Review: The Making of Doom 3

Can you believe that it has been almost 7 years since Doom 3 was released? Shocking how quickly time passes. Saying that, I have no doubt that many of you immediately question the game’s credentials as a “retro” game, but it fits into our current coverage timeline (games on hardware released up until November 20, 2004 – the day before the release of the Nintendo DS), so as far as we’re concerned, it’s ripe for the picking.

Doom 3 was met with awe when it was first revealed at E3 2001, but the response to the final result in August 2004 was a little more tepid – though it was still most certainly a good game. Steven L. Kent, former video game journalist and author of the excellent The Ultimate History of Video Games takes us behind the scenes of the development of this landmark game in The Making of Doom 3 (ISBN: 9780072230529).

The Making of Doom 3 promises a trip through the entire development of the game, from the initial concept right through to the finished product. Along the way, it treats readers to exclusive interviews with key people behind the game like id’s Lead Programmer John Carmack. You’ll find out everything that inspired the team at id during the creation of the game, stories behind the creatures and guns in the game, and stuff that didn’t make it into the final product.

However, if you were hoping for a “warts and all” style breakdown of the Doom 3 development process, you might be disappointed. For instance, you won’t find anything in the book about what it took to actually get id’s top brass to approve the game for development. The book makes it seem like the logical thing for id to do was to create Doom 3 and that everything was hunky dory, but in reality Carmack and several other id personnel threatened to leave the company if they didn’t get to make Doom 3, as the company’s management wanted to pursue other projects. Paul Steed even got axed as a result of Carmack and co’s coup. Making of projects tend to be about portraying events in a positive light – if you want the negatives, you’ve got to wait for a post-mortem.

The book goes through just about every square inch, giving you the lowdown on what went into creating each bit of the game. It’s incredibly detailed – this book and Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar are what we should expect when the words “making of” or “behind the scenes” pop up – not those 22 minute fluff piece documentaries we usually get with special editions. What the book doesn’t really achieve is informing you why Doom 3 does the things it does, and why designers created creatures and weapons in a particular way. You’re not going to find out why the torch is separate, for instance. Kent is an engaging writer with a lot of talent, so you’ll get drawn into the book quite easily, but you are bound to have unanswered questions at the end.

One cannot help but be a little disappointed in the design of the book. The page layouts are fine, and high quality paper stock is used, but the book is perfect bound and falls apart easily. I did not particularly care for the use of the Doom font for every single question and heading in the book, either.

These issues aside, The Making of Doom 3 is an informative book with plenty of information about the incredible effort that went into the production of the game. You’re bound to learn something new about the game, but the book’s focus on being entirely positive will leave you wanting if you came looking for the whole story.