John Carmack's QuakeCon 2012 Keynote
3+ Hours of discussion later...
The beginning of QuakeCon is always started by several hours of John Carmack talking about very technical things. This two hour keynote typically runs into the three to four hour range, and it was no different this time. John certainly has the gift of gab when it comes to his projects, but unlike others his gab is chock full of useful information, often quite beyond the understanding of those in the audience.
The first topic of discussion was that of last year’s Rage launch. John was quite apologetic about how it went, especially in terms of PC support. For a good portion of users out there, it simply would not work due to driver issues on the AMD side. The amount of lessons they learned from Rage were tremendous. iD simply cannot afford to release two games in one decade. Rage took some six plus years of development. Consider that Doom 3 was released in 2004, and we did not see Rage until Fall 2011. The technology in Rage is a big step up due to the use of iD Tech 5, and the art assets of the title are very impressive.
iD also made some big mistakes in how they have marketed the title. Many people were assuming that it would be a title more in line with Bethesda’s Fallout 3 with a lot of RPG type missions and storyline. Instead of a 80 hour title that one would expect, it was a 10+ hour action title. So marketing needs to create a better representation of what the game entails. They also need to stay a bit more focused on what they will be delivering, and be able to do so in a timely manner.
There is no announcement on Doom 4 so far, but he did mention that they are working on it. It will have demons and shotguns involved, but there is no announcement or any kind of details on what it will contain. No screenshots, no tech discussion, etc.
iD will be releasing a new title this year though. Doom 3 BFG Edition will be a revamped Doom 3 with some iD Tech 5 thrown in, extra storyline and missions, and some basic fixes in lighting that should make it a better overall title for those who were unhappy with the “overdark” environment that was famous in Doom 3. The game is totally retuned, and can be run up to 120 Hz on high end PC systems. It is also available for PS3 and XBox 360 (something that was not really possible with the iD Tech 4 driven Doom 3).
John was somewhat disappointed that they have suspended all mobile development. This has been a favorite pastime for John, and the challenges on the platforms they were developing for were pretty impressive. Needless to say, John seemed to have a lot of fun, but it is not a moneymaker. While there have been some definite successes in the mobile space, iD did not have a blockbuster that pushed them to keep addressing this market. It is not to say that iD will not return to it one day, but as a small developer they feel they do not have the manpower to adequately address the mobile space. Instead, they are focusing their workforce on the larger, blockbuster type releases on consoles and PCs.
Mac development is getting a boost at iD. John feels that it is becoming a much more important, and untapped space. Several factors have pushed iD in this direction. First off the hardware is now good enough overall for gaming. The latest Intel processors have a graphics portion that is entirely able to run games at decent resolutions and quality settings. We also have development houses like Valve actively producing titles for Mac and having robust Steam support for the platform. While there are no announcements about titles being ported to Mac so far, it will be coming.
Linux development is another story altogether. Even though Valve is now actively pursuing the Linux market, iD has been there before, and just has not seen positive results. Remember how many past titles from iD actually ran on Linux, and for how long these were supported? John says that Linux development simply does not pay the bills. It creates goodwill among the Linux crowd, but that is about it.
Cloud gaming will eventually be important. He likes what Gaikai and Onlive are doing, but he still thinks that there are still some major barriers to large scale adoption. While these companies are addressing the latency issues, there are still several areas of latency that they have no control over. These areas of latency issues are controlled by the people making the televisions. While Gaikai can get latency down to the 20 to 30 ms range, some of these TV manufacturers introduce upwards of 70 ms of latency from the receiver to the screen. He does feel that eventually this will be a big mover in the industry.
One area he wants to focus more on is the use of 120 Hz devices. Usage will be either 60 Hz per eye for stereoscopic use, or 120 Hz for a single screen to improve the overall gaming experience. This is an area that I can really get behind, as the jump in response and smoothness in gaming is very visceral in most first person shooter titles.
The final topic was that of John’s VR glasses experiments that he has been doing, as well as the work he is doing with the company Oculus. This is obviously a passion for John, as he talked a lot about it. He detailed out the issues with current head mounted displays, what he has done to mitigate them, and the final cludged together product that he was able to produce essentially on his own. He was quite excited to get in touch with the people at Oculus, as they have a nearly shipping product that takes HMD VR to the next level. Topics involved per eye resolution, optics, latency, absolute head position, and software support. This took up the major portion of his talk. It is an area that he obviously is very excited about and hopes to expand upon soon.
VR and display technologies should be something that AMD and NVIDIA will be very interested in. This is an area where these companies can help to improve upon, so there is a real reason why to buy multiple GPU solutions (or at least top end single GPU products). With integrated graphics being decent enough for most users, this provides an impetus to upgrade graphics power in a good portion of machines.
After 3+ hours John finally wound things down. The next year should be just as interesting for iD and John, so we look forward to seeing what is presented next year.