When you hear the word DOOM what comes to mind? The iconic fast action shooter, the memories of the multiplayer, campaign, or maybe even invasion. All of those would be strong candidates to describe the game that has been loved by many and I am sure many of you have even your favorite ones to describe the game. For me, it’s all of them and also the science fiction of it all and how the game can throw the action right into your face. But when I heard that developer Archiact was bringing DOOM 3 exclusively to PlayStation VR, I had to learn more and Executive Producer, Ken Thain was happy to give us a closer look into the game as well as talking about Virtual Reality.
Interview with Executive Producer, Ken Thain
Welcome to THE VR DIMENSION. Would you please introduce yourself and what you do at Archiact?
“Hi! I’m Ken Thain, Executive Producer at Archiact. I oversee the products we develop at Archiact.”
Do you have a favorite VR moment that really got you excited and you knew that you had to work with
VR in some way?
“Well, it was actually the moment of being introduced to the concept of VR in general. When I first learned about it from a newspaper back in 1991, I had this sudden epiphany of the possibilities to come. It was a crucial point early in computing where graphics were starting to be rendered in 3D real-time, and the imagination of live, fully simulated worlds that could truly feel like other realities took off. It seemed inevitable that virtual reality would become mainstream, so I’ve kept my eye on it ever since. All the progress it’s made over the years feels like the birth of a new medium, especially as it becomes integrated into everyday lives.”
Archiact has been known to develop some pretty good games in VR from Evasion, and Freediver to even publishing some good ones as well such as Darknet, Blasters of the Universe, Smashbox Arena, The Pierhead Arcade, and Waddle Home. What have you found to be the working formula in creating content for Virtual Reality?
“I would say that formula is still being explored and discovered. As of April 28, 2021, we’ve been in the VR/AR industry for exactly 8 years, and it’s still very much in its infancy. But with that being said, with each project, we strive to bring our expertise over the years forward, while keeping our design and processes malleable. It’s about building your expertise, but also leaving room for our design and development to grow while the industry is still figuring itself out.”
Your newest game is part of a franchise that many know and have a place in their hearts, Doom 3: VR Edition for the PlayStation VR. What can you tell us about the game?
“We’ve been saying this all throughout the project, but now that it’s live and out in the world, DOOM 3: VR Edition truly is one of the major highlights of our VR development career. It’s a joint development project between Archiact and Bethesda/id Software: a true PS VR adaptation that merges the original game’s legendary horror action with the in-your-face intensity of virtual reality.
Not only does it sport some polished new features that tailor the experience especially to VR, it includes all the original DLC, which adds up to over 15 hours of AAA quality gameplay. We feel it’s a great offering for players who are hungry for deep, high-quality VR content, as well as an extremely exciting step forward for the VR games industry at large.”
Making a game like Doom 3, but for VR, what were some of the challenges and surprises that you came across, and do you have a favorite part of the game in VR that you cannot wait for the players to experience themselves?
Bringing any game designed for one medium to another medium will have its challenges. DOOM 3’s strong FPS mechanics helped in a lot of ways because VR naturally fits that sort of intense, highly focused first-person perspective. That gave us a great foundation to work from, and allowed us to put energy into building additional VR-only features, such as fully 3D weapons, a totally diegetic user interface, and subtle quality upgrades such as the weapon-mounted flashlight, laser sights, and comfort settings.
My favorite part of the game is in the first act: that moment when the big event kicks off, people are getting possessed left and right, and Mars City plunges into chaos. There’s a lot of tension slowly built up to this point, but once things start popping off, you feel a visceral shift in the game. Once you take that shotgun into your hands (literally, if you have an Aim Controller!) you know it’s time to do some demon-slaying damage.”
Doom 3 at times can be a little dark and can be scary for some. But in VR, things can get really immersive. What can you tell us about some of the things that really come through in Doom 3: VR Edition that only Virtual Reality can allow?
“The first thing you notice is how the weapons really become the stars of the experience. In the original DOOM 3, the weapons were sort of stuck to your camera in this really static and old-school way, but now you can really get your hands on them: turn them around in 360 degrees, and take in their upgraded textures and models up-close.
Of course, that newfound freedom of movement has cool gameplay implications as well. You can crouch, peek around corners, duck and dodge enemy projectiles, really just move around the battlefield in ways you never could before. We’ve seen the most hardcore fans of DOOM 3 dive in, and they all have that same realization of “Wow, this adds a whole new dimension to this game.” Even if you’ve got DOOM 3 memorized, you’ll find something exhilarating and new in the VR experience.”
Of course, you cannot have it too dark and lighting does help when you have the right reflections and shadows. What can you tell us about how some of the lightings were used as well as about using the flashlight in the game?
“In the original DOOM 3, its dynamic lighting and shadows were such a huge deal at the time. Preserving that feature was really important for us; apart from reducing some strobing effects that might have been uncomfortable for some users, everything is identical to the original. The flashlight, in particular, feels great in VR, and really embodies that sense of terrifying exploration through the demon-infested corridors of Mars.”
One thing that PlayStation VR has the advantage of is having the Aim controller. Can you tell us more about using the Aim controller in the game and was it always the idea for this to be used from the start? Does it work well with all the weapons or does it favor more than others?
“Between Sony, Bethesda/id Software, and Archiact, all three of us were extremely keen on supporting the Aim Controller and doing it well. Having played with it myself, I can say it really does make the game so much more immersive. Being able to hold your weapon in your hands both virtually and physically is a match made in heaven, especially for a game like DOOM 3. You might think that certain weapons would feel a little strange with the Aim Controller, like the pistol or grenade, but we made subtle adjustments to the way the weapons are held in-game so that they feel immersive no matter what. And of course, we made sure to include full support for left-handed mode!”
For those who may still be new to VR, VR can bring some jump scares, and when you add the sound, it can be hard to concentrate where anything is coming from. From the playtesting and feedback, have there been some jump scares in Doom 3: VR Edition that you had to tone down some or maybe increased just to have more of an effect on the player?
“We can safely say that no modifications were needed on any of the horror moments in-game, so none were made. Bethesda/id Software really knew what they were doing when they made this horror action game originally, and they still hold up wonderfully (terrifyingly?) in VR!”
Doom 3: VR Edition has a very impressive price point of $19.99 and that does include both expansions of Resurrection of Evil and The Lost Mission. Was there ever any thought of bringing the Doom 3:BFG Edition that includes the original Doom and Doom 2 or was it always going to be Doom 3 and the expansions?
“Based on years of a great working relationship that began all the way back with the VR DLC for Prey, Bethesda/id Software approached us specifically to adapt DOOM 3 to PlayStation VR, so that’s all we can speak on today. We would love to see as much DOOM in VR as possible (and probably aren’t alone in that) and if our friends at Bethesda/id Software decide to explore additional adaptations, we’ll be ready!”
Sound and visuals help make the immersion for Virtual Reality, were there any challenges when bringing the game to PlayStation VR that you were not expecting?
“DOOM 3 is definitely a classic title from a very different era of game development, so we anticipated challenges with the technology like any modern adaptation. Nothing makes you realize how far we’ve come like tinkering with classic tech! Regardless, it was our responsibility to ensure all the features and new content we added were going to run at the buttery frame rate needed for comfortable VR play, and also to preserve the original experience as much as possible. For instance, we considered adding teleportation movement but quickly found that it was detracting from the horror experience, and decided to focus on making smooth locomotion the best it could be instead. Of course, we had world-class support from Bethesda and id Software, and together we were able to collaborate and accomplish a lot of what we wanted to do for DOOM 3: VR Edition.
Is there a chance that Doom 3: VR Edition will come to PCVR or to the Oculus Quest platform in the future?
“We think it would be a great experience on other platforms, should Bethesda/id Software choose to bring it there!”
Where do you see VR in 5-10 years?
“I feel we will continue to see technology and hardware advancements that will make VR more comfortable and accessible to mainstream audiences. The friction of getting in and out of VR will be reduced, so it becomes as easy as picking up and using your phone. (Maybe you pop on some VR/AR shades, and off you go!)
Another key development I think will inevitably shape the future of VR/AR is standardization. As the medium finds its own footing and sheds the expectations of its cousins (from traditional video games, films, books, etc.) we’re going to see a lot of standardization of design and development processes, which will bring stability and lower barriers to entry.
In some ways, I feel it will be a whole different industry from what it is today; but in other ways, it’s not that hard to imagine how it will integrate into our lives as a natural extension of how we see ‘spaces’ and more and more of our everyday lives will take place in the virtual, but in a very comfortable and accessible way.”
With the library for Virtual Reality growing, what would you say to someone as to why they should experience Doom 3: VR Edition?
“DOOM 3: VR Edition is the ultimate merger of a classic, well-executed FPS horror action experience, plus ultra-immersive VR. Not only are players going to lose themselves in the frantic battle for Mars City, there’s more than enough ripping and tearing gameplay to get lost in. Even if you’ve played the original, jumping into the VR Edition is going to scratch that nostalgia itch, while offering exciting new angles to familiar battles, environments, and hair-raising scares. Welcome back to Mars, Marine!”
I want to thank Ken for taking the time out of his day to give us a closer look at Doom 3: VR Edition as well as talking about Virtual Reality.
Doom 3: VR Edition is out now for PlayStation VR on the PlayStation Store.
In case you missed the trailer, please enjoy.