Maximum PC has had the pleasure of speaking to Carmack on a number of occasions. This story, which appeared in our December 1997 issue, was an important one. It's hard to remember back all the way to 1997, which for gamers represented the onset of the age of 3D gaming. John Carmack was one of the key innovators during this era and was also an insurrectionist of sorts for attempting to rally game developers around the OpenGL standard as opposed to Direct3D. Those were heady times for gamers, and Carmack maintained a constant presence online via his "finger" file.
These days, the 3D landscape is an entirely different (and mature) scene. While id has lost some relevance as Epic has become more dominant and more game development studios have begun rolling their own 3D engines, Carmack remains a guru and a titan of 3D engine design. His next engine - and id's next game - is named Rage.
Click on the pages for a fascinating look at what the state of 3D games and 3D engines was 13 years ago.
John Carmack needs no introduction - since 1991 he's been the main engine development guy for id Software. Shortly after his 40th birthday, we caught up with the tru engineer for a quick 8-question Q&A.
That John Carmack! What a gossip, huh? He goes on a beer run with PC gamers and he’s all like, “I just wanted to… I just… I love you guys!” But then, after totally crashing a console-only party, he’s singing a different tune (possibly while wearing a dog costume). And now, once again Carmack’s shacking up with PC game—oh no! He’s here! Please, please, please don’t tell him what we said. That’d be soooo awkward.
"A lot of [Quake Live] was about doing something that the PC was going to be better at than the consoles," he told Gamasutra.
"Our modern triple-A stuff has to be somewhat more console-centric, with the PC as a peer, while this is an opportunity to do something where the PC will really stand alone,” he noted.
Carmack hopes to see Quake Live blossom into a sort of social-networking service – the one toy at show-and-tell that even Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo only wish they could get their grubby mitts on or toss in the sandbox or put in their mouths or whatever makes sense with this flimsy analogy.
"For years, I've often thought about the fact that a lot of people spend vastly more time on websites and forums about the games that they're playing than they actually spend playing the games themselves," he adds. "We hope to have some aspect of that here."
Well, that’s good enough for us, John. We’re yours forever now… wait a minute! Did you just steal this gift from our shelves – our shelves marked “1999” – and rewrap it? Is this all we are to you?
“The keyboard/mouse interface is definitely still the superior interface for a competitive first-person shooter experience, much better than an analog joypad,” he told PC Gamer.
But why stop with games? Clearly, the PC can do at least two other things.
"The browser environment is faster—navigating web pages on the console is a really tedious experience… And I do think there’s the whole idea of PCs being everywhere, and having a game that you can play just about anywhere. Anywhere there’s a PC, if you’ve got a few minutes you can download Quake Live content and jump in and play your game,” he said.
However, Carmack conceded that console development definitely has its perks -- for instance, acting as a hardy shelter in the hail of issues that is PC development.
"There are interesting technical things, looking across the spectrum of graphics cards, looking at the very latest stuff on there, but there are also times when I say, 'Wow, the 360 is a nicer place to develop games.' You bypass a lot of the issues there. Wouldn’t it be nice just to develop strictly for that platform?"
For those that don’t know, coding your favorite games isn’t the only thing that John Carmack does well, turns out he’s not half bad at rocket science. He’s proved this most recently at the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge, which is being held by the X Prize Foundation and sponsored by NASA. The goal of the challenge is to help in the development of a fleet of lunar ferries that could one day carry people and payloads between lunar orbit and the moon’s surface.
The challenge consists of several levels and Carmack’s team, Armadillo Aerospace, has passed the first one. Level one requires that a rocket take off from a launch area, climb to an altitude of 150 feet, hover for 90 seconds and then land safely at a landing pad 150 feet away. They were then required to repeat the flight in reverse within two and a half hours. Their ability to complete this goal before any other team has won them a cool $350,000.
Level two is a bit more difficult. It requires that team double the amount of time hovered, and then land on a simulated lunar surface that’s littered with craters and boulders. Armadillo Aerospace attempted the course, but was unable to complete the task. That means that there’s still $1.65 million up for grabs.
Mr. Carmack, we’re going to have to insist that you keep doing great things, but don’t forget about us!
Here’s the second part of our exclusive QuakeCon interview with John Carmack. In the first part of our conversation, Carmack discussed his hopes for Quake Live and the id Software’s new gaming direction in Rage. This time around, he gets more into the heady technical stuff with his thoughts on Nvidia’s CUDA, physics accelerators, general purpose computing, and ATI’s rumored Fusion technology. Here’s a snippet:
John Carmack – I was well known as not being a supporter of the PhysX accelerators. It’s always felt like a gimmicky plan with people setting up a company to be acquired. For years, the tack has been what do you do with any time Intel delivers something more with processors and more cores? It’s never really proven out right and there’re a lot of reasons for it.
For one thing you can’t scale AI and physics in general with your gameplay, while with graphics, you could scale. Without scaling, you can’t design a game that requires fancy AI and then turn off the fancy AI for the low end systems because practically that’s not possible. Similarly for physics, if it’s anything other than eye candy, you also can’t scale. If the building is going to fall down you need to know whether you’re going to be able to get past it on the high end or the low end.
John Carmack may be the face of id Software, but he’s definitely not the only person working on Rage or the next Doom. We spoke with Robert Duffy, id’s Programming Director, and Matt Hooper, Rage’s Lead Designer, about their upcoming shooter. The conversation delves into topics ranging from art design to multiplayer modes, and touches on the challenges of developing on both console and PC hardware. Here’s a snippet:
MaxPC: With the combination of driving and fps gameplay, what’s fun and exciting that we should look forward to that we haven’t seen before in games? Matt Hooper: The thing you haven’t seen is really the mix. We’re still id software and we’re still making this intense, action shooter game. Those moment to moment, finely crafted action sequences – running around with the coolest weapons and shooting guys – that’s still there. We invented that and we’re still going to do that really well. Just around the office everyone likes a lot of cool games. What we did was pull in these different elements that don’t detract from the action but add this little bit of flavor, and the vehicles are a part of that. The vehicles are almost an extension of your FPS avatar – you’re “running” around with a vehicle. It has armor on it, it carries a cool weapon, you fire that weapon, and the other car blows up in a cool satisfying explosion. It’s not as far removed as you would probably initially think. It all feels really good together.
We interviewed John Carmack back during this year's E3 when id first announced a partnership with EA to publish their next shooter, Rage. We had a chance to sit with Carmack again at this past weekend's Quakecon, where we followed up on our earlier discussion to squeeze more details out of the legendary game developer. Carmack dished out more details about their plans for Quake Live (including their high expenctations), the technology powering Rage and the next Doom, their cancelled Darkness project, and his thoughts about the current modding community.
Take a seat, grab a Mountain Dew, and click through for the full interview. You'll even find out which aspects of id Tech 5 may not be as powerful as id Tech 4!
We had an opportunity to speak with id co-founder John Carmack after the big EA press conference yesterday (where id surprisingly announced a partnership with EA to publish Rage). We grilled the legendary game developer (and part-time rocket scientist) about id's post-apocalyptic shooter, the state of gaming graphics, and what his plans are after id Tech 5. Rage looks be a drastic departure from the traditional id FPS, not only in gameplay style (open worlds with vehicles vs. claustrophobic indoor environments) but also in the way Carmack has designed the code-base. id has already announced that Doom 4 is in development (no publisher has yet been annonced), and Carmack confirmed that it'll run at 30Hz and run with several times the graphics power as Rage, a 60Hz game.
Click through to read our extensive interview and find out what John Carmack thinks about DirectX 10!