When John Romero gets to talking about FPS design, you listen. Few, if any other designers in the industry, have had a hand in highs (Doom, Quake) and lows (Daikatana) of the genre that rival Romero's. He's not the final say on what defines good FPS design, but decades of design work inform his opinions. In 2019, Romero thinks shooters simply have too many guns.
Speaking with The Guardian, Romero doesn't name names, but says games that keep players on an unending loot grind for new guns aren't his cup of tea. "I would rather spend more time with a gun and make sure the gun's design is really deep–that there's a lot of cool stuff you learn about it," says Romero.
With rare exceptions, even the best weapons in games like Destiny 2 or Borderlands 3 are often just souped-up versions of gun archetypes with seemingly countless other examples to choose from. For his part, Romero feels that "the more weapons you throw in there, the more you're playing an inventory game."
Romero goes on to talk up the calculated simplicity of Doom's eight original weapons and mourns the move away from including secret areas in FPS games. He acknowledges that because level design "takes so much longer" these days and games gravitate toward more realistic settings, working secrets into FPS games isn't as simple as it was in the Doom days. You might argue that limited weapon sets and hidden areas are just outdated design tenets, but Doom (2016) still made those basic principles sing. Heck, Romero's still made hay with the original Doom engine earlier this year.
So, if you find yourself fatigued from looter shooters or even the many non-FPS titles that have taken "more content equals better" to heart, remember that John Romero's there with you. Hopefully Doom Eternal does a good job carrying on the early-id Software legacy and gives us all a welcome respite from the loot grind next year.