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Game Arena Talks

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GameArena recently had the chance to catch up with id Software CEO Todd Hollenshead and lead designer Tim Willits at Activision's Activate 2003 press event. We were lucky enough to have the chance to sit down and have a chat to them about their upcoming title, Doom 3, due out next year.

Doom 3 is a retelling of the original classic Doom story, id Software's terrifying battle with the forces of Hell. A demonic invasion has overwhelmed a Mars research facility during experiments that tore at the very fabric of the universe. As one of the few survivors, the players must struggle with shock, fear, and an all-out assault on their senses as they fight their way to Hell and back in an epic clash against pure evil.

Built on a revolutionary new 3d gaming engine including an all-new renderer, complete real-time lighting and shadow effects, and a brand new proprietary physics system, Doom 3 draws players into the most frightening and gripping 3d gaming experience ever created.

GameArena: Doom 3 is the first solidly single player game you've worked on since Quake 2 - are there any specific challenges you had to face, particularly from a design perspective, focusing on single player as opposed to multiplayer?

Tim Willits: Surprisingly not a lot of guys at id right now worked on Quake 2. We did try to take a new approach for the single player game design by contracting a professional writer to help us with the story, storyboarding the game out visually so the developers would know basically what's going on, concepting out graphically the areas and the characters. I think that preparation and pre-planning has really helped us with this. As far as why we made a single player game, we felt that this technology - because its of cinematic quality and its richness and the unique environments - could really deliver a great singleplayer interactive experience.
GameArena: Were there any major changes in developing Doom 3 for you as a designer, given the vastly increased level of detail in the average scene?

Tim Willits: Yeh - all the cutting edge technology that we built, going back even to Quake 1 - every time there's something new it always puts more pressure and emphasis on the level designers as well as the artists, because nobody has done it before. We had nobody else to look at to see what Doom 3 should look like, so we set the precedent. Sometimes we go off into the dark horizon and hopefully we bring some sun back with us.
So its always a challenge, but we have such creative art staff and great leadership from John and the owners; I think we've done a good job.

GameArena: Is the single player game broken down into various separate episodes or chapters like the original Doom game, or is it more just a continuous story?

Tim Willits: Its really one continuous story. There's major events that happen, like you go to hell, so you can say maybe that's a chapter, but no - its really one story.
I would really love to put it all into one map, that would make me so happy. Then when people would say "how many maps are in your game", I would say "one!".

GameArena: On the topic of multiplayer, you guys were at QuakeCon recently - what was the feedback like from the multiplayer that was demonstrated there?

Todd Hollenshead: It was really positive, and that was very gratifying for us because we've spent a lot of time working on it. I thought it would be well received, but there's that moment as you're going through it where you're hoping that people are going to dig what it is that you're doing. I was pretty confident before QuakeCon started when we had people in the office lining up to take turns in the chair in the testing pod we had set up there, that people were going to dig it at QuakeCon
GameArena: What was the reaction to the per-poly hit detection?

Todd Hollenshead: You know, I didn't have an opportunity to talk in-depth with people about "like it, don't like it", but I think everybody noticed it. That was definitely one of the things internally at id that I guess snuck up on us a little bit, because we knew it was in and we'd had it in the single player game for over a year, but when we started playing multiplayer and running around and testing it, it was like - what the hell's wrong? Is the damage on the weapons not turned up enough? Some bug in the armour? People have a thousand health? You bastard, you're in god mode. Especially if you're playing Fred [Nilsson], who's far too good.
We finally just realised that we just were missing one another, and it took a little bit of adjustment to realise that you need to be doing some things just from a technique standpoint a little differently.

This was an in-development first look at the multiplayer, so there's a fair bit of refinement that's going to go into it; one of the things that was great about QuakeCon is that we're actually able to talk to the fans who were there; the hardcore have some great perceptions about things that work and things that don't work, and we can incorporate that in to help the multiplayer part of Doom 3 be even better.

GameArena: Will we see extended support in the Doom 3 engine for multiplayer for mods and future titles?

Tim Willits: The player limit is fully scalable. We picked four for a number of reasons but those can be scaled up. As far as mod development goes, we think that with the flexibility and the tools that will ship with Doom 3 - the editors included - and because we pulled out a lot of the game code and put it into scripting, we believe that it will be fairly easy for mod developers to make multiplayer versions of single player mods quite easily.
Todd Hollenshead: The mod guys I think are really going to like it; and John Carmack has even said he's really excited to see what the amateur development community can come out with. Not even from a video game stand point, but from Machinima or what have you, Doom 3 is a tool for amateur developers to create stuff. Then the game as well; its really almost unprecedented in terms of the power it provides people to do things. Obviously we're doing a lot of cool stuff with Doom 3 the game, but now people are going to have something that approaches film quality in the level of visual presentation, on a real time basis. So if you're in film school and looking to make animated films, this is the cheapest package you're going to get when the game comes out - a lot cheaper than Maya.

GameArena: One last question about the multiplayer and then we'll stop bugging you about it...

Todd Hollenshead: We like talking about multiplayer! Its not going to be revolutionary but we never set out for it to be like that, but that doesn't mean we don't want it to kick ass.
Tim Willits: One thing that we added to multiplayer which we haven't really talked much about but I think will be well received is the front end; the ability to connect to id.net and chat and open channels have clan talk; we have an IRC-type client built in to really bring the online community together. I think it should actually be pretty cool. We just got our id.net server at work, its a very cool looking rack machine, so we'll definitely have some fun with that.

GameArena: Does Doom 3 use a dedicated server model or is it peer-to-peer?

Todd Hollenshead: Its peer-to-peer.
Tim Willits: Its peer-to-peer, but you can have dedicated server resources. You'll be able to get online and find a dedicated server resource and set the game for that, but it is a peer-to-peer network paradigm.

GameArena: So players will basically just connect to a dedicated sever resource to establish game parameters?

Tim Willits: Yes, they can like chat and set the rules up. Until we're done, its difficult to exactly verbally illustrate what we're going to do, but yeh, you'll be able to connect online, search for game types you want to play, you find people you want to play, you get a dedicated server resource (because some people don't want to run servers, they have marginal bandwidth) you get together in your own channel, you can chat, and you can kick people out if you want, and then once you have the ruleset it launches. Very similar to all other RTSs, WarCraft 2, Age of Mythology, C&C.
GameArena: Will id.net have any features similar to battle.net?

Tim Willits: We're still discussing what we want to do with rankings. We have, to be honest, gone back and forth and haven't quite decided. It'll have some similar qualities of those types of servers.
Todd Hollenshead: Battle.net's a big production put on by an enormous company - just in terms of size and the engineering that went into that, it was a lot of development cycles. I don't imagine that we would wait to incorporate that level of robustness and hold up the game. I think Diablo was late because of waiting on Battle.net to get up and running. What we want to have is something that functionally makes it cool - a sort of a lobby for people to be in and facilitates getting people in and playing the game.

Big thanks to Todd and Tim for taking the time to answer the questions, and a huge thanks to Activision for providing the fantastic opportunity to chat to them. Stay tuned for more on Doom 3 next month right here on GameArena!

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heh, quite a cool read.....although it was formatted badly for this post. Also, Game Arena....is this an Australian site? Or just with a similar name...

"Damnit, you're using god mode"

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Duh. It's Aussie. :D

Cool read there, though a bit old. I was fortunate to read it at Planetdoom 3 days ago. ;)

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