John Carmack Has Big Plans For The iPhone

Id Software has had minimal success developing games for cell phones. It ported its popular Doom title over to the cell phone platform with Doom RPG, as well as developing two original Orcs and Elves games for phones. Ultimately, the three titles sold only a combined two million copies. The problem, at least up to now, is that cell phones have been less than ideal gaming platforms. They typically have small screens, limited processing power and memory, and awkward controls.

But according to an article on, Id's co-founder, John Carmack is eyeing the iPhone as the mobile platform that can successfully address at least some of these issues:

"One of the biggest appeals of the iPhone, says Carmack, is that it can handle big games that are 10 megabytes or more. By contrast, the sweet spot for traditional cellphone games was around 300 kilobytes. Carmack wiggled around those rules of thumb and has produced a 2.5 MB version of "Wolfenstein RPG."

 Doom RPG (Credit: Id)
Carmack sees the iPhone as a potential gaming platform on the same level as the PS2 or original Xbox, with more memory, but less graphics power.

Carmack claims that he regrets not having a game title ready for the recent App Store/iPhone3G launch, but Id "just didn't have the scheduling or the resources available." He hinted strongly that a "graphical tour de force" title is in the works for the iPhone--which an Id Mobile representative indicated would likely be based on an existing Id title. During E3 earlier this month, the rumor mill was claiming that Wolfenstein RPG would be the first iPhone title from Id.

Considering that the game is already well on its way for a fall release for other cell phones platforms, a suped-up version for the iPhone certainly seems within the realm of possibilities. However, the Los Angeles Times reports that while Wolfenstein RPG is eventually destined for the iPhone, Carmack wants to "make a game that's specifically designed for the Apple device," and that he promises "an original iPhone game in the not-too-distant future. He said he has a game in mind but wouldn't divulge details."

Carmack has also reiterated that he is interested in developing a cell-phone-based massively multiplayer online (MMO) game, but says he wants to proceed conservatively to insure that there is a strong enough market for such titles.

The L.A.Times states that of Id's team of 60 people, only six of them are dedicated to developing for the cell phone and Nintendo DS platforms. Although, as we reported in May, Id posted a number of jobs online--three of which are for the Id Mobile division and still listed as available on Id's site. The three positions are for Artist, Level Designer, and Programmer; and all three positions list the application platforms Id is developing for as: "DS, iPhone, J2ME, BREW, and Symbian cell phones." This might well be an indication that Id is looking to ramp up game development for the iPhone.

There is no doubt that Carmack has his eyes firmly set on the iPhone as a mobile gaming platform. Will the first iPhone game be a new title or a port of an existing one? When we will see the first iPhone game from Id? And will it be as nearly as popular as Id's Doom, Quake, and Wolfenstein titles have been on other platforms? We're betting that when and whatever the first iPhone game from Id is, it will likely give the iPhone a big kick in its Apps Store.