Mick Gordon and id Software Part Ways

2020 is truly the worst timeline, isn’t it? Marty Stratton revealed today that id Software will not be working with Mick Gordon on the music for the upcoming DOOM Eternal DLC packs. The reasons behind this split were outlined in a lengthy open letter to the DOOM community, which I’ve shared below.

An open letter to the incredible DOOM community.

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve seen lots of discussion centered around the release of the DOOM Eternal Original Game Soundtrack (OST). While many fans like the OST, there is speculation and criticism around the fact that the game’s talented and popular composer, Mick Gordon, edited and “mixed” only 12 of the 59 tracks on the OST – the remainder being edited by our Lead Audio Designer here at id.

Some have suggested that we’ve 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. The fact is – none of that is true.

What has become unacceptable to me 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 mischaracterization is doing to the many talented people who have contributed to the game and continue to support it. I feel it is my responsibility to respond on their behalf. We’ve enjoyed an amazingly open and honest relationship with our fans, so given your passion on this topic and the depth of misunderstanding, I’m compelled to present the entire story.

When asked on social media about his future with DOOM, Mick has replied, “doubt we’ll work together again.” 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.

At E3 last year, we announced that the OST would be included with the DOOM Eternal Collector’s Edition (CE) version of the game. At that point in time we didn’t have Mick under contract for the OST and because of ongoing issues receiving the music we needed for the game, did not want to add the distraction at that time. After discussions with Mick in January of this year, we reached general agreement on the terms for Mick to deliver the OST by early March – in time to meet the consumer commitment of including the digital OST with the DOOM Eternal CE at launch. The terms of the OST agreement with Mick were similar to the agreement on DOOM (2016) in that it required him to deliver a minimum of 12 tracks, but added bonus payments for on-time delivery. The agreement also gives him complete creative control over what he delivers.

On February 24, Mick reached out to communicate that he and his team were fine with the terms of the agreement but that there was a lot more work involved than anticipated, a lot of content to wade through, and that while he was making progress, it was taking longer than expected. He apologized and asked that “ideally” he be given an additional four weeks to get everything together. He offered that the extra time would allow him to provide 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.

Mick’s request was accommodated, allowing for an even longer extension of almost six weeks – with a new final delivery date of mid-April. In that communication, we noted our understanding of him needing the extra time to ensure the OST meets his quality bar, and even moved the bonus payment for on-time delivery to align with the new dates so he could still receive the full compensation intended, which he will. In early March, we announced via Twitter that the OST component in the DOOM Eternal CE was delayed and would not be available as originally intended.

It’s important to note at this point that not only were we disappointed to not deliver the OST with the launch of the CE, we needed to be mindful of consumer protection laws in many countries that allow customers to demand a full refund for a product if a product is not delivered on or about its announced availability date. Even with that, the mid-April delivery would allow us to meet our commitments to customers while also allowing Mick the time he had ideally requested.

As we hit April, we grew increasingly concerned about Mick delivering the OST to us on time. I personally asked our Lead Audio Designer at id, Chad, to begin work on id versions of the tracks – a back-up plan should Mick not be able to deliver on time. To complete this, Chad would need to take all of the music as Mick had delivered for the game, edit the pieces together into tracks, and arrange those tracks into a comprehensive OST.

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, I sent an email to Mick 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. I let him know that Chad had started work on the back-up tracks but reiterated that our expectation and preference was to release what he delivered. Several days later, Mick suggested that he and Chad (working on the back-up) combine what each had been working on to come up with a more comprehensive release.

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 Mick, I asked what we could expect from him. Mick indicated that he was still finishing a number of things but that it would be no-less than 12 tracks and about 60 minutes of music and that it would come in late evening. The next morning, Mick informed us that he’d run into some issues with several tracks and that it would take additional time to finish, indicating he understood we were in a tight position for launching and asked how we’d like to proceed. We asked him to deliver the tracks he’d completed and then follow-up with the remaining tracks as soon as possible.

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.

After considering his recommendations, I let Mick know that we would move forward with the combined effort, to provide a more comprehensive collection of the music from the game. I let Mick know that Chad had ordered his edited tracks as a chronology of the game music and that to create the combined work, Chad would insert Mick‘s delivered tracks into the OST chronology where appropriate and then delete his own tracks containing similar thematic material. I said that if his additional combat tracks come in soon, we’d do the same to include them in the OST or offer them later as bonus tracks. Mick delivered 2 final tracks, which we incorporated, and he wished us luck wrapping it up. I thanked him and let him know that we’d be happy to deliver his final track as a bonus later on and reminded him of our plans for distribution of the OST first to CE owners, then later on other distribution platforms.

On April 19, we released the OST to CE owners. As mentioned earlier, soon after release, some of our fans noted and posted online the waveform difference between the tracks Mick had mixed from his source files and the tracks that Chad had edited from Mick’s final game music, with Mick’s knowledge and at his suggestion.

In a reply to one fan, Mick said he, “didn’t mix those and wouldn’t have done that.” That, and a couple of other simple messages distancing from the realities and truths I’ve just outlined has generated unnecessary speculation and judgement – and led some to vilify and attack an id employee who had simply stepped up to the request of delivering a more comprehensive OST. Mick has shared with me that the attacks on Chad are distressing, but he’s done nothing to change the conversation.

After reaching out to Mick several times via email to understand what prompted his online posts, we were able to talk. He shared several issues that I’d also like to address.

First, he said that he was surprised by the scope of what was released – the 59 tracks. Chad had sent Mick everything more than a week before the final deadline, and I described to him our plan to combine the id-edited tracks with his own tracks (as he’d suggested doing). The tracks Mick delivered covered only a portion of the music in the game, so the only way to deliver a comprehensive OST was to combine the tracks Mick-delivered with the tracks id had edited from game music. 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. However, Chad only used music that was in-game or was part of a cinematic music construction kit.

Mick also communicated that he wasn’t particularly happy with some of the edits in the id tracks. I understand this from an artist’s perspective and realize this opinion is what prompted him to distance from the work in the first place. That said, from our perspective, 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.

Finally, Mick was concerned that we’d given Chad co-composer credit – which we did not do and would never have done. In the metadata, Mick is listed as the sole composer and sole album artist. On tracks edited by id, Chad is listed as a contributing artist. That was the best option to clearly delineate for fans which tracks Mick delivered and which tracks id’s Lead Audio Designer had edited. It would have been misleading for us to attribute tracks solely to Mick that someone else had edited.

If you’ve read all of this, thank you for your time and attention. As 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. 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.

With respect and appreciation,

Marty Stratton
Executive Producer, DOOM Eternal

Reading the letter, it would seem that the decision is final and we won’t be seeing more Mick Gordon tracks in the new DLC (or in future id games). Hopefully things change in the near future, because I don’t think DOOM 2016 or Eternal would have been as good as they are without Mick’s musical contribution.

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