Masters of Doom
I finished Masters of Doom this weekend, the biography of John Romero, John Carmack and the company they built: id Software.
I grew up playing many of id’s games. I sunk hundreds of hours into Quake multiplayer deathmatches. So, this book was (delightfully) heavy on nostalgia for me. It was really interesting to learn the etimologies and origin stories for id’s industry-transforming titles. Quake was named after a Dungeons & Dragons monster invented in Carmack’s youth… and Doom was named for Tom Cruise’s pool cue in The Color of Money.
But even if you have no interest in video games, this book is a terrific read on the arc of a startup. In the beginning, like most startups, it was all beg, borrow, and steal for id. Whether it be computer equipment or copyright infringement, these founders played fast and loose in pursuit of their dreams.
Like most successful founders in the beginning, they focused 110% of their energy on building a product that they loved. They were scratching their own itch with their product, and luckily, it turned out the market for immersive 3D gaming was larger than just themselves.
In contrast by the end, it was all the classic startup death knells combined: competition, team bloat, founder infighting, and above all else, loss of product focus.
I highly recommend picking up this book if you have an interest in either startups or gaming. You only need to care about one of the two… but if neither are your cup of tea, then this book isn’t going to speak to you.
Bonus: Here’s the source code to the majority of the game engines John Carmack created. The hacker ethos is strong with this one.