John Romero’s new FPS puts you in an insane, moddable holodeck inspired by '90s shooters

UI Display

Last week id Software co-founders John Romero and Adrian Carmack announced they were making a first-person shooter. Today they’ve launched a Kickstarter for that project, Blackroom, and unveiled the first hard details.

Blackroom is pitched in part as a return to ‘90s FPSes, described as “a visceral, varied and violent shooter … with a mixture of exploration, speed, and intense, weaponized combat.” The Kickstarter page plays up “skillful” FPS movement techniques like circle-strafing and rocket-jumping and mentions levels with “secret rooms and twisted hidden passageways.” More generally, it’ll be a multiplayer and single-player game for PC and Mac that we’ll see in Winter 2018.

Interestingly, Romero and Carmack don’t seem to intend to rehash Doom or Quake’s satanic themes. Blackroom’s premise is unique and ambitious: fight through a wide variety of settings rendered by an advanced, Holodeck-like technology gone awry (is there any other kind of Holodeck, really?) created by a company called HOXAR. The 10+ hour single-player campaign casts you as an HOXAR engineer, sent in to investigate and debug “troubling anomalies” in Blackroom, chiefly its recent propensity for blending reality and virtual reality as it scans users’ happy and unhappy memories to create simulations.


Blackroom also doesn’t seem to be solely focused on violence and exploration. Your character carries a HOXAR device called the “Boxel,” which “allows you to control the simulation—stop time, see through walls, remove obstacles, activate various types of UI in the world, and other functions,” according to Romero. It’s unclear exactly how the Boxel will operate—whether it’ll only be able to interact with specific objects, for example.

“There is much about Blackroom that is new and different than past shooters,” John Romero told us via email. “The gameplay itself is going to feel classic, but it will be in an entirely new design wrapper. It will be using a brand-new engine [Unreal 4] with physically-based materials and shaders. This gives us a tremendous amount of design and creative freedom.”

Boot Hill Showdown

On the surface, Blackroom sounds a bit like Doom thrown into a Holodeck, perhaps also influenced by The Magic Circle. What’s most exciting to me about the project is the way its premise folds neatly into the promised moddability of the game. Blackroom vows to transport players to “ruined Victorian mansions to wild-west ghost towns to swashbuckling pirate galleons and beyond,” but the notion of holographic worlds means that user-created maps could essentially exist as canon. “The initial idea behind the holotech was to look into the future at what a real virtual simulation technology would be like that would enable a game to be extremely varied and control the player’s environment second-to-second,” says Romero. “My goal was to create a fiction that matched or exceeded Half-Life’s ability to materialize Vortigaunts right in front of you, or F.E.A.R.’s ability to make ghosts appear anywhere at any time. With Blackroom’s fiction, Adrian and I have the ability to do anything, and we plan to take advantage of that.”

A few pieces of concept art hint at the projects primordial state, for which Romero, Carmack, and the rest of Night Work Games are asking $700,000 on Kickstarter. Tune into Romero's Twitch channel later today from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. EDT for more details.

Evan Lahti
Global Editor-in-Chief

Evan's a hardcore FPS enthusiast who joined PC Gamer in 2008. After an era spent publishing reviews, news, and cover features, he now oversees editorial operations for PC Gamer worldwide, including setting policy, training, and editing stories written by the wider team. His most-played FPSes are CS:GO, Team Fortress 2, Team Fortress Classic, Rainbow Six Siege, and Arma 2. His first multiplayer FPS was Quake 2, played on serial LAN in his uncle's basement, the ideal conditions for instilling a lifelong fondness for fragging. Evan also leads production of the PC Gaming Show, the annual E3 showcase event dedicated to PC gaming.