Let’s Watch: John Romero Plays Doom

Then, shooting.

I am rapt watching John Romero play and talk about Doom. Over a two-and-a-half-hour Let’s Play series, the hallowed former id Software lead designer and co-programer has gone into fascinating detail on his level design philosophy, technical tricks, the game’s development, and his other work, but it’s equally splendid to hear about stuff that never happened. Here’s an old idea for deathmatch co-op: played on regular levels with monsters around, the only way to score points is to hit the end-level button first, so players swing between cooperating and making a violent break for the finish. Lovely.

His co-commentator here is JP LeBreton, Doom mega-fan and modder, former BioShock level designer, and former – grumble grumble – Spacebase DF-9 designer. It’s such a fascinating look at one of the most influential video games, explaining a lot of why it works so well. They look at moody lighting, ways to hide and tease secrets, room shapes, level layouts and flow, pretty details, and agh! this depth of discussion is so pleasing to me. One single room can spawn several minutes of chat. It touches on a lot of general ’90s FPS design and history too.

I also dig Romero’s unrealised idea for Daikatana to track speedruns and other challenges, storing scores and demos on a central sever for all to see. It’d be perfectly doable nowadays, but was a big idea for the time. I’m reminded a bit of John Carmack’s abandoned plans way back in ’96 to run QuakeWorld as essentially free-to-play.

I’m glad to see John Romero being a lot more public about his ’90s FPS work again. He seemed to shy away for a few years, possibly because people kept cracking the same hackneyed Daikatana joke. But did you see the huge load of Doom clay model shots, work-in-progress art, and unused assets he dug up to celebrate its 21st birthday? Lovely, that.

This is part of Double Fine’s Devs Play series, where they sit Double Folks down with designers to play their games. The final one, coming next Tuesday, will see Tim Schafer and Double Friends playing their first game, Psychonauts.

Here’s the introductory first episode (the rest get down to the demon-shooting quicker), and the whole lot are on this playlist.

19 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Lexx87 says:

    Awesome!

    Thanks for posting this Alice!

  2. Ross Angus says:

    Good to see Alice wearing her “Doom correspondent” hat again (it’s made from a hollowed-out Cacodemon).

    • Synesthesia says:

      Somebody please knit this so i can forcibly remove it from your person, thank you.

  3. Tjee says:

    He didn’t shy away. He just found out doing commercials for L’Oreal Paris is way more profitable…

    Now John Romero’s about to make you his bitch, because you’re worth it!

    • RARARA says:

      And John Carmack does adverts for anti-aging facial cream? Because that man’s a vampire.

      • neckro23 says:

        Extensive CRT radiation therapy. It’s an ancient nerd secret.

        • Contrafibularity says:

          Silence! Don’t give the surface-dwellers our secrets!

  4. sebmojo says:

    These are amazing, thanks Alice.

  5. Muppetizer says:

    I loved when they touched on the formation of Ion Storm (how he gobbled Spector up immediately) and their connection to each other through Human Head. There’s a heap of that information out there, but it’s always fascinating to me hearing about that side of the industry through the voices of the people that were there.

    It also seemed surprisingly humbling how many people Romero name checked, it’s obvious he has a massive amount of respect for the people he’s worked with over the years.

  6. Kaeoschassis says:

    Gonna check these out for sure. Both because it’s one of my heroes, and because – for shame, for SHAME – I’ve actually only played the shareware ep of Doom1, which I just played to death until I moved onto Doom2.

  7. Michael Fogg says:

    JP should really get some coaching not to use the word ‘yeah’ every 0,2 seconds

    • BooleanBob says:

      He does come across as a bit of a fanboy. Which I guess is understandable, what with him meeting his hero and all.

      • Jalan says:

        Every time he was offscreen, he was working up a way for John and Brenda to adopt him.

  8. LionsPhil says:

    Ooh, this sounds like a good watch when I’ve got a passive couple of hours to kill.

  9. Rikard Peterson says:

    Devs Play is a good idea (when done right) – I liked the Lion King one, and will watch this.

  10. Siz says:

    excellent format and edit for this interview, Romero is awesome, favourite film of 2015 sf

  11. SlimShanks says:

    Hmm, I’ll watch it, but I hope John Romero doesn’t make me his bitch :P

    • Jalan says:

      There is a point in one of the segments where he (rightly) states that games these days have lulled players into a false sense of “coolness”/having skill, something that Doom/etc. didn’t do. I think that’s as close as he’ll get to “making anyone his bitch” these days, and this time around he needn’t publicly apologize for having done so because he’s absolutely right.

  12. Noumenon says:

    I’m watching these, and they’re awesome! Thanks RPS!