John Carmack’s laments and regrets for Next Gen

“Just as you fully understand a previous generation, you have to put it away to surf forward on the tidal wave of technology that’s always moving”

John Carmack

John Carmack’s name is synonymous with the technical evolution of gaming, but the Oculus VR CTO now feels uncomfortable with the relentless progress in console hardware.

Speaking to Wired on the 20th anniversary of the release of Doom, the genre-defining FPS he co-created with Jon Romero, Carmack recalled id Software’s tendency to demand better hardware with each new release – ignoring the huge number of people with aging graphics cards to cater for the more dedicated and tech-savvy players.

With the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 now on-sale in most major territories, Carmack noted that the trend has continued, the huge audience and untapped potential of the previous generation abandoned for uncertainty and rising costs.

“The 360 and PS3 are far from tapped out in terms of what a developer could do with them, but the whole world’s gonna move over towards next-gen and high-end PCs”

“Even to this day, I struggle a little bit with that,” he said. “There’s so much you can still do on the previous console generation. The 360 and PS3 are far from tapped out in terms of what a developer could do with them, but the whole world’s gonna move over towards next-gen and high-end PCs and all these other things.

“Part of me still frets a little bit about that, where just as you fully understand a previous generation, you have to put it away to kind of surf forward on the tidal wave of technology that’s always moving. That’s something that we’ve struggled with in every generation. And now I at least know enough to recognize that some of my internal feelings or fondness for technology that I understand or have done various things with usually has to be put aside. Because data has shown over the decades that that’s usually not as important as you think it is.”

Carmack now has one clear regret from his time at id Software. In the push for technical excellence, the studio missed the opportunity to make more games, falling into a cycle where huge production cycles were the norm. Carmack would not comment the protracted development of Doom 4, but he did admit that establishing the core of the franchise so many years later is, “a heck of a lot harder than you might think.”

“The worst aspect of the continuing pace of game development that we fell into was the longer and longer times between releases. If I could go back in time and change one thing along the trajectory of id Software, it would be, do more things more often.

“And that was id’s mantra for so long: ‘It’ll be done when it’s done.’ And I recant from that. I no longer think that is the appropriate way to build games. I mean, time matters, and as years go by-if it’s done when it’s done and you’re talking a month or two, fine. But if it’s a year or two, you need to be making a different game.”

The last year has not been kind to id Software. In April, reports surfaced that work on Doom 4 had essentially been scrapped and started again, and ZeniMax PR boss Pete Hines admitted that the original plans, “did not exhibit the quality and excitement that id and Bethesda intend to deliver.”

In June, CEO Todd Hollenshead left the company after 17 years, with Carmack officially jumping to Oculus in November after a short period where he focused the bulk of his efforts on the nascent VR technology.

John Carmack resigns from id Software

Co-founder of Doom developer severs ties in order to focus full-time on Oculus VR CTO position.

John Carmack

When John Carmack signed on to be the full-time chief technology officer at upstart Oculus VR, id Software parent Bethesda Softworks was quick to say the developer’s work at the Doom development studio would be unaffected. That might have been the plan, but in practice it hasn’t turned out that way. In a statement to GamesIndustry International, id studio director Tim Willits confirmed that Carmack has left the company entirely.

“John Carmack, who has become interested in focusing on things other than game development at id, has resigned from the studio,” Willits said. “John’s work on id Tech 5 and the technology for the current development work at id is complete, and his departure will not affect any current projects. We are fortunate to have a brilliant group of programmers at id who worked with John and will carry on id’s tradition of making great games with cutting-edge technology. As colleagues of John for many years, we wish him well.”

Carmack offered his own comment through Twitter, saying, “I wanted to remain a technical adviser for Id, but it just didn’t work out. Probably for the best, as the divided focus was challenging.”

Carmack was an original co-founder at id Software, working there since its inception in 1991. He is the last of the original core of founders–which also included Tom Hall, John Romero, and Adrian Carmack–to leave the company. Earlier this year, the company also lost studio president Todd Hollenshead, who had been part of the company since 1996 and served as its CEO until its 2009 acquisition by Bethesda.

Oculus wasn’t Carmack’s only non-id responsibility. The developer also founded the Texas-based rocketry firm Armadillo Aerospace, but inquiries as to his current status with the company have not been returned as of press time.



John Carmack joins Oculus VR

id Software co-founder announced as Rift maker’s new full-time CTO; id says Carmack’s technical leadership at studio “unaffected”

John Carmack joins Oculus VR

[UPDATE]: A Bethesda representative provided the following comment: “John has long been interested in the work at Oculus VR and wishes to spend time on that project. The technical leadership he provides for games in development at id Software is unaffected.” When asked for clarification, the rep told GamesIndustry International that Carmack “will spend time working out of Oculus as part of his role with them, but he will also continue to work at id.”

Carmack provided his own clarification in a Twitter post, saying, “My time division is now Oculus over Id over [rocketry developer] Armadillo. Busy busy busy!”

The original story follows below:

John Carmack has always been a vocal supporter of the Oculus Rift VR headset, but the id Software co-founder has taken that support a step further. Oculus VR today announced that Carmack has joined the company full-time to be its chief technology officer, and will work out of a new Dallas, Texas office the company is forming.

A representative with id Software parent Bethesda had not returned a request for comment as of press time, but Oculus referred to Carmack as “formerly at id Software.”

“The dream of VR has been simmering in the background for decades, but now, the people and technologies are finally aligning to allow it to reach the potential we imagined,” Carmack said in a statement. “I’m extremely excited to make a mark in what I truly believe will be a transformative technology.” Oculus noted that Carmack has championed open source software, and co-founder and CEO Brendan Iribe stressed the company shares his commitment on that front.

“John’s early experiments with the Rift put Oculus on the map and helped create an amazing amount of momentum around virtual reality,” Oculus founder Palmer Lucky said. “His technical genius and passion for solving hard problems makes him the ideal CTO.”

Oculus Rift kits have been available to developers since March. The headset has no commercial release date as of yet.



Carmack criticises “fundamentally poor” Kinect interactions

id- Software co-founder still has problems despite hardware improvements

John Carmack

id Software co-founder John Carmack has addressed the “fundamentally poor” interactions offered by Kinect, and casting doubt over its relevance for game development.

In the opening keynote of Quakecon 2013, Carmack acknowledged that Kinect was targeted at a “broad consumer base” with different demands and expectations to his own. However, he argued that even the new iteration of the hardware – on paper, a big improvement over the launch version – has obvious flaws.

“I think Kinect still has some fundamental limitations with the latency and frame rate on it,” he said, as reported by Polygon. “Interacting with it is still … when you interact with Kinect, some of the standard interactions – position and hold, waiting for different things – it’s fundamentally a poor interaction.

“One way that I look at it is – I used to give Apple a lot of grief about the one button mouse. Anybody working with a mouse really wants more buttons – [they’re] helpful there. Kinect is sort of like a zero button mouse with a lot of latency on it.”

In recent months, the conversation around the Kinect has been dominated by concerns over the hardware’s potential for data collection, and even spying. However, Carmack expressed his belief that such matters will be fleeting, akin to the debate over the inclusion of GPS capability in smartphones.

Carmack also threw his hat into the ring on another controversial facet of Xbox One: the now abandoned emphasis on digital media. While the veteran programmer stated no strong opinion, he described the public outcry as a “witch-hunt” and “a bit unjustified.”

“The future is obvious right there,” he argued, “and it will be good for us in general.”





Although the option is available in the game, Bethesda is advising Xbox 360 Doom 3 BFG edition players not to install it to their consoles’ hard drives.

“There is no performance advantage to installing the game to your hard drive,” admitted Bethesda’s global community lead Matt Grandstaf.

Even more, installing the game to the Xbox 360 hard drive actually disables some features. More precisely, doing so prevents the classic Doom and Doom 2 games bundled on the disc from running.

So why did id Software include that option which wastes hard disk space while reducing functionality and offering no benefits whatsoever? Our guess is as good as yours. Just don’t use it.