Interviews

John Romero, part I

We open the gate to Hell to meet the fiery co-creator of the demonic daddy of first-person shooters - Doom

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We put it in late at night, and then the next day American McGee came in testing. He noticed it and was like "Oooh, scary backwards thing," played it forwards and went and told the artists. But we left it in there because it was funny.

Can you remember any stand out moments from the development of Quake?

John Romero: The only real stand out moment from Quake was when we had a big company meeting in November 1995 and basically decided to not go with our original plans for Quake. Everyone was really stressed out, the game engine had taken a year to get to the point where developers could actually make a game with it, whereas Doom was probably four months of engine work before we could actually start work on the game.

What I was doing at the time was the tools for Quake but I was also working on Ultimate Doom and Hexen at the same time. So I was making some Quake levels, but not anything that I thought was going to be final because the engine was still in a state of flux. Being there and seeing how we took six months for Wolfenstein, a year for Doom, I thought maybe it would take a year and half for Quake.

I remember having this meeting because a couple of people were concerned that it was taking too long and they were really burnt out, and everything on the engine was barely at a point where we could use it for a real game. There was no proof of concept for the way that I wanted to do the game design which was like the early Quake design, because we just didn't have the programmers - they were only working on the rendering and network technology and that was all we could do.

I fully understood that John didn't want to hire any more people and it was going to take longer. We were innovating with technology and I wanted to innovate with game design as we had done in the past.

But we had more voices in the company at that time that were inexperienced with the way we had done product development - the ones voicing concern had never been there through the main project development phase. And so the other owners, Kevin and John, were both really tired of this grind and John was kind of on the fence with "Well we need to lead with our game design as well but..."

I was tired of the bickering and not getting any recognition for all of the work and other projects I was doing for the company. I was always about starting a distribution company, wanting to do more with the IP we had, doing engine licensing. All of the business decisions - I was instrumental in doing all of that stuff. If I wasn't working on the main game, to them that looked like I wasn't working. I was kind of tired of that perception.

We had the meeting with everybody and I voiced my thing to the other owners, that this is what we do - engine development and game development. I said that we needed to innovate on the game side and that we didn't have enough people to do that. So when I saw that the other owners were actually listening to the inexperienced developers, and people were leaning towards "Let's just throw Doom weapons in this thing and get it done", I was totally against that idea, but I went along with it because I was tired of arguing. I re-wrote the design doc so we could use the most complete levels we had for some kind of framework and just power this thing out.

From that point in November 1995, after about two months of intense work, I stopped all work on everything else. That was the hardest I worked at id - seven months of insane death-march mode. We all moved in to one room after that point. We called it the war room. My computer was next to John Carmack's and we started having arguments about game design stuff. I was trying to stretch things as far as the new design, but he just wanted to get the game done. He didn't want to do any special extra stuff. So I was like "Well, if that's the way is..."

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