Alfonso John Romero was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on October 28, 1967. His early gaming influences included Pac-Man in the arcades and Nasir Gebelli's games on the Apple II personal computer. He entered the game industry in the 1980's, working for the Apple II programming magazine inCider. There he worked on his first game, Scout Search, which was released in 1984 for the Apple II. He then worked for Capital Ideas Software where the company published at least 12 of his games. In 1987 he went to work for Origin Systems, where he worked for eight years as a programmer. He worked on the Commodore 64 port of 2400 A.D. and Space Rogue. He was later offered a position at Blue Sky Production, but instead decided to co-found Inside Out Software, where he worked on Might & Magic II and Tower Toppler. He then co-founded Ideas from the Deep, and worked on Zork Zero, Arthur, Shogun and Journey, all for the Apple II. This company still exists today, but is now know as IFD.
In March 1989, Romero joined Softdisk as a programmer. He left there with other Softdisk employees, John Carmack , Adrian Carmack (no relation), and Tom Hall to found id Software . His time at id would be what propelled him to fame. id first gained notoriety with 1990's Commander Keen, a side-scrolling action game reminiscent of Super Mario Bros. and other console-only platformers.
It wasn't until the 1992 release of the revolutionary first-person shooter Wolfenstein 3D, that id became a household name among PC gamers. Romero went on to provide key design and programming for the runaway hit shooter Doom and its sequel, Doom II: Hell on Earth. Romero's last game with id was Quake, which was the first PC action game to offer large-scale multiplayer over the Internet. id almost single handedly popularized the first-person shooter with these games, and Romero is credited with coining the term "deathmatch" during his time with the company.
The success of Doom and Doom II began to have an impact on Romero. Apparently, he became so engrossed with fame and deathmatching with fans that he neglected his work completely. This created a lot of pressure during the development of Quake and John Carmack was saddened that his programming buddy was skipping work. Carmack had no choice but to appoint American McGee from doing support calls to level design. It turned out to be the right decision as American was able to create more levels than Romero.
On August 6, 1996, Romero was called on a meeting and was given the news that his fellow id members were firing him. This was what John Carmack said to Romero,
"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!"
Doom Maps designed by Romero
- E1M1 - Hangar
- E1M2 - Nuclear Plant
- E1M3 - Toxin Refinery
- E1M5 - Phobos Lab
- E1M6 - Central Processing
- E1M7 - Computer Station
- E1M9 - Military Base
- E4M2 - Perfect Hatred
- E4M6 - Against Thee Wickedly
- M11 - Circle of Death
- M15 - Industrial Zone
- M17 - Tenements
- M20 - Gotcha!
- M26 - The Abandoned Mines
- M29 - The Living End
After leaving id, Romero then went on to co-found Ion Storm along with Tom Hall . One of the company's first projects was the much-hyped cinematic shooter Daikatana. The game was positioned as Romero's brainchild and advertised as such. Expectations were understandably high as the game was billed as the product of the creator of Doom and Quake. Sadly, development and publicity problems soon arose. The game's marketing was peppered with questionable statements such as "John Romero's about to make you his bitch" and "Suck It Down," which angered many gamers.
Rumors of Romero living a rock star lifestyle leaked out of the development house. With Ion Storm's multi-million-dollar office situated in the penthouse level of a Dallas skyscraper, several extravagant purchases such as a Ferrari, and Romero's then-girlfriend and onetime Playboy model Stevie Case being hired as a level designer. Many members of the team quit in frustration and formed a rival company, leading to numerous delays.
Daikatana was finally released using the Quake II engine when games like Quake III Arena and Unreal Tournament were using more advanced technology. The many pre-release problems and major flaws in the game's design led to Daikatana being labeled as one of the worst games ever. On February 9, 2005, Eidos shut down all Ion Storm offices.
Many people believe the "bitch" ad and the fallout from Daikatana sidelined Romero's career in the high-end PC gaming industry for a number of years. Romero formed Monkeystone Games to focus on smaller games for mobile devices. The company lasted for three and and a half years. He then went to work at Midway on Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows (with Tom Hall) only to leave the company before the game was completed.
After Midway, Romero established three game companies; Slipgate Ironworks/Gazillion Entertainment in September 2005, Loot Drop, Inc. in November 2010, and Romero Games in 2013. He was working on an unnamed MMOG at Slipgate/Gazillion until designing Ravenwood Fair at Lolapps in 2010.
Romero co-founded Loot Drop, Inc. with Brenda Brathwaite and Robert Sirotek and designed the Facebook games Cloudforest Expedition (never released) and Ghost Recon Commander (Ubisoft).
In 2013, John Romero became Creative Director of the Master's Program at UC Santa Cruz with his wife Brenda Romero as the Program Director, where he continues to work today. John continues to develop games and consult through Romero Games.
When id Software and Bethesda Softworks merged together on June 24, 2009, Romero wasn't at all impressed. His commented on his Twitter account:
He later added:
Fallout 3 bought DOOM. Wow.
He has since apologized for his harsh remarks and said that he was "positive about the Zenimax deal." "I guess I was shocked and sad to see id Software of old changed forever today. It's a new day and a new id."
- Kelly Mitchell (1987 - 1989) Romero's first wife. The two met while he worked at Burger King restaurant and had two children: Michael Alfonso Romero and Steven Patrick Romero.
- Elizabeth Ann McCall (1990 - 1998) Romero's second wife. She worked at Softdisk. The two had a daughter named Lillia Antoinette Romero.
- Stevie Case (1998 - 2003) Romero first met Case when they were competing in a Quake deathmatch (in which Case won). The two started a relationship and worked together at Ion Storm and MonkeyStone Games.
- Raluca Alexandra Pleşca (2004 - 2010) Romero's third wife.
- Brenda Garno Brathwaite (2010 - present) Romero's fourth wife. The two co-founded Loot Drop.
- "To win the game you must kill me, John Romero!"
- "I completely love playing and designing games and always will. I am so into games that I listen to game music all day. That may sound strange, but you can guarantee I'm a hardcore gamer and would never let you down by designing a crappy title."
- "I think Doom had just the right mix of elements that keep people coming back to it: great monsters, excellent weapons with great balance, a spooky environment and extreme speed."
- "If you walk into CompUSA or Babbage's and see the vast array of game titles on the shelf, chances are that 95% of those titles are not worth playing."
- "In marketing I've seen only one strategy that can't miss - and that is to market to your best customers first, your best prospects second and the rest of the world last."
- "Daikatana will be the greatest game of all time"
- "Doom 2 is just such a bigger, badder, better version of Doom"
- "It has to be well timed. It needs to have the right components that maybe contain emerging technologies or something like, say, when Doom came out -- the Network play -- there weren't many games like that. There was a really great 3D world that a lot of people hadn't seen. It was light-years ahead of Wolfenstein. It was shareware, so it had Internet distribution. We used the Internet to get it all over the place. So it used a lot of stuff that was just becoming popular at that time. id just capitalized on it." [Responding to the question of what makes a classic game]