Doom Legend John Romero — The Path to Prolific Innovation and Making 130+ Games, How to Find the Soul of the Work, Audacious Ambition, and Building in Monk Mode (#681)

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“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—DOOMQuakeWolfenstein 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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The transcript of this episode can be found here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#681: Doom Legend John Romero — The Path to Prolific Innovation and Making 130+ Games, How to Find the Soul of the Work, Audacious Ambition, and Building in Monk Mode

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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.

#653: Elan Lee, Co-Creator of Exploding Kittens — How to Raise Millions on Kickstarter, Deconstructing Mega-Successes, Secrets of Game Design, The Power of Positive Constraints, The Delights of Craftsmanship, and The Art of Turning Fans into Superfans

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:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

SHOW NOTES

  • [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

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4 Replies to “Doom Legend John Romero — The Path to Prolific Innovation and Making 130+ Games, How to Find the Soul of the Work, Audacious Ambition, and Building in Monk Mode (#681)”

  1. Hi Tim, nice interview. Would you like to talk to the CEO and founder of Chess.com? He’s got a very interesting story about how the site has grown from a simple domain name purchase to a worldwide community of 140 million users. If so, get in touch.

  2. Hi Tim, or helpful assistant! I remember hearing an interview of a woman who told a story of her work at an animal-human communication research facility. She heard a lady crying in the lobby of her workplace and discovered that she was crying because she recognized an image the employee had apparently received from the dog she was with. The interviewee had written down a description of an image that flashed in her mind into her report because the research facility required that such seemingly insignificant imagery (“anything out of the ordinary”, I think is how she put it) be written down. Thanks, if you can remember which podcast or the name of the lady.

    Thanks!