Game Developer's Conference 2004: Carmack Addresses the Massesby Derek Wilson on March 30, 2004 3:34 PM EST
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Developing for the FutureIn the beginning, there was John and a few friends who wanted to make a cool game while sitting around and programming. The fate of id Software was to grow into the position of a giant software development firm. In describing the transition, John joked about essentially becoming The Man against which all indie game developers fight. While (of course) very happy with the position of id Software in the industry, John realizes that it takes those small teams of friends writing games to innovate the next breakthrough in video games, as the large firms are almost locked into a type of game based on their current assets.
John Carmack will always be the creator of the first person shooter genre, and id Software will be one of the best developers of first person shooter technology on the market because that's what the people that work there do. Of course, though the next breakthrough in game play may come from your neighbor's garage, the next big breakthrough in game engine technology will come from companies like id who have the money, man power, and influence to develop software for hardware whose concept barely exists.
With expanding complexity and difficulty, it takes a lot to keep up with hardware. Game development cycles are generally much longer than a generation of graphics hardware. Doom III, for example, has been in development for four years, while every six months we get a new set of graphics cards. In the early days, John would be involved with every bit of code that went into his games. Quake III was the first game where John didn't have control over every section of code, as bot AI was developed by someone else. With Doom III, id planned from the beginning to have four lead developers on the project. It just takes more than one person being in charge to push the envelope to the max (though John still feels guilty that there are some files in the Doom III source tree that he hasn't even opened).
Obviously, the gap between software and hardware is of the utmost interest to us. We rely on those on the bleeding edge to help us understand the actual performance of new hardware. Even with all the resources John Carmack has at his disposal, and eventhough he had a very good idea of where the hardware was going, he let us know that it would still take about two and a half years from now for game developers to come out with games that took full advantage of NV4x/R4xx generation hardware. Developers are just starting to get these parts into their hands (John mentioned that he just plugged an NV40 into his personal development system), and getting the most out of this technology and putting it into the hands of consumers is something that John has been struggling with.
To combat the problems with long development cycles, John is looking at ideas like tweaking an older engine to take advantage of current hardware and doing something like a Quake II remix where it's the exact same game but with awesome graphics and targeted at a bit of a niche audience. The cost and development time are lower on such a project since the assets and structure for the game already exist and just the core engine code would need to be reworked. Even this solution would take some time, but sooner is definitely better than later.