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In a recent blog post, John Romero has refuted claims made by Tim Willits that he invented the idea of mulitplayer-only maps during his work on Quake. The claims were made by Willits during an interview with PCGames at the recent Quakecon2017, in which he was quoted as saying,

Multiplayer maps – that was my idea. This is a funny story. I had finished all my work on the shareware episode [of Quake] and because we had no design direction, we had all these fragments of maps. I came into the office one day and talked to John Romero and John Carmack. I said ‘I’ve got this idea. I can take these map fragments and I can turn them into multiplayer-only maps, maps you only play in multiplayer.’

Romero’s article, however, tells a very different story. Not only does Romero say that this anecdote about Willits’ interaction with him and Carmack never took place, (something which has been backed up independently by John Carmack) he also points out that by this time multiplayer-only maps had been around for years. He gives credit to the original DOOM community for coming up with the idea of multiplayer maps, citing the DWANGO (Dial Up Wide Area Network Games Operation) multiplayer only server that was available back in 1994 as a prime example. Romero goes on to explain that even in commercial terms, Willits’ didn’t come close to the first mulitplayer-only maps. Both Tom Hall’s Rise of the Triad and Bungie’s Marathon shipped with multiplayer maps and both were published in December ’94 – around 18 months before the release of Quake. 

It seems that Willits’ comments regarding Quake‘s lack of a design direction were also ill advised, prompting further rebuttal from Romero. He denies that there were “all these fragments of maps,” saying all multiplayer maps that shipped with Quake were original maps designed specifically for deathmatch. Romero also clarifies who designed what in the shareware version of Quake, revealing that Willits’ was responsible for 4 of the 9 levels in the game, clarifying comments he made to PCGamesn in which Willits said only “I designed the shareware episode of Quake.” Finally, Romero ends the article on a personal note, saying,

As a final note, I remain incredibly proud of our work at id Software and on Quake. It was a challenging project with challenging technology and this resulted in design changes, not uncommon in bleeding-edge game development. At no time was there “no design direction.” In discussing this article last night with Adrian, American, Shawn and others, and reviewing my own complete archive and design notes, Quake didn’t happen by accident. It happened by design. And that design was powered by Carmack and Abrash’s ground-breaking tech with which the industry is well familiar.

For those unaware of the history behind this article, Tim Willits was originally hired to id Software in 1995 during development of the original Quake. His comments surround his time spent working on that project with Romero, Carmack, and American Mcgee, who was responsible for some of the original map designs that Willits seems to be referring to as fragments.


Quick Take

Faced with a situation that would be easy to take very personally, John Romero has responded with an article that focuses on facts and primary sources to refute Willits’ claims. Despite the negative circumstances around the writing of it, his article is a nice history lesson on the origins of multiplayer-only maps – something we can all agree is hugely significant to the landscape of gaming today.

What’s your take on this issue, do you think Romero has gone about his response in the right way? Give us your thoughts on John Romero, DOOM, Quake, Tim Willits, and the origins of multiplayer down in the Comments!


Dom O'Leary

Staff Writer

I'm a dyed in the wool gamer of the now irrelevant (I'm told) generation-X. If I'm not gaming, you'll find me writing about games, writing my wonderful fiction (opinions may differ), playing guitar, or eating... sleep is a distant memory.