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4.8 out of 5 stars
Masters Of Doom: How two guys created an empire and transformed pop culture
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 2 August 2003
An excellent book about the people behind many killer games like Commander Keen, Castle of Wolfenstein and Doom. The book starts from the very beginning, from the time before the first shareware hit games. In addition to being excellent history book about id software, it also shows the potential problems and pitfals facing each game developer, especially the problem of too big egos and different visions among to developers.
And what's best.. It's the author's style. He certainly knows how to write a good book.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 14 February 2005
I spent sooooo many hours, like soooo many other people, playing these games. The story of the Two Johns has been touched upon in the computer press but the story more than bears telling in a full length book. I picked it up just to read about what the background was to these incredible games that dominated weeks / months of my adult, slacker life, and sure enough the account given of how Wolfenstein and onwards were written was at turns exhilerating and bittersweet. I then started moving back through the book to the earliest days of the two johns and it held my attention throughout. Great story, great characters, and the author has a great eye for his subjects and the allure of the story of how geeks became rockstars. Gaming isnt going to disappear, and Carmack and Romero are like two Neil Armstrongs in terms of their acheivements. THis is a good history book in the making if nothing else, and it is surprising how much you end up feeling for both Carmack and Romero, two lost boys in a gold mine. Carmack in particular is an odd and mysterious character. My rating? Five stars. mmmm.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This book cleverly paints an attractive picture of the early days of id's development from pre-wolfenstein 3D titles up to the announcement of DOOM3.
It focuses largely on the Carmack/Romero relationshop but also touches on the impact that their games had on popular culture at the time. Including the headache that they gave the government due to the rising tension surrounding violence in games.
If you are in anyway interested in creating games but have been long put off by the stale state of the industry, then you'll find this a rewarding and exciting read in many respects.
Two guys that not only changed the world of gaming forever but stuck to their guns and fought tooth and nail throughout to remain independent.
I couldn't help but feel that Carmack emerged the victor in any battle that was staged, but Romero's child-like "rock stardom" is as endearing as Carmack's geekiness.
The only down side for me was the lack of detail on Doom's early development for which I know there is plenty to tell.
But that's game specific and this book concentrates on the personalities that contributed to their development.
A great read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 23 July 2011
I'm a very sporadic reader but when a book grabs me I find myself staying up way past bed time (11 on a work day ;) ) to continue reading...this book is one of those. Anyone who has an interest in the games industry I'm sure will find this book thrilling, even those who were born in the 90s will find it an intriguing history lesson.

Just a side note, several times I stopped reading to go watch footage of the game they were talking about on youtube (I obviously know quake, doom and wolfenstein, but some of their earlier games I have never come across as I was a NES/SNES guy). I imagine this book would benefit massively from an interactive ebook with videos/demos of the games slipped in at appropriate points of the book. Only tablets are capable of that right now but it would be really cool to see books include links or content of extracurricular interest.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 2 September 2005
If you are a developer, a programmer, someone who likes using his computer for creating games, or even 'casual' applications, you MUST read this book. It will make you want to code night and day. I have read it 4 times and still I get the same feeling when I go through it. John Carmack is a genius.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 23 November 2003
I have searched online, through a vast pool of servers hosting
games such as Counter-Strike and Soldier Of Fortune 2, and not a
single person I've queried has told me who John Carmack and John
Romero are. It is about time a book gave the newer generation
a bit of history on how it all started.
As a hobby, I develop games myself and reading this book was
possibly the most exciting confidence building experience ever.
The book complements the two Johns extremely well, and while
it may be obvious that not everything would have been as
described, it certainly shows how they went from simple guys
who worshiped those big names in the game industry, guys
with a passion and a dream, to those who are idles for future
game designers. There are even times when you can relate to
them in one way or another, taking you deep within an imaginary
and vivid world.
The book is extremely well paced and the chapters are nice and
short making it an interesting read that will definitely give
you laughs and also raise your eye brows as you read the book.
There are games I have played as a child like Commander Keen,
Rescue Rover and Spear Of Destiny and it was an amazing shock
to realise those games that remained on my favorites list
were produced by the same guys (obviously working for different
companies).
All in all if you like games or are a games developer, this
book is the confidence boost you always wanted. Heading over
to the ID Software website shows some familiar names still
in the team!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 4 November 2013
Last weekend I devoured Masters of Doom , a book by David Kushner. The book, subtitled "How two guys created an empire and transformed pop culture", delivers bigtime. Even though the story about game developers pur-sang John Carmarck 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 focussed 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 cooporation between the two johns came to a halt...and changed 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 Kushners still is able to show the good side of it all making his text all the more important.

If there's one, small, drawback of this book it's the lack of technical details. Ofcourse, 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 results 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 developers should never give up and even nowadays, with 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!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 7 September 2004
Id have created some outstanding original entertainment but they're clearly also masters of self promotion. As with many pop culture icons, they just happened to be in the right place at the right time with one great idea which they've revisited over and over again. Their success was based as much on this luck (and the support of a wider, more commercially experienced group) as it was on their own abilities.
More critically, after reading just a handful of pages, it's apparent that Id had their fingers hovering over the self destruct buttons from day one - it's actually quite amazing they achieved what they did.
The book is certainly an easy read and shows how this group of talented but young and commercially inexperienced guys came up with one great idea (the first person shooter) and then used their technical skills to leverage themselves into an empire-building position. However, their youth and egos didn't allow them to capitalize on their potential and so Id have just revisited their one good idea over and over again (but have become rich by doing so, so can you blame them?).
There is no doubt that Carmack's technical advances (in 3D gaming) were truly inspired but the rest of their approach to the gaming market was a shambles.
Worth reading but ultimately, like me, you may find the two key players - Carmack and Romero - to be pretty unlikeable people.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 30 March 2011
Masters of Doom is a semi biographic book. You won't find source code on it, or algorithms to create awesome 3D games. Instead, you will read about the creation and evolution of id Software, and specifically of John Carmack & John Romero, early adopters of the Shareware software distribution model, creators of the revolutionary Doom and the first truly 3D first person shooter (Quake)...

This is a book about motivation, about people good at what they do, but also commited to do things well and get to the top. A book of how hard effort sometimes comes with a good reward. It servers as an example of a (huge) success on creating a startup. Carmack is a 3D guru and a maths monster, and John Romero was good motivating people and doing PR.

Obviously with this kind of books, some info is skipped (for example, id Games have never been acknowledged for having deep or elaborated plots, in fact Quake's plot is not only missing but the resulting theme is a frankenstein-like mixture of medieval, futuristic and horror graphics and monsters), but overall you get a nice picture of how everything happened at id Software.

If, like me, you grown up playing Wolfenstein, Doom and Quake, if you were able to see the creation and rise of the FPS genre, you will surely enjoy this book and the story it tells. If not, it might still serve you as inspiration and motivation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I've enjoyed so much this book.

It has special appeal for guys, like me, who grew with arcade machines, and flipped about having that on a home computer.Keen,wolf3d,doom,...and all that stuff amazed nerd audiences, in a way motivating them to begin learning on coding computer graphics, having such and inmediate pleasure moving pixels around and amusing friends (and gamers), emulating the Two Johns mood.

That games had something different that others not had: An independent and youth entusiathic vision.

The book has humour, action, thrill. Yes, appeals for a second lecture. Worth.

by the way David Kushner efforts to documentate everything is almost obsesive, lots of details in here! The fans and coders will enjoy it for real.
by the way: The Stubborn Guy finally...did it, for real!!! :D

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