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Interviews

John Romero, part II

Our chat with the co-creator of the demonic daddy of first-person shooters, Doom, concludes

Last week we ran part one of a two-part interview with John Romero, and we're now presenting you with the second and final instalment below. Anyone who happened to miss part one and would like to play catch-up can do so by clicking this lovely yellow link. Over and out.

So the next chapter was Ion Storm in Dallas and Austin. What was the company philosophy behind Ion Storm?

John Romero: Well, the philosophy was that we were going to licence engines - I wasn't going to do engine design and game design at the same time because that sucks. Even at the end of my time at id Software I had talked to Adrian and Kevin about how we should restructure the company - game engine development at the same time as doing game design just kills the game time. The tech team is stressed because they know they're holding up the game team and the game team are spinning their wheels.

Zoom

What I said was we need to restructure this company and have John, Michael Abrash and American in the technology group, while the game design group is creating products based off of our current technology. We should split the development in half and do it that way and everyone would be much happier. So I told the guys my idea and they agreed, but they still hadn't changed the company - even today.

With Ion I wanted to use the Quake engine because I loved the engine, and 'Design Is Law' was my motto, because you don't go and see movies because it's on 70mm film? You see it because of the idea. Why do you read a book? Because it's printed on paper? You read it because of the story. It's the same thing with a game, but it's a little more complex because you do have technology that draws people to it. I realised that technology was important, but the idea of the game was most important. At id it was mentally the be all and end all for a while, but for me it was a vehicle.

The problem with Ion was it was too big too fast and it had some bad partners at the beginning. There's a lot of things that went bad - Ion's story is so big I don't even know the whole thing, there are too many facets to the story. There were a lot of things that couldn't be printed in Masters of Doom (Michael Kushner's book) because of a contract we signed. The other bad decision was hiring a lot of people off of the internet who had not had previous development experience.

I've changed everything since then, but you know, it was an experiment and I think it made Eidos some money thanks to Warren Spector. I decided to bring Warren in in September of '97 and I think that really overall helped the full story of Ion Storm.

The company produced some interesting and hugely successful games too!

John Romero: Well, half of 'em! Anachronox, for example, was a fantastic RPG. It took a year longer than Daikatana, but Tom did a great job. I really do praise Eidos all the time for sticking by us during all the insane maelstrom of what happened back then. Eidos was a hardcore company and they did a great job standing by us - I think any other company would've killed us a long time before with all the crap that was going on.

The Austin office was isolated from Dallas, even when the other founders in the Dallas office wanted to kill the Austin office - and people never would have seen Deus Ex 1 and 2 or Thief 3. I kept that place going, I knew that was probably going to be the only shining thing that came out of the whole mess! But Tom did a great job on Anachronox, although it didn't get the marketing it needed. The Dallas office itself looked great - it was a great-looking office. The top of the entire building was like a half-circle and it was all glass - it was a great office and cost a lot of money to build.

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