Against the Gods

Against the Gods
John Romero: The Escapist Interview

Russ Pitts | 25 Jul 2006 12:00
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TE: Touching again on the subject of fame, for better or worse you became remarkably famous in a relatively short time, and consequently became a sort of lightning rod for criticism of the industry in general and the products of your company(s) specifically. How much of what is written about "John Romero" do you take in, and how much of it do you put away in a special place never to see or hear from again?

JR: After 10-plus years of reading about yourself, all the good and bad, it all just becomes irrelevant after awhile. I know what I'm capable of doing and the people I work with are united in our mission, and they treat me just like they treat each other. The whole fame thing doesn't come into play when we're in development, because we're all a team. I know some of my guys read a lot of forums and sometimes they'll see some remark that someone clueless made and show it to me, chuckling because they know the truth of who I am and how I work. The media personification of John Romero is not who John Romero is.

TE: One thing that I and I believe our readers are keenly interested in hearing from you about is Ion Storm. What can you tell me about that time, now that you've had some distance from it?

JR: For me, the end of Ion Storm came exactly five years ago, and for the world Ion Storm ended in February [of] last year, after eight and a half years. There were four of us co-founders, and I convinced Warren Spector to join us almost a year after starting the company, and what a great decision that was. I fought hard to keep two of the co-founders from trying to shut down the Austin studio every few months - that's just a taste of the pure insanity that prevailed in the Dallas office.

It was hard to concentrate on making a game when someone was always trying to disrupt everything every day. And it showed in our first two games. Luckily, Anachronox, Tom's game, had an extra year of development without the negative influences affecting his team, and it shows; his game is a work of art and passion by a young dev team trying to prove something. Of course, with the Austin office far away and Warren at the helm, Deus Ex turned out to be a masterpiece.

All I wanted was a big, fun game company where everyone was united in the purpose to make great games. I never imagined that someone would ever want to screw that up, but they did and it happened. I've learned a lot from that experience.

TE: What were your aspirations for Monkeystone, as a company, and how well do you think you achieved them?

JR: My main aspiration for Monkeystone was to get back to a small game company and work directly with Tom again and my girlfriend Stevie. To get back into programming 24/7 and learn as much as I could. I wanted to explore the emerging mobile world and see what it was all about. We had a blast with Monkeystone, and so much happened during the short time we ran the company - an incredible amount happened. It deserves its own book.

TE: In 2003, you and Tom Hall joined Midway. I suppose the two questions that immediately come to mind are: Why would such an independent, creative guy join a company like Midway; and: Why did you leave?

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