This book is a phenomenal look into the creation of one of gaming most innovative companies ever! It takes you from the very beginning when the "Two Johns" and crew started working together at Softdisk in Shreveport, LA. to the behemoth is became during the releases of Doom and it's sequel. The journey is told without any form of censorship to any of the members or their egos and really gives insight into how friends can completely turn against each other when business gets in the way. If you're at all interested in gaming history (or business) then this is a MUST read for you. I only wish they would release an updated version so we could know exactly how things have continued as the book ends during the 2004 year.
Final Verdict: This is a MUST read!!!!
on April 2, 2014
I have bought this book few days ago and I cannot stop reading it. It is well written and even if I have read only about 50 pages, I cannot stop reading it. I like the way chapters are divided so far. It is easy to understand each characters and to understand how they travail through their life to become those great developers. I think that this book is a must read for those who has played Commander Keen, Wolfenstein and Doom. Being a developer myself, the story of the glory of nerds always intrigued me. If you are in the IT domain, I suggest that you read this book.
I am done with this book. I read it within 2 weeks. One of the best book I have read of my life. It is awesome to see the rise and fall of John Romero and see how John D. Carmack seem to be so in control but cold in the same time. The only negative comment that I have is that it ends at 2003. I had to go on Wikipedia to know what happen from there :) A highly recommend book if you like real story of fame that does not end the way you may think.
on June 13, 2013
Masters of Doom tells a business story so crazy, fast-paced and fun that you won't be able to put the book down. The book tells of the rise and fall of two figureheads in the video game industry. People who have played ID's games may find a deeper appreciation for some of the interesting details and ridiculous anecdotes peppered throughout the story. Even if you haven't played the games though, I would suggest reading the book. It's a fascinating story which proves that with the right mixture of brains and practicality, amazing things are possible - and you might just gain a deeper appreciation for video games and the people who make them by reading the book. My mother, a 55 year old woman, loved the book and she knows nothing about video games.
It's a page turner for sure and I highly recommend it.
Warning: The book was last revised in 2003, so some of the details about the "present time" are somewhat inaccurate, but this only represents a small portion of the book.
on June 2, 2013
I vividly remember the first time I played DOOM on my desktop computer. I was blown away and when I got up from my desk I was actually dizzy and disorientated from the experience. This book takes me back to those days and makes me appreciate how ground-breaking it all really was.
If you are a gamer, even a casual one, this book is a great read. The reader doesn't need to be scared that there will be a lot of tech talk - this is written so even a person not familiar with programming or even computer hardware can appreciate what was created by these talented, if dysfunctional, bunch of computer programmers.
One of the best parts of the book is how it describes all the different personalities that were involved. In this way it's more like a biography of a company and not geeky tech description of a video game. Also involved are all the business aspects involved and how the people involved dealt with taking their passion into something that turned into one of the most successful companies of it's time.
Overall this book takes many topics (gaming, programming, personal biographies, and business tactics) and makes it fun read. It was one of those books I couldn't put down!
on December 28, 2003
I cannot give this book any higher praise than I will now attempt to bestow.
This is a fascinating account of perhaps the most intriguing story in the world of computer gaming: the story of id Software's rise to prominence through the development of Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake, as well as the highly publicized split between the two men most responsible for these blockbusters, the two Johns: John Carmack and John Romero.
The book is not only an entertaining blow-by-blow account of the events that transpired in this story, but is also a cunningly crafted and penetrating look inside the psyche and personality of two fascinating human beings, and the wild initial success of colloboration followed by the bitter conflict bred by the polar forces that drove them. As such, its appeal transcends that of the video gaming community; it is a marvelous case study in sociology as well as a chronicle of the creation of computer games.
Masters of Doom is ultimately a "rise and fall" tale, in a sense. id Software, John Carmack, and John Romero will likely never reach the heights they achieved in the glory days following the release of Doom, but it is arguable that no single company or individual developer will ever do so again either.
The book is uncompromising in its account of the conflicts, and assesses blame only through the eyes of the people involved, without sounding preachy. Kushner assumes a neutral role and presents a remarkably balanced portrayal of the events, siding with neither Romero nor Carmack on the critical issues, leaving the reader with the accurate perception that both were right in their own way.
As a budding game programmer, I found the accounts of Carmack's technological breakthroughs (complete with rudimentary technical explanations as to how they were achieved) fascinating and inspiring. As a game enthusiast who largely cut his teeth on games like Wolfenstein and Doom, I found the story behind the creation of these masterpieces enthralling. And as a human being, I found Kushner's penetrating account of two personalities and the fruits and poisons of their collaboration positively enlightening.
David Kushner, you have done the gaming world an enormous service writing this book, and I strongly urge you to write others of its ilk.
on December 27, 2003
What a gripping glimpse behind the curtain! Even if you don't like video games, you can't ignore the human drama in this story: two towering personalities who transcend their work; office politics for huge stakes; the birth of a multi-billion dollar industry; a blast of creative spirit so strong it still gets my heart going.
The story is perfectly readable for a "non-fan", and I'd bet a game-hating girlfriend or wife would enjoy this book and maybe even feel a connection. The game developers at "id" were like snotty kids who created a huge fad, only to discover they had talent and the fad wasn't going away. John Carmack was the brains and John Romero the heart, an incredible partnership of opposites that created (or at least cemented) an new form of entertainment, only to break up at the height of their success. Like the Beatles, fans have argued who had the greatest impact, but in truth the magic was lost and never really regained.
By now their story has been ground into the dirt by the gaming press. At the time, the events seemed very one-dimensional with clear losers (first Carmack, then Romero), but author Kushner points out enough obvious contributions that I was reminded of the greatness of the partnership, not their egos. Hardcore fans will find all kinds of "So THAT's what happened" moments, lots of cameos and observations from famous id employees, and the all important history of the "Two Johns" after their break-up. The story of Ion Storm is included but too brief to feel authentic (ion deserves it's own book) and Kushner follows the conflicts within id after Romero left.
I don't have enough good things to say. This book isn't perfect, but the subject is so fascinating I couldn't put it down. Buy it, now.
on July 6, 2003
Kushner's book is a "Behind the Music" type of story detailing what drove these young men to devote their lives to making some of the world's greatest video games. You'll especially love it, if like me, you played Wolfenstein 3D, DOOM, and Quake in the 80s and 90s, and wondered how id software could revolutionize gaming every few years. The author gives a great inside scoop on how Carmack created graphics engines that turned the PC into a gaming machine, which at that point in time seemed almost unthinkable. Romero, in the early days, was the perfect complement to Carmack's skills, creating the first level editing tools to develop levels for Commander Keen and Wolfenstein. And the rest of the people at id software--Adrian Carmack, Tom Hall, etc., their stories are detailed, as well as people like DWANGO Bob, who made money off networked DOOM servers before the Internet came along. My only wish was that the book had pictures so we could visualize what everyone looked like at the time!
on July 4, 2003
Bottom line: This is one of the best researched and written business stories I have ever read. I polished off this 302-pager in one day. Okay, I missed a flight and was stuck in a hotel airport, but I still stayed up past 2:00 a.m. to finish it.
"Masters of Doom" benefits from its colorful cast of characters. We meet not only the cold, distant programming genius of John Carmack and the maniacal enthusiasm of John Romero, but secondary players like Stevie Case, a gaming grrl and Quake champion who became a developer and Playboy model, and one fellow who took up game programming after he abandoned a shot at the ministry and become an exotic male dancer who went by the stage name "Preacher Boy". You can't make this stuff up.
Kushner obviously did his homework. He conducted hundreds of interviews and had access to material such as Romero's hoard of childhood memorabalia such as old drawings and comics. The book has in-depth footnotes, and while I wondered about the origin of certain quotes, Kushner says he did his best to reconstruct conversations and events based on multiple sourcing. The story is driven by the polar-opposite personalities of the Two Johns, and Kushner does a great job of being impartial, almost always presenting multiple accounts of the same event. I disagree with the reviewers who seem to think he went light on Romero or failed to give Carmack enough credit for driving id. Kushner dishes out both credit and criticism where it is due, and does so in details that really humanize his subjects. We see Carmack stun his friends by announcing he had taken his cat, a longtime pet, to the pound because it was interfering with his work. Yet later, we see examples of his philanthropy, such as when he studies the statistics-based method of card counting to win $20,000 at a blackjack table and then gives the money away. Similarly, we see Romero neck-deep in office politicking and grasping for rock star status, but when he finally chops his butt-length locks, he donates the hair to a charity that makes wigs for children undergoing cancer treatment. These kind of details bring the story home.
The only minus is the lack of photos. The book really would have benefited from a solid picture section, though I'm not willing to deduct any stars from my rating over it!
Fortunately, Kushner's writing is also excellent. He skillfully sets the stage for each technological or business breakthrough, yet the narrative doesn't seem contrived. He frequently accomplishes nice turns of phrase, such as one scene in which Romero and crew are on the floor rolling in laughter and giddiness at the Wolfenstein 3-D design breakthrough that let them show what would become their trademark gore. The passage ends: "On the screen, the little Nazi bled."
Finally, this is just an excellent account of the development of a partnership, a business, and an industry. The book's appeal should widen well beyond just gamers, to anyone who wants insight into what makes the entrepreneurial personality tick, what the start-up life is like, and how unlikely business models (in this case, shareware) emerge. In fact, I plan on passing this along to my (decidely non-gaming) mother and father.
on June 13, 2003
Masters of Doom has, admittedly, a limited audience. Kids playing their XBox or PS2 will gloss over it. For those whom the Atari 2600 was the height of interactive entertainment, it will come off as an example of the pretentiousness of kids in the 90's.
For people like me, though, this book describes the world in which I lived--in which I grew up, went to college, and started my life. MoD isn't just about the two Johns--it's about the decade that pushed the PC from somewhat useable business tool to household appliance. It's about the evolution of an industry. And it's about the humanity that brought it all about.
Kushner's writing makes the tale of id Software, the Johns, the programmers they recruited, and, of course, Doom itself, unfold like a drama right before your eyes. It's history, yet you find yourself rooting for the underdog, dreading the eventual falling out, or just LOL-ing at the ridiculous situations that the egos of the day created. If you're just the right age to look back fondly on the first LAN parties, playing Doom in your dorm room until your computer started smoking (true story), then this book is a must read.
on June 3, 2003
Masters of Doom chronicles the story of "the two Johns", John Carmack and John Romero. In many ways the story reads like a classical hero's tale described by Joseph Campbell. Carmack and Romero are unlikely heroes, growing up in relatively dysfunctional families with virtually no support from loved ones for their dreams. Through incredible hard work, and the fortune of being at the right place at the right time, they rise to the level of rock stars and begin an industry. However, the fame and fortune is not without its costs, and Carmack and Romero have a falling out, and then their respective companies (id and Ion Storm) struggle with internal strife. Finally, both begin to transition out of the worlds they created, and both are transformed themselves.
David Kushner, the author, writes with an easy and enjoyable style; the 300 pages fly by. But I think Kushner's greatest skill is his ability to show Carmack and Romero both as heroes and humans. They both worked incredibly hard, achieved great things, but they were not without their flaws. Kushner achieved an excellent balance as he told the story.
In many ways the book reminds me of an adventure in business. Similar books/stories include Startup by Jerry Kaplan and Netscape Time by Jim Clark. The story is centered on the people, but the plot and the setting are based on the business and the industry they are creating.
I did not give Masters of Doom 5 stars because the book had no pictures. I would love to see their house in Shreveport or Ion Storm's "Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory of Gaming", pictures of many of the old games they talked about (ah, to see asteroids again), the two Johns when they were younger, Al Vekovius, Stevie Case, Tom Hall, and of course their cars.
However, despite this one shortcoming, I would recommend this book to almost anyone. If you are into computer games, this is part of history. If you are into business, this tells about the creation of a billion-dollar industry. If you are into real-life drama, this story has it. Thumbs up for Masters of Doom.