When John Carmack speaks, the industry tends to listen.
While it can be argued that his influence today on the gaming industry isn’t as
big as it was when nearly every 3D shooter was using one of his Quake engines, he is still regarded as
part of the heart of that keeps PC gaming alive. He continues to influence
gaming hardware too, especially in the area of graphics. In fact, NVIDIA and
ATI consult with John Carmack on design decisions when engineering new GPUs.Carmack and id Software were recognized
last week with two Technology Emmy Awards from the National Academy of
Television Arts & Sciences for the areas “pioneering development work in 3D
game engines” and “technological leadership in rendering breakthroughs with the
At CES, Game
Informer magazine sat down with John Carmack and Todd Hollenshead of id
Software to discuss many facets of the game industry as it applies to both PCs
and consoles. Right away, Carmack confirms that he is working on a new engine
for a completely new franchise not based on any of the company’s currently
existing intellectual properties. Carmack said that Quake Wars, which is based on an upgraded Doom 3 engine, will not be a DX10 game.
On the topic of DX10, Carmack said that there’s nothing at
the moment motivating him to move to the new API just yet for Quake Wars, citing that he’s quite
satisfied with DX9 and the Xbox 360. “DX9 is really quite a good API level …
Microsoft has done a very, very good job of sensibly evolving it at each
step--they’re not worried about breaking backwards compatibility--and it’s a
pretty clean API,” he said. “I especially like the work I’m doing on the 360,
and it’s probably the best graphics API as far as a sensibly designed thing
that I’ve worked with.”
Gamers often look to Carmack to tell the fortunes of PC
gaming hardware. His opinions on hardware can sway hardcore gamers to purchase
one hardware choice over another. Those in awe of the potential offered by DX10
may want to hold off on that shiny graphics card purchase, as Carmack says that
there isn’t a huge need for new hardware just yet, as current hardware is more
than adequate. “All the high-end video cards right now -- video cards across the
board --are great nowadays,” he said. “Personally, I wouldn’t jump at something
like DX10 right now. I would let things settle out a little bit and wait until
there’s a really strong need for it.”
Those wishing to take the plunge into DX10 will also have to
do so while upgrading to Windows Vista. Carmack, however, isn’t all that
excited about upgrading to the new OS: “We only have a couple of people running
Vista at our company. It’s again, one of those things that there is no strong
pull for us to go there. If anything, it’s going to be reluctantly like, ‘Well,
a lot of the market is there, so we’ll move to Vista.’”
Carmack then said that he’s quite satisfied with Windows XP,
going as far to say that Microsoft is ‘artificially’ forcing gamers to move to Windows
Vista for DX10. “Nothing is going to help a new game by going to a new
operating system. There were some clear wins going from Windows 95 to Windows
XP for games, but there really aren’t any for Vista. They’re artificially doing
that by tying DX10 so close it, which is really nothing about the OS ... They’re
really grasping at straws for reasons to upgrade the operating system. I
suspect I could run XP for a great many more years without having a problem with
it,” he said.
Then on to the topic of multi-core gaming systems. Carmack
has expressed his dislike for multi-cores, but with the two high-powered new
generation consoles both making use of multiple cores, it may be something he
just has to deal with. He says of the Xbox 360: “Microsoft has made some pretty
nice tools that show you what you can make on the Xbox 360 [with the
multi-cores] … but the fundamental problem is that it’s still hard to do. If
you want to utilize all of that unused performance, it’s going to become more
of a risk to you and bring pain and suffering to the programming side,” he
laments. “So we’re dealing with it, but it’s an aspect of the landscape that
obviously would have been better if we would have been able to get more
gigahertz in a processor core. But life didn’t turn out like that, and we have
to just take the best advantage with it.”
As far as the PlayStation 3 goes, Carmack isn’t thrilled at
the lack of developer support in comparison to what he’s received from
Microsoft. Nevertheless, he plans to support Sony’s console with his next
generation engine and games. “We’ve got our PlayStation 3 dev kits, and we’ve
got our code compiling on it. I do intend to do a simultaneous release on it.
But the honest truth is that Microsoft dev tools are so much better than Sony’s,”
he comments. “I think the decision to use an asymmetric CPU by Sony was a wrong
one. There are aspects that could make it a winning decision, but they’re not
helpful to the developers … It’s not like the PlayStation 3 is a piece of junk
or anything. I was not a fan of the PlayStation 2 and the way its architecture
was set up. With the PlayStation 3, it’s not even that it’s ugly--they just
took a design decision that wasn’t the best from a development standpoint.”
Finally, the console wheel spins to the company from Kyoto, which
Carmack says that id Software has never “been that tight with.”
He does express his respect of Nintendo’s courage to take a different direction
with input methods in controlling games, but his current and next generation of
game technology is not targeted at the Wii.
quote: Is it really that difficult from a programming point of view to design games that take great advantage of multi-core?
quote: In a word, yes... Writing parallel code is VERY hard and much more time consuming.
quote: Multi core processing is MUCH more powerful then our current single core processors today.
quote: In short, a 3GHz P4 is always desirable over two 1.5GHz P4s, so doubling CPU frequency is always preferrable to doubling cores
quote: It's not as easy as creating a framework that "knows" multi cores and then programming as usual (as your post implies)
quote: games are different than most applications in the fact that most of the things happen as a result of the human player actions. While additional cores could be used for some tasks, it's very difficult to use even 2 cores for processing things around the player.
quote: ....= higher price for games which are already very pricey.
quote: It's not really logical to avoid DX10 cards just because they have DX10 compatability
quote: They also, at least the GTS, don't consume that much power, and at the very least they are really silent
quote: It's not really logical to avoid DX10 cards
quote: -640K ought to be enough for anybody.
=Often attributed to Gates in 1981. Gates has repeatedly denied ever saying this:
-=-I've said some stupid things and some wrong things, but not that. No one involved in computers would ever say that a certain amount of memory is enough for all time... I keep bumping into that silly quotation attributed to me that says 640K of memory is enough. There's never a citation; the quotation just floats like a rumor, repeated again and again
quote: fundamentally, games are single threaded applications.
quote: But When the first dx 10 game comes out there is no excuse for going xp anymore.
quote: On the topic of DX10, Carmack said that there’s nothing at the moment motivating him to move to the new API just yet for Quake Wars, citing that he’s quite satisfied with DX9 and the Xbox 360. “DX9 is really quite a good API level … Microsoft has done a very, very good job of sensibly evolving it at each step--they’re not worried about breaking backwards compatibility--and it’s a pretty clean API,” he said. “I especially like the work I’m doing on the 360, and it’s probably the best graphics API as far as a sensibly designed thing that I’ve worked with.”