We have been working on this mod for so long
. It took us 5 years to get to the realization that we needed to radically change our work structure. 2˝ years later we are at a stage where we can just jump in and record stuff without having to first spend hours polishing things up to a higher standard. This is something we’re really excited about, so it’s a great pleasure to be able to unveil the first teaser trailer for Phobos including the first action footage of the mod. It’s only a short glimpse of it, though, as more will follow later.Watch the Teaser trailer on youtube here
Celebrating this, we have compiled a list of questions and answers about the mod and the team. Enjoy!Q: How far along are you now? Last update said internal demo was at 6 of 8 maps.A:
We’re a few weeks ahead of 7 out of 8. The map we have been working on since that update is the last one - the big one, so it’s a pretty time-consuming process. There is a bit of touch-up work on one of the other maps, but we have phase1 (which is what all this is about) scheduled for January 2012, so we’re pressing on. Even though we are still technically on 6/8, this has been the most productive summer ever.Q: We haven't really seen any AI or combat screen since 2009/8, just map designs. How are the AI/models different in the last two years?A:
We haven’t shown anything yet because we weren’t ready. We are constantly tweaking the current AI and testing out how we want it to work. I would say a lot of things have changed over the last two years and they will keep changing, but we’re narrowing things down. We have been trying to find our feet with monster placement, monster introductions and so forth. Finally it has paid off! We wanted more natural encounters and less spawn-ins as well as more monsters in general. Things have really picked up in this area and the hard work was worth it. We are at a stage where nothing drastic has yet to happen, so you will all see AI and combat soon.Q: Are there any new weapons and/or removed weapons from Doom 3? And is anything changed?A:
We’ve thrown the old doom3 shotgun in the bin and replaced it with a version that is much closer to the original doom/2 shotgun in both behavior and visuals. You can pick off imps and maggots at a medium range with no problems. As for the other weapons, we have done a lot of work to increase the enjoyment of the action. The plasmagun sounds more like the old one, the bolts look more electrical again. The chaingun has had its rate of fire increased and if you run out of bullets, it’ll spin like in Predator. There are quite a few small surprises here and there. Other than that, we have removed all the artifacts, but that’s pretty much it.Q: How many new enemies will we see in Phobos besides the already shown Arachnotron?A:
We had a few new enemies planned right from the start. We don’t want to tell too much and it’s not all final. Apart from the Arachnotron, we have 3 fully modeled and textured enemies ready. One of them is ingame and needs a few adjustments, but two still lack animations and scripting. We hope we’ll get to them before the end of development. It all comes down to the extra help we can get and the time they’re able to put into the job.Q: Assuming you don't want to give a solid release date, could the Doom 3 GPL release possibly impact the features you'd implement in to your mod by modifying the EXE to add new features (similar to how newer Quake 2 mods use features in new Quake 2 engines, for example)?A:
I don’t think we are going to add or change anything the player would notice. As of right now, we have a few problems with the hard coded limitations of the engine. Some of them are really holding us back in terms of map size and complexity. We had a map at 56 thousand brushes, but it wouldn’t compile and we had to make quite a few cuts here and there to get it through the compiler and into the game. Our maps are far beyond the originals in terms of detail and size, but the engine doesn’t scale so well.
One thing we have discussed doing, though, is “hire” some hotshot shaders guy to write and implement mod-specific solutions that would add the mod that final touch of modern rendering. Nothing concrete has been decided though.Q: How are the newer members of the team working out?A:
We never had a big team, and we never had that many new members coming in and actually doing something. The latest “hire” we did was made in way back in January and he’s our current animator. He has remade some of the animations for the Arachnotron. The main problem we have had with new members coming in is that they don’t really do anything before deciding to quit again. A lot of people are really poor at estimating their own worth in terms of work rate, morale and available time. Another problem when dealing with modding is handholding. It’s just not possible for a small mod team to have dedicated hand holders who take care of every little detail for new members, so these have to naturally curious, engaged and able to work on their own. That said, we are always looking for skilled new members, so be sure to contact us if you are committed and feel like you can contribute.Q: How has the experience of making this mod changed what you (the team) thinks of modding?A:
Most of us (if not all) have almost always been modding. Even before Doom 3. A lot has changed since then of course, and modding is not as straight forward as its used to be. At least not with Idtech4. The engine is customizable and the tools are free and available, but make no mistake. Idtech4 was made for Doom3 and Doom3 only. Going beyond that requires a lot of work, battling back and forth with the tools and the engine itself, trying to bend it to your will. It can be frustrating at times, but we still love making games. Not much has changed there. Something that has changed, though, is our commitment to getting things done. It’s only gone up since we started. The amount of repetitive work is enormous and only hard work will get you through.
Once Phobos is done and released, we’re going to take a thorough look at the market before making any decisions on where to go next. We might go with something completely different or start up our own engine. We just don’t know at this time.Q: What was your biggest, overall hurdle for the team so far during development? Â What really held you guys up?A:
As previously mentioned, the engine itself has challenged us through various hard coded limitations. Apart from those, we’re a really small team with few dedicated workers. They’re quality people. no doubt, but Idtech4 and its tools require brute force work to get stuff done. There’s not a lot to be intelligent or crafty about, so we have poured hours on end into this. Because of the team’s size, it is extremely noticeable whenever one of the members has to focus on his job or girlfriend for a while.
We try and work our way through it all though, and I think we are at a stage where we handle it just as well as anybody could. It was never easy, but we’re not quitters!Q: Years in development without a release is a long time for a mod. If more Doom 3 mods released content earlier in their life there would currently be more excitement about Doom 3 modding like there is for Valve, Epic or Crytek games?A:
There are quite a few problems with Doom 3 and Idtech4 as a base. Even if the three large Idtech4 mods had released beta versions a few months after starting, you will still have the same challenges and drawbacks as you have now.
Doom3 was a remarkably unspectacular game in the eyes of the public and it never gained any sustained public appeal. In fact, the game has become a running Internet joke. No matter how much we like Doom3 in the local community, it’s never going to draw in people from the outside communities. So then what? What could draw people to the Doom3 (idtech4) modding community?
Changing the game completely into something contemporary and popular _could_ do the trick.
Sadly, this has been tried and proven not to work. Idtech4 was custom tailored for Doom3, the game. This is very apparent in the games produced utilizing the engine. Quake 4 looked a lot like a poor man’s Doom3. Prey looked like Doom3 with a few sparkly shaders. They both played somewhat like Doom3.
Most popular mods are multiplayer by nature, but as we all know, Doom3 MP turned out to be something of an afterthought. The netcode was buggy and anything serious produced on the engine would have to receive extensive work. Even if we imagine all of this was achieved by some talented people, you would still have to overcome the art barrier.
There is no engine in the world where you can just throw random assets at it and it’ll come out looking great, but some engines are more grateful than others. Idtech4 is extremely picky in this aspect. If you want something to look good in the engine, you have to work really hard. The lighting itself requires a great amound of skill to pull off. This level of difficulty works as a hurtful barrier for new modders.
Couple this with a toolset that leaves nothing to automation and you have a really bad cocktail for modders. It’s no that Idtech4 is a bad engine, it just wasn’t scaled for anything that’s not Doom3. It’s no that the tools for Doom3 aren’t working, they’re just very basic and rely heavily on brute force work.
The reasons behind why Doom3 modding never became a big thing are too many to list.Q: Speaking of development time. How long have you worked on Phobos?A:
2 years ago we would have said 5 years (since October 2004), but we recently realised that after having started the internal demo(2009) and worked away on it, we don’t have any maps from before 2009 left. We barely have content from back then - so these days we like to say 2˝ years.
As mentioned idtech4 has a very steep learning curve in terms of art and assets and we pretty much spent the first many years getting settled with the tech as well as getting used to 3D game creation. Most of us come from a classic Doom 2.5D background, so it was quite the challenge in the start.
However if you count the first 5 years, The mod has been underway for 7 years now. That’s a long time and we’re aware of it, but you also have to realize that it’s something we do in our spare time, so some times it has to take backseat for other, more pressing things. The good news is that ever since we “rebooted” development with the internal demo, we have spent our time well.Q: When this mod is “done” what are the plans for the team and mod? Will you form an indie company, release the mod assets and code for others to look at and use, etc?A:
Currently we don’t have plans for anything after Phobos. I guess it all depends on where people are in their lives and what tech is around. We have a few members wanting to get into the game industry, and if they do, they definitely won’t have much time left for modding.
Speaking for only the two leaders, we would very much like to start our own thing, but that’s a huge step and we don’t want to waste our time. We’re looking in to a few possibilities and they all range from Phobos Episode 2 through modding on another game&engine to creating our own game from the ground up.
We’re not keeping any info about this from the public. We just don’t know at the present time.
As for assets and code, all of that will be released alongside the mod. We currently don’t have a policy for using and reusing those assets. That depends on where we decide to go after releasing the mod.
As a general rule though, we don’t have anything against providing said assets and code as a base for future work.Q: Will your release support Windows, Linux, and OSX?A:
Windows for sure. We have had a few people offer to create Linux and Mac compiles throughout the years, but we don’t have any concrete plans at the moment. We spend a lot less time thinking about releasing the mod than we do creating it.Q: Is the lighting in Phobos going to be as pitch black as Doom3's was?A:
The quick answer is no! We’re trying to brighten up the maps a bit and today's hardware can easily handle a higher light complexity. We were never really fans of the constant darkness in Doom 3 and we have added quite a bit more contrast in the lighting aspect in an attempt to spice things up.
Also, using the flashlight to take a thorough look at the original Doom 3 maps, you will notice that a lot of bland/detail-lacking areas are covered up in darkness. We don’t do this.Q: Are you going for a more action loaded game or dark and scary like Doom 3 was?A:
We like having contrasting levels. There’s a really spooky one that has you on the edge of your seat throughout the map, but we also have maps that are more action packed and even maps that lend more to puzzles and exploration. The key is to have a consistent, but evolving tone that isn’t all over the place. Right now it seems we’re succeeding.
For the areas and sequences that actually are scary, we try to reach a better level of quality and overall less contrived design.Q: Should we expect a musical soundtrack to accompany the gameplay?A:
We will definitely have music in Phobos. This is something we missed in Doom 3 as well as many other titles at that time. We have an amazing composer called Julian, who also worked with us on our previous project; RTC-3057. We already have a few tracks lying around, but we’re pushing back the implementation of the music to phase 2. It really is a post-build thing for us, as it was with RTC.
We’re heavily considering a sounds&music devblog for the future.Q: What will doomguy look like?A:
Currently we don’t have a face for him. We do however know that he won’t look like any of the other two doom3guys. This is a completely different guy with a different background and story. One final option is actually to place a helmet over his head throughout the episode, should all else fail.Q: Will there be any homages to classic doom?A:
Of course! We all started with Doom, and we still love the game. You just wait and see!
Thanks to The Happy Friar from Planetdoom and our fans on Facebook and Twitter for asking the questions. If you have any other questions for us you can ask on Facebook. And we’ll answer what we can.
The next devblog is already planned, and will be made by our lead tester AirRaid. This time around you’ll read about how testing is done on Phobos.