John Romero, the veteran developer and id Software founder who helped create FPS touchstones like Quake, Doom and Wolfenstein, is planning a return to the genre in which he made his name.
Romero, who's currently CEO of social game studio Loot Drop, Inc., told Eurogamer that although he hasn't formally started work on the project he has the design nailed down.
"Yes, I'm definitely going to be making another shooter and it will be on PC first," he explained.
"I don't want to talk about the details but I already know what it is. I've already kind of designed the thing and it's pretty cool - though of course, I am going to say that. I think it's a neat design, I haven't seen the design anywhere else."
Romero didn't go into much more detail but added that it'll be "MMO-ish" and will offer a new twist on genre traditions.
"It's a persistent game, it has persistent player data, the character grows and gets better over time. I think most gamers expect that now anyway, but this was a design I'd done a while ago. I think it's pretty valid.
"You will be playing the game as you would expect a shooter to feel, but the specifics of your situation, narrative wrapper and reward system are all unique. I wouldn't want to give out any specifics until I'm close to shipping it. I've learned my lesson about talking too soon about specific game features and release dates."
He couldn't confirm when work will begin or if it'll be a Loot Drop production.
It's been a long time since Romero last brought out a shooter - the 2003 N-Gage version of Red Faction. We asked him whether he thinks the skills necessary to make a successful modern shooter have changed since then.
"I don't think it's changed other than that the 3D graphics have to be good and there are a tonne of basics in the design that have to be there for players to feel that it's a current game.
"But I already have a lot of that stuff designed and none of what I've done has become invalid over time based on today's shooters. So I don't think there's an issue with it feeling dated or feeling old. It's not going to be an old-school shooter - it won't be pixelated. But it will probably have some faster movement than most games have right now."
Romero also offered his take on how the genre has evolved since his time at id Software. While he appreciates that Gears of War is a quality product, he's not a fan of the shift towards slower, cover-based gameplay.
"I'm not a fan of cover systems or the player being a bullet sponge. I'm not that interested in the tank-like player; I like feeling that I have skill in the game," he explained, before theorising that the rise of the console game pad has pushed developers in that direction out of necessity.
"I do realise that a lot of the movement in new shooters is directly attributable to the console controller because you can't play well and fast with them so they had to come up with some design to make it so the player can do something else if they can't skillfully move quickly. They have to do something different.
"But I'm a PC mouse and keyboard type player," he countered.
"I love twitch 180s, fast targeting, fast firing, fast movement. So anything that's not like that - like current shooters that are basically a track going through a level to the exit and everything is closed off - is not interesting to me.
"I like to explore my levels, y'know? So I'm not a fan of on-rail shooting or slow-moving cover systems. That's not to say that Gears isn't a great game but as a player I'm more interested in speed and fast movement."
Loot Drop's only current confirmed project is Ghost Recon Commander - a social spin-off from Ubisoft's tactical shooter series due out on Facebook and mobile platforms some time this Summer.
Has John Romero - the abundantly-haired creator of games Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein - given up on making an old-school FPS?
"Definitely not!" retorted John Romero on Twitter. "I have plans..."
But those do not include Daikatana 2. As Romero succinctly put it: "There will be no DK2!"
Romero's best known for co-founding id Software and designing Doom and Quake and Wolfenstein. Romero also co-founded Ion Storm, where he worked on delayed and underwhelming FPS Daikatana.
Today, John Romero has a new company - Loot Drop (formed 2010). Romero and team specialise in mobile and social games.
Here's one for the history books. Jordan Mechner, the veteran game designer responsible for Prince of Persia, has dug up a fan letter he received nearly 30 years ago from a 17-year-old called John Romero - the very same guy who'd go on to create FPS touchstones Wolfenstein, Doom and Quake at id Software.
Dated 25th March 1985, the letter, published in full on Kotaku, sees Romero praising 21-year-old Broderbund employee Mechner for his work on one-on-one fighter Karateka.
"I was absolutely stunned by the graphics, shadows and all," he gushed.
"You did a tremendous job and have, I think, defined the state-of-the-art for future Apple games. The technology has been in the Apple all along to do those graphics, it just needed a programmer like you to use it."
Romero then admitted that he was a budding programmer himself, before asking Mechner to impart some of his wisdom.
"How did you make the scrolling background? Ever since Choplifter I have been stumped on what kind of data drawing algorithm would be used to draw a scrolling background like yours," he wrote.
"If you decide to write back I would be eternally grateful if you explained this to me."
Elsewhere in the letter, the young Romero invites Mechner to check out a few of his own games.
"Many people feel that it is better than Lode Runner," he wrote, referring to an early effort called The Pyramids of Egypt.
"Anyway, ask me for it and it is yours. I'm currently trying to sell it to anyone I can (Broderbund is first on my list). My next game is going to be totally awesome. I can't wait until I get an idea for my next game!"
He signs off "John Romero, Disciple of the Great Jordan, and worshiper of the Magnificent Mechner".
Five years later, Romero would meet John Carmack while working at Softdisk. The pair, along with Adrian Carmack and Tom Hall, left the company a year later to set up id Software. Its seminal FPS Wolfenstein 3D would follow in 1992.
Mechner has been fairly quiet in recent years - his last game credit was on Prince of Persia: Sands of Time back in 2003.
Next Wednesday Romero and Mechner will share a stage together at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, along with Canabalt creator Adam Saltsman, Minecraft man Markus 'Notch' Persson and Epic Games boss Tim Sweeney, for a talk titled "Back to the Garage: The Return of Indie Development".
See below for some vintage Karateka footage.
Jan 18, 2012
id Software's seminal FPS Doom returns to Xbox Live Arcade today, publisher Bethesda has announced.
The 1993 classic will set you back a mere 400 Points.
The game was originally made available on Microsoft's download service way back in 2006 but was pulled in October 2009 due to Activision's original publishing rights expiring. Happily, it seems like that's all been sorted out with control reverting to id's owner Bethesda.
It's a rather timely re-release - the game was the subject of a Eurogamer retrospective last weekend.
"The fingerprints (or perhaps the clawmarks) that it left still remain, permanent impressions left in not only our own gaming memories but also across the collective unconscious of modern videogaming," wrote Paul Dean.
Jan 14, 2012
Holy s***, there's a monster in the lift.
That's not supposed to happen. The lift is the end of the level. It's a safe zone, a chance for a breather before the game totals your score. For God's sake, it's a universally acknowledged cessation of hostilities. But this time, there's a monster in the lift and both my friend and I physically reel with shock, spasming backwards as the thing lurches towards us. Later, at school, we'll laugh with our classmates at all the stories of involuntary noises and slapstick jerking that this new game produces. Then we'll go home and make it happen again.
I suppose it means that we're suckers for punishment, but we're giving as good as we get and our screens are frequently full of pixelated gore, our ears ringing to the sound of screams and explosions. Yeah, that's just how our evenings go.
The two of us are 13 and we've both been playing video games in some form or another since we were toddlers. Doom is not only the best looking thing we've ever seen, but it's also the first game that's ever given us any sense of fear, that's ever reached right down to our brainstem and tugged hard.
The fingerprints (or perhaps the clawmarks) that it left still remain, permanent impressions left in not only our own gaming memories but also across the collective unconscious of modern videogaming. For two young teens in the early 90s, Doom is merely the next big thing in a rapidly-accelerating gaming industry that soon leaves it behind. We never really notice that it's Doom itself which had stamped its boot on that accelerator, but we'll have Doom to thank for so much that we'll come to take for granted, its influence scattered across modern video games like shotgun pellets.
Doom was released in December 1993, and on those long, dark winter evenings we both find moments where we absolutely, positively do not want to progress, where the game makes us so nervous that we refuse to participate. It's a strange experience, feeling nervous about playing a game you so enjoy, but it might be that, just as we're hitting puberty and getting to grips with our emotions, we find our video games are also coming of age. Doom only wants us to get in touch with our emotions too, it just turns out that the most basic of these happens to be fear.
It knows about darkness, it knows about environment, it knows about pacing and it knows about surprise. It likes to cut the lights, to groan from the shadows and, like some wicked labyrinth in a gothic fairytale, even its very structure can't be trusted. Floors fall away into pools of acid, walls suddenly disappear to reveal hordes of hungry hellspawn and, just when you need it, you tentatively reached for a new power-up or weapon only to find yourself enveloped in blackness, listening to the howling of approaching demons. Everything about this game is geared around giving a response to its players, to where two boys go and to what they do.
No game had ever been able to use technology to create such an emotional response before. id's previous shooter, Wolfenstein 3D, was a cartoon shooting gallery in comparison. Doom played with its world as much as it could, demanding that you never trust it, that you always second-guess it. While John Carmack, creator of Doom's game engine, might have pooh-poohed the idea of any sort of background or plot for the game, insisting that "Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie," he was nevertheless able to bury his players into an experience more tangible and visceral than anything they'd ever known.
But to an idealistic young boy like me, Doom was far more important for introducing two things to gaming that I'd long, long yearned for, two things that I'd secretly dreamt of but that I wasn't sure anyone would be able to realise. They were also two things that would have an enormous and lasting impact on all of gaming.
The first was frantic, extraordinary and unpredictable: it was other people. Not other people clustered around the same keyboard or taking turns in some tedious hotseat arrangement. It was other people on other PCs, even people in completely different towns or countries. Anyone who had an internet connection, access to networked PCs or enough money to buy a simple null modem cable could unlock a whole new gaming experience.
In my head I'd imagined how multiplayer Wolfenstein might work, what it would feel like to be part of a cadre of scarred veterans battling the odds and grasping at our gut wounds, but I'd never pictured this much energy, this much sheer adrenalin as you watched one friend's rocket turn a bad guy into pure goo, while another was torn apart beside you by the talons of a gurgling imp.
Nor had I imagined the alternative to this: deathmatch. We could turn the guns on one another, celebrate senseless murder and use every cruel trick of the environment to our advantage. Wickedness overtook us as we became the monsters lurking in the shadows, or the hand on the lever that dropped some unsuspecting soul down into a sea of radioactive waste. We were more devious and deadly than any of the game's monsters, turning its levels into slaughterhouses and abattoirs. We were bastards and we loved it.
Doom also introduced the concept of modification, encouraging its players to tweak and tinker with its media and its levels. Carmack deliberately programmed the game so that replacing sound and graphics would be both simple and reversible. He also made the code for the game's level editor available to the public.
While the move might have seemed like poor business sense, as if id was giving its secrets away for free, it only encouraged even more people to play and to talk about the game while, of course, fostering a whole generation of modders and level creators. I desperately wanted a Star Wars FPS and, a year before Dark Forces was released, I got it. The early internet was afire with discussion and development as both amateurs and professionals tried their hand at modding, inspired by Doom's own devious designer, John Romero.
And these names themselves - Romero, Carmack - became a currency among my friends, the first game developers that were household names to us. We finally saw game developers being treated like film directors and rock stars, being the heroes we'd always felt they were and even behaving like them. The long-haired, trash-talking Romero enjoyed meeting with his fans as much as they enjoyed meeting him, and when five students in Austin, Texas scraped together to buy a space above a café where people could pay to play multiplayer Doom, he turned up to give them his blessing. A dedicated social space, purely for the playing of computer games? I was jealous that we didn't have one.
Developers like Peter Molyneux and Will Wright would become just as fascinating and famous, but it was Doom's designers who were the first to stand out, the first names to become as important as their games. As I turned the pages of the technology and games magazines I collected, I would read of their latest public appearances or, as the years rolled on, their growing estrangement: id software hired and fired more and more staff; the development of their mysterious follow-up, Quake, stalled; Romero eventually left to form Ion Storm.
Among teenage gamers like us, such news spoke of great potential and of great drama. We wanted to know more about the people behind our games, more about who made them and how, and the spats and the self-destruction, the fallouts and the firings gave us all the soap operas and drama that we ever needed, at least as worthy of a dramatisation as Facebook's story was. (And after Carmack and Romero split, neither would develop anything as truly groundbreaking again.)
Doom was also the first time that I ever saw my hobby validated by the wider world. It grew large enough and reached far enough that both the media and the general public began to understand that, young or old, people play games. Doom II was featured in ER. Queen guitarist (and amateur programmer) Brian May expressed his astonishment at the game's technical achievement.
Fantasy maestro Terry Pratchett decided to applaud the game's approach to the problem of evil: "Over the centuries, mankind has tried many ways of combating the forces of evil," he said, "Prayer, fasting, good works and so on. Up until Doom, no one seemed to have thought about the double-barrel shotgun." It even earned a passing reference in Friends (characteristically unfunny, of course).
And then I witnessed controversy unprecedented in both its scope and its ignorance. Even before Doom's release, it was already marked as a game that corrupted young and, despite its popularity waning, it was blamed for inspiring the Columbine Shooting in 1999. After Doom, video games would increasingly find themselves the scapegoats for all social ills, frequently being misrepresented and misreported. Doom II would be the first game that the Entertainment Software Rating Board would classify as "M" for Mature, an implicit acceptance that video games were not just for children, particularly when they involved thrusting a chainsaw into somebody's mouth.
Doom would echo down the years and I saw it reflected again and again in my favourite games, whether I was watching enemies fight one another in Halo; seeing the walls fall away in System Shock; aiming for parts of the environment that would explode in Crusader: No Remorse; watching the shadows in Thief; reloading my shotgun in Counter-Strike. It was the first game I played in a window and the title Bill Gates used to (personally) promote Windows 95's gaming potential.
Both its engine and its ideas had an incalculable influence and more than a few were ahead of their time. It's not always acknowledged that, a decade before Steam existed, Doom's initial distribution happened online.
David Datta, a sympathetic computer administrator at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, allowed id to upload the shareware version of Doom, its first third, to the university's network. From here, other gamers would be able to log in, download it and further host and distribute it online and offline.
id was not interested in a traditional publishing deal, but instead in word of mouth, hoping gamers would pass on shareware copies any way the could, only paying to order the full version. While online distribution may have seemed like a good place to start, id set the trend of developers drastically underestimating their capacity to cope with demand. The University of Wisconsin-Parkside's network collapsed like a house of cards.
When I told my girlfriend that I'd be writing a retrospective on Doom, she asked me if it was scary. I was a little dumbfounded, but she'd been too busy playing on her SNES back then. I tried to explain that Doom was the scary game, but that it wasn't just about fear. Doom pushed gaming in a dozen different directions at once, some of which mattered to me then, some of which I only appreciate now.
There's an old philosophy adage that all western thought is really "a series of footnotes to Plato," so influential was the ancient Greek. When I look back, two decades later, I realise that if my own love of gaming isn't a series of footnotes to Doom, it's at least as peppered by id's shooter as if it had been blasted by a shotgun.
Jul 29, 2011
Doom creator and industry veteran John Carmack has hit back at accusations that games promote violent tendencies in players, arguing that they're in fact "cathartic" and more likely to reduce aggression.
Speaking in an interview with IndustryGamers, the id Software co-founder explained that he'd never taken the "violence in video games debate" seriously.
"There was an E3 where all that was going on where I was giving interviews and the reporters would start going into their questions, and I wasn't supposed to talk about any of that," he said.
"My wife was there and shed start kicking me when I was about to go, 'Well, I think ' And in the end it didnt matter, it didn't make any impact on things. I never felt threatened by it and it turned out not to matter.
"And I really think, if anything, there is more evidence to show that the violent games reduce aggression and violence. There have actually been some studies about that, that it's cathartic.
"If you go to QuakeCon and you walk by and you see the people there [and compare that to] a random cross section of a college campus, you're probably going to find a more peaceful crowd of people at the gaming convention. I think its at worst neutral and potentially positive."
That study Carmack is referring to could be a recent report that argued the increase in popularity of video games is partly responsible for the recent drop in the US crime rate.
In related news, a Norwegian retailer today decided to remove 51 games from its shelves in the wake of the horrific Oslo shooting spree last week.
The perpetrator, Anders Behring Breivik, was reportedly a keen gamer who apparently considered Modern Warfare 2 a "training-simulation".
id Software's next release is post-apocalyptic shooter Rage, due out on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 from 7th October.
Mar 10, 2011
Universal wants to make a new DOOM film, despite the first unanimously falling foul of critics and averaging a lowly 34 per cent (Metacritic).
This will be a reboot, What's Playing reports, and Universal is looking for a script that uses stereoscopic 3D to the max. A script? "Here come the demons in stereoscopic 3D!" "Shoot your bullets at them in stereoscopic 3D!"
Apparently Paramount's success with GI Joe rekindled Universal's interest.
The DOOM film, released in 2005, starred famous wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Karl Urban (the evil hitman in Bourne Supremacy and FBI supremo in newer film Red). Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li director Andrzej Bartkowiak put the film together.
Meanwhile, DOOM game creator id Software steadily beavers away on DOOM 4. We haven't seen anything but we've heard plenty, the developer's Todd Hollenshead saying DOOM 4 will "absolutely blow you away".
Mar 3, 2011
John Romero, legendary designer of seminal first-person shooters Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake, is turning his attention to a new type of gamer Facebook gamers.
"We have satisfied hardcore gamers for decades," the id Software co-founder told Venture Beat.
"Now it's time for the rest of the world. Our opportunity is to teach the rest of the world how to play games."
Romero hopes to achieve his goal through the California-based developer Loot Drop. Its small team plan to publish games for multiple social game publishers.
Loot Drop has funding from social game publisher RockYou, which will publish Romero's first game soon.
But Romero's already tasted sweet success in the social game space with Facebook game Ravenwood Fair, which a whopping 10 million people play every month.
Romero's new role as the designer of the next big social experience is a far cry from the one that made his name.
Romero co-founded id Software with John Carmack, Adrian Carmack and Tom Hall, and designed some of the most influential games of all time.
Romero left to start Ion Storm and created the controversial Daikatana. In 1997 he appeared on an advert for the game that said: "John Romero's About To Make You His Bitch....Suck it down." That didn't go down well, and some 10 years later Romero apologised to fans for it.
After Ion Storm closed in 2001, Romero formed mobile game developer Monkeystone Games. After leaving that company, he joined Midway Games in 2003. He left two years later, starting MMO developer Slipgate Ironworks, which became the core studio of Gazillion. That didn't work out as planned, either.
Now the 43-year-old has a very different outlook on the creation of videogames, and believes in experiences fuelled by virtual item purchases. "The game industry is dropping down on top of social," Romero said. "We don't have a view of strip mining the players for cash. When a player gives you money, you want them to feel good about giving you that money."
Romero will launch four Loot Drop games this year, to be published and marketed by other companies.