The game that shaped the first-person shooter is storming into JB stores this month. Executive producer at id Software Marty Stratton talks DOOM and Mars.
For a game synonymous with guns, gore and carnage, the planetary setting of Mars, named after the God of War, has always been an inspired choice. DOOM needs no introduction, and neither does the studio behind it. It’s coming back this month, dressed for battle on the 21st century gaming platforms – and yes, it’s still set on Mars.
“As for returning to Mars, it was a very early decision,” says executive producer at id Software, Marty Stratton. “DOOM has always been set on or around (the moons) of Mars, so as we’ve set out to ‘reboot’ the brand with this game, it made a lot of sense to start there. It’s a great canvas that works well with the tone and themes of DOOM for a number of reasons.”
With the coordinates set for the Red Planet, the team at id set about shaping the lore of the game and defining the reason for being on Mars.
“The origin of our setting on Mars is that a number of decades from now, and in the midst of quite a bit of exploration within the solar system, the Union Aerospace Corporation (UAC) discovered a mysterious source of energy on Mars – that (once processed) is seemingly infinite and clean – they call it Argent Energy,” explains Stratton.
“Over the course of many years, the UAC constructs a massive installation on Mars to extract, process, study and exploit the power of Argent. What they don’t understand initially is that this energy is being drawn through a fracture between dimensions – our dimension and Hell. Through the course of the game you have the opportunity to discover some of the crazy secrets of the UAC, but more importantly, why you’re there to kill the demons.”
Mars has consistently captured the imagination of authors, composers, filmmakers and developers. Earth’s closest neighbour has inspired the likes of H.G. Wells, Gustav Holst, and more recently, Ridley Scott. But what is it about Mars that makes it the ideal location for DOOM?
“For DOOM, it’s the isolation and disconnection with humanity that makes it appealing as a setting for the UAC,” Stratton offers. “For some of our more fantastical elements (like Hell), it’s also the fact that, with all of the ideas and conspiracies about alien life, past civilisations, possible current life, religious overtones, etc., Mars is just this big awesomely mysterious (but very real) place that almost anything is somewhat possible.
“In DOOM,” he continues, “we establish that an unexplained energy well, its location fixed and marked by an enigmatic symbol, is discovered on Mars and just happens to be a rift to Hell. Is that pretty outlandish and not at all based in reality? Absolutely. But, if tomorrow you pulled up the latest image from the Curiosity Rover and it revealed a discernible glyph carved into the bedrock next to one of the rover’s wheels, would you completely dismiss it, or would you want to see that next picture?”
For many, the DOOM franchise represents nostalgia, a game that shaped a genre not through in-depth storytelling but rather unrelenting action. It helped lay the road to competitive multiplayer and put outraged parent groups right across the globe on the video game warpath. But how does the studio responsible for the game feel about returning to hallowed (or is that infernal?) ground?
“DOOM obviously means a lot to everyone here and to the company as a whole,” emphasises Stratton.
“For some here, it’s how they got their start in the industry, or a driving reason why they came to work at id. For others it’s a defining or influential moment in their ‘gaming life’. But for all of us, it’s simply a dream project and a rare opportunity.”