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Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture Paperback – May 11, 2004
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—Mark Leyner, author of I Smell Esther Williams
"Masters of Doom is an excellent archetypal tale of hard work and genius being corrupted by fame too young and fortune too fast. I rooted for these guys, was inspired by them, then was disturbed by them, and was fascinated from beginning to end."
—Po Bronson, author of The Nudist on the Late Shift
"Like Hackers, David Kushner's Masters of Doom paints a fascinating portrait of visionary coders transforming a previously marginal hobby into a kind of 21st-century art form -- and enraging an entire generation of parents along the way. Kushner tells the story with intelligence and a great sense of pacing. Masters of Doom is as riveting as the games themselves."
—Steven Johnson, author of Emergence
"Masters of Doom tells the compelling story of the decade-long showdown between gaming's own real-life dynamic duo, played high above the corridors of Doom in the meta-game of industry and innovation. With the narrative passion of a true aficionado, Kushner reminds us that the Internet was not created to manage stock portfolios but to serve as the ultimate networked entertainment platform. It's all just a game."
—Douglas Rushkoff, author of Coercion, Ecstasy Club, and Nothing Sacred
"Are you brainy? Gifted? Deeply alienated? Ever wanted to be a multimillionaire who transformed a major industry? Then Masters of Doom is the book for you!"
—Bruce Sterling, author of Tomorrow Now
“Kushner’s mesmerizing tale of the Two Johns moves at a rapid clip . . . describing the twists and turns of fate that led them to team up in creating the most powerful video games of their generation. . . . An exciting combination of biography and technology.”
“Meticulously researched . . . as a ticktock of the creative process and as insight into a powerful medium too often dismissed as kids’ stuff, Masters of Doom blasts its way to a high score.”
“[An] extraordinary journey . . . an exhilarating time capsule of a moment in time where anything could happen—and often did. Kushner’s take on this geek uprising is like a breakneck-paced comic book that you can’t put down.”
“Kushner’s portrait of Carmack is lustrous and gripping. . . . An impressive and adroit social history.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Terrifically told . . . The storytelling is so fluid, so addictive, that your twitching thumbs keep working the pages.”
—The Washington Post Book World
From the Inside Flap
- ASIN : 0812972155
- Publisher : Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (May 11, 2004)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 368 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780812972153
- ISBN-13 : 978-0812972153
- Item Weight : 9.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.21 x 0.76 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #21,639 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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Long and well-researched account of an important part of the history of the subculture of violent and high tech video games and their creators, their lives, failures and technological adventures. I really enjoyed this reading and I recommend it not only for those who lived part of this recent history but for everyone who want to learn about this important subculture.
Id Software was founded with no outside money in 1990 by several programmers working at Softdisk, John Romero and John Carmack principally among them. It was a totally shoestring operation with them borrowing their employer's computers over the weekends to create their first PC game, Commander Keen. John Carmack wrote the game engine and John Romero wrote and directed the game storyboard and characters. They released the game as shareware through the Apogee game publisher.
Then came the Castle Wolfenstein: Spear of Destiny game. Then the first version of the Doom game. Then the network version with teams of up to four gamers. Then the first version of the Quake game. And the teams of up to sixteen gamers called Deathmatch. And millions and millions of players. Each new software game was incredibly innovative, speedy, and released to great praise.
All in all, Id Software appears to have been a huge death march with the people working 100+ hour weeks on a constant basis. Programmers will know what I mean by that. That is why their Deathmatch software was so good, the company itself was a preparation for that.
BTW, I was amazed to find out that that Doom and Quake were actually written on the NextStep computers. I had no idea that these games were not written on PCs.
I'm really impressed on how things turn out for the guys that created DOOM. They were successful in tech and gaming but they weren't able to handle so much in so little time. None of the Johns were able to see that they needed each other.
I think the book is summarized by a great analogy presented by the author: Carmack was the guitar maker and Romero was the musician that could get the best songs out of them.
I really recommend buying this book, it gets interesting from the beginning and it grips you until the end. I even read the index hoping there would be more stories post 2003.
Masters of DOOM tells the story of the "Two Johns," John Carmack and John Romero, creators of DOOM and founders of ID software. It's a story of amazing success and spectacular failure, personality conflicts and political witch-hunts. I found the early history of PCs and the sub-culture of game players and hackers enlightening.
I recently took a trip down memory lane and played through DOOM 1 and DOOM 2. This book was the perfect companion piece.
Overall highly recommended, excellent book, stayed up all night reading it.
Top reviews from other countries
In reminiscing like this, it's only fair to emphasize, that this book is written primarily for those with either an interest in gaming history or Doom itself. The stories of hardship and turbulence both these guys faced, towards carving their own stamp in gaming history, I'm sure would make an interesting read for many. But again this is more for those with an ongoing interest in gaming in general I think.
The book flows really well when reading. The writing is tidy. I found that the last quarter of the book especially becomes hard to put down as tensions mount and egos bristle. As a hardcore gamer and a budding game historian, I can't recommend this book enough.
Describing the rise and fall of the two creators of id software, John Carmack and John Romero, it is a classic silicon valley business/bio - with some particularly extreme characters. I knew nothing of these people at the time, but reading the book brought on waves of nostalgia as they were responsible for three of the key milestones in gaming history. I was still programming PCs when Wolfenstein 3D came out and I remember being amazed by the effects and responsiveness they coaxed out of the early PC's terrible graphics. By the time Doom and Quake came along, I was reviewing games for a living. Though my personal tastes ran more to the X-Wing series and Seventh Guest, I was stunned by the capabilities of the id games. They were the only first person shooters I ever found interesting - and each moved on the field immensely. All the first person shooters that are popular today from Call of Duty and Halo to Destiny owe them so much.
So from a techie viewpoint, this was fascinating, though the author does tend to rather brush over the technical side to keep the story flowing. And from the personal side, there were plenty of fireworks too. While the book slightly overplays the traditional US business biography style of presenting disasters and triumphs to regularly fit chapter boundaries, there is no doubt there was a real roller-coaster of an existence in a way that all those reality TV stars who overuse that term wouldn't possibly understand.
Although there are plenty of other characters, the two Johns are at the book's heart - Carmack the technology wizard behind the engines that powered these worlds, and Romero the designer and flamboyant gamer. The pair inevitably clash on direction and when they split it's interesting that it's the John who doesn't go for the classic US software developer heaven of turning the offices into a playground who succeeds.
All in all, truly wonderful for anyone who was into games in that period (and should be of interest to those who have followed them since). It's a shame it stops in 2003, as things have moved on a lot since its 'how the main characters are now' epilogue - but a quick visit to Wikipedia can bring you up to speed.
This book is the account of how Doom came into existence, created by a group of pioneering computer programmers in the 90’s. The book’s main protagonists are the “two Johns”; John Romero and John Carmack. Romero is the crazy, wild designer of the pair, mirrored by Carmacks calm, collected hardcore programmer. There are other ‘characters’ that appear in the book, such as Adrian Carmack, Tom Hall etc. But the two Johns are the focal points of the novel.
The book starts with the childhoods of the Johns and describes how they finally meet and how, from humble beginnings, they jump from strength to strength and end up creating a multi million dollar business. Very much the American dream. From reading this book I can only define Carmack and Romero as Geniuses. Programming is hard. I’ve tried it. It’s full of hard maths, syntax problems and logic arguments. Its like trying to measure the moon, with your eyes closed. With your hands tied behind your back. And yet the Johns (and many other bit players of the industry who make an appearance in this book) seem to just “get it”. The book doesn’t show the hard graft that I’m sure went into learning the programming languages, but by the age of 14 they were already coding. You have to be extremely intelligent to be able to pick it up that easy and with this intelligence and hard work they made themselves millionaires.
The two Johns’ careers started with creating small simple games in high school on early Apple computers. They then got small jobs with developers such as Origin and Softdisk. Ultimately, with their eagerness and entrepreneurial spirit, they finally branched out on their own. Their beginnings were questionably legal, with them borrowing work equipment and moonlighting. However the whole era just oozed rebellion and breaking loose the shackles of big business so this ambiguity of law just increases the spirit of self actualisation. Where young, passionate, hardworking and not forgetting extremely clever individuals made their fortune in their own way. This book makes it look so easy to make millions from computers. If only it was that easy.
Games created by the team include Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Quake 1, 2 and 3, all synonymous with the video game revolution of the 90’s and both the birth of first person shoot ‘em ups and the prevalence of PC gaming. Its touched on briefly in the novel that the Johns were not the only people capitalising on the rise of the video games industry, but the majority of the book does read like they were.
In the end the duo run into the humanity side of all business’. Arguing, jealousy and contempt all led to their eventual split. Following the split, they each run their own companies in their own different styles. With successes and failures, the book tapers out and brings us up to the books publication date.
The positives of the book are many if you are fan of the games and the gaming industry. The book goes into some what detail of the creation of the games and gives insights into how the minds of the creators processed. Even if your not a gamer, the book is still a good tale of the underdogs making it big. The tension during the crunch days, when deadlines were looming, is brought to life by Kushner and each characters personality is shown to the reader. For a book written some 10 years after the majority of the facts, it goes into quite intricate details. This is proof of the amount of research carried out by the author. The epilogue at the back tells us he interviewed all parties in depth, as well as spent months sifting through mountains of old computer magazines to gather dates and locations.
Theres not much to be negative about the book, its hard to criticise real life. Some of the dialogue felt pushed, but then it would have been transcribed from interviews which would have been dragged out of half-forgotten memories. In my opinion, there wasn’t enough detail on the actual design of the main games, Doom and Quake. It seemed like the design and code was glanced over for tension and drama. More prose than fact but drama sells and too much code detail in the book would have slowed it down and turned it into more of a text book.
In all a good book however its audience is automatically narrowed by its genre and topic. Not everyone will find it interesting however I found it enjoyable, intense and fascinating. I could almost see myself writing the next best selling video game and making my millions! Or maybe not…