E3 2019 Interview: DOOM Eternal’s new look is about visibility over nostalgia

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DOOM Eternal looks exactly like what you’d want from a sequel to the 2016 reboot: just, well, more DOOM. There’re demons galore, Hell and Heaven and more sequences for Doomguy to just steal the show, making it seems like very few changes have made it in. That couldn’t be further from the truth though. id Software have taken a lot of feedback on what worked best in their reboot, and fixed what didn’t hit the mark. Which is why DOOM Eternal has a distinctly different visual style that harkens back to its more arcade roots.

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It might seem like an ode to the tone and style of the original DOOM games. Health vials are large and chunky, but also have their classic chemistry set look back over the modern metal detailing of the reboot. Colour is bursting at the seams to bombard your senses, but they’re used to direct your eyes between helpful items when you’re racing across battle arenas at breakneck speeds. Speaking to Creative Director Hugo Martin and Game Director Marty Stratton, it’s clear that one of the biggest problems with the DOOM reboot was how players missed key items that blended into the background.

“I hated it,” explained Martin when asked about item designs in DOOM 2016. “There’s guns in the game that people miss. There’s key cards that people miss because of the pacing because they were too obscure and subtle and there was no reason for that. Once you’ve arrived in the secret area or you’ve unlocked the room where the key is, I just want to see the key. When you think about it in classic Doom, the keys were floating and rotating in mid-air. And it just makes for better game design.”

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Continuing on to explain why item designs changed so drastically, Martin touched on how much easier they are to see now given the increased pace of Eternal.

“It’s really important that we own that because to Marty’s point, it’s not an aesthetic choice, it’s all about functionality. From across the arena, I can see the one up, I know what it is and I can make a decision whether or not I want to go for it. The speed of combat, that health pack is huge and it’s a blue vial and it stands out from the environment and I know in the speed chess, in this combat puzzle that I’m trying to solve, like tells right there.”

DOOM Eternal also gives its combat spaces more breadth of movement with poles you can swing off of, walls that you can mantle and weapons that fling you around in the air towards enemies. Stratton explained that this was in direct response to the team feeling like DOOM (2016) plateaued when it came to level design, and Eternal is trying to give you more options to approach the same scenarios to keep each new area engaging.

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“We wanted to make the level as much an engaging part of the experience as the combat is. Particularly late in the game, Doom 2016 kind of hit a plateau visually from the amount of demons we were throwing you, the variety of demons, and level design was part of that. And, we wanted to make the experience of moving through the world – kind of punching your way through walls, finding secrets, exploring the world, solving the puzzle of the environment – make that as engaging as the combat experience.”

DOOM Eternal certainly feels like a great evolution of the ideas in the reboot, and it’s clear that the team led by Martin and Stratton took long hard looks at their work and where exactly to iterate on it. The demonic shooter is out this November on Xbox One, PS4, PC and Stadia.

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Last Updated: June 20, 2019

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