Insanity: Carmack Takes Full-Time Position At Oculus

Holodeck confirmed for 2016

Well, this came out of nowhere. Actually, no, wait. I suppose I should say that all the evidence was there, but I refused to let it add up in my brain because come on: this is John Carmack we’re talking about. He’s id’s divine ego, the pulsating mutant hyperbrain that looks upon desolate worlds and says, “Let there be graphics.” Now then, it must be noted that Carmack is apparently not leaving id, despite his new gig as Chief Technology Officer at Oculus Rift. But the eyeball gateway to other worlds is now Carmack’s number one priority, with id and, er, outer space taking a backseat.

Oculus announced Carmack’s big move with a crazy, mindblowing mega-futuristic press release, in which Carmack said these things:

“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. I’m extremely excited to make a mark in what I truly believe will be a transformative technology.”

Initially, everyone thought this meant that Carmack was calling it quits at id, but then Bethesda took to its statement-slinging BFG for this little number:

“John will spend time working out of Oculus as part of his role with them, but he will also continue to work at id. 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.”

Carmack, meanwhile, tweeted that his time prioritization is now “Oculus over id over Armadillo [Aerospace].”

Pretty wild, right? Also, I find it difficult to believe that Carmack’s work at id will be entirely unaffected – especially since he basically said it will be himself. Yes, he has proven time and time again that he’s basically superhuman, but even he has limits. Moreover, listening to him talk during events like QuakeCon, he seems far more interested in creating tech like this than coding game engines. And that’s totally understandable. After doing the same thing for decades, I’d be itching to dive into something new as well.

So Carmack’s still at id, but will he stay there for long? That’s the big question. This could very well be his way of inching his foot out the door, and Bethesda’s just doing damage control for the moment. Or maybe Carmack’s even crazier than we all thought, and he really is going to work two full-time, incredibly demanding jobs at the top of the tech world.

It’s tough to say at the moment. But with longtime CEO/president Todd Hollenshead also recently out of the picture, Carmack’s big move doesn’t bode particularly well. As ever, I plan to do some digging. If I strike anything even resembling gold, you’ll hear about it.


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    Aerothorn says:

    This is the universe going “Gee, how can we make id even less relevant?” and finding the best answer.

    • d3vilsadvocate says:

      This is the best that can happen to gamers. Carmack is a tech-freak and was never the king of gameplay. That’s where he belongs to be honest. Id will die off at some point anyway because they keep re-releasing the same games (albeit with new flaws) since 1990. Not having Carmack on board might actually be a good thing for id. Perhaps they will start focussing on actual gameplay once in a while.

      Carmack is like some sort of savant with asperger’s and it’s time he starts focussing
      on something be’s good at again. Games require more than a good engine these days.

      • Swanny says:

        Huzzah, good sir, I agree 100%.

        He always delivers on the bleeding edge of tech, not so much on design. This is a great place for him to be.

        • GettCouped says:

          I don’t understand your reasoning. Carmack isn’t responsible for design so how can you say that his design isn’t good?

      • Widthwood says:

        Sadly id does not have problems with developers, it has problems with game designers and producers.

        Now, Carmack’s influence of course went beyond only technical side of their games, but its Tim Willits that was largely responsible for Rage, Doom 3 and Quake 4. And it seems that he likes how those games turned out. And he isn’t going anywhere.

      • Mctittles says:

        Considering Carmack doesn’t design the games, but only programs the engine I’m not sure how anything would change with the game design.

      • Ruffian says:

        I agree as well, I’m glad oculus got him as he’s obviously extremely interested in the tech, and really I think that’s probably the best motivation there is for eccentric-creator types like him. I’m sure he’ll do some great work with them.

      • Unclepauly says:

        Ya cause Carmack is fully responsible for the level design, artwork, and direction of all Id’s games right? My eyes rolled full circle when you turned away.

      • fish99 says:

        There was a day when id were gameplay kings, back in the days of Doom 1+2, but since Carmack does the engines it’s barely even relevant to talk about id’s gameplay in an article about Carmack.

  2. Elementlmage says:

    Well, that was fun while it lasted. Farewell Oculus Rift; we shall remember thee fondly…

  3. namad says:

    this isn’t all bad for id, maybe we’ll see doom 4 releasing on the rift 2 and it’ll be a marriage made in carmack’s brain and heaven and take the world by storm? the rift needs games, and id makes games, so maybe this relationship won’t be so weird afterall?

    • kaffis says:

      I wasn’t aware of the Rift lacking for games. It’s already got Source support in TF2, the Oculus guys themselves are handling Unity engine integration.. from there, users of said engines need only do the barest amount of hooking up, and the bigger the Rift gets, the more motivation there is to do so.

      As for the Rift getting bigger, it’s got plenty of intensely excited indie developers on its side, from currently released (or in working beta prerelease programs) like Hawken to small crowdfunders like Star Citizen…

      The Rift doesn’t “need games” to be successful. It’s already successful, thanks to its crowdfunded formation, investor backing, and legions of fans chomping at the bit to play the games that have already committed to implement it, and it simply needs to *come out* with its final consumer product to be selling like hotcakes.

      What Carmack has to offer is his great talent at working with low-level blazing fast driver code, and his huge high profile name and reputation as a technology driver and innovator to simply draw more mainstream attention to VR pre-launch. This attention isn’t to help the Oculus Rift succeed — see above — but to drive interest and imagination in all the peripherals that are still nascent but will magnify the consumer VR experience.

      • fish99 says:

        So, one game. You should bare in mind the struggles nVidia have had getting developers to support 3D Vision (95% of them do not give a crap, and if their game works well with 3D Vision it’s just down to luck). The OR is cooler tech but it’s also even more niche than stereo 3D currently.

          • jpvg says:

            That list says 5. Granted it’s 5x more then 1 but both numbers can be counted on 1 hand, in all practical terms it’s the same. (+2 if you include alfa/beta, I didn’t).

          • InnerPartisan says:

            “That list says 5.”

            I made sure to check the page’s history, and the last edit is 2 weeks old. So would you kindly tell me what the fuck you are talking about?

          • harbinger says:

            Games with Oculus Rift support playable right now (about at least a year away from consumer version release):
            Half Life 2
            Team Fortress 2
            Strike Suit Zero
            Lunar Flight
            War Thunder
            Miner Wars 2081
            Surgeon Simulator 2013
            Hawken (Support is coming out in 3 weeks)
            Doom 3: BFG (doesn’t have official support in yet, but since the code was Open Source it works pretty well)
            IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad will have a playable build at this years GamesCom in Germany.
            There are several high profile developers for games like Star Citizen, Everquest Next, Planetside 2, Titanfall etc. thinking (or have already announced) Oculus Rift support.

            Also check (and vote for!) these games on Steam Greenlight that will offer Oculus Rift support: link to
            Especially looking forward to Routine, The Forest, Among the Sleep, Ether One, Dream, Blackspace, Homesick, The Gallery: Six Elements as well as Euro Truck Simulator 2 Support

            There are also experimental Beta drivers that add support to games that aren’t officially supported yet like TriDef 3d: link to , Vireio Perception or the upcoming VorpX.
            As well as dozens of technology demos and even more upcoming games.

            The Oculus Rift is also being natively supported in Unreal Engine 3/4, Unity and Source with upcoming support for CryEngine 3 and Frostbite 2

            I don’t think the hardware will be lacking software by any measure, it just NEEDS TO COME OUT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!

          • fish99 says:

            That’s still a small list, and it’s mostly stuff I’ve already played.

          • darkChozo says:

            Discounting games that haven’t released yet is a bit silly, considering that it’s new hardware and that no one has the consumer version yet. That’s like saying that the new consoles won’t have software support because there are no games out for them yet.

            The OR will probably end up at least moderately niche, in the sense that I don’t see OR ownership being mandatory for PC gamers anytime soon. But compared to, say, TrackIR, it’s already got a ton of support going for it.

          • harbinger says:

            I’m not sure what is so hard to understand about the Rift being a “Developer Kit” so far, you even have to click “I understand this hardware is intended for developers and it is not a consumer product.” and everything if you really DO HAVE to buy one in the only place it is being sold right now: link to

            How many games did have NVIDIA 3D Vision support a year before it came to market, or TrackIR… or anything really? There’s somewhere between 30.000-40.000 DevKits out there until now, that isn’t a large market to sell to and most of the support so far is based on the potential and promise of the end product.
            If you think the Rift is “hyped” now, wait till about a year from now when they’ve actually entered PR Mode and the first big profile titles come out instead of trying to dampen the excitement since they can’t even manufacture enough to supply developers with them and there’s a wait of several months.

            Or let me put it another way, when was the last time that Valve, Epic Games, CryTek, DICE and Unity among others could agree that something is great, were excited about something together and integrated support into their engines before Day1?

            Also you played most of the games on that Steam Greenlight list? Hard to believe, since most of them aren’t even out yet.

        • skittles says:

          Well except for the fact that is completely ignoring the fact that the 3D Vision was only a decent product, which never had much momentum. OR has tons of momentum, and a lot of backing, and it isn’t even released yet. There are well over 10k dev kits alone in the wild.

          You do realise it has full engine based support in Unity and to a lesser extent UE as well as support already in a number of games, and this is when a consumer product is still well over a year away probably. In other words, there is no reason or need for it to be supported already in retail games, (yet it is) showing the excitement of said devs. 3D Vision could only dream it had had anything like this support initially.

          • fish99 says:

            We’ll see how it fairs when it’s out for general release. At that point it will need a significant library of supported games to make the general public buy it. The way 3D Vision works through the nvidia drivers, it immediately had hundreds of supported games at launch (basically any DX9 or newer game) with no support from any devs (and it still largely flopped), but OR doesn’t work like that. Can you see lots of devs going back and adding OR support to old games for a few thousand extra sales? Can you see the devs who are porting the latest console game to PC bothering to put in OR support when most of them can’t be bothered to put in a decent graphics options menu or rebindable keys? I can’t.

            To me it will remain niche with a small library of supported games, mostly flight sims and racing sims.

        • Sparkasaurusmex says:

          What are you thinking? The exciting games for this have yet to be made.

  4. db1331 says:

    His face looks extremely punchable in that pic.

  5. kazooka says:

    That’s cool, but what does Alton Brown have to do with all of this?

    • Swanny says:

      Don’t worry, he’ll get the rift going.
      He just needs a blow dryer, a few pieces of wire, and a charcoal grill with red flames on it.

    • Wedge says:

      Thank you for informing me what my brain was subconsciously thinking when seeing that pic.

  6. Text_Fish says:

    Carmack’s been saying for years that his primary role at ID is developing technology and that he leaves the actual game design to others, so considering the company just hosted four days of presentations and interviews saying that their technology is unlikely to change much with the new generation of consoles this seems like a pretty reasonable move to me.

    • Josh W says:

      Good point, he can pop back in about 4 years time, having tinkered with a few ideas during his time in oculus.

  7. DrScuttles says:

    So he’s finally living his VR Holodeck Spacedreams. John Carmack must be one of the happiest campers alive right now. Not even the fact that Holodeck episodes usually signalled that Voyager had run out of ideas again can taint this for him. Colour me envious.

    • 00000 says:

      “the fact that Holodeck episodes usually signalled that Voyager had run out of ideas again”

      ‎(ノಥ益ಥ)ノ ┻━┻

    • InnerPartisan says:

      Wait. You’re telling me that Voyager had ideas to begin with?

  8. Clavus says:

    As if I couldn’t get more excited about Oculus and the Rift. Carmack is working on the tech, and Valve (with Carmack’s former partner during the Doom era, Michael Abrash) is likely working on the killer VR game that will boost VR straight into the collective consciousness.

    • Widthwood says:

      Valve laid off its entire hardware VR team, so probably no, they don’t.

      They made their own company, though – , and Gaben let them take everything they were working on with them.

      • Erthabutt says:

        They did not. They cancelled their Augmented Reality project, not their VIRTUAL Reality project(s). OOPS YOU MADE A MISTAKE.

  9. ChrisGWaine says:

    If Doom 4 is the only major project id have going and it’s going slow because of reasons other than the technology, it does make sense that he could take an additional role elsewhere and make better use of his time.

  10. FurryLippedSquid says:

    I really don’t see Rift taking off. At all.

    • Clavus says:

      And everyone, literally everyone, that tried the Rift will disagree. I’ve yet to hear a single guy go “meh” after trying it.

      • Wisq says:

        You didn’t hear me after trying it, then.

        The resolution was low to the point of being distracting. I realise the final product will be better, but the dev kits were low res enough that I’m skeptical; I’ll need to see it to believe it.

        Condensation was an issue almost immediately. You can’t create a full seal and not expect that. Ski goggles have had this problem solved for a long time, so I was surprised to encounter it with the Rift.

        Head tracking was quite limited; no 6DOF here. And it felt a bit laggy compared to what I’m used to with the TrackIR, too. Maybe that was just due to the machine I was trying it on.

        All in all, I’m not discounting it, but my response to the dev kit is a definite “meh” and I’ll need to see significant improvements in the final product to change that.

    • goettel says:

      Same time next year you’ll be trying to forget you posted here today.

    • DonkeyCity says:

      The Rift isn’t going to be replacing monitors or consoles in the mainstream any time soon, no, but there’s clearly enough interest in the technology to establish an audience large enough to be worth making content for, and developing standards for interaction with the content and each other – a huge step towards becoming more consumer friendly and ‘taking off’ once the experience is more refined.

    • Sakkura says:

      I see it taking off big-time with the “hardcore” PC gamers. What I’m uncertain about is how big it will get beyond that.

      • kwyjibo says:

        The sad sacks in Second Life will probably love it too.

        I think the Oculus will be successful – because the moneybags mobile industry with all its RnD will continue to drive component prices down while still increasing performance. Prices will reduce to a point where you’ll see estate agents with the devices.

      • jpvg says:

        I don’t exactly get that, won’t the hardcore gamers try to get the most out of their games in terms of playing performance? Taking on a pair of glasses and looking around is not exactly faster/more efficient then using a mouse for it?

        • Nethlem says:

          The OR does not replace the mouse, it rather adds an additional control method.
          When wearing the OR you can still use your mouse and keyboard like you are used to, but the OR adds the additional control method of headtracking.

          Imagine this: Keyboard controls your movement, mouse controls where you are AIMING (with your characters hands), the OR controls where you are actually LOOKING.

          This way every game ends up giving you the same options, in terms of control, as most tank/mecha games give you, being able to shoot and look in different directions at the same time.

          Sure TrackIR can do the same thing right now, but OR looks like it’s gonna be far more supported and the 3D effect also should help with depth perception in terms of gameplay.

    • Xocrates says:

      Define “taking of”.

      I got a chance to play with the rift last week, and while it desperately needs an HD version, what was there was fairly promising. Heck, Half Life 2 was fucking amazing on it.

      I doubt it will ever pose a “threat” to traditional screens, but I would not be surprised to see it become about as common, if not more, than motion control.

  11. SirKicksalot says:

    Carmack said that perhaps the next generation of consoles will use raytracing and that’s the next big graphical revolution.
    id Tech 6 is based on voxels and raytracing.
    Don’t expect him to abandon id. He clearly has big plans for the future but the hardware is not there yet. Working for Oculus is better than fiddling with Tech 5 for 5-6 years, especially since other in-house teams are now familiar with the engine.

  12. FakeAssName says:

    I read the tweet from Bethesda that Kotaku posted as this: we paid Carmack a bunch of money to not technically quit, so we can continue to claim him as a employee and pump the bragging rights for having him for a while longer (and keep his no VIDEO GAME competition contract alive), but the only work he will actually be doing is cashing a contractor check if whenever we can’t figure out his engine.”

  13. bilstar says:

    I like John, he has a nice face,

  14. KeeperKrux says:

    Oculus told Engadget via email he’s not really working at id anymore, and I doubt they’d run their mouth off on that unless it was the truth. I have to assume Carmack’s role at id will be mostly ceremonial, despite the damage control and spinny PR talk Bethesda and some others will assuredly spread around.

  15. goettel says:

    Today, I feel confident in using the word: “gobsmacked”.

    Amazing news in an already amazing year for (PC) gaming.

  16. Don Reba says:

    And to think, this has been made possible by Kickstarter backers.

  17. waltC says:

    So does this mean the OR will get its own Pentagram? I think Carmack wants something new under his hat and OR represents some technical challenges that intrigue him–but I think that OR in the best of times is destined to be a completely niche product that will never go mainstream, much like stereoscopy (often mislabeled “3d” for marketing.) Carmack’s pretty much blown a sizable hunk of his wad trying to launch small tubes into orbit and back–he was vastly under-capitalized from the start and competing with companies with pockets hundreds of times deeper than his–and I think his game programming expertise is very long in the tooth if not a bit stale these days. He disappointed me with his initial RAGE remark about id “not having been paid” to do a proper PC version even though it’s clear that id was indeed paid to do a PC version of the game–it was pretty obvious that he meant “paid enough.” I saw that as an enormous cop-out for simply not doing the best job he could have done the first time–as a matter of personal pride if nothing else. Yes, he tried to “fix it” with patches, but I never understood why he was unaware of the deficiencies in the PC version to begin with.

    I wish Oculus every success and it would be nice to be wrong in this prediction. The device will no doubt be amazingly immersive graphically, but I predict it will be uncomfortable for most people in the way that sitting inside a sealed barrel and playing a game would be immersive but troubling as the subconscious would always be keenly aware of being “cut off” from its immediate surroundings. As someone else put it, it’s feasible that your apartment could be burgled while you the tenant are enjoying a great game wearing an Oculus. In such a state, the user would actually be able to relax *less* and instead of enhancing a suspension of disbelief–which is the whole idea behind OR–I think it would actually degrade it somewhat.

    • jono says:

      I have never experienced anything close to that feeling with my dev OR. Do you normally feel like that when you’ve got headphones on?

      • waltC says:

        No, because I can see the environment I’m in besides the game–no trouble…;)

        • jono says:

          I don’t know how your apartment is structured, but behind my computer screens is a wall. I don’t have much overview of anything besides my desk and what’s on it. 95% of my apartment is open for burgling without my knowing when I’ve got headphones on.

          And like Jad mentioned, you do sleep in that apartment. And sometimes, quite often even, I leave it entirely, without any supervision whatsoever. Neither of those scenarios cause me any greater amount of anxiety over the vulnerable state I leave my possessions in.

          I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that you are probably pretty alone in your immersion-breaking vigilance >_>

    • Cleave says:

      “I never understood why he was unaware of the deficiencies in the PC version to begin with.”

      It was driver issues caused by ATI and the game was fine within a couple of days.

      • waltC says:

        Yea, I know…”It was ATi’s fault” and that’s why Carmack wound up doing several patches for the game himself. Sure, that makes sense…;) (BTW, plenty of people running nVidia gpus complained voraciously, too.)

    • Jad says:

      “As someone else put it, it’s feasible that your apartment could be burgled while you the tenant are enjoying a great game wearing an Oculus.”

      I close my eyes and in fact become unconscious for several hours every day, and I have no exceptional fear of my apartment being burgled while I am in that state.

      • waltC says:

        That’s because when you sleep at night you are *unconscious.* And, yes, people do get burgled while they sleep. But, that wasn’t my point–and you know it…;) When people play games, generally speaking, they aren’t unconscious (although I suppose that’s debatable.)

  18. mezron says:

    I think this is great news, John’s got great talent in game programming and he’s passionate about the rift. The technology is finally getting to the point of being able to make it feasible. I’m pretty optimistic about it overall.

    That said…. strapping something like that on my face is a non-starter for me. When the technology brings it down to something more like wearing glasses or maybe small goggles I’ll be there.

  19. Hypocee says:

    Moreover, listening to him talk during events like QuakeCon, he seems far more interested in creating tech like this than coding game engines.

    That’s funny, because listening to his talk at QuakeCon, I heard him state that he had tinkered a bit with HMDs and VR but was relieved when he found out Lucky had built the Rift, since he would really rather write immersive software.

  20. JoshuaMadoc says:

    You better commit to this, John-boy. Nobody likes it when people take positions just for bragging rights.

  21. walterbennet says:

    Great news for Oculus fans. But it sure does sound like the final nail in the coffin for id’s relevance though… And that comes from a long, LONGtime fan of the company.

    I would imagine Carmack is staying on at id in a “keeping up appearances” role only, and perhaps to smooth out any kinks the remaining tech developers run into during the transition to his new role at Oculus. But, that’s just armchair speculation of course.

  22. BlitzThose says:

    This is pretty great news to hear the same day as receiving a Oculus Rift in the post :)

  23. Misha says:

    So, is the Oculus commercially available and supported yet?



    *going back to sleep*

  24. Herzog says:

    Look at this happy face. Carmack working happily on VR googles also makes me a more happy person. Something good will come out of this.

    Talent was wasted at id. All founding members gone now.

  25. Zanchito says:

    I don’t get the hate for the man, his job is tech and he has done it beautifully since day 1. This is great news for Oculus and great news for tech enthusiasts in general. I’m interested in Oculus, not really going to buy it until 2nd-3rd generation, but I like what they are trying to do.

  26. pkt-zer0 says:

    Cool stuff. I don’t think him leaving id would be that big of a blow, considering that id’s output is mostly FPS games, those that can benefit the most from proper VR. In other words, Doom 4 (or whatever) will get better as a result of Carmack’s work, whether he works at id or not.

  27. gibb3h says:

    John Carmack gives me the shivers, in a good way.

  28. Crea says:

    This is excellent news. It’s been obvious for a few years now, and in his recent QuakeCon talks I think you can see he certainly feels this way – it is becoming increasingly difficult for excellent game engine technology to be the main differentiator in a game – art, creative vision and game play are becoming relatively more important to the mix than they were back in Id’s heyday.

    It’s not that game engine technology has been commoditized; the teams with the best technical chops can still put the most compelling visions on the screen, but there was a time in gaming when technical chops alone got you quite far, and Id was one of the chief beneficiaries of that.

    JC has instead moved to a company where the chief problems they have to solve *are* technical in nature, and not the more nebulous creative / personnel issues that Id have been ultimately suffering from. I can’t think of a better place for him to positively affect the future of gaming, so this is brilliant news for everyone (with the possible exception of the rump of Id).

  29. MeestaNob says:

    If (when) Carmack leaves iD properly, iD wont have much purpose any more – he seems to be the drivng force behind graphics inovation, so I dont see what possible use Bethesda will have for the studio in a few years time.

    I can imagine them either shutting iD down or looking for a buyer (sans IP, naturally). With it’s cash value massively reduced, I could see him coming back and re-buying his own company, at a profit. Leaving could be a really shrewd business manoeuvre.

    • Mctittles says:

      I could imagine it would be bad for their FPS engines, but Bethseda could make use of their ip’s. Doom, Quake, Wolfenstien are big names and maybe they will make something else out of the lore like an action RPG or whatever.

    • Don Reba says:

      Carmack got left behind in the graphics race quite a while ago. Even back when he was developing Doom 3, Crytek and GSC were doing more interesting things than Id Software.

  30. hjd_uk says:

    Not surprising news, but definitly a good move for all concerned.

    Im still undecided about ordering a devKit ( that might take months to arrive) or just wait for the HD release version :/

    • Hypocee says:

      Wait. Carmack and Luck not only advise but ask that you do so – you’ll get an inferior experience and you won’t be helping them the way you think. They really honestly only have so many units available and want to get these things to developers so they can have a big software base for the consumer launch.

  31. Continuity says:

    Well this is surprising, but pleasing. This is clearly something John is passionate about and I’ve no doubt he will have an important role to play, both on the software front and in bringing still more attention to Oculus VR… which, considering it doesn’t even have a commercial product yet is already making very big waves.

  32. bongosabbath says:

    You know he took the job just to gain the title of “Chief Technology Officer”. I would.

  33. Zorn says:

    I was thinking ‘Carmackeddon’… But then I found myself more to tending to:
    I for one welcome John Carmack as our new [technological] overload.
    Erm, overlord!

  34. DrManhatten says:

    Seriously does anybody care about Occula Rift? HMD-based VR was a bad idea in the 90s technology hasn’t really improved that much to not being a bad idea in the 2010s. Oh well no one really cares what Carmack is doing anyway. Other people have more important weight in the game industry now like Tim Sweeney which always was a better visionary coder anyway. But guess things don’t really look very promising for John in the last five years anyway. iD going down the drain, his space company never got any strong foothold either.