“So I played for a little while, and I noticed that there were only probably two students in the room. And I said, ‘Well, what are they doing on the computer, because it doesn’t look like they’re playing?’ He goes, ‘Oh, no, they’re programming.’ And I’m like, ‘What is that?’ He said, ‘Well, that’s actually what you do to make these games. You have to learn how to tell the computer how to put stuff on the screen and what to do, how to think.’ And I’m like, ‘I want to do that.'”— John Romero
Computer and video game legend John Romero (@romero) has designed and published more than 130 games since his first sale at the age of 16. A teenage programming prodigy, his major achievements include co-inventing a series of revolutionary computer games—DOOM, Quake, Wolfenstein 3-D, and Commander Keen—that launched the industry’s most popular genre, the first-person shooter.
The memoir DOOM GUY: Life in First Person is his first book.
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Want to hear another episode with someone who takes the business of creating fun seriously? Listen to my conversation with Exploding Kittens co-founder Elan Lee, in which we discuss core gameplay loops, internet archaeology, converting casual fans into superfans, building a game from scratch quickly, making Jar Jar Binks’ neck, clothing the vote, designing games with kids, dealing with investor expectations, defying the algorithms, and much more.
What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.
SCROLL BELOW FOR LINKS AND SHOW NOTES…
SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE
- Connect with John Romero:
- Doom Guy: Life in First Person by John Romero | Amazon
- The Book That Inspired the Birth of Reddit by Alexis Ohanian | LinkedIn
- Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture by David Kushner | Amazon
- Dive Into Anything | Reddit
- Oculus Rift | Wikipedia
- Pascua Yaqui Tribe | NCAI
- Why Revered Developers John and Brenda Romero Started a Game Studio in Ireland | The Washington Post
- Aggressor Squadron | Wikipedia
- Top Gun | Prime Video
- 50 Years of BASIC, the Language That Made Computers Personal | Time
- Cromemco System Three | Old Computers
- Opening Minds. Opening Doors. | Sierra College
- Hunt the Wumpus | OSRIC
- Star Trek Text Game | Slade
- Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 1 Microcomputer | National Museum of American History
- Masters of Doom: 10 Things You Never Knew About John Romero | Game Rant
- The Invention of Battlezone | IEEE Spectrum
- After 25 Years, Might and Magic 6 Reminds Us What It’s Like to Have Fun | Eurogamer
- Wizardry | Wikipedia
- Ultima | Wikipedia
- EGA/VGA Graphics Deep Dive | The Rasteri
- id Software
- Super Mario History | Nintendo
- Hovertank One | My Abandonware
- John Romero’s Secrets of Success: No Prototypes, Great Tools, Default Bagels | MCV/DEVELOP
- Castle Wolfenstein | Wikipedia
- Wolfenstein 3D | Internet Archive
- Party Card Games, Puzzles, Greeting Cards, and More | Exploding Kittens
- Spear of Destiny | RetroGames
- ShadowCaster | My Abandonware
- Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss | RetroGames
- Prerelease: Doom (PC, 1993) | The Cutting Room Floor
- Hyperthymesia (HSAM): What Is It? | Healthline
- Commander Keen 1: Invasion of the Vorticons | DOS Games
- Quake | Wikipedia
- The World’s Greatest Roleplaying Game | Dungeons & Dragons
- Dangerous Dave in the Haunted Mansion | RetroGames
- Smashing Pumpkins into Small Piles of Putrid Debris | Giant Bomb
- DOOM Creator John Romero Plays the Infamous MyHouse.WAD | PCGamesN
- DOOM Eternal | Bethesda
- Quake III Arena | Wikipedia
- The Quake III Algorithm That Defies Math, Explained | Attack of the Fanboy
- DOOM II | Wikipedia
- Doom Engine | Wikipedia
- Doom Engine Source Code Review | Fabien Sanglard
- The History of Ion Storm | PC Gamer
- Blackroom | Wikipedia
- The Color Of Money | Prime Video
- [07:39] Childhood.
- [11:30] Aggressor Squadron.
- [14:55] John’s first exposure to computers and coding.
- [21:34] Early innovations in 3D gaming.
- [26:01] The id Software team.
- [28:00] Side-scrolling games.
- [30:41] Developing 13 games in one year. How?
- [37:28] Designing with movable and removable parts in mind.
- [42:45] Warning the world of its inevitable DOOM.
- [53:04] Hyperthymesia.
- [59:49] Working on two games at once.
- [1:02:34] When John realized DOOM would be a hit.
- [1:10:25] Why John moved on from id Software.
- [1:14:25] What is a software engine?
- [1:20:05] Starting a new company.
- [1:21:25] What prompted John to write DOOM Guy: Life in First Person?
- [1:23:42] The origin of DOOM‘s name.
- [1:24:27] Parting thoughts.
MORE JOHN ROMERO QUOTES FROM THE INTERVIEW
“The bigger the team gets, the harder and longer it takes to make one vision come out the right way. But with four people [having] very distinct jobs to do, it works really, really well.”
— John Romero
“I’m going through this level, and I’m hearing these monsters moving around. I don’t know where they’re at, but I don’t like that they’re coming for me somehow. And it was great, because I finally got to feel the game experience the way that people would feel when they’re playing it.”
— John Romero
“We never thought that DOOM was going to be living actively for 30 years. Stuff is [still] being made for the game on a daily basis.”
— John Romero
“So I played for a little while, and I noticed that there were only probably two students in the room. And I said, ‘Well, what are they doing on the computer, because it doesn’t look like they’re playing?’ He goes, ‘Oh, no, they’re programming.’ And I’m like, ‘What is that?’ He said, ‘Well, that’s actually what you do to make these games. You have to learn how to tell the computer how to put stuff on the screen and what to do, how to think.’ And I’m like, ‘I want to do that.'”
— John Romero
- Alexis Ohanian
- Christian Divine
- John Carmack
- Tom Hall
- Adrian Carmack
- Elan Lee
- Kevin Cloud
- Larry Miller
- Sandy Petersen
- American McGee
- Tom Cruise
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