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John Romero

John Romero
Born (1967-10-28) October 28, 1967
Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S.
Occupation Video game designer, video game programmer
Spouse(s) Brenda Romero (m. 2012)

Alfonso John Romero (born October 28, 1967)[1] is an American director, designer, programmer, and developer in the video game industry. He is best known as a co-founder of id Software and designer for many of their games, including Wolfenstein 3D, Dangerous Dave, Doom and Quake. His game designs and development tools, along with new programming techniques created and implemented by id Software's lead programmer John D. Carmack, led to a mass popularization of the first person shooter, or FPS, in the 1990s. He is credited with coining the FPS multiplayer term "deathmatch".[2]


  • Biography 1
    • Apple II 1.1
    • id Software 1.2
    • Ion Storm 1.3
    • Monkeystone Games 1.4
    • Midway Games 1.5
    • Slipgate Ironworks/Gazillion Entertainment 1.6
    • Cyberathlete Professional League 1.7
    • Retro Gamer collaboration 1.8
    • Gamesauce 1.9
  • Personal life 2
  • Hair 3
  • Doom II and Final Doom 4
  • Recognition 5
  • Games 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9


Among his early influences, he credited Namco's maze chase arcade game Pac-Man (1980) as the title that had the biggest influence on his career.[3] He also cited Sirius Software's Nasir Gebelli as his favorite programmer and a major inspiration, citing the influence of his fast 3D programming work for Apple II games, such as the shooters Horizon V (1981) and Zenith (1982), on his later work at id Software. He also cited programmer Bill Budge as another influence.[4]

Apple II

John Romero's first published game, Scout Search, appeared in the June 1984 issue of inCider magazine, a popular Apple II magazine during the 1980s. Romero's first company, Capitol Ideas Software, was listed as the developer for at least 12 of his earliest published games. Romero captured the December cover of the Apple II magazine Nibble for three years in a row starting in 1987. He entered a programming contest in A+ magazine during its first year of publishing with his game Cavern Crusader.

Romero's first industry job was at Origin Systems in 1987 after programming games for 8 years.[5] He worked on the Apple II to Commodore 64 port of 2400 A.D., which was eventually scrapped due to slow sales of the Apple II version. Romero then moved onto Space Rogue, a game by Paul Neurath. During this time, Romero was asked if he would be interested in joining Paul's soon-to-start company Blue Sky Productions, eventually renamed Looking Glass Technologies. Instead, Romero left Origin Systems to co-found a game company named Inside Out Software, where he ported Might & Magic II from the Apple II to the Commodore 64. He had almost finished the Commodore 64 to Apple II port of Tower Toppler, but Epyx unexpectedly cancelled all its ports industrywide due to their tremendous investment in the first round of games for the upcoming Atari Lynx.

During this short time, Romero did the artwork for the Apple IIGS version of Dark Castle, a port from the Macintosh. During this time, John and his friend Lane Roathe co-founded a company named Ideas from the Deep and wrote versions of a game named Zappa Roidz for the Apple II, PC and Apple IIGS. Their last collaboration was an Apple II disk operating system (InfoDOS) for Infocom's games Zork Zero, Arthur, Shogun and Journey.

id Software

Romero moved to Shreveport, Louisiana in March 1989 and joined Softdisk as a programmer in its Special Projects division. After several months of helping the PC monthly disk magazine Big Blue Disk, he officially moved into the department until he started a PC gaming division in July 1990 named 'Gamer's Edge' (originally titled PCRcade). Romero hired John D. Carmack into the department from his freelancing in Kansas City, moved Adrian Carmack into the division from Softdisk's art department, and persuaded Tom Hall to come in at night and help with game design. Romero and the others then left Softdisk in February 1991 to form id Software.[6]

"You're not doing your work! You're not living up to your responsibilities. You're hurting the project. You're hurting the company. You've been poisonous to the company, and your contribution has been negative over the past couple years. You needed to do better but you didn't. Now you need to go! Here's a resignation and here's a termination! You're going to resign now!"

John Carmack's to Romero on the day of his termination on August 6, 1996[2]

Romero worked at id Software from its incorporation in 1991 until 1996. He was involved in the creation of several milestone games, including Commander Keen, Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Doom II: Hell on Earth and Quake.[6] He served as executive producer (and game designer) on Heretic and Hexen. He designed most of the first episode of Doom, most of the levels in Quake, half the levels in the Commander Keen, Wolfenstein 3D;Spear of Destiny. He wrote many of the tools used at id Software to create their games, including DoomEd (level editor), QuakeEd (level editor), DM (for deathmatch launching), DWANGO client (to connect the game to DWANGO's servers), TED5 (level editor for the Commander Keen series, Wolfenstein 3D; Spear of Destiny), IGRAB (for grabbing assets and putting them in WAD files), the installers for all the games up to and including Quake, the SETUP program used to configure the games, and several others.

During the production of Quake Romero clashed with John Carmack over the future direction of id. Romero wanted the game to follow his demanding vision without compromise, but Carmack insisted that the project had to make steady progress toward completion and accused Romero of not working as much as the other developers. Although Romero relented on his vision and joined a months-long death march effort to finish the game, this did not resolve the tensions within the company, and Romero was forced to resign.[2]

Tom Hall, John Romero and Warren Spector at Ion Storm, Dallas, Texas

Ion Storm

Romero later co-founded Ion Storm in Dallas, Texas with id co-worker Tom Hall, where he designed and produced Daikatana.[6] This ambitious shooter was announced in 1997 with a release date for the Christmas shopping season of that year. However, this release date slipped repeatedly in the coming months, and the game began to accrue negative press.

In particular, a 1997 advertisement boasting "John Romero's About To Make You His Bitch....Suck it down" caused controversy amongst gamers and the gaming press.[7] The massive pre-hype for the game and the subsequent delays (it was not released until April 2000) were compounded by the poor reviews the game received when it was finally complete.[8] Upon release, Daikatana was critically panned and appeared on numerous "top 10 worst games" listings.

During this time, Romero was rumored to have been killed (aptly enough, with a headshot) and a photograph of his corpse with a bullet wound was also spread through the Internet; Romero himself later stated that the picture was taken for the magazine Texas Monthly, and that "maybe he shouldn't have taken it".[9]

Romero departed with Tom Hall immediately after the release of Hall's Anachronox game and the subsequent closing of the Dallas Ion office.

Monkeystone Games

In July 2001, Romero and Hall founded Monkeystone Games in order to develop and publish games for mobile devices, and Monkeystone released 15 games (approximately) during its short lifespan of three and a half years. Some highlights of their developments included Hyperspace Delivery Boy! (Pocket PC, PC, Mac, Linux, GBA), Congo Cube (Pocket PC, PC, BREW, Java ME), and a version of Red Faction for the Nokia N-Gage. He and his girlfriend, Stevie Case, broke up in 2003, and she left the company in May while Red Faction development continued until October. John then left Monkeystone Games' day-to-day operations to Lucas Davis while Romero and Hall left for Midway in San Diego.[10]

Midway Games

In mid-October 2003, Romero joined Midway Games as project lead on Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows. While he continued to maintain his working relationship with Monkeystone, Lucas Davis took over running the office. The Monkeystone team moved to Austin, Texas to work on Midway's Area 51 title until its release. Monkeystone Games closed down in January 2005. Romero moved from project lead to creative director of internal studio during this time.

At the end of June 2005, Romero left Midway Games mere months before the completion of Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows.[11]

Slipgate Ironworks/Gazillion Entertainment

On August 31, 2005, Romero confirmed[12] that he has been working on a yet-to-be-announced MMOG at his newly opened development studio, Slipgate Ironworks. It was reported that the name was temporary. "For the record," Romero wrote, "I'm co-founder of a new game company in the Bay Area and am much better off in many ways than I was at Midway". He said that he would not reveal anything about the company or the game until 2007. On March 17, 2009 it was announced that Slipgate Ironworks is part of Gazillion Entertainment.[13] Along with venture capitalist Rob Hutter and investor Bhavin Shah, Romero was a co-founder[14] of Gazillion.

On July 22, 2006, John Romero and former co-worker Tom Hall guest hosted episode 53 of the podcast The Widget.[15]

Romero departed Gazillion Entertainment in November 2010 to form a social game company called Loot Drop alongside Brenda Brathwaite.[16] His longtime co-worker, Tom Hall joined the company on January 1, 2011.[17]

Cyberathlete Professional League

John Romero was the CPL's Chairman of the Board for ten years.

On December 20, 2006, John Romero announced a new FPS project for the Cyberathlete Professional League titled Severity for both consoles and PC.[18] It was announced that Tom Mustaine (ex-Studio Director at Ritual Entertainment) would act as Director of Game Development at CPL's new studio.

It is stated that Severity will be a multiplayer first person shooter. The game will be built on technology licensed from id Software.

In September 2008 Romero told ThatGamingSite that Severity was cancelled, but Tom Mustaine contacted the site to inform them the project was not cancelled but in "stealth mode" citing John Romero was "let out of the loop". On October 2009, Angel Munoz, founder of the Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL) stated that Severity was no longer being produced because they were not able "to convince game publishers of its value".[19]

Retro Gamer collaboration

In March 2010, John Romero collaborated with the gaming magazine Retro Gamer and taking on the role of a guest editor, taking charge of the magazine's editorial and contributing to a number of articles and subjects throughout the magazine. There is an extensive interview with Romero in the issue with industry luminaries offering their thoughts on Romero.


In Spring 2010, Gamesauce featured Romero on its cover and contained an in-depth interview with Romero written by Brenda Brathwaite.[20] In the interview, Romero publicly apologized for the infamous Daikatana advertisement.

Personal life

Romero and other game developers at a BAFTA event in Los Angeles in July 2011. From left: Rod Humble, Louis Castle, David Perry, Brenda Romero, John Romero, Will Wright, Tim Schafer, Chris Hecker.
Romero was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado in the United States. He is of Yaqui and Cherokee heritage.[21]

In January 2004, Romero married Raluca Alexandra Pleşca, originally from Bucharest, Romania. They divorced in 2011.

Romero and game developer Brenda Brathwaite became engaged on March 24, 2012. They married on October 27, 2012.[22][23][24][25] Together, they worked on Ravenwood Fair, with Romero as Lead Designer and Brathwaite as Creative Director and Game Designer. They also founded social game development company Loot Drop in November 2010, and worked on Cloudforest Expedition and Ghost Recon Commander together.[16]

Romero has three children from two previous marriages: Michael, born in 1988, Steven born in 1989, and Lillia Antoinette, born in 1998.


Romero's long hair has been a source of both admiration and derision for his fans. John guest-answered Planet Quake's "Dear Mynx" column, in which a female fan asked for hair care tips.[26]

Romero cut short his hair in 2002 and donated it to Locks of Love.[27] Discussion boards such as Doomworld and BeyondUnreal had threads discussing his new look at the time, although in recent years Romero has grown it back to full length.

Doom II and Final Doom

In level 30 of Doom II, "Icon of Sin", the boss is supposed to be a giant demon head with a fragment missing from its forehead. When first viewing the demon, a distorted and demonic message is played, which is actually John Romero saying "To win the game, you must kill me, John Romero!", reversed and distorted to sound like a demonic chant. One can use the "noclip" cheat to enter the boss and see Romero's severed head which is skewered on a post. The player defeats the boss (without the noclip cheat) by shooting rockets into its exposed brain after activating a lift and riding it. Romero's head functions as its hit detection point; when he "dies", the boss is killed and the game is finished. In the 2013 IGN Doom playthrough to celebrate Doom's 20th anniversary, Romero shared the backstory behind the inclusion of his head as the final boss and the reversed sound effect - they were both a result of in-joke pranking between development team members.[28]

The name "Romero" is written in blood on one of the walls in level 19 "Shipping/Respawning" in Final Doom's TNT: Evilution campaign.


Date Award Description
2012 Tech Hall of Fame Included in list of technology creators.[29]
2012 Apple II Forever Award Awarded at KansasFest to members of the Apple II community who had made significant contributions to the Apple II.[30]
2011 Most Influential Person in Facebook and Social Games #1 in's 2011 list.[31]
2003 One subject of book Masters of Doom Masters of Doom is a chronicle of Id Software and its founders.[32]
1999 MIT Technology Review TR100 Innovators Under 35.[33]
1998 Time Magazine's Cyber Elite 50 #36, The top 50 tech elite of the year.[34]
1998 Top 20 Texan of the Year Texas Monthly's yearly list of the Top 20 Texans[35]
1997 Time Magazine's Cyber Elite 50 #40, The top 50 tech elite of the year.[36]
1996 The most influential people in computer gaming of all time #7, GameSpot's "The most influential people in computer gaming of all time" list.


Name Year Publisher
Dodge 'Em 1982 Capitol Ideas Software
Scout Search 1984 inCider Magazine
Cavern Crusader 1984 A+ Magazine
Bongo's Bash 1985 A+ Magazine
Zippy Zombi 1987 Uptime Disk Monthly
Wacky Wizard 1987 Uptime Disk Monthly
Subnodule 1987 Keypunch Software, Inc.
Pyramids of Egypt 1987 Uptime Disk Monthly
Neptune's Nasties 1987 Uptime Disk Monthly
Major Mayhem 1987 Nibble Magazine
Lethal Labyrinth 1987 Uptime Disk Monthly
Krazy Kobra 1987 Uptime Disk Monthly
Jumpster 1987 Uptime Disk Monthly
Evil Eye 1987 Uptime Disk Monthly
James Clavell's Shōgun 1988 Infocom
Dangerous Dave in the Deserted Pirate's Hideout 1988 Uptime Disk Monthly
City Centurian 1988 Nibble Magazine
Zork Zero: The Revenge of Megaboz 1989 Infocom
Zappa Roidz 1989 Softdisk Publishing
Twilight Treasures 1989 Softdisk Publishing
Space Rogue 1989 Origin Systems
Might and Magic II: Gates to Another World 1989 New World Computing
Magic Boxes 1989 Softdisk Publishing
Journey: The Quest Begins 1989 Infocom
How to Weigh an Elephant 1989 Softdisk Publishing
Big Blue Disk #32 1989 Softdisk Publishing
Big Blue Disk #35 1989 Softdisk Publishing
The Catacomb Abyss 1989 Softdisk
Arthur: The Quest for Excalibur 1989 Infocom
Sub Stalker 1990 Softdisk Publishing
Pixel Puzzler 1990 Softdisk Publishing
Dinosorcerer 1990 Softdisk Publishing
Dark Designs II: Closing the Gate 1990 Softdisk Publishing
Commander Keen 1: Marooned on Mars 1990 Apogee Software
Commander Keen 2: The Earth Explodes 1990 Apogee Software
Commander Keen 3: Keen Must Die! 1990 Apogee Software
Catacomb 1990 Softdisk Publishing
Big Blue Disk #40 1990 Softdisk Publishing
Big Blue Disk #41 1990 Softdisk Publishing
Big Blue Disk #44 1990 Softdisk Publishing
Alfredo's Stupendous Surprise 1990 Softdisk
Xenopods 1991 Softdisk Publishing
Slordax: The Unknown Enemy 1991 Softdisk
Rescue Rover 1991 Softdisk
Rescue Rover 2 1991 Expert Software, Froggman, Softdisk
Shadow Knights 1991 Softdisk Publishing
Paragon 1991 Softdisk
Paganitzu 1991 Apogee Software
Hovertank 3D 1991 Softdisk
Dangerous Dave in the Haunted Mansion 1991 Softdisk
Commander Keen: Keen Dreams 1991 Softdisk
Commander Keen 4: Secret of the Oracle 1991 Apogee Software
Commander Keen 5: The Armageddon Machine 1991 Apogee Software
Commander Keen 6: Aliens Ate My Baby Sitter! 1991 FormGen
The Catacomb (Catacomb II) 1991 Softdisk
Catacomb 3-D 1991 Softdisk
Wolfenstein 3D 1992 Apogee Software
Spear of Destiny 1992 FormGen
Cyberchess 1992 Softdisk
Terror of the Catacombs 1993 Froggman
Street Ball 1993 Froggman
Shadowcaster 1993 Origin Systems
ScubaVenture The Search For Pirate's Treasure 1993 Softdisk
Dangerous Dave's Risky Rescue 1993 Softdisk
Curse of the Catacombs 1993 Froggman
Bio Menace 1993 Apogee Software
Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold 1993 Apogee Software
Doom 1993 id Software
Corridor 7: Alien Invasion 1994 Capstone Software
Super 3D Noah's Ark 1994 Wisdom Tree
Doom II: Hell on Earth 1994 GT Interactive
Blake Stone: Planet Strike 1994 FormGen
Wolfenstein 3D 1994 Atari Corporation
Rise of the Triad: Dark War 1994 FormGen
Heretic 1994 id Software
The Ultimate Doom 1995 GT Interactive
Hexen: Beyond Heretic 1995 id Software
Heretic: Shadow of the Serpent Riders 1996 id Software
Strife 1996 Velocity Inc.
Final Doom 1996 id Software; Atari, Inc.
Quake 1996 id Software
Chex Quest 1996 Digital Café
Doom 64 1997 Midway Games
Dominion: Storm Over Gift 3 1998 Eidos Interactive
Daikatana 2000 Eidos Interactive
Red Faction 2001 THQ Wireless
Anachronox 2001 Eidos Interactive
Hyperspace Delivery Boy! 2002 Monkeystone Games
Jewels and Jim 2003 THQ Wireless
Dig It! 2003 THQ Wireless
Congo Cube 2003 THQ Wireless, RealArcade
Cartoon Network: Block Party 2004 Majesco
Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows 2005 Midway Games
Area 51 2005 Midway Austin
Ravenwood Fair 2010 Lolapps, Inc.
Marvel Super Hero Squad Online 2011 Gazillion Entertainment Inc.
Ghost Recon Commander 2012 Ubisoft, Inc.
Pettington Park 2012 Zynga Game Network, Inc.


  1. ^ John Romero at the Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c The Escapist - John Romero: The Escapist Interview. The Escapist.
  7. ^ "The Top 7... PR Disasters" Game Radar
  8. ^ "Romero Threatens to Make You His Bitch". Top 25 Dumbest Moments in Gaming History. June 2003. GameSpy.
  9. ^ Dunkin, Alan. "Romero Speaks... From the Grave?" GameSpot. August 28, 1998.
  10. ^ Retro Gamer magazine, issue 75: In the Chain with ... John Romero (pages 78-89)
  11. ^
  12. ^ News - John Romero's new studio. September 21, 2005. Eurogamer.
  13. ^ Gazillion in agreement with Marvel Entertainment to bring iconic super heroes to massively multiplayer games audience, unveils new company and studios March 17, 2009.
  14. ^ John Romero's Twitterstream March 17, 2009.
  15. ^ The Widget - Games, Tech, Whatever - Ep. 53 - Just Hanging Out
  16. ^ a b Loot Drop's About page
  17. ^
  18. ^ Romero Announces New CPL Specific FPS Archived February 15, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Angel Munoz Announces that Severity was cancelled
  20. ^ Gamesauce Spring 2010. Spring 2010. Gamesauce.
  21. ^ The post-apocalyptic dimensional space of Native video game design>
  22. ^ Brenda Romero's Facebook relationship status
  23. ^ John Romero's Facebook relationship status
  24. ^ Brenda Romero's tweet confirming their relationship status
  25. ^ John Romero's Twitter status update confirming their relationship status
  26. ^ Dear Mynx Editorial Column
  27. ^ John Romero's Blog Archive
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ KansasFest
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^

Further reading

External links

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