Do you know, it was probably to me that John Carmack first revealed he was intending to release the Doom 3 source code. I’m pretty sure. During an interview for PC Gamer in late 2008, I asked him if he’d be continuing his practice of making previous code available once the next big engine was out, and he explained that with Bethesda now owning id he didn’t know if it would be more difficult, but he was “almost certain we will wind up releasing the entire Doom 3 code base once Rage ships.”
So, with Rage safely released, it’s finally happened, and published under the GPL. Not before an emergency recoding of the shadow tech, after BethSoft lawyers got the squits over a possible patent issue.
As it happens, Carmack was pretty prescient in 2008. When asking him about the possibilities of Doom 3 code, he predicted,
“There’s a lot more worry about what if somebody said, ‘You infringed on our patent, and here’s proof. You owe us a whole ton of money.'”
But he was determined. He explained to me back then that releasing source code was his “pet thing since the very beginning”.
“For a long time it was very much the rest of the company shrugging, throwing up their hands, saying, ‘Well, John wants to do this, so I guess we’ll do this.’ But I was really happy several years ago when Kevin Cloud, one of my old partners, finally came up and said, ‘You know, that probably was all a good idea.’
“Everyone had the doom scenarios of, ‘Oh, that’s helping our competitors, they’ll take things, it’ll make it easier for them to compete with us in the future.’ And I really don’t think there was any of that. The people who are our competition, they’re smart enough to do things on their own. So I do think it wound up being a purely positive thing.”
This is of course the company that at one point released a third of all their games for free as shareware. Something it still makes me very sad to see them not doing these days. But it’s great that Carmack remains passionate enough to be working hard to make sure source code gets out there. Three years ago he gave me some reasons why,
“There are so many cases of people who learned programming like that, or worked on doctoral theses based on that, or used that to get into the industry, or just created wonderful things. I am very happy that several other companies have done similar things with their source code.”
*As in speech, and as in beer