Was John Carmack a really good programmer or...

thecrafter

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did he gain so much fame simply because it was such an early time for PC games?

I think he was simply in the right place at the right time. I realized this during my reading of Masters of Doom. I'm not good at explaining things so I'll keep this brief and hope others will chime in, but thinking about it logically, PC gaming was just an infant. There was so much potential and it would have just taken time for others to eventually come up with the same tech Carmack came up with. He was just the first to do so (and understandably. PC gaming was nowhere near as big and popular as it is today). Today there's so much competition, but back then there was very little. If you could draw a smiley as a texture on a wall instead of just one solid color, you were famous.

I don't know. I mean look at his recent games (and Romero.. his career after id is just a big lol) =/ He stopped being innovative after Quake, at which point first person shooters pretty much reached a stalemate in terms of impressive tech that is still in affect today.

Probably going to get flamed, but just wanted to express my opinion on the matter and hear some other peoples opinions.

The way I think of it, was back in the early 80s to late 80s, and very early in the early 90s, engines were like drawings. First someone discovered you could draw a triangle with 3 lines. Then 10 years later a "genius" figured out a way to add a fourth line, making a square! What innovation! Sure it's innovative, but sooner rather than later (especially when it's so early in PC gaming), someone else would have figured out that adding a fourth line makes a square. It's just that there were very few people who played around with drawing lines at the time, so innovation came easily.
 
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Derangel

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Carmack is an engine designer, that is his primary focus. You're talking about innovation in game design, not engine design. Two entirely different things.
 

Netrat33

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Carmack is an engine designer, that is his primary focus. You're talking about innovation in game design, not engine design. Two entirely different things.

Right here.

And whether you liked Doom 3 or not, the engine was solid, stable, scalable and ran very smooth.

Brought to you by the letter "s"
 

thecrafter

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The same thing can be said about Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.

In the right place at the right time.

Hmm, Bill Gates: Good point. I don't know enough about the topic though. Steve Jobs: Well I'm a Mac user, I like the OS, it has the user friendlyness of Windows coupled with the flexible and powerful FreeBSD/*nix underparts and good hardware (not chips, those as we all know are the same as in PCs, but overpriced to heck. The cases, keyboard, touchpads, screens, etc all really really good). Mark.. Myspace was a giant well before Facebook became popular. I don't use social networks but I'm guessing he did stuff right to down Myspace like he had.

About Doom 3: I thought the opposite, didn't like the engine one bit personally. But actually it was innovative and impressive at the time! Very good graphics. Scalable.. I wouldn't say that though.
 

Stone Cold

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I'll say John Carmack was a good programmer. In the early days he was a key programmer in several exception games, proving his skill. Even back then, games were part of a very competitive industry.

The brain goes down hill just like the body, after around 20. By middle age, even geniuses are brought low.
 

himmy

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The same thing can be said about Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.

In the right place at the right time.

Except two of those guys have continued to innovate their markets since then(Mark being too young so far to judge). Carmack has just released prettier FPS games that stick to the same gameplay mechanics as his first FPS games.

Rage looks to be his most innovative game since Wolf 3D.
 

eon

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Carmack is easily one of the most talented video game programmers there has been. But great programming alone doesnt make a game good, that has more to do with the design.
 

Demon10000

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If you compare Doom for what it was, then you will see that he (and everyone that worked on it) were fantastic programmers. It ran well, was small, had a demo available, and looked better than any other game that was out. It was a commercial quality game from an upstart company.

I remeber playing that demo over and over and over and over....
 

Dallows

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I just wanted to throw out there without much prior knowledge that I believe Carmack to be one of the great programmers. He knows how to build an engine and he (with his team) spend the correct amount of time and care to get the end result they desire.
 

eloj

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JC is a great programmer, but he's not a "god" like some people (mostly non-programmers I guess) think. I'm following him on twitter and he regularly discovers things I've known about for a long time (last time I think it was bloomfilters). Being a great programmer is what put him in the position to be there at the right time. If he weren't, he hadn't been able to do all that work on BSPing and Carmack's Reverse and all that.

He's a tech guy. I'm not even sure he's that interested in game design!
 

Omophorus

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Great programmer? Absolutely yes.

A great programmer is one who thinks of a good way to do something sooner than everyone else.

There is no shortage whatsoever of people who can be handed a well-designed spec or some pseudocode and crank out well-optimized code.

He has consistently implemented new and cutting-edge features into his engines, and while there are certainly alternatives that are as good or better, that doesn't take away from his ability to continually innovate.

Whether or not he's a great game designer is an entirely separate question. Much like Tim Sweeney, better games tend to come along when he focuses on everything behind the scenes, and other people take care of the look, feel, and tuning of the gameplay.
 

Shalafi

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I think Carmack was a good programmer, but I also think he lacked vision, if he had vision, he'd be in a totally different place right now, his company wouldn't be where it is now, which is a relic of things past.
 

Rofl-Mic-Lofl

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I think Carmack was a good programmer, but I also think he lacked vision, if he had vision, he'd be in a totally different place right now, his company wouldn't be where it is now, which is a relic of things past.

His passion has gone to another field.
 

Grimham

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I'm going off memory here with something I read. Maybe someone can link to the original article.


Someone who works with Carmak was being interviewd and was telling a story of how he was working on one of the new engines and had been beating his head in for a couple days on how to get something to work properly. He finally gave up and asked John to take a look at it. Carmack fixed it in 5 minutes. The guys goes goes on to say about Carmack "Yes, people, he's that smart".

Take it for what it's worth, maybe the first guy was just an idiot, but I doubt it.
 

zoobaby

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did he gain so much fame simply because it was such an early time for PC games?

I think he was simply in the right place at the right time. I realized this during my reading of Masters of Doom. I'm not good at explaining things so I'll keep this brief and hope others will chime in, but thinking about it logically, PC gaming was just an infant. There was so much potential and it would have just taken time for others to eventually come up with the same tech Carmack came up with. He was just the first to do so . *snip*

The initial innovation is the easiest thing to dismiss, but only because it is intuitively obvious to the most casual observer after it has been done.

Don't discredit the hard work and effort to make it work the first time. It wasn't easy or obvious....
 

Term-X

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I don't understand why people revert to these sort of discussions. I mean, really, is it some internal stewing thought, that you wish he was something more? Or perhaps lowered from your perceived pedestal set by others? I mean, really.

Do you think any other man at the times where he was excelling could have done what he had done? It's all about right place, right time... right? Fact is, no one else did simply because they didn't not have his ability or forethought... at that time. He contributed to gaming and the technologies behind it far more than most have to date. To demean or question that because there are more out there like who or who have taken strides beyond him in some fashion, is stupid.

Coca Cola... Pepsi... one came before the other but they are both still successful at what they do. Leave it at that.
 

BladeVenom

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Carmack was a great programmer, if his current game engine turns out to be not as good as the competition, it's because his current interests have shifted more towards rockets.
 

Decibel

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Anyone watch the Graphics vs Aesthetics Extra Credits video over at EscapistMagazine.com?

I've always found iD games to have a bit of a meh look to them, while having engines with amazing capabilities for their time. Just look at screen shots of HL2 compared to Doom3. The HL2 engine was technically inferior, but the art direction choices made by iD didn't show the engines capability. I found HL2 to be the much better looking game.

Of course, I'm waiting for Rage to see what iD has been up to. We haven't seen a first party game from them since what, Doom3? Prey was someone else, Q4 was someone else...

I agree with the guys who wrote that Extra Credits video, it's artists that make a game look good, not necessarily the capabilities of the engine or the programmers. A good artist cam make a weak engine look good, a great programmer can't make up for shitty artists.

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/extra-credits/3201-Graphics-vs-Aesthetics

But for the record, yes Carmack is a damn good programmer. So was Bill Gates. How the hell did Steve Jobs and Zuckerburg end up in the same discussion?
 

Grimham

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I agree with the guys who wrote that Extra Credits video, it's artists that make a game look good, not necessarily the capabilities of the engine or the programmers. A good artist cam make a weak engine look good, a great programmer can't make up for shitty artists.

I'd have to agree. Look no further than WoW. Even with the updates, it's an still an old engine. It's a tribute to the artwork that it looks half as good as it does.
 

Neurofreeze

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Steve Jobs: Well I'm a Mac user, I like the OS, it has the user friendlyness of Windows coupled with the flexible and powerful FreeBSD/*nix underparts and good hardware (not chips, those as we all know are the same as in PCs, but overpriced to heck. The cases, keyboard, touchpads, screens, etc all really really good).

In this discussion, Steve Jobs has no credibility. While Bill Gates was a competent programmer back in the day (not many can say they earned $4200 at 14 for programming, and that was 1970, with inflation that amount would be roughly $20,000 today), Steve Jobs has never had any technical ability in either software or hardware. Everything you love about your mac is from some other engineer's work, whether Woz in decades past or current software and industrial design engineers, however, when you look at Facebook or Doom, there is a giant part of it personally coded by their respective creators, and in the case of Carmack, most of the code for all iD games currently out is still his, Doom III having the most non-Carmack code (and even then, it's mostly his work on the engine).
 

swatbat

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I'd say he is a very good programmer. The sheer number of game engines that are based off id softwares engines or just using their engines outright should show some credibility to that.

Halflife was based off a heavily modified quake engine. Infinity Ward's engine is based off the id tech 3 engine. That id tech 3 engine was used by a good amount of games as well.
 

Trimlock

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Hard to say if hes lost hos touch or not, the guy has had his main interest inrocket technology for a while now and is simply moving where his heart desires. US gamers has a lot to thank his early work for.
 

Krenum

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did he gain so much fame simply because it was such an early time for PC games?

I think he was simply in the right place at the right time.


This is exactly what I was going to say. I also think he is a great programmer. I hope his new engine is as much of a revolution as the Tech 4 engine was.
 

krotch

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I thought he was good, til he made that id Tech 4 engine. Thank god Epic Games came out with the Unreal Engine 3. I'd hate to be stuck on that piece of shit Doom 3 engine. Who the hell would like to play all their games in small ass hallways the whole time? Not me.
 

Krenum

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I thought he was good, til he made that id Tech 4 engine. Thank god Epic Games came out with the Unreal Engine 3. I'd hate to be stuck on that piece of shit Doom 3 engine. Who the hell would like to play all their games in small ass hallways the whole time? Not me.

Man the Doom 3 ( Tech 4) Engine was awesome for its day. The lighting was great! I remember getting it the first day it came out and playing it on my Ti4200 at 800x600 it still looked so bad ass lol. Anways too bad UT3 turned out to be such a turd. Except for Titan mode, thats pretty fun.
 

krotch

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id Tech 4 looked nice, but you were limited to tiny ass hallways. Doom 3 was small hallways. Prey was small hallways. Quake was small hallways.

UT3 wasn't all that fun, but UE3 was used by so many games. I don't think there's a single gamer out there that doesn't like at least one UE3 game. Bet there's plenty of gamers that don't like id Tech 4 games. You know..all like, 8 of them.
 

kuyaglen

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id Tech 4 looked nice, but you were limited to tiny ass hallways. Doom 3 was small hallways. Prey was small hallways. Quake was small hallways.

UT3 wasn't all that fun, but UE3 was used by so many games. I don't think there's a single gamer out there that doesn't like at least one UE3 game. Bet there's plenty of gamers that don't like id Tech 4 games. You know..all like, 8 of them.

I dont think JC made the hallways.
 

krotch

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No, he made the engine that can't do anything more than just hallways and small rooms.
 

Silus

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No he "wasn't". He still is. What he did in id in terms of game engines revolutionized the industry. Everyone used portions of his code from the first quake engine to develop their games. Notably, the first Half Life by Valve and many other AAA titles of the time. Same thing for Quake 2's engine and especially Quake 3's engine, which was used by a bazillion games.
John Carmack is not only a skilled programmer, but he also dabbles in other areas, like rocket science. Saying that he is "smart" is quite an understatement.
 

Silus

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id Tech 4 looked nice, but you were limited to tiny ass hallways. Doom 3 was small hallways. Prey was small hallways. Quake was small hallways.

UT3 wasn't all that fun, but UE3 was used by so many games. I don't think there's a single gamer out there that doesn't like at least one UE3 game. Bet there's plenty of gamers that don't like id Tech 4 games. You know..all like, 8 of them.

Engine != Map Design.

You can't connect the engine with how some game maps were designed. One thing has nothing to do with the other. Plus id Tech 4 is to this day, one of the less buggy engines ever made. id is the master of polished game engines. Let's see how id tech 5 goes.
 

Silus

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No, he made the engine that can't do anything more than just hallways and small rooms.

You haven't played many id Tech 4 based games then.

Carmack was also behind MegaTexture, which no other developer has come even close to. I hope id never releases that tech as open source. They already helped many get to where they are now, reaping all the benefits, without any credit given to id.
 

PrincessFrosty

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He's a very good programmer with a lot of good ideas, but not proportionally so compared to his success, to gain the sort of fame he has you need a mix of both being great at what you do, and also being in the right time at the right place.
 

krotch

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Engine != Map Design.

You can't connect the engine with how some game maps were designed. One thing has nothing to do with the other. Plus id Tech 4 is to this day, one of the less buggy engines ever made. id is the master of polished game engines. Let's see how id tech 5 goes.

The engine can limit your map design. Also, how do you know id Tech 4 is one of the less buggy engines ever made? It had 8 games. Maybe if 100 games were built on it, we'd see a hell of a lot of bugs. Course, the engine was worthless for consoles too. Every console game using it was buggy and looked like ass.

Hopefully Carmack learned from his mistakes with id Tech 4 and fixes all the flaws with id Tech 5. Which looks like that might be the case. I fear he won't put much time into consoles and the engine will end up another failure. Not to mention that any game using the engine has to be published by Bethesda Softworks. Ya, good luck with that.

You obviously don't remember much of Prey, then... And ET:QW isn't exactly the first thing that comes to mind when you say "hallways and small rooms".

Only large areas I remember in Prey, were ones I couldn't do anything in. As for ET:QW, that was when they created MegaTextures to fix the flaw of the engine. Course, by then, no one even cared about it anymore anyways. Seeing as ET:QW was the only game to use MegaTextures. Every other one is just small hallways and small rooms. The occassional larged sized area you couldn't do anything in, as in, you saw a large room, but debris or something blocked most of it off.

You haven't played many id Tech 4 based games then.

Carmack was also behind MegaTexture, which no other developer has come even close to. I hope id never releases that tech as open source. They already helped many get to where they are now, reaping all the benefits, without any credit given to id.

There weren't a whole lot of id Tech 4 games to choose from. I disliked Doom 3. I disliked Prey. I disliked Quake 4. There wasn't any reason for me to bother with such games again.

We have a lot of large open terrain games with higher quality than any id Tech 4 games, kind of tells me, we really don't need MegaTexture.
 
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