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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

Why do we care about John Romero? You're joking right? This is frickin' John Romero - the co-founder of legendary developer id Software, and co-creator of Wolfenstein, Doom, Doom II, Heretic, Hexen and Quake. Without this man, the PC would probably still be known as the refuge of flight sims, adventure titles and games with goblins in them. Romero eventually left id and helped set up the troubled-but-great developer Ion Storm in Dallas and Austin, producing the ambitious flop FPS Daikatana. After that he launched Monkeystone games with another ex-id employee Tom Hall, before joining Midway to work on Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows.

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So what's he up to now? Romero revealed exclusively to us recently that he's currently working on a top secret MMO at his new company. "It's awesome because I love MMOs and the one we're doing is very different from any other MMO for some special reasons," he says. "I can't really say too much - it's the opposite of the Ion Storm 'let's publish our game design in magazine ads' stylee. This is not a typical games company and we're not making typical games." You'll hear more news on his latest project as soon as we do.

Right, let's get on with the show with part one of our interview with John Romero. The concluding part two will be winging its way to you next week.

How did you get into the games industry?

John Romero: In 1979 I started programming and making my own games on the Apple II computer. I finally sold my first game to an Apple II magazine in June 1984, and that was the point I finally became a professional. After that, a lot of the stuff I had written started selling. Origin is where I wanted to work forever. After eight years of working I finally attained my goal - although I was only at Origin for nine months because I started a company with my boss in June 1988 called Inside Out Software. At Inside Out I was porting a game called Nebulous from Commodore to Apple II when the publisher cancelled all of their ports because they were spending all of their money on Lynx development. I got my project canned and at that point I realised that the Apple II market was dead and I needed to get in to PCs immediately.

Eventually you ended up at id Software. What was it like in the early days at id?

John Romero: It was a continuation of what I was doing at SoftDisk. I was there for about a year before I'd had enough of not making games, and I told the president that I was probably going to apply for LucasArts because I had to make games. He was like "OK, lets make a division where you can make games." Basically, I started a new product with SoftDisk called "Gamer's Edge", which ironically now is the name of a gaming column. When I started that, I had to get people into my department, another coder, an editor and an artist.

I wanted to interview Carmack because he was a contributor to SoftDisk - he had made some games that they had published and his games were really good. He came down and he was excited to meet myself and my friend Lane Roathe who was another Apple II expert - I think he thought he could learn something from us.

We started working on the first issue of Gamer's Edge, and the kind of culture that we had in that little department - which was crazy amounts of work - carried over into id. We were working on games during the day for SoftDisk, then around December 1990 we decided we would do a trilogy of games for Scott Miller - then at night time we were making games too. Life was crazy, busy and really fun. Me and Carmack were coding like crazy day and night. I stayed full-time at SoftDisk until we published our first game, made a lot of money and then left.

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