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Thursday, January 3, 2002
The Inside Story of Romero
10:40 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

There are few computer gamers today that aren't familiar with the chaotic past of game designer John Romero, co-founder of Ion Storm. All one has to do is mention the game Daikatana to generate groans and insults from any gamers within earshot. For the few unfamiliar with the saga, Daikatana has the dubious distinction of having one of the most storied development histories of computer games to date, receiving harsh criticism throughout its development and spectacularly failing when it was finally released much later than anticipated.

However, there are often two sides to every story. To this end, Salon has published an article that focuses on the inside story as told by Christian Divine, a writer employed at Ion Storm. Titled "A hardcore elegy for Ion Storm," the article denounces the harsh criticism raised on the 'Net and seeks to paint a different picture of Romero and his vision:

Despite the social misfit-ism, the game world is far more accessible and democratic than any other media industry. Designers, programmers and artists are in constant touch through the global network. Getting a dream job can be as simple as sending off a great Quake map to a bigwig—as when Luke Whiteside was hired after sending John a sample of his work. One's skill or talent at design is self-evident without a Ph.D. or a capacity for tunneling through bureaucracy. Ion's critics never bothered to acknowledge that John always searched out and encouraged new talent for his company. He never forgot his gaming grass-roots or the people that had helped him out. This was the creative environment that Ion fostered.
Interestingly enough, Divine also remarks on the split between Romero and his former partner John Carmack, citing that Carmack's focus was more on cutting-edge technology while Romero's was on creative game design.

Not one to let these comments slide, Carmack was quick to post a rebuttal at

Ion storm failed due to lack of focus, which came from the top. They had some great employees (we hired some of them!), but games don't get done without someone in a position of authority forcing everything together. Romero's primary mistake was believing that abstract creative design was a primary, or even significant, part of a successful game. The "strategic creativity" in a game is less than 1% of the effort, and if you put that on a pedestal, you will de-emphasize where all the real work needs to be done.
Those looking to get past the 'Net-spawned rumors concerning Romero and Ion Storm should definitely give the Salon article a look, as the different viewpoint it presents is quite interesting. Carmack has also posted several comments on the article, as well as game design in general, at Slashdot's forums for those seeking yet another viewpoint.

Salon - A hardcore elegy for Ion Storm - The Rise and Fall of Ion Storm (Carmack comments) - The Rise and Fall of Ion Storm (More Carmack comments)
Ion Storm

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• The Inside Story of Romero10:40 AM
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