Game Developer magazine on Doom's creation

John Romero said:

"You don't need much of a storyline if your game is good."


Yeah, I'm in total agreement as to why Tom Hall departed from id Software.

Not a bad read, this. Of course, I hadn't ever seen it before.

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They used that same, crappy low-res DoomEd screenshot that's been floating around forever...

And Carmack is wrong to say that a developed story is inherently bad. He should admit that it simply takes more work/resources, and they didn't have time or want to risk it. Then they did the same thing again later with Quake (all the cool fantasy adventure stuff Romero was hyping got thrown out at crunch time). It was probably the right decision to make at the time, to keep things simpler. But I would have prefered DOOM II to be more like Strife - adding another dimension to the game instead of just some new monsters and stuff.

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Should be noted John Romero previously listed a lengthy number of corrections to some misinfo in the article. I found it while googling around for info on the process about how Cygnus got moved down to Mesquite, and then suffered an internal revolt that resulted in the founding of Rogue Entertainment.

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In the initial development of Doom, a determination was made as to what direction Id's games should take. This decision resulted in founding member Tom Hall leaving Id Software. Carmack and Romero felt that Hall's creativity was coming into conflict with gameplay. As creative director, Hall was insisting on continuity in the storyline and trying to give the game a plot. As Romero would later say, "You don't need much of a storyline if your game is good."

"The game designer shouldn't be making a world in which the player is just a small part," echoed Carmack. "The player's the boss; it's your duty to entertain him or her."

Funny that. Bethesda focused on making games where there is both a strong plot and an open-ended sandbox designed to make the player feel like a small part of a living, breathing world. And in the end, Bethesda earned enough money with its games to let its parent company buy Id Software, which was on the verge on bankruptcy and needed to sell out (and preferably not to Activision or EA).

Though they're right. In games like Id was doing at the time (pure action shooters), the storyline is not important. The world and story should be conveyed through art direction and level design rather than with elements that take you out of the action (conversations, cut scenes, scripted sequences, etc.)

In games like Doom 3 and Rage, though, where you want to use conversations with NPCs and text in the form of notes or PDAs, then you've got to have a good, compelling story. Because if the gameplay is good but the storyline sucks, and you keep rubbing the player's nose in that bad storyline, then the game's quality decreases a lot. That's one of the two things that plagued Rage (the other was pioneering a rendering technology that was not yet properly supported on like 90% of the card chipsets that were current at launch).

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And Carmack is wrong to say that a developed story is inherently bad.


You're right, but does it matter? In the FPS genre examples of storylines integrated smoothly are few and far between, whereas developed stories cannibalizing gameplay are the norm rather than the exception.

There might not be any reason you can't do both well, but the amount of effort required to pull it off is either out of reach for most studios, or deemed unnecessary because for most players all FPS gameplay is just "aim, shoot".

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How a storyline affects the game depends on the storyline and how it's used, IMO. If you're literally just flat out telling the story to the player via cutscenes and so-on it's a really shitty experience. On the other hand, if the player can piece the story together by interacting with the environment, you have an excellent game.

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Feeling like you're a small part of a larger world is fascinating and immersive in any game genre. However, stories communicated with non-interactive dialogue and cutscenes tend to shrink worlds rather than expand them. By leaving Doom's story vague and essentially up to the imagination, the player is immersed in the largest world possible.

Quasar said:

...Cygnus got moved down to Mesquite, and then suffered an internal revolt that resulted in the founding of Rogue Entertainment.

I figured Strife was the "cyberpunk" game they were talking about. That just leaves the question of what happened to Wolfenstein II.
EDIT: Makes sense, thanks Essel.

Gez said:

In games like Doom 3 and Rage, though, where you want to use conversations with NPCs and text in the form of notes or PDAs, then you've got to have a good, compelling story.

The decision to dumb down Doom 3's original story was a bizarre example of corporate ignorance of their demographic. There has to be enough evidence by now that people enjoy thinking. Besides, anyone who isn't able to or doesn't care to follow a complex story in a linear shooter can simply ignore it. On the other hand, people who do like stories can't make a bad one good.

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