Original Doom Eternal composer Mick Gordon has released a blog accusing developer id Software of mishandling the 2020 game's soundtrack. Gordon aimed most of his accusations at id's executive producer Marty Stratton.
When id released Doom Eternal two years ago, Stratton took to Reddit to explain that Gordon chose to delay its soundtrack and could only mix nearly a dozen of the game's 59 musical tracks. As a result, it reportedly fell on the studio's audio designer to make up the rest of the game's music.
Over two years later, Gordon is now disputing Stratton's account, and highlighting the struggles that external contractors face when working for studios like id Software. Some of the details in Gordon's story also point toward legal mismanagement in the production of the collector's edition for Doom Eternal, which his soundtrack was used as a heavy selling point for.
Gordon alleges that he had to frequently rewrite and scrap music submitted to id due to Eternal's fluctuating development. In one instance, he claimed he had to create two levels' worth of music per month, even as the game itself hadn't actually existed.
After airing those concerns to Stratton, Gordon says he requested a schedule change to id that would eliminate the two levels per month requirement and allow him to better define Eternal's musical identity. But according to him, Stratton "threw the proposal back in my face and proceeded to tear me down for having the audacity to raise the issue in the first place.”
Gordon also claimed that he wasn't paid for his work until January 2019, eight months into developing music Doom Eternal. Approvals on his soundtrack were withheld by id, and by extension the pay for his work. He wouldn't be paid again until 11 months later, towards the very end of that year.
Prior to 2020, Gordon previously had a very positive relationship with Bethesda. Not only did he do music for Doom (2016), he composed music for other Bethesda published titles such as Arkane's Prey (2017) and MachineGames' Wolfenstein: The New Order and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus.
How Doom Eternal's OST release eroded Gordon and Bethesda's relationship
When it came time to actually create the soundtrack for Doom Eternal that would be released on music services, Gordon alleges that he was given a flexible deadline, but encouraged to hit it by April 16, 2020 for bonus pay.
However, nearly two weeks before that soft deadline, Stratton contacted him, saying that date was now mandatory due to legal requirements in some overseas countries.
"Consumer protection laws in some territories meant anyone who purchased the Collector’s Edition was entitled to a full refund if they didn’t receive the OST by April 20," explained Gordon. "Refunds meant financial losses. Marty was saying, in his view, I was legally liable for any loss id Software suffered due to customers claiming refunds over a late OST — if it wasn’t ready in thirteen days, they would come after me."
As he'd already signed the contract before being aware of this information, Gordon felt it was "a setup to shift liability caused by selling the OST without a contract in the first place."
Further, he discovered that id's lead audio designer Chad Mossholder was allegedly instructed by Stratton to create an alternate soundtrack by combining "edited chunks" of Gordon's in-game score. This had allegedly been going on in secret for months, and found that the alternate soundtrack "fell far short of expectations."
By the time Gordon had finished 10 tracks, after which he was "worn down from the combined effects of overwork and lack of sleep," Stratton allegedly said he wanted other songs. In response, and due to the wording of Gordon's contract, Stratton was given "veto power and complete creative control." Final soundtrack duties were granted to Mossholder.
Following the release of Doom Eternal's soundtrack, said he was "done" with id, and "struggled to understand why a challenging two-year development had ended with an unnecessarily difficult fortnight."
To date, the soundtrack for Doom Eternal has not released on any music platforms. Gordon's feelings on the soundtrack's release, and the further fallout with Stratton, can be read at his blog.
Game Developer has reached out to both Zenimax and Microsoft ( Zenimax's parent company) for comment, and will update when they respond.