Hair Apparent: John Romero Details “MMO-ish” FPS

After a number of ventures that took him from an ill-fated N-Gage Red Faction spin-off to an ill-fated Gauntlet sequel, Doom co-creator (with locks that flow like choruses from the mouths of angels) John Romero is eyeing his old-school bread-and-butter. Speaking with Eurogamer, he described his previously hinted at shooter as a “MMO-ish” and “PC first.” I like both of those things. Let us hope his new game is fated to be ill in the colloquial, “that was totally ill” sense and not the one that’s, er, more commonly come to be associated with John Romero.

Granted, it’s nowhere near seductively caressing our hard drives just yet, but apparently Romero’s already figured out what sort of shape this thing will take. He explained:

“I don’t want to talk about the details but I already know what it is. I’ve already kind of designed the thing and it’s pretty cool – though of course, I am going to say that. I think it’s a neat design, I haven’t seen the design anywhere else… It’s a persistent game, it has persistent player data, the character grows and gets better over time.”

“You will be playing the game as you would expect a shooter to feel, but the specifics of your situation, narrative wrapper and reward system are all unique. I wouldn’t want to give out any specifics until I’m close to shipping it. I’ve learned my lesson about talking too soon about specific game features and release dates.”

He added, however, that modern Gears-of-War-style shooters aren’t really his cover-based cup of tea, noting that he’d prefer to focus on speed, movement, and exploration. Those are other things that I like.

So Romero promises big again, but will he be able to deliver? Will he even get around to delivering? I don’t know, but I can’t entirely begrudge him for his splotchy past. I feel like he is, to a lesser extent, akin to a Peter Molyneux; both dream up ambitious ideas that they can’t help but blab about. Sure, Daikatana was a mess, but it was an interesting mess – the chunky brain spew of a man who didn’t want to believe shooters of the time had limits. Ultimately, it became one of the biggest flops of all time for that reason, but damned if I’m not glad Romero tried.


  1. db1331 says:

    John Romero’s about to MMOake you his bitch.

  2. LionsPhil says:

    Also, what’s all this about Daikatana failing because it was trying? Boiling Point it was not. Buzzing fly enemies it did have.

    • Bhazor says:

      Yeah I’m bewildered by that.

    • Mman says:

      Fully autonomous AI allies and an RPG leveling system were both things Daikatana was one of the first games (in the context of non-RPG’s) to do that have since become mainstays. The basic concept is also extremely ambitious in terms of being practically four games in one with almost entirely separate content. All this worked against it as it’s lack of focus resulted in the content being almost entirely bad or mediocre, along with the AI that was utterly gamebreaking in itself, but it was definitely trying to do more than most games at the time.

      • Yglorba says:

        The thing is, Daikatana would have been as interesting an effort as you say if it had come out on time.

        It wasn’t the first mainstream game to have AI allies (Rainbow Six came out two years earlier, in 1998, and handled it much better. Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri came out in 1996. Half Life, while it didn’t use them as extensively, came out in 1998.) System Shock had a more complicated and interesting process of character development, and came out in 1994.

        Daikatana would have scooped at least some of these things if it had come out when it was originally supposed to (in particular, it would have been much better-received if Half Life hadn’t come out in the meanwhile and utterly changed the landscape of FPSers forever), but it still wouldn’t have been a classic. In any case, by the time it came out everything in it felt rehashed and dated.

        Regarding his reputation: It’s not totally fair to blame him forever for Daikatana, no. But the basic fact is that he hasn’t personally worked on a good game since he left Id Software, well over a decade ago; it’s long since become painfully obvious that either he wasn’t the one who made Id software tick.

        There isn’t any reason to pay attention to him except bile fascination. I can appreciate the people who want him to stop getting bashed — nobody deserves all that negative attention for one bad game over a decade ago — but he certainly hasn’t done anything to earn any positive attention in the past decade, either.

        • Red_Avatar says:

          People sometimes forget how the right team behind someone can really make that person a genius. A lot of the most talented people need those behind them to help shape their ideas and thoughts, help trim the poor ones and tell them what is realistic and what isn’t.

          That’s how some bands work as well – take Queen, where everyone there wrote songs but then the team helped to refine those songs. When Romero made Ion Storm, he basically become “head chief” and had the final say while in id Software, he had to work with a lot of other (talented) people. Wild ideas were thrown out in favour of focussing on core mechanics – something Carmack was known to push for (this can be seen in the Quake trilogy – Quake was originally promised to be a lot more complex and innovative) so without Carmack and a few others pinning Romero down, he simply let his wild ideas fly which resulted in Daikatana taking far too long to release.

          Honestly, the game wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be – it was just a big disappointment. The patches made the game a lot more playable (no more limited saves and the suicidal sidekick AI was tweaked a great deal) and if you look past the mediocre starting missions, you’ll find an entertaining game nonetheless. The problem was that it tried too much and didn’t get any of the parts right.

      • Weylund The Second says:

        SEAL Team from EA had intelligent AI teammates and ongoing RPG-like character development (over year-long tours in Vietnam, no less) in a 3D first-person tactical environment… in 1993.

  3. HaberdasheryHRG says:

    MMOish FPS? Aren’t all FPSs “MMOish” now? There’s XP bars and level numbers and everything.

    • Bhazor says:

      Well thats the only reason people play those games. You don’t believe people play games just for the fun of it do you? Pah, next you’ll say some people played shooters for years that had no xp unlocks.

  4. Smashbox says:

    Hair apparent. Classic.

    Now finish something for a change, Mr. Romero.

    (Out of curiosity I just looked to see if he had actually finished something recently I was not aware of. He has and that thing is this: link to

    • Smashbox says:

      “The player has an energy bar which determines how many major actions the player can take in a session. More energy can be purchased with mushrooms or Facebook credits to extend gameplay. Mushrooms randomly drop from trees that are chopped down.”

      Am I the only one blissfully unaware of this?

    • Shuck says:

      I knew he was doing the social game thing (because who isn’t?), but yeah, blissfully unaware. I had a front row seat watching the train-wreck that was his previous MMO project, which was perversely amusing. You could tell it was a disaster just from watching how they fired and then hired people in a desperate attempt to find someone who could fix the whole mess.

    • Eclipse says:

      He also finished Hyperspace Delivey Boy with Tom Hall and that game is AMAZING.

    • Premium User Badge

      Aerothorn says:

      Eclipse beat me to it. HDB was great.

      link to

  5. SirKicksalot says:

    I’ll gladly suck it down and be his bitch. I owe him that much.


  6. Yomambo says:

    John Romero Details “MMO-ish” FPS
    “I don’t want to talk about the details”

    Fast movement sounds nice. It’s really missing from current games.

  7. JackDandy says:

    Let’s see what ol’ man John’s got for us!

  8. Pugiron says:

    Trusting John Romero to perform is as stupid as trusting Will Farrel to be funny. You are only remembering his distant past and ignoring everything he has done since then.

    • Vorphalack says:

      But if we give them enough attempts, the law of averages should let them get one right purely by chance. Now someone find Romero infinite money and a cryo-tank, this might take a while.

  9. DickSocrates says:

    I hope he finally makes a good game, Doom was and still is amazing and a lot of that was down to him. The more interesting parts of Quake 1 were down to him. When he left Id, the result was Quake II which lacks any personality at all. Quake III was good because they copied out the good art direction from Doom and Quake 1.

    I don’t want his story to end at Quake 1. The world would be a better place if Romero hit his stride again. He had his face (deservedly) rubbed in the crap, but that’s all over and done with now.

  10. PoulWrist says:

    I just read Masters of Doom recently, must say I have a lot of fondness for the old id days, and the book made Romero out as as much of a character as he’s always seemed to be. I like him through this, and I wish him only the best of success with his ventures.

  11. Therax says:

    Din’t Richard Garriot already try this FPS/MMO hybrid model before?
    link to

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Hellgate: London counts too I think (never played it so I might be wrong)

    • MaXimillion says:

      TR was actually quite fun after they fixed the problems they had at launch, and would probably still be profitable if they had taken it the freemium route instead of killing it completely.

  12. Xaromir says:

    Once again, he is late by a couple of years.

  13. othello says:

    I kind of wish Romero and Carmack would join forces again and make Doom 4 not like Rage.

    • Beelzebud says:

      This times one thousand.

      Neither have done anything great since they parted ways, they should get the band back together and make something memorable.

  14. Craorach says:

    So has Romero suddenly woken up and started being a serious developer again, or is he still behaving as a pretentious, douchy, “Dev Rockstar”?

    Really, sure, he’s made a few good games and a few terrible ones due to his ego, but it’s his behavior that really shits me. He really personified the worst of his generation of developers to me.. basement nerds made rich… suddenly he’s buying all the things he didn’t get to have growing up and behaving like a egotistical twat.

    Of course, look where it’s got him.. he’s as much of a joke as Molyneaux without the credibility of making semi good games recently. He’s relegated to making social network games that nobody in the western world has ever heard of because nobody here takes him seriously.

    You’re a joke, Romero, the rest of the gaming world grew up.. maybe show us you’ve done the same and someone will take you seriously.

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      Are you basing this on anything recent, or on stories that are 15 years old?

      Honestly, the Romero jokes were old a decade ago. Now it’s just kinda sad that people feel the need to bash a guy who’s just trying to make games. Live your own life and let him get on with his.

      • Beelzebud says:

        Yeah I’d say his “dev rockstar days” have been gone for nearly 15 years now, and imploded when Ion Storm got shut down.

        I don’t get the literal hatred you see directed at him.

        That being said, it’s high time to put up or shut up. That would be true for anyone in his position.

        • aepervius says:

          It is relatively simple. As far as I can tell he never really made contrition and asked to be forgiven for his “will make you a bitch” and bad game dai katana. Combine that with his diva behavior, you see why people watch him with disdain (I would not really call that hatred).

  15. nope says:

    I like John Romero. He strikes me as a decent fellow in all his interviews, is a charitable person, and managed a nice pull with Stevie Case (even if it didn’t work out).

    Daikatana tried to be different and failed, but I applaud his efforts. Better to have tried and failed than not to have tried at all and failed anyway (see: John Carmack’s “Rage”).

  16. MadTinkerer says:

    Dear John,

    I am writing a public letter to you in the hopes that you might read RPS comments and also I don’t know your current contact info. I have some advice for you based both on my personal experience (which is less than yours, I am aware, but it is something) and what I have read of your experience.

    1) Keep the team as small as possible. Your personality is both your greatest strength and your biggest weakness. You produce your best work when you are working with people who share similar traits.

    However: go and read Dreaming In Code and The Mythical Man Month if you haven’t already. Yeah, the guys featured in the first book weren’t even working on a videogame and their team succumbed to more or less the same problems you’ve no doubt encountered in your post-id projects. The larger the teams, the smaller the individual contribution becomes, and must become, in any software project. Because of MATH. In short, the universe is telling you that you can either leverage your greatest asset or have a big team, but not both.

    2) Try to keep everyone’s egos in check. This is the number one thing that caused Daikatana to fail as hard as it did. Even on a small team, you’ll end up with personality conflicts because you are John Fucking Romero.

    Do not encourage conflict of any kind, but also try not to punish conflict too harshly (because that’s the same as encouraging it). And do not ever actively pit employees against each other in any real-life situation ever. And do not ever deliberately knowingly allow people to passive-agressively sabotage each other* because, again, that’s actually exactly the same thing. Doing so will come back to bite you a thousandfold.

    3) Go and talk to Gabe Newell and Valve folks as much as they’ll spare the time to talk to you. They’re in the position you and Carmack should have been, and he’ll tell you from his experience how to actually succeed as opposed to not-failing. You probably can’t afford to do things identically (seeing as you did at least manage to ship Daikatana faster than Half Life 2 or 3), but he’ll have lots of great advice on managing large numbers of enthusiastic, creative folks without imploding your company.

    4) Ignore everything that Zynga and any other company that looks like they’re the current Ion Storm Austin have to say. Don’t talk to anyone in any Marketing department. Ever. Unless they’re one of the few that realize just how awful and unsustainable the current Facebook and iPhone situations are and that designing a game with microtransactions in a non-evil way is important.

    Also do not talk to any executives from EA, Activision, or Ubisoft. Their dinosaur-like practices are only slightly less sustainable than the fly-by-nights, and they all seem to be completely delusional about the real reasons why they’re not making the profits they hope to make. (Short version: dinosaurs can’t survive an ice age and Big Publishers can’t survive an extended recession. Pirates aren’t killing EA, Gamestop is not killing EA, Steam is not killing EA. EA is killing EA and EA has no idea.)

    In conclusion, John, I wish you success in your future efforts, and am optimistic about playing a New Good John Romero FPS.

    *This, in particular, is speaking from my experience.

  17. flatbread says:

    John Romero worked on Ravenwood Fair and it’s expansion pack, but left in a huff due to a conflict with the company Lolapps.

    He then co-founded Loot Drop with Brenda Brathwaite (who also left in the huff) to create the game Cloudforest Expedition but right before it was supposed to release Zynga released the very similar (and vastly superior-looking) Adventure World. Rock You very shortly after dropped Loot Drop.

    The company now appears to be working on a Ghost Recon Facebook game with Ubisoft, which is yet unreleased.

    Having worked on Ravenwood Fair, I think he’s a great guy and has great ideas. He’s also very kind and has a great sense of humor, but these qualities do not release games. I wish I could write it all down in a story, but I might have to wait a few years to process it all.