Brenda Brathwaite: Let’s start with your design philosophy. When you make a game, what are you trying to accomplish?
John Romero: Well, it begins and ends with the player—always has. While I am making the game, that’s the role I take. I might be in coding mode or level design mode or whatever, but the only reason that I’m in that mode is because, just prior to that, I was thinking about what the player would like, what I would like. My process is highly iterative. I change, play, change, play, until it feels just right. Ultimately, I’m making the game for every player who likes the type of games that I like to play. So, in a sense, I am my games’ audience—or the ambassador for them, anyway. That way, I never have to guess what the player might like, because it’s always what I would like.
Brenda Brathwaite: A lot of designers say that their designs are “player-centric,” but can you go into it a little more detail and give us an example?
John Romero: Ultimately, the player—every player—wants to be a star, and in my games, that’s always what I’m trying to do: make you the star. I have succeeded and failed on occasion, I suppose, but it’s always at the forefront of my mind. Half-Life 2 did a brilliant job of making the player feel like an ultimate badass. The NPCs were in awe whenever you showed up. Valve nailed it.