Doom Legend John Romero — The Path to Prolific Innovation and Making 130+ Games | Tim Ferriss Show

Doom Legend John Romero — The Path to Prolific Innovation and Making 130+ Games | Tim Ferriss Show thumbnail

Added: Jul 14, 2023

In this episode of The Tim Ferriss Show, Tim interviews John Romero, the co-founder of ID Software and a legendary figure in the gaming industry. Romero, along with John Carmack, Tom Hall, and Adrian Carmack, founded ID Software in 1991 and revolutionized game development with their focus on speed and optimization.

The breakthrough for ID Software came in 1991 when they created a smooth, high-speed 3D maze by applying positive constraints and using elegant code. This breakthrough was made possible because the team approached game development in a unique way, focusing on speed and removing anything that didn't contribute to the game's core. Each member of the team had 10 years of game development experience individually, which allowed them to deliver games within two months. They had no prototypes and could visualize the game in their minds, communicating effectively to bring their vision to life. Their first major success came with Wolfenstein 3D, a breakthrough in high-speed 3D gaming. Building on this success, they set out to create Doom, which they promised would be the best game ever. They put out a press release before even starting the game, which added pressure but also motivated them to do the impossible and bring Doom into existence. During the development of Doom, they decided to put out a press release to keep everyone informed about their progress. This was unusual at the time, but they wanted to give everyone equal information and address the curiosity surrounding their next project. Romero also discusses his experience with hyperthymesia, a memory disorder that gives him superior autobiographical recall. While it has been helpful in recalling past game designs and techniques, it can also make him perceive certain details as more important than they actually are. Despite working on multiple games simultaneously, Romero explains that it didn't impact them much because they knew what each game was and divided their time between them. They were always in sync and could help each other if anyone got stuck. They loved making games and could work long hours without a problem. As they got closer to releasing Doom, they started receiving random phone calls and noticed internet activity around the game. They never expected Doom to have such a lasting impact and be actively played and modded for 30 years. In 1996, Romero left the company after working on Quake, a massive jump in technology. He decided to leave at that time to pursue new opportunities. Romero then goes on to discuss the development of Quake and the challenges they faced. They were creating a new engine for full 3D and faced burnout and technical difficulties along the way. Eventually, they released Quake, but Romero decided to leave the company and start a new one with Tom Hall. Leaving the company was a mix of negatives and positives for Romero. It was challenging and strange, but also exciting to start something new without limitations. Romero also discusses his decision to write his memoir, "Doom Guy: Life of a First Person." He wanted to share his story and provide an authoritative account of the development of ID Software's games. He also wanted to include stories and information that hadn't been shared before. Overall, Romero is grateful for his career in game development and excited to have had the opportunity to make games with advanced technology and bigger teams. He reflects on his journey and is happy to have had such a fulfilling life in the gaming industry.


Full episode

Episode summary