Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Where are they now? - John Romero

John Romero - co-founder of id Software

For today's "Where are they now?" post I thought I'd pick one of the legends of PC gaming, one who worked on several groundbreaking PC games such as Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake. As you can see, these are all First Person Shooters (FPS) and consequently he was quite instrumental in bringing about its popularity. I am talking about Mr John Romero, co-founder of one of the iconic brands in PC gaming, id Software.

But how did Romero's story start? Well, Romero was born in 1967 in Colorado Springs, Colorado - and the only reason I've heard of the place is because I did a school physics project on Nikola Tesla, and apparently he performed quite a few experiments there. Anyway, that's a really big tangent so let's get back on track.

So apparently when Romero was only entering his teens he started developing computer games in the early 80s for the Apple II (seemed to be the "in" thing during the early 80s - developing games for the Apple II that is). While he was quite prolific with the number of games he developed, only a few of them managed to get published and distributed by computer gaming magazines, and some several years later. Romero's first published game came about in 1984 and it was called Scout Search. It wasn't until 1987 that Romero would get his first "industry" job at Origin working on a Commodore 64 port of Chuck Bueche's 2400 A.D.. Unfortunately, the project was canned due to low sales so towards the end of the 80s, Romero moved to Louisiana to work for a company called Softdisk in its Special Projects division. Eventually Romero started a PC Gaming division in July 1990 and would end up hiring John Carmack, Adrian Carmack and Tom Hall to his ranks. They left Softdisk in 1991 to form id Software but not before Romero, Carmack and Hall had worked on the classic Commander Keen platformer games which were released in 1990 and 1991.

The early to mid 1990s was a golden age for the First Person Shooter and it's primarily thanks to John Romero and the rest of the team at id Software (you already know what I think of Tom Hall, considering he's one of my top 10 game developers of all time). Romero would go on to develop 1992's Wolfenstein 3D and 1993's Doom. After that, Romero primarily focused on developing engine tools for id's games such as 1993's Blake Stone, 1994's Rise of the Triad, 1994's Heretic (which he was also executive producer for), 1995's Hexen (which he was also designer and executive producer) and 1996's Quake. He even managed to be credited with developing the tools for the game that put Valve on the map, 1998's Half-Life.

Apparently Romero and Carmack clashed over the development of Quake and once the game was completed, for whatever reason, Romero was forced to resign. Romero then co-founded Ion Storm in Dallas, Texas with id co-worker Tom Hall. While Ion Storm is probably best known for classic games like Deus Ex and Tom Hall's Anachronox (which Romero provided level design for), it's also known for the infamous John Romero's Daikatana, a game that was first announced to be released in 1997 but ended up being three years late resulting in a lot of negative press. There was also a lot of negative press about the game's marketing campaign especially the tagline: "John Romero's About To Make You His Bitch....Suck it down". It's not surprising that the game was critically panned on release and is considered by many critics as one of the worst games of all time. I've yet to personally play it though so I cannot vouch for what the majority feel ;).

During the 2000s, Romero worked at a few companies (Monkeystone Games, Midway Games, Slipgate Ironworks and Gazillion Entertainment), often collaborating with his colleague Tom Hall. Romero left Gazillion Entertainment in 2010 and formed a social game company called Loot Drop with his game designer wife, Brenda Brathwaite (they married in 2012).

So I guess what most of you really want to know is whether John Romero is ever going to work on a First Person Shooter again? Well you'll be happy to know that a few months ago it was reported by Joystiq that he is indeed working on one although details seem to be pretty light on what it's actually about or who else is involved.

LINKS:
[ Wikipedia: John Romero ]
[ Planet Romero: Official website for John Romero ]
[ MobyGames: John Romero ]
[ Joystiq: John Romero: 'I haven't made a shooter since 2000, so...']

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