If the Game Developer's Conference is the Mecca for all those who write video games, then surely John Carmack is like the prophets. Founder of id Software and creator of incredibly long lived and just plain good games, John is arguably the most brilliant programmer of our time. For years the IDGA (International Game Developers Association) has been trying to get John to come speak. This year they pushed the right buttons (they convinced his wife it was a good idea) and the king of game programming, himself, descended upon GDC.

The focus of the keynote was on the difficulties with bleeding edge game engine development. Obviously this isn't something most of us face on a day to day basis, but knowing what John Carmack thinks about game development is almost like looking into the future of computing. Either through amazing foresight or incredible influence, John Carmack has well understood the direction computer hardware would take throughout the past few years.

To illustrate just how far computing has come, John informed us that he first started coding on an Apple IIc. He pointed out that the computing power we have now is about one million times that of his first Apple machine. Further, with about 100 times more power, Carmack thinks we will be able to do in real time what it currently takes four and a half hours to render in a 3D content creation application like 3D Studio or Maya. Essentially, the master of video games is predicting what he called "Lord of the Rings" quality rendering in real time within the next ten years. How does a video game developer stay on top of it all? Well, it's not easy...
Developing for the Future


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  • SilverBack - Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - link

    I was one of the lucky people to buy Doom from the Software Creation BBS, the same BBS that was the shareware capital of the modem world. In fact I was sold the 31st copy produced, I still have the 3 1/2 disks :)
    It started the 3d experience for me and also my building PC's to keep up with Carmacks games! LOL
    In a way Carmack changed my life. :D

    However I got a different perspective from this article than most of you seemed to.

    After reading where it's being considered possible to revamp the Q3 engine with better graphics, internal alarms started going off.
    I may be a pessimist, but that sounds as if the ID camp may be getting Doom 3 out of the door much later than anticipated.

    The Unreal Team seems to have a much better graphics engine available now. I hope that JC can get the Doom 3 engine up and running sooner.

  • mikeymasta - Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - link

    Good informative easy to read article, whats how I like em.

    When I talk about upcomming games to others I am often surprised at how little they look forward to upcomming work by john carmacks like Doom3, its proof that they just haven't been around long enough and don't know who their god is!

  • DerekWilson - Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - link


    just start something on the side Turnip ;-) That's how many of the people break into the industry ... create a rockin mod or find some other people out there (like me) who are interested in a little on the side game development... that way, if id Software or Epic offers you a job, you can feel good about leaving your favorite "boring" company for something just a little bit more exciting ;-)
  • Turnip - Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - link

    <sigh> Sometimes I almost wish I didn't love the "boring" software applications company I work for, so that I could get out there and do something about the game I dream of.

    Oh, the difficulties in being a developer. :)
  • Chucko - Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - link

    So when is Doom 3 coming out? Reply
  • DerekWilson - Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - link

    I don't think there is a tech journalist out there who wouldn't want to get some one on one time with Carmack... but the supply falls way short of the demand on that one ;-)

    There was a short group QA sessoin in which John decried the value of game design oriented schooling (saying the value is in what people can do in the real world, not how well they've mastered stale curriculums), mentioned that he thinks the direction the PS3 is taking with its parallel architecture is of little value, and talked about X-Prize.

    He also mentioned that Doom III would be ready when its ready ;-)

    And I can tell you right now with a fair ammount of confidence that PCI Express won't make a real difference in playing current games (read any game that will come out this year). I can stream multiple HD quality videos to my GPU in real time though :-)
  • yumarc - Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - link

    Maybe it's just me, but I found this article not to be very informative. It just spews about the greatness of John Carmack and his past accomplishments. It would have been a much better read if the author had received some Q&A time with Carmack and asked him questions such as "When is Doom III due on the street" or "Do PCI Express cards make a difference in game speed". Now that would have been informative. Reply
  • TrogdorJW - Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - link

    #6 (and #9):

    Okay, so you've got Zelda and Mario and what not. They didn't really *push* the envelope, though. Nintendo games always seem to trail behind on the technology and innovation curve. Maybe the original Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros. were "innovators", but back then everything was new and different. Hell, Asteroids was "state of the art" at one point in time. All Shigeru has done was to hone the art of the platform game, and every iteration of the Zelda and Mario franchises just gets less and less impressive.

    About the only thing Carmack and Shigeru have in common is that neither one can tell a really, truly great story. Shigeru does great with kid stories, and Carmack makes wicked 3D engines. Neither one could compete with the stories of any decent author, though. Or maybe it's just that I'm not Japanese... do adults in Japan actually think the stories in the Mario games are interesting? I hope not....
  • DerekWilson - Tuesday, March 30, 2004 - link

    "real talk, and in all seriousness:
    shigeru miyamoto > john carmack

    as far as influence in video games is concerned. "

    I'll bite.

    That is arguable if you are talking about video games in a general sense, but I don't think you can call it. Sure, mario and zelda have defined and influenced hords of other games (including Carmack's own Commander Keen), but then Wolfenstein defined and influenced the entire first person genre of games while quake sparked the push to full 3d games and shifed gaming performance into a position of major influence in the PC space.

    But regardless of who has had more impact on video games in general, PC games and hardware follow where Carmack leads.
  • replicator - Tuesday, March 30, 2004 - link

    John Carmack is a cool cat..

    Imagine if he and Tim Sweeny (Unreal) put their efforts together.


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