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Hell-blazers: Doom Eternal Speedrunning Q&A — The Spud Hunter

I'm Nicholas van der Waard, host of "Hell-blazers." What follows is my interview with The Spud Hunter, a Twitch streamer and arena combat specialist. 

"Hell-blazers" interviews Twitch streamers, speedrunners and Doom fans about Doom Eternal (2020); it asks them, based on their own experiences, to compare the game to the rest of the franchise, and what effect it will have on speedrunning and gaming at large. General information about "Hell-blazers" can be found, here; a compendium of the interviews as they are published can be found here (which also includes interesting videos, break-downs and other articles).


The Runner

Nick: What got you into Doom? Do you remember the first game you played?

Spud: I was three at the time and my father had me on his lap pressing the shoot key. Ever since it's been with me the whole way through all iterations.


Nick: Pre-Doom Eternal, what is your favorite Doom game? Soundtrack? Individual track? Monster? Gun?

Spud: Doom II (1994) is my go-to, always. I loved The Pit / "Into Sandy's City" [map and track]. There's something about the verticality to [the Pit] that I really enjoyed. The Pain Elemental brought a lot of fun to the fights; my solution [for] them was running close range with the greatest gun of all time: THE SUPER SHOTGUN.


Nick: Your least favorite?

Spud: Doom 3 (2004). It's still a Doom game and I like what it had to offer but it didn't have the speed and arena fights like the other entrants into the series. There's still a place in my heart that loves [its] atmosphere so much.


Nick: Do you like horror movies and/or heavy metal? If so, what are some of your favorites?

Spud: I love horror movies: The Thing (1982), Alien (1979), Event Horizon (1997). Masterclasses in atmosphere that have dread and fear building up over the course the film. 

Oddly enough when it comes to metal music I like non-vocal soundtracks. There's this artist called Bongripper that has a really good 1-hour long ep of just guitar and drums going—so heavy! [editor's notes: Traditional heavy metal tends to be chorus- and vocal-heavy. A newer music sub-genre, darksynth tends to rely on heavy metal guitars and other instruments, but is generally instrumental in nature. As a franchise, Doom demonstrates how metal and horror tend to go hand-in-hand—a fact I've explored in other media for my article, "Hearing the Gothic Past." ]

Nick: Due to a recent conflict, Mick Gordon will not be returning to score future Doom titles, including the DLC to Doom Eternal.Do you expect the new music to sound similar to Mick's, or can we expect the return of a style closer to Bobby Prince or Aubrey Hodges?

Spud: Every artist has a unique style. I think whoever fills in [Mick's] shoes will have some influence from [him] but give their own spin on it, and I welcome that.



Nick: Do you enjoy any of the classic, '90s games. If so, do you prefer early Doom (1993) or early Quake (1996), and why?

Spud: I grew up with them all, Duke Nukem (1991), Thief (1998) and so many more. I prefer early Doom over Quake maybe because it was my first love? I'm not sure, I love them both just as much as each other.


Nick: As a non-speedrunner, you still lean towards difficult gameplay. You play a series known for its incredible speed (and for timing players at the ends of levels); you also don't see yourself as a speedrunner. Can you explain why that is?

Spud: I've never competed officially in any runs or submitted times. I've always played on highest difficulties and pushed myself to the best I can be but I've never done an official "speed run." I'll give Ultra-Nightmare speedruns a go on Doom Eternal (2020).


Nick: When did you start playing FPS (first-person shooters) more seriously? Why Doom?

Spud: I've always played FPS games my whole life, [but] took a break from gaming for a few years to focus on my old job. Doom 2016 came out, which got me back into gaming regularly and then I discovered the whole streaming circus of fun that is Twitch. Thought I'd give it a go (for a laugh) and it snowballed into streaming full-time.


Nick: Do you play non-Id games?

Spud: Yeah I play a variety of FPS games; it keeps you well adjusted in the skills department if you have a broad range of experience, I feel.


Nick: How would you describe your approach to the FPS compared to other Doom players? What makes you unique as The Spud Hunter?

Spud: I wouldn't say it's unique, but I come from a heavy multiplayer background, and that leans into crowd control with demons in arena fights—especially unique, non-predictable spawns. Multiplayer always brings the unexpected.


Nick: Do you have any favorite Doom players that you like to watch and/or learn from? Does this include speedrunners?

Spud: Byte Me. There's many amazing players out there, but he's like a mad scientist when it comes to Doom 2016 and Eternal. He'll share everything he's working out in the game, but he's also a really funny bloke!



Nick: Does wearing the Slayer helmet make you a better player?

Spud: It increases the aggression levels, yes!

On Doom Eternal, Casually

Nick: Doom Eternal is less minimal than Doom 2016. It's also campier. How do you feel about this?

Spud: I love the arena fights—keeping on your toes constantly and moving. It's great!


Nick: Should Doom be scary? What’s your opinion about Doom PSX (1995) or Doom 64 (1997)?

Spud: I don't mind the "scary" Dooms but it's all about the arena fights for me; I love the challenge of managing a noisy crowd in front of me. Maybe that's why I stream!


Nick: Was there anything about Eternal that surprised you, was bad when you thought it'd be good or vice versa?

Spud: The only surprise for me is the glitchy Lost Souls, which don't seem to be as effective as any of the previous games (they tend to stay still a lot and struggle to target players). Maybe they'll patch [them] up in an update. 


Nick: If you had to pick one of each, what is your favorite level, gun, and monster in Doom Eternal?

Spud: I love Urdak because of the H.R. Giger vibes (you can tell there's some Alien inspiration there); the visuals and music [are] haunting [and take] the game into a completely different direction, visually. I love the Super Shotgun with the Meat Hook. Moving around arena fights like that is so cool!

My favourite monster would have to be the Marauder, even though there's lots of combos out there to quickly take him out which negates the "challenge," he's still a super cool demon to face off [against] the Slayer. He's basically an evil brother.



Nick: Which glory kills do you like the most?

Spud: The Marauder fist-punch, which is blocked and then the blade extends into his head. Never gets old!

Speed and Mobility / Speedrunning

Nick: As a streamer, Doom Eternal is meant to be played fast. Even though you're not a speedrunner, how does the speed of the game feel compared to, say, Doom 2016?

Spud: I love it, it's definitely faster with the Dash and Meat Hook. It covers a lot of creative [Slayer] movement I feel wasn't present in 2016.


Nick: For me, Doom Eternal feels a bit like making the leap from Mega Man (1987) to Mega Man X (1993): Suddenly you go from a walking pace to flying all over the place like a ninja. 

Is there anything about the slower, more horizontally-oriented Doom 2016 that you prefer, or is Doom Eternal a straight upgrade?

Spud: I think Doom Eternal is an upgrade in the sense that it now feels like a gym: You've got monkey bars, dashes, more stuff to [maneuver] than ever. It really feels like a platformer with demons.


Nick: Despite so many speedrunners playing the game, do you feel Doom Eternal was made for you as well—someone who doesn't speedrun, but wants a hardcore, fast-as-hell arena combat experience?

Spud: Yes, it definitely caters to a wide range of players—from those who casually want to have some fun, to those who want to Rip N Tear™ through some NIGHTMARE action!


Nick: Is there anything about speedrunning that intrigues you? Or, anything that discourages you from trying it, yourself?

Spud: It's like a sport: You train and practice every single nuance and then go hard for the finish line.



Nick: How does Doom appeal to you as a gamer? Speedrunners love to quantify speed through records; are you more invested in high scores, and "flexing" on your human opponents?

Spud: Doom appeals to me in destroying arena fights in efficient and stylish fashion. I just love killing demons.


Nick: In "Way of the Gun," Rune Klevjer describes Doom's gameplay according to the relationship between the player, monsters and items. He calls this relationship "a search for the optimal pattern of movement." Since monsters can be killed for resources, can you explain what you think this optimal pattern is when speedrunning Doom Eternal?

Spud: Skip the fights you don't need to take, and target the most difficult demons first. The resources won't be such an issue if you keep the chainsaw/glory kills to the outside of the circle fight.

Glitches

Nick: As a hardcore, casual (non-speedrunner) player, do you ever find yourself using glitches to give yourself an edge in combat?

Spud: I use the some glitches—like the mouse wheel animation cancel on picking up batteries—to cut [down on] time. I don't do it so much in combat [though]. In 2016, I did the Super Shotgun / Gauss Cannon Siege Mode switch glitch, but I think everyone did that, haha.


Nick: Is Gauss-boosting still useful with the Ballista?

Spud: You still get a light boost with the Ballista (it's helped me grab a nearly missed ledge). Anything that'll give you that extra edge I guess goes a long way.


Nick: Are invulnerability-frames enough to keep the player reliably "safe" when glory killing, or do you feel exposed when doing them?

Spud: It's the placement of your glory kills, if they're in the middle of the fight you might be in trouble. I tend to glory kill on the outside of arena fights.

Gameplay

Nick: Are there any moments in Doom Eternal's gameplay that feel cheap, or that force you to play a particular way that doesn't feel fun?

Spud: I think [that while] the game gives you an opportunity to play in many styles, some of the arenas force you to play the "memory game" on Nightmare. [For example,] if you don't memorize certain spawns in the demon pit on Cultist Base, then it's pretty much GG. 



Nick: What are some of your favorite runes and weapons, and why?

Spud: My favourite runes would be Air Control with Blood Fueled. I just love the speed and air mobility you get. A lot of people don't rate Air Control and I understand why; it's a [pretty] small improvement to your mobility. I really enjoy using jump pads and stop/starting my movement around them—to back into them and go airborne again in a circular fashion. 

As for weapons, the old Super Shotgun/Ballista combo is too addictive; it just melts demons! [editor's note: Not only are they crazy for their pure damage, but the Ballista can target weak points, and the Super Shotgun can stun enemies and give you armor, too.]

Nick: Are there certain runes that don't get enough attention, in your opinion?

Spud: I feel a lot of the community doesn't rate Air Control highly, but if they use the jump pads often in-game I implore them to try to combine the two!


Nick: Are there weapons/runes that suck no matter what?

Spud: I feel everything can be used to people’s play styles but I avoid Punch and Reave personally (it [often] leaves you exposed to damage [when] using the Blood Punch). As for the weapons, everything has a purpose (outside of the Microwave Beam upgrade on higher difficulties).


Nick: The Microwave Beam doesn't seem to be very good (and can even cause a glitch that takes away the player's ability to dash). Can it at least be used to stun a charging Hell Knight, or is it just better to move out of their way?

Spud: I prefer to avoid using [the Microwave Beam] as I usually play on Nightmare/Ultra-Nightmare. I usually have an Ice Bomb or Lock-on Rocket Burst ready for the Hell Knights.


Nick: The Tyrant aka Cyberdemon always seems to be killed with the Crucible at the start of every fight. Do you think this makes him kind of irrelevant, given how much ammo for the crucible the player has?

Spud: [It's] somewhat true that he becomes a little irrelevant in the end game stages. Most savvy players tend to have the ammo saved up for those moments [when Tyrants] spawn in.


Nick: Is the player given too much ammo for the Crucible? Or, in your opinion, is the Crucible necessary for end-game fights, and you'll need every shot to reliably make it through some of the bigger demon encounters?

Spud: I think you can get by with your arsenal, but of course it's handy to save the Crucible for key heavy demons towards the end. I can think of some key moments to save it for on Final Sin with the likes of the Tyrant in the second-to-last fight; I go straight for him in that circle and then [press] onward.


Nick: Does the Crucible feel "static"? For example, if the player knows that a Tyrant is going to spawn (and maybe a couple of Barons), won't the player want to save the Crucible for these demons each and every time? Why use it on small demons at all?

Spud: I feel it's purpose is exactly for that: the heavy demons. Kind of like how the BFG is for those moments you feel overwhelmed and need the get-out-of-jail-free card.


Nick: Do you think the ammo generation for the Crucible should be different? Instead of collecting ammo, perhaps have the player be able to "charge" the weapon via kill-chains or multiple glory kills?

Spud: I think the way it [already] is balances out how much you can use it and when you should use it.


Nick: Now that you've had a chance to play the game a bit longer, do portions of it feel easier—perhaps even too easy? Are there any arenas that leap to mind in this regard?

Spud: The end game certainly feels easier than the first three maps. Cultist Base never gets any easier, haha.


Nick: A new video by Midnight ("New Doom Eternal Content Update") discusses DLC content, including Demonic Invasions. If this option is selected, then player-controlled demons can invade a player's single-player campaign—even during Ultra-Nightmare! Will you be trying this, in your own playthroughs?

Spud: Most certainly. I love community interactivity on my stream so it'll be cool to have some of the viewers trying to take me down in my runs [editor's note: stream-sniping with demons, in other words]! I honestly wish they had that feature on release!



Nick: If you could change anything about the Unmaykr to make it a more viable weapon in combat, what would it be?

Spud: Make it shoot like it does when you have the adrenaline power-up.

Difficulty

Note: For this section, I refer to an interview on stream I had recently with King Dime, a classic Doom speedrunner.

Nick: After a certain point, every demon in the game can drop armor, ammo and health. Early on, the player can't Blood Punch or Flame Belch, which makes them potentially harder than later levels. Civvie gripes in his own review about the beginning of the game being too hard.

Is it "too" hard, or is King Dime right (in our interview) when he says the beginning to Doom 2016 was more challenging?

Spud: I'd agree [that] the start of the game is the hardest; it tends to lighten up post-Cultist Base when you've got more tools at your disposal. It's a bit ironic, but Doom Eternal still has a lot of hard moments towards the end. 2016 felt like it was exclusively the start of the game being the hardest.


Nick: Dime explains how Doom 2016 is more "permanent" if the player loses heath and armor. Meanwhile, there's little challenge to Doom Eternal once you know how to play the game: Lose hundreds of points of armor and health. Find a low-tier demon. Flame Belch [or use the flaming meat hook]. Get everything back. To make this even easier for the player, Doom Eternal constantly spawns low-tier enemies; it also regenerates the player's chainsaw fuel.

Is Dime's assertion correct? Does the challenge in follow-up Doom Eternal playthroughs decease?

Spud: I'd say [Doom Eternal] does feel easier at times to quickly "restock." In 2016, you can get your health back via glory kills also, but I always felt they were way more risky in that game somehow.


Nick: Hqrdest himself says that Doom Eternal is harder than Doom 2016—early on, but then gets easier by the end of the game. Would you agree with him?

Spud: It gets easier yes, but [also] has a few moments to look out for: the Gladiator fight and some of the fights in Nekravol.


Nick: As you say in your Ultra-Nightmare guide, the first three levels are the hardest. Are the first levels of a fresh playthrough be too hard, keeping casual players away from streaming the game—at least on the harder difficulties?

Spud: They can stream the game on a lower difficulty so I don't see the drama. I think what a lot of casual audiences fell for was the trap of they MUST experience this [game] on Nightmare... which I think is true. [However,] you also need to ween yourself into this kind of FPS experience—[the extreme sort] which most people are not used to these days.


Nick: To keep the game challenging, do you ever find yourself inventing ways to make it harder, like not using the BFG or the Crucible, or using sub-optional weapon specs?

Spud: I might try a shotgun only run soon, may require a lot of dancing around until I can chainsaw ammo back!


Nick: Are there any other self-imposed challenges you've considered implementing to make the game harder for yourself—like not using the Ballista, Crucible, BFG or Ice Bomb, etc? Can you anticipate using these in conjunction with Demonic Invasions and new Master Levels to make Doom Eternal even harder?

Spud: I played with the Doom Helmet on Ultra-Nightmare. It was definitely an added challenge. The thing get fogging up from all the sweaty gameplay.


Nick: How do you feel about the Marauder? Do complaints about him upsetting the combat feel justified, or is he easier to handle than most people think (see: King Dime's latest strategy)?

Spud: I think he's a great addition, a challenge means you have to use your brain. I think we've had a good ten years of point-and-click FPS that have made a lot of players [unused] to having to juggle fights.


Nick: What are some of your favorite ways to handling him?

Spud: I didn't discover this method, but the [stun lock from] Super Shotgun + Grenade + Ballista. If you're lucky and get the rhythm right, you can delete him instantly.


Nick: Do you find yourself having to adapt and change your strategies—for him, and regular demons—because of the game's chaotic nature?

Spud: Only when there's a few Whiplashes in the fight also. You have to target them with an Ice Bomb and remove them from the equation; otherwise they get in the way real quick.

Gameplay (cont.)

Nick: Is Id Software's "speed chess with guns" an accurate analogy for Doom Eternal's combat? If you had to guess, which monsters correlate with which chess pieces? Which are the most dangerous "pieces" in your opinion?

Spud: Pinkies being the rooks, I honestly find [them] the most frustrating at times. Whiplashes definitely [are] the Bishops with their speed and ability to get up around you all the time. The Marauder is definitely the Queen; a Queen on its own isn't a bit deal, but you mix a Queen with a couple Bishops and you're in trouble!


Nick: Do you find RNG to be a large issue, playing the game? For example, weapon damage in classic Doom/Quake is random. Compared to other Id games, how much RNG does Doom Eternal have (see: Hqrdest, on random enemy behavior)?

Spud: I find the Blood Punch a little concerning to use sometimes; it doesn't feel like it registers against a Cyber Mancubus, [who] then it drops its [own] AoE (area of affect) and melts you! Everything else feels quite consistent.


Nick: Which enemies are the most annoying to come up against? 

Spud: Whiplashes: You've got to ice bomb them and focus fire straight away otherwise they ruin your day. 


Nick: Which ones are you the most happy to see? 

Spud: Imps: They used to be the hardest demons in the game; now they're ammo caches, haha.


Nick: As a hardcore, non-speedrunner who specializes in arena-based combat, how do you feel about Eternal's additional movement schemes—the dash, double jump and climbing mechanics, but also the so-called "yeet-hook"?

Spud: Anything that gives you more freedom of movement is a winner in my book. I come from Quake; I love speed! All we needed is strafe-jumping, next.


Nick: In the quest to go faster, In the quest to go faster, speedrunners have found ways to move around/avoid the movement penalties of the purple goo; but also ways around certain in-game architecture

Have you found ways of circumventing the goo, yourself, and do you ever learn from speedrunners, using tricks like these to improve your own gameplay?

Spud: All the time. There's a few cool tricks—on Exultia, [for example] to climb a pillar and skip about 20 seconds of climbing. I picked that up from Byte Me's stream.


Nick: Excluding glitches, can you potentially play Doom Eternal faster/more effectively in combat situations by not doing the so-called "Doom dance" (the armor game, basically)?

Spud:  Always: remembering demon amounts/types in the fights and what to target first. Good weapon use is a massive plus, too.



Nick: Glory kills seem essential—not just for speedrunners, but for anyone playing the game. However, they also slow players down. Is there a point where glory kills can be skipped by players altogether?

Spud: If you know where some of the health pickups are and you're not taking so much damage, you can also avoid getting into glory killing, which will slow things down.


Nick: In your recent guide video for Ultra-Nightmare, you note the classic “circle strafe” movement strategy as being essential. Because of the new, expanded, vertical elements I liken it to spherical moment. Despite the inclusion of non-Doom, vertical movement schemes into the game, does its combat retain that core "Doom feel?"

Spud: It feels like all the Dooms in one for me, personally. I love it!

On the Pandemic

Nick: With the pandemic going on, it's important to maintain physical distance, but also to keep our social bonds strong. Why do you think videogames—including streaming them—are so important in doing this?

Spud: We're social creatures; we need others, and the beauty of gaming and streaming is [how] it brings us together—particularly in times when we physically can't be together. Gamers unite! [editor's note: It's really refreshing to hear this: Once upon a time, videogames felt more isolating. Now, their popularity and the Internet—particularly streaming services—have really enabled people to bond and connect in startlingly powerful ways.]

***

For other blog posts by me, check out "Alien: Ore" Q & A Project, Dragon Ball Super: Broly - Is It Gothic?, Mandy (2018): Review, Gothic Themes in Perfect Blue. Also check out my guest work on Video Hook-Ups.

Follow me on Twitter! Watch my Gothic podcast! Purchase a commission on my art website! Or support me on Patreon!

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