idea men

Id Software

id Software (officially) is an American computer game developer based in Mesquite, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. The company was founded by four members of the computer company Softdisk: programmers John Carmack and John Romero, game designer Tom Hall, and artist Adrian Carmack (no relation to John Carmack). It is now considered the most influential of the many game development companies in the Dallas area, known as the Dallas Gaming Mafia.


The founders of id Software met in the offices of Softdisk developing multiple games for Softdisk's monthly publishing. These included Dangerous Dave and other titles. In September 1990, John Carmack developed an efficient way to perform rapid side-scrolling graphics on the PC. Upon making this breakthrough, Carmack and Hall stayed up late into the night making a replica of the first level of the popular 1990 NES game Super Mario Bros. 3, inserting stock graphics of Romero's Dangerous Dave character in lieu of Mario. When Romero saw the demo, entitled "Dangerous Dave in Copyright Infringement", he realized that Carmack's breakthrough could mean fame and fortune, and the id Software guys immediately began moonlighting, going so far as to "borrow" company computers that were not being used over the weekends and at nights while they whipped together a full-scale carbon copy of Super Mario Bros. 3 for the PC, hoping to license it to Nintendo.

Despite their work, Nintendo turned them down, saying they had no interest in expanding to the PC market. Around this time, Scott Miller of Apogee Software learned of the group and their exceptional talent, having played one of John Romero's Softdisk games, Pyramids of Egypt, and contacted Romero under the guise of multiple fan letters that Romero came to realize all originated from the same address. When he confronted Miller, Miller explained that the deception was necessary since companies at that time were very protective of their talent and it was the only way he could get Romero to initiate contact with him. Miller suggested that they develop shareware games that he would distribute. As a result, the id Software team began the development of Commander Keen, a Mario-style side-scrolling game for the PC, once again "borrowing" company computers to work on it at odd hours at the lake house at which they lived in Shreveport, Louisiana. On December 14 1990, the first episode was released as shareware by Miller's company, Apogee, and orders began rolling in. Shortly after this, Softdisk management learned of the team's deception and suggested that they form a new company together, but the administrative staff at Softdisk threatened to resign if such an arrangement were made. In a legal settlement, the team was required to provide a game to Softdisk every two months for a certain period of time, but they would do so on their own. On February 1 1991, id Software was founded.

The shareware distribution method was initially employed by id Software through Apogee Software to sell their products, such as the Commander Keen, Wolfenstein and Doom games. They would release the first part of their trilogy as shareware, then sell the other two installments by mail order. Only later (about the time of the release of Doom II) did id release their games via more traditional shrink-wrapped boxes in stores (through other game publishers).

id Technology

Starting with their first shareware game series, Commander Keen, id Software has licensed the core source code for the game, or what is more commonly known as the engine. Brainstormed by John Romero, id held a weekend session titled "The id Summer Seminar" in the summer of 1991 with prospective buyers including Scott Miller, George Broussard, Ken Rogoway, Jim Norwood and Todd Replogle. One of the nights, id Software put together an impromptu game known as "Wac-Man" to demonstrate not only the technical prowess of the Keen engine, but also how it worked internally.

Since then, id Software has licensed the Keen engine, Wolfenstein 3D engine, Wolfenstein 3D + slopes engine, DOOM engine, the Quake, Quake II, and Quake III engines, as well as their latest technology that was used in making Doom 3. These engines have powered numerous notable titles, with their most successful engine being the Quake III engine.

In conjunction with his self-professed affinity for sharing source code, John Carmack has open-sourced most of the major id Software engines under the GPL license. Historically, the source code for each engine has been released once the code base is 5 years old. Consequently, many home grown projects have sprung up porting the code to different platforms, cleaning up the source code, or providing major modifications to the core engine. Wolfenstein 3D, DOOM and Quake engine ports are ubiquitous to nearly all platforms capable of running games, such as hand-held PCs, iPods, the PSP, the Nintendo DS and more. Impressive core modifications include Darkplaces which adds stencil shadow volumes into the original Quake engine along with a more efficient network protocol. Another such project is ioQuake3, which maintains a goal of cleaning up the source code, adding features and fixing bugs.

The source code to the Quake III engine was previously supposed to have been released around the end of 2004. However, John Carmack announced that the GPL release had been put on hold in order to maintain a grace period, since the Quake III engine was still being licensed to commercial customers who would otherwise become upset over the sudden loss in value of their recent investment. The Quake III source code was released under the GPL on August 19 2005.

Id Software has publicly stated they will not support the Wii console, although they have since indicated that there may, in fact, be properties that can be brought to the platform.

Since id Software revealed their new engine id Tech 5, they will be calling all their technology "id Tech," followed by the version of the technology.

Film production

Id Software became involved in film development when they were in the production team of the film adaption of their Doom franchise in 2005. In August 2007, Todd Hollenshead stated at QuakeCon 2007 that a Return to Castle Wolfenstein movie is in development which re-teams the Silent Hill writer/producer team, Roger Avary as writer and director and Samuel Hadida as producer.


Id Software's Linux games have been some of the most popular of the platform. Many id Software games won the Readers' and Editors' Choice awards of Linux Journal. Some id titles ported to Linux are Doom (the first id game to be ported), Quake, Quake II, Quake III Arena, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, Doom 3, Quake 4, and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. Since id Software and licencees released the source code for some of their previous games, several games which were not ported (such as Wolfenstein 3D, Spear of Destiny, Heretic, HeXen, and Rise of the Triad) can run on Linux and other operating systems by the use of source ports.

Game series

Commander Keen

The Commander Keen series, a platform game introducing one of the first smooth side-scrolling game engines for the PC, brought id Software into the gaming mainstream. The game was very successful and spawned a whole series of titles. It was also the series of id Software that designer Tom Hall was most affiliated with.

Wolfenstein 3D

The company's breakout product was 1992's Wolfenstein 3D, a first person shooter (FPS) with smooth 3D graphics that were unprecedented in computer games, and with violent game play that many gamers found engaging. After essentially founding an entire genre with this game, id created Doom, Doom II, Quake, Quake II, Quake III Arena and Doom 3. Each of these first person shooters featured progressively higher levels of graphical technology (and progressively higher minimum system requirements). Wolfenstein 3D spawned a prequel and a sequel, the prequel called Spear of Destiny, and the second, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, used the id Tech 3 engine. A third Wolfenstein sequel is being developed by Raven Software.


Eighteen months after their release of Wolfenstein 3D, in 1993 id released Doom which would again set new standards for graphic quality and graphic violence in computer gaming. Id redefined the benchmark for realism for the first-person shooter genre, which they popularized with Wolfenstein 3D. Doom featured a sci-fi/horror setting with graphic quality that had never been seen on personal computers or even video game consoles (in fact, the later console ports of the game featured notably poorer graphics than the original DOS version). Doom became a cultural phenomenon and its violent theme would eventually launch a new wave of criticism decrying the dangers of violence in video games. Doom was ported to numerous platforms, inspired many knock-offs and was eventually followed by the technically similar Doom II. Though popularizing the genre with Wolfenstein 3D, id really made its mark in video game history with the shareware release of Doom, and eventually revisited the theme of this game in 2004 with their release of Doom 3. John Carmack said in an interview at QuakeCon 2007 that there will be a Doom 4, however work has yet to begin on it


The June 22 1996 release of Quake marked the second milestone in id history. Quake combined a cutting edge fully 3D engine with an excellent art style to create what was at the time regarded as a feast for the eyes. Audio was not neglected either, having recruited Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor to facilitate unique sound-effects and ambient music for the game. It also included the work of Michael Abrash. Furthermore, Quake's main innovation—the capability to play a deathmatch (competitive gameplay between living opponents instead of against computer-run characters) over the Internet (especially through the add-on QuakeWorld) seared the title into the minds of gamers as another smash hit.

In 2008 id was honored at the 59th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards for the pioneering work Quake represented in user modifiable games. Id is the only game development company ever honored twice by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, having been given an Emmy Award in 2007 for creation of the 3D technology that underlies modern shooter computer games.


Todd Hollenshead announced in May 2007 that id had begun working on an all new series that would be using a new engine that is currently being developed by John Carmack. Hollenshead also mentioned that the title would be completely developed in-house, marking the first game since 2004's Doom 3 to be done so. At 2007's WWDC, John Carmack showed the new engine called id Tech 5. Later that year, at QuakeCon 2007, the title of the new game was revealed as Rage.

Most recently, on July 14, 2008, id announced at the 2008 E3 event that they would be publishing Rage through EA, and not id's longtime publisher Activision.

Company name

The name of the company is currently written with a lowercase id, which is pronounced as in "did" or "kid", and is presented by the company as a reference to the id, a psychological concept introduced by Sigmund Freud. Evidence of the reference can be found as early as Wolfenstein 3D with the statement "that's Id, as in the id, ego, and superego in the psyche" appearing in the game's documentation. Even today, id's History page makes a direct reference to Freud.

However, when working at Softdisk, the team that later founded id Software took the name "Ideas from the Deep" (a company created by John Romero and Lane Roathe in 1989), attributing themselves as the "IFD guys". Since "id" can be seen as a shortening of IFD to "ID", some have been led to believe that it can be pronounced "eye-dee". The I was later made lowercase in the release of the second Commander Keen series, eventually followed by the D. Since Wolfenstein 3D used the "id" pronunciation together with the mixed-case "iD", it can be argued that the capitalization is purely a stylistic choice.

Key figures

In 2003, the book Masters of Doom chronicled the development of id Software, concentrating on the personalities and interaction of John Carmack and John Romero. Below are the key people involved with id's success.

John Carmack

The lead programmer for id Software is John Carmack, whose skill at 3D programming is widely recognized in the software industry. He is the last of the original founders still employed by the company.

John Romero

John Romero, who was forced to resign after the release of Quake, later formed the ill-fated company Ion Storm. There, he became infamous through the development of Daikatana, which got mediocre reception from reviewers and gamers alike upon release. Romero now heads the Cyberathlete Professional League Board of Directors and is currently developing a MMOG for his new company, Slipgate Ironworks.

Both Tom Hall and John Romero have reputations as designers and idea men who have helped shape some of the key PC gaming titles of the 1990s.

Tom Hall

Tom Hall was forced to resign by id Software during the early days of Doom development, but not before he had some impact; he was responsible, for example, for the inclusion of teleporters in the game. He was let go before the shareware release of Doom and then went to work for Apogee, developing Rise of the Triad with the "Developers of Incredible Power". When he finished work on that game, he found he was not compatible with the Prey development team at Apogee, and therefore left to join his ex-id compadre John Romero at Ion Storm. Hall has frequently commented that if id Software ever sold him the rights to Commander Keen he would immediately develop another Keen title.

American McGee

American McGee was a level designer for Doom II, The Ultimate Doom, Quake, and Quake II. After he was fired during the development of Quake II, he moved to Rogue Entertainment where he gained industry notoriety with the development of his own game American McGee's Alice. Rogue Entertainment operated in the same building as id Software. When Rogue shut down, he became president of his own company, The Mauretania Import Export Company, which recently released the critically panned game Bad Day L.A..


Games by id Software


(Note: Dangerous Dave is a solo project of John Romero predating id's formation, but id produced its first sequel and it is sometimes regarded as an early id title. Later Dangerous Dave sequels were not made by id, nor were later Catacomb titles)

Publisher / Producer

Additional reading



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