

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You know what? I don’t need to go to the bathroom anymore.

The entire Doom franchise has kept a few things consistent over the years. No matter the location or story rewrite, we always see “Doomguy” joy-killing his way through hordes of demons from Hell in an attempt to save Earth. No matter where the carnage takes place, the one thing gamers know will always be there is the overuse of gore and satanic imagery. Despite heavy assault from various sources after several school shootings and being dubbed a “mass murder simulator”, the developers stayed true and continued delivering the excessive violence married with controversial content that we had come to expect.

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The only contender at the time was Mortal Kombat 2, which featured 1/8th the murder.

There was certainly a shift in genre between the second and third Doom titles. The first pair played aggressively. Less emphasis was placed on caution and the player was often rewarded for exploring his environments and taking on as many demons as possible. Doom 3, while still favorably received amongst fans of the series, slowed down in opt of adding more horror elements to the mix. I personally preferred this. If I were really thrown into a scenario where I’m facing the hounds of Hell, I’m certainly not going to be strolling along like everything is fine.

For Doom 4, I’m hoping for a happy medium. The third title did suffer from the lack of frantic scenarios that really helped the original games shine, but the latter suffered from almost no psychological intimidation. A series of beta photos leaked this month that are being widely interpreted as early location and model design, despite id Software Design Director Matthew Hooper stating over Twitter that the photos “have nothing to do with what you’re going to see in Doom 4.”

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Do I even need my flashlight?

These photos showcase the more familiar setting of Earth, rather than the expected Martian landscape. I certainly hope these are just concept images. They don’t look Doom-y at all. If you ditched what looks like the Zerg Mutalisks floating around in that second image and told me it was from Call of Duty I’d believe you. I support the apparent move from the red planet to Earth, as we haven’t seen our home planet represented in the Doom universe with new technology. And I absolutely salute the idea of opening up the level design.  The early titles featured large levels as well, but they still maintained the dark atmosphere we’d expect to see with satanic tones. I’m just not getting that vibe from these images. Give me darker. Give me scarier.

Combat must remain untouched. I sincerely hope id Software does not fall to its knees before elitist crowds and younger audiences. There is nothing wrong with the way any Doom approached combat. You pull up your gun, pull the trigger, and something explodes in a horrific, mangled mess of gore. I don’t want to see upgradable weapons that “enhance a weapon’s performance” but in all actuality just changes the sights or increases magazine size. I’m confident that the developers will aim true, and instead focus on giving us a ramped up display of firepower over beauty mods for our guns. We are pretty much guaranteed Doom‘s signature BFG 9000, a weapon so powerful that it wipes the screen clear of foes with one trigger pull. Let’s see what else the year 2145 has to offer us. Perhaps even the option to dual-wield. Shotguns have always been the bread and butter of this series; I certainly would love to run rampant with twice the stopping power.

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Big F*$&ing gun.

Doom 4 will run on the id Tech 5 engine, which is the same engine that Rage ran on. Don’t panic at the thought though. We’re being assured that the next generation of consoles will support the engine far better than the current systems, and the engine will be scaled appropriately. The only question is what game changers we can expect. So far, id Tech engines have raised the bar substantially for competitors with each release of Doom. I’m anticipating texture resolution no lower than four thousand on top of the already phenomenal lighting mechanics.

Maybe this time around we’re going to see a new AI system. Based on the leaked photos, it’s likely we’ll see less attacks of opportunity and more enemies en masse. I eagerly await how id Software plans to utilize the latest model of their engine. For years I’ve been begging AAA titles to start incorporating real time gore. I want my bullet wounds to be present on my enemies. If I get bloodthirsty and whip out the chainsaw, let me see rendered flesh and tissue rip from my foes. These sorts of injuries should remain on the corpses of the fallen so if can go back and revel in my damage. Track each swing. Track each cut. Track each bullet. I can’t think of another title that this would fit more perfectly than Doom 4.

So now that we have hundreds of first person shooters of all types of subgenres, what’s the biggest reason to keep the radar glued to Doom 4? Long time fans already know that id Software isn’t exactly copy and pasting their titles anymore. If you aren’t familiar with the series, these developers take their time. Doom 4 was announced as far back as May of 2008, and not much else has been revealed. So yes, you can expect to feel as if you’ve done it all before. But the next installment will sand, base, clear coat, paint, seal, and polish the first person experience as it has many times previous.

You can also expect the content and imagery to push the envelope. Modern Warfare 2 received some flak for the controversial airport massacre level, but what Doom delivers hits home on another level. We live in a religiously obsessed world, and the developers will capitalize on this by cramming as much pure evil, entrails, and limbs into your eye sockets as they can before you suffer from complete sensory overload.

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“Thats an interesting way to play hopscotch…”

Doom 4 has a lot of the older generation of gamers hyped for good reason, and it’s unfortunate that the younger generation is not seeing the coming storm. I once again implore virgins of the series to pick up Doom 3 and play with an open heart. Check out the video closing this article to get you going.

These games set the stage for the clones you see today. Don’t expect to have your hand held in this one. Don’t expect any apologies. Expect a trip through Hell. Literally.

Features

“The Perfect Canvas To Build a Game World On”: Talking Hand-Drawn Horror in the Hills of Mundaun

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Mundaun

The Swiss Alps are best known as a holiday destination. Snow and skiing dominate the public imagining of the region, but horror lies in all hills. The folkloric horror game Mundaun promises to subvert the usual perception of the area.

The horrific twist on an idyllic locale is accompanied by an eye-catching art style like no other in gaming.

With Mundaun being such an intriguing prospect, OnlySP reached out to the game’s director Michel Ziegler to find out more.

OnlySP: Could you please begin by providing a brief description of Mundaun for any of our readers who may not be familiar with the game?

Ziegler: A [while] ago, I came up with the description: a lovingly hand-pencilled horror tale. I like the word tale, because it emphasizes the type of narrative the game is going for. It’s a first-person adventure game inspired by the dark folklore of the alps. The aesthetic is really unique, since I combine hand-pencilled textures with 3D. It’s kind of hard to be brief about what makes the game unique. I think it’s the combination of all the things in there, some pretty well hidden. Mundaun should be a mystery, an enigma.

OnlySP: Curiously, Mundaun is a real place. How accurate a recreation of the landscape is that found in the
game?

Ziegler: The levels are a condensed interpretation of the real thing. It’s more about how that place feels than accurate topology. The steepness of it, the objects and architecture you encounter that is very specific to that place. It wouldn’t be possible to meaningfully populate a large sample of the real mountain range. I want the give the player the feeling that in every corner there could be some small and unique thing to discover.

OnlySP: Do you have any personal connection to the real place? Why did you settle on it as the setting for the game?

Ziegler: My family has had a small holiday flat there since before I was born. I spent many summers and winters up there and so it became like a second home. Especially for a child, the nature feels huge and full of wonders. I would spend my days finding well-hidden spots and imagining adventures. I chose this setting, because it is dear to me and it is full of buildings that are many centuries old. It always felt like a timeless and mysterious place. The perfect canvas to build a game world on. Four years in, it still inspires too many ideas to ever fit into one game.

OnlySP: I’ve seen the game described as ‘folk horror’—following the likes of The Wicker Man and Children of the Corn. Would you consider that to be an accurate assessment of Mundaun?

Ziegler: I think so, even if my game isn’t inspired by those particular works. But I think there is a certain ambiguity to the scenario that makes people immediately think of fiction that has a similar feel in their cultural circle. Even if I draw much inspiration from things that are specific to where I live, I find that the world and tone of Mundaun resonates with people from all around the globe and from different cultural backgrounds. That said, the haymen that haunt you in Mundaun make the comparison to The Wicker Man an obvious one.

OnlySP: If so, what sort of local legends are you drawing on for the source of the horror?

Ziegler: Not really any specific ones. If I had to name one story that influenced the plot of Mundaun, it would  be Jeremias Gotthelf’s The Black Spider. The oppressive mood it conveys has always fascinated me. Also, I loved collections of small folk tales as a child and I think, I’m remixing elements from those, creating my own folk tale. I’m not restricting myself to only local influences at all though. I take everything that I think is interesting and fits the world and universe of Mundaun.

OnlySP: How does the monochromatic art style contribute to the player’s sense of tension?

Ziegler: For one, it invokes the aesthetic of old movies and photographs. For me personally, those often have a sinister quality, hiding something in the dark shadows. In addition to that, the hand-drawn textures give the game the quality of a darkly illustrated picture book.

OnlySP: Speaking of the art style, it certainly is one of the most intriguing elements of Mundaun. How did you come to settle on it, and what is the process by which you bring these hand-drawn artworks to life in the game? When you began, did you have an idea of how much work would be involved?

Ziegler: I just love drawing on paper. I’ve never gotten into drawing digitally much. For a small game prototype (The Colony) I made before Mundaun, I also applied a hand-made approach. I love the combination of hand-made textures with 3D, it’s a strange thing. Pencils just seemed a perfect match for a more dark aesthetic.

The process is similar to the usual 3D process, but with a small detour. After unwrapping the finished 3D model, I print out the UV maps. I trace the outlines to a new drawing paper and then I fill in the actual drawing with pencils. After scanning them back in, I apply them to the models. I probably didn’t properly anticipate, how many drawings I would end up making, because I underestimated, how much Mundaun would grow.

OnlySP: The puzzles that appear in the trailers seem to draw from an older tradition in games wherein they don’t necessarily feel realistic (although that interpretation is, admittedly, based on brief snippets taken out of context). Nevertheless, do you have any concerns that that approach might turn away some players?

Ziegler: Yeah, it’s a concern. I try to make the puzzles quite logical. Playtesting seems to be the key here. I’m not trying to break the flow of the game, the puzzles are just a great way to add detail and flavour to the world. I try to integrate them into the world and make them feel organic and unique to this place.

OnlySP: Aside from the puzzles, what else will players be doing in Mundaun?

Ziegler: Encountering, avoiding, or fighting off different types of enemies. Finding and talking to some of the eccentric native folk. Making coffee, smoking a pipe, carrying around the head of a goat. Driving a chair lift, a hay loader vehicle and a sleigh. There’s a whole lot of different things to discover. I think, the mix of high-stakes death threatening situations with more mundane activities is one of the most interesting qualities of Mundaun.

OnlySP: Explore” seems to be one of the keywords of the game. Does it feature an open-world design, or is it more of a level-to-level affair with expansive levels? And, in total, about how big is the game world

Ziegler: It features three discrete levels, each with their own flavour. You start in an area with meadows and trees and then make your way up to a more sparse, stony area. Then there’s the snow-covered summit region. The levels are quite sizeable and the player is given freedom to explore them, but it is not an open-world design per se. Each part, activity, and task is unique and lovingly hand-crafted.

OnlySP: How long do you expect the average playthrough to last? Or is it still too early to be able to say?

Ziegler: It is a bit early, but I think it’ll be 4-5 hours.

OnlySP: Speaking of, we first came across Mundaun about a year and a half ago. How long has it been in
development?

Ziegler: It has been in development for 4.5 years now.


Ziegler and his team at Hidden Fields are currently targeting a Q1 2020 launch for Mundaun on Mac, PC, and Xbox One.

If your interest is piqued, let us know either in the comments below or on our community Discord server.

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