Monday, 14 Jun 2021

Interview: Doom Co-Creator John Romero Says "Hell Yes" To Female Doomslayer

“[The secret to my amazing hair is that] I’m part Cherokee and Yaqui and it runs in the family,” John Romero tells me when I ask about his iconic locks.

Id Software’s Doom burst back onto the scene in 2016 with a fantastic reboot that became a beloved hit under the watchful eye of Bethesda; it rejuvenated a franchise that had been left dormant since the controversial release of 3. Jump ahead a few years and you have Eternal, a re-imagining of the second Doom that takes the action from the orange sand dunes of Mars to the hellfire-scorched Earth with toppled skyscrapers and denizens lurking in the most inconvenient of convenience stores.

However, all this time, the Doomslayer – the big lurking Master Chief of slaughtering the underlings of Hell – has been a guy. He’s your typical macho box-art posing heavy lifter with pockets so deep he can hold dozens of guns, rocket launchers, grenades, and a crowbar – sorry, chainsaw. Id Software contemplated changing this, but they had a concern: it would just be an artificial reskin. No, they want a female Doomslayer to impact gameplay. And to boot, the idea of a female Doomslayer has the Romero seal of approval: “Hell yes,” Id Software co-founder John Romero opens, “Of course, it would be great to have a female Doomslayer.”

But Doom Eternal and its expansions aren’t all that’s on the Id Software docket. John Romero has been up to plenty himself, and Doom just got a brand new breath of life with the VR port of 3 that just launched: “I’m sure Doom in VR will be intense and exciting,” Romero says, “I’ll try it myself for sure.” The FPS genre – kickstarted by Doom, Quake, and Wolfenstein – is going strong, evolving in new ways, whether it’s live-service hero-based shooters like Overwatch or high-octane battle royales like Apex Legends.

“It’s incredible to see the amount of activity around games now compared to 25 years ago,” Romero tells us. “So many games, so many players, and so much interest for talking about these games and sharing strategies, secrets, and lore. [As for how the genre will evolve going forward], Ghost Recon Breakpoint is a great example of a story-based FPS that also supports raids and PvP. There are many ways that FPS games can evolve and story is just one avenue.”

But Romero didn’t just help to kickstart the FPS genre, he also played a part in the birth of immersive sims, but these didn’t take off in quite the same way: “Immersive sims are attractive to a smaller audience, so they get less development activity than fast-action FPS games,” Romero says, “Whatever is making money is what gets copied. Even for me, very detailed tactical FPS milsim games are not interesting – I like the action and humor far more than replicating any real-world aspect in a game.”

With so much history tied to John Romero, he finally delved back into the FPS genre with his own studio, his own goals, and a new title to get behind – Empire of Sin. It launched to mixed reviews, and it wasn’t quite the beloved icon that Doom went on to be, but it still has its fans: “When a game is tied to a non-changeable launch date, you do your best to ship as clean as possible. That’s difficult when you are shipping on five platforms at once. We responded immediately and fixed our bugs quickly so we could focus on new content and gameplay.” Perhaps it’s a similar story then to Cyberpunk 2077, a message to developers that if you can’t get a game to run on last-gen, perhaps it’d be best to narrow your pool of consoles you do launch on as to avoid this hiccup.

Next: The Medium Developer Bloober Team Has Backed Out Of Acquisition Talks

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James Troughton is a writer at TheGamer. He’s worked at the Nintendo-based site Switchaboo and newspaper TheCourierOnline and can be found on Twitter @JDTroughton.

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