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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.

Eurogamer


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.

Oct 9, 2011
Eurogamer

There's a peculiar tension at the heart of Quake. Something's not quite right. For this reason it's a game that sits apart from id's other efforts while at the same time still being fundamental to the overall Brown Corridor heritage of the shooter genre.

It was a game that did so very much to evolve and define the FPS, and yet it does not fit so easily into the conventions that the Texan Doom-makers' other games wallow in. This tension is what makes it one of the developer's most interesting games.

Like all the shooting games whose existence has spilled from the number-fuelled mind of John Carmack, Quake's primary contribution to the history of games was technical. The 3D engine was a significant development atop what was prevalent at the time, and it introduced the minor revolution of "mouse-look" - that is free all-axes viewing using the mouse - to the majority of 1996's shooter players.

Up until that time gamers had been playing along flat axes, usually with "faked" height. But Quake made things truly three-dimensional, and this meant two things: levels which didn't have to shirk vertical complexity and, well, you could perform rocket jumps.

"It was the atmosphere and tone of the game that left its biggest impression on my imagination."

Rocket jumps were, of course, able to make Quake's tortuous, labyrinthine multiplayer maps faster to navigate, and were an unintended side-effect of the game's blast physics that became a defined skill within that multiplayer game and also with the bizarre phenomenon of speed runs.

It was the architecture of that multiplayer game that defined Quake's second contribution. Despite the richness of the world, the single-player was almost a prologue against the appeal and longevity of the multiplayer. In fact it was not Quake's 3D engine that really mattered to Quake, as powerful as it was. The technical project that had far-reaching consequences for multiplayer gaming was John Carmack's work on network code, which produced the kind of online deathmatch that still prevails today.

The Quakeworld update for the game, which introduced network code that would work feasibly over dial-up connections, was transformative: an action game that could, thanks to predicting where players were going to be, allow play at the high latencies that early modems had the contend with. Almost unimaginable now, in a world of ubiquitous broadband, but there was a time when a good chunk of gamers was unreachable in the evenings by their home phoneline, for reasons of Quaking.

Despite being shackled with tin-can communications tech, the sheer pace and intensity of Quake would daunt most modern players: the unrealistic physics and breakneck pace make Quake's multiplayer more like a twitchy kung-fu rocketry than the rather more pedestrian combat situations that shooters since Half-Life have delivered to us.

Enthusiasm for Quake's multiplayer game was ferocious, and id were quick to sponsor it - putting up Carmack's Ferrari as a prize in a 1997 tournament, won by the first notable FPS pro, Dennis "Thresh" Fong. The Quake scene surged across a nascent internet, and it was to define the pattern of FPS games for several years to follow.

The Quake template is one that is rarer now, due to its demands on player skill, but its influences are still felt in odd corners of modern game design, where the physics bounce players from the ground, and frictionless rocketry dominates the deathmatch.

Technology, however, is not wholly where Quake's value lies. Not to me, at least. It might have been the tech that rippled down the years, but it was the atmosphere and tone of the game that left its biggest impression on my imagination.








What I refuse to forget when looking back at Quake is how strange the flavour of the game, both mechanically and in its setting, really is. Quake was a game peculiar for almost refusing to tell a story, and setting itself in a world disconnected from standard fantasy, sci-fi, military, or post-apocalyptic templates that we see reused so routinely. Today, when every shooter imaginable is hammered across the contorted spine of some story or other, to be dropped in a bizarre world that served as little more than a container for violence and secrets is unusual indeed. Hell, it was unusual in 1996.

While the Dooms were sparse, they still told their tale of space marines versus the occult. Quake 2 and 4 focused on the rather more conventional "Strogg" story of space war between humans and their alien enemies. Quake itself stood apart, practically unexplained. The character was dropped into a byzantine world, and fought for his life, while checking every corner of the spiraling maps for secrets and hidden passageways.

The reason for this weirdness can be found in Quake's difficult and unlikely genesis. It was in fact a failed combat-based RPG. The id team's original plans for something more expansive after Doom quickly led back to a game that was even pacier and more focused on first-person close-quarters combat dynamics than Doom had been.

"It is a rumbling, speeding, frenzied dark masterpiece that deserves never to be forgotten."

But that had not been the original intention, because Quake had even once contained dragons and other trad fantasy standards. The id team's work took a darker turn as the RPG was eroded, but on close inspection you can see the echoes of the RPG-action game that, for a while, id thought it was making. As it turned out they ended up making a slick and minimalist FPS, but the ultra-gothic fantasy overtones remain. Quake is a shooter set not within a science fiction, or really within traditional fantasy, but in some kind of brutal, mechanistic pseudo-medieval realm in between.

This sense of rough-edged, grim fantasy design permeates the shooter, from its environments of clanking metal and rough stone, through to its monsters: savage sword-wielding skeletons, shambling giants that throw lightning-bolts, and Cthulhu-mythos boss characters that lurk in disturbing dungeon underworlds.

It is even reflected in the weapons: an axe, an archaic shotgun, a clonking gatling gun, a nail gun, a lightning gun like a giant magic wand. All this is set against a backdrop unlike normal fantasy Big Bad backstories, and quite unlike the other Quakes' galactic war, and even unlike the exposition-free Mars-demons of Doom.

Quake was set in a dimensional war of some kind, where raiders travelled through sinister "slipgates" to murder in other worlds. There was a whiff of beserk magic to the power ups, and the whole thing reeked of the dead remains of the game it might have been. Quake is a genre outlier in terms of setting and atmosphere, and as such one of my favourite games.

You can see why when people look at the other Quake and Doom games, they question whether a return to these evocative hybrid roots might not be a good idea.

Playing Rage this week has once again seen people raise the nature of id's "derivative" settings, as has happened numerous times in the past decade. Indeed, Rage does borrow heavily from post-apocalyptic cliche, lifted from Mad Max by countless driving and combat games, and most recently carved into our mainstream consciousness by Borderlands and Fallout 3. It seems to have almost no connection to Quake at all.

When contemplating the studio's colourful history of shooting games it's perhaps easy to glaze over the first Quake in the lineage. Not as infamous or as influential on mainstream perceptions as Doom, not perhaps as widely recognised as its first and second sequels, nor as notably disappointing as Doom 3, Quake is the game which is beginning to get fuzzy in our recollections.

It should not, because it is a rumbling, speeding, frenzied dark masterpiece that deserves never to be forgotten. And forget it I will not.

Eurogamer


id Software wizard John Carmack has recounted the experience of creating Quake, the seminal first-person shooter that turns 15 today.


"My defining memory of the game was fairly early in development, when I no-clipped up into a ceiling corner and looked down as a Shambler walked through the world with its feet firmly planted on the ground," Carmack, who is knee deep in Rage development, said on the Bethblog.


"This looked like nothing I had ever seen before; it really did seem like I had a window into another world. Of course, as soon as he had to turn, the feet started to slide around because we didn’t have pivot points and individual joint modifications back then, but it was still pretty magical.


"It seems silly now, but at the time we were very concerned that people wouldn't be able to deal with free look mouse control, and we had lots of options to restrict pitch changes and auto-centre when you started moving."


Carmack goes on to describe the game's online play as "almost an accident". He has kind words for its 3D graphics and modding, however.


"The most important thing about Quake for me was that I met my wife when she organized the first all-female Quake tournament. She still thinks Quake was the seminal achievement of id, and she glowers at me whenever I bemoan how random the design was."


At E3 Carmack outlined his vision of the next Quake game - what would perhaps be Quake V - in an interview with Eurogamer.


"Nothing is scheduled here, people are not building this," Carmack said. "We went from the Quake 2 and the Quake 4 Strogg universe. We are at least tossing around the possibilities of going back to the bizarre, mixed up Cthulhu-ish Quake 1 world and rebooting that direction.


"We think that would be a more interesting direction than doing more Strogg stuff after Quake 4.


"We certainly have strong factions internally that want to go do this.


"But we could do something pretty grand like that, that still tweaks the memory right in all of those ways, but is actually cohesive and plays with all of the strengths of the level we're at right now."

Video:

Eurogamer


id Software's John Carmack has outlined his vision for the next game in the Quake series.


While confirming that the next Quake is not in development, Carmack told Eurogamer there are "strong factions" within the US developer that want to create another game in the seminal first-person shooter series.


And discussions are pointing towards going back to the first game's quirky roots.


"Nothing is scheduled here, people are not building this," Carmack said.


"We went from the Quake 2 and the Quake 4 Strogg universe. We are at least tossing around the possibilities of going back to the bizarre, mixed up Cthulhu-ish Quake 1 world and rebooting that direction.


"We think that would be a more interesting direction than doing more Strogg stuff after Quake 4.


"We certainly have strong factions internally that want to go do this.


"But we could do something pretty grand like that, that still tweaks the memory right in all of those ways, but is actually cohesive and plays with all of the strengths of the level we're at right now."


Quake began life on PC in 1996. It involved a marine travelling through alternate dimensions to prevent an alien invasion. Quake 2 followed a year later, introducing the alien planet Stroggos. 2005's Quake 4 continued the story.


The first Quake is credited with pioneering online FPS gaming, but Carmack believes it benefits from rose-tinted nostalgia goggles.


"The way I think about some of those things, and I actually get into arguments with my wife about this, who loved the original Quake game, I looked at the original Quake as this random thing, because we really didn't have our act together very well.


"But because it was so seminal about the 3D world and the internet gaming, it's imprinted on so many people. It made such an impact in so many ways. Memory cuts us a lot of slack."


Adding his thoughts into the mix, id CEO Todd Hollenshead said: "People shouldn't worry that we're ever going to orphan or abandon Quake. We are huge fans of the game internally."


id Software's next game is Rage, due out on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 this October. Doom 4 follows. After that, who knows?

Video:

Eurogamer


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.

...

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