With the rail-shooter Doom Resurrection for the iPhone hitting the App Store at any moment, Kotaku spoke to John Carmack about design decisions, multiplayer, and why the game was nearly canceled months into development.
id Software's John Carmack is one of the masterminds behind some of the greatest first-person shooters of all time, often referred to as a father of the entire genre for his work on games like Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake. Lately, however, John has been taking id's properties in different directions, creating a roleplaying game version of Doom and now this title, Doom Resurrection for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
The game began as a test. Carmack supervised the development, which was carried out by the team at Escalation Studios, in order to see what sort of iPhone game could be created using more resources and a larger budget than your average iPhone title. That is the reason we didn't hear about the game until earlier this month - Carmack wanted to make sure they had a viable product.
Gamers will of course question the viability of a game that takes one of the world's greatest first-person shooters and transforms it into a simple rail shooter. Carmack addresses such concerns, explaining that sometimes freedom must be sacrificed for the greater good.
"Freedom is great. There's no doubt about it that one of the major aspects of FPSs is that you're exploring this world and if you want to you can look down between the cracks in the floor and see something cool...but in a high-end game we can spend literally hundreds of thousands of dollars creating this awesome thing only to have the player turn their head the other way and never seeing it. That's extraordinarily frustrating
"That's what we traded off in this game. You don't have the free roaming freedom...but it guarantees that the game will always look good."
Despite Carmack's clear vision for Doom Resurrection, another issue reared its ugly head in the middle of the development cycle that nearly caused him to pull the plug entirely. The game originally featured the standard shooter controls we've come to know and grudgingly deal with in an iPhone shooter, with the player touching the screen to shoot.
The game still looked great, but there was never a challenge...and therefore it wasn't fun. The player's thumb would cover the screen, and it really didn't feel like you were inside the experience. On the verge of scrapping the project, Escalation came up with the solution - the accelerometer.
"It was only halfway through the project, after I had already served notice that we were going to scrap the project that (Escalation) completely scrapped that control metaphor and came up with this different paradigm where you aim with the accelerometer, tilting around. It was am overnight difference, where build one I was about to scrap the project, and build two, all of the sudden we were still a long way from done but it had that kernel - this is a game we could make fun."
How confident is Carmack? So confident that he believe that imitators will soon start showing, with the accelerometer aiming technique perhaps becoming the default control scheme for iPhone shooters.
So now the game is on the verge of release, and players will be able to get their hands on Doom Resurrection for the first time. What can you expect? Well it depends on which iPhone you have. Carmack noted that the original iPhone experienced significant slowdown but was still playable; the iPhone 3G offered a very smooth experience, and the game runs like butter on the 3GS, with improved loading times to boot.
Smooth gameplay and low loading times will also be a boon in the coming weeks and months, as id gears up to add multiplayer support to the title, starting with 2-player cooperative peer-to-peer, with Elevation looking to extend that to 4-player competitive in the future. Unfortunately the game was too far into development when the 3.0 software was introduced, but the features will be patched n, with new downloadable level being looked at as well.
It's probably best to look at Doom Resurrection not as a version of Doom for the iPhone, but as something completely different with a familiar look and feel. id and the team at Escalation have made some bold choices with the title, and should they pay off it could very well lead to other developers devoting more resources and bigger-budgets to iPhone titles in the future.