The Doom 3 that was never to be

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In the modern age of instant access to information, it’s difficult for games to go unnoticed. There’s an entire community of enthusiasts online who spend their spare time chronicling the story of video games. Ensuring video games are not lost to the annals of the time is an important one, and it’s thanks to those individuals that we have a much deeper understanding of both unreleased and released video games. 

Developing video games is a lengthy process, scattered with decision changes, restarts and bundles of cut content. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Doom 3, the action horror title from id Software, looked very different in its run up to release. It’s not uncommon for developers to show video games months, and even sometimes years ahead of a release.

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This was the case for Doom 3, which looked very different from its Entertainment Expo (E3) 2002 reveal which leaked to the internet in 2002. The demo was never intended to be playable, but thanks to the internet, it was soon available, and being torrented across the world thanks to a few infamous file-sharing sites. 

The differences

One of the biggest differences right off the bat is the title screen. Doom 3’s full release would adopt a more modern title screen that fit in with the overall game’s theme. The Doom 3 alpha took a more traditional approach, featuring a splash screen that paid homage to the series roots.

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The biggest noticeable difference is undoubtedly the logo. Following the aesthetics of the previous title, the oroginal Doom 3 logo pointed to a slightly different game, both in terms of visual design and gameplay.

There were also a number of gameplay differences between the two. Numerous weapons, sounds effects and the general atmosphere were much different from the final release. While many of the assets were potentially just placeholders, it still provides an interesting “what if” look at a Doom 3 we could have had. 

Aside from visual assets, there were also a number of gameplay differences. Doom 3’s alpha actually had a few elements, which made the game even scarier. Zombies revived after a few seconds of being dead, meaning they would have likely been a much bigger threat. Pinkies, the cybernetic hellhounds, could also appear through walls. Those slight differences point towards a game that would have been significantly more challenging. The enemy threat was likely balanced to make the game more enjoyable overall.

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Another small, but important difference is the UI. The alpha’s UI is minimal, featuring only the bare essentials tucked away at the bottom left of the screen. In the full release, the UI is stretched out across both sides of the screen and looks a lot sharper, making it much easier to read.

Legacy 

Doom 3 still stands up as an impressive feat of visual fidelity to this day. It's something which can be seen in the early development alpha footage. Granted, much of the animation hasn’t aged very well, but the lighting still looks incredible for the time.

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After a bit of digging, it would appear that users who played the leaked demo around the time of release figured out how to get the multiplayer working. It wasn’t a simple process, but once modded correctly users could play Doom 3’s multiplayer over an online connection. 

The alpha’s multiplayer was incredibly limited. Players could not use any other weapon than the pistol and many of the animations weren’t finished. Regardless of the shortcomings, it was impressive that the community had managed to get it working.

Modders even managed to figure out how to get the map editor working. This enabled players to partially build working multiplayer maps. 

Going back and reading the forum posts at the time show how little things have really changed. Many users in the post complained about how the Doom 3 alpha ran, which sounds a lot like how people talk about PC gaming in 2021. Having said this, Doom 3’s excellent lighting system received a number of compliments. 

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As we approach the release of Doom 3 VR next week, it’s interesting to look back at what Doom 3 could have been. While much of the alpha contains placeholder assets and early-game design elements, there were some key differences that could have made the game much more different.

If you’d like to find out more about the Doom 3 Alpha, check out the Wikipedia page here.

Still, it really couldn’t have been that hard to hold a gun and a flashlight at the same time, right?

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