id Software, based in Mesquite, Texas, is considered by many the godfather of 3D-based first person shooter games. The company's originators, John Carmack (programmer), John Romero (programmer/designer), Tom Hall (designer), Lane Roathe (programmer) and Adrian Carmack, were originally developers at Softdisk's Gamer Edge, a games division creating Apple II and PC games for monthly subscription issues, but they were also working on projects outside of the company.
The early years
In September 1990, programmer John Carmack was the first to recreate the smooth side-scrolling technique supported by Nintendo's NES hardware as seen in their Mario games. Since 1981, PC graphic adapters were able to do this, but Carmack was the first to uncover and use the hardware and invented a software method he called adaptive tile refresh. They used this concept to create a PC demo of Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES). Romero knew this was a major breakthrough, and he wanted to break away from Softdisk immediately. As not to interfere with their regular work, they secretly borrowed the company's computers in the weekends, and worked on their port on another location, along with the help of Jay Wilbur. They called themselves Ideas From the Deep, a name that Romero and Roathe had previously used for their collaborations. They sent the finished port to Nintendo of America in 1990, but it was turned down because Nintendo had no interest in entering the PC market.
Some time after the demo, Romero was contacted by Scott Miller, who went through great lengths to get to the Gamer's Edge developers. He asked them to develop shareware games for his company Apogee, and they came up with Commander Keen, a trilogy, which they finished in December 1990, after working it in the evenings and at night, next to their day job developing games for Softdisk. Commander Keen was a major success, and as the first big money started to roll in, they decided to break away from Softdisk. The used up company time was revealed, and they had to write a new game every two months for Gamer's Edge to make up for it. Nevertheless, on 1st February 1991, id Software was born. For the name, they dropped the "F" from IDF (Ideas From the Deep).
While Adrian Carmack, John Romero and John Carmack founded their company, Lane Roathe, who had been kept aside from the work on Commander Keen, left the group for Three-Sixty Pacific, Inc. as he wanted to go to California. Jay Wilbur and Tom Hall stayed at Softdisk. Their breakthrough game was Commander Keen in 1990. It would later evolve into two trilogies and an extra episode, comprising seven games in total. The company has always focused on franchises, but in the beginning they developed individual games in between. They also tended to offer large parts of the game as fully playable shareware. While working on 3D techniques, they fulfilled their Softdisk contract with innovative games such as Rescue Rover, Dangerous Dave in the Haunted Mansion, Hovertank, and Keen Dreams. In December 1991, they finished the second set of Commander Keen games for Apogee and published, through FormGen, another Keen episode, Aliens Ate My Baby Sitter!
Wolfenstein and DOOM
In 1992, the highly-acclaimed Wolfenstein 3D was released, and it was the starting point for id's focus on first-person shooters. After creating a sequel, Spear of Destiny (1992), they launched DOOM in 1993. It revolutionized the genre with varying floor and ceiling heights, texture mapping and network / internet play. 1994 brought the sequel Doom 2, and both games became some of the best-selling games in history.
Quake and franchises
In 1995, the company started a new franchise with the game Quake. Released five months after Duke Nukem 3D's shareware version, Quake introduced a full 3D engine, Internet multiplayer, in-game console, and mouselook.
The company has since developed sequels for its three main franchises: Quake 2, Quake III: Arena, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Doom 3 and Quake 4 with additional expansions. id Software also sells licenses to its engines, while providing for the community by releasing SDK's and the full engines' source code when it is no longer actively used. The main engine programmer, John Carmack, has become a prominent figure for his work on 3D engines, often advising graphics cards manufacturers. One of his latest accomplishments is the MegaTexturing technology introduced in RAGE. Instead of creating separate textures and then tiling them, he made it possible to design large outdoor maps with varied environments with one monumentally large texture editable on a pixel-by-pixel basis, but requiring a smaller amount of memory. Regardless of this, the company has lost its trademark impact of raising the bar for other developers, generally since Quake III: Arena in 1999.
The company organizes a yearly Quakecon lan party where its products are honoured and showcased. id also expanded the Quake franchise with Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, based on the success of the free multiplayer game Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. Orcs & Elves was the company's first new intellectual property in more then ten years, since the release of Quake.
Rage was released in 2010. Rage uses used id Software's id Tech 5 engine and is developed in-house to be released on multiple platforms (PC, Xbox 360, Mac and PlayStation 3). In that same year, the company also announced a new game in the Quake series: Quake Live (early on known as Quake Zero). Aimed at eSports competitions as the spiritual sequel to Quake III: Arena, it is based on the aforementioned game but will be launched through a web browser.
On 1st August 2008 John Carmack revealed that the company had been working eighteen months on a survival horror title called Darkness. Development had begun straight after Doom 3, but production was halted when they realized the game was covering ground id had previously tread.
Contributed by Paul Budd (403) on Jan 19, 2001. [revised by : Jouni Lahtinen (374), Sciere (496262) and John Romero (1455)].