Co-Founder of id Software, John Carmack is the programming genius behind the titles that continue to define the first-person shooter video game genre, Doom, Quake, and Quake 2. He encourages his minions to release these games under Linux. Because of this, he is a god. John drives fast cars, and is rich enough to blow up 1200hp Ferraris.

He is a game engine kind of guy, not a complex story kind of guy. That does not make him any less of a genius, it just means that id software needs some in-house story-creation talent.
Has revolutionized video games: releasing source code to allow mods, custom levels, skins, and models, internet gaming, and developing for Linux, to name a few.
It is always interesting to hear what John Carmack says, he has unique way of working and his views of the videogames industry are very interesting for me. But if id software doesn't get a good games designer soon, he would end up working in raw research and id would fade away.

Thu Jun 1 2000 update:

In a shocking announcement, John Carmack reveals id's next project: a new DOOM game. And with it we are shown that things at id are going pretty wild:

Well, this is going to be an interesting .plan update.

Most of this is not really public business, but if some things aren't stated explicitly, it will reflect unfairly on someone.

As many people have heard discussed, there was quite a desire to remake DOOM as our next project after Q3. Discussing it brought an almost palpable thrill to most of the employees, but Adrian had a strong enough dislike for the idea that it was shot down over and over again.

Design work on an alternate game has been going on in parallel with the mission pack development and my research work.

Several factors, including a general lack of enthusiasm for the proposed plan, the warmth that Wolfenstien was met with at E3, and excitement about what we can do with the latest rendering technology were making it seem more and more like we weren't going down the right path.

I discussed it with some of the other guys, and we decided that it was important enough to drag the company through an unpleasant fight over it.

An ultimatum was issued to Kevin and Adrian (who control >50% of the company): We are working on DOOM for the next project unless you fire us.

Obviously no fun for anyone involved, but the project direction was changed,new hires have been expedited, and the design work has begun.

It wasn't planned to announce this soon, but here it is: We are working on a new DOOM game, focusing on the single player game experience, and using brand new technology in almost every aspect of it. That is all we are prepared to say about the game for quite some time, so don't push for interviews. We will talk about it when things are actually built, to avoid giving misleading comments.

It went smoother than expected, but the other shoe dropped yesterday.

Kevin and Adrian fired Paul Steed in retaliation, over my opposition.

Paul has certainly done things in the past that could be grounds for dismissal, but this was retaliatory for him being among the "conspirators".

I happen to think Paul was damn good at his job, and that he was going to be one of the most valuable contributors to DOOM.

We need to hire two new modeler/animator/cinematic director types. If you have a significant commercial track record in all three areas, and consider yourself at the top of your field, send your resume to Kevin Cloud.

A founder member of Id Software, John Carmack is probably the most talented programmer working in the field of computer games at this time. He has played a major role in the development of all Id's game engines. Some notable achievements (technical and otherwise) of his include:
  • Writing scrolling routines for EGA games, leading to the Commander Keen series and several others in the early 1990's.
  • Creating the first 'modern' first-person shooter engine in Wolfenstein 3D.
  • Creating the mind-bogglingly fast and capable (for the time) DOOM engine, single-handedly propelling the PC to the status of a mainstream games platform.
  • Creating (with his one-time mentor, Mike Abrash) the Quake engine, the first fully 3D, TCP/IP networkable (and basically amazing in every way) game engine.
  • Popularised making game engines open-ended for enthusiasts to develop new levels, extensions and modifications.
  • Popularised the licensing of game engines to other development teams, drastically reducing the overheads of developing first-person games.
  • Pioneered (with Quake and QuakeWorld) the networked gaming model, to the point where multiplayer functionality is expected from nearly all new PC games.
  • Provided incentives for gamers to upgrade their PCs, in particular greatly increasing the uptake of 3D acceleration cards. More recently he has been more closely involved in the direction of 3D hardware development.
  • Becoming personally very rich by exploiting the shareware distribution model as well as the conventional commercial route.

His hobbies include model rocket building and driving expensive red cars.

Comments to the effect that John Carmack is 'unable to do anything new' or 'obsessed with shooters' indicate a breath-taking lack of understanding on the part of the commentator. (Yeah, and that Antonio Stradivari only knew how to make violins.) PC games would still be around the Solitaire level of advancement without the contribution of Carmack and others like him.

Also, he added dynamic lighting to the Quake engine in just over an hour, according to Michael Abrash's Graphics Programming Black Book. Porting Quake to OpenGL took a while longer (a weekend!).

Corrections to GuPH's writeup below:

Slordax was written in C? And so? DooM was written in C.

Quake 1 was "internet enabled" as you put it. QuakeWorld added stuff like prediction.

An interesting tidbit is that he's an active member on slashdot. He usually gets modded to +5 though, either for celebrity or having very insightful topics, which he does.

He brought a workstation on his honeymoon so he could code. He tells everyone what he's doing by writing .plan logs on his site.

Geeks worship him because he's able to be conversed with. While I'm sure Natalie Portman hangs out on E2 (she's probably TheBooBooKitty), most celebrities don't make their presence known like him. Oh, and most others can't be believed for being the real thing (like stile).

Oh, and he's blond, and wears glasses.

John Carmack paves the way. He creates revolutionary 3D engines, which his company soups up with some basic stuff like single player, and then licenses the engines to let OTHER people make excellent single player games (read: half life (NOT CS), heretic 2, scoure of armagon, etc). After countless numbers of game engines (I still have his c (not cpp) slordax game) he and his company have nailed down the multiplayer game, however, with quakeworld (internet-enabled quake1) still being very popular after something like 6 years of existance (not to mention that i played a game of doom1 over the internet just last week.)

In appearance, John Carmack is somewhat short, has long hair sometimes, and is a really a nice guy. Oh, and he sure as hell knows what hes doing! :) Even somewhere around the time when "Doom" was released, he was quoted as saying "I am good at what I do." You damn right he is.

Other games that he (and his company, iD Software hehe) has written include the ever popular Commander Keen series (which were written after Carmack devised an ingenius "nintendo mario brothers-like" scrolling technique for the PC, ingenius because to get anything to scroll on the incredibly slow PCs of that time required a lot of programming optimization.) As well as Wolfenstein 3D, and so forth. He did not code Catacomb Abyss, which works on a similar principle as wolf3d, yet came earlier. When asked who he would most like to work with, Carmack mentioned another programming hero of mine, Ken Silverman (Ken coded the Build engine used in such games as Duke3d, Shadow Warrior, and also created a number of other complex 3D projects, including a solar system simulator (all on his site,

As for his cars, after the explosion of Wolfenstein 3D made him rich (and all the games after that), he has been buying Ferraris (and working on them by himself too, i hear, indeed hes a Jack of many trades :).

Of course, the day came when his garage ran out of space, so he put up very first Ferrari that he got (I forget the model) as the first prize for the 1997 Quake 1 competition "Red Annihilation."

Thresh won that Ferrari (with a ridiculous score of 14 to -1 over Entropy), and when asked how fast it goes, revealed nothing but a modest 115 mph (on a runway of course) despite pleas from the interviewers :).

One more thing about John Carmack- he not only writes software for rocket launchers; he also designs, builds and launches rockets!

In his spare time, and with his not inconsiderable wealth, he's actually working on a rocket that can launch passengers to an altitude of about 100km or so, which is generally recognized as being 'in space', and return them safely to earth.

Testing so far has been restricted to about 30 feet (and that was when the throttle got stuck ;-), primarily because he hasn't got a launch licence yet- but he's working on it.

The vehicle he is designing is computer controlled and is capable of hovering. The fuel of choice is hydrogen peroxide, because it is a monopropellent but he is experimenting with different fuels, including reacting hydrocarbons with it.

Personally, I think if he can start small and build up from there, he stands a good chance of ramping up to full-on orbital space tourism! I wish him well.

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