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DOOM 3 Xbox Roundtable Interview

Matt Leone

DOOM III Xbox Roundtable Interview We talk with Vicarious Visions' Karthik Bala and id's Marty Stratton about where the Xbox version is headed.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about the sound engineering in the game?

A: What the id guys have done with the soundscape is just amazing, and it's such a huge part of the gameplay. There's a lot of cuts in technology for the Xbox version like the rendering engine and the sound system. But it's perfect for the Xbox. It incorporates all the higher level data and the higher level engine that is you see. But the soundscape that the id guys have created are just amazing and it's such a huge part of the gameplay. The challenge is how do you get the Xbox guys to do that? And come up with a few solutions that will be an amazing audio experience on the console.

Q: I heard that there's going to be advanced AI. What can we expect in terms of the type of enemies that we will be facing? A: Well, it's such a varied group of them. The demons range from the pinky to the imp that you saw. We've also got ragnar that shoots rockets that are somewhat like homing rockets. It's their reaction and the way they tie into the scripting system. We've programmed them to act a certain way, attack a certain way, to take on certain personalities. Things like running behind boxes, ducking for cover. Also, in that little crawl space that you saw where the plasma shoots through, if you get out to where the guy is walking, and he catches a glimpse of you, he'll actually squat down and mow you down. Lots of different things like that and reacting differently.

A: You shine a flashlight to see what's there, and you're alerting the zombies that you're there. If you choose to not use the flashlight, and you're creeping around in the shadows, you might not know what's there, but you also might not be seen right away. The AI is situationally aware.

Q: Is there a situation where the AI will push these characters on patrol when they're set in one spot? Is there a situation in which the doors suddenly open, even if you're hanging out and you haven't necessarily triggered anything?

A: it's a combination of things. We don't have a lot of situations where the characters are on patrol through the entire level. But there are definitely areas where they would be on patrol. There's an area where one of the creatures, the Arch Vial, does some cool stuff where he teleports in other demons to help him in battles. If he starts taking a lot of damage, he'll wave his arm and bring in other demons to help. And as you fight them off, he'll bring in more, so you end up having to fight him continuously.

A: There are lots of characters that you interact with on the way. They may force you on a separate mission. There's a portion where you meet a character, he's a scientist who's in a basement with power fluctuations. He actually helps you get to the Delta Lab. He's guiding you with a lantern to a part of the base that's been hit with power fluctuations and really low light. You have to protect him and stuff. It's really about a solitary experience that really hits home with the fear element. We want to keep the story moving along to introduce a lot of those characters.

Q: Outside of the difficulty levels, are you planning on any other bonus material or unlockables for replay value?

A: Yes, we are looking at things. That's the thing that people look for, and we look for it as gamers too. We love it when you beat the game and you get some bonus unlocked.

Q: Any new weapons?

A: It's pretty much the same core weapons. We have a couple things we haven't talked a lot about. BFG will be in there. Hopefully that'll be a surprise for people when they play it, you know, kind of the new BFG. We have something we've mentioned, Soul Cube, which is actually an ancient relic that you use that fits into the story further on into the game. So there are definitely new things, and Doom fans will find it familiar. You wouldn't believe the amount of time we spend on the shotgun animation, the sound, we went back and loaded up the original Doom, and were like, there's something about the shotgun. We gotta capture that. We do that because we know that's what all the fans are looking for.

Q: Can you talk a bit about physics and death?

A: The physics system is still in place, so the rag dolls all work the same, when you kill a demon, his time of death goes into his rag doll, and it flip over railings, fly through whatever, he acts exactly as you'd expect. After a period of time, we thought, 'they're from hell, it'd be kind of cool if they burned away or there's some fire engulfing effect.' So Kenneth came up with the burn away effect which is pretty neat. For the zombies, it didn't make sense for them to burn away since they aren't necessarily from hell and we thought people want gib. So Robert went in and put the gib effects in, so all of the zombies, you can gib. I gibbed one with my fist, you can gib 'em on the ground, shooting them, and it works the same on PC and Xbox.

DOOM 3 Xbox Roundtable Interview (Continued)

Q: How about secret rooms?

A: Taking a step back, we wanted to keep the experience. It's not your typical level where you get to the end and push the button and the stats all come up. In making it terrifying, you need to keep the character, you can't break character. So we did away with that, which did away with finding floor secrets. But the design has secret areas you can go into. Also, you can get security clearances on your PDA – where you can get emails, download information from other people's PDAs, get video disks and other people's email. You can figure out security codes through other people's emails – lockers, cabinets. There's one PDA where if you take the email sent to the dead guy, and if you read it, it talks about a maintenance issue where there are some tiles missing in the floor. And if you read the email and get to that area of the base where you see the loose tiles, and you crush down, you can actually get a jump on the enemy and find a better way to beat them. There are lots of things hidden in the shadows. You really need to explore the level a lot with your flashlight to find things.

Q: We've seen the demo, but is there like a peek or a lean that you can do to see things around the corner?

A: No. It's just something we didn't want to do. We've done that with Return to Castle Wolfenstein and it worked out great, with that kind of game about peeking and being covert and stealthy. Doom's just not about stealthy action. Q: Is the PC version coming out before the Xbox version?

A: Yes. Hopefully not a drastic amount before. But these guys have been working on it for about a year. And they're almost caught up with things. There's the co-op which is a big thing that's going in. It's a massive amount of work.

Q: Is co-op for the Xbox only?

A: Co-op is going to be balanced with more powerful enemies rather than more enemies.

A: Looking at that from situation to situation, in some cases it may play better with additional enemies. But we also have to be conscious of performance because that's part of playing better. With the darkness, when you see a shadow, and you start shooting, it might be your teammate.

Q: Are there any other characters you can be portrayed as other than a marine?

A: It's all Marines. Because that would throw in a whole level of play balance and different speeds of characters that you have to deal with. We're not looking to revolutionize a multiplayer game. We're providing a really cool, fun experience to take advantage of things that Doom 3 is about. The lighting and shadows, the interesting, tense, height combat. And that's the strengths of multiplayer as well.

Q: Have you looked into promoting any Xbox live content, like tournaments and such?

A: We looked at that stuff, and met with Microsoft a few times about all the Xbox live promo features. Not sure. That stuff becomes more time consuming for the publisher. So we need a commitment up front that stuff is going to happen to justify spending the time looking into all those features. We're looking into that, but it's a bigger decision than just making it work.

Q: It seems that you've really re-worked both platforms of the game. But there's no multiplayer on the PC version.

A: Halo on the Xbox did really well. It's much more common on the Xbox than on the PC. It's cool. We're focusing the PC experience on a scary terrifying single player experience. It basically came down to, 'this is going to be a fantastic feature on the Xbox and it'll be more widely accepted.'

A: When you have standard requirements like the mic, which is an integral part of the co-op experience, you can count on that. You can design with that in mind. We don't give all the information to the player in co-op mode because we expect the players to be talking to each other and working cooperatively. And when you have that level of standardization and some of the standardization of Xbox live, it really lets us focus on making it a great experience on the co-op side. Rather than trying to deal with hardware and everything.

A: It's not a throw-in, it took a lot of work. We just wanted to make it fun.

A: When you start playing the game, you're thinking, we're going to have two people in here that can be virtually anywhere they want to be. It just blows up when you consider the issue. So we've been focused on the PC player side on the single player stuff. A lot of it is a challenge, and thought with that challenge, we could handle on the Xbox because it will be coming out later and decided that would get more playability from that audience.

Copyright © 2004 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in 1UP.





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