Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Doom 3 returns to violent ways

By Matt Slagle
The Associated Press

Marty Stratton has already blasted dozens of flame-tossing imps, flying skulls and other nightmarish demons from another dimension. But more keep spawning in flashes of yellow light.

"This is where it really starts getting scary," he says upon entering a new level of Doom 3 where massive hell knights lob deadly balls of energy against a backdrop of shimmering lava pools and torches made of corpses. "I don't know how many times I've been through hell but it just freaks me out."

Great anticipation

Four years after setting out to remake one of the most popular and violent video games ever, Stratton and the rest of the crew at id Software, Inc., in Mesquite, Texas, are done with their latest vision of hell.

"We're a bit nervous. It's like raising a child and you send them out into the world," said Tim Willits, one of the game's designers.

Doom 3 hit stores Tuesday, though there were reports of pirated copies already being distributed for free on the Internet.

The $55 sequel typifies the first person shooter genre id pioneered in the early 1990s with the original Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein 3D: gamers run and gun through hordes of monsters or other enemies in three dimensions.

With each release, the visuals, sound and other effects have improved. Doom 3 is by far the most realistic and looks nearly equal to animated films like Shrek 2.

In Doom 3 you are a marine on a martian outpost that becomes a gateway to hell after a series of top secret experiments involving ancient alien artifacts. With shotguns, rocket launchers, lasers and grenades, you alone must fend off a menagerie of beasts and possessed base workers.

While some have decried id's games as overly violent, the company has sold millions of copies of one gory hit after another.

In turn, the games have spawned legions of loyal fans. By the thousands, gamers of all ages flock to QuakeCon, an annual Texas gathering paid for by id where like-minded players meet and fight each other online.

Along with Half-Life 2, Doom 3 is one of the most anticipated games this year, said Greg Kasavin, executive editor of the review Web site

"It represents the next technological leap by id Software - a developer that's remained on the forefront of computer graphics and computer game technology for more than a decade," he said.

Market needs hit

Analyst Michael Goodman with the Yankee Group said Doom 3 could boost the sagging market for personal computer games. Sales of CD-ROM-based PC games dropped from $1.4 billion two years ago to an estimated $1 billion this year, largely due to the growing popularity of consoles like Xbox and PlayStation 2, he said.

Many workers said an obsessive streak got them through the long hours. Lead artist Kenneth Scott said he was worn out after working 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. for months on end, but admitted to suffering from a bit of postpartum depression when it was finished.

"We're pretty up to our chins in what we do," he said. "You get used to that groove. Your mind drifts and you feel guilty when you're sitting down relaxing."

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