End Of An Era: John Carmack Leaves id Software for Oculus Rift

For decades, John Carmack has been an institution at id Software. The games id has built over the years may not have been huge innovators in terms of gameplay, but the engines behind those games have often pushed the envelope dramatically in terms of game detail levels and amazing environments. Now, he's moving on to take over the big shoes at Oculus, working on the VR headset, the Oculus Rift.

id Studio director Tim Willits confirmed to GamesIndustry.biz that Carmack has left the building. "John Carmack, who has become interested in focusing on things other than game development at id, has resigned from the studio," Willits said. "John's work on id Tech 5 and the technology for the current development work at id is complete, and his departure will not affect any current projects. We are fortunate to have a brilliant group of programmers at id who worked with John and will carry on id's tradition of making great games with cutting-edge technology. As colleagues of John for many years, we wish him well."

John Carmack with NVIDIA's Brian Burke
John Carmack (right) with NVIDIA's Brian Burke (left)

The Oculus Rift

This is a particularly interesting announcement to me, because I recently spent some time with an Oculus Rift headset at APU13. I had the opportunity to test both the original, standard-definition beta version of the product and a new, high definition version of the same. The difference between the two was stark: On the standard definition headset, I quickly became dizzy.

But the HD screen? That was something altogether different. The test demonstration was strictly a closed-loop affair -- I sat in a car, without controls, while riding around a race track. There are clearly bugs to be worked out, as parts of the screen were blurry. But the ability to look down and see my own body, or turn my head to the left and ride to look around was profound. The impact on gaming, if combined with headphones, felt far more real than anything I've played with before.

Historically, I'm exceedingly skeptical of gaming peripherals that waltz in and claim to be The Next Big Thing. I'm not surprised, for example, that Kinect failed to catch on as a controller replacement. Controllers are simply too useful, and gaming by waving one's arms around, too limited. But the Oculus VR headsets are a peripheral I think could genuinely be huge. Gaming with one gives you a sense of being "in" a game that even the largest monitor can't match.

Here's hoping that Carmack's genius for code and development boosts the chances of more titles supporting the Oculus Rift, and a faster set of game deployments for the headset.

Updated: 11/23/13 - 2:28PM