After several weeks of silence, id Software has addressed the controversy surrounding the quality of its official Doom Eternal soundtrack and, in particular, the comments made by original composer Mick Gordon in light of fan complaints, confirming Gordon will not be returning to work on the music for Doom Eternal’s DLC.
Issues around the soundtrack first came to light at the end of April, when audio blogger and Ruff Audio founder Reace “thatACDCguy” Niles noted dramatically variable differences in quality across the recording, which he attributed to reduced dynamic range on certain tracks.
Niles pointed the finger of blame at Gordon, writing “I expect much better from him”, to which the composer responded, explaining he’d only mixed a “small handful of tracks” and “wouldn’t have done that” on the other tracks.
In a separate but related comment, Gordon told an inquiring fan that he doubted he’d work with id Software again, driving speculation that relations between the two parties had soured – which, in turn, and with depressing inevitably, saw id’s lead audio designer, who was responsible for remixing the remainder of the soundtrack, become the target of online abuse from certain quarters of the Doom community.
Here’s a comparison between the original BFG Division from Doom 2016’s official soundtrack (left) vs. the BFG 2020 remix on Eternal’s soundtrack from today (right).
Notice how the wavelengths in BFG 2020 form a nearly perfectly straight bar vs. the original with more definition pic.twitter.com/TCJRdOe1Yf
— Doominal Crossing: Eternal Horizons ? (@thatACDCguy) April 19, 2020
Now, in a lengthy statement posted to the Doom subreddit, Doom Eternal executive producer Marty Stratton has addressed the “speculation and criticism” surrounding the soundtrack’s release. “Some have suggested that we’ve been careless with or disrespectful of the game music,” he wrote, “Others have speculated that [Gordon] wasn’t given the time or creative freedom to deliver something different or better. The fact is – none of that is true.”
“What has become unacceptable to me,” Stratton continued, “are the direct and personal attacks on our lead audio designer – particularly considering his outstanding contributions to the game – as well as the damage this mischaracterisation is doing to the many talented people who have contributed to the game and continue to support it.”
While Stratton praised Gordon’s abilities, he admitted the two parties had “struggled to connect on some of the more production-related realities of development” and that “communication around those issues have eroded trust. For id, this has created an unsustainable pattern of project uncertainty and risk.”
The remainder of Stratton’s post includes a detailed breakdown of events leading up to the release of the Doom Eternal soundtrack, covering everything from id’s original agreement with Gordon (who was contracted to deliver “a minimum” of 12 tracks), to the fact the developer granted a six week deadline extension at the composer’s request.
According to Stratton, however, as the revised submission date approached, he became “increasingly concerned about [Gordon] delivering the OST to us on time” and asked id’s lead audio designer to begin mixing tracks as a back-up plan. Stratton notes this internal mix was created using music fragments pre-compressed by Gordon for use in-game (hence the reduced dynamic range on these tracks) and not the composer’s original source material, which the developer “typically [doesn’t] have access to”.
Following a last-minute delay, Gordon eventually submitted nine of his own mixes, with the remainder requested for delivery “as soon as possible”. However, Stratton was unhappy that the majority were “ambient in nature” and that only one featured “the type of heavy-combat music people would expect” – something he felt wouldn’t “meet the expectations” of fans.
As such, both parties ultimately agreed to combine Gordon’s tracks with id’s internal efforts – a suggestion Gordon had already made previously, according to Stratton – at which point, the finished soundtrack was assembled and sent out into the wild.
Stratton says that, following criticism of the soundtrack and Gordon’s comments about his future relationship with id, the studio reached out to the composer “to understand what prompted his online posts”. Gordon is said to have outlined a number of concerns, including edits to certain tracks, the nature of some of the music fragments used by id, and issues connected to a co-composer credit, all of which are detailed in id’s lengthy rebuttal.
The eventual outcome of this correspondence – despite Stratton’s insistence that id Software had “never discussed ending [its] collaboration with” Gordon at the time of the composer’s original comments – is that the developer is now “at the point of moving on and won’t be working with Mick on the DLC we currently have in production”.
“I’m as disappointed as anyone that we’re at this point,” Stratton concluded in his statement, “but as we have many times before, we will adapt to changing circumstances and pursue the most unique and talented artists in the industry with whom to collaborate.
“Our team has enjoyed this creative collaboration a great deal and we know Mick will continue to delight fans for many years ahead.”