John Romero, co-founder of id Software and creator of video game classic: Doom recently attended Dublin Comic Con this August as a guest. He is now based in Galway, alongside his wife and game design consultancy company Romero Games ( https://www.romerogames.ie ). Below is the interview I had with the game designer himself, about his life, work and the future of video games.
Going back to long before your career began, what was the first game you ever created, and have you revisited the original idea you had for it since then and perfected it?
JR: The first game I ever created was in 1979 on a huge mainframe computer. It was an adventure game I made in HP-BASIC and it didn’t have very many rooms. It was printed onto punch cards that fell off my bike into a puddle and that ended my first adventure game. I did revisit writing adventure games a few years later and wrote two full text adventure games on the Apple II. Six years later I worked on converting one of them to graphics, but I never finished it.
What programming languages did you start off with in the beginning, and how many do you know now?
What was your first gaming engine that you worked on or used?
JR: At id Software, we created the first game engines. The Commander Keen engine, created in 1990, was the first one we made, and the first one I worked on. Our Commander Keen 4 engine was made in 1991 and was the first engine licensed to other companies, thus starting the modern engine licensing business. We followed that up by licensing our Wolfenstein 3D, Wolf3D+, DOOM, and Quake engines to many developers.
What was the first video game that you have ever played and do you actively play any games now?
JR: The first video game I ever played was PONG. It was around 1974. I play games all the time on several platforms, mostly mobile and desktop. I have all the consoles as well.
What were your aspirations when you were young that drove you to have a career in the gaming industry?
JR: Playing video games was incredible to me. During that Cambrian explosion of creativity at the beginning, it really showed me that there is no limit to what you can design and create. And there is no end date for the next big game design – one will always happen every once in a while. Everyone is searching for it, and it’s something that drives most game designers.
Are you working on anything currently that you can speak of?
JR: I’m working on 3 games that I can’t talk about – everyone has a publisher that wants the game to remain secret until they decide to announce it.
What are you most proud of or your biggest accomplishment to date in your career?
JR: That would definitely belong to DOOM. My other biggest accomplishment is actually being able to make games my entire life.
Are there any titles that you weren’t so proud of?
JR: Well, I’m not too proud of Daikatana. Even though my earliest games were horrible by today’s standards, they were valuable building blocks to get to my best games. Daikatana had plenty to teach me as well.
Where do you think the gaming industry is going and are you going with the flow?
JR: The industry is going in a lot of directions, all of them very interesting and exciting. I always try to make things that I’m interested in. I like to sometime go with the flow, but it’s much more interesting to define the flow.
Is it weird living and working in Ireland, where we lack the on-demand technology market that would be closer at hand in other countries, such as walking into a store and buying the latest model straight off the floor. Does this impact on how you would go about making games?
JR: Ireland has incredibly proficient artists in all fields. We just had a new coder join us today, that I’ve never worked with, and he just fit perfectly into the team and was off and learning and understanding our codebase immediately, no issues. We live in a global economy, so if I want anything, I just get online and order it. Back in 1991 at id Software, we decided that we could live anywhere we wanted – there was no reason to be near a tech hub. If we had power and computers and food, we could make the greatest game ever. You don’t need to be near California for that.
Huge thanks to Olivia over at Dublin Comic Con for a well put together event and to John Romero himself for this interview.