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DOOM Guru John Romero Completely Misunderstands the FPS Genre He Created

Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:15 PM
William Worrall
Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:15 PM
  • John Romero is the architect of DOOM, one of the earliest first-person shooters.
  • He’s not a fan of modern FPS games.
  • There may be another reason he wants the gaming industry to go back to the 1990s, though.

DOOM developer id software basically created the first-person shooter. John Romero, John Carmack, and everyone else at id helped to shape the industry for decades.

To this day, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single PC gamer from the 90s who doesn’t appreciate their work in pioneering what today is a multibillion-dollar genre.

Of course, Romero tarnished his own reputation immediately after leaving id.

John Romero
Don’t let that smile fool you. He’s bonkers. | Source: Jason Scott/Flickr .

John Romero Doesn’t Understand the Shooter Genre

For those of you who don’t remember Daikatana , count yourself lucky. It was a huge mess and had the worst advertising campaign possible . It basically cemented John Romera as one of gaming’s alpha weirdos. A title he clearly intends to keep to this very day.

In an interview with the Guardian, he drones on and on about how the FPS games in the 90s were better  than their modern-day counterparts. Of course, it goes without saying that he is specifically referring to the games that he helped develop.

Every [modern] shooter takes place in the world somewhere… There’s nothing crazy, it’s not like going to Xen in Half-Life. They always look really nice, but the abstract level style – I don’t see that around as much.

So, effectively, he just talks about why his own games were better, forgetting entirely that everyone sees what happens when he doesn’t have a steady hand holding him back .

Romero went on to explain that the problem with modern shooters is that they provide too many weapons…wait, what?

The more weapons you throw in there, the more you’re playing an inventory game.

It becomes pretty clear that Romero is talking specifically of looter-shooters. Games such as Borderlands or Destiny, which shower you with guns with different stats and necessitate constant swapping and upgrading.

The DOOM reboot is proof that FPS games haven’t abandoned the best of the 1990s. | Source: id software/Steam 

Why Romero’s Complaints Don’t Make Sense

Romero even says at one point that this amount of weaponry effectively turns the game into an RPG. This totally ignores the fact that most looter-shooters basically are FPS-RPG’s. Inventory management and weapon stats are just part of that genre.

Most “realistic” FPS games don’t give stats to their guns, at least not upfront. Often in multiplayer games like Call of Duty, unlocking new weapons is more about how they look, fire, and sound. That isn’t to say that there aren’t guns with better damage output , for example, just that it’s not as forefront as Romero makes it sound.

My real issue with this interview is the fact that Romero seems to somehow be under the impression that 90s games were just better.

Don’t get me wrong, there are certain things about those games that I miss, but they weren’t better, at least not all of them. Besides, we still get games with 90s sensibilities all the time. The modern iteration of Doom literally succeeded on that basis.

Not Exactly the Voice of a Generation

Romero seems to be aiming to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

There is nothing wrong with modern FPS titles. Well, at least not in their gameplay. The genre is now broader than it has ever been, with hybrids, classic-style shooters, and realistic war shooters all thriving together.

The worst part is that Romero actually does make some valid points, but even those appear rooted in a sense of defensive pride for his older work. He talks about how big-budget games don’t really allow for easter eggs and other fun goodies, because with AAA money involved, you’re forced into efficiency. This is why there aren’t all that many secrets in modern shooters compared to classics like DOOM.

All-in-all, Romero seems like he needs to escape the 90s a bit. There are things from that decade that are still interesting and fun, but they’ve almost all been incorporated into modern-day gaming in some way.

Maybe Romero’s just nostalgic for the last millennium because it was back before we realized how crappy he was at developing games.