Carmack Speaks: Blindsided By Facebook Deal But Oculus Needed To Partner

This isn’t about cool virtual reality games anymore. When the news first broke of Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus VR, the knee-jerk reaction from many fans of the Oculus Rift was to feel betrayed that this grassroots tech company, funded in part by its individual supporters, was going to be part of a huge, lumbering entity that mines data and sells it. People were worried that the Oculus Rift would no longer be “cool”, like if your favorite band signed up to exclusively write commercial jingles.

But with some time to process things more, it’s clear that although the above is still true to an extent, this is about ideology in the age of data more than anything else. You can see that evidenced by Michael Abrash's exit from Valve, for instance.

Musician and techie Peter Berkman penned a blog post discussing what he felt were the right and wrong reasons for being upset about this acquisition. He makes some really great points, actually, and he articulates quite well the dangers of how a data miner like Facebook could cull some deep, intimate data from our VR endeavors such as “tele-conference meetings, games that portray our deepest desires, fears and fantasies” as well as all the other myriad information it has on us.

John Carmack
Oculus VR CTO John Carmack

He’s concerned about an “information monopoly”, which is certainly something that should legitimately be discussed. He also has a bee in his bonnet about how all too often companies are created, develop some momentum, and then sell themselves off to the highest bidder for a huge payday, which is how many people view this Oculus VR acquisition. (Note that Facebook is one company that did the opposite, refusing multi-billion dollar offers for the social network. Now it's an empire.)

To that last point, Oculus’ John Carmack replied directly to Berkman’s post with some thoughts about the whole situation.

He started off by acknowledging that he agrees on the point that companies often exist only to be acquired and stating “There is a case to be made for being like Valve, and trying to build a new VR ecosystem like Steam from the ground up. This is probably what most of the passionate fans wanted to see.”

But he also pointed out that Valve had no real competitors in its space for years, so they had time to grow and develop and create. It was something of a slow burn to get to where Valve is today. “VR won't be like that,” he wrote. “The experience is too obviously powerful, and it makes converts on contact. The fairly rapid involvement of the Titans is inevitable, and the real questions were how deeply to partner, and with who.”

In other words, a partnership of some kind was inevitable. However, he said he was surprised that an acquisition happened this early on and also that Facebook ended up being the one to do it. He wasn’t involved in any of the negotiations, either. “I spent an afternoon talking technology with Mark Zuckerberg, and the next week I find out that he bought Oculus,” he said. (Oh to have been a fly on the wall that day.)

Carmack, it should be noted, is also less concerned about data mining. In another comment on Berkman’s blog, he said he “just can't get very worked up about it” despite acknowledging that there are still some serious privacy and data issues to address. “I have never felt harmed by data mining, and I rather like the recommendations that Amazon gives me on each visit,” he said. “Educate me. What terrible outcome is expected from this?”
Via:  Peter Berkman
TwoFaceTony 8 months ago

sweet. ive wanted to get a oculus for a while and i think i will soon maybe

JaySleven 8 months ago

Wasn't there people talking about how the donators should get their money back. Which in my opinion shouldn't happen. That money helped Oculus get to the point of FB wanting to acquire them. Which was definitely a good think for both parties involved. I think it can only go up from here

CliffVincent 8 months ago

they DID NOT need a partner... and if you think about it their partner WAS all the PEOPLE THAT GAVE THEM MONEY!

JefferyPruett 8 months ago

The Oculus really getting a lot of criticism I just hope whoever gets to grasp this thing make it the most exciting thing in 2014 xD

JMeloni 8 months ago

I want my money back.. can't believe I supported that sell out. I didn't donate to FACEBOOK. Bullshit

childishradio 8 months ago

I don't think this will a "partnership" for very long. They don't have "zuckerberging" be a good synonym for "pulling the rug out from under me" for nothing.

TorreyEpps 8 months ago

Virtual reality isn't ready yet we need to focus on running games more powerful on console to match with pcs 

KevinLozandier 8 months ago

@TorreyEpps that's rather a weird viewpoint to have.

Virtual Reality shouldn't invest much in consoles, nor do the new generation of consoles released last year have the means to support it viably.

Console gaming is ultimately the equivalent of getting Fast Foot instead of going to a restaurant--or going to the movie theaters to experience game: When you want to watch a movie without having to deal with too much to do so yourself.

Every moviegoer knows these days, outside of IMAX, that a better way to watch the movie would be through better and dedicated hardware at home and the eventual Blu-Ray release.

It's the same relationship between console and PCs. PC isn't a close platform, of course you can experience games w/ better graphics, sound, and etc. on PC, but most console gamers don't want to deal with such complexities or don't have the income to experience games this way.

As a result they get consoles.

VR is coming at a time where it's just not viable for consoles to support well the requisites of a baseline experience: 1080p, 60-90+ FPS.

The recently released Xbox One and PS4 barely support 1080p alone, the resources such consoles would have to allocate to a VR headset would probably lead too much lost towards a game being played by the audience most likely to share and encourage adoption: Hardcore gamers.

It would be a terrible idea for people to focus on games being more powerful on consoles to match PCs.

The recent drama From Software received of having potentially both the console and PC version scaled back from their original vision to have 'parity' between the console version and PC version is an example of why that's a terrible idea.

There's a reason games that deviate from consoles look so much better and actually showcase innovative ideas and sense of scale like Star Citizen.

That's why it's a concern how that'll affect TitanFall, Dragon Age Origins: Inquisition, and Destiny that'll support past gen, current gen, and the PC. That's a pretty tight contraints such games put on themselves by supporting Xbox 360 and PS3.

Oculus Rift actually encourages PC gaming to be like it was around the time of Half-Life 2, where game devs focused more on pushing the envelope and just built the game they've always wanted to create

From there they can THEN perhaps progressively degrade the game for consoles--or wait for a new generation of consoles to finally release such a game on the consoles.

Fortunately, the Xbox One and PS4 has released with very few architecture differences to a traditional PC

As a result, the industry needs to focus more on making good games that'll meet the needs of the audiences the game was attended for.

WendellBeverly1 8 months ago

Even though I am happy for the Oculus team, I have mixed feeling on this getting picked up by Facebook. Trying to insert themselves into every aspect of our lives? Troubling.

Johnny3D 8 months ago

I am totally alright with this. Oculus VR was stalled in development for a VERY long time. What they needed was a serious push towards production. While I can understand how Carmack may have been a bit blindsided by this, I still think this massive influx of money is what Oculus VR needed to push it from development and into full scale production. And with a social media giant like Facebook to help sell them, there is a much better chance that Oculus Rift devices won't just be a niche market but a mainstream product that is common and widely adopted.

I know that people freak out about the fact that it was Facebook... but really, I much prefer that Facebook bought them out than Sony, Microsoft, or one of the other companies that might have tried to meddle with the company too much rather than fund and then leverage the technology the company produces.

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