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Hell-blazers: Doom Eternal Speedrunning Q&A — Your Mate Devo

I'm Nicholas van der Waard, host of "Hell-blazers." What follows is my interview with Your Mate Devo, an Aussie speedrunner and software engineer.

"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: (to Devo): I understand you're a software engineer who works in the game industry? Could you tell me a little more about the kind of work that you do, and some of the projects you've been involved with? 

Devo: As much as I'd love to say I'm in the games industry, I've been working in the mobile and web application development space for about ten years. I've coded in Java, C#, JavaScript, C++ and Python. The closest I ever got to game dev was an elective unit in university (college) looking at games design and implementation using the Unreal Engine. At that time, the most thought-of games critic was Yahtzee Croshaw, famous for his "Zero Punctuation" series.


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

Devo: As a kid I was always interested in alternative music and horror films. So, when I saw Doom 64 (1997) at my local games store I had to give it a go. I actually got lost half way across town trying to walk to the store. I must have been about eight or nine. The owner of the store needed to give me a lift back home, game in tow.

I really sank my teeth into Doom 64 as a kid. Prior to that I'd only played a small slice of the "Knee Deep in the Dead" shareware at a friend's place. Doom 64 was my first real go at Doom.



Nick: Doom (1993) isn’t live-generated 3D like Quake (1996) is. Has the classic Doom games' ingenious use of technology influenced how you work on games today? Do the modern Doom games continue this level of innovation, technologically-speaking?

Devo: I have a lot of respect for the intellect of the developers of that period—John Carmack, Ken Silverman and David Brevik, to name a few. Not just their intellect, but their ability to draw different concepts together is very inspiring. Back then they couldn't open Google or Stack Overflow. They had to read the relevant manuals and textbooks, network, and then be able to bring it all together. Just some brilliant minds who were dedicated to their craft.

I think these days, given the scale of game development, there's probably less room for rockstars. At least from the outside looking in. What's left to evaluate is the performance and polish of the products or the degree of design innovation they've heralded. Doom Eternal really stands up tall in both these respects, especially technologically. The fact the game cranks out the frames it does with the geometric detail and particle effects it contains is remarkable. I think the performance and disk size of Doom Eternal has many consumers questioning the engineering practices of similarly-equipped studios. This is remarkable.


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

Devo: Game, Doom 2016; soundtrack, Doom 2016; individual track, "BFG Division"; monster, [the] Hell Knight [from] Doom 2016: Their movement patterns are so much fun to dodge and they look awesome.


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

Devo: Love both! Hellraiser (1987) is one of my all-time favourite movies, followed closely by the original TV adaptation of Stephen King's It (1990). As far as metal goes, my favourite albums belong to bands like Fear Factory, Behemoth and Parkway Drive. Although the first album I ever bought was that Hanson album [Middle of Nowhere (1997)] with "MMM-Bop". Good times.



Nick: In terms of the classic, '90s games, do you prefer early Doom or early Quake (1996)?

Devo: Doom. I'll sooner fire up "Knee Deep in the Dead" and blast through that either on the Switch or using GZDoom than I will Quake. I think Quake was the greater technological achievement, but it lacks the cohesion and enemy balancing that Doom had—especially if we're just talking about Doom 1.


Nick: When did you start speedrunning and why did you decide to speedrun Doom?

Devo: I haven't been speedrunning for that long—maybe for about nine months by this point. I've always admired glitchless runners like Orchlon (Resident Evil 3) and Byte Me (Doom 2016). I felt that you could only get so far playing the game under normal conditions on the hardest difficulty. The best way to make it harder and competitive is to add a timer. As soon as a timer exists you're under this new kind of pressure to make decisions faster and execute your actions more cleanly.

I started speedrunning around the middle of 2019 in the "Leon A Standard" category of Resident Evil 2 Remake (2019). Prior to this I'd mostly done non-timed runs of Doom 2016 on Ultra-Nightmare.


Nick: Do you speedrun non-Doom games?

Devo: I love "The 4th Survivor" mode in Resident Evil 2 Remake. It's all movement and shooting with no menuing or puzzles. It's also a very short run—under seven minutes if you're fast. I've contemplated jumping into the Souls games but have yet to make the leap! It's quite a daunting task learning a new game and Dark Souls (2011) is no joke to begin with!



Nick: How would you describe your speedrunning style compared to other Doom runners? 

Devo: I probably take more risks, engaging the combat with style, preferring to go all-in rather than to use the most efficient methods to complete the arenas. I'm not as interested in optimizing routing the same way other runners might be. I still go relatively fast, but I tend to trust my instincts more than the objective measurements from trying different strategies. For that reason I tend to just "do the run" rather than practice. It's usually to the detriment of the time but, I prefer to have fun and engage the audience.


Nick: Do you have any favorite Doom runners that you like to watch and/or learn from?

Devo: RedW4rr10r, ByteMe, DraQu, and King Dime.

On Speedrunning 

The Next Big Thing

Nick: During Eternal's development process, the developers mentioned their game being made with Twitch and speedrunning in mind. Was the game "made to be speedrun," or is it simply a game with fast combat?

Devo: There are elements of the game that you can see were added with speedrunning in mind. There is a milestone for completing "Hell on Earth" in under 11 minutes, cutscenes are easily skippable and the menus are simple to navigate using the keyboard. I don’t think speedrunning was a primary design objective though. There is no completion time at the end of each map such as there was for the original games, nor is there a ranking system for the end of the game based on time as is seen in the Resident Evil series. It is a fast game but not primarily designed as a speedgame.



Nick: A recent video by Karl Jobst is also convinced Doom Eternal is the next Big Game in the speedrunning world. Do you agree with him? Will Doom Eternal rank up there with popular speedrunning games like Super Metroid (1994) or Goldeneye (1997)? 

Devo: I think there is a huge amount of optimization in the glitchless categories. The combat can be executed with far more efficiency than we have seen. I don't think we will see nearly the degree of optimisation overall that might be seen in single segment Doom (1993) or Goldeneye speedrunning. I don't think it will even get remotely close too what we see in a full Resident Evil (1996) speedrun where lines and RNG are very tightly managed. I do think we will see the 100% Ultra-Nightmare category come down quite a bit though over the next six months.


Nick: Will Doom Eternal (and Twitch) help change speedrunning into something we haven't seen before, bringing the practice to an audience of unprecedented size, but also further its demographic range?

Devo: I hope so. I watched what speedrunning did for Resident Evil 2 Remake on Twitch. When [that game] came out, it exploded for about a week then like most single player games [it] dropped off. But for an entire year it attracted a solid, consistent viewership. Twitch ran the Rivals tournament for it which really helped bring a heap of new people to speedrunning. RE2R still peaks at around 2,000 viewers daily, twelve months after release and following the release of the sequel, RE3R (2020). 

[editor's note: I think the best speedrun-friendly games tend to attract healthy competition within speedrun communities; they also garner attention from outside of these communities over a longer period, and potentially bring speedrunning to a larger audience as a result. Super Metroid continues to be considered a classic, regularly cracking the Top Ten on Speedrun.com despite being a 26-year old game!]


Nick: How does Doom appeal to you—not simply as a speedrunner, but as a gamer? Are you just as invested in "flexing" or being creative as you are getting the fastest time?

Devo: I like to flex! But after awhile you need to find new ways to flex and adding a timer is part of it. I really enjoy trying to find new strategies, trying different upgrade paths or incorporating different mechanics more frequently.

On Doom Eternal

Technical Issues

Nick: Id's reputation for making technically-solid games precedes them. However, during your stream, you mention several technical issues with Doom Eternal. One is that hit boxes occasionally don't spawn. Is this a big issue—say, enough of a problem to make speedrunners' lives miserable?

Devo: I think that can affect the balloons on the untracked secret in Super Gore Nest. It's not an issue thankfully as it doesn't count towards the 100% criteria.


Nick: You also mention needing to uninstall/reinstall the game from time to time? Can you speculate on why this might be?

Devo: Sometimes, it's the only way to exact revenge on the game.



Nick: Are there any other technical issues you've noticed, but think aren't getting enough attention that you'd like to mention, here?

Devo:

  • Getting physically stuck on a Slayer Gate Gore Nest after completing it.
  • Being unable to change weapons or attack after overlapping a weapon swap with collecting a secret until using the weapon wheel or "select previous weapon" actions are used.
  • Marauder AI being affected by enemy projectiles.
  • Blood Punches happening when Glory Kills should be happening.
  • Melee swings happening when Blood Punches should be happening.
  • View angle being "flung" upwards randomly when using the Plasma Rifle and Heat Blast.
  • Game crashing randomly, or especially when using the BFG.

Game Design

Nick: Does being a software engineer make you notice anything—positive or negative—about Doom Eternal that you might not otherwise, from a game design standpoint?

Devo: The decision to have Blood Punch, Glory Kill and melee all on one bind is perplexing. From a coding perspective, the edge cases to adequately implement this would be non-trivial. The complexity could lead to inconsistency in the behaviour of the feature. If it were separately keyed these systems would be less coupled leading to fewer instances of Blood Punching instead of Glory Killing and vice versa.


Nick: You recently observed during a livestream how the Slayer is constantly getting stuck on surfaces, almost as if his body is covered in Velcro. Is this a technical issue with the game, like a bug? Or is it simply an oversight in its design from the developers, given their attempts to force the player to play as fast as possible?

Devo: I think this was a design decision to punish players for standing still. The Slayer's hitbox is massive leading to frequent collisions with enemies. In the event a player stands still they get surrounded and then stuck. Unfortunately this also applies to the geometry which can lead to some extremely frustrating deaths when you're stuck on an outcropping of a wall, a box, a pillar or a pebble.



Nick: Are there any choices you'd make personally to make the experience more enjoyable in terms of how Id intended it? They want the player to set up more punishing attacks with smaller ones, peeling back armor with managing resources and constantly moving. What about the game's current design could be changed to make this more fun? Is there anything in particular that holds the game back in this respect?

Devo: The Mancubus AI needs to be changed so on Nightmare he doesn't instantly drop AOE. A brief windup—even less than a second—would be fine, but currently there is no warning animation or windup.


Nick: Despite the game's flaws, what keeps you coming back? Are you a glutton for punishment, or is the game mostly fun?

Devo: I just love the challenge. The game itself being fantastic also helps, but a desire—to truly master the game—is the main thing that keeps me coming back for more.

Speed and Mobility

Nick: Speedrunners tend to refer to non-speedrunners as "casuals," implying a specialized difficulty that comes from speedrunning games. However, Doom Eternal is meant to be played fast, and be harder for it; it forces the player to play at the game's speed, or die. Do you think this mindset appeals to speedrunners, in general?

Devo: I think if you speedrun, you speedrun. It doesn't matter so much how fast you are, what matters is having a go. Doom Eternal requires precise execution of a set of steps given a particular strategy. It is fast, but it has a speed limit because you can't just demolish everything by concentrating on movement and dealing damage.


Nick: How does Doom Eternal's speed feel compared to Doom 2016? 

Devo: At times it feels like busywork, especially early-game. Dismantling weak points and platforming really slows the game down. Once you reach Super Gore Nest the game becomes GREAT and moves significantly faster than 2016. I do wish the pacing of Eternal were more like Super Gore Nest onwards because [that is] amazing.


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

Devo: Doom 2016 was great because it was so open that you could complete the game without taking a single upgrade or completing anything OTHER than the combat. That meant not using BFG on Argent D’nur for example because it would mean making progress towards the mission challenge. The 0% (Full Combat Rating) category of 2016 was a testament to how well-designed the game was. Yes, people could run around with Super Shotty and blow everything to bits easily, but you could also make the game really challenging and satisfying with your own rules [editor's note: see Under the Mayo's "brawler mode" for a good example of this]

I think Eternal's emphasis on weapon mods dampens the viability of this kind of play. It's kind of like how in Dark Souls most builds were viable with varying degrees of difficulty and cheese. Sekiro (2019) and Bloodborne (2015) were much more about "this item must—or at least should be—used on this boss".



Tone

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

Devo: I don't mind the arcade-y approach to be honest. I've always placed gameplay on a pedestal. I did really grow fond of the world [Doom] 2016 built, though. I miss its cohesion and pacing. Eternal's environmental pacing is a mess to be honest. The constant change in locale and scenery makes the entire world difficult to suspend disbelief of. Exultia is really jarring, but Nekravol makes sense as there is a more gradual transition from the Hellish environment to the Urdak technology—plus the story backing it makes sense and is delivered exceptionally well.


Nick: Should Doom be scary? What's your opinion about Doom PSOne (1995) or Doom 64?

Devo: I love Doom 64. It applied a thick layer of atmosphere and tension with an amazing soundtrack, great visuals and excellent level design. The traps in the levels and their navigability (which was poor) really messed with me. It did all this without compromising on the fast paced gameplay of the originals. I think it can work all without making the Slayer/Doomguy look any less badass nor slowing the game down. 

[editor's note: Metroidvania—the classic franchises Metroid and Castlevania, but also indie titles from 2010 onward—are known for their maze-like game worlds—their boss keys and optional power-ups, but also some incredibly fast gameplay and powerful heroes: the likes of Samus, Alucard and the Hollow Knight, flying at top-speed through the twisted castle-like dungeons. Personally I saw hints of this in Doom 2016 and would love to see it more in the sequel to Doom Eternal.]


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

Devo: I thought Blood Punch would be the new "Super Shotty stagger". I am still working on it more and learning enemy movement patterns to make it safe to use. It's very punishing though when [you melee by accident] instead of Blood Punching.


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

Devo: Nekravol 1, Super Shotgun, Cyber Mancubus.


Nick: Which Glory Kills do you like the most?

Devo: Left-hand side Archvile! Oh, maybe the Mecha-Zombie one where the Slayer makes him shoot himself in the face!

Technique



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)? 

Devo: He's easy to handle when his AI is being completely jank. His pathing in some arenas (looking at you, Mars Core Slayer Gate) can be terribly busted.


Nick: What are some of your favorite ways to handle the Marauder? 

Devo: Frost Bomb + Rocket Launcher Lock-On Burst, Stagger into BFG, or Super Shotty/Ballista


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

Devo: Umm, the enemy priority changes because you absolutely have to remove excess fodder demons from the arena—especially projectile demons as their projectiles can cause [the Marauder] to spawn dogs.


Nick: Given the sheer number of projectile enemies, does Doom Eternal ever feel like a bullet-hell type game, albeit in the 1st person?

Devo: Doom 2016 felt more like a bullet hell kind of game. Eternal has heaps of attacks that can hit you instantly or are extremely difficult to dodge. If Eternal was more bullet hell, its other mechanics would not get used as often as players would learn to dodge every pattern flawlessly. [Eternal] has fast-moving projectiles, hitscan attacks (Arachnotron), enemies that teleport behind you (Gargoyles), homing attacks that follow you to the last second (Whiplashes). If you could somehow avoid getting hit by all of those things, you wouldn't [often] come down to land for armor or health.


Nick: Is there one fight you couldn't believe you survived, but enjoyed yourself with anyways?

Devo: I remember being pretty chuffed with myself the first Gladiator Ultra-Nightmare kill I got. That was pretty exciting because back then he was a huge wall in Ultra-Nightmare. Now that there’s some established strategies and understanding of mechanics, he isn't so bad.

Using Glitches

Nick: Combat is definitely a core part of the gameplay experience in Doom Eternal. Do you ever find yourself using glitches to give yourself an edge in combat, or to perform faster speedruns?

Devo: Absolutely. I used the dash boost glitch to avoid some platforming sections, such as the "one- Arachnotron-and-two-Possessed" room in Exultia where you have to punch the block. That mostly gets skipped using a wall-dash boost.



Nick: I'm not so sure the game's action can survive the speedrunning approach, unless categories are made that discourage so-called "major glitches." As a software engineer, what constitutes a major glitch like clipping or slope-boosting versus something more minor in your mind? 

Devo: A major glitch in new Doom is anything that allows for the bypassing of entire encounters and often multiple encounters in one, single skip (for example, the mouse wheel boost on Exultia).


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

Devo: The issue is getting stuck. There are plenty of i-frames, but usually if you Glory Kill in the earlier Slayer Gate's its super risky because you suddenly might have a Revenant and Dreadknight on you and it's GG.


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? For example, would you prefer having tutorial levels that unlock all your gear, and then simply start out with all of your equipment?

Devo: The weak-point system can kind of force you to play a particular way. Anything pre-ballista, you should be breaking weak points—especially against Mancubi and Arachnotrons.


Nick: Do you ever find yourself inventing ways to make Doom Eternal harder, like not using the BFG or the Crucible, or using sub-optional weapon specs?

Devo: Yep, I've been toying with a "No: HUD, BFG, Unmaykr, Crucible" [approach]. It's good fun and gets pretty sweaty when you have next-to-no information. Icon of Sin is soooo much fun; you're constantly smashing Blood Punch and grabbing the Blood Punch refills.

Difficulty



Nick: For me, difficulty feels relative. For example, classic Doom has hitscan-type enemies, which are theoretically more dangerous than enemies with projectile-based attacks. Conversely Doom Eternal attacks the player from all directions—on open ground, with fewer opportunities to take cover and abuse choke points; its enemies are numerous, armored and aggressive—with multiple attack patterns, and specialized weaknesses. But the potential for obnoxious difficulty exists in both generations. 

Keeping this in mind, is it a good idea, or even possible, to compare the Doom games in terms of difficulty when each one is so different? 

Devo: They are totally different kinds of games. Especially when you start dipping into WADS like Sunlust or Sunder. The game in that scenario is more about crowd management and causing in-fighting.


Nick: Do you have a preference in terms of the sort of difficulty offered by the various games in the Doom franchise?

Devo: I prefer the difficulty of new Doom—fewer enemies that are more impactful on their own.


Note: For the rest of this section, I refer to an on-stream interview I had with King Dime.

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

Is it "too" hard like Civvie says; or is King Dime on the money by saying how the beginning to Doom 2016 is more challenging? 

Devo: The early game is hard for the wrong reasons. Enemies feel spongy and you have to lean into the Chainsaw/Belch loop of the game. This puts you at risk half the time because you need to pick and choose when you use either of these abilities. If you Chainsaw at the wrong time, or without 70%+ health/armor, you could get smothered by enemies.



Nick: King 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 King Dime's assertion correct? Does the challenge in follow-up Doom Eternal playthroughs decrease; or, does it merely oscillate as players pick up new speedrunning tricks that they learn, master, and incorporate into their individual play styles?

Devo:  Both KD's view and your own are correct. Going faster will cause the difficulty of the game to increase again. He is correct though, if you're doing an untimed run, once you have most or all upgrades it is extremely easy to get stack back. This is one of the leading reasons the balancing and difficulty scaling of the game is not the best.


Nick: Hqrdest himself says that Doom Eternal is harder than Doom 2016, early on, but then gets easier by the end of the game? Spud also says in his guide how the first three levels are the hardest.

Would you agree with them? 

Devo: Yes. The first three levels are significantly more difficult than the remainder of the campaign. SGN, ARC and Mars Core all feel like a walk in the park compared to HoE, Exultia and CB.


Nick: To stay relevant in combat situations where the player is constantly growing stronger, enemies need to climb in strength and abilities, a la Dragon's Crown (2013). Because those in Super Metroid (1994) do not, they are soon eclipsed by a fully-upgraded Samus Aran. 

Does Doom Eternal operate like Super Metroid? In other words, is there ever a point in the game where its casual difficulty lessens, allowing speedrunners to focus on speedrunning instead of simply trying to survive?

Devo: There’s kind of a few turning points in difficulty. The first being when you grab the Super Shotgun on Cultist Base. The second being once you get the Ballista. Once you have both of those weapons the game comes down about four notches in difficulty. 


[editor's note: Doom Eternal never introduces anything quite so strong as Samus' fully-upgraded suit in Super Metroid. In Super Metroid, I wish there was an enemy that actually required Samus' arsenal to be so powerful. Instead, the strongest "opponent" is the world map itself, and the player's own personal record to compete against. It's incredible to see so much competition, and so many categories, spring from Super Metroid's impeccable world design.  

Doom Eternal has a similar problem, enemy-wise: There's nothing introduced anywhere near as strong as the Ballista, let alone the BFG. I think the closest is the Marauder, but heated arguments for/against him demonstrate the risk of a certain cheapness creeping into the game loop. He's also a single opponent, not a group of enemies working against the Slayer together (think the Mantis Lords fight from Hollow Knight (2017)—not a mob, but a coordinated effort).]


Nick: Might these turning points in difficulty you mention have anything to do with your recent statements during a livestream, where—to paraphrase—you say the player has to play a certain way until the game opens up and lets them into "the Fun Zone"?

Devo: Yup. You might be playing really well, but [you'll feel it soon enough] if you disregard one Mancubus or one Cacodemon by neglecting to address their weaknesses.


Nick: A popular request I've heard is NG+ master levels for the entire game. Essentially the player starts out with all their movement abilities and gear, and the entire monster bestiary is unlocked and randomized from the start. 

Personally, I think this sounds awesome. What do you think of this idea? 

Devo: If it's seed-based it could be very good; every runner needs to deal with the same set of monsters.


Nick: Would you recommend Doom Eternal to players who are new to speedrunning and FPS games, but want to give it a try?

Devo: Probably not.

Ultra-Nightmare / Length

Me: Their first time on Ultra-Nightmare, many runners beat Doom Eternal one level per stream. Now that you've beaten it, do you find yourself reliably able to beat the entire game in one sitting?

Devo: Yes



Nick: Do you find Ultra-Nightmare wearing you out? Or can anyone do it with enough practice and patience?

Devo: It is a very annoying category to run. However, other categories pale in comparison when it comes to excitement.


Nick: How often do you take breaks, to keep yourself fresh? What determines if you stream for a longer period—let's say, eight hours—versus a shorter one?

Devo: If I am stuck in the first three levels of the game for two hours I usually finish up. I can stream for up to five hours if the run is looking quite okay.


Nick: Is there a specific point when you die in the game that makes you want to quit for the night?

Devo: At that two-hour mark if I die in the first three levels I'll usually call it for the day.


Nick: Zero Master recently beat the game at 2h25m37s (on Ultra-Nightmare Any% No Major Glitches, I believe). How much lower do you think that time can go? 

Devo: No Major Glitches in Ultra-Nightmare could go as low as ~2 hours, I think.

Runner Tech


Nick: What are some of your favorite speedrunning runes and weapons? Are there specs that suck under normal circumstances, but work better for speedrunning play? 

Devo: Equipment Fiend + Air Control + Blood Fueled is my favourite setup at the moment. If I am doing Nekravol, I'll usually swap Blood Fueled out for Dazed and Confused to get a better chance at the GK challenges.


Nick: Which weapons/runes suck no matter what?

Devo: Chrono Strike, Saving Throw.


Nick: Are there things you prefer about speedrunning Eternal versus Doom 2016, or vice versa?

Devo: Eternal's movement speed feels more exciting and the depth of the combat is wonderful. I prefer 2016 for the lack of friction when it comes to moving between enemies and against walls; 2016 enemy movement AI is also less random and tedious to deal with.


Nick: Do you find RNG to be a large issue, playing the game? For example, weapon damage in classic Doom is random. Compared to other Id games, how much RNG does Doom Eternal have?

Devo: There's not as much damage RNG as there was in 2016. Unfortunately there's some randomness to the stagger mechanic in Eternal. For example, Pain Elementals on Taras Nabad just decide to outright die instead of stagger. The main source of RNG in Eternal comes from enemy movement—particularly in Hell on Earth, and late Exultia. It's not a huge issue, but [it] can be tedious.


Nick: Which enemies are the most annoying to come up against during a speedrun? Which ones are you the most happy to see? 

Devo: The single most frustrating enemies in the game are Whiplashes—slithering around, avoiding your rockets, hitting you with attacks that have no business hitting you. The best enemies in the game? Probably Tyrants or Doom Hunters? Tyrants could be buffed up a bit; their accuracy is quite poor and they don't move as much as they need to in order to be a threat. [editor's note: Perhaps the empowered demons feature in the first Doom Eternal update can address this weakness.]


Nick: As a speedrunner, how do you feel about the game's climbing mechanics? Are they fairly easy to perform, in the speedrunning sense (i.e., sequence-breaking)? Do you find yourself using them to go faster than you ever thought possible?

Devo: They are okay and get the job done. Much of the platform in the game feels like servicing some "pacing" issues that were cited in 2016. I feel like they just break up the cohesion and immersion of the game.


Nick: As a speedrunner, how do you feel about Doom Eternal's other movement schemes—the dash, double jump and so-called "yeet-hook"? 

Devo: The yeet-hook is the single best emergent gameplay technique to come out of the community. Double-jump feels fairly useless besides traversal. Air Control is the best addition in the movement kit with respect to avoiding damage.



Nick: 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. Do you feel there are still plenty of tricks like that to learn, that don't fall under the category of glitch, necessarily?

Devo: Hopefully there's more tricks that will be discovered. The purple goo is something that no one would miss at all if it disappeared from the game overnight. So, I welcome more skips like those.


Nick: Can you potentially play Doom Eternal faster/more effectively in combat situations by not doing the so-called "Doom dance" (the armor/weak-points/stagger game)? 

Devo: Potentially yes. Your movement, enemy selection and weapon swapping still needs to be very good in order to do that—particularly in Cultist Base.


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

Devo:: Definitely. Using Equipment Fiend, Blood Punch, [and] Frost Grenade you can harvest plenty of resources. Glory Killing even in early game now is being avoided unless it's necessary to take enemies out such as Cacodemons.


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." Given how monsters can be killed for resources in Doom Eternal, can you explain what you think this optimal pattern is when speedrunning the game?

Devo: Learn which enemies are the most impactful, get rid of them when appropriate and learn the correct player positioning for each arena. Early in the game there are some instances where saving Chainsaw [ammo] can be great. Generally speaking however the best thing is to just grind out the enemy spawn locations, learn when they arrive into the arena and which weapon/position combination will deal with them the quickest.



Nick: In Spud's recent guide video for Ultra-Nightmare, he notes 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 Doom Eternal, does its combat retain that core, "Doom feel" in your opinion? 

Devo: The arenas in both games have plenty of verticality, enemies that lead their shots and also run their target down. Imps climb up and down, they throw fireballs—not at you, but where you are going. Hell Knights literally chase you down. The combination of verticality and enemy AI makes it difficult to just circle strafe. Even in 2016 the best way to avoid damage was to bob, weave and also shoot your way out of trouble. I think any good 0% Nightmare run in Doom 2016 will showcase this.


Nick: In his own video, Under the Mayo likens Doom Eternal cosmetically to Doom but mechanically to Quake; I feel this isn't entirely accurate: Rocket-jumping—a Quake staple—is strongly discouraged due to extremely high rocket splash damage—a Doom staple. For me, it's a strange amalgam of both franchises: old-meets-new, Doom-meets-Quake.

How much like Quake is Doom Eternal, or is the comparison only being made because the game is 3D? 

Devo: I think Doom Eternal shares some more similarities to multiplayer Quake. The management of cool-downs and resources is very important in both games. In Quake, you must know when the red armor and mega health will respawn. In Doom Eternal you have to keep in mind when Frost Bomb, Flame Belch are ready. Weapon selection and positioning are also important aspects of Quake's gameplay that any good player will be keeping in mind when playing Doom Eternal's single player campaign.



Nick: The classic Doom games weren't true 3D. However, just because the new Doom games are, can they still be closer to classic Doom in various respects? How is the spherical movement in Doom Eternal a) different from the Quake series and b) emblematic of Doom?

Devo: Doom Eternal's movement is more regimented or prescriptive than Quake's. Bunny-hopping, air-strafing and rocket-jumping were all mechanics identified by players. They were emergent gameplay features. In Doom Eternal, they've been put together by the developer and encouraged through other elements of the game's design.

With respect to old school Doom, I do not believe things such as SR40 and SR50 were anticipated to be a part of the game by id Software. In this sense old-school Doom and Quake have more in common with each other in terms of movement systems than they do with Doom Eternal.

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 speedrunning them, are so important in doing this?

Devo: Games have always been a great way to stay in touch with friends living far away. Covid-19 has allowed more people in the world to realise this and start playing video games with their friends online. Videogames in particular are helpful as they allow a complete escape from discussion of the pandemic and its effects.

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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.

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