Developing for the Future

In 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.
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  • BenSkywalker - Thursday, April 1, 2004 - link

    IMO Carmack is a nigh deity in his field. His engines have always been beyond reproach and the level of polish they ship with in Alpha build state still exceeds most EA titles after a year of patches. His impact on the PC gaming industry is undeniable, his concepts for general 3D rendering are still what drives almost all real time 3D today- PC or otherwise. As an engine coder, Carmack is very easily in a class he shares with noone and I don't see that changing any time close to soon.

    That said, his influence in the gaming market is a pittance at best compared to Miyamoto. Anyone here old enough to remember 1984 and the post Bushnell Atari along with the resulting fallout will recall that video games were about to be placed in history alongside the likes of Rubik's Cube, Pogo Balls and the like. They were a quick fad that was now over with. Miyamoto rescued the entire industry from ruin- and in the process he created, revolutionized and refined a good deal of the genres that are still around today. Without Carmack we would very likely be without FPSs, without Miyamoto Carmack very likely wouldn't have gotten the chance to be "John Carmack". That says nothing about the man's enormous talents, but without gaming he may have ended up some boring NASA stiff ;)
  • iwantedT - Thursday, April 1, 2004 - link


    umm...wolfestein 3d, doom, heretic, hexen, duke Nukem 3d umm....AREN'T 3d.

    I get what you are trying to say tho. And i also get what #21 is trying to say. Wouldn't it just be easier to say that both JC and SM make influential products?

    Personally, i think that Id makes more tech demo's than games, but maybe thats just me.
  • Kazlehoff - Thursday, April 1, 2004 - link

    screw doom3, Quake 2 remix! WOO! Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - link

    #21... Come on, you can't be serious. Super Mario 64 as the chief influence for all 3D and FPS game interfaces? Not hardly.

    Super Mario 64 - released 1996
    Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - released 1998

    See any problem with that? No? Okay, let's just list a *few* of the PC games with 3D interfaces that came first.

    Wolfenstein 3D - released 1992
    Doom - released 1993
    Heretic - 1994
    Hexen - 1995
    Descent - 1995
    Duke Nukem 3D - 1996
    Quake - 1996

    That's only a small portion of the 3D games that came out on the PC *before* Mario 64 and Zelda: OOT were released. In fact, you could make the argument that the only reason consoles started to pursue 3D graphics with Nintendo 64, Sega Saturn, and Sony Playstation was due to the incredible success of the early 3D PC gaming market.

    Let's not even mention persistent worlds that have been in PC games long before consoles even had the capability of storing that much "state". Here are a few examples, though: Bard's Tale, Wasteland, Ultima III-VIII, Might and Magic I-VI, etc.

    It's not a question of buttons. Doom could be played with six or seven buttons if you wanted, and Quake requires six buttons and a mouse. Mario 64 and Zelda require at least as many buttons, and because they lack a mouse, inventory management is much more of a pain in the ass then on a PC. They did the best they could with the console gamepad controllers, but that doesn't make it a model of perfection.

    Anyway, you're right that story telling isn't necessarily innovative in and of itself. The thing is, if the story isn't innovative, the graphics aren't innovative, and the user interface isn't innovative, there's not much left. Which is why I said that Mario and Zelda are not innovative games. At least Carmack has the 3D Engine to be innovative with.
  • PrinceGaz - Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - link

    One good thing I can take away from that article is that he thinks graphics-technology will be able to render photo-realisitic scenes in real-time in ten years or so. That has to be excellent news.

    The reason that cheers me up so much isn't the prospect of how pretteh games could look then as I'm fairly happy the quality we have now -- its because making even better quality graphics will no longer be worthwhile and developers will be forced to concentrate instead on *gameplay* which has been sadly neglected by many for several years!
  • Brickster - Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - link

    TOO funny! Reply
  • Sahrin - Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - link

    #9, #10

    It never ceases to amaze me how little respect PC gamers have for the console scene. If only because it was Nintendo who single-handedly made the modern gaming industry a reality, you should treat Shigeru Miyamoto and Nintendo with a little bit more respect. I?m not going to say Carmack and Monoleuyx aren?t great developers because they are. But there were no games like those that existed at the beginning of NES-era. Every played a 3D Shooter of any kind? Control mechanics borrow heavily from Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Ever played a 3rd person game? Same answer. Ever played a game with a persistent world? The Zelda series birthed that idea as well. There is not a game today that is not subject to Miyamoto-san?s all-pervasive influence. Even games that are called truly innovative like GTA and MGS are, in fact, evolutionary products of the games that were designed by Miyamoto and Co. What bothers me the most about your comments, however, is that you seem to adhere to the FPS-er stereotype that ?more buttons is better.? The mechanics of a Zelda, Mario, Pikmin etc. aren?t as complicated as your CS?s, HL?s, et al and so you dismiss them. But true innovation is not restricted by the use of a controller with a whopping total of 11 buttons. And true innovation isn?t found in great stories either (which is why the modern Final Fantasy series is such a joke).
  • asapin - Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - link


    Programming isn't for everyone. I started with Qbasic in high school. I taught myself web design, asp etc. to get me through college where I learned VB, C++, and my arch nemesis Cobol. I'm trying to train myself for a career in the game industry at the moment. I would recommend checking out a few websites for information about the industry, job profiles and answers to questions you might have:

    Try writing press releases for games you like or even games that you think suck so that you have something to show a potential recruiter what you can do.
  • Icewind - Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - link

    Unfortuantly, I just didn't get into programming. Visual Basic made me wanna cry and C++ about made me wanna commit suicided. Which is sad, cause I had the heart to develop games but just not the know how of programming.

    Been wondering how I can get into the gaming market as a PR representative or something, cause I love telling people about games, technology and upcoming tech.
  • Cat - Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - link

    The Doom 3 engine *is* up and running now, and has been for some time. The content is not there, however, because it takes far longer to create than previous games' content. Reply

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