To many industry veterans, the news of John Carmack’s official move to the virtual reality (VR) technology company, Oculus, will come as no surprise. John Carmack has been a staunch supporter of the technology for some years, constantly tinkering and tweaking the tech, whilst production was in its infancy, as part of his dealings with his partners in crime over at Oculus.
Gamasutra, a respected online gaming news outlet, have revealed that John Carmack is due to become Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of the company. However, in accordance with an e-mail dispatched by the Oculus team, it appears that John will fulfill his duties as acting Oculus CTO, whilst juggling his responsibilities over at his foundation company, id Software.
Parent company of id Software, Bethesda Softworks, issued the following statement, as posted by Ben Gilbert’s, Engadget:
“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.”
This was also shortly followed by a tweet on John Carmack’s personal Twitter account, highlighting his commitment prioritization of his various companies, including his recently “hibernated” Armadillo Aerospace company:
“My time division is now Oculus over Id over Armadillo. Busy busy busy!”
For those of you who don’t understand what all the fuss is about, the Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset, which, when hooked up to a powerful desktop computer, provides the user the ability to truly immerse themselves within video games, which have been specially coded for its utility. The device consists of two miniature LCD panels, which are head-mounted, eliminating distractions in the user’s peripheral field of vision; in essence, this product signifies the beginnings of true virtual reality.
Brain child of id software, John Carmack is, quite frankly, a video game veteran. In searching for a new company CTO, Oculus’ decision to opt for Carmack would seem the logical choice. His work was critical in shaping one of the most venerated and acclaimed first person shooters (FPSs) of all time, Doom, which went on to sell handsomely. Aside from this, he was lead programmer during the inception of many other successful franchises, include the Quake and Wolfenstein series. Although his company’s recent endeavors have fallen foul of critical expectation, he continues to play an integral role in technological innovation; his expertise with VR platforms have proved invaluable to Oculus over the years, and it seems his pioneering work is destined to continue.
Carmack stumbled across proposals for the virtual reality headsets when scanning through an online forum. He then contacted the original developer and creator, a Mr. Palmer Luckey, requesting permission to try out the prototype version. When first describing the power of the virtual reality headsets, Carmack gushed over its capabilities:
“I believe that VR will have a huge impact in the coming years, but everyone working today is a pioneer. The paradigms that everyone will take for granted in the future are being figured out today.”
And the rest was history (albeit, pretty recent history).
Although the technology remains in its infancy, a number of developers have already begun shipping games with its support inclusive. Games, such as Team Fortress 2, Half Life 2 and Museum of the Microstar, are all playable using the VR headsets. Major publishers and some independent game studios are currently toying with the idea, and are likely to take advantage of the technology for their future projects; as example, a number of new and exciting releases are due to be pushed out with VR support, including Hawkden, Doom 3, The Gallery: Six Elements and Among The Sleep.
A burning question remains, however, will John Carmack give up game development for good, and refocus his talents solely on the technology side of the gaming experience? In an interview with Ars Technica, Carmack offered some insight, indicating his design skills “… probably tapped out a decade ago.”
One could also speculate that Carmack’s transition is intertwined with recent company woes. The latest incarnation of the Doom franchise, Doom 4, has recently had to undergo a major overhaul, when ZeniMax studios decided to scrap the game, citing issues with product quality. And, prior to this, his post-apocalyptic game, Rage, was panned by critics for its poor optimization.
Either way, let’s hope John Carmack’s move over to Oculus, as their newly enacted CTO, will be a smooth transition. For the sake of nostalgic gamers everywhere, let’s also hope the id Software brain child continues to wisely split his future endeavors.
By: James Fenner