Doom creators made a Super Mario PC port

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As a lifelong fan of id Software founders John Carmack and John Romero, I’ve always known that one of their earliest projects was an attempt to port Super Mario Bros. 3 to the PC.

The story is documented in David Kushner’s book, Masters of Doom. It’s a fascinating page turner about the early years of first person shooters and blockbuster game development on the PC in a post-Atari, pre-PlayStation era. And while games like Doom and Quake are what id Software is best known for, one of its earliest successes was the Commander Keen series, which pioneered side-scrolling platformer action on the PC.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Commander Keen, former id Software employee and company co-founder John Romero took to Twitter to link a video that showed the prototype technology that made it all possible: a fully functional PC port of Super Mario Bros. 3. Romero dated the demo to September 28, 1990.

As the story goes, the fledgling developer, under the leadership of programmer John Carmack, managed to pull off side-scrolling graphics. Back then, drawing new images onto screen rapidly was difficult on the PC. So proud were they of their accomplishment that they even approached Nintendo with the offer of doing Mario ports for them. Nintendo declined, saying they had no plans to enter the PC market.

The technology, known on Wikipedia as ‘adaptive tile refresh,’ was then used by id Software to launch the Commander Keen series, and the rest is history. Commander Keen netted the five-man team around $50,000 a month on a shareware business model and the success spurred them on to create other pioneering games like Wolfenstein 3-D and Doom.

Currently, Romero does independent developer out of Ireland, while Carmack was the last of the id Software founders until he joined Oculus VR as their chief technology officer.

“id Software has always revered Nintendo,” Romero said. “Their game designs were extremely influential and they saved the [videogame] industry in 1985.”

SOURCE: John Romero on Twitter

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