Alfonso John Romero (born October 28, 1967) is an American video game developer born in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
After programming and designing video games for over eight years (and writing 21 year old Jordan Mechner a fan letter about Karateka), Romero left Softdisk after two years to form id Software in 1991. At id, Romero was involved in the production of Commander Keen, Wolfenstein 3-D, the first two Doom games, and Quake. (Gamer Chick Stevie "killcreek" Case defeated him at Quake and became his girlfriend.)
In 1996, following some long-running disputes with the other members of id Software, he, co-worker Tom Hall, along with Todd Porter and Jerry O'Flaherty, formed Ion Storm. Ion Storm's flagship title would have been Daikatana, an ambitious first-person shooter set for the holiday season of 1997, a seven-month development period that his former partners at iD, notably John Carmack, saw as patently ludicrous.note When he decided to switch to the Quake II engine in the middle of development for its advanced graphical effects, company morale had eroded by then, with most of the team either quitting outright, or moving to the studio's Austin branch, spearheaded by Warren Spector of Looking Glass fame. John set another deadline, February 15, 1999, but the game still was not finished by then. It wasn't until April 21, 2000 that Daikatana was finally released.
Daikatana came with a notorious tagline that stated, "John Romero's About to Make You His Bitch." Aside from that, the game, for lack of a better word, sucked. On July 17, 2001, Ion Storm's parent company Eidos Interactive closed its Dallas office. Four years later, Eidos closed the Austin branch. To be fair, many reviews said that Daikatana would have been a good game, just not a great game, if it had come out when it was originally supposed to. He has since apologized for trying to make players his bitch and is resigned to Daikatana's status as the punchline of video game jokes.
John then founded Monkeystone Games with Tom Hall. They developed and published about fifteen games for mobile phones. John joined Midway Games as project lead for Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows, and the Monkeystone team moved to Austin, Texas to work on Midway's Area 51.
He and his wife, Brenda, helped to train game designers at the University of California, Santa Cruz. They later founded a studio, Romero Games, in 2015. The first game was a remaster of Dangerous Dave in the Deserted Pirate's Hideout, followed by Gunman Taco Truck. In 2019, Romero released a megawad called Sigil, which serves as the unofficial fifth episode for the original Doom. In E3 2019, Romero Games revealed Empire of Sin, a mafia strategy game published by Paradox Interactive.
He's gone on record saying his all-time favourite video game is Chrono Trigger and he likes heavy metal music. He is also a very well-known MacHeadnote and only got his first Windows computer late in the 2010s. For more information about Romero's history and influence on video game culture, read all about it in David Kushner's Masters Of Doom. If you have any questions you want to ask him about his games (even Daikatana), there's a good chance he'll answer them on his Twitter.
Tropes about John Romero and his work include:
- Acquired Situational Narcissism: After the runaway success of Doom, Romero became one of the biggest names in the gaming industry virtually overnight, in addition to becoming the "face" of id Software. He took to his newfound fame very quickly, and his coworkers at id became annoyed that he seemed more interested in "being a rock star" and playing deathmatch than working on Quake. After his departure from id Software, Romero would often speak as though he was the man completely responsible for Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake. He seems to have become more humble since then and acknowledges that the games were team efforts.
- Attention Deficit Creator Disorder: Romero's output as a programmer and game designer slowed down significantly once he became more interested in playing deathmatch than actually creating games. This trope eventually became a major factor in his breakup with John Carmack, who claimed in a 1997 interview that "once John got rich and famous, the drive to work just wasn't there anymore". This remark didn't help Romero's public image during Daikatana's protracted development.
- Auteur License: This was the philosophy behind Ion Storm. "Design is Law" meant that the designer had control of the game and would not be subjected to Executive Meddling. Daikatana got this license revoked.
- Catchphrase: While perhaps best known for "Suck it down", "Design is Law" was the founding philosophy of Ion Storm in a nutshell.
- Creator Cameo: The final level of Doom II required players to fire rockets into a secret room and hit John Romero's disembodied head with splash damage. It was originally intended as an Easter Egg Take That! at Romero from his co-workers, but when he found it, he became enamored of it and recorded the backwards message (quoted at the top of the page) that plays just before it starts tossing out monsters.
- He later reprises the role of the Icon of Sin for The Angry Video Game Nerd episode on Doom, disembodied head and all.
- Creator Couple: During the Daikatana era, John Romero and Stevie "Killcreek" Case. John Romero is currently married to Brenda Romero (nee Braithwaite), a prolific game designer in her own right (having worked on, among other things, the Wizardry series and Jagged Alliance 2).
- Creator Killer: Daikatana.
- Development Hell: Most of Romero's games after Doom tended to suffer from this, either due to overly ambitious visions, poor management, or both.
- Genre Shift: He gave up on FPS games after Daikatana, with the exceptions of Red Faction and Area 51.
- Getting High on Their Own Supply: In a rare non-drug example, one of the many problem John had during the Troubled Production of Quake was that he spent too much time playing Doom deathmatch instead of working.
- It's What I Do: During a 2019 interview with Benjamin "Yahtzee" Croshaw, Romero admitted that he'd keep creating games even if he wasn't selling them, because he simply enjoys doing it so much that he just has to make them.
- Lighter and Softer: Cartoon Network Block Party and Ravenwood Fair.
- Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: The infamous advertisement for Daikatana was, "John Romero's About to Make You His Bitch."
- The Precious, Precious Car: Like his collaborator John Carmack, Romero spent the fortune he made at id Software on exotic sports cars, particularly Ferraris.
- Prima Donna Director: A longtime tenet of Romero's design philosophy. It's not a coincidence that the credo for his company, Ion Storm, was "Design is Law."
- Protection from Editors: Invoked in Ion Storm's motto, "Design is Law."
- Trash Talk: Romero all but invented FPS trash-talking, as friends and colleagues will testify. He then took that invention and used it in the Daikatana ad campaign.
- The Peter Principle: Romero's admittedly high skill as a programmer and designer did not translate to any skill whatsoever as a project leader, manager or administrator. Painfully evident throughout the Daikatana debacle, as the game launched several years late, several million dollars over-budget, and with several design decisions that hampered gameplay because he didn't have anyone to rein in his weirder ideas like at id Software.