As one of the leading game developers and publishers for three decades, Bethesda Softworks has brought fans to worlds as diverse as the fantasy realms of The Elder Scrolls, the post-nuclear dystopias of Fallout, and the plague-ridden steampunk lands of Dishonored. One of Bethesda’s most well-known and influential properties is DOOM, initially released in 1993, selling more than ten million copies, and influencing hundreds (if not thousands) of games to follow with its futuristic sci-fi setting littered with demonic enemies, a nameless grunting space marine protagonist, and over the top mayhem.
With almost twelve years since the last DOOM release, Bethesda brought nclud into their team to help show off the new game and its features as well as to get fans champing at the bit to preorder and get their hands on it. As fans of the original game who remember frantically pounding IDDQD and IDKFA onto our keyboards to avoid another fiery death, we couldn’t wait to bring the demons and BFGs to a new generation of video game enthusiasts.
We knew that we needed to capture the chaos of DOOM.
As always, we jumped into rough sketches on paper, group brainstorming sessions with the entire project team, and lots and lots of whiteboard drawings and discussions. From there we started fleshing out more advanced design concepts and interactions, from the high level to trying to solve for specific design issues and concerns. Using the moodboards and concept book as reference, we avoided cliché sci-fi design elements in favor of blood splatters, big guns, and in-your-face demons. At the same time, we wanted to bring in more elements of the “DOOM brand” — dark reds, hints of brighter oranges, stronger type, and dust and decay were all introduced as we progressed.
The first major goal of the project was to tackle redesigning and rebuilding the existing “age gate” across the site. As a game publisher, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) mandates that all content rated Mature must not be visible to children under 18 (including videos and screenshots), so a site-wide age and location confirmation is the best and most widely-used method. The existing gate was a tedious experience at best, taking over fifteen seconds for a desktop visitor and almost impossible to use on mobile devices. In order to streamline, we approached it from three angles: one that auto-detected location and language, one that simply prompted age with a yes/no button, and one that moved all prompts onto a single well organized screen. The final approach ended up being the winner, so we tested various layouts and organizations until we were able to streamline the entry process into under six seconds across all platforms. Our initial design concept was to blur the design of the main site to serve as the background, which would come into focus as the age gate was completed. While testing, we found that this scaled poorly across the various sections of the site, performed poorly on underpowered devices, and was confusing to visitors. We replaced this with a large, vivid image of a demon surrounded by flames that zoomed into the site once users successfully passed the age gate, reinforcing the DOOM brand and creating a compelling interaction.
All of these designs, concepts, and approaches came together as we began the design process for the final beta landing page. With an upcoming open multiplayer beta and a huge marketing campaign behind it, the page needed to reflect the spirit of DOOM as well as drive visitors to actually want to play it. Incorporating elements from each of the concepts, a brochure-style page was designed that played off the ominous feel of the high-level concept while using the modular structure of the practical idea. As opposed to telling a direct story, the goal was to bring in multiplayer imagery and video that would show off what fans could expect to see in the actual beta gameplay, including weapons, games modes, demons, and levels. Modules for questions, news articles, and social media updates were included to keep visitors up to date. A particular focus was on being able to share the page directly to social media (via Twitter, Facebook, or email) and creating a “pre-order” module that drove visitors to the game’s pre-order information page — the goal to get as many people playing the beta as possible so they were excited enough to purchase the full game.
Development was an integral part of the process from day one.