Doom History: Part 2
After a Doom trilogy collecting the most potent demonic skirmishes for players across the world, it was high time that Doom evolved. The series desperately needed a facelift following Final Doom and, perhaps, a new thematic approach to reach a new audience. The beginning of this evolution took off on Nintendo’s latest console: the Nintendo 64.
Doom 64 (1997)
Having experienced the thrill of Doom with friends on the SNES, Doom 64 was not about to pass me by. The game launched in March of ’97. However, to my surprise, the famous id Software logo that I had come to know was not present on the front of the box. The game was actually developed by Midway Games, and the production was supervised by id Software. Doom 64 was canonical with the titles that came before it, even referencing the disaster that occurred on Earth in Doom II. In keeping with the spirit of Doom, Doom 64 introduced another nameless Marine whose unit was slaughtered, leaving him as the lone survivor.
Doom 64 used the same engine as the previous entries. However, Midway brought the game up to snuff graphically for the Nintendo 64. Unlike past installments, the environments were fully rendered 3D models, but the enemies were still 2D prerendered sprites. Duke Nukem 3D was designed in a similar fashion and contained a lot of visual similarities to Doom 64’s design. Unfortunately, Doom 64 did not contain a multiplayer feature like Duke Nukem 3D. For that reason, Doom 64 was overshadowed by its more irreverent cousin, Duke.
In fact, Duke Nukem 3D made a jab at its FPS rival. In an early level, Duke happens upon a chapel that contains a switch opening a secret area. When activating the switch, the cross on the back wall shifts to an inverted cross and aliens attack. Also, a dead Space Marine highly reminiscent of Doom’s protagonist can be found. Duke then quips, “That’s one doomed Space Marine.”
Doom 3 (2004)
In the early aughts, production began on a remake of Doom. Once again, Carmack helmed the creation of the graphics engine behind the game. Since the game’s release, he’s talked at length about what his aspirations were for the technology of the time and what he envisioned the rebooted world of Doom would look like.
Doom 3 was designed to be the Doom for a new generation, harnessing the latest in cutting-edge graphics technology. Carmack endeavored to not only elevate the sense of realistic design of the world in Doom, but he also pioneered the space of rendering realistic lighting and shadow effects. As anyone who has ever played Doom 3 understands, lighting and shadow effects were crucial to conveying the horrific atmosphere of the UAC facility. Flickering lights, demonic shadows in starkly lit corridors foreshadowing impending danger, and the swelling orange and red glow illuminating fiery hell-spawned portals into the mortal plane were all vivid visual cues that distinguished Doom 3 from other games of its time.
A bid for the survival horror crowd
Even though Doom 3 was remade for a new generation, characteristically it deviated from the tone set by its predecessors. First-person shooting was, of course, still the modus operandi of this title. However, survival horror took center stage. The dank, death-strewn sensation of every inch of the UAC facility and, later, hellish landscape emphasized how terrifying an invasion from hell might actually be. Eerie baritone chants and tones in conjunction with adrenaline-induced upticks in the musical composition only aided this theme. This was a time of change in Doom history.
And while the game certainly created moments where the action was aplenty, from a horror standpoint, it earned these moments by creating an atmosphere of anticipation and anxiety. Many areas weren’t populated with enemies but used horror tropes akin to the Alien film franchise to provoke the player and ratchet up his/her adrenaline. The game even invoked the usage of hauntingly eerie crying baby vocals in the distance before throwing terrifying little half-baby, half-horse-fly monstrosities at you.
Like Dooms of old, the player controls a nameless, lone Marine survivor tasked with the mission of getting to the bottom of an invasion. Digital notepads and computer logs along the way help tell the story of how the UAC conducted inter-dimensional experimentation as well as the psychological toll the experimentation had on UAC employees just prior to the invasion. Voice-acting and NPCs were a first for the franchise. They helped cultivate the more story-driven approach. The demons that players knew from the series returned as redesigned 3D models. Additionally, all the weapons fans were familiar with right down to the chainsaw, plasma rifle, and BFG were fully realized in Doom 3. Sadly, however, the BFG (Big F—ing Gun) didn’t carry over the same colorful moniker in Doom 3’s grittier take, and the title BFG instead stood for “Bio Force Gun.”
Following the release of Doom 3 in 2004, the game received an expansion pack (semi-sequel) in 2005 titled Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil. The game featured a new story that took place two years after the events of Doom 3. A new Marine is tasked with investigating a strange signal leading to an artifact that alerts hell and kickstarts an all-new invasion. Doom 3 and its expansion were revolutionary in the space of realistic and atmospheric design. Both releases were ported to Xbox, but sadly neither of these fantastic games found their way to Nintendo platforms.
The abandoned Doom 4 project (2007-2013)
Just a few short years after the release of Doom 3 and its expansion, id Software announced the development of Doom 4 at QuakeCon in 2007. In an interview with the Escapist Magazine in 2008, John Carmack cited the reasons behind a thematic shift from the survival horror tropes of Doom 3 back to the pulse-pounding, onslaught action that the original games were founded upon. While Doom 3 was generally well-received, the vocal fanbase of the series complained about the “nature of monsters hiding in a closet” with regards to Doom 3’s jump-scare horror approach. Fans felt that a demonic incursion should make the player feel the full force of a hellish onslaught versus stalking prey in the dark.
So Carmack endeavored to explain that Doom 4 would be more like Doom II, both in genre and story themes. That’s right — Carmack’s vision of Doom 4 was going to be hell on Earth. Here’s what he had to say about the direction of the game’s mechanics.
One of the things that I come to in my limited contributions to the whole Doom 4 design process is, it has to still be you beating down the bad guys. It has to be a triumph of heavy weaponry over demonic forces in some way, and you have to be blowing demons all to hell around you, and it’s a more positive side of things there. … It’s not that you’re running around frightened down to your last bullet. There will occasionally be that, but it should be much more of you winning because that was always the point in Doom – you are the hero, and you are winning. You’re going to beat back all the hordes of Hell using all the tools at your disposal.
In 2009, id software was acquired by Bethesda Softworks. While talk of Doom 4 still continued during the annual QuakeCons, in 2013 Kotaku broke the news that Doom 4 was in limbo. With five years under the studio’s belt since announcing the title, it was apparent that something was amiss with regards to the project. Video games journalist Jason Schrier detailed the accounts of disorganization within the studio, frustrating both the developer and Bethesda. At one point, Bethesda even confirmed to Schrier that the studio had scrapped three years of work in 2011 and completely started over. Eventually, the entire Doom 4 concept was put to bed, and it was a dark moment in Doom history.
However, that didn’t stop fans from gaining a peek of what could have been with the leak of screenshots from the Doom-ed title (see what I did there?). Many of the screenshots were published by Kotaku and portrayed a battered and destroyed urban landscape.
This concludes part 2 in our Doom history series. In part 3, we will delve into spin-off ventures for the series including mobile games, virtual reality, and an atrocious cinematic adaptation.