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John Carmack explains why he left id for Oculus
John Carmack explains why he left id for Oculus
February 4, 2014 | By Alex Wawro

February 4, 2014 | By Alex Wawro
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    24 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



"When it became clear that I wasn't going to have the opportunity to do any work on VR while at id Software, I decided to not renew my contract."
- John Carmack explains why he left id for Oculus in an interview with USA Today.

When John Carmack left id Software last November to join Oculus VR full-time, it seemed like a tacit admission that the game developer responsible for seminal titles like Doom and Quake was ready to set aside game development and focus his attention on solving problems in the burgeoning field of virtual reality.

A new interview with Carmack published yesterday by USA Today reveals that Carmack tried -- and failed -- to convince id's parent company ZeniMax Media to establish a partnership with Oculus VR.

"I would have been content probably staying there working with the people and technology that I know and the work we were doing," Carmack reportedly told a USA Today reporter. "But they [Oculus and id] couldn't come together on that which made me really sad. It was just unfortunate."

"When it became clear that I wasn't going to have the opportunity to do any work on VR while at id Software, I decided to not renew my contract."

You can -- and should -- read the full article on the USA Today website.


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Comments


Andrew Sturgeon
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Carkmack looks like a pig from Angry Birds.

Kevin Fishburne
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I actually thought he looked more like Alton Brown's evil twin brother.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alton_Brown

Michiel Hendriks
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He got bored and wanted to do something else. Not much of a surprise.
The biggest problem of any tech company is highly qualified employees getting bored.

Marvin Papin
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Even if he now works on the hardware, I'm pretty sure he will move to a new engine building.

In fact, I watched his conference at last Quakecon and he was speaking of his new interest in path-tracing (new rendering way in opposition to rastering).

Moreover, Oculus company already shew it's interest in photo-realistic rendering (take a look at path tracing if you don't know what it is) and the deformation of the image to fit to oculus lenses is quite performance costly.

Finally, since AAA are decreasing, VR will be the new video game showcase and will maintain for sometimes the interest in that aspect of entertainment if games are following.

Benjamin Quintero
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I cant help but feel his talents are being squandered on trying to realize some late 70s childhood scifi fantasy. At least he is happy I guess...

scott anderson
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So you're saying he'd be better off working on Doom 4?

Marvin Papin
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Doom series was a big success and Rage was very good even if there are some design problems (and the too much little levels, but the engine has been done for newGen, not for 360/PS3) . But do not forget that he is mainly an expert in 3D engines.

TC Weidner
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Squandered? I think you are about 100% wrong on that assumption. Gaming is about to be changed forever and once again Carmack is leading the way.

Benjamin Quintero
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Maybe VR is going to change the world... and maybe it's going to be another 3D TV fad... time will tell. The adoption may be swift by a handful of tech junkies but there are plenty of people in the mass market who don't want to strap a shoe box to their face. No disrespect to Oculus, I think the pursuit of VR a really cool thing and they are certainly closer than anyone right now. I think they should keep pushing for that trophy, but that doesn't change how I feel.

All I'm saying is that Oculus and VR in general would have happened with or without Carmack; he's just speeding up the timeline. Personally, I would have rather seen him creating more pronounced technology; like idTech5 for example, instead of shaving 5 milliseconds off of some sensor data. Both are equally meaningful I suppose, just to different target audiences.

Scott Lavigne
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@TC

I've never seen anyone have that response to it. I tried the early prototype myself at Quakecon a couple of years ago, have friends that own the dev kit, have friends who have tried the newer one a few months ago, etc. It's a nice idea, but it's far from being at the point where anyone should care. Software that utilizes it well will make or break whether the Rift makes a lasting impression in itself. It'll lead the way for future tech either way, though.

Nicholas Koza
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Many of today's practical technologies started out as a child's scifi fantasy. Inexpensive and effective VR would likely affect a lot more than the entertainment industries.

scott anderson
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I think the point is that idTech5 didn't really impress anyone. There are enough people working on game rendering and engine tech now that Carmack's contributions to that space don't really add much and Unreal, Unity, Frostbite and Crytek have proven to be better than idTech on various different axes (ease of use, rendering quality, number of features, flexibility, etc.)

Carmack's time is better spent working on unsolved problems that add a lot of value. Game engines are mature enough that most problems have known solutions and making a competitive game engine is a (still non-trivial) matter of getting the implementation right. This requires a lot of time and energy but not necessarily that much creative problem solving.

There are a few big problems left, but a lot of those are a matter of if\when we have enough compute (realtime GI) or last 10% problems that don't add a lot of value for the amount of effort they require. There are still a lot of improvements that can happen in the tools\workflow\production department, but those are more design problems or tech problems outside of the core engine development that Carmack specializes in.

TC Weidner
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For whats its worth, I have seen people first response to 3dTV and I've seen people responses to the Rift, its night and day.

3DTV was almost always Mehh. Lots of " Am I doing this right?" and " huh, I guess its OK.." and so forth.

Oculus its almost always " Oh my god. thats awesome" " Where can I get this" " How much does this cost" etc. Of course if some play too long they get a lil sick at first, but even then they are still floored by the experience

Try it before you bash it..

Benjamin Quintero
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I think wires are getting crossed. Let me make it clear that I have NO horse in this race :) dont care if VR takes off or burns to the ground. That is for the market to decide.

Im not bashing it, just saying either is possible. Im keeping an open mind instead of assuming it will flurish just because I happen to like it. Again, time will tell.

Just, on my scale, I'd consider something like idTechN arguably more pronounced than maybe some of the work he is doing behind the driver gate. And to answer scott, I'd disagree with his statements that id has nothing to offer just because there are other engines with their own share of weaknesses. Last time I checked BF4 wasnt doing too well :(, Unreal is a 30Hz engine for the most part. Every other engine has its quirks. I'd say different is a more fitting word than better.

TC Weidner
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ok sure, but

I cant help but feel his talents are being squandered on trying to realize some late 70s childhood scifi fantasy.

sure sounded like bashing to me, and the work he has done to get the latency down is some of the key elements in getting the brain fooled, which is allowing for the immersion to kick in. Also lets remember if consumer based VR is realized it has far far reaching applications in many industries out side of gaming. It will be a game changer.

Jennis Kartens
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@Benjamin

I kind of agree.

This may help him, on a personal level, since he can do what he loves: Experimenting with new technology. However I too am very sceptical that VR will be the "next" thing or even that Carmack will be a driving factor that makes it so...

Despite the technical issues that VR still has, and that may be overcome this time, it is not necessarily the thing everyone wants today. It is something nice, for certain occasions, but not a replacement. VR shuts out everything else and forces you into total immersion, which is simply not something you are looking for all the time.

Its the same as it is with motion controlls. Sometimes (actually, more often then not) you just want to sit down and relax while playing. It is not a replacement. It is an alternate route that fits some things better then others.

Benjamin Quintero
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@Jennis

That's a little bit of what I'm talking about. Regardless of the success of VR, I'm really looking how 1 person's man-hours might best be utilized in a way that may feel more influential to the industry as a whole. It's not like Carmack invented VR, he's just making it faster; which again is very cool, but it also leads to the point I mentioned earlier that he is only speeding up the timeline. I also think it would have been cool to see him continue to influence real-time software and games on a broader systems level and not something specific to just the VR experience, no matter how cool it will be.

Just like software vertex shaders in Quake 3 later influenced GPU vertex shaders, or Doom 3 broke ground on fully real-time lit and shadowed environments, or idTech5 introduced a practical example of uniquely painting a large environment. I would imagine something in the vein of Megatextures is going to find it's way into every popular engine because Rage served as a solid proof of concept that it could be done at 60 fps on last gen hardware. Regardless of how people felt about idSoftware games, their tech has always marked tent poles along the timeline of video games and served as academic milestones that shaped software and hardware vendors. It is entirely possible that he could do the same from within Oculus; I just can't see how... I've certainly been wrong before so I'm not putting any money on that bet.

But at the end of the day he is doing what makes him happy, and that is something that we can all appreciate.

Jennis Kartens
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I agree entirely. I too would love to see him rather evolving real time graphics, but I can perfectly understand that he wants to do different things, especially given the recent history of id under ZeniMax.

And yes, he is doing what makes him happy (I hope so, at least :)) and that is absolutly something we would wish for someone like John Carmack. A great mind and a nice person.

Marvin Papin
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@all

1) The idTech5 was never produced in order to compete with UE an CryE, and originally, Carmack would like to release it to community for free

2) Why couldn't you relax with VR. It's just moving the head not balancing arms and jumping. I agree about motion controls but even after a intensive day of physic work, that fit to me, but not Motion Controls.

3) !!! Why everybody seems to think he is only working on latency. As i said above, he was already really interested in building a new engine with path-tracing and i do not see him give up now. And there are many things, hardware based to do and tweak that could bring massive improvements.


Nevermind, I believe in Oculus Rift by those tormented times of indies arising and lack of quality in AAA. They already prove they have a massive potential, Carmack shew his potential and is a talented, intelligent guy.

The future will tell us the truth and I don't f***ing care about having a boot in front of my eyes if I really have fun with, thanks :)

Dave Hoskins
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His silly cheesy grin at the title always makes me laugh a little. :}

Personally I feel he's slightly lamenting the days where hardware wasn't so diverse, where drivers weren't so inconsistent, and you could guess what speed next years PCs would all be running at.

It's a great idea for him as he's exploring a specific known hardware to it's limits. Sounds ideally suited.

Zach Grant
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Zach Grant
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Who are any of you to decide what he should be working on? People dream to do what they love for a job. If it's Oculus for him, be happy for him. Nobody sits around and tells you what job you should be doing. Minus your boss of course :)

Benjamin Quintero
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lol, I'll give you a +1 for that. I don't think anyone is "telling" him what to do. What's he going to do, cry into his diamond crusted pillow? He can afford to do whatever he wants. I think plenty of people have opinions about how they'd like to see a brilliant mind best utilized, nothing more. Besides, I HIGHLY doubt he even reads these articles. He's too busy launching 30' bottle rockets into space!

Dave Hoskins
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He puts himself in the public's eye, so people can guess things, it's no problem really.
And you may want to read up a little more about the space efforts, and how it much it costs. I just wish him well, as I randomly and distantly followed his efforts, that's all really.
The streaming textures idea was a slight mistake however, as nobody really noticed it. So, it doesn't matter as long as he's happy.


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