Where are they now? - John Carmack


For today's "Where are they now?" we feature another id Software developer who worked with John Romero and Tom Hall. In fact he ended up working there for much longer than his colleagues: over two decades in fact. The man I'm talking about today is John Carmack, programming genius and responsible for several graphics algorithms used in gaming such as Adaptive Tile Refresh (used in Commander Keen), Binary Space Partitioning (used in Doom and Quake), Surface caching (used in Quake), "Carmack's Reverse" (used in Doom 3) and MegaTexture (used in Rage). So where exactly did Mr Carmack come from and what's he up to nowadays if he's not working at id Software?

Carmack was born in 1970 and grew up in Kansas with an early interest in computers.

In the 1980s when Carmack was 14, he along with some other kids broke into a school to steal some Apple II computers. Carmack used a combination of Thermite and Vaseline in order to melt through the windows. Their heist was foiled though when one of Carmack's accomplices tripped a silent alarm alerting the police of their robbery. They were caught and Carmack was arrested. He was sent for a psychiatric evaluation that described him as having "no empathy for human beings" and "a brain on legs". After the evaluation he was sent for one year in a juvenile home.

After completing school, Carmack attended university for two semesters before dropping out and becoming a freelance programmer. He joined Softdisk in the late 80s where he would meet his future id Software colleagues, John Romero, Tom Hall and Adrian Carmack. After working on a few games, Carmack along with the future id crew developed Commander Keen which was published by Apogee Software under the shareware distribution model from 1991 onwards. Shortly after, Carmack, Romero, Hall and A. Carmack formed id Software.

The early 90s was the golden age for id Software and Carmack's role was instrumental to the company's success mainly due to his work on game engines. He worked as a programmer on 1992's Wolfenstein 3D, 1993's DOOM, 1993's Blake Stone, 1994's Rise of the Triad and 1994's DOOM II. In the late 90s, Carmack focused working as a programmer on a new series called Quake which had its debut in 1996. This was followed by three sequels although Carmack was only involved with 1997's Quake II and 1999's Quake III Arena (one of my favourite multiplayer deathmatch games of all time). Carmack was also involved in developing the engine for one of the most critically acclaimed PC games of all time, 1998's Half-Life.

In the 2000s, Carmack worked on several mobile games with his wife Katherine Anna Kang (who he married in 2000) such as 2005's DOOM RPG, 2008's Wolfenstein RPG and 2009's DOOM II RPG. He was also the Technical Director for 2005's DOOM 3 and is credited as a programmer for the id Tech 4 engine which was used in the 2007 game Enemy Territory: Quake Wars.

Carmack was Chief Technical Officer on 2011's Rage (which I really didn't enjoy) before finally leaving id Software for good in 2013 to become CTO for Oculus (the guys that are trying to bring back Virtual Reality to the masses). Carmack apparently left id Software because Zenimax Media, parent company of id Software didn't want to support Oculus VR with their games.

According to Carmack's pretty active Twitter profile, he's still working at Oculus to this day. Also, only last year did his son Ryan Carmack (who was 9 years old at the time) release his first computer game called Angry Face. Maybe one day Ryan will follow in his father's footsteps. With a father like John Carmack, he's surely got a foot in the door...

[ Wikipedia: John Carmack ]
[ MobyGames: John Carmack ]
[ John Carmack's Twitter Profile ]