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The Creation of Commander Keen
Author: Olac Fuentes ZueckDate: May 14th, 2002
Views: 4365Rating:

Tom Hall along with John Romero and John Carmack, the eccentric co-creators of "Commander Keen", "Doom", "Wolfenstein 3D" and "Prey" among other games have made the the addicting Commander Keen, a 2 dimension side-scroller action packed game starring our favorite 8 year old, Billy Blaze!

Tom Hall was first working at Softdisk when he met John Romero and John Carmack and together they created a smooth side-scrolling engine with graphics similar to Super Mario World 3 but Softdisk didn't approve of the game engine since it wouldn't run on CGA so the project was officially canceled.

But the authors began receiving fan mail from a Mr. Scott Miller founder of Apogee Software who said he could fund the completion of a using the new engine. Hall, Romero and Carmack asked for 2,000 dollars in payment for the game with they got some weeks later. So that's how they went on for some time dedicated Softdisk workers by day and working furiously on their game by night after some struggle with the in game graphics they hired Adrian Carmack (no relation to John Carmack) who helped them a lot in the last levels of the game. And then on December 14, 1990 the first episode, which would be shareware, of the eagerly anticipated game who was going to be named Commander Keen: Marooned on Mars the first part of the Commander Keen: Invasion of the Vorticons Trilogy for which the public would have to pay for.

And in January of the next year the people at iD got there first big check for about 10,000 dollars and on that very same day John Romero and John Carmack went with the owner of Softdisk and told him that they were taking Adrian Carmack with them. When Adrian was informed of this he thought that it would be wise to go with them as the whole design team was leaving and with that iD Software was officially formed on February 1, 1991. Since the team was still obligated to make another game for Softdisk they started working on Keen Dreams also referred to as Keen 3.5 because it was made in terms of time and technologically between "Invasion of the Vorticons" and "Good Bye Galaxy!"

After the completion of Keen Dreams the team moved to Shreveport to Madison, Wisconsin (Tom Hall's birthplace) in September of 1991 but they didn't work there for a long time and after six months they moved to Dallas on April 1, 1992. And when they arrived at Dallas they began working on the sequel to "Invasion of the Vorticons" The sequel that would be called "Good Bye Galaxy!" would have better graphics, sound card support and better playability. And it was in the fist game of the "Good Bye Galaxy!" duology that they created one of their most famous characters, the Dopefish which was inspired from the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. For more information on the Dopefish check out the official website at After the completion of "Commander Keen and he
Armageddon Machine" which arguably is the best Commander Keen game, the creators began making the sixth and last Commander Keen game "Commander Keen in Aliens Ate My Babysitter" which was sold in retail by a company named FormGen, but since FormGen doesn't exist now the game is impossible to obtain legally except for a 3 level demo that was released to help promote the full version.

If you completed the sixth episode you would get a message promising a second trilogy called "The Universe is Toast" and a final showdown with Mortimer McMire-Commander KeenĀ“s archrival but the game never came. Why, you ask? Simply because iD was working then on more violent and popular games like "Wolfenstein 3D" and "Doom" and having more popular games to work on the project was abandoned and thus ending the Commander Keen era of Tom Hall, John Romero, John Carmack and Adrian Carmack.

Currently Tom Hall and John Romero are working together at Monkeystone a company who develops and publishes games for Palm's, Portable PC's, Computers and Video Game Consoles. John Romero is Chief Executive Officer and Lead Programmer at Monkeystone as Tom Hall is President and Lead Designer. For more information on Monkeystone and it's games go to the official Monkeystone page at or write to John Romero and Tom Hall directly!

You can write to Tom Hall at or you can write to John Romero at As for John and Adrian Carmack there still working at iD Software as lead programmers and owners where they are currently working on some hot new games.

And to close this article I want to quote Tom Hall with "I do miss the good ol' days of Keen. I love the universe and the gameplay. We will see how the future unfolds"

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