Editor’s note: this is the final part of a three-part series documenting Romero’s career, spanning his early days as a teenage coder for the RAF, through the id era and up to present day. With thanks to Yorkshire Games Festival.
Since Doom, Romero had become an active producer. In Wisconsin, a tiny fantasy FPS studio named Raven Software had twisted the Wolfenstein 3D engine into ShadowCaster and the Doom engine into Heretic and Hexen. In Illinois, Rogue Entertainment had turned John Carmack’s tech towards arguably the first FPS-RPG, Strife. And in 1996, the year of Quake’s release, Romero was working with developers outside of id on both Final Doom and an extra set of levels for Hexen. The business was successful, but not everyone at id was on board.
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“We were doing engine licensing, but we couldn’t do it as well as we needed to because [John] Carmack would always fight against hiring one more person,” Romero recalls. “If we had an engine licensing business we could have one person trying to sell it, and maybe some people making it better all the time. But he didn’t want to do that. Only wanted to focus on game stuff.”
There was another source of friction. Since the days of the Louisiana lakehouse, id had stopped working together in a single room and splashed out on offices. Communication had suffered, and they decided to pool the whole team together in a ‘war room’ for the next game: Quake II.
“I didn’t really have a problem with that,” says Romero. “But it was not a good time, because [John Carmack] was in a bad mood all the time. It took a year to get the Quake engine ready for us to even use, so I’m sure that wasn’t happy times.”