In designing DOOM Eternal’s difficulty settings, id Software went to a surprising source for inspiration–Mario Kart. Thanks to the kart racer, the DOOM studio uncovered what it hopes is a solid recipe for an intense experience across every difficulty level. In turn, those who play on the easiest difficulty will experience an intensity not too dissimilar from players who prefer more punishing levels, such as Nightmare.
Co-Director Hugo Martin told USgamer explained that in Mario Kart only speed changes across skill settings. For example, 50cc is slower than 150cc; however, players must bring the same level of skill to each in order to succeed. Martin elaborated,
In Mario Kart if I play on easy, it’s the slowest setting. I mean, I’m still needing to power slide. I still need to use my resources. I still need to do all the same things; hit the jump the same way. The only difference is that on the hardest setting, it’s just way fucking faster, you know? So I think that’s our goal.
A similar philosophy applies to how id Software approaches difficulty in DOOM Eternal. In DOOM 2016, Martin notes, “the game changed too much from each difficulty.” As a consequence, players were less likely to try harder difficulties. An enemy’s fireball attacks serve as one example. On higher difficulties, the fireball became more precise; this didn’t require players to hone their skills, it was just “dickish.” This supposedly won’t be too much of an issue in the franchise’s imminent new release.
Martin explained that now speed is an integral aspect of the combat loop. The only difference in difficulty is how much you have to do and how fast you have to do it. Don’t worry, such changes won’t make harder difficulty levels easier. Rather, id Software has greatly improved the rate at which the game scales. According to Martin,
The only thing that changes is the number of decisions you’re being asked to make per second and the number of mistakes you’re allowed to make. So the game that you play, if you drop down to easy, is basically the same exact game, the same exact combat loop. You’re gonna be doing the same exact things that you would be doing on Nightmare. The only thing is to just be doing it way faster.
Fans looking for something even more intense will be pleased to learn of permadeath’s return. This time, however, it’s called Extra Life Mode. ShackNews’ recent DOOM Eternal preview suggests players will be able to see where others have died in their journey through permadeath.
DOOM Eternal launches for the PS4, PC, and Xbox One on March 20th. Those who preorder will gain access to a free copy of DOOM 64.