John Romero on what makes a good modern FPS, why the blockchain isn’t ready for games yet, and… cookbooks?

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John Romero is a big name in the video game industry, and for good reason. Co-founder of Id Software and one of the minds responsible for primordial giants in the FPS genre like Doom, Wolfenstein 3D and Hexen. Today, he and the team at Romero Games call Galway their home, tinkering away at modern titles like Empire of Sin for the contempory audience.

I was lucky enough to meet John Romero last week, not in hell, but in an equally hot Brighton during Develop 2022. There, we had a short chat about what they look for in Modern FPS games, their thoughts on a variety of trends and developments in the genre as of late, how things are going at Romero Games, and a cookbook. If you’re interested in what the best-painted nails in the industry has to say, you can read more below.

If you’re a fan of John Romero, why not try out Empire of Sin!

VG247: What do you look for in a modern FPS?

Romero: I really like any experimentation in FPS. The feel of it is super important too, you know?

Like that’s what keeps people excited. Having a really good core loop, but then outside that core loop, what are you doing that Is different? The core of an FPS is killing shit. So what’s the structure around that?

I like all kinds! One of my most loved is Doom (2016) and Doom Eternal. The action is super fast, love that crazy speed. And then one that I play the most is really Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, it’s tactical and it’s way slower. But it’s it’s just, the design of it is so good.You know, it’s an open world, that’s massive and it feels really good. It doesn’t have anywhere near the speed of doom. It’s a totally different kind of FPS. But it’s got loadouts and it’s got like weapon attachments and upgrades and all kinds of stuff that make it interesting.

Sniping. I love sniping,I love enemies – enemies I can just listen to. F.E.A.R was awesome, like the enemies in F.E.A.R were like some of the best enemies, right? And so Breakpoint has enemies very similar to that. They’re talking to each other, they’re saying stupid shit all the time. You can just fly drones over and just listen to them complain about the shitty job they have, you know, and then you can just kill ‘em!

What are your thoughts on “musical FPS”? Games like BPM and Metal Hellsinger?

I’m not a fan. It’s almost like programming. If you program in Python, python makes you indent with a tab to do a new kind of function, or a loop, or anything else. You must do that. I don’t want to play an FPS where I must shoot on beat, right? I don’t play any game like that, and I really don’t want to hear lyrics when I’m playing a shooter! I like music, but I don’t want to hear lyrics because to me the song isn’t the point of the game.

But, it’s experimentation! I think that’s fine. A lot of people think Metal Hellsinger is badass and the music is super great. I just like a different vibe when playing a shooter.

In terms of other modern innovations and trends, other developers are branching out into blockchain as of late? What are you thoughts on that, and would you ever create a game with Blockchain at its core?

It’s definitely an interesting direction because the whole goal of blockchain for the end player is to own their items – outside the game even. It’s great for them to be able to sell their stuff when they’re done with the game. Like I poured actual money into this game. I have all these items. I don’t want to play it anymore. I’m gonna sell them off to somebody and I didn’t lose anything. Yeah, I think that’s really, really cool. But I like it when the design of the game doesn’t feel like that’s the only reason why it exists – to sell items.

To me it should be a feature, and it’s almost like a feature you shouldn’t even talk about, you know. Why shouldn’t I own all my stuff outside of a game?

Why do I have to think about NFTs and blockchain? I don’t want to know all that stuff. I just want to go. “Oh, that’s cool. I can actually sell that stuff outside of the game in a store”. You know, a lot of times there’s a platform that has an online store and so, why can’t I just sell back to the store and then they can sell it off to somebody else?

What are your thoughts on the waves of negative backlash Blockchain games get? A lot of people are very much against the premise.

Well, there’s a backlash because there’s a lot of low quality stuff that uses.It (laughs). People feel like they’re being scammed! They look at a game and ask “why does this thing exist? Oh, just to make money.” I mean, sure, games exist to make money but typically games make money because they’re really well designed.

The first use of NFTs was just art – just GIFs. People were investing in them and selling them on to somebody else. Then, whoever’s at the end of the chain is the person holding the bag (laughs). But you know, it’s an economy and it needed to happen for it to become normalised. For it to become explored and for people to figure out what is the best way of doing it.

I think it’s great that people are exploring that space. I don’t want to, I don’t want to get into it because I just it’s not there yet. And I don’t want to spend my time going there because I’d spend my time making good games.

That being a feature sometime in the future is cool, but not right now. Now it could just tank your game! You could just have people say I hate you because you like NFTs, or because you put NFTs in your game or you have a blockchain game or whatever and it’s like why did we even say that?

I’ve been informed you can’t speak about current projects, but as we just came out of COVID lockdowns relatively recently and things are starting to spin back up across the industry. How are things going at Romero Games right now?

Yeah, we’re hiring people. We’re gonna get back to the office. We’re getting a new office. It’ll be our third office that we’ve had! Everyone’s really excited to get started on the next thing. So everyone’s very, very happy right now.

Is there any update on the Black Room? Last thing we heard was in 2019, then obviously you all were hard at work on Empire of Sin then COVID happened. It’s been under the radar for a little bit!

Yeah. I can’t talk about Black Room. (laughs).

Have you given more thought to writing a cookbook in the future?

Yeah, we talked about doing that. I have tons of recipes, you know. The cookbook is something that’ll happen at some point.


Some of John Romero’s food – lovely stuff.

What is your best dish?

Jeez… My Chile Colorado is pretty awesome. Also my Tacos Al Pastor is nice too!

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