Doom Eternal is being built with Switch in mind
And the limitations might lead to a stronger game.
Doom Eternal’s reveal at this year’s E3 was met with wild applause. That’s no surprise given Doom 2016’s hot as hell reception. Doom is definitely back, with frantic gunplay, tight combat encounters and devilish fiends.
This was followed up with a recent gameplay trailer at QuakeCon 2018 which showed off some updated designs, a meat hook grapple tool, redesigned weapons, all-new locations, hauntingly awesome enemies and what they’re calling “destructible demons.” We then got a beautiful Tweet confirming that the game is indeed headed to Nintendo Switch.
— DOOM (@DOOM) August 10, 2018
Doom 2016 was announced for Switch in late 2017 and Panic Button, the ones in charge of the port, garnered some embracing praise for simply getting the game onto the platform. Despite some sneaky visual shortcuts including lower resolutions, a drop to 30fps and some clever uses of additional walls and such to cut back on power, they kept almost everything else intact. While it would never match the other platforms in terms of visuals, gameplay is where it had to succeed, and it mostly did, even making use of the gyroscope controls for aiming which had its own fans and critics.
Panic Button were then drafted to port MachineGames Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, which uses the same id Tech 6 engine, to Nintendo’s hybrid. It launched eight months later to similar feelings, praising the fact that the game runs on the console, albeit with lesser visual fidelity.
Now that Doom Eternal is coming to the Switch, Panic Button have a third shot at working with the id engine (this time id Tech 7) and Nintendo’s humble bundle of joycons. Yesterday an interesting interview popped up on Eurogamer where Marty Stratton and Hugo Martin (the executive director and producer on Doom Eternal) were interviewed following the QuakeCon gameplay trailer. There were some interesting takeaways.
When asked about the game launching simultaneously on all platforms, including the Switch, Stratton confirms that this is the case, saying that they’re treating the Switch as a “first class citizen.” He follows this up answering a question about development saying that id is working with Panic Button on the port, developing the game with the Switch in mind.
This is interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, it could mean that the Switch port is even closer to its powerhouse brethren in terms of not only design, but also visual fidelity. If id creates levels with the limitations of all hardware in mind, it might lead to slight redesigns to keep parity. Secondly, working with the Switch from the start could result in some more creative and thoughtful design choices. When you can do anything, you might not often choose the best option. When you have to narrow those choices down, you are more likely to end up with a better one. Especially if bouncing ideas happens between id and Panic Button.
People might argue that this could dilute id’s vision but I’d argue that often, when there are limitations, people also tend to come up with more interesting ideas. I remember in Phantom Hourglass on the 3DS, I had to blow into the microphone to clear away dust from an old map and whisper into it to gain someone’s attention. You don’t often see things like that in a AAA console/pc titles, despite the awesome power under the hoods and it serves as an example of thinking about the hardware during development and wondering how, beyond visuals, a game can be impactful.
Even if you aren’t interested in the Switch port of Doom Eternal, its an important title for the system and hopefully the games do well enough to encourage other developers to support it in the same way. We know now that Rage 2 might even make it to the Switch, and Bethesda is loving Nintendo all over the place, having already brought a successful port of Skyrim to the box. Bayonetta joins Skyrim in coming from last generation’s consoles and fair well on the lighter spec system. In addition to Doom and Wolfenstein II, the Switch has seen more current-gen titles such as Dragon Quest Builders (2016) and Rocket League (2015) with mixed results. The console is also about to get Valkyria Chronicles 4 and Dragon Ball FighterZ, both of which I’ve tried and come away impressed.
While it’s easy to get excited to have everything on the little system it’s important to be realistic. Bad ports and bad performances harm the Switch, Nintendo, the developers and their IPs. That’s why this hand-in-hand approach to Doom Eternal has me hopeful. If anyone can pull off an incredible shift in the way Switch ports (and maybe ports in general) are approached, Bethesda, id, Panic Button, Nintendo, the Switch and Doom could be the ones.