The big Doom Eternal interview: Switch timings, multiplayer and a whiff of Heaven
"Playing as a demon is a very different experience."
Yesterday I sat down with Doom Eternal duo Marty Stratton (executive producer) and Hugo Martin (creative director) and rattled through a list of questions I had about the freshly unveiled game.
Excitingly, there's a suggestion Doom Eternal may take us up to Heaven as well as down to Hell. That bluey-grey fantastic city we flew through in the trailer? That could be it - that could be Heaven.
id Software is also working on a new kind of multiplayer experience in addition to the Souls-like Invasions - where players play demons in other people's games - for the game, and id is making it internally.
But it's still early, and there's still no whiff of a release date - not a "2019" or anything. Whether that means Doom Eternal is far away, or whether it means id Software and Bethesda are holding their cards close for a surprise-it's-nearly-here release date reveal at some point, I don't know.
Will the game launch on Switch at the same time as PC, PS4 and Xbox One?
Marty Stratton: That's the plan right now; we'll see. We're still a way away from launching but we have made the decision to make Switch a, what we call internally, 'first class citizen'.
So you're developing it internally?
Marty Stratton: No. We're actually working with Panic Button again, but before, we made the game and then we brought it to Switch, and now we are making the game with Switch in mind. It's nice to know the platforms we want to hit up front.
Graphically it sounds like you're doing even more with Eternal but you said it will run at 60 frames per second - on Switch as well?
Marty Stratton: We don't run at 60 on Switch. Doom 2016 didn't run at 60 on Switch, it ran at 30, and really it was no sacrifice to the experience.
But on all the other platforms it will run at 60?
Marty Stratton: Yeah - that's always the goal. The engine has an interesting way of flexing. It flexes around 60 fps. Sometimes game engines flex around other metrics but for us we try to set the line at always trying to maintain 60.
Will we have to wait longer than 2019 for it?
Marty Stratton: Not getting into the release date yet, but we're doing well - the game is really coming along.
(Onto the bitty questions...) The sword we saw the Doom Slayer ignite, or whatever you want to call it, at the end of the gameplay footage - are we going to be wielding that?
Hugo Martin: Yeah, that's why we -
Marty Stratton: That would be the greatest downer ever if that's how we ended that presentation and then you don't get to use that!
Is it going to be a weapon we can only use in a scripted-kind of boss battle, or can we use it whenever?
Hugo Martin: I can only say you'll end up using it in a satisfying way. I can't go into details about how you'll use it because that would be giving away too much, but you'll certainly be able to use it. It is a Crucible, and there is a Crucible at the end of 2016 - Samuel pulls it out - so yes... It'll be satisfying.
The hellish cityscape we saw in the demo was one of the Hell on Earth levels. What was the bluey grey-ey fantasy city level?
Hugo Martin: What do you think it is? We don't want to say. You will learn what that place is when you play Doom Eternal, and the answer to that question is really compelling. I will say this: it's not Hell. That blueish place is not Hell.
Oh shit! Is it... the opposite?
Hugo Martin: I dunno [and I think I see a smile as he shrugs]. You've just gotta play the game. We hope the question of 'Where am I?' and 'What's going on here?' is what drives people to dig into the story.
Seeing the new environments was lovely because Doom 2016 had what felt like two main environment types [they both nod]. How many different environments are there?
Hugo Martin: A good amount. That's one of the things we're most excited about -
Marty Stratton: It's one of the pillars.
Hugo Martin: Because it's true: last time you only went to Mars and Hell, so we'll take you to more places than that this time.
Marty Stratton: And widely varied - hopefully that's what people saw. This isn't just a subtle difference. People will be as excited about where they're going next in the game as they were in 2016 about what they were going to fight next.
The dash-evade, is that new?
Hugo Martin: Yeah that wasn't in the game last time. The dash can go in any direction.
And the climbing - can you climb any wall?
Hugo Martin: Only - similar to an Uncharted or a Tomb Raider - walls that have that material on it. That will indicate clearly to the player 'this is something you can attach to'.
Because it looked like, with the dash, the climbing, the meat hook grapple and the returning double-jump all working together, you've given the player much more movement freedom. You can cover huge chunks of level.
Hugo Martin: That was the goal.
And it looks like the levels have stretched vertically as a result.
Hugo Martin: Yeah - more drama, you know what I mean? A bigger experience. You're absolutely right: the amount of ground the player can cover when combining what we call 'traversal combos' is going to make everything you do feel more epic, more thrilling.
Marty Stratton: Even the way you can combine them. What we showed yesterday was, in that second playthrough, he left that pain elemental floating there on purpose so he could use it as a grapple point, because you can only grapple to demons. It's a lot of new fun decisions that you're making while you're playing the game.
The multiplayer Invasions were fascinating. How do you opt in and out of them?
Hugo Martin: There'll be more details on this later but the main thing is it allows you to experience the 'Doom dance' with your friends. It also doesn't compromise the Doom experience; you're able to play with your friends but not at the expense of the game where it doesn't feel like Doom any more.
But if someone comes into your game and wrecks you, what happens?
Hugo Martin: TBD on all that stuff. We'll definitely be covering more of that later. There's so many cool things about it. The main thing is it will make any area of your game thrilling. When you walk down a hallway in a game in between a large combat, and there's a few zombies, it's no big deal. When you walk down that hallway and you know, because it says right there, there's a hunting party inside your game, now the walk down that hallway is going to be pretty thrilling because where are they hiding? Where are they? All of that stuff makes it - for both people, the invader and invadee - really compelling.
Marty Stratton: The accessibility and approachability of it is a big focus of ours - really, really important to us. We want it to be a feature people don't want to turn off unless they're really specifically doing something that requires perfection - a perfect run or something like that. As far as invading: playing as a demon is a very different experience. It's super-fun to play as part of the Doom game of chess game but as a different piece on the board. We want people to very easily have it right there at their fingertips and they can bounce between any experience just as easy as they can play the campaign.
Was the Blood Punch ability a rune?
Hugo Martin: It falls into that category. Whether or not we call them 'runes' again is TBD but basically it's a rune ability. It's not a power-up. Power-ups will still be a part of Doom - so Berserk and all those great things - but this is a rune ability that, same as last time, you will activate and you will have it until you deactivate it. That was just a showcase of one of them.
Will the character progression elements like weapon upgrades and suit upgrades return for Doom Eternal?
Hugo Martin: It'll be freshened up and feel like a nicer experience.
Marty Stratton: Refined is probably the best way to think of it. A lot of those things worked but there were things, as we played more, and as we watched people play, we were like, 'Let's tighten this up,' or, 'Let's make this a little more accessible to people.'
Runes were one of those things. We didn't see as many players [using them]. Several times it was like 'you just missed probably the most fun rune in the game' because it was tucked away and then you had to do a challenge to get it. We're trying to make that a little bit more within arms' reach.
Another thing we saw in the footage was what looked like a wrist-mounted flamethrower and rocket launcher -
Hugo Martin and Marty Stratton together: Shoulder-mounted!
Like Predator! Is that something you have available from the get-go?
Hugo Martin: Yeah. Just like in Doom you get it pretty early. If not from the get-go, certainly within the first level. It's meant so you can now dispatch equipment, like grenades and what not, without having to bring your gun down.
Marty Stratton: In Doom 2016 you couldn't shoot while you were [cycling through guns]. Now you can do those things in combination, and there's a gameplay benefit. Using the flamethrower as an example: when guys are on fire, when you shoot them armour pops out, like popcorn, so you get a game benefit and an awesome visual spectacle.
So the flamethrower is new, the rocket launcher is redesigned, and all the other guns we saw looked overhauled from Doom 2016. Are any of the guns returning as they were?
Marty Stratton: No. Archetypally they're all similar, because in Doom you've got to have a shotgun, you've got to have a plasma rifle, you've got to have a rocket launcher, but all of them have been completely redone.
And are there eight guns plus BFG and chainsaw, as in Doom 2016?
Hugo Martin: We wouldn't be giving away anything by saying 'yes' because you could see the slots on the weapon wheel, so yes.
Marty Stratton: But mods... Archetypally guns are very familiar, but mods: some familiar, some totally new.
Is multiplayer coming back?
Hugo Martin: Yes.
Marty Stratton: But not as... We're approaching the whole social side of playing Doom a bit differently. The Invasion is one of the ways you can play the Doom dance in a social way, but we are also working on a PvP component, but not the way we did it last time.
Marty Stratton: Yeah - a new approach to it. We'll be talking about it a lot more further down the road but it is a much more Doom-centric experience and we're developing it internally this time.
The Doom dance with your friends is a really big thing for us. We wanted to make sure everybody understood, first and foremost, we're taking the campaign and the Doom Slayer and giving a completely blown-out-the-top version of everything they love, but the social side, as people will see when we start to talk about that, is a really big thing for us.
This article is based on a press trip to QuakeCon. Bethesda covered travel and accommodation.