John Carmack's annual Quakecon
keynote is one of the most interesting events of the entire year. The man is incredibly intelligent and understands programming and development to a degree that very few people can match. id may have struggled to replicate the gameplay successes of its early years, but Carmack's understanding and perspective on the technical issues surrounding gaming is second to none.
This year, he kicked off by discussing the upcoming consoles, their hardware capabilities (very similar) and the long-term impact on AMD
. Carmack believes that having everyone standardized on the same architecture with very few differences will make it much easier for developers to build better products and probably yield small dividends for AMD relative to Intel. Long term, however, these boosts aren't going to close the gap between Sunnyvale and Santa Clara -- better CPU architectures are a much if AMD wants to do that. It's worth noting that Carmack didn't clarify if he was referring strictly to a Kabini - Bay Trail match-up, or if he saw the benefits helping Piledriver
against equivalent Intel architectures. Presumably the former, as the Bulldozer and Bobcat architectures are extremely different from each other.
Carmack didn't speak much about the PS4 directly, save to note that Sony had its act together from Day 1, and came out the gate with much stronger tools and capabilities than it had offered in the previous generation. Microsoft, he thought, had been about the same on this front (which isn't a bad thing), but much of the Xbone conversation has focused on DRM, used games, and digital distribution -- topics he thought were secondary to the actual console and its capabilities.
Then he dropped this bomb. Remarking on how he used to criticize Apple for its one button mouse, Carmack said: "Kinect is like a zero-button mouse with a lot of latency on it."
It's not that Carmack
thinks Kinect is intrinsically bad, but that the second generation of the technology has all the limitations of the first. Buttons in gaming are useful -- Kinect has none. Camera pickup needs to be near-instantaneous to allow for smooth tracking, and Kinect's isn't. Long term, the technology may evolve, but for now, the second generation apparently isn't going to blow anyone away. And honestly? That's not surprising.
For the first year of its life, Kinect
focused on motion control. Thereafter, it became a platform for things like voice control and browser integration. Most of what Microsoft has talked about since then has focused on these additive capabilities rather than pushing motion controls for anything but motion-specific games.
In a move that's sure to make fanboys of a particular console unhappy, the id developer claimed that the Xbox One
are nearly identical in hardware performance, with relatively small variations. That might explain why MS has spent so much time and energy on Kinect, Skype, and Windows integration as focal points for the Xbox One's differentiation -- if Carmack is right, games alone simply won't be the linchpin for why one console is a better buy than the other.