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Gaming legend John Carmack talks VR gaming's past, present, and future

John Gaudiosi | Sept. 9, 2014
Doom creator and id Software co-founder John Carmack has discovered a new passion to keep him working long into the night: The man who helped introduce 3D first-person shooters to the world is trailblazing once again, but in the virtual reality space.

And it's been great to see the progress and the polish and the evolution of all that [PC game] stuff over the last twenty years, but there certainly is a sense over the last decade that we're past the knee of the curve in terms of the benefits that we're getting from continuing to polish those same things. They're still great. They're still getting better, but they're not getting better at as impressive as a pace.

While the last couple of years working with VR here, I've felt more like myself than I have in a long time. It's making a big difference in early level technology, setting the stage or preparing the canvas for the artists that are going to do the magical work on it. Anybody that's been around me while I'm doing this stuff and gets me going about how this is going to be changing things, what problems we need to address — it is very much the same thing except it's happening so much faster.

I can remember way back then waiting for GPU accelerators to get decently fast enough to be able to do things, or waiting for them to appear at all, and waiting for broadband to boot up with the multiplayer gaming. It would just take these long periods of time, whereas here (at Oculus) big things are happening every year. In two years, Oculus has gone from a duct tape prototype to [the second-generation developer Rift kit] DK2, and the VR is really great. It's only going to be going faster now with partnerships with companies like Samsung and the backing of Facebook. It's a wild roller coaster in real life that we're getting, creating these virtual things.

What are your thoughts on the evolution of mobile gaming from simple games to more console-style games that are being designed today for micro-consoles like Android TV and the promise of mobile devices as portable consoles?

I do think that that notion of mobile as portable consoles is more of a dream in some parts of the industry right now than the reality. In reality people are playing Candy Crush and Clash of Clans and things like that on mobile, which is still largely the bite-sized chunks. The fact that they're powerful enough to do the console-like experience hasn't yet really translated into that being what people have shown by their actions that they really want.

How do you see the VR video game experiences for mobile evolving compared to what we've seen with traditional mobile games?

Even on PC VR right now, most of the VR experiences do tend to be these smaller nuggets of interesting experiences. There are a few of them that are multi-hour, long-term play experiences, but a lot of the interesting stuff is in the smaller things. So there's an energy there where the best experimental mode is trying out these bite-sized nuggets and that sits well with the current capabilities of the system, so I think that's an entirely positive relationship there.

 

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