Doom Eternal Executive Producer Marty Stratton has addressed the controversy surrounding the game’s soundtrack, and comments made by composer Mick Gordon.
An alleged screenshot of a text message or direct message had an unknown individual ask Gordon if he would work with Id Software if there was another DOOM title. The screenshot claims Gordon replied “doubt we’ll work together again”. At the time, we felt it had little to prove its validity.
In addition, Gordon had stated on Twitter, that he was dissatisfied with one of the soundtrack’s mixes. “I didn’t mix those and wouldn’t have done that. You’ll be able to spot the small handful of tracks I mixed (Meathook, Command and Control, etc…)”
Some had taken the comment to mean he had less involvement with the soundtrack than many thought. Nonetheless, we do not feel this tweet added credibility to the earlier screenshot.
Now, Stratton has issued an open letter regarding the game’s soundtrack on r/Doom. In summation, Stratton discusses how the team had seen the theory that Gordon only edited and mixed only 12 of the 59 tracks in the soundtrack (the others being edited by Id Software’s own Lead Audio Designer).
They had also seen claims that Id Software had “been careless with or disrespectful of the game music. Others have speculated that Mick wasn’t given the time or creative freedom to deliver something different or better.”
Stratton denies these claims, and condemns the “direct and personal attacks” the Lead Audio Designer received. He also states he was surprised to see the alleged screenshot of Gordon’s message, and did not state if it was fake.
In fact, Stratton’s statement implies the working relationship between Id Software and Gordon broke down. This was due to elements of production.
“This was surprising to see, as we have never discussed ending our collaboration with him until now – but his statement does highlight a complicated relationship. Our challenges have never been a matter of creative differences. Mick has had near limitless creative autonomy over music composition and mixing in our recent DOOM games, and I think the results have been tremendous. His music is defining – and much like Bobby Prince’s music was synonymous with the original DOOM games from the 90s, Mick’s unique style and sound have become synonymous with our latest projects. He’s deserved every award won, and I hope his incredible score for DOOM Eternal is met with similar accolades – he will deserve them all.
Talent aside, we have struggled to connect on some of the more production-related realities of development, while communication around those issues have eroded trust. For id, this has created an unsustainable pattern of project uncertainty and risk.”
The issue stems from E3 2019, where Id Software announced the Doom Eternal Collector’s Edition would include the game’s OST. While Gordon was not employed by Id Software at that point, they later reached out to him.
Stratton claims that there was an agreement for Gordon to produce 12 tracks for the soundtrack by “early March.” This was so the digital OST could be included with the collector’s edition at launch. There was also a bonus for on-time delivery, and “The agreement also gives him complete creative control over what he delivers.”
On February 24th, Gordon allegedly stated him and his team were happy with the terms, but that it would take longer than expected. He apologized and asked that “ideally” he have four more weeks.
Gordon also stated the extra time would allow him to produce (in Stratton’s words) “upwards of 30 tracks and a run-time over two hours – including all music from the game, arranged in soundtrack format and as he felt it would best represent the score in the best possible way.”
This extra time was offered, with an extension of almost six weeks, and a delivery date of mid-April (with the on-time bonus honored for the new date). Stratton also notes that Gordon will still receive his “full compensation.”
In March, Id Software announced the Collector’s Edition would not have the digital soundtrack at launch. While Is Software were disappointing they could not deliver the soundtrack at launch, but they also consumer protection laws (allowing customers to demand a full refund if a product does not launch when it stated).
In April, Gordon had not delivered a complete soundtrack. As such, Stratton asked the Lead Audio Designer (Chad Mossholder) to begin working on their own version of the tracks, “a back-up plan should Mick not be able to deliver on time.”
Mossholder did this by using “the music as Mick had delivered for the game, edit the pieces together into tracks, and arrange those tracks into a comprehensive OST.” Stratton then addresses the clipping on some of the tracks.
“It is important to understand that there is a difference between music mixed for inclusion in the game and music mixed for inclusion in the OST. Several people have noted this difference when looking at the waveforms but have misunderstood why there is a difference. When a track looks “bricked” or like a bar, where the extreme highs and lows of the dynamic range are clipped, this is how we receive the music from Mick for inclusion in the game – in fragments pre-mixed and pre-compressed by him. Those music fragments he delivers then go into our audio system and are combined in real-time as you play through the game.
Alternatively, when mixing and mastering for an OST, Mick starts with his source material (which we don’t typically have access to) and re-mixes for the OST to ensure the highs and lows are not clipped – as seen in his 12 OST tracks. This is all important to note because Chad only had these pre-mixed and pre-compressed game fragments from Mick to work with in editing the id versions of the tracks. He simply edited the same music you hear in game to create a comprehensive OST – though some of the edits did require slight volume adjustments to prevent further clipping.”
In Early April Stratton emailed Gordon, “reiterating the importance of hitting his extended contractual due date and outlined in detail the reasons we needed to meet our commitments to our customers.” Gordon was also informed that Mossholder was working on the back-up tracks, but that his work was still expected.
“Several days later,” Gordon suggested that he and Mossholder combine their works (in Stratton’s words) “to come up with a more comprehensive release.” Mossholder told Gordon how he was working, but Gordon proposed the idea again. Mossholder accepted.
“The next day, Chad informed Mick that he was rebuilding tracks based on the chunks/fragments mixed and delivered for the game. Mick replied that he personally was contracted for 12 tracks and suggested again that we use some of Chad’s arrangements to fill out the soundtrack beyond the 12 songs. Mick asked Chad to send over what he’d done so that he could package everything up and balance it all for delivery. As requested, Chad sent Mick everything he had done.”
On the day the music was due from Gordon, Stratton asked what he could expect. While Gordon stated he would produce 12 tracks and “about 60 minutes” of music by late evening, it allegedly did not arrive. Gordon stated he had (in Stratton’s words) “run into some issues with several tracks and that it would take additional time to finish.”
Stratton then asked Gordon to deliver the completed tracks, then deliver the remaining ones as soon as possible. However, Stratton then informed Gordon he was dissatisfied with his work.
“After listening to the 9 tracks he’d delivered, I wrote him that I didn’t think those tracks would meet the expectations of DOOM or Mick fans – there was only one track with the type of heavy-combat music people would expect, and most of the others were ambient in nature. I asked for a call to discuss. Instead, he replied that the additional tracks he was trying to deliver were in fact the combat tracks and that they are the most difficult to get right. He again suggested that if more heavy tracks are needed, Chad’s tracks could be used to flesh it out further.”
Stratton then stated he would move forward with the combined efforts of Gordon and Mossholder. Gordon was informed that Mossholder had ordered the edited tracks as a chronology, and that to insert his work Mossholder would delete his own tracks that contained “similar thematic material.”
“I said that if his additional combat tracks come in soon,” Stratton states, “we’d do the same to include them in the OST or offer them later as bonus tracks.” Gordon delivered the final two tracks, which were incorporated along with his final track as a bonus in the soundtrack.
The soundtrack was released on April 19th for collector’s edition owners. Fans soon after noticed the difference in waveform between Gordon and Mossholder’s work, and Gordon’s comment on Twitter about how he didn’t mix certain tracks and would not have done it like that was made.
Stratton reiterates that after Gordon’s “simple messages distancing from the realities and truths I’ve just outlined” resulted in harassment against Mossholder. “Mick has shared with me that the attacks on Chad are distressing,” Stratton claims “but he’s done nothing to change the conversation.”
After reaching out to Gordon several times, Stratton learned what prompted Gordon’s messages online. In turn, Gordon shared several issues which Stratton addresses.
Gordon was surprised with the scope of the soundtrack- 59 tracks in all. Stratton reiterating the plan to combine Mossholder and Gordon’s works, and states “if Mick is dissatisfied with the content of his delivery, we would certainly entertain distributing additional tracks.”
“I also know that Mick feels that some of the work included in the id-edited tracks was originally intended more as demos or mock-ups when originally sent,” Stratton explains. “However, Chad only used music that was in-game or was part of a cinematic music construction kit.”
Gordon also explained he (in Stratton’s words) “wasn’t particularly happy with some of the edits in the id tracks.” Stratton explains while he understands and realizes this is his opinion, “we didn’t want to be involved in the content of the OST and did absolutely nothing to prevent him from delivering on his commitments within the timeframe he asked for, and we extended multiple times.”
The final concern Gordon had was that Mossholder would be given a co-composer credit, which Stratton states they did not “and would never have done. In the metadata, Mick is listed as the sole composer and sole album artist.” Mossholder is listed as a contributing artist on the relevant tracks.
Stratton concludes his post, stating that “for the immediate future, we are at the point of moving on and won’t be working with Mick on the DLC we currently have in production.” Nonetheless, Stratton praises the quality of Gordon’s work.
“As I’ve mentioned, his music is incredible, he is a rare talent, and I hope he wins many awards for his contribution to DOOM Eternal at the end of the year.
I’m as disappointed as anyone that we’re at this point, 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.”