I kept the picture on my phone, and I would keep looking at it every time I thought ‘Is this a good idea? Should I keep doing it?’ And it would make me laugh every time.” David Cooper, the creator of Doomed Love, a Doom-themed dating simulator, would keep looking at his wholesome version of the game’s famous Cacodemon every time he thought what he was doing was stupid.
Originally, Cooper was just drawing cute versions of the Doom demons for fun, but someone online told him they really liked them, and that the original Doom always felt too intense for them. So Cooper just stewed on this dating sim idea, until he finally decided to make it.
“As a joke, I said I’d make a dating sim version of the game with the characters and I just couldn’t get that idea out of my head.”
“I started with the Cacodemon and I just had it in my head that it would be funny if they were happy and cheery, as they’re probably the most iconic character design from the original Doom.” Plenty of people agreed with Cooper’s thought process, as his recently released genre mash-up went viral. It looks like a lot of people want to smooch a Revenant.
Despite making a living as a comic book colourist, Cooper does a lot of projects on the side. An existential comic about Lenny from The Simpsons was his first viral success from earlier this year, and he’s currently working on a project inspired by the UK-based Sonic the Comic series.
Even though work on Doomed Love was one of these projects, Cooper still doesn’t even call himself a game developer after making it, at least officially: “There’s not many gameplay mechanics to it beyond that you can make some choices, so you’re focusing on the writing. I was barely even thinking of it as a game, more like a bunch of scenes you could string together.”
If that sounds more like a visual novel, that’s because it was what Cooper was largely inspired by when making the game part dating sim. “I’ve played a few visual novels here and there, and the main focus on them is in the writing and the art, like in Doomed Love. I’m not a programmer, I couldn’t make anything more complicated than this. So in order for me to make a game a visual novel is the closest approximation I’ve got to doing my normal comic stuff.”
Cooper thus ties Doomed Love back to his own background, which is why he doesn’t see it entirely as a game. “It’s a comic, it just happens to have bits you can click on.”
That’s one of the reasons Cooper chose a dating sim visual novel as a base, to play to his own strengths as a comic creator and colourist. So the unique nature of the game really comes from Cooper himself, and how he wants to interact with something he loves.
“Of the dating sims and visual novels that I’ve played, it’s a very basic version of that. I wanted to do the opposite of Doom, that’s what appealed to me. Doom fans – of which I count myself to be one – are into the violence and the messiness of it and it seemed fun to subvert that.”
When playing Doomed Love though, you notice that it is very much, well… Doom. From the characters to the references, it feels distinctly Doom, even if placing the demons into a dating sim meant there had to be some slight changes.
“I made a conscious effort to make them a bit cuddlier, for a brief moment I thought about literally using the sprites from the game and I don’t think it would have had the same impact. Softening them a little would have given them a cleaner, more wholesome look.”
At its core, the game is about loving Doom, so Cooper made sure longtime fans had a few things to recognise: “I tried to layer some in-jokes in there for people who have played the games”. This included references to the Icon of Sin, and even the Doom Doot meme, meaning the Revenant has an affection for a certain brass instrument.
My conversation with Cooper wasn’t limited to just Doomed Love either, we got to talking a fair bit about art in general, from the relationship between art and artist to why he creates what he does.
“A lot of the work I do in general is a love letter to existing pop culture. Most of the time it’s simple fan art, but more and more I see myself commenting on why I like the things I like, putting it through my brain and regurgitating it in some new way.”
Cooper even acknowledges that this is the type of work that gets seen by the most people. Doomed Love was shared, similarly to last year’s Doom Eternal and Animal Crossing collaboration, because it’s an unlikely pairing of established ideas.
He also sees a lot of his work as a sort of collaboration, in that an artist’s work means nothing until someone actually engages with it and interprets it themselves.
I made a dating sim where you can romance the monsters from Doom!
"Doomed Love" features:
– four demons to date
– five endings
– all original art/music
– absolutely no gore or violence!
Download (for free!) now: https://t.co/Ifovi1yFI4#doom #indiegame pic.twitter.com/KBQl2CM4hk
— David Cooper (@davidbcooper) June 10, 2021
“A writer can describe a house, but it isn’t a house until the reader reads it and sees that in their head,” explains Cooper. “That’s the same with my work, I don’t intend for these wildly different interpretations but if that’s what you think when you engage with it, who am I to say you’re wrong?”
This also goes for Doomed Love, as I, along with a few other people, thought the game was primarily set in a school due to a lot of the backgrounds. It isn’t, and Cooper told me that the game never explicitly mentions where a lot of the game is set (besides hell, obviously) and that this thought is just players filling in the gaps.
This game, at least for Cooper, seems to have become quite the comment on how he creates, and what it is that he wants to do. When I asked him if there were any plans for extra Doomed Love, or even a game that blends genres and titles in a similar way he simply said ‘no’. This was a one-time thing and that is probably part of the appeal: Cooper decided to make a Doom dating sim because people liked his cute demon designs online.
“I still feel like I’m in the glow of [Doomed Love], I’ve been making stuff for years and it does feel a lot like this is the first time anyone’s cared,” says Cooper. “So I’m still trying to keep the same attitude of making stuff that I’m proud of.”