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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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Doom, the video game in which you navigate a dungeon in the first person and messily lay waste to everything that crosses your path, represented a milestone in many areas. It was a technical landmark, in that its graphics engine delivered brilliant performance on ordinary PC hardware. It was a social phenomenon, with individuals and companies hooking up networks specifically for Doom tournaments and staying up for days to blast away on them (well before the Internet went big-time). The game's publisher, id Software, used an unusual shareware marketing strategy (give away the first levels, charge for the more advanced ones) that worked very well. On top of it all, the gore-filled game raised serious questions about decency in products meant for use by school-age kids. Masters of Doom explores the Doom phenomenon, as well as the lives and personalities of the two men behind it: John Carmack and John Romero.
This book manages, for the most part, to keep clear of the breathless techno-hagiography style that characterizes many books with similar subjects. He tells the story of Carmack, Romero, and id--which includes far more than Doom and its successors--in novel style, and he's done a good job of keeping the action flowing and the characters' motivations clear. Some of the quoted passages of dialog sound like idealized reconstructions that probably never came from the lips of real people, but this is an entertaining and informative book, of interest to anyone who's let rip with a nail gun. --David Wall
Topics covered: The biographies of John Carmack and John Romero, and of their company, id Software. The development and marketing of all major id games (including Wolfenstein, Doom, Doom II, and Quake) get lavish attention. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Long before Grand Theft Auto swept the video gaming world, whiz kids John Romero and John Carmack were shaking things up with their influential-and sometimes controversial-video game creations. The two post-adolescents meet at a small Louisiana tech company in the mid-1980s and begin honing their gaming skills. Carmack is the obsessive and antisocial genius with the programming chops; Romero the goofy and idea-inspired gamer. They and their company, id, innovate both technologically and financially, finding ways to give a PC game "side-scrolling," which allows players to feel like action is happening beyond the screen, and deciding to release games as shareware, giving some levels away gratis and enticing gamers to pay for the rest. All-nighters filled with pizza, slavish work and scatological humor eventually add up to a cultural sea change, where the games obsess the players almost as much as they obsess their creators. Fortunately, journalist Kushner glosses over Carmack and Romero's fame, preferring to describe the particulars of video game creation. There are the high-tech improvements-e.g., "diminished lighting" and "texture-mapping"-and pop cultural challenges, as when the two create an update of the Nazi-themed shooter Castle Wolfenstein. The author gives his subjects much leeway on the violence question, and his thoroughness results in some superfluous details. But if the narration is sometimes dry, the story rarely is; readers can almost feel Carmack and Romero's thrill as they create, particularly when they're working on their magnum opus, Doom. After finishing the book, readers may come away feeling like they've just played a round of Doom themselves, as, squinting and light-headed, they attempt to re-enter the world.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
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Overall highly recommended, excellent book, stayed up all night reading it.
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.
Final Verdict: This is a MUST read!!!!
So given that I'm rather disgusted with the fact that every other game is a brainless FPS these days, why on earth would I be interested in "Masters of Doom," a book that chronicles the early days of the genre? Easy. I actually like the shooters born out of id's developments during the early 90's. Sad as it is, I could probably go on and on about why Doom is one of the greatest games ever created and just how ingenious its level design really is. Crazier still is the fact I didn't really "grow up" with Doom like others did but I can definitely appreciate everything the game offers - even today.
Still, as eager I was to learn more about my favorite first person shooter, the section of the book on Doom - as good as it is - can't really hold a candle to the passages concerning Quake's development. It was at this point where I literally refused to put the book down and thankfully that happened when I had a day off of work. Just as alluring and maybe even better is the troubled development of Daikatana were you can feel the desperation of the IonStorm employees as you read. As a gamer you may not want to play John Romero's Daikatana but reading about it's history is as interesting as you can get.
The games it centers on aside, I can't recommend "Masters of Doom" enough. There are a few sections I wish were fleshed out a little more - personally I wanted to read more about composer Bobby/Robert Prince than what's in here because his music for Doom is just that good - but then he's described more as a freelancer more than a real part of id so it's understandable. But really, people can have their Call of Duty and Halo but this is the real story of the first person shooter and the only part of it's history I'll ever care about. Still, my preferences aside, do yourself a humongous favor and give this a read - it can easily hold your interest even if your not into the games themselves.
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.