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John Romero on speed in Doom’s success

John Romero on speed in Doom’s success

Doom's Success

John Romero, co-founder of id Software, recently shared insights into what made the company’s early games, like Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, stand out in the gaming industry. In an interview with Ars Technica, Romero recalled a pivotal moment in 1991 when the team was working on a new Commander Keen game. He realized that the future lay in improving upon their recent 3D game, Catacomb 3-D, rather than continuing with 2D side-scrollers.

“Guys, we need to not make this game [Keen],” Romero told the team. “This is not the future. The future is getting better at what we just did with Catacomb 3-D.”

The team agreed and began working on what would become Wolfenstein 3D that very night.

Romero emphasized that the key differentiator for their games was speed.

Speed’s role in Doom’s success

“What set Catacomb 3-D and Wolfenstein 3D apart from other first-person games was our speed – the game’s speed was critical to us having that massive differentiation,” he said.

While other developers focused on creating detailed, proper 3D worlds, id Software prioritized simple rendering at high speeds with engaging gameplay. This approach and a streamlined development process that eschewed detailed design documents allowed the team to work efficiently and innovate. Romero also credited his successful collaboration with fellow programmer John Carmack, noting that they trusted each other to work independently on their respective files.

The success of Wolfenstein 3D paved the way for Doom, which has since become a cultural phenomenon. Romero highlighted the importance of making Doom more mod-friendly than its predecessor, allowing the community to create content and keep the game thriving for decades. As Doom celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, Romero’s insights shed light on the pioneering spirit and design principles that revolutionized the first-person shooter genre and continue to influence game development today.

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