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Another Nifty Easter Egg




The last Easter Egg-themed blog entry that I wrote was about the weirdest secret I had ever seen in a video game. This one isn't quite as bizarre, but it is a fun story that you may have heard before and in my opinion, is worth telling again.

So, when was the last time you got to kill your own boss (without fear of legal repercussion)? The short answer for all of you is (hopefully) "Never." For the members of iD Software circa 1994, however, the answer was, "As often as we want to." It was originally intended as a gag, a trick played on John Romero by one of the artists. The final level of Doom II features an enormous demon that spawns other monsters and is indestructible save for rocket attacks against its exposed brain. Pump enough rockets into the brain, the demon dies, and you win the game.

To achieve this effect, the programmers had to perform a bit of a workaround. The "giant demon" was really just a very large wall texture, with a hole on top, covered by another texture that appeared to be a large brain. Since they needed an object to be the target of attacks, because textures could not be designated as targets or have in-game stats such as hit points, they constructed a unique object behind the wall and just under the brain "hole". This object is what would get hit (by the rocket's splash damage), and when it was out of hit points, the game would play the ending animation of the large demon exploding, and skip to the closing story screen.

Originally, the object was just a large yellow circle; it didn't matter what it was, because the player was never going to see it, since it was hidden behind the wall. However, one of the jokers at iD at one point replaced the skin of the big yellow circle with a sprite of John Romero's severed head on a stick. The prankster even gave it two different states: one for not taking damage, where it looked normal, and a second for when it takes the damage, where it appears to be screaming in pain. The joke was supposed to be that Romero wouldn't know it had been done until after the game had been pressed and shipped, where it would afterwards be revealed to him as the ultimate joke: in order to beat Doom II, the player literally killed John Romero.

As luck would have it, however, Romero needed to tweak the sound code for what was played when the object behind the wall was struck. When he booted up the level, he put in the no clipping code which allowed him to walk through the walls, and about did a double-take when he came face to face with his reflection. Figuring out that one of the game artists was playing a prank on him, he decided that he wouldn't let on, but would instead throw it back in their faces, so that when they played the finished version, the joke would be on them. He went to Bobby Prince, the music composer, told him what had happened, and had him record Romero saying, "To win the game, you must kill me, John Romero!" Prince then tweaked it to sound very low and dark, and reversed the sound sample so that it was completely unintelligible. He gave the sample to Romero, who went back to the game code and inserted it to be played as soon as the player entered the final level of the game. It was going to be their little joke, and the two of them would have the last laugh on the people who thought they were putting one over on their boss.

But of course, the story isn't as funny if someone else doesn't find out what's going on. Enter American McGee, a level designer who wanted to make sure everything was working properly in the last level. The next day, McGee warped himself to the final level of the game, and as soon as he heard the sound sample, he recognized it as backwards masking, grabbed it, reversed it, and discovered the joke. Neither side got the final laugh of having the game go gold with the other party unknowingly mocked, but both sides were gracious enough not to just remove the offending material, and the final jokes of Doom II are still with us to this day. Given the number of avid Doomers over the years, it stands to reason that John Romero is probably the single most-murdered game developer in history.

And you thought your boss had it rough. :)



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That's a great story and one that I hadn't heard before. I do remember seeing that image of John Romero's severed head on a stick, somewhere on the web before, but I didn't know what it related to. Sound's like those id guy's had a lot of fun making their game's.

Man, I thought I knew a fair bit about old and new video game's but every day I keep finding out great new fact's here at Retromags.

Great blog Areala. :)

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  • Retromags Curator

I aim to entertain and educate, atik. And I thank you so much for the comments; they make me want to write more. :)



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