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by kbrecordzz August 14, 2023 video games, Doom

No one has made a great game yet, but Doom may be the closest to it. I've never been into shooting monsters in dark gritty basements, in many ways it's the complete opposite of the harmless Nintendo joy I usually like, so when I say Doom is the best game it says something about its power. With "no one has made a great game yet" I mean that most games has an amount of time before you hit a wall (not a physical wall) and don't know what to do anymore. But people are okay with this because it's called GAMES. The word "GAMES" sounds like sports and competition, so people who like GAMES like challenges, so they're okay with being stuck and facing hard and almost impossible obstacles. But, it's very hard to see the difference between impossible challenges and an uninteresting experience.

Instead of talking about what makes games so frustrating and boring to start, get into and play, I'll talk about what makes Doom so great at all those things. It has that old school way of being contained by itself and therefore work no matter what that lets you get into the game and do what you want directly. You immediately understand what to do (even if I was stuck in the first room for a few minutes before I understood that you can open doors with the space key). It doesn't force you to do the same thing over and over again (yes, you have to restart the level if you die, but I would say Doom is the least "restart:y" game I've played, at least when I'm on easy mode. I may also be biased by the fact that the Nintendo Switch version of Doom lets you choose level whenever you want, without having to progress through the game before). You move very fast through the areas, so every key press leads to much movement and therefore much changing/happening, so it never becomes dreadful. For example, you don't have to wait for doors to open, it goes so fast that even opening doors is fun. Wherever you go, wherever you look (... I will be right here waiting for you?), you have something to do, and whatever you do, something happens. This is how it typically goes: You check all the doors and items and kill all the enemies, and you get stuck for a few seconds. Then, by sheer accident, you find a new door, that you for some reason didn't see until now (probably because there's so much to explore), that opens into a whole new area with 100 new things to go to, check out and shoot. You always find things like that at the exact moment before you get frustrated because you're stuck. So the result is that: You always have something to do. How do they do this? How do the creators of Doom always know when I'm bored? Summarized I think it's a combination of magic, and that the game's world has a high density of "things", which gets even higher with the fast movement, because the fast movement in a sense makes the world smaller. How all the areas, doors and things are placed also feels special, it's like things normally can be either in front of you, behind you or to the left or right, but in Doom they're in the directions in between these as well, or something like that. I know diagonal directions isn't something new, but it still feels like Doom does something more than that! All this with Doom's very limited old school third dimension (it's kind of just a top-down 2D game where you're in first person perspective). Maybe the fact that the old technology forced you to create weird things, or at least made it an equally reasonable choice as realism, helped too. If the game world doesn't have to be realistic, it can be BETTER than the real world. You can also focus more on the interesting parts when you don't spend 99% of your time 3D modeling each individual hair on your character model.

"We could make objects in the world look realistic, like crates and stuff, but the actual layout and architecture of the levels needed to be fun to play in, look cool, and not adhere to any kind of realism. They just needed to be really fun, and that was the beginning of Doom’s abstract style of level design, which basically all ’90s games went on to use."
(interview with John Romero)

"Today’s shooters set less store by secret spaces, Romero says, because they cost so much to make. Where Wolfenstein 3D was created by a dozen people in a matter of months, the likes of this year’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is the work of hundreds, and cost tens of millions of dollars. This expense discourages designers from adding anything that isn’t absolutely essential."
(interview with John Romero)

Since Youtube started showing stats of how long people have watched your videos, people have mastered the art of "retention", which equals: keep the viewers watching your thing as much as possible. Make them not bored. Make them not leave halfways because it's just... they have better things to do than to watch your slow, unengaging thing. There are more or less ethical ways to achieve this, but anyways: This is what I feel Doom nailed for games, 30 years ago.

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