I was an assistant creative director at id Software who worked alongside Tom Hall during the 1993 development of what would be called Doom. Since development, from what I heard, lasted from January to December, since it only took about a year to develop. I, like Tom Hall, had to resign, but while he had to resign mid-1993 due to creative differences between him and John Carmack, I left in late August, due to an entirely different reason.
From about March until my resignation, I was responsible for story-boarding and monster/weapon concepts, and I agreed with everything Hall had put out. When Hall had left, I advised Carmack and John Romero to keep some of Hall's ideas in. They agreed to keep in some of the maps (which are now in the 2nd episode of the final product), as well as some of the weapons, and extra aesthetics that didn't make it into the final product, such as wall decals, footstep sound effects, and even alternate deaths for the monsters. Ideas such as the unmaker, however, wouldn't be seen until Doom 64, and the monorail wouldn't be seen until Doom 3. All this might seem familiar to you, as well as the betas ranging from 0.2 to the press release (0.8), but the 0.1 beta was lost, as well as another beta that became the reason for me to retire. This beta, you might think, would be called 0.666 or 0.667, when in fact, the beta was called 0.7.
Things had gone very smoothly, since the AI in this beta was now working, and you could now even shoot monsters and pick up items and powerups. The mission-based code was now working, and the HUD that was shown in 0.2 was reintroduced, complete with its functions. It seemed like the game was going to be going Tom Hall's way, or so I thought.
Choosing to make a presentation to the rest of the id Software team, I oversaw the finishing touches of Episode 2, since Romero was working on Episode 1. When this demo was finished, I called for a meeting to show off the features of what could have been Doom. I started up the game, and in this version, you could play as one of the four marines Tom Hall had proposed. I started out in the rec room with just a rifle and a dead imp. Unlike the other betas, the other three marines weren't there, so I started off in the hallway. The imps acted just their final versions, as well as the zombies, but this version also included civilian zombies. I noted that this version doesn't base itself on a hub, but rather you progressed from level to level, like in the final product. However, in the lab, the fourth-to-last level in the episode, I came across an artifact called the Heart of Lothar. It was a black heart with green blood coming out of it, and was the key to opening the final room in the level, since that door was the kind of door you'd see in a Hell level. This is where things started to go awry.
When I opened the demonic door, instead of another room with a switch, there was a pitch black hallway in its place. I was puzzled that I don't remember anyone doing this, but I assumed it was just a glitch, so I pressed on. Despite the fact the screen was completely black beside the HUD, the footstep sound clip was still playing. At this point, I was starting to be put off by the fact that something could pop up and kill me outright. Suddenly, a monster did pop up, but it didn't look like anything that was designed for the game. It looked like a Baron of Hell, except it had no head, it's hooves were replaced by claws, it had a pentagram on its chest, and its normal pinkish color was now a dark red. It didn't do anything, but the controls were now unresponsive. I tried explaining to the group that this was a glitch, and that the computer was just chugging on the game, but this was understandable, as this was a beta after all. The monster's pentagram was now replaced with this face that seemed like a mix between a demonic ghost and a screaming face (like Giygas from Earthbound), and a loud screeching noise suddenly burst from the computer's speakers. And by loud, I mean LOUD. The controls were now responsive, and naturally, I tried leaving the hallway, but no matter what I did, the monster was still in front of me. This seemed to go on for five minutes, and the screeching stopped, but at that exact second, the screen went black for a few seconds, and I then found myself at the starting point of the first level.
My rifle was out of bullets, but there was no ammo. In fact, there was almost absolutely nothing, save for the dead imp. I then went out into the corridor, only to find that all of the monsters were now dead. They all weren't just dead, they had all been gibbed. I looked around trying to see what else was out of the ordinary. There was still nothing beside the gibbed monsters. I explained that there were some bugs that needed to be fixed, but in reality, there was nothing to explain. I tried to exit the level, but instead of the exit switch taking me to the next level, a message popped up saying:
"SIE TAT DIES. NUN LASSEN SIE MICH HERAUS."
At this point, I was not just perplexed, but disturbed, and my head was now filled with questions. What is causing this game to glitch out? What was that message about? Was that monster Lothar? As I reentered the area, I noticed the gibbed monsters were now starting to levitate, and the HUD with my weapon had suddenly vanished.
As the corpses levitated, I started to make out a murmur, then a series of moans. The corpses were now being swallowed by the ceiling, and the moans started to enhance, transform, and then finally distort. Suddenly, the screen turned white, then black, then white, and I was transported into a "hall of mirrors" room, a supposed "limbo". However, the HUD and my weapon were back. The game, at first rendered chunks of raw data, then followed with the game "raining" pretty much anything you could find in the game. Monsters, items, weapons, decorations, you name it. The moans from earlier came back, but louder and at random intervals. I couldn't explain why I was teleported to this supposed place of limbo, but all I could do was to keep playing. Just as the game was about to crash from CPU overload, the screen turned black again, but this time, it stayed that way for about a minute.
When the game had finished "loading", I was in the starting area of the episode's final level, and was immediately greeted with the pained scream of a man, and for some reason I was now armed to the teeth with every single weapon in the game, Unmaker included. This scream didn't sound like your usual Doomguy death scream, but it sounded like this man was in excruciating, agonizing pain. I was too scared to go any further, but something told me I had to keep going. Like the first level, this level had every monster killed/gibbed, and every decoration and item was gone. When I entered the area where I was supposed to fight the Cyberdemon, I instead found its bloodied hooves laying there, as it had already been slain by someone or something. Adjacent to where the Cyberdemon once stood, was a dead marine, who had been torn in half. Apparently this was Buddy Dacote from the Doom Bible. A "yelp" sound was heard, and the bloody hooves were now replaced with Lothar. It looked like I had to fight him, so naturally, I shot at him with every weapon I had, but to no avail. My last weapon was the Unmaker, and lo and behold, I not only managed to hurt Lothar, I ended up killing him in what seemed like a curb stomp battle, despite the fact that most of his attacks did a lot of damage. I thought to myself, it's over, it's done, I don't have to witness that ever again. Big mistake.
The screen cut to black for the final time. I looked back to the group. They all had looks that ranged from confusion to shock. I was filled with a mix of embarrassment from this fiasco and fear of what I had just witnessed. What happened next was the icing on this cake. A message popped on the screen saying:
"LET ME OUT"
The message then repeated itself all over the screen until the entire screen was filled with this mantra of madness. Then something happened that will forever be engraved in my mind: The messages started to form that screaming face on Lothar's chest, and the second the face had formed, the screeching sound from my first encounter with Lothar came on. What was mere minutes seemed like hours during the screeching. This unholy screeching started to distort, enhance, and finally glitch out. As a result, the computer finally crashed.
I booted up the computer, desperate to see what happened. I opened up the contents of the beta, only to find that the entire beta was now corrupted, and there was nothing to salvage. The entire team worked to recreate the beta, but every time was a failure, as if the game was broken beyond repair to what was experienced that day. Progress for Doom had been set back at least a month, since they had to roll back to the 0.6 beta, and I voluntarily resigned from Id Software. I've never shared my experiences with anyone about this beta or this supposedly self-aware Lothar until now. I chose to take no credit or even have my name in the credits for the final product. This "cursed" beta was kept as a secret amongst employees at Id, and eventually forgotten.
I remember the beta because I've had nightmares about repressed memories, since I've been rather sick lately and passed this off as being delirious at first, but the memory of Lothar was what came to my dreams the most. What did Lothar do to me?