Doom 4 will be a "finely-honed and crafted" single-player game primarily, backed up by multiplayer elements for which id Software is hoping to "leverage some of the Quake Live infrastructure".
The Texan developer has been determinedly quiet about Doom 4 - which may not even be called Doom 4 by the time it comes out - throughout QuakeCon this week, but during interviews with various id developers we were able to piece together a few design objectives about single-player and multiplayer.
John Carmack told us that Doom's single-player will be "balanced so that we never want to frustrate the player, you never want to make them do something where they're upset, pissed off at the game, whatever, which fundamentally means that you can't challenge them too much because there's a big trade-off there between coddling the player in a bubble of entertainment that moves through all this wonderful media, versus something where...only a subset of the people who buy games want a challenge."
Doom 3 designer Tim Willits said it was "way early" to be discussing Doom 4 and referred us to Kevin Cloud, who is heading up the project while Willits focuses on Rage. We asked Cloud whether he had a clear vision of how Doom 4 would stack up relative to its predecessors. "I absolutely do but I can tell you about none of it," he said with a laugh.
"Right now we'll probably have...a prototype team of about 15 in-house by the end of the month, and we're sort of going from there. I'm super-excited about what we're doing there, but honestly I can't say much about it right now."
We asked Carmack how Doom 4 multiplayer would be designed in light of the success of Call of Duty 4 and Halo 3, which have risen to the top of the console pile in large part thanks to their impressive infrastructure and progression systems. "With Doom we haven't made final decisions yet, but it's going to have multiplayer be...I would expect it to wind up being a larger focus than it was with Quake 4," he said.
"It's still not going to be the central focus of the game. It's still going to be a single-player experience through that that's going to be a finely-honed and crafted experience for people to get pulled through - but multiplayer will be there as a significant asset, and I would hope that we can leverage some of the Quake Live infrastructure, certainly a lot of the lessons that we learned, because we're going to be really in the thick of the evolutionary stew as we go through this."
Quake Live features friends lists, stat-tracking for all your sessions, leaderboards and other contemporary bolt-ons that were still mostly alien when the game it's built on, Quake 3 Arena, came out in 1999.
As for Doom 4, that's all they're saying, although id Software CEO Todd Hollenshead helpfully revealed that it will have blood and demons during yesterday's QuakeCon keynote address, where Carmack also revealed that it would be locked at 30 frames-per-second on console and that the PC hardware in place when it comes out would hopefully be able to take it to 60Hz.
Doom 4 is due out on PS3, 360 and PC "when it's done". Id hopes to avoid a four-year development cycle by building on experience working with id Tech 5 on Rage, but we still wouldn't expect to see it this side of summer 2010.