SUMMARY - Masters Of Doom_ How Two Guys Created An Empire And Transformed Pop Culture - David Kushner



Here is a summary:

  • John Carmack had figured out how to create side scrolling and animated tile-based graphics in games on PCs, overcoming the platform's slower speed compared to arcades/consoles.

  • He demonstrated this late one night to colleague Tom Hall, showing how characters could move between tiles that trigger animations, like in Mario. Side scrolling also allowed the game world to continue when reaching the edge of the screen.

  • Carmack optimized the drawing to only update changing elements, not the whole screen, allowing smoother scrolling on PCs. He tricked the computer into thinking tiles were in different positions to further boost speed.

  • These technical breakthroughs opened new design possibilities for PC games, incorporating mechanics popularized in arcade hits. Carmack's innovations in optimizing graphics laid important groundwork for id Software's later 3D shooter games to achieve fast, fluid performance on desktop PCs.

  • Tom was excited by Carmack's work, recognizing its potential to bring more console-style game design to PCs and help push the platform's interactive capabilities forward.

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  • id Software was growing frustrated living in Madison and wanted to relocate closer to their interests and culture. They began looking for a new city.

  • Romero came across a magazine article praising Dallas for its growing tech industry and ties to game development. He visited and was impressed, convincing the others to check it out.

  • While in Dallas, they attended a trade show and met with Apogee/3D Realms, cementing the city as ideal for building industry connections. The warm weather also appealed to them.

  • The team decided to move id Software to Garland, a suburb near Dallas. They rented a cheap office space and housing. Though a downgrade, it boosted morale to be in a thriving game development scene.

  • From their new Dallas base, id focused on finishing Commander Keen 2 and starting Wolfenstein 3D's development. Carmack pushed boundaries with improvements to the engine's texture mapping and rendering speed.

  • The relocation brought id Software closer to industry partners, excited fans, and a supportive tech ecosystem, allowing them to fully devote to PC gaming's emerging potential.

    Here are the key points summarized:

  • Id Software was making progress on their new sci-fi horror shooter game Doom. Romero was designing abstract, imaginative levels while Carmack focused on technical innovations like dynamic lighting.

  • Tom Hall became increasingly unhappy and disagreed with the direction Doom was taking under Romero's leadership. He resigned from id Software, feeling ashamed but also relieved.

  • Carmack modified his Ferrari with the help of racer Bob Norwood to make it faster, demonstrating his competitive spirit. He also optimized Doom's performance further using binary space partitioning.

  • Id was looking for a new game designer and interviewed Sandy Petersen, who impressed them with his creative ideas despite initial reservations about him being Mormon.

  • The founders successfully transitioned Doom away from Tom Hall's story-driven vision and military setting toward Romero's abstract, scary level designs that pushed technical boundaries under Carmack's engine. This laid the foundation for Doom's landmark success.

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  • Doom pioneered online deathmatch multiplayer gaming in a major way. However, it was initially only possible over a local area network.

  • John Romero was introduced to an early prototype for online multiplayer Doom called DWANGO, created by fans Bob Huntley and Kee Brown. He was intrigued by the potential.

  • While Carmack was not initially enthusiastic about DWANGO's modem-based online play, Romero continued working on it with Huntley and Brown. When Heretic launched with DWANGO support, it was hugely popular.

  • DWANGO rapidly expanded across the US by franchising servers. This proved online multiplayer gaming was commercially viable. It was very profitable for Romero, Huntley, Brown and id Software.

  • The success of Doom 2 and DWANGO led to massive financial gains for id Software and royalty payments of $5 million each to Romero and id co-founder Jay Wilbur.

  • However, Carmack felt Romero's focus on other projects like DWANGO distracted from game development at id. This added to growing tensions between Romero and Carmack.

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  • John Romero left id Software after creative differences with John Carmack over the direction of the company and game design philosophy.

  • Romero wanted to start a new company called Dream Design with more ambitious goals and creative freedom. He pitched it to publishers as producing multiple games quickly with large teams.

  • Romero founded Ion Storm with Tom Hall and Todd Porter after the success of id games. Eidos provided funding and they sought control over their IP.

  • Romero's magnum opus at Ion Storm was the epic shooter Daikatana. However, development issues like feature creep and mismanagement led to many delays.

  • This damaged Romero's reputation as the self-proclaimed "King of Shooters." Daikatana ultimately underperformed commercially and critically when finally released in 2000.

    Here are the key points summarized:

  • After delays, issues emerged at Ion Storm during Daikatana development. Morale suffered as Romero's team left and personal issues arose.

  • A newspaper expose detailed internal dysfunction, further hampering efforts to finish Daikatana. Eidos told Romero to focus on completing the game.

  • At E3 1999 after Columbine, the industry faced scrutiny over violence but Id avoided public comments, only showing Quake 3 Arena privately.

  • Quake 3 development was disorganized with no clear direction, despite hiring a producer. A key component, game bots, was missing due to poor delegation.

  • At GDC, Id saw Epic's Unreal Tournament, also a multiplayer deathmatch-only game, potentially "stealing" their planned Quake 3 concept Carmack had openly discussed.

  • As development continued troubled, more key employees departed Id, straining resources further during a challenging period for violent games post-Columbine.

    Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Development of Daikatana at Ion Storm was troubled, with long crunch hours taking a toll on employees. Romero wanted total creative control, leading to conflicts with Todd Porter.

  • Daikatana was released in 2000 after many delays, but received poor reviews compared to the hype and could not compete with games like Quake 3. The poor performance contributed to Ion Storm Dallas being shut down by parent company Eidos.

  • After the failure of Daikatana, Romero, Tom Hall and Stevie Case started a new indie studio called Monkeystone Games to work on smaller games.

  • Romero pitched a new Quake game to Carmack, who was open to collaboration despite working on Doom 3 at id Software.

  • Monkeystone's first game was the mobile title Hyperspace Delivery Boy, allowing Romero to return to smaller productions after the stresses of large-budget Daikatana. This signaled a shift toward mobile and handheld games for Romero and Hall.

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