DOOM Eternal — New Mechanic One-Page Pitch

Overview

In this one-pager pitch, I will pitch and explore an idea of a small feature, mechanic, or system for an existing game. For this post, I’ll be pitching a mechanic for DOOM Eternal called the Lightning Counter.

Extremely professional concept art of the lightning thrower

Lightning Counter

The Doom Slayer has a shoulder-mounted flamethrower that the player uses to get armor shards from enemies. The Lightning Counter would work similarly. The Doom Slayer would have lightning-thrower that would be mounted on the other shoulder, and it counters an enemy’s “Lightning Attack”.

A Lightning Attack is what I’ll be calling attacks that can be countered by the Lighting-Thrower, which are the attacks in which the enemy’s eyes flash green (like the Gladiator’s Shield and the Marauder in the game currently).

Marauder doing the “Lightning Attack”

When an enemy is about to use a powerful attack, their eyes will flash green right before they execute. This is the window for the player to fire the Lightning-Thrower and do a Lightning Counter. If the player hits the enemy with the Lighting Counter while their eyes are still green, the attack will be canceled and the enemy will be faltered. The Counter has a very small cooldown so the player can’t spam it endlessly, but it would be relatively quick as there could be multiple enemies pulling off Lightning Attacks.

With this new mechanic, every enemy in the game would have at least one powerful attack (except for fodder zombie enemies) where their eyes flash green before they execute the attack. Players don’t have to use the Lightning Counter against Lightning Attacks, as they can still avoid the damage as usual by dashing away. However, they don’t get the benefits of canceling the attack and faltering the enemy.

Methods of avoiding damage in DOOM Eternal are all about smart positioning and learning enemy attack patterns to not get hit. The Lightning Counter will give the player another avenue of preventing damage. This is reminiscent of the Mikiri Counter in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and the Burst Counter in Nioh 2.

The enemy’s eyes flash green, meaning that they are going to use a Lightning Attack
The player uses the Lightning Counter while the eyes are still green, and hits the enemy within the hitbox of the Lightning Counter
The enemy’s powerful attack is canceled, and they are faltered for a couple seconds, just like how Falters work currently in DOOM Eternal

What Does This Add To the Game?

This mechanic adds a couple new layers to DOOM. It rewards high-skill plays, rewarding players with a faltered demon to inflict pain upon. It also adds a layer of risk-reward to avoiding damage since you have to be close to a demon to use the Lightning Counter.

The player could potentially get badly damaged trying to pull off a Lightning Counter, so this provides another layer to the combat decisions they have to make. DOOM Eternal is always pushing the player to move around the arena, and the Lightning Counter encourages players to move towards enemies instead of dashing away when attacks are coming.

Lightning Counter raises the skill ceiling with a big risk and reward, thereby encouraging more replays to master the mechanic. It also gives another option for avoiding damage, providing more decision points in the second-to-second combat flow.

Gladiator Boss doing a “Lightning Attack”

Questions and Considerations

These are the outstanding questions and considerations that would have to be taken into account for this new mechanic to be implemented in the current game.

  • This mechanic gives the player an option to avoid damage, so the enemies could be tuned to be either slightly more aggressive, or to attack slightly more frequently.
  • Enemies that don’t already have a Lightning Attack (everything besides the Marauder and Gladiator Boss) should have an attack that is a Lightning Attack.
  • Enemies should only have one Lightning Attack, so the player can learn the attack patterns and animations of enemies.
  • Fodder Zombie enemies should not have a Lightning Attack, they should still act primarily as resources
  • The Marauder’s current Lightning Attack should be countered with the Lightning Counter, not the Ballista or Super Shotgun.
  • The controls would have to change to account for the the Lightning Counter. A possibility would be moving the chainsaw to the “down” button on the D-Pad (as chainsawing enemies is not frequent), and placing the Lightning Counter button on X.
  • The Lightning Counter window should be narrow enough for players to have to practice to master it, but too narrow and the majority of players may not find a use for it and just prefer to dodge. However, if the window is too large, players may prefer standing still and using the Lighting Counter instead of constantly moving
  • Should the Lightning Counter give the player another benefit on top of faltering the enemy? Should it stagger? Should it drop a resource, like oil for your chainsaw?
  • How long should the cooldown be for the Lightning Counter? There should definitely be a cooldown, since if the player misses the Counter, they should not be able to spam the button and still land the Counter. If the player messes up, they have to live with getting hit.
  • Enemies in an encounter should be able to only do one Lightning Attack at a time. They can do it after one another, but not at the same time, so the player can focus on one enemy to counter them.

Data to Gather

  • % of Successful Lightning Counters out of all attempted Counters. This data would specifically be split into 2 versions: one where it is all fired lightning counters in general, and one where the lightning counter hit an enemy, regardless of if it was timed correctly.

This data is to gauge if the playerbase is executing the mechanic correctly. It’s a pretty high-level mechanic, so it would be expected that the % would start pretty low at first, but slowly rising over time.

  • The exact frame of the Lightning Attack of every enemy’s attack when the player uses the counter.

This is to gauge if the animations are working properly and seeing how quickly players are reacting to these attacks.

  • After the Lightning Counter is introduced in the campaign or DLC, the # of times a player uses the counter in a level and encounter

This is to gauge if players understand how to use the mechanic, or if players find any use in the mechanic.

  • # of times an enemy type is countered

This is to gauge if certain enemies are easier or harder to counter.

  • # of times an enemy does a Lightning Attack, and if it landed or not

Similar to the top data point, this is to see if certain Lightning Attacks are harder or easier than the average attack.

  • # of times an enemy kills the player with a Lightning Attack vs the # of times an enemy kills the player without a Lightning Attack

Again, similar to the top, but seeing which demons land the fatal hit, making sure there’s no outliers and if the Lightning Attacks are balanced.

In Closing

The goal for the Lightning Counter is to increase the layers of complexity in DOOM Eternal’s already amazing combat and to follow the game’s maximalist design philosophy. Lightning Counter raises the skill ceiling with a big risk and reward and provides more decision points in the second-to-second combat flow.

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Tri Nguyen

Tri Nguyen

is writing game design exercises and analyses

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