A bit of news today, id Software has apparently decided to scrap and restart their work on DOOM 4. Ultimately, I feel it is good news, given the developers recent string of well, nothing. Though I didn’t get far enough in RAGE to properly judge it, the fact that I couldn’t bring myself to really try speaks loudly for me. Given id’s importance in my own gaming history (two of the five spots on my top five FPSs of all time, with DOOM not being far behind), it’s a shame to see them in such a poor state. Hopefully this means a new start for a series and company that greatly need it.
Where should they go with DOOM 4, though? That’s the biggest question. Having played so many FPS games over the years, I am not entirely sure. The genre is a bigger success than its ever been with series like Halo and Call of Duty. There are a wide array of different styles of FPS, ranging from the story-heavy Bioshock to the sandbox stylings of FarCry 3. What can id do to make DOOM 4 stand above the pack of FPS games it will definitely be facing when it finally arrives?
One source described a meeting in which ZeniMax executives told Id leads that “Doom 4 can and should be as big as Skyrim,” as far as both sales and cultural impact. (Skyrim, Bethesda’s massive role-playing game, shipped 7 million copies during its first week on shelves in November of 2011. And everyone had heard about it—not just hardcore gamers.)
This quote from the Kotaku article with the announcement got me thinking: maybe looking at games like Skyrim IS the answer. Sure, RAGE had an open world setting that was wasted on a generic setting, and had too much focus on vehicles. That’s no excuse, however, for DOOM 4 to ignore the benefits of an open world.
I think DOOM 4 should be a blend of an already-genre bending game like S.T.A.L.K.E.R. with even more survival horror and more refined open world RPG elements. Let the demon invasion come full scale to a futuristic Earthen city where you are charged with finding survivors, rebuilding defenses, and leading small skirmishes to push back the invasion and give humanity its fighting chance.
Imagine for a moment an open, desolated city still being ravaged by demonic hordes. Your resources and supplies are dwindling at a rapid pace and there are choices to be made. Who do you try to save first? Where do you choose to make a stand? Who do you decide to let die?
DOOM 3 was a fantastic successor to its forefathers, but did nothing to move the envelope. Games since have done the horror far better and the shooting was never that amazing. If DOOM 4 is going to be successful, it is going to need to innovate and create a fresh experience. Demons and corridors and big guns don’t cut it anymore.
That’s not to say that those elements should be cut from the series, either, however. Even in an open world, there is plenty of room for tight corridors, massive demon hordes, and powerful weapons. All I propose is that we drop the linear design altogether and start adding new horrors for the player to experience. Horrors like resource scarcity, lack of time, and the feeling of being cornered. If simple indie games like FTL and Organ Trail can make me feel like the walls are closing in on me, ready to squeeze those last few ounces of life out of my characters, then certainly a major release like DOOM 4 can do so as well?
In its few years of mainstream success, gaming only has so much heritage to live up to and to celebrate. DOOM is certainly a series worthy of veneration and respect. Let’s see DOOM go out with a fight rather than completely fade into obscurity. I’d rather not allow a single generation of gamers to grow up thinking Halo or Call of Duty or Battlefield was the real game that launched an entire genre into prominence.
So, what sort of DOOM 4 would you play?