John Carmack on Doom, Quake & id Software: Our first game was basically a clone of Super Mario Bros

While Bethesda did not invite John Carmack for his annual QuakeCon speech, this great programmer guru talked at SMU in April and yesterday his entire 2.5h speech was made available to the public. During that talk, Carmack talked – among other things – about id Software, Doom and Quake.

As Carmack revealed, the first game of id Software was basically a clone of Super Mario Bros. Yeap, Commander Keen and id Software exist thanks to Nintendo’s classic platformer, something that Carmack admitted after all these years.

“In my early days I made Wizardry and Ultima clones, and various arcade game clones. And when we started id Software we made Commander Keen which was this Super Mario Brothers not close so much, but the funny thing is we did literally clone that as our first thing down to the last pixel, and we tried to start our company by having Nintendo-paced PC versions of their games and that was interesting; we loved the games, we were very happy with the game, we were successful.”

What Carmack impressed back in the Wolfenstein days was the fact that people/modders decrypted his code and started modifying it. Carmack was so impressed that he decided to went out of his way when developing Doom, and provide people with tools that would let them create new things.

“That was one of the huge aspects. There were a number of keys to Doom’s success. The graphics were obviously the main thing that people noticed. They had a lighting, the Arbitrary Geometry, ah the more geometric complexity – wasn’t just blocks, it was clearly something that could be designed. And there were some things that just looked really good, better than anything we had in other game worlds. But there was the ‘mod-ability’ that which kept – you know – getting aid tons of length to the game and there was the multiplayer aspect.”

Moreover, Carmack admitted that the SNES port of Wolfenstein really helped him afterwards with the development of Doom. We all know how much Carmack hated consoles back in the 16-bit and 32-bit days. However while porting Wolfenstein to SNES Carmack discovered some new techniques that he used successfully on Doom.

Quake was Carmack’s first project that was too ambitious for him and did not deliver everything he had envisioned. While the game sported most of the key features that Carmack wanted to include, it simply wasn’t THE game that the programmer guru had envisioned.

“It [Quake] did have the major things that we wanted there. It had the extreme mod-ability, the dedicated servers and great graphics. But, you know, if I look back at that project we should have been one step less ambitious. I really should have just kept the extreme mod-ability with the scripting, the Internet dedicated server play and done it with a Doom-level engine. It wouldn’t have been pushing to the bleeding edge of technology computers that could run the game well there. We could done better.”

You can view the entire 2.5h talk below.


John Carmack SMU Talk [fixed audio]