Romero and Hall on creating Doom

GDC 2011: Doom cocreators discussed the two-year process of making the seminal first-person shooter.

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Who was there: John Romero was the programmer, game designer, and level designer on the original Doom and is now developing a Facebook game at Loot Drop. Tom Hall also now works at Loot Drop and was the creative director and designer on Doom.

The original Doom.
The original Doom.

What they talked about: In 1993, id Software released the first-person shooter Doom. The game is noteworthy for coining the word "deathmatch" and supporting user-created mods through a feature known as WADs. The game was created by a small team of people at indie game developer id Software, which is now developing Rage and is owned by ZeniMax Media. Two of the key people behind Doom were John Romero and Tom Hall, and this year's Game Developers Conference marked the first time the two have ever done a postmortem on the classic shooter.

The story of Doom began in Madison, Wisconsin, in late summer 1991. The team at id moved there during a hot summer, but that soon turned to a bitterly cold winter. Romero showed an image of programmer John Carmack fighting through the snow to withdraw $11,000 from the bank so he could invest in a Next computer from tech entrepreneur Steve Jobs. Not that the computer was much use for making games. "We used the Next computer to do the [Wolfenstein 3D] hint manual," he said.

At the time, a publisher called Imagineer had asked id to port its last hit, Wolfenstein 3D, to the SNES, and the PC developer was only too happy to get its games onto consoles. "We hired a guy to start work on it," explained Romero, allowing the core team to concentrate on production of Doom. According to the pair, Carmack's vision was for one big world, whereas they were much more preferential to individual levels. They won out, and Romero began working on prototypes for individual levels through late 1992.

By January 1993, the game was well under way. "[Our] games never have preproduction--when we make something, it goes in the game," claimed Romero. However, two things transpired to dramatically postpone id's schedule. In March of that year, 20th Century Fox approached the studio to make a game based on the Aliens licence. Having seen what the studio did with Wolfenstein, Fox thought it may be in a good position to handle one of its biggest franchises, but after mulling it over, id turned the studio down. Then, around the same time, the person handling the Super Nintendo version of Wolfenstein 3D hadn't finished as planned, and Imagineer was not pleased. The whole id team jumped on the SNES port to get it out the door and managed to do so in just three weeks.

With Doom back on track for a couple of months in 1993, all seemed to be going well for id and the game. However, more troubles befell the studio in July when Tom Hall started to get creatively frustrated and left the company a month later. Hall departed for Apogee Software to work on Rise of the Triad and id hired Dave Taylor and Sandy Petersen to help fill the gap.

By December, id was applying the finishing touches to the game, or adding the "tonnes of polish" that it needed, according to Romero. The serial code for modems was created, as was the co-op mode, and that in turn coined the word "deathmatch." On December 10, 1993, Doom was uploaded to the University of Wisconsin's FTP server, but such was demand from people to get the game that three attempts were made to upload it before it was successful.

Quote: "For some reason, Nintendo did not like swastikas." Tom Hall on adapting Wolfenstein 3D for the SNES.

Takeaway: The creation of Doom wasn't a smooth process, and it was beset by a number of major problems. However, it's a game that both men are obviously proud of, and despite parting before the project was finished, they are now working together again. "I loved deathmatch, but now I feel like I'm going slowly through the world," said Romero, when asked about modern online shooters. "It's not as much fun for me. As a designer, it's way more challenging to try and get back to the roots of what's fun and make it palatable for a mass audience."

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famekiller

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no matter how many "new" dooms they make, they will never match the brilliance of the original.

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Cy-Fox

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@KaBo0m: You do realize that if DOOM didn't come around, things would be a lot different, right? The cascading consequences would be that the Quake engine along with those that power Q2 and Q3 would not come about. Q3's engine ran Medal of Honor Allied Assault, which was developed by 2015 Inc. Infinity Ward was formed out of ex-2015 employees. And what engine was the first Call of Duty built on? The Quake 3 engine. TL;DR version: No DOOM means no COD. Suck it down.

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Variouz234

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I never played Doom but i bet it's very good! I'll wait for Doom 4!

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GetafixOz

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My b1tch is my b1tch

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AceBalls

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Doom 4 please.

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Darth_Ultima

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I'm John Romero and I am going to make facebook my b!tch.

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atopp399

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I wish a new Doom would be released that was like the first or second. I love the wide open environments and shooting the hell out of everything. Doom 3 was so different with the dark hallways and closed environments and having to worry too much about ammo. Definitely not what I thought Doom should be.

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gamerbuddy21

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Now an days shooter games aint what they were back in the day, i still remember playing duke nukem 3D and Doom, the only problem now is to find a computer that can play them :) I'm glad i still have Doom

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madSomnambulist

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Reading this brings back fond memories, ah... I considered my old 486 the 8th Wonder of the World for letting me play such a thing. 'Twas quite the "players game" and I'd recommend it to anyone who plays modern shooters and hasn't ever had a chance to touch Doom. Hell, I got bored of shooters after UT3 and I still yearn for Doom. Pair this with Doom 2 and you've got the foundations of the first generation entirely desensitized to violence. "Back in my day, blood on the screen was the same 4x4 pixel glob of pinkish-red texture no matter where you hit them or how far away they were!" ... or "We didn't need no damn fancy jump buttons, free-motion aiming or scopes", or "Back in my day cheat codes were little phrases you typed into the keyboard and not a $5 DLC".

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naryanrobinson

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"The roots of what's fun" that's exactly right. Everybody loved the original Doom, but when Doom 3 comes out, it's eye's focused solely on what's fun, absolutely aware that it's first and foremost a game, only this time coated with the most amazing graphics ever seen, many people didn't like it, said it was too simple and repetitive. That was the minority, but I was still a little confused by it.

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HT89488

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I enjoyed and still enjoy doom till this day. I will never forget how awesome that game was on PC and was the best looking game and tons of fun. My friend next door had it and I watched him play it, my PC at the time was only a 25mhz Intel and something like 16mb or ram and 16MB of hard drive. IBM desktop. I don't remember, I just remember the CPU speed was 25mhz. 486SX. I didn't know anything about computers then, I just played games on them. Like x-wing. Doom was also forbidden in my family. I remember also having a hard time figuring out DOS 4.1 etc.. and the Windows manual or manuals that came with the computers back then were thicker than a bible. Now, I play DOOM 3 with the Doom classic mod. :) Built several computers, and can play all the doom games I want. lol, I can't tell you how many copies I have bought, downloaded, etc.. of the doom series in the past. It was alot. Anything with ID software always gets purchase. They make wonderful games.

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edwise18

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Awesome game, and I still play it today. Petty much every FPS is modeled after doom. Keep on beeing awesome id. Looking forward to Rage.

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JakobV

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Doom both ended the Amiga vs PC war and created a whole new genre. Until that point Amiga fanboys were right - after that Amiga fanboys hardly existed.

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hellpolice

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The Black Sabbath of FPS.

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rarson

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[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

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rarson

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Romero might have helped create the phenomenon of Doom, but it's clear that progress has left him behind. Obviously, Carmack is a lot more talented than Romero.

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2fistsintheair

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My first chance to play Doom was on the 32X and me and my friend couldn't get enough. Those were the days. :)

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charlieboomboom

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play doom so hard, images got stuck to the back off my eyelids. Bought it again for xboxlive, first´n greatest fps ever.

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DitchyJ

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@KaBo0m Sorry mate, you might be able to see but the whole of gamespot is laughing at you. If your under 12 than you might be forgiven, but you do realsie the creaters of cod would bow down to doom. Doom series = Awesome games, and the Grandfather of all FPS games.

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parkurtommo

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@KaBo0m give me a brake, if you think that CoD is the only game in the world go play it for a year until activion makes you buy another copy. Then tell us what you think about the other (better) fps games.

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parkurtommo

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Too bad i never played it :(

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tionmedon

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i have a reg, copy of doom, patch 1.666,doom 2 ,doom 3 and waiting for doom 4.

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zhivago_x

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Compare the level design of Doom with current gen FPS/corridor shooters. Doom was and is a game ahead of its time. One of the best of the best. And it was one of the key games that moved me from Amiga to PC :)

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KaBo0m

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yawn, wake me up when we start talking about CoD

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cheater87

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<< LINK REMOVED >> you sadden me so much. :(

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benboz

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I used to play Doom as a little kid and I still play it today. It is probably one of my most favourite games of all time. I hope someday there will be a doom 4. That would be awesome. But nothing beats the classic doom games.

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THA-TODD-BEAST

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I still play Doom to this day, and create levels and modifications for it. It's better than every other shooter we have even up to this point, in my opinion, so I don't often have a reason or need to play other shooters more. I just hope that one day, one developer will be able to repeat the goodness that is DOOM!

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Psycold

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@ gun_blade25 - Marathon came out quite a bit after Doom when the market had already been saturated with all kinds of FPS games. Comparing Doom to Marathon is like comparing Half-Life 1 to Deus Ex or something.

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zaphodbblbrox

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First time I saw Doom, I knew I was going to have to upgrade my pc.

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lonewolf1044

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Unless they can bring new material and not same ole-same ole to Quake I would love it, but as of now Quake is long in the tooth. As far as Doom goes I would n't mind so much. I loved Doom one back in the day.

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gun_blade25

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Doom was good, but people always overlook Marathon, which was developed around the same time and was a much better game in nearly every way.

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Daavpuke

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Good story, always nice to see some of the insights of the beginnings. Know your roots.

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amaan4ever

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Doom greatest fps games ever and id greatest fps developers ever

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Gelugon_baat

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@maxwell97 [quote="You"]Nothing against Romero, but he got WAY too much of the glory back in the day, and paid the price for it through the overhyping of the game-that-must-not-be-named.[/quote]

Yes, the game-that-must-not-be-named. Why exactly that John Romero thought that crimping the player character's starting stats (health, armor, etc.) to ridiculously low levels is beyond me. And good grief, I got my dude killed by frogs - repeatedly - in the first few levels.

Little wonder that John Carmack is the one who won a Lifetime Achievement award, and not the "other John".

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artic1982

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Screw facebook game, go develop some real games man.

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dagrimmreepa

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Can't wait for RAGE and DOOM 4. I grew up with id's DOOM & Wolfenstein 3D, followed by DOOM 2 and Quake (my personal favorite) so any id news is great news for me.

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shemrom

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Ah doom, the nightmares it brought to me as a child. good times

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joesauter20

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@James00715 and might I add a very good read. It was cool to find out how it all began and how Carmack and the others were like back then.

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Land-0-Funk

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Still have fond memories of going to a friends house after school where his father had 4 networked computers (a rare thing in a home in '94-'95) and playing some networked Doom matches! great times! :D

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Megavideogamer

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I remember the orginal Doom for the computer. At the time First person shooters were new back in 1992. Long before the current Call of Duy and Halo series of today. Thank you id Software for help starting "a then" new genre.

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AloeVera4

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I remember when Wolfenstein was a 2D game on my Commodore 64! Ha!!!

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macaque12

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"It's not as much fun for me. As a designer, it's way more challenging to try and get back to the roots of what's fun and make it palatable for a mass audience." He said it all with this line. Games are less fun these days

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valent1n

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@James00715 when is about money it surely becomes a serious topic

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James00715

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If you want to know more check out the book "Masters of Doom". One of the few video game history books that takes the topic seriously.

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blackace

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This was obviously before John Romero became rich and thought he was a game God of programmers. lol!! Once he got that money in his pocket he went on lavish spending sprees and wild parties which is why Daikatana turned out to be crap in the end. We know he talented and can program, he just needs to put his ego in check, get his head out of his #$% and deliver us some awesome game. The first Wolfenstein and Doom were awesome. I beat both games and they were a blast to play. Thank god Carmack took over the franchise and even though some people didn't care much for Doom 3, I actually enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to RAGE on my XBox 360. I'm hoping we can create some content for this game as well. Good luck ID Software.

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brian_13un

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Its great when Game contents and User contents come free and Friendly nowadays we got Shmuck payable DLCs and to play user content one we still have to go to many process :)

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cyrillkr

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"Seminal first-person shooter"?! more like "The Real First-Person Shooter!"

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Morphine_OD

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Carmack was the brains behind the engine, don't overestimate his input. He is my personal Jesus and idol, but he is in no way a designer. He is a programming-god. Yes, without him Doom wouldn't have happened as is without any of these guys, Hall and Romero.

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IdolConverge

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I hope Doom 4 gets a release next year, same with Quake 5 (although any time would work, I'd be busy playing Doom 4 haha).

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