John Carmack: Virtual Reality Gaming Is The Next Big Step

Legendary Game Developer Not Impressed by Continuously Improving Graphics

by Anton Shilov
06/20/2012 | 09:58 PM

John Carmack, the pioneer of 3D video games, said that constantly improving quality of computer graphics or even motion sensing in its current form will no longer bring significant changes to video gaming in general. What should revolutionize gaming is virtual reality enhancements that bring the gamer into the game, according to the game designer.


"If you take a current game like Halo which is a 30Hz game at 720p; if you run that at 1080p/60Hz with high dynamic frame buffers, all of a sudden you've sucked up all the power you have in the next-generation. It will be what we already have, but a lot better. [...] But it is not like the first time you have ever played an FPS. It will not be like putting yourself in the virtual world. [...] That will be more of the discontinuous step like we have had with first going to 3D or first using a mouse," said John Carmack, technical director of id Software, in an interview with GamesIndustry International web-site.

Nowadays Mr. Carmack is trying to promote the idea of virtual reality (VR) headsets as a dramatic game changer for the industry. In particular, the legendary game developer believes in wide field of view, stereoscopic head mounted display with motion sensors (gyroscopes, accelerometers, etc.) that lets the players feel themselves inside virtual worlds.

At present wearable head mounted displays are not really rare: Sony sells its stereo-3D capable HMZ-T1 for $799 already, whereas enthusiast Palmer Luckey is working on custom OculusVR device that will be sold for around $500 to do-it-yourself enthusiast. Technically, it is pretty easy to add sensors to those head mounted displays to enable interactivity. However, neither of them support full-HD resolutions and have a number of other limitations.

Mr. Carmack claims that without specific support of VR by platform owners, e.g., Microsoft Corp. and Sony Corp. Hence, although virtual reality requires a lot of graphics processing power that will be provided by PlayStation 4 "Orbis" and Xbox Next, without specific help from Microsoft and Sony, virtual reality will not become a widespread technology. Bearing in mind current technical limitations of head-mounted displays and their cost, it is not surprising that Microsoft remains skeptic  about the tech in general, whereas Sony shows interest mainly because it already sells stereo-3D helmets.

"In many ways I am not all that excited about the next generation. It will let us do everything we want to do now, with the knobs turned up. [...] Sony and Microsoft are going to fight over gigaflops and teraflops and GPUs and all this. In the end, it will not make that much difference. When you get to this, it makes a really big difference in the experience," concluded Mr. Carmack.