Carmack: I left id because I couldn't work on VR

Founder wanted to bring Wolfenstein, Doom 4 to Oculus Rift

John Carmack, co-founder of id Software, has spoken about his reasons for leaving the ground-breaking developer - revealing that it was a lack of opportunity to work on virtual reality devices like the Oculus Rift which convinced him to let his contract expire.

Having joined Brendan Iribe's Oculus as a technical director in August 2013, Carmack had been working on the Rift headset, but still remained an active employee at id too. Seeing the opportunities presented by the Rift, Carmack tried to broker a deal between Oculus and id, in which he would continue to work for both. Also part of that deal was a plan to bring future id games, like Wolfenstein: The New Order and Doom 4, to the headset. When id's parent company Zenimax decided against that, Carmack made a difficult decision.

It would have been a huge win," Carmack told USA Today. "It seemed like a sensible plan for me. I would have been content probably staying there working with the people and technology that I know and the work we were doing.

"But they 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."

Whilst that doesn't necessarily mean that we'll never see Doom 4 working on a VR headset, the loss of an engineer of his status is a severe blow to the developer. Carmack called the decision "bittersweet", but remains optimistic about his new role.

"While Oculus is still kind of scary fast in terms of all the people coming on there is still the sense that a handful of us are going to crunch really hard and get something done by next Thursday."

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Latest comments (15)

matthew bennion Web Development 7 years ago
I think he's made an extremely dangerous gamble but I'm still intrigued to see how this pans out for bad or good.
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Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 7 years ago
It's ridiculous for a company to be telling a person like John Carmack what he should or shouldn't be working on.

Game industry people really need to learn how the creative process works.
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Will Tonna Sound Designer 7 years ago
VR is still a bit of an unknown quantity; it's destined to be successful but is that moment in the near future? Hopefully someone like Carmack can develop it in the right direction.
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Show all comments (15)
Anthony Gowland Director, Ant Workshop7 years ago
It's not dangerous at all - he's John Carmack. If Oculus does fail he could walk in to a new tech job no problem, or if he wanted more control I doubt he'd have much trouble raising funding to set up his own joint (if he couldn't afford it out of his own pocket, which I wouldn't bet against either).
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.7 years ago
Another case of corporate politics getting in the way of creative liberty.
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Edward Buffery Head of LQA (UK), Testronic7 years ago
Shame Zenimax wasn't interested. It's hard to see how id Software games working well on an Oculus Rift with Carmack behind both wouldn't be good for both companies. VR will definitely become a big thing but as Will says, the only question is how soon. Well, I'll continue to keep an eye on both companies, but at this point I'm more excited about Oculus' news than id's.
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Shane Sweeney Academic 7 years ago
It was risky for Kellee Santiago to move from ThatGameCompany to Ouya.
It's extremely not risky for Carmack to do anything. Especially move to a VR start up.

Even if Valve VR or Sony VR blow Occulus out of the water, Carmack is gaining many skills in a new field. Plus could you imagine getting a resume from Carmack on your desk? If Masters of Doom is truthful he does the work of 20 people.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Shane Sweeney on 6th February 2014 12:15am

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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 7 years ago
He is in a position now to work for who ever he wants in whatever he wants. Im sure that even if Oculus were to fail, Carmack would never be out of a job, nor out of any ability to create other things. He has a huge legacy. Honestly I think this is a position any developer or creative would want... to be able to work on the projects they want.
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Nuttachai Tipprasert Programmer 7 years ago
It's funny to hear this story. Out of all game genres, FPS is the genre that suits for VR the most. If Zenimax let him develop VR tech for upcoming DOOM4, that would give the game a huge advantage over its competitors.
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Shane Sweeney Academic 7 years ago
It certainly explains why Doom 3 BFG Edition was dropped as a launch title for the Occulus SDK.
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Andrew Animator 7 years ago
Another case of corporate politics getting in the way of creative liberty.
Considering Rage fell short of it's promises I don't find it at all suprising that Zenimax weren't prepared to fund a high risk venture like VR.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 7 years ago
Zenimax is creating and selling games. Why should they delay a game until a particular piece of hardware is out? Even if OR is the best version, even if it is the future, the money on Doom4 will still be made by people sitting in front of monitors.

Maybe things would have been different, if there were 15 million preorders for the next id game. Sadly, this isn't the case. But for what it's worth both parties keep it honest and refrain from badmouthing each other. In the end, John Carmack will no doubt get his OR and a version of Doom4 on it.
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Jed Ashforth Senior Game Designer, Immersive Technology Group, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe7 years ago
Can't imagine Carmack was cheap for Zeni, probably would have been a very expensive way for them to dip a toe in VR. If they're not interested in the medium yet, and Carmack is clearly very passionate about it, then a parting of the ways seems logical.
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Tom Keresztes Programmer 7 years ago
It certainly explains why Doom 3 BFG Edition was dropped as a launch title for the Occulus SDK
Source was released.
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Andreia Quinta Photographer 7 years ago
I think it's great that he can work on what he wants and help develop the technology, however it's way to soon for VR to be commercialized as a viable lucrative and for the masses product. This needs a few more decades of research and tech development to be what visionaries like Carmack want it to be.

2020 is my opinion, speculation it may be, but by 2020 the world will have realized VR is still too early and underdeveloped for it's time, the hype that it was, and talk about it reminiscing how much of a fad it was, just like we do today with webtv and even motion controls.

3D is still going strong, slowly loosing it's momentum, but eventually everyone will realize just like in the 50ties and 80ties it adds very little to the experience, and until we have true 3D HD holo-projection as a movie industry standard, it will never leave the fad scene.

The only way I could see 3D working as standard without hologram tech is loosing the glasses, and making 3D features standard price instead of premium. And risking to bridge the 3D with Oculus Rift, I'd say VR is in the same boat, amazing promising tech that unfortunately is just not there yet. And if it's something gimmicky and anti-social (on a social-craze age) like the OR clearly is, than it won't be adhered by the masses due to the benefits being so little compared to the cost, ergo it can't possibly be "one of the most important technologies in the history of man kind".

By the time VR glasses could be developed into something light and beneficial to the masses, bionic eye tech will be years ahead. So I'm not really sure if the VR breakthrough will be in the gaming industry, but rather adopted and adapted by the gaming industry from a completely different one with years ahead of development and a lot more funding.
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