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The troubled history of the new Doom game

by on February 19, 2014
 

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If you pre-order Wolfenstein: The New Order, you’ll get a code to play the beta version of a game that’s been in development for over five years.

The Doom you’ll play will not be the same as the one that existed at developer Id Software from 2008 to 2011. According to a thorough Kotaku report from anonymous sources close to the company, Doom 4, as the game was known then, was pitched as a modern “rework” of Doom 2. You would play as a human who enlists with a group of civilians and soldiers to protect Earth from demons in first-person shooter combat. The game was in development alongside Rage and used the same Id Tech 5 engine. But the focus to ship Rage was too great and parent company Bethesda reportedly failed to manage what was going on with the Doom 4 team.

This was during the exploding popularity of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare with all its exciting, now-signature, scripted moments. And Kotaku’s sources said Doom 4 was turning into a similar kind of game, lacking the undercurrent of horror that Doom 3 relied on. It did have some originality going for it, though.

“The big thing [Id] tried to do was not seem like, ‘Here’s a bunch of demons,’” one of the sources said. “There was lots of concept art and prototype missions set up showing different parts of the earth being taken over, 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.”

That description suggests the images that supposedly leaked from the game in 2011 might have been real at some point. They depict modern, urban environments wrecked by fire and debris. After they leaked, the game’s design director at the time, Matthew Hooper, said the images were not in Doom 4, suggesting they were probably cut sometime earlier.

Once Rage shipped in Oct. 2011 to mediocre reviews and sales, Bethesda made significant changes in direction to Id. It cancelled Rage 2 and reduced the first game’s DLC plans. Both the Rage and Doom 4 teams would combine and dedicate themselves to making the next Doom game.

What happened to the game between late 2011 and now is unknown, but if it’s in beta by the end of this year, that would put it at six years of development, maybe seven if it launches in late 2015. The “4″ in the title was dropped which might mean its a full-on reboot of the franchise. A job listing on Bethesda’s website for a senior 3D prop artist says he or she will be a part of the “creating and texturing of 3D models for AAA first person shooters,” so at least we can probably bet it’s still a shooter. It will also be the first Doom to launch without John Carmack since he created the first game in 1993, as he left Id last year to devote his time to Oculus. He is rumored to be working on a game for the company’s virtual reality headset.

Game development reboots happen a lot more than we hear about. Thief, which launches later this month, is another game that had a troubled development history. Shaky development doesn’t mean the games will be bad, creative projects sometimes greatly benefit from massive reworking, but it does mean a lot of money was spent on it and the future of Id might depend on its success.

Doom has no release date or platforms announced, but it’s rumored to be available on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One as well as last-gen consoles and Windows PC.

Source: Kotaku [1] [2], Matthew Hooper on Twitter, Bethesda

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