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Friday, February 08, 2019

Review: Masters of Doom

I usually try to borrow books from the library, but my rule is that if the Kindle edition is $5 or less and the library doesn't have it in Kindle format, I'll buy it. Masters of Doom was a $2 sale and well worth the read.

I actually met both John Carmack and John Romero when I worked on the DOS/Windows RPC tunnel which enabled the DOS version of Quake to talk to the internet. At that time, Quake was pre-release, and the entire Id software team after we'd done getting the code working, would fire up a Quake server, then type in a cheat code to give me all the weapons as a handicap, and then proceed to slice and dice me up with their axes. (I was not then, nor ever a twitch gamer capable of keeping up with anyone who'd spent any amount of time with FPS's)

In any case, I'd met the folks involved, but of course, never knew their backstory, and in fact didn't play any of their games before Doom or after Quake, which made this book a perfect way for me to catch up. (I'd heard about Commander Keen and Daikatana, and certainly Quake Arena, but my involvement in PC games had gone away after that)

As an overview, the book is great. It does spend a lot of time explaining technical detail at a level intended for a non-programmer who might not know who Michael Abrash is (those of us who were PC assembly programmers knew him as a god), but the book is a great way for me to remind myself that yes, I was there at the dawn of eSports, when Carmack first gave away his Ferrari as part of a Quake tournament to Thresh. (I'd even met Thresh in person)

The great part of the book was that it analyzed what made the team of Carmack and Romero so great, and why neither Id nor Ion Storm had great success after the team fell apart. In any case, if you enjoy FPS games, this book is an essential must read. If you're a programmer in the corporate world, it's a great read to remind you that yes, 2 guys in a garage can produce something great without needing all that corporate apparatus around them, and even better, that it is possible to stay small and still be incredibly successful.


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