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Sunday November 23rd 2014

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Retro Gamer #75

This month, Retro Gamer in the UK published issue 75 (over 6 years) and did something they’ve never done before: they had a guest editor. And, you guessed it, that was me. It also has my name on the cover, so that kinda gives it away.

The cover of the magazine is Wolfenstein 3D (much like another issue several months before that was all about the making of Wolf 3D). I got to read/edit all the magazine content before they published it, and I made comments about several of the articles. The biggest part of the magazine I’m involved with is a 12-page interview with me. There are also industry notables who wrote some paragraphs about me, and readers wrote in about their favorite games of mine.

All in all, I was very happy with the result. Darran Jones did a tremendous job planning and executing this feature. Retro Gamer is sold in most major bookstores.

Retro Gamer put out a press release about this issue:

PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release
30 March 2010

Retro Gamer gains industry legend as guest Editor

John Romero and Imagine Publishing team up for special issue of the world’s greatest retro games magazine, Retro Gamer, is proud to announce an exciting new collaboration with John Romero, co-founder of one of today’s most important and popular genres – the first-person shooter.

On Wednesday 31 March, issue 75 of Retro Gamer goes on sale across the UK and the world with a special celebration issue featuring industry legend John Romero as guest Editor. As well as a host of special content picked by Romero, the issue is packed with comments, tributes and insights from those who have worked with him over the years, such as John Carmack and Dave Perry. The special issue also includes an exhaustive 12-page interview with the man himself, outlining his career, his thoughts on the industry today, and his intriguing current project.

Making his name at companies such as Origin Systems and Softdisk, Romero cut his programming teeth on the Apple II before moving into the PC market. Teaming up with fellow Softdisk workers John Carmack, Adrian Carmack and Tom Hall, he co-formed id Software. After finding success in the shareware scene with the Commander Keen games, id created Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake, and with them ushered in a new era of gaming that’s still immensely popular today.

“I absolutely love Retro Gamer magazine because it covers all the game history that I love and remember fondly,” said Romero. “Being allowed the chance to do a little writing for the magazine was an amazing opportunity and I hope you all enjoy it the way I did.”

“John Romero is a genuine legend in the videogame industry,” said Darran Jones, Editor of Retro Gamer, “and he has been behind some of the most influential games this industry has ever seen. It’s been a real pleasure collaborating with him on this exciting project.”

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Dark Forces on Mac OS X

Three years ago I wrote a post about getting Dark Forces (DOS, 1995, LucasArts) running under Windows Vista. Well, I got it working under Mac OS X (I use Snow Leopard) easily.

Here are my updated directions for Mac OS X:

(1) Copy entire contents of the Dark Forces CD to a directory (ex. ~/Games/Dark). Keep the directory name to 8 letters or less.
(2) Download the latest Mac OS X version of DOSBox and install it.
(3) mount c ~/Games/Dark (or wherever you put the game on your hard drive)
(4) c:
(5) subst p: c:
(6) p:
(7) cd dark
(8) type either imuse or dark to run the sound config utility or the game

To go in/out of full-screen mode, press Option-Return. That’s it – it works great!

UPDATE: I forgot to mention, for Mac users there is an awesome program named Boxer that will wrap your DOS games up in a simple app file and you just double-click to launch. It’s really amazing. Check it out here.

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QTest was Ground Zero

Today is the 14th anniversary of QTest, our release to the public of the Quake executable along with three deathmatch maps, to test our network code over the internet.

Quake was our first internet-playable game, and we knew it would be great to let players try out the net code before the game’s release so we had some lead time to fix all the bugs found with it.

At id Software, we never had a QA department. We were our own QA team, us programmers, designers and artists. A pretty small group, but we were pretty thorough. The network code in Quake, however, needed to be tested way more than our small group could handle because of the amount of networking hardware our packets had to travel through.

It paid off – Quake was released with pretty reliable network code. Playing Quake on a LAN was always a much, much better experience, so John Carmack addressed that with the QuakeWorld release in November 1996 by fixing the network code and adding client-side prediction. Now, the issues he fixed are just part of normal network programming.

The day we released QTest, we invited a very small, select group of hardcore DOOM players to our office to test our release right in front of us. They’re known as the QTest 7. They are:

Here are the original photos of the QTest event at id Software that Wendigo took that Sunday.

The release of QTest paved the way for high-speed internet FPS gaming. I guess you could say that February 24, 1996 was the beginning of the future. Long live QTest!

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Quake sketches

I was going through some old pictures, and figured I might as well just start uploading my old stuff. Why wait? So, in the Quake section I’ve put up some sketches of maps, artifacts, etc. that I drew for the game.

I have several pages of notes that describe a game different from the Quake that you know. I’ll put these up when I start the Quake game page so I can explain what I was thinking for that design.

I’ve also put up lots of other pictures in many other sections. The smugmug site is really great – you should try it out for your own collections. You can totally customize it however you like.

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GameTales: id Answering Machine

News 8 Reporter watching Carmack on NeXT Cube

It was June 1992. We had already shipped Wolfenstein 3D, the shareware episode only at that point, and were working on finishing the rest of the 6 episodes. Bobby Prince was in the house busy making the music for those last 5 episodes. Bobby brought his entire audio rig with him which consisted of a huge sampling keyboard, speakers, and a rack with lots of effects units.

id Software was working out of a one-bedroom loft apartment at La Prada Club in Mesquite, Texas. The six of us lived at La Prada or at adjacent complexes, so getting to work was only a couple minutes. We didn’t think that was strange; we were on a mission.

Whenever Bobby left for the night, Tom and I would start playing around with his sampling keyboard. We came up with some crazy songs, and somehow we decided to come up with some answering machine messages. There were a bunch of samples already in the keyboard, and we came up with these right on the spot with no practice.

Kevin Cloud drawing Spear of Destiny title

I used samples from some Judas Priest and W.A.S.P. songs as intros, and also a Vince Guaraldi song for one. Most of the answering machine “stories” are about a huge, red demon that is looking for id Software and showed up just after id escaped the building. Tom is the guy interviewing the demon, who then tires of Tom when he has no information about id’s whereabouts and instantly destroys him. Or throws him down the stairs. This happens again and again.

The recordings are a little high-pitched and missing some bass to them. We only used a couple of these on the answering machine, and then Jay took them off and recorded a more corporate message, thus ending the fun.

Until now, only a few people knew about, and heard, these messages. I shall release the Kraken!

01 Well…….. Begone!
02 The Letter ‘i’ and the Number 5
03 We’re So Very Sorry
04 Powers You Won’t Believe
05 Powers That You Can’t Imagine06 We’re Not Here Right Now
07 Having Them for Dinner
08 Here’s a Tone You’ll Really Like
09 I Like the Hot Dogs
10 I Want to Speak to Mankind
11 Demonic Task Force
12 Goodbye, Ass!
13 Goodbye!
14 Shut Up
15 Suck This!
16 Fuck Off!

Message #2 was made after the Sesame Street counting segments like this one. Watch the baker at the end.

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30 Great Gaming Geeks

How great is it to be ranked #5 on a list of the top 30 “gaming geeks”? Pretty great, if you ask me! Ahead of me are Steve Jackson, Shigeru Miyamoto, Reiner Knizia and Will Wright. That’s a pretty awesome group of people.

There’s a down arrow on me, and an up arrow on Will Wright, suggesting that I used to be ranked higher than #5. Wow. Thanks, Geek-O-System guys!

It’s great to see 10% of the list from id Software. Plus, Warren Spector from Ion Storm, at one point. Tom Hall should be here, though. He’s brilliant and under-appreciated.

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Happy Birthday, id Software

It’s id Software’s 19th birthday today. It makes me wonder: how many people working at id right now actually know that?

Next year will be two decades of Keen, Wolfenstein, Doom, and Quake. How many game companies still standing can boast 20 years? Not many. And most companies that live past 20 years are so far removed from their origins that they’re not even the same company.

John Carmack and Kevin Cloud, two of id’s earliest team members, and John as a co-founder, are still with the company, and working hard on RAGE and Doom 4. John is right down in the pit with the development team, where all the action happens. Kevin manages, as always, exceptionally well on multiple fronts. I salute their efforts to continue the dynasty.

It all started on February 1, 1991. John, Adrian and I left our jobs at Softdisk (R.I.P.) and began work immediately on Dangerous Dave in the Haunted Mansion at the id lake house in Shreveport, Louisiana. Tom Hall needed to stay a few months longer at Softdisk, to help them ease his transition out of the Apple II team. But after work, he’d come over and help out.

Those were prolific years. The years 1990 and 1991 saw us develop almost 20 games with wildly different play styles and themes. The Keens, The Dangerous Daves, the Rescue Rovers, the Catacombs, and more. There were a lot of them and all were fun. Wolfenstein 3D begat the first-person shooter genre in 1992, and id hasn’t looked back.

Congratulations on 19 years, id!

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