Ion Storm Inc. (sometimes spelled ION Storm) was a Texas based developer of computer games founded by John Romero (a co-creator of the Doom franchise), Tom Hall, Todd Porter, and Jerry O'Flaherty, under the slogan "Design is Law". At the time it was founded, long before releasing a single title, it was an instant fan and industry darling for its collection of talent and promise of blockbuster games.
Ion Storm was founded on November 15, 1996 with its headquarters in Dallas. The company had signed a licensing deal with Eidos Interactive for six games and the founders planned to scoop up titles from other companies that were close to completion, finish them, and push them out quickly to bring in initial revenue.
In a fashion similar to other dot com busts the company spent lavishly on office decor and facilities for employees - the Dallas office had sat on the 54th and top floor of the JPMorgan Chase Tower. Russ Berger Design Group, a firm most known for its work in designing recording studios, was responsible for interior design of the headquarters. This included a ten-foot-wide company logo set into the terrazzo floor of the lobby and matching green elevator doors.This excess collided with game production - a notable problem with the office was that the sun shone through the glass rooftop directly into the monitors of the employees, forcing them to cover their cubicles with black fabric. Most games produced in the Dallas office were hampered by production delays, missed deadlines, and poor critical reactions (see Production history below).
In late 1997, Warren Spector was asked to found the Austin branch of Ion Storm. By keeping well clear of the troubles at the Dallas office, Ion Storm (Austin) was more successful. It developed the highly successful and critically acclaimed Deus Ex. With the demise of Looking Glass Studios, Eidos Interactive secured the rights to the Thief franchise and together with Spector tried to relocate as many of the Looking Glass team to Austin as was possible.
Romero and Hall left the company after producing Anachronox in July 2001. On July 17, 2001, four and a half years after the company's creation, Eidos Interactive closed the Dallas offices. The Austin office remained open to produce Deus Ex: Invisible War and Thief: Deadly Shadows until Spector's departure to "pursue personal interests outside the company" in 2004. A number of other senior staff also left at about the same time. On February 9, 2005, Eidos Interactive announced that the Austin office would also close, meaning the end of Ion Storm as a company.
The company's first attempt was Todd Porter's Dominion: Storm Over Gift 3. Dominion was already partially completed by Todd Porter's previous employer, 7th Level, and was expected to take $50,000 and three months to complete. Instead, development continued for over a year costing hundreds of thousands. When it was finally released it received poor ratings and equally poor sales. Marketing missteps included releasing the real-time strategy game on the same day Blizzard Entertainment put out its highly-anticipated demo of StarCraft, which would become a defining game of the RTS genre.
John Romero's Daikatana was meant to be finished within seven months of the founding of Ion Storm and was to use the Quake engine. However, already behind schedule, the decision was made to port the entire game to the Quake II engine, six months into development. Likewise, Tom Hall's Anachronox was moved over to the Quake II engine. These changes brought costly delays to an already beleaguered product line.
Although Anachronox received critical acclaim for its vast storyline and characters, it too was commercially unsuccessful on its release in June 2001. Daikatana, meanwhile came out three years after its announced launch date of Christmas 1997. The game itself was not considered strong, and an aggressive advertising campaign in 1997 touting Romero's name as the reason to buy the game backfired as fans grew angry over delays.