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Doom VR: Interview with Marty Stratton @ QuakeCon 2016

Marty Stratton, Executive Producer and Game Director at id Software, spoke with me about Doom VR and the future of first person shooters in virtual reality please take a look.

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Transcript of the Interview

Asif Khan: "One of the big things we are seeing at QuakeCon is Doom VR. Can you talk about some of the challenges that you guys faced bringing Doom to virtual reality?"

Marty Stratton: "Uh, ya know, it's interesting because it's a totally different experience. So you really have to start there. You have to put the headset on and figure out what it means. For Doom, it's a super fast paced game, you're doing these really fast synced glory kills and when you try to do those with VR you basically want to throw up because it's so fast. But really what's been fun is seeing the team that's working on that kinda just take the essence of what we have in the world, our creatures and the amazing tech that the guys built which are all just perfect for VR and start to solve the problems. One of the things that we are showing here that is different than what we showed at E3 is a new movement mechanic through the world that people are reacting really well to and it even takes some of the elements like when you shoot the line out to show you were you are going to move it kinda slows down time a bit. So you can actually use that with your guns in combination to have this really cool almost bullet time dynamic that's happening and it was very similar to the weapon wheel in the full game. We're really kind of doing almost a pretty public R&D project with this where we are trying a lot of different things taking it to shows E3, here at QuakeCon, getting people's feedback, and figuring out what the future of Doom VR is."

AK: "Yeah, I kind of described it as a proof of concept for FPS in VR. Let's talk about teleportation some more. It seems like that is going to be a standard operating procedure for locomotion in VR right now because we are all tethered. Can you talk about the challenges? Doom is such fast paced game. How were you guys able to adapt it with teleportation to make it still fun and fast paced but at the same time not nausea-inducing?"

MS: "I think we probably still have a little ways to go with it. It's funny because teleportation is such a fictional part of Doom as it is, so it kind of works really well from that perspective. In the stuff that we are showing here, they added in a component where you point to where you want to with the teleportation control and then as you hold it creates an arc to allow you to go up to higher elevations. Verticality is a really big part of Doom as it is, so navigating our worlds requires some level of ability to move up and down pretty quickly, and I thought that was a genius move. I think Shale and Mark came up with that as they were trying to solve those problems. We have fantastic creatures. The level of detail that our team puts into the world just makes the VR experience amazing. I wish everybody could try. If you have played Doom and then you've played in VR, you just can't believe the level of detail. It almost feels like stuff was uprezzed, which it really wasn't. It's because you are right there, looking around it, getting up close to it, and looking in every crack and crevice you just see things that you don't from a regular experience. We're really trying to build on all that stuff to create this new take on Doom for VR rather then just make a port of Doom for VR.

AK: "You used a lot of the same assets. What kind of tweaks did you have to do to the game engine to allow it to function in VR? Was it really just a function of stereoscopic imagery or was there more to it? Did you really have to go in and do some other stuff to make Doom work in VR?

MS: "I'm not a programmer, so there's a lot to it but for the most part that's one of the other nice things. The tech is very well architected to move to VR. The stereoscopic rendering absolutely was probably the biggest hurdle to get over, but the game already runs at 90 plus frames per second on that good hardware and that is critically important. The work we that we did to bring it to Vulkan was also very important. I think that Vulkan and VR are really a natural combination and the fact that we are one of the first AAA games on Vulkan is just going to help us have that lead and maintain that lead in the VR space as well."

AK: "Are you guys collaborating with other studios at Bethesda in development of VR? I know Fallout is working on VR stuff, are you guys talking to each other? When you guys were making Doom VR, did you knock on there door and ask 'Hey what do you guys think, what should we be doing?'"

MS: "Absolutely, there is a ton of collaboration. I can't really go into the specifics of it, but it definitely is and has been a Bethesda initiative for awhile now. It was actually really interesting to go to E3 this year because we had VR at E3 2012. We were showing Doom 3 BFG and I think we won several hardware of the show awards because nobody else was doing it. You go to E3 this year, and (VR) is around every corner. I feel like we have been a big part of it for several years, four years at minimum. To have Bethesda and us continue to lead is fantastic. A lot of collaboration between the teams with the Fallout stuff and the Doom stuff. It's been really nice."

AK: "it's funny that you mention four years ago, because one question I wanted to ask you was about how John Carmack said when he was leaving id that part of his decision was that he was really passionate about developing stuff for VR and he felt that he couldn't do it at id. When you guys announced Doom for VR, when I saw that Doom was coming to VR, I thought 'is this a message to him?' Were you guys going to do this anyway? It just seemed odd that he would say such a thing and you guys clearly have been working on this for quite some time."

MS: "I honestly can't speak to anything John thinks or says, but we create games, we create worlds. To a certain extent what we do all the time is create virtual reality in some sense or another. I don't know because certainly we were leading, he was there back in 2012 and even prior to that with other initiatives that we have been involved in and Bethesda's been involved in. It's just something that for a long time that the company has been passionate about, has felt is a real opportunity, and it's fun to see that really taking hold with what we're doing here.

AK: "Let's talk about the other VR platforms for a second. Are you guys going to be supporting Doom VR on Playstation VR or any of the other HMDs?

MS: "The way the technology is set up, we are fairly (platform) agnostic. We've been using the HTC Vive headsets for E3 and here, but we're not really tied to anything in particular and I'm sure we will continue to look at all the possibilities as we move forward."

AK: "Can you talk about how the innovation in the human interface device like the Vive controllers, for instance, have allowed you to bring something to reality? When you pick up the plasma rifle for the first time in this demo, it feels amazing. Just a year ago, or 2 years ago, these controllers didn't exist. Could you talk about how innovation in human interface devices has allowed you guys to finally do this?

MS: "Honestly, I have come to this much more as a consumer. Robert Duffy our CTO has been leading a lot of the charge on the VR side and we have a number of developers that have been working on it. I get to be the one that kind of comes in and tries it. I'm not necessarily always helping solve all the problems. Which is great. I come in and I have the same experience. You pick up the controller and then you have a plasma gun or a pistol in your hand and you're pulling the trigger. In the Fallout (demo), it's cool how you can look at the Pipboy. Those two (Vive) controllers add such a level of immersion that is just tremendous. It's funny like everything with VR, your mind kind of shifts into the reality of that. It was fun to watch people at E3 because we had these booths that they were playing in with glass on the one wall so you could stand there and watch people. There were people that were going straight up Matrix. Dodging, turning, shooting like this, throwing grenades. You almost become the action star. We always talk in Doom that it's about creating a power fantasy for the player and when you put on that VR headset, it is the ultimate power fantasy because you get to hold that gun out and you see the gun and you see it shooting and the guys are right up on top of you. It's a fantastic experience and a whole new way to look at the game. It's super exciting to be a part of that.

AK: "You mentioned at E3 how we saw a ton of HMDs on the show floor. Can you talk about where you think the industry is at in VR? What you think the total addressable market is and how you look at that when making a decision about development for VR? It's not like there's 20 million headsets out there. I don't know how many 100s of millions of PCs there are out there. Can you talk about how, from a business standpoint, you look at it and are we going to see Doom VR? Will I be able to buy it or is this just a proof of concept?"

MS: "I think we are at that point in VR where there's a lot of people thinking about all the angles, the business ramifications. It's fun to be a developer from this perspective because we get to think about 'What's the experience?' It's dangerous.. People should be thinking about the install bases and all that kind of stuff, but from our perspective we're always about creating the coolest experience you can to a great extent. That's particularly at the beginning of a paradigm shift in games, hardware or having something that comes about like this. This new piece of hardware. You really just kind of have to let you mind open up to the possibilities creatively and then solve some of the problems and figure out how that fits. It is a kind of a public R&D project for us to an extent. To have VR, to take it to shows, show people the possibilites and the capabilities and get feedback to understand how they're reacting to it. We made a lot of changes in what we did just between E3 and this. There is, I'm sure, a Doom product in there and we are kind of molding the clay right now as to what that becomes. I think the important thing is that we just don't think of it as a Doom port to VR. That's not the right way to go about it. It is about creating a Doom experience within VR that is made for VR. We have such an awesome toolbelt to work with of our assets, our engine, the world that we created, and the lore behind it. It's super exciting to have a product that just came out and people are so excited about and have this other whole new arena that we can apply it to.

AK: "You know, Shacknews started as a Quake fansite back in 1996 and its been really cool to see a resurgence from id Software. You guys have a ton of momentum from Doom 2016 coming out and I just think it is really cool to see you guys, with Quake Champions, and everything else you are doing really resurging at the same time we are. It's exciting to see!"

MS: "Absolutely! I am a long time Shacknews reader. I have been in the games industry about 20 years, about as long as Shack's been around.  It's a great time to be a part of id. Doom was a huge passion project for us. We knew we had to get it right. We had a huge responsibility to the fans to get it right and to make it absolutely everything that people expected. Everybody feels a great sense of pride in that, but we also want to continue with it. We want to make it better through the updates we're doing, the multiplayer stuff, and the free stuff we're releasing for SnapMap. We've got a lot that we still have to get out there and we're already really excited about Champions as well. It's great to talk to you. Glad you're around and having a good time."

AK: "There're so many FPS in the world, and I feel like you guys really showed everyone this is how you do single player in 2016 and I really appreciate it."

MS: "Thanks so much. We really appreciate you playing and everyone out there playing."

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