Matt Chat 54: Quake with John Romero

Matt Barton's picture

Here's part IV of my John Romero interview series, this time on Quake.

As you probably know, Quake was the last game Romero made with id before going off to do his own thing. Here, Romero talks about how disappointed he was that the team wasn't more ambitious, as well as all the hardships (many apparently quite personal) that interfered with the development of this awesome game.


Joined: 05/20/2006
Great interview! I didn't

Great interview! I didn't know about the internal struggles around this game. Personally I liked Doom but found Quake to be just not fun, though it was a stunning technical achievement. And a whole industry sprung up around games that were basically Quake rip offs. Anyway, that's ancient history now.

Chris Kennedy
Chris Kennedy's picture
Joined: 08/31/2008
I agree

I remember seeing Wolfenstein and dying to play it. Doom came out and I thought, "oh wow! No way it gets any better than this!" Quake came out and I felt I had finally lost my interest in FPS games. Although it added a 3D element to the games from id, I just didn't latch onto Quake the way I did Wolfenstein and Doom.

One thing about Quake was the fact it required a coprocessor. I had a 486SX-33 at the time, and it just couldn't pull off the horsepower required for Quake. Quake wouldn't even let you run the game if you didn't have a coprocessor. I went so far as to download a coprocessor emulator just to run Quake. Haha! It was hilarious. I knew that it wouldn't run at anywhere near an acceptable speed, but at least I could *see* it. I don't think too much more time went by before I picked up a Pentium 100 and finally gained the ability to play it.

Thanks again for Matt Chat, Matt. This Romero series was awesome. I find myself wanting to hear a lot more from him.

Joined: 10/25/2006

"I remember seeing Wolfenstein and dying to play it. Doom came out and I thought, "oh wow! No way it gets any better than this!" Quake came out and I felt I had finally lost my interest in FPS games."

Boy, that's quick! ;-)

Although I admit, that the shareware version of Doom was the last id-soft game I really played. Three major reasons for that:
- Their games were (and mostly still are) arcade-like muscular, wiry endurance tests, there's no "fat" like a story, a plot, excessive dialogue, inventory etc. Not wrong per se, but just not my kind of game. I want more than opening doors with keycards and shooting stuff between that.
- I was also never in multiplayer games - playing cowboy & indian as a kid of course, but that just isn't my cup of tea with video games.
- I never liked their demon/hell scenarios. IMHO they tried too hard to provoke with the stuff and while some of the artwork was groundbreaking at the time (look at the Doom textures - there really wasn't anything like it) by the time of Quake they made rockstars of themselves and they lost their coolness.

As for Romero, I do like him much more now (= in the recent years). He has personality but isn't the same loudmouth like back then. Perhaps he needed to be one to compete with Carmack who is leagues over Romero in programming but appears to have zero creativity.
The book "Masters of DOOM" doesn't paint a pretty picture of the id gang in general and, frankly, Carmack comes across as the biggest jerk. Something that he confirms with every publicly voiced opinion: There's Carmack and then there is the rest of the industry. Well Doom 3 showed that making a great engine is not everything.
However, as one of the top three engine programmers in the world you can obviously have the luxury to not be burdenened with social skills. Imagine Spock programming 3D graphics in a Klingon games company...

Reading the personal webpage of Romero shows that his humour has matured and much is meant tongue-in-cheek. While he isn't really a tragic figure in the industry one does hope that his current incarnation will get the success he always strived for.
While I admire Carmack I'd really prefer to drink the beer with Romero - and that's perhaps more important.

take care,

Joined: 05/20/2006

Even my 100 MHz DX4 couldn't run Quake at an acceptable speed. The graphics code was, I think, hand written for the Pentium chip specifically. That game sold a lot of Pentiums! And later, Voodoo Graphics cards.

Rowdy Rob
Rowdy Rob's picture
Joined: 09/04/2006
Quake was a revelation to me!

I stuck with the Amiga platform way longer than I should have, so by the time I finally took the Windows plunge (mid 1997, I think), Quake was one of the first games I played on my new PC. As such, it was an amazing leap from what I was used to! I think I did play the Amiga port of Doom, but Quake was much smoother and more atmospheric on the PC.

I had no problems running Quake on my first Windows PC, so I had a blast (no pun intended) playing it! I never did complete the game, but I get the urge to install the game again every year or so to give it another go. Doom on the Amiga, while a great game in it's own right, didn't compare to the smooth, beautiful PC Quake experience.

As for "Doom 3," I've played it a bit, but it isn't the same. I guess I don't get into FPS's like I used to, and Doom 3 lacks the all-out action of the previous games in the series. There's a lot more wandering around and less shooting, and everything's too dark to roam around in and explore. Not really my cuppa...

This "Romero" Matt Chat series has been phenomenal! Excellent work, Matt, and thanks for being so open and forthcoming, Mr. Romero!

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
I had the same experience,

I had the same experience, Rob. I didn't really get seriously into first-person, 3D until I got a PC and played M&M VI. I guess that must have been around 96 or 97. I did play a lot of Unreal Tournament 2004, and of course played through Half-Life, Far Cry, and a bunch of other ones. I liked Quake 4 better than Doom 3. Doom 3 had great graphics and atmosphere, but felt a bit raw to me. Dark, dark, oh, more dark. Just kind of soulless. The earlier id games all had a streak of dark but cheeky humor that was a vital element. They were meant to be FUN. Doom 3 just seemed designed to scare and terrify you, and that's about it. I'm sure Quake would have been a fantastic game if the team could have held it together and really made the game Romero wanted. Just seems like the team had run out of gas by that point.


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