Doom Eternal composer Mick Gordon claims id Software lied regarding soundtrack controversy (Update: Bethesda responds)

Doom Eternal Cacodemon screenshot
(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

Update: November 16, 2022

Recently, Mick Gordon of Killer Instinct and DOOM soundtrack fame posted an extensive account on Medium, detailing the breakdown of his professional relationship with id Software and by extension, Bethesda. Bethesda is now part of Microsoft, although still largely operates independently. As such, the firm just posted a response to Gordon's Medium post, pointing the finger back at Mick Gordon. 

Bethesda claims that Mick Gordon "mischaracterized" events, and that they have "documented evidence" to back up claims, in an "appropriate venue." The appropriate venue could be hinting at potential legal proceedings between the parties, as the relationship further sours. 

Bethesda also noted that individuals targeted in Gordon's account of the situation had been subjected to harassment and threats. It's worth mentioning that Mick Gordon himself urged fans not to undertake such actions, emphasizing that the DOOM games still deserved celebration. 

It remains to be seen how, or if, Gordon will respond further. 

Original Article

What you need to know

  • Back in May 2020, Doom Eternal executive producer Marty Stratton posted on Reddit, explaining why the soundtrack for the game had been delayed from being included in the collector's edition of the game. 
  • Stratton stated that Doom Eternal composer Mick Gordon had missed multiple deadlines and misguided fans with his online posts. 
  • Gordon has published an extensive Medium post, alleging that Stratton engaged in misleading behavior and used "disinformation and innuendo" to place the blame for the collector's edition soundtrack situation on Gordon.

Over two years ago, fans of Doom Eternal were puzzled as the soundtrack for the game — promised as one of the items included with the collector's edition — was delayed. When the soundtrack did arrive, the quality of the various tracks considered sub-par and poorly received.

Following this, executive producer Marty Stratton took to Reddit, saying that the company would not be working with composer Mick Gordon again and that the soundtrack for the game was repeatedly delayed due to Gordon missing deadlines. 

On Nov. 9, 2022, Gordon published an extended Medium post, detailing the situation starting with how the development of the soundtrack ran into issues years before the game's launch. The post also includes images of emails and audio files (with necessary details blacked out) to corroborate Gordon's explanations.

Gordon's post states that the development of the soundtrack for Doom Eternal followed a very tight deadline, requiring finalized music months before the combat it would play alongside (and match) was also finished. 

Gordon went on to state that he pushed back against this timetable frequently but was met with resistance as id Software leadership believed finishing the music earlier on would save time. Gordon also says that due to frequent rejections of music he delivered, he went without pay for 11 months starting in January 2019. 

Tensions apparently exploded at E3 2019, where Bethesda shared that the collector's edition of Doom Eternal would include "Mick Gordon’s original DOOM Eternal soundtrack," despite Gordon alleging that he was never approached about producing a standalone soundtrack.

Gordon says that when he reached out to id Software about quickly getting a contract together for the soundtrack, he was denied, being told by Stratton that he didn't want a "distraction," even though a product in the collector's edition not actually being in production could cause consumer protection law issues to arise. 

After months of crunching to finish the contracted music for the game, Gordon says that he was paid at the end of November 2019, shortly after Doom Eternal was delayed to March 2020. Gordon's post then jumps ahead in the timeline, saying that after Doom Eternal launched, he learned that id Software used over twice the amount of music that was paid for, including tracks that were rejected by the audio team.

In January 2020, Gordon says he went around id Software, reaching out to Bethesda directly. The company apparently responded quickly with enthusiasm for a contract allowing Gordon to produce the soundtrack for the collector's edition, while also offering to bundle in payment for a prior soundtrack dispute. Gordon does not name the game for which this dispute came up, but notes that it was scored in 2015.

Gordon states that he initially proposed a soundtrack with 30 tracks, and a runtime of over two hours. This was allegedly "shot down," and the eventual agreement was for 12 finalized songs, with id Software having final approval on each of the songs and requiring Gordon to hand over all source files involved with the soundtrack. The contract eventually agreed upon had a soft deadline of April 16, 2020, which could be extended but included a bonus for Gordon if it was delivered by that date.

After Gordon began work on the 12 pieces for the soundtrack, he alleges that he received an email from Stratton, now insisting that all 12 pieces had to be delivered by April 16 due to consumer protection laws in some countries. Gordon indicates that Stratton mentioned consumers being entitled to refunds if the deadline wasn't met, which Gordon interpreted as a threat.

(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

At this point, Stratton allegedly informed Gordon that lead audio designer Chad Mossholder had been instructed to put together an alternative soundtrack using pieces of music from the in-game soundtrack. While Stratton's open letter on Reddit indicates this was a last-minute decision over concerns about Gordon hitting the deadline, Gordon states that the metadata in the audio source files indicates that Mossholder was working on this alternative soundtrack since August 2019.

Gordon hoped to use Mossholder's work to supplement the soundtrack, but found it was poorly mixed and not up to the standard of prior music in the Doom games. After apparently completing ten songs and crunching, working 20-hour days through Easter weekend, Gordon claims he ran into a technical issue and asked for a small extension, which was granted by Bethesda. 

Gordon claims Stratton then insisted on wanting different songs. Choosing not to argue, Gordon says he handed over his songs and notes that he was paid for his work, including the bonus.

On April 18, 2020, id Software shared the release of the soundtrack with a Tweet. Mossholder was co-credited on the soundtrack, something that Gordon says felt like a "cruel insult." The soundtrack's quality was not received well, and Gordon says that Stratton organized a Skype call to discuss what should be done. 

While Gordon says Stratton did not want to take any responsibility for the situation, the two eventually came to an agreement to co-publish a statement showing unity to fans, which could be used as a first step in fixing the soundtrack release. Gordon says that Stratton requested there be no public commentary until this statement, and told Gordon to expect a draft.

(Image credit: Bethesda Softworks)

Gordon claims he never received a draft, and instead was surprised to see Stratton's open letter posted on Reddit a few days later, which Gordon says made him feel "sick to my stomach."

At this point, Gordon invoked legal counsel, stating that Stratton's actions had damaged Gordon's reputation and that he was owed compensation for the extra music id Software had used for the in-game music of Doom Eternal. Gordon states that id Software and ZeniMax were originally interested in an amicable settlement, but that when Gordon asked for Stratton's Reddit post to be removed, the tone changed. 

Gordon goes on to say that he was asked to accept a "six-figure sum" in exchange for never criticizing a ZeniMax product, allowing the Reddit post to stay up unchallenged, and never discussing anything around Doom Eternal. Months of legal back-and-forth ensued, and then Gordon says he reached out directly to a moderator of the Doom subreddit to try and get Stratton's open letter taken down. While he was briefly successful, the decision was reversed 12 hours later.

Gordon concludes that all of these events are the reason for his post on Medium. He also says repeatedly that this post is being made in defense, and that he does not wish for any hate campaigns, adding that his experience with most people under ZeniMax that he worked with was "overwhelmingly positive" and that "The games I worked on, and the people behind them, remain dear to my heart."

We've reached out to Bethesda for comment and will update this post accordingly.

Samuel Tolbert
Freelance Writer

Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Xbox and PC gaming on Windows Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.

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