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John Carmack officially leaves id Software
John Carmack officially leaves id Software
November 22, 2013 | By Kris Graft

November 22, 2013 | By Kris Graft
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    21 comments
More: Programming



For decades, John Carmack and id Software have gone hand in hand. Today, the studio confirmed that the game industry luminary is leaving id completely.

"John Carmack, who has become interested in focusing on things other than game development at id, has resigned from the studio," said id studio director Tim Willits in a statement to Gamasutra.

Best known for his programming skills in video games, Carmack has also been involved in engineering rockets at his own Armadillo Aerospace, and recently became CTO of hot VR company Oculus. Carmack was most recently tech director at id.

Originally, when Carmack announced in August that he joined Oculus, he said he was splitting his time up between the VR company, id and Armadillo.

"Johnís 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," said Willits. "We are fortunate to have a brilliant group of programmers at id who worked with John and will carry on idís tradition of making great games with cutting-edge technology. As colleagues of John for many years, we wish him well."

Carmack co-founded id Software in the early 90s. His work at the studio led to the creation of the Doom and Quake franchises, which helped shape the industry as we know it today.

In two separate tweets, Carmack (@ID_AA_Carmack) said, "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.

"If they don't want me to talk on stage at Quakecon next year, we'll just have to fill up the lobby like the old days. :-)"


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Comments


Dave Long
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It's the end of an era in game development (and a great thing for Oculus Rift that he'll be able to focus more on it - possibly the end of one era and the start of another?) Best of luck to him for the future.

Rob Wright
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This is great news. I know this is taboo for some, but Id hasn't produced a good game in a LONG time (no, Quake Live doesn't count as a new game). The lack of inspiration was starting to show for both Id and Carmack, and I'm glad he's moving on to a place that's bringing back his passion and interest. Great news for him and for Oculus.

Scott Lavigne
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To be fair, the things Carmack brought to the table have still been coming out in ways. He's always been a graphically focused programmer, and for whatever problems Rage had, it had some cool new tech (even if it had its own issues).

Mark Collin
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Oculus Rift is a big gamble if that's what John is focusing on. Oculus Rift is basically a borrowed design from a high school science project. It's not that good.

Alex Covic
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It is none of my business, but in hindsight, the departure of Hollenshead & Carmacks 'Freebird-ing' (others may call it engineering) pointed to a "graceful" departure for both of them, the moment they signed the Bethesda/Zenimax deal? Again, none of my business. Exciting times ahead.

Jonathan Murphy
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Industry is changing dramatically before our eyes. A lot of old devs are leaving for greener parts. Very few are filling the growing void for big companies.

Scott Lavigne
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There's less unexplored territory technically, so the only place to really shine a light on people is in designing systems/mechanics, visual art, and sound. I feel like plenty of games still get recognized for their art style or soundtracks (not so much for designers, and that's probably warranted right now). Although there's some truth to your statement, I feel like a bigger factor is just that old companies were very small and the sea of titles much smaller than it is today. Back then, it was easy to put faces on games. When a title takes 4 years to develop and 100+ people now, it's not so easy.

Jacek Wesolowski
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The change has been going on for while now. When you have the kind of cred and experience that Carmack has, you can afford to leave at your own pace. The less high-profile people of the same kind have made that decision (or were forced to make it) some time ago - only we never heard about it, because those people aren't famous.

The "void" is being filled by a slightly different kind of people. If Carmack's generation could be called "pioneers", then my generation (I'm ten years younger than Carmack) can be described as "builders". I've worked with both kinds, and I like builders better.

Jonathan Murphy
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New Carmacks, Miyamotos exist, but big companies doesn't take risk in hiring them. Amaya, Notch, McMillen 10 years ago would have been in major studios. It's called a void. It's growing larger because they aren't filling it. You can hire all the builders you want. You still need a Carmack or two for a major dev.

Jacek Wesolowski
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You're mistaking a pioneer for someone who has made something you haven't seen before. You've named people you admire and called them pioneers arbitrarily.

The difference between a pioneer and a builder is that pioneer aims for uncharted territory, while builder aims for things which are going to last. Pioneers want to see new things. Builders try to make sense of things.

Note I wouldn't say builders are better than pioneers. I said I like builders better. And I do like them better, because builders enable my creativity, while pioneers have always, always, always been holding me back.

Pioneers of the 90s often ended up in positions of authority and/or celebrity, because everything was new, particularly in 3D graphics. But pioneers make bad leaders, in both creative and organizational sense of the word, because they just run ahead and stumble upon things. Games as an art and as an industry are better off keeping them away from anything that involves more than five people at a time.

The "void", i.e. the lack of high-profile pioneers, was created by pioneers themselves. Even pioneers don't replace themselves with other pioneers. It takes a builder to find good use for one.

Michael Joseph
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re: "But pioneers make bad leaders... Games as an art and as an industry are better off keeping them away from anything that involves more than five people at a time."

Sounds a bit oppressive. By "bad leaders" I presume you mean business leaders? We should resist the urge to view people's benefits to society or a field of endeavor through the lens of capitalism.

Was Charles Darwin a pioneer or a builder?

Although people invariably stumble when redefining the cutting edge, they should hardly be considered as running ahead aimlessly. Carmack and his team have pushed graphics software technology (algorithms, engines, drivers, APIs) and have influenced hardware evolution as well. These are certainly forms of pioneering even if Id Software's completed games haven't always pushed the bounds of artistic creativity and high level design.

The delineation of pioneers and builders is probably more romanticism than reality. It's a gray scale that is constantly in flux and I don't think it reflects well on an industry to assign these neat little labels and valuations to it's members. And I don't think it helps any of us if we get it into our minds that we are all of one and none of the other.

Carmack and the developers of his era were also most certainly trying to more fully understand the medium and the field. Through mistakes and successes, everyone here benefits from the history Carmack and others have helped write. And that's why we're all here on a site like Gamasutra.

p.s. Strange how this article and these comments read like eulogies. This is something that may concern Bethesda more than anyone else. How do you put the id logo on a box and have it still mean anything?

Gregory Booth
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Good Luck John.

Thx

/bow

Kevin Fishburne
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The lone visionary and hacker has been replaced by focus groups, metrics and specialized armies of asset-churning automatons backed by the investment wealth of corporate shareholders. Long live the machine.

Dave Hoskins
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LOL at Kevin's comment, very true. The top technical graphics programmer has been replaced by game engine managers for the likes of Unreal and Unity. Well, an exaggeration, but it seems increasingly that way.

Scott Lavigne
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The more resources we're given, the less impressive our code has to be. There are still very real limitations on consoles (and will be for this generation as well), but the point where people can be even lazier is fast approaching.

George Menhal III
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Carmack has been a very positive ambassador of the video game industry for a very long time, and I wish him well moving forward. I am personally very excited to see how his contributions to Oculus turn out.

But as far as Carmack himself goes, he has my complete respect.

Benjamin Quintero
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='( ...

I always appreciated his technical approach to game making. He came up with a quirky piece of technology and a game design rolled itself around it. Sure their games had a certain kind of roughness on the edges that you get from a game that is not just doing what everyone else is doing (ie: using the same shader for every Unreal Engine game ever, or sticking to the classic triangle pushing pipeline). id games always had a certain "launch and pray" indie excitement to them that you barely see in AAA space. Who am I kidding, you never see that in AAA.

I'm sure that some of that maverick attitude will find its way into the Occulus but it feels somewhat smaller and less appreciable than something like Carmacks Reverse shadowing and uniform rendering, or Megatextures, or BSP trees and PVS tables and surface caching, and all of the quirky things that made their games just look and feel different from the usual crop of games... Slightly better lens correction or removing a frame of latency from my Occulus device just doesn't excite me all that much.

I'll really miss that...

Vincent Pride
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These times of building awesome sauce around technological hacks aren't long gone, we have all the chances to see them again. We just need another paradigm shift, be it voxels, or 100% custom OpenCL rendering, or may be even quantum computing (imagine solving rendering equation as an optimization problem on D-Wave), etc.

Juris Laivins
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I have a little bit different perspective than all of the aboveÖ

For me, id was one of the things that was part of my life... heck, id changed my life. I remember the day, when I was around 10, and my Dad took me with him to work one day and showed me Doom 2 on company accountantís computer in Latvia, Riga. That day my life changed. id and John's work made me want to create my own team of amazingly talented and hardworking people and create things. And to this day I have this dream and coding every day to reach this goal.

Masters Of Doom was and still is book number 1 for me and I have listened to Audio version more than 50 times in last year and a half and can even remember a lot of lines from it by heart.

John, leaving id made me feel super sad and it feels like Masters Of Doom book and all id games have lost some of their charm, maybe relevance... or something. Looking at Idís early photo, where they are in the apartment and John is wearing blue short, makes me feel depressed for some reason.

Itís like if Metallica would lose James Hatfield, Pantera, losing Dimebag Darrell, Beatles loosing John Lennon. These people are the CORE of it all.

Just my very personal thoughts on this topic.

Scott Lavigne
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My favorite part of attending Quakecon has been listening to John talk. It always starts half an hour late and goes 3 hours longer than scheduled, but the man is so damn interesting that you don't mind the room is 20 degrees too cold and your bladder is about to burst. He always hangs around and talks to people for a while after they finally kick him off stage, too. Let the lobby of the Anatole fill!

Juris Laivins
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It was a dream of mine to attend Quakecon and I almost did it in last two QuakeCon's but other things in life made me put a trip from Ireland to Texas aside. Now it is to late I guess. Really hope there will be OculusCon or something.


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