1993's DOOM would have been a big deal even without its pioneering multiplayer modes, achievable over a local network—both its cooperative and deathmatch options laid down blueprints for future shooters to follow. But the LAN party classic almost never was—or, at least, the game's makers had forgotten about it until the very death of development.
Speaking to John and Brenda Romero at Develop the other week—and there's more to come from the pair on these pages—the former took me on a brief trip down memory lane. The stimulus: we were discussing the pressure of expectation that today's developers can find themselves with, using Hello Games and No Man's Sky as an example of players reacting to receiving less than they felt they'd been promised.
"Don't talk about your game before release, then there's no expectations," he told me, before Brenda reminded him of how DOOM went down.
"The most ridiculous thing I've ever seen anyone in game development do is put out a press release noting every feature in the game they're making, saying it was going to change everything, several months before the game was out," she said, fixing John with a stare.
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"Well, we knew what we were going to do," John tells me. "We knew all of the tech that was going to be in the game, and we knew it was going to be unbelievable. DOOM was the only game we ever made where we basically mandated that it had to be the best thing that we could ever think of playing. Because the other games we'd made weren't that. They were learning exercises, and we were making cool stuff, and doing it fast.
"But this, it had to be the best thing that we could even imagine playing; it had to be the number one game, ever. We can't leave anything out. This has to be it. And we never said that about Quake or anything past that point—it was only for DOOM."
"We thought about it, and we knew what we were going for even though the design wasn't solid. We knew where we were going. So that's why we put that press release out at the start of 1993, basically saying: this is all the stuff that's going to be in the game, and you're going to experience the biggest loss of productivity in the world when it comes out. It's going to jump technology forward, all of this stuff. And that's what it did when it came out."
Included in that press release, which is available (kinda) here, was a multiplayer mode—but in the chaos of bringing the game together, the small team at id Software had rather neglected to, well, make it.
"We forgot about the press release while we were making the game, until right at the end, around September or October, with the game releasing in December, when multiplayer came up. 'Oh shit, right, we have to get that in there. That's going to be unbelievable.' We'd forgotten to put this massive thing in there. But we ended up doing it within a matter of days, and then went through the whole game to make sure everything felt right."
All that ends well, I guess. Or, in DOOM's case, legendary.