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John Romero's "Daikatana"
September 11, 2012 3:21 PM   Subscribe

Knee Deep in a Dream: The Story of Daikatana

In reality, the legend of Daikatana paints it as a far more joyless game than it was. Released to middling rather than atrocious reviews, it fell victim to the hype machine more than anything else. It was a frequently miserable, turgid, over-long and frustrating shooter, but the gaming world has seen far worse, and its failures were often so surreal as to be brilliant.
posted by Egg Shen (27 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Years later, and Romero's still hard at work making you his bitch.
posted by radwolf76 at 3:25 PM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Romero without Carmack is all heart, no brains. Carmack without Romero is all brains, no heart. Shame they couldn't keep working together. Although in some respects I think neither or them were very good at creating game systems, and that the corridor based FPS/arena styled multiplayer has been pretty well explored.

If you want to get a reall good overview of the rise and fall of the partnership, Masters of Doom is a pretty decent book about it.
posted by zabuni at 3:33 PM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


/plays Dule Nukem Forever while listening to Chinese Democracy.
posted by Artw at 3:37 PM on September 11, 2012 [11 favorites]


Daikatana may have been an enormous flop, and Romero may have had more than a little bit of ego floating around, but Ion Storm will forever be dear to my heart for making possible one of the best PC games of all time.
posted by neckro23 at 3:39 PM on September 11, 2012


Daikatana is anathema to me for its part in killing Looking Glass.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:40 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


(And of course, TFA frames the story the same way I did. Silly me.)
posted by neckro23 at 3:43 PM on September 11, 2012


In 1999, I worked for a small theater in Dallas. We had a newly commissioned play coming out, and part of it was set inside a computer. The script called for the protagonist and antagonist to fight in cyberspace. We worked with Ion Storm to create the battle, to be projected onto the back wall of the theater for the scene. Ion Storm was a nice place, occupying the top two floors of the tallest building in Dallas, but you could tell there were problems.

The top floor, where all the programmers worked, had giant glass walls and ceilings. As a result, all of the programmers had to throw big black curtains over their cubes like tents, just to be able to see their monitors.

You know how sometimes you can just feel fear? From other people? You can almost smell it? That's what this place was like. It was filled with toys, and scooters and all of those fun things that video game companies and start-ups all had before the bubble burst, but it was dead. quiet. around there. Just sad.

The final product that they gave us was kind of neat, but not too impressive. I had a chance to look at it again a couple of years ago: yikes. Really bad in retrospect.
posted by nushustu at 4:00 PM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


I've never played Daikatana (wasn't my thing), but I did recently play the Game Boy Color Daikatana which was developed by an obscure Japanese developer (the same people who made echochrome) and published by Kemco. It was actually a pretty decent Game Boy game with some amusing dialogue. "I have a very important story to tell you, as long as you are a real Samurai".

I'm guessing a lot of people passed over the Game Boy game because of how reviled the PC game was.
posted by Redfield at 4:12 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Porter also says that the employees on Daikatana were given the best equipment money could buy, including two 21-inch monitors and $700 office chairs."
I'm sure the game ran pretty great on that office chair, though.
posted by Redfield at 4:17 PM on September 11, 2012


Obligatory.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 4:21 PM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


The office that made Deus Ex and Thief: Deadly Shadows, Ion Storm Austin, was largely absent from the drama surrounding Ion Storm Dallas. Warren Spector ran the Austin office and brought a ton of Looking Glass personnel with him, and it shows—no one remembers Daikatana and Anachronox now except as curiosities, while Thief remains a cult classic and Deus Ex has become one of the most revered PC gaming franchises of all time (despite the sequel failing to live up to most people's expectations).

Also worth noting: besides Warren Spector, the other big name you're most likely to recognize (but mainly if you're really into game technology or Halo) is Corrinne Yu, who's the only person I can think of that approaches John Carmack levels of crazy genius. She's worked on or built a ton of 3D gaming engines, from Build all the way up to the engine that powers Halo. And it turns out she did nuclear physics research in her spare time.
posted by chrominance at 4:32 PM on September 11, 2012 [10 favorites]


chrominance: "Corrinne Yu, who's the only person I can think of that approaches John Carmack levels of crazy genius. She's worked on or built a ton of 3D gaming engines, from Build all the way up to the engine that powers Halo. And it turns out she did nuclear physics research in her spare time."

Holy shit. That might actually surpass Carmack, did he ever do anything like that outside of programming?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:41 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Carmack founded Armadillo Aerospace to compete for the X prize.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:53 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


did he ever do anything like that outside of programming?

rocket science?
posted by zabuni at 4:58 PM on September 11, 2012


Why don't gamer and tech web sites have copy editors?
posted by clvrmnky at 5:17 PM on September 11, 2012


I never played Daikatana, but I did pick up a cheap copy of Anachronox well after it had flopped. The game had its flaws (mostly that it lacked the polish of the JRPGs it tried to emulate) but was a vast, funny, and generally very enjoyable. The level environments were particularly fantastic. Would have loved to play a sequel.
posted by ropeladder at 5:41 PM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


A game just shipped (today, in fact) which I've been slaving over for the past year, and which is currently getting insanely polarized reviews. Like 3/10 from one place and 9/10 from another. Nerves are completely shredded with all the ups and downs. Reading this is super cathartic.

I met John Romero last year at GDC; he's an extremely warm, kind-hearted dude, and surprisingly humble about his past. I got the sense that he's matured significantly over the years, and the projects he's doing now are comparatively tiny in scope, but polished and well-managed.

To me, that's extremely respectable, seeing as many of us kill ourselves with endless 100+ hour work weeks just so some buttlord at IGN can holler about his childhood being grievously offended.
posted by jake at 5:50 PM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


no one remembers Daikatana and Anachronox now except as curiosities

Anachronox was awesome!
posted by infinitywaltz at 6:11 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]




A $3 MILLION BUDGET!?@ A FIFTY PERSON TEAM!? These people were crazy. These days all games are made by single-person shops we feed with ramen and diet coke.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 6:43 PM on September 11, 2012


There was also a crazy dose of gamer sexism swirling around Stevie "killcreek" Case. The big joke at the time was that most of the budget for Daikatana was spent on plastic surgery for Killcreek.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:04 PM on September 11, 2012


This still sums up my thoughts on this game. It was true before it came out and was more true after. If that is even possible.
posted by chemoboy at 9:08 PM on September 11, 2012


I've never played the game, but Superfly Johnson is one of the greatest video game character names ever.
posted by straight at 9:36 PM on September 11, 2012


Superfly's Johnson.
posted by Dr-Baa at 5:32 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


>This still sums up my thoughts on this game. It was true before it came out and was more true after. If that is even possible.

Word. And, how could they have come up with a name as ridiculous as "Daikatana"? It's non-existent in Japanese--it's mangled Japanese grammar, in fact. What's more, large parts of the game are set in other countries, IIRC. Why not call the game Big Fucking Sword and leave it at that?
posted by Gordion Knott at 5:32 AM on September 12, 2012


Reading this article was like compiling a list of game development mistakes.

*New tech, new team, new concept
*Design given free rein at the expense of tech (as though hardware / software constraints are a matter of the engineering team not being properly under design's thumb)
*Massive design documents that few people will read and will become almost instantly obsolete
*Schedule based on employees not yet hired
*Employees hired without relevant experience
*Schedule based on the mythical man-month
*Ship date announced before working prototype is in place
*Unique assets requiring considerable dev time that aren't reused (the silver crocodile found only on one level)
*High overhead from supercool new offices

I'm only thirteen pages in. I wonder what adventures are still in store?
posted by ga$money at 8:22 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I started a follow up list, but I started to feel so sorry for those guys, I stopped.
posted by ga$money at 8:56 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


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