Last weekend I devoured Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture, a book by David Kushner. The book delivers bigtime. Even though the story about game developers pur-sang John Carmack and John Romero is pretty well known to many avid gamers, the author still is able to tell a gripping story. Basically, we follow the lives of “the two Johns” and how they created some of the most important games in recent gaming history: Commander Keen, Wolfenstein, Doom and Quake.
What makes this book so good is the very fast pacing and the focus on the people behind the game. From the start, it’s very clear that the two Johns are very, very different people. However, that didn’t stop them from making some of the best games ever, together. Equally important is that the scope is wide enough and not only focus on Mr Carmack and Mr Romero. Instead, all the ‘side-characters’ are given enough time, and credit, in the book to show that in the end, the id software games were the result of great teamwork.
What I especially liked from the book is the fact that the author is able to keep a certain level of serenity when talking about how the great cooperation between the two Johns came to a halt…and change in what some might call a mud-throwing fest. Where other authors might delve deeply in these sad parts in their lives and focus on the not-so-relevant cursing and (verbal) fights, David Kushner’s still is able to show the good side of it all making his text all the more important.
If there is one small drawback of this book it’s the lack of technical details. Of course, this was never the focus, but still, certain aspects could’ve been fleshed out a bit more to satiate my inner developer (for example why Romero cringed when discovering how the Quake 2 engine was written which would result in many months of rewriting Daikatana to use this new engine).
When reading the book I continuously felt pangs of jealousy, thinking how great it must’ve been to be part of id software while they were making pc history. If there’s one conclusion to be made from this book it’s that indie developer should never give up and even nowadays, with a big publisher and software companies everywhere, there’s still room for a handful of focused and able game developers.
I can’t recommend this book enough. Go and have a read, you won’t regret it!