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By resurrecting the Wolfenstein licence in 1992, id Software wanted to pay tribute to the game of Silas Warner by created a fast-paced 3D action game called Wolfenstein 3-D. Critically acclaimed and successful ground breaking game was also a technological breakthrough, like the next games of the Texan company, Doom and Quake – long after, many FPS games were still categorized as “doom-like” or “quake-like”. Years after, id Software relaunched its Wolfenstein brand with Return to Castle Wolfenstein in 2001, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory in 2003, Wolfenstein RPG in 2008, and Wolfenstein in 2009, which production and technology were supervised by id (all the FPS listed above used the id Tech 3D engines), without doing the development themselves. Here’s a small flashback on the beginnings of id Software, the golden years, the key figures, and the today games.

The early years

John Romero at Softdisk in 1989The founders of Id Software – John Romero, John Carmack, Tom Hall, Adrian Carmack and Jay Wilbur – met in the offices of Softdisk developing multiple games for Softdisk’s monthly publishing. These included Dangerous Dave and other titles. In September 1990, John Carmack developed an efficient way to perform rapid side-scrolling graphics on the PC. The floppy disks of Softdisk in 1990Upon making this breakthrough, Carmack and Hall stayed up late into the night making a replica of the first level of the popular 1988 NES game Super Mario Bros. 3, inserting stock graphics of Romero’s Dangerous Dave character in lieu of Mario. When Romero saw the demo, entitled “Dangerous Dave in Copyright Infringement”, he realized that Carmack’s breakthrough could have potential, the team that would later form Id Software immediately began moonlighting, going so far as to “borrow” company computers that were not being used over the weekends and at nights while they designed their own remake of Super Mario Bros. 3.

Dangerous Dave - John Romero - SoftdiskDespite their work, Nintendo turned them down, saying they had no interest in expanding to the PC market, and that Mario games were to remain exclusive to Nintendo consoles. Around this time, Scott Miller of Apogee Software learned of the group and their exceptional talent, having played one of John Romero’s Softdisk games, Dangerous Dave, and contacted Romero under the guise of multiple fan letters that Romero came to realize all originated from the same address. John Romero and John Carmack in the Shreveport Lake house, circa 1990When he confronted Miller, Miller explained that the deception was necessary since companies at that time were very protective of their talent and it was the only way he could get Romero to initiate contact with him. Miller suggested that they develop shareware games that he would distribute.

Dangerous Dave in Copyright Infringement (1990)As a result, the Id Software team began the development of Commander Keen, a Mario-style side-scrolling game for the PC, once again “borrowing” company computers to work on it at odd hours at the lake house at which they lived in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Commander Keen (1990)On December 14, 1990, the first episode was released as shareware by Miller’s company, Apogee, and orders began rolling in. Shortly after this, Softdisk management learned of the team’s deception and suggested that they form a new company together, but the administrative staff at Softdisk threatened to resign if such an arrangement were made. In a legal settlement, the team was required to provide a game to Softdisk every two months for a certain period of time, but they would do so on their own. On February 1, 1991, Id Software was founded.

Hovertank 3D (1991)During its early days, Id Software produced various games for Softdisk; these include the early 3D first person shooter experiments that later led to Wolfenstein 3D and Doom — Hovertank 3D and Catacomb 3D. There was also the Rescue Rover series, which had two games — Rescue Rover and Rescue Rover 2. Also there was John Romero’s Dangerous Dave series, which included such notables as the tech demo (In Copyright Infringement) which led to the Commander Keen engine, and the decently popular Dangerous Dave in the Haunted Mansion. In the Haunted Mansion was powered by the same engine as the earlier Id Software game Shadow Knights, which was one of the several games written by Id Software to fulfill their contractual obligation to produce games for Softdisk, where the Id Software founders formerly were employed.

The success of Wolfenstein 3-D and Spear of Destiny

Catacomb 3-D (1990) - id Software for SoftdiskAt the end of 1991, id Software also released Catacomb 3-D for Softdisk, according to their agreement. John Carmack’s technical achievements with the Catacomb 3-D game engine were a strong starting point for the concept of Wolfenstein 3-D. The game’s development began in late 1991 after id decided on a vastly reworked Castle Wolfenstein. The team was able to use the Wolfenstein title as Muse Software had let the trademark name lapse. Id Software pitched this concept to Scott Miller, founder of Apogee Software, who promised the id team $100,000 in funding to deliver a shareware title. Carmack also bought a NeXT machine to aid development.

John Romero, Tom Hall and Jay Wilbur receiving an award for Wolfenstein 3-D, circa 1992The early concept of the game included some innovative stealth concepts—dragging dead bodies, swapping uniforms with fallen guards, silent attacks, etc., like in the earlier Wolfenstein games, which focused more on stealth than action. These ideas were dropped however, since they drastically slowed the game down and made the controls complicated. Secret walls, which were sections of the wall a player could push to reveal a hidden area, were similarly debated in development. Designers Tom Hall and John Romero pushed repeatedly for this feature on the grounds that secrets were integral to a good game. Carmack initially resisted the idea, but succeeded in implementing push walls to his satisfaction late in development.

Wolfenstein 3-D (1992) - Alpha version EGA title screenVisually, Wolfenstein 3D was originally designed to the same 16-color EGA graphics palette as prior 3D titles such as Hovertank 3D and Catacomb 3-D. At the suggestion of Scott Miller however, the team moved to the 256-color VGA graphics palette. Adrian Carmack drew each sprite frame on computer by hand. Wolfenstein 3D for the PC supports PC speaker, AdLib, Disney Sound Source and Sound Blaster sound effects and Adlib and Sound Blaster for music. The game marks id’s first use of digital sound, composed by Bobby Prince.

Wolf3D shareware - ReadThis manual page for ordering full versionId Software planned to release one shareware episode and allow gamers to buy the full trilogy, following the shareware model profitably executed with Commander Keen: Invasion of the Vorticons. It was released on 5th May, 1992. Scott Miller, after learning the time it took to make one level (a single day), successfully argued the id team to produce another trilogy. This led to producing The Nocturnal Missions.

Wolf3D PC test by french magazine Tilt (1992)By the end of 1993, sales of Wolfenstein 3D had reached over 100,000 units, vastly exceeding the shareware game sales record set by the developer’s earlier Commander Keen series and providing id with a significantly higher profit margin than sales of the retail counterpart, Spear of Destiny. Wolfenstein 3D was well received by reviewers upon its release and over the years. The game twice received 5 out of 5 stars in Dragon. Even reviews of recent re-releases are still very positive, saying that the game remain very fun to play after all these years… Wolfenstein 3D won numerous gaming awards, including the 1993 “Best Arcade/Action Game” Software and Information Industry Association CODiE award and the 1993 “Best Action/Arcade Game” award for the Shareware Industry Awards, and was included in many lists of best and most influencal games of history.

But most of all, Wolfenstein 3-D was the father of a new game genre: the First Person Shooter (FPS). Building on this success, id Software was already working on its next ground breaking game: Doom…

The triumph of Doom

id Software in 1992The development of Doom started in 1992, when John D. Carmack developed a new 3D game engine, the Doom engine, while the rest of the id Software team finished the Wolfenstein 3D prequel, Spear of Destiny. When the game design phase began in late 1992, the main thematic influences were the science fiction action film Aliens and the horror film Evil Dead II. The title of the game was picked by John Carmack: “There is a scene in The Color of Money where Tom Cruise shows up at a pool hall with a custom pool cue in a case. ‘What do you have in there?’ asks someone. ‘Doom.’ replied Cruise with a cocky grin. That, and the resulting carnage, was how I viewed us springing the game on the industry.”

John Romero during the development of Doom in 1993Designer Tom Hall wrote an elaborate design document called the Doom Bible, according to which the game would feature a detailed storyline, multiple player characters, and a number of interactive features. However, many of his ideas were discarded during development in favor of simpler design primarily advocated by John Carmack, resulting in Hall in the end being forced to resign due to not contributing effectively in the direction the rest of the team was going. Most of the level design that ended up in the final game is that of John Romero and Sandy Petersen. The graphics, by Adrian Carmack, Kevin Cloud and Gregor Punchatz, were modelled in various ways: although much was drawn or painted, several of the monsters were built from sculptures in clay or latex, and some of the weapons are toy guns from Toys “R” Us. A heavy metal-ambient soundtrack was supplied by Bobby Prince.

Doom (1993)Eighteen months after their release of Wolfenstein 3D, in 1993 Id Software released Doom which would again set new standards for graphic quality and graphic violence in computer gaming. Doom featured a sci-fi/horror setting with graphic quality that had never been seen on personal computers or even video game consoles. Doom became a cultural phenomenon and its violent theme would eventually launch a new wave of criticism decrying the dangers of violence in video games. Doom was ported to numerous platforms, inspired many knock-offs and was eventually followed by the technically similar Doom II.

id Software in 1993Doom also received many awards, and has been regularly listed as one of the most influencal and successful game of all time, too. With one third of the game (nine levels) distributed as shareware, Doom was played by an estimated 10 million people within two years of its release, popularizing the mode of gameplay and spawning a gaming subculture; John Romero and John Carmack in 1993as a sign of its effect on the industry, games from the mid-1990s boom of first-person shooters are often known simply as “Doom clones”. As such, Doom is widely known as one of the most important video games of all time for having popularized the first-person shooter genre, pioneering immersive 3D graphics, networked multiplayer gaming, and support for customized additions and modifications via packaged files in a data archive known as “WADs”. Its graphic and interactive violence, as well as its satanic imagery, also made it the subject of considerable controversy. Due to its success, it was also ported as a movie in 2005, loosely based on the game content.

Quake series: confirmal and crisis

Quake (1996)The successor to id’s Doom series, Quake built upon the technology and gameplay of its predecessor in many ways. Unlike the Doom engine before it, the Quake engine offered full real-time 3D rendering and early support for 3D acceleration through OpenGL. After Doom helped popularize multiplayer deathmatches, Quake added various multiplayer options. Online multiplayer became increasingly common, with the QuakeWorld update and software such as QuakeSpy making the process of finding and playing against other competitors on the Internet far easier and more reliable. Various multiplayer mods were developed including Team Fortress and Capture the Flag.

Quake 2 (1997)The game received much acclaim on release and its commercial success led to several sequels, starting with Quake II in 1997, which abandoned the gothic styling of the original for a science fiction theme, and Quake III in 1999, which was had no solo part, and was a fast-paced multiplayer game. Both got also a great success and excellent reviews. Quake has since been recognized as one of the greatest achievements of the video game industry, influencing games that came after it (often called “quake-like”), as well as the artforms of user mods and machinama. The Quake engines, receiving major upgrades at each game, was vastly licenced to other studios, and was used in dozens of games.

Quake 3 (1999)But with the success of the Doom series, failures appeared in the studio, and John Romero was accused of being engrossed with fame and deathmatching with fans, and that he neglected his work completely. This created a lot of pressure during the development of Quake and John Carmack was saddened that his programming buddy was skipping work. Carmack had no choice but to appoint American McGee from doing support calls to level design. It turned out to be the right decision as American was able to create more levels than Romero. On August 6, 1996, Romero was called on a meeting and was abruptly given the news that his fellow id members were firing him.

Ion Storm, with Tom Hall, John Romero and Warren Spector (circa 1997)With Tom Hall having been fired 2 years before, id Software lost two founding members, who created on their side their own studio, Ion Storm, focused no more on technology (like id they thought), but on game design. Warren Spector created the Austin branch in 1997, where he created the critically acclaimed Deus Ex and Thief. Tom Hall was developing his game Anachonox in Dallas, he released it in 2001 despite the numerous problems he had with his producer. There again, the game had a very good reception, and won some prizes. But in the studio of John Romero, who was working on his game Daikatana, things were worse and worse, with bad management (from Romero and others), provocative marketing, massive pre-hype, and numerous delays. The game was finally released in 2000, but received many bad reviews and critics against Romero, who suffered from taunts during years because of that… In 2005, editor Eidos shut down all Ion Storm offices.

The new Wolfenstein games

Return to Castle Wolfenstein (2001)After the success of the Doom and Quake series, id wanted to ressurect the Wolfenstein franchise. But at the instigation of John Carmack, the company was already working on Doom 3 and its new engine, and couldn’t afford being busy with another game development. It asked instead to a new company called Gray Matter Interactive Studio to take care of the creation of the solo part of Return to Castle Wolfenstein using the Quake 3 Arena (id Tech 3) engine, while Nerve Software was working to the multiplayer part – the first one of the series. Id Software was supervising the development, and providing technical support for engine, and was even credited as executive producer of the game. It was released in 2001 on PC and console, and was a great success, notably because of its great multiplayer team-based mode.

Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory (2003)In 2003, Splash Damage, which previously worked on multiplayer map for RtCW Game of the Year edition, was asked to create the multiplayer part of the sequel of RtCW, called Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, still supervised and produced by id Software, and published by Activision (like RtCW). But due to many problems, the solo part was cancelled, and the multiplayer part was released as a standalone free game in 2003. It was there again a great success, and Wolf:ET became one of the most played FPS game on the net.

Wolfenstein (2009)Then, people had to wait until 2009 to get a new game of the franchise, simply called “Wolfenstein” and working on Doom 3 (id Tech 4) engine. The development of the solo part was done by Raven Software – which previously worked on Quake 3 and other games based on id Tech engines (Hexen, Heretic, Soldier of Fortune, etc…) -, while Endrant Software was doing the multiplayer mode. It was also supervised and produced by id, and published by Activision. Unfortunately, the game received mean reviews, and was a commercial failure. And unlike previous game, the multiplayer part was very unsuccessful, with server being quickly shut down. Raven had to draw conclusions from this failure, and fire most of its employees after that.

Wolfenstein RPG (2008)In the mobile phones market, id Software started smoothly, and asked to the studio Fountainhead Entertainment to create Doom RPG for Java/BREW phones in 2005, and then Wolfenstein RPG, under id Software supervision, and its new mobile division, id Mobile. In 2009, while this latest was ported to the iPhone, John Carmack started to work personally on this work, and created various technical demo on this platform, which led to the porting of Wolfenstein 3-D on the Apple’s flagship by Carmack himself – who modified some elements in the game (like a map, etc…) to improve its gameplay and maniability with such tactile phones -, and then the iPhone versions of Doom and Rage.

Other id projects since 2000

Doom 3 (2004)During the 2000s, id Software became less and less present in the medias. After the success of Quake 3 and its engine, the id Tech 3, John Carmack worked on Doom 3 and the id Tech 4, with revolutionary lighting and the new “MegaTexture” technology. Quake 4 (2005) - Raven SoftwareId also supervised and produced games based on this technology, like Quake 4 (2005) and Wolfenstein (2009), both developed by Raven Software, and sold some engine licence to other studios, but  without the success of previous iterations. It was due to the high competition in this market, especially with the very successful Unreal engines from Epic, a long time competitor on FPS games and engines (since Unreal in 1998). Doom 3 was released in 2004, and was a critical and commercial success for id Software; for all versions, over 3.78 million copies of Doom 3 had been sold, making it the most successful project by id Software to date.

ZeniMax Media Inc.New id headquarters, in Richardson, TexasAnd while id was working on its new game and technology within its new offices in Richardson, Texas (and no more in Mesquite), it was announced that Id Software had been acquired by ZeniMax Media, owner of many studios like Bethesda (Elder Scrolls, Fallout, etc…) and Arkane (Dishonored, etc…). The deal would eventually affect publishing deals Id Software had before the acquisition, namely Rage, which was being published through Electronic Arts. The studio still remains independant within ZeniMax group, and get benefit of the stability of the publisher and grow safely, with help for research. But with this acquisition, the CEO of id, Toll Hollenshead, had to leave the company, and let the management role to ZeniMax.

Rage (2011)For its latest game, Rage, id Software decided not to make a sequel to any existing franchise, but to create a new one. And even if this post-apocalyptic game has a big part of FPS gameplay, it also contains some racing parts, which is a great innovation for id since it had done only FPS games since Wolf3D! Rage (2011)It used the new id Tech 5 engine, which features a new MegaTexture system for rendering big external areas, a dynamic and changeable world, optimizations for a simplified cross-platform development, and a new tool suite called id Studio, which makes this engine more suitable to be licenced to more studios than the previous one. Anyway, the engine remains commercial only, unlike many of its competitors, like UDK (Unreal), CryEngine and Unity, that have a free version open to anyone… The game was released in October 2011, and received good reviews (around 80% on Metacritics) and many awards. id sold around 3 millions of copies of Rage around the world on all platforms.

Doom 4 - Possible shot of the title screenid teams (recently)Nowadays, id Software is working (painfully…) on at least one officially announced project, Doom 4, which should use the id Tech 5 engine too (with some improvements). With the departure of John Carmack in 2013 for Occulus Rift, Kevin Cloud is the last of the original founders of the company still working for it… Others studios are still developing games from the id licences, like Raven with Wolfenstein in 2009, and mainly MachineGames with “Wolfenstein: The New Order” in 2014, a very good game that brings back pride and success to the legendary franchise. And even if id is no more the great studio we used to know, others in the world are still working to make live and expand the worlds they have created.

More info

Official website – Wolfenstein page on id websiteWikipedia pageGiantBomb page – Article “Where are they now?” from VG24/7

 

Key figures

John Carmack

John Carmack (2009)John D. Carmack II, son of local television news reporter Stan Carmack, born August 20, 1970, grew up in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area where he became interested in computers at an early age. He attended Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village, Kansas and Raytown South High School in nearby Raytown, Missouri. As reported in David Kushner’s Masters of Doom, “when Carmack was 14, he broke into a school to help a group of kids steal Apple II computers, but during the attempted break-in one of the kids set off the silent alarm. John was arrested, and sent for psychiatric evaluation (the report mentions ‘no empathy for other human beings’). Carmack was then sentenced to a year in a juvenile home.” When he was asked “if you had not been caught, would you consider doing it again?” he answered “yes, probably.” However, when the therapist presented this evaluation he neglected to include “if you had not been caught” in his statement. He attended the University of Missouri–Kansas City for two semesters before withdrawing to work as a freelance programmer.

Softdisk, a computer company in Shreveport, Louisiana, hired Carmack to work on Softdisk G-S (an Apple IIGS publication), uniting him with John Romero and other future key members of id Software such as Adrian Carmack (not related). Later, this team would be placed by Softdisk in charge of a new, but short-lived, bi-monthly game subscription product called Gamer’s Edge for the IBM PC (MS-DOS) platform. In 1990, while still at Softdisk, Carmack, Romero, and others created the first of the Commander Keen games, a series which was published by Apogee Software, under the shareware distribution model, from 1991 onwards. Afterwards, Carmack left Softdisk to co-found id Software, where he remains.

Carmack has pioneered or popularised the use of many techniques in real-time computer graphics, including “adaptive tile refresh” for Commander Keen, raycasting for Hovertank 3-D, Catacomb 3-D, and Wolfenstein 3-D, binary space partitioning which Doom became the first game to use, surface caching which he invented for Quake, Carmack’s Reverse (formally known as z-fail stencil shadows) which he devised for Doom 3, and MegaTexture technology, first used in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars (on improved Doom 3 engine). Carmack’s engines (called “id Tech”) have also been licensed for use in other influential first-person shooters such as Half-Life, Call of Duty and Medal of Honor. He has received many awards, and is the fourth person inducted into Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences’ Hall of Fame, an honor bestowed upon those who have made revolutionary and innovative achievements in the video and computer game industry.

After the end of the development of the id Tech 5 engine for Rage and Doom 4, Carmack got more and more interested in virtual reality headsets, so much that he has been hired by Oculus VR in August 2013 to work on their Oculus Rift headset – on which he had talked for a long time during the QuakeCon 2012. In November 2013, he definitely resigned from id Software, ending a 20+ years long story with the Texan company he created.

Armadillo Aerospace

Circa 2000, Carmack became interested in rocketry, a hobby of his youth. Reviewing how much money he was spending on customizing Ferraris, Carmack realized he could do significant work in rocketry and aerospace. He began by giving financial support to a few local amateur groups before starting Armadillo Aerospace. Carmack taught himself aerospace engineering and is the lead engineer of the company. Since then, he has made steady progress toward his goals of suborbital space flight and eventual orbital vehicles. In October 2008, Armadillo Aerospace competed in a NASA contest known as the Lunar Lander Challenge, winning first place in the Level 1 competition along with $350,000. In September 2009, they completed Level 2 (at 2nd place) and were awarded $500,000.

Personal life

Carmack met his wife Katherine Anna Kang at QuakeCon 1997 when she visited id’s offices. As a bet, Kang challenged Carmack to sponsor the first All Female Quake Tournament if she was able to produce a significant number of participants. Carmack and Kang married in January 2000 and had a son in 2004, and Kang gave birth to their second child on November 2009. Kang founded Fountainhead Entertainment in 2000, and worked as producer and designer on games Doom RPG, Wolfenstein RPG, Orcs & Elves, before creating id Mobile in 2008 to continue working on Wolf RPG and Doom 2 RPG for id Software. She also worked for id on Quake 2 and 3.

Web sites

Wikipedia page – twitter accountAltDevBlogADay blogArmadillo Aerospace blog – Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences page

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John Romero

John Romero at GDC 2011Alfonso John Romero (born October 28, 1967, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S.) is a director, designer, programmer, and developer in the video game industry. He is best known as a co-founder of id Software and was a designer for many of their games, including Wolfenstein 3D, Dangerous Dave, Doom and Quake. His game designs and development tools, along with new programming techniques created and implemented by id Software’s lead programmer John D. Carmack, led to a mass popularization of the first person shooter, or FPS, in the 1990s. He is credited with coining the FPS multiplayer term “deathmatch”.

Apple II

His first published game, Scout Search, appeared in the June 1984 issue of inCider magazine, a popular Apple II magazine during the 1980s. Romero’s first company, Capitol Ideas Software, was listed as the developer for at least 12 of his earliest published games. Romero captured the December cover of the Apple II magazine Nibble for three years in a row starting in 1987. He won a programming contest in A+ magazine during its first year of publishing with his game Cavern Crusader.

Romero’s first industry job was at Origin Systems in 1987 after programming games for 8 years. He worked on the Apple II to Commodore 64 port of 2400 A.D., which was eventually scrapped due to slow sales of the Apple II version. Romero then moved onto Space Rogue, a game by Paul Neurath. During this time, Romero was asked if he would be interested in joining Paul’s soon-to-start company Blue Sky Productions, eventually renamed Looking Glass Technologies. Instead, Romero left Origin Systems to co-found a game company named Inside Out Software, where he ported Might & Magic II from the Apple II to the Commodore 64. He had almost finished the Commodore 64 to Apple II port of Tower Toppler, but Epyx unexpectedly cancelled all its ports industrywide due to their tremendous investment in the first round of games for the upcoming Atari Lynx.

During this short time, Romero did the artwork for the Apple IIGS version of Dark Castle, a port from the Macintosh. During this time, John and his friend Lane Roathe co-founded a company named Ideas from the Deep and wrote versions of a game named Zappa Roidz for the Apple II, PC and Apple IIGS. Their last collaboration was an Apple II disk operating system (InfoDOS) for Infocom’s games Zork Zero, Arthur, Shogun and Journey.

id Software

Romero moved to Shreveport, Louisiana in March 1989 and joined Softdisk as a programmer in its Special Projects division. After several months of helping the PC monthly disk magazine Big Blue Disk, he officially moved into the department until he started a PC gaming division in July 1990 named ‘Gamer’s Edge’ (originally titled PCRcade). Romero hired John D. Carmack into the department from his freelancing in Kansas City, moved Adrian Carmack into the division from Softdisk’s art department, and persuaded Tom Hall to come in at night and help with game design. Romero and the others then left Softdisk in February 1991 to form id Software.

Romero worked at id Software from its incorporation in 1991 until 1996. He was involved in the creation of several milestone games, including Commander Keen, Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Doom II: Hell on Earth and Quake. He served as executive producer (and game designer) on Heretic and Hexen. He designed most of the first episode of Doom, most of the levels in Quake, half the levels in the Commander Keen, Wolfenstein 3D;Spear of Destiny. He wrote many of the tools used at id Software to create their games, including DoomEd (level editor), QuakeEd (level editor), DM (for deathmatch launching), DWANGO client (to connect the game to DWANGO’s servers), TED5 (level editor for the Commander Keen series, Wolfenstein 3D; Spear of Destiny), IGRAB (for grabbing assets and putting them in WAD files), the installers for all the games up to and including Quake, the SETUP program used to configure the games, and several others.

Ion Storm

Romero later co-founded Ion Storm in Dallas, Texas with id co-worker Tom Hall, where he designed and produced Daikatana. This ambitious shooter was announced in 1997 with a release date for the Christmas shopping season of that year. However, this release date slipped repeatedly in the coming months, and the game began to accrue negative press.

In particular, a 1997 advertisement boasting “John Romero’s About To Make You His Bitch….Suck it down” caused controversy amongst gamers and the gaming press. The massive pre-hype for the game and the subsequent delays (it was not released until April 2000) were compounded by the poor reviews the game received when it was finally complete. Upon release, Daikatana was critically panned and appeared on numerous “top 10 worst games” listings.

During this time, Romero was rumored to have been killed (aptly enough, with a headshot) and a photograph of his corpse with a bullet wound was also spread through the Internet; Romero himself later stated that the picture was taken for the magazine Texas Monthly, and that “maybe he shouldn’t have taken it”.

Romero departed with Tom Hall immediately after the release of Hall’s Anachronox game and the subsequent closing of the Dallas Ion office by Eidos.

2000s and beyond

After the disaster of Daikatana, Romero began to be less present in the press, and come back to the roots of his job. In July 2001, Romero and Hall founded Monkeystone Games in order to develop and publish games for mobile devices, and Monkeystone released 15 games (approximately) during its short lifespan of three and a half years. Some highlights of their developments included Hyperspace Delivery Boy! (Pocket PC, PC, Mac, Linux, GBA), Congo Cube (Pocket PC, PC, BREW, Java ME), and a version of Red Faction for the Nokia N-Gage. He and his girlfriend, Stevie Case, broke up in 2003, and she left the company in May while Red Faction development continued until October. John then left Monkeystone Games’ day-to-day operations to Lucas Davis.

In mid-October 2003, Romero and Hall joined Midway Games in San Diego. John became the project lead on Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows. While he continued to maintain his working relationship with Monkeystone, Lucas Davis took over running the office. The Monkeystone team moved to Austin, Texas to work on Midway’s Area 51 title until its release. Monkeystone Games closed down in January 2005. Romero moved from project lead to creative director of internal studio during this time. At the end of June 2005, Romero left Midway Games mere months before the completion of Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows.

On August 31, 2005, Romero confirmed that he had been working on a MMORPG called Redwood at his newly opened development studio, Slipgate Ironworks, until it was cancelled in 2010. “For the record,” Romero wrote, “I’m co-founder of a new game company in the Bay Area and am much better off in many ways than I was at Midway”. On March 17, 2009 it was announced that Slipgate Ironworks is part of Gazillion Entertainment. According to Romero, he is a co-founder of Gazillion.

Romero departed Gazillion Entertainment in November 2010 to form a social game company with Brenda Brathwaite – who he married in 2012 – and Robert Sirotek called Loot Drop. His long time co-worker, Tom Hall joined the company on January 1, 2011. They designed the Facebook app called Ravenwood Fair, with John as Lead Designer and Brenda as Creative Director and Game Designer, as consultants for LOLapps, and worked on Cloudforest Expedition and Ghost Recon Commander together in Loot Drop studio.

At the end of 2015, John Romero and her wife and co-worker Brenda moved to Ireland, and founded a new company called “Romero Games”. Romero has released in January 2016 a new level for the original Doom game, done as a warmup for a brand new FPS he’s currently working on.

Personal life

Romero married game developer Brenda Brathwaite on October 27, 2012. John has three children from two previous marriages: Michael, born in 1988, Steven born in 1989, and Lillia Antoinette, born in 1998. Both Michael et Steven are also game developers. John currently lives in Galway, Ireland, with Brenda and her two children.

Web sites

PlanetRomero personal siteWikipedia pagefacebook accounttwitter account – LinkedIn profile – Romero Games company website – GiantBomb page – Matt Chat video interviews – Apogee Legacy interviewGames TM interview

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Tom Hall

Tom Hall (2012)Tom A. Hall (born September 2, 1964) is a game designer born in Wisconsin. He attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he received a B.S. in Computer Science. In 1987, he worked at Softdisk Inc., where he was both a programmer and the editor of Softdisk, a software bundle delivered monthly. Along with some of his co-workers, John Carmack, John Romero and Adrian Carmack, he founded id Software. He served as creative director and designer there, working on games such as the Commander Keen series, Wolfenstein 3D, Spear of Destiny, and Doom.

For Doom, he wrote an elaborate design document called the Doom Bible, according to which the game would feature a detailed storyline, multiple player characters, and a number of interactive features. However, many of his ideas were discarded during development in favor of simpler design primarily advocated by John Carmack, resulting in Hall in the end being forced to resign. Then, he joined Apogee/3D Realms, where he became game designer for Rise of the Triad, produced Terminal Velocity, and helped in varying degrees on Duke Nukem II and Duke Nukem 3D as well. He also worked on the Prey engine until August 12, 1996, when he left Apogee.

Next Hall co-founded Ion Storm with John Romero, where he produced Anachronox, which was a good critical and public success. The company also produced the 2000 Game of the Year, Deus Ex, in which Hall voiced one of the characters, but it was closed due to many problems during the development of John Romero’s Daikatana. He and John then founded Monkeystone Games, a company with the goal of producing mobile games in the then-nascent mobile industry. He designed, and Romero programmed, Hyperspace Delivery Boy!, which was released on December 23, 2001. He and Romero joined Midway Games in 2003, and Monkeystone closed in January 2005. Hall also left Midway early that year and did independent game consultation work out of Austin, TX, until in February he joined a startup company called KingsIsle Entertainment based in the same area.

Tom left Kingsisle and joined Romero in Loot Drop on January 1, 2011, before leaving him in January 2013 and create the company called Pieces of Fun, where he tried to use crowfunding with Kickstarter to create new projets like “An Old-School RPG” (with Brenda Brathwaite and John Romero at Loot Drop) and “Worlds of Wander”, without being able to get the necessary funds.

He joined in Mars 2013 the PlayFirst studio as lead designer, working on small casual games. He’s also a very active creator of levels for Super Mario Maker.

Personal life

He’s married to Terri Hall, and currently lives in California. Hall suffered a stroke on Tuesday, April 13, 2010. He was in rehab until April 21, when he was released.

Web sites

TomTomTom personal siteWikipedia pagefacebook accounttwitter account – Profile on Super Mario MakerPieces of Fun company website – Interview for Apogee Legacy – Matt Chat video interviews

Gallery

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… and others…

Adrian Carmack

Adrian Carmack, at the beginning of 2000s at id SoftwareAdrian Carmack (born May 5, 1969 – no relation with John) was the lead artist of id, and created most of the art of Commander Keen, Wolfenstein 3-D, Doom and Quake games. Adrian Carmack, working on an enemy statue for Doom, circa 1993After having worked at Softdisk, he founded in 1991 the game studio id Software with John Romero and John Carmack. Kevin Cloud once described him as “the best artist in the industry”.

He left id in 2005 – he then tool legal actions of suing the company for money affairs, saying that he was forced to sell his shares from the company because of a possible deal with Activision, and was fired after several refusals, but this case was then dropped. After that, he worked as an independent artist before coming back to game industry and being hired by the Big Fish studio to work on casual games like Fallen Shadows. In 2014, he acquired an hotel in Ireland, according to John Romero.

More info: Wikipedia pageGiantBomb page

 

Kevin Cloud

Kevin Cloud, circa 2005Kevin Cloud (born in 1965) is the id’s co-owner and lead artist. He grew up in Shreveport reading comics and playing in arcades. He studied political science and wanted to become a lawyer but instead decided to pursue his interests in art and computers and took a job as a computer artist at Softdisk, where John Romero, John Carmack and Tom Hall used to work before founding id Software in 1991. He was described as artistic, diligent and well organized by his peers. During part of his employment at Softdisk, he worked as an Illustrator for Softdisk’s Commodore 64 disk magazine “Loadstar”.

Kevin Cloud, in the beginning of 2000sIn 1992, Romero and his team asked Kevin if he was interested to work at id Software and he said yes. He left his editorial director position at Softdisk and was employed at id Software in 1992 as an assisting artist to Adrian Carmack, and also game manual designer. Kevin was then appointed as the lead artist and co-owner of id Software. After having some arguments with John Carmack about the opportunity to make a new Doom game in the beginning of 2000s, he finally agreed and worked on the game Doom 3. Cloud has worked on textures, models and other art for every id game since Wolfenstein 3D. With John Carmack, he’s one of the only remaining developper of this latest game who is still at id. Kevin now acts as the Executive Producer at id Software.

More info: Wikipedia pageGiantBomb page – The Escapist article

 

Jay Wilbur

Jay Wilbur (2007)Jay Wilbur started in the game industry in a Apple II magazine called UpTime, in Newport, RI, where he spent three years managing Apple II software development, and publishing some games like John Romero’s Bongo’s Bash and Dangerous Dave. He then moved to Softdisk, where he recruited Romero. He managed Apple II and IBM-compatible software development at Softdisk, and helped the future id group in the secret development of Commander Keen outside of Softdisk by being manager, cooking ribs and making sure there was enough soda. Eventually, when Ideas From The Deep became id Software and broke off from Softdisk, he stayed behind. While id was finishing Wolfenstein 3D and fired their biz guy Mark Rein, they asked Jay to run the business side of things, and he went with the team.

Jay Wilbur with Tom Hall at id Software, circa 1993He became business manager and a co-owner of id Software, where he was essentially a project director. He managed all of the company directives including maintaining, developing, and implementing Wolfenstein 3D (including its sequel, Spear of Destiny), Doom, Doom II, Final Doom, and Quake. Wilbur’s responsibilities at id also included managing publishing and third party developer relationships; public relations; overseeing legal affairs, including all contract negotiating/closing activities; and managing financial related activities.

Circa 1997, he left id to join Mark Rein in Epic MegaGames, and helped create the Unreal engine and games. He is currently the vice-president of business development for Epic Games, where he works as part of the Epic management team.

More info: MobyGames pageZoomInfo page – GiantBomb page – DoomWiki page – Unreal Engine 4 Livestream (2015)

 

Todd Hollenshead

Todd Hollenshead, président d'id SoftwareTodd Hollenshead is the President of id Software – his title prior to the 2009 buyout by ZeniMax Media was CEO. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting and, in 1991, a Master of Science degree in tax accounting from the University of North Texas graduating Magna Cum Laude. He spent for five years as a tax manager in the Manufacturing Industry Group of Arthur Anderson where he worked with high-tech manufacturing and software companies like id Software. He later moved to Deloitte & Touche where be became international tax manager. He is also a certified public accountant.

On November 6, 1996, id Software announced the appointment of Todd Hollenshead as the company’s new chief executive officer, replacing Jay Wilbur. His responsibility is to oversee the management of the company. Hollenshead is regularly the “MC” at Quakecon, a lan party and gaming convention in Dallas TX.

He left id Software on June 26, 2013, as announced by Bethesda, without having more information about the reason of this decision.

More info: Wikipedia page – GiantBomb page – AllGames pagetwitter account – LinkedIn profileBSMH interviewnvidia interview about RtCW

 

Jason Blochowiak

Jason Blochowiak in 2000sJason received his education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Wayland Academy, before working as a programmer at Softdisk. He then joined id Software in 1991 as co-owner and programmer on Commander Keen series, Catacomb 3-D and Wolfenstein 3-D. He left the studio in 1992 to create his own company, and work on his own fighting game called Xenophage, published by Apogee/3DRealms, and also some other games from Apogee at the same time like Duke Nukem II or Black Stone. He joined Human Head in 1997 before going to Midway circa 2000 and work on Psi-Ops. In 2007, he created the studio Big Rooster, before joining Turbine in 2009 as Principal Console Engineer.

More info: MobyGames pageApogee Legacy interview – LinkedIn profile

 

Sandy Petersen

peterson-01Sandy is a game designer who was involved in the creation of many famous tabletop role-playing games like Cthulhu, Hawkmoon, Ringworld, RuneQuest, etc…, but also on many video games. When he discovered Wolfenstein 3-D, he decided to join id Software in 1993, where he designed levels and monsters for Doom, Doom 2 and Quake. He then left the company for Ensemble Studios, where he worked on the Age of Empires series, before becoming a teacher when the studio closed, while still being active on many video games and tabletop RP games.

More info: Wikipedia page – MobyGames page

 

More info…

Masters of Doom

Masters of DoomThis reference book follows the story of the two main creators of Wolfenstein 3-D, Doom and Quake: John Romero and John Carmack. From their first steps in computer programming to their journey in Softdisk, and then id Software, this fascinating book unveil the story of these two pionners in a young industry, before their amazing success when they created a new genre – the FPS -, and the internal turmoils that will lead Romero to new adventures… A must-read!

Buy on Amazon.com / Amazon UK / Amazon France

A visit to id Software…

In 1993, while developers where still working on Doom, a camera entered into the vault of id Software, and did a quick interview of Bobby Prince – creator of musics and sounds in Wolf3D and Doom – before following John Romero in some test of an early version of the game… An amazing document!

Jace Hall Show

Jace Hall, former game developer, hosts a webcasted show where he regularly visit some of the greatests game studios. And in 2008, he went to id Software before they moved to Richardson and merged with ZeniMax. A very funny and interesting video, as usual with the Jace Hall Show!

1Up’s tour at id

In 2010, the news site 1Up got the opportunity to make a guided tour of the id offices in Dallas (before they moved to Richardson) thanks to Tim Willits.

Video Game History – Wolf3D and others

The Youtube channel Video Game History has posted a video explaining the history of id Software until Wolfenstein 3-D, and then some other videos about the next games of the studio, and those from Apogee and Ion Storm too. A good way to see in action what has been explained above! Here is the video about Wolf3D:

And the other videos on the Youtube channel of Video Game History.

Planet Romero

The famous programmer and game designer of Commander Keen, Doom, Quake and especially Wolfenstein 3-D is also a veteran programmer of the video game industry – he also worked for Origin, Softdisk, Ion Storm and many other studios (see above). He’s passionate gamer and a true historian of this industry talking about his old games and companies through several very interesting archives and articles.

Visit the website

Apogee / 3DRealms

Wolfenstein 3-D 2: Rise of the Triad title screen (cancelled)Many early games of id Software doesn’t belong anymore to Apogee / 3DRealms, but the company still lists them in their games list. Their website is also a very good reference if you want to know more about the story of the development of some of the biggest games of id Software; for instance, for the 10th anniversary of Commander Keen series, some special pages have been written in order to explain in details how these titles have been made, and what is their legacy. It’s also where you can find more information about what should have been Wolfenstein 3-D 2: Rise of the Triad, with original development specs!

Commander Keen development story – Wolfenstein 3-D 2: Rise of the Triad development specs – John Romero and Jason Blochowiak interviews for Apogee Legacy

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