The Ghost Of id Software's Past

John Romero haunts game developer id Software. Yes, he co-founded the studio and thus more than earned his place in id history. But Romero only worked there between the years of 1991 and 1996.

Yet, there Romero remains, like a ketchup stain on the carpet. When you think of id, you think of Romero. Whether it be coining the term "death match" or opening up his games to modders, Romero's impact on the company (and ultimately on gaming) is too great to cast aside.


"Romero was the game industry's first rock star," David Kushner, author of Masters of Doom, tells Kotaku. That, Kushner says, helped put not only Romero, but id's games on the map. "No one had played games that were as loud and fast and funny and violent as Wolfenstein, Doom, and Quake — and Romero's passion for these games was off the charts." According to Kushner, Romero defined the gamer personality that we now take for granted.

Id Software did come into its own with 1992's Wolfenstein 3D, the game that spawned the modern first-person shooter. As detailed in Kushner's book, Romero hit the big time. Money, women, sports cars, you name it. And so did id.

Wolfenstein 3D was followed up by Doom and that was followed by Doom II, a game that featured Romero's severed head. Id Software was on a roll, turning out hit after hit. 1996 saw Quake, and the next year brought its sequel and Romero getting fired from the company.


Romero went off to found game developer Ion Storm and become mired in Daikatana, which never lived up to its marketing hype. (Hype that stated John Romero was going to make you "his bitch" — something he later apologized for). "Like I describe in Masters of Doom," Kushner says, "Ion Storm had absurdly huge ambitions which I don't think anyone could ever fulfill." During the period that followed, Romero seemed to go off into the wilderness, working on mobile games and at Midway for at stint before settling at Slipgate Ironworks at Gazillion Entertainment, which is rolling out Marvel and LEGO massively multiplayer online games.


"Romero's greatest legacy is his passion for games," says Kushner. "And that's something that's easy to overlook." Kushner's right — it is. With the Daikatana disaster and Romero's long flowing locks, it is easy to forget that, as Kushner points out, Romero was always a gamer first and id's biggest fan. "Some people saw that as pure ego, but Romero's enthusiasm for stuff like mods and deathmatching helped shooters become what they are today." That's not all Romero has given to gaming, though. According to Kushner, "He's hugely committed to being a kind of archivist/historian of gaming — which, in the long run, could be one of his biggest contributions to the industry."

Id worked steadily on Doom and Quake sequels. The company's upcoming game Rage is id Software's first major IP since Quake. (Id, however, has been working on stuff like fantasy game Orcs & Elves). But Rage is more than a brand new series, it's a clean break from Romero and the start of a new chapter in id's gaming history.


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