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John Carmack

What makes John Carmack so brilliant?  Is it something innate, or is he plain and simply more persistent with the problem at hand?

Monday, August 2, 2004


Mitch & Murray (from Downtown)
Monday, August 2, 2004

He is brilliant.  There's no doubt about it.  But, like many people who are brilliant, he was the first to do what he did at the level he did it.

What I mean is that Castle Wolfenstein and Doom were the first games of their type on common PC hardware.  It's that meeting of the curve where hardware finally had gotten good enough and his ability to take graphics research and "dumb it down" just enough to make it work.  The original titles were nothing new to graphics research, but he knew enough to take it and make it work on the PC.

IMHO, there are many talented engineers in the game industry, not just John Carmack.  The Bungie guys did something similar to Doom on the Mac, called Marathon, that took just as much brilliance to produce.  Tim Sweeney, of Unreal fame, is a marvelous engineer.  I could go on and on with the brilliant figures I've had the opportunity to meet or work with.

John Carmack was the first to do it on the PC, and is justifiably held up as the icon of PC development.

Monday, August 2, 2004

Carmack's brilliance with technology didn't start with Wolfenstein. If you're curious about the life of the company, read the book "Masters of Doom". It's very interesting. It not only portrays the strengths of the company and the individuals, but their weaknesses as well.

Brad Wilson (
Monday, August 2, 2004

I second the recommendation about the "Masters of Doom" book.  If you've ever stayed up late one night getting over a code hurdle and made the program do what you wanted, then you will really enjoy this book.  It might even make you want to dust off that cool idea you put in the "someday" pile. 

I think it shows that the biggest asset these guys had was not technical brilliance as it was their passion to take it to the next level.  Example - John Romero waded through chest-deep water when a road was washed out then coded all night with Carmack to make a deadline.

Monday, August 2, 2004

Read some of his interviews for more insight into why (last I checked) he still works 7 days a week and is recognized as the first one in many areas (wolf 3d), doom (online multiplayer), quake (true 3d), etc....

"John: Well, I think a lot of people put too much emphasis on the epiphanies. Epiphanies are there, you do get them where you see clearly into something and all that. But it really is true that most great works aren't a result of epiphanies, they're the result of lots of hard labor. That is a trap that a lot of people fall into where you think that the epiphany is the important thing. Sometimes it is, but in 95% of cases it's just a matter of smooth, calm integration of everything you know.

It's not the one brilliant decision, it's the 500 smart decisions that really make things good. It's more a matter of being able to keep making smart decisions. Making one brilliant decision and a whole bunch of mediocre ones isn't as good as making a whole bunch of generally smart decisions throughout the whole process. And there's so many of them that have to be made. "

Monday, August 2, 2004

He works 7 days a week and in his spare time, make space rockets !

And ID didn'd only made a computer game. They created a cybersport with the quake series.

Carmack is _THE CODER_

Monday, August 2, 2004

A preview of the book mentioned above:

Tuesday, August 3, 2004

And to add to what I know (off the top of my head)...

* In addition to being a pioneer in computer game graphics, he has also added the following to the world of games...
- online gameplay/deatchmatch (he wrote the original networking code for doom and optimized it for modems)
- user mods (by making games mod friendly - see his plan file from 1999 about putting in a virtual machine into the game so that it can handle compiled and interpreted code (for user mods))
- scripting (Quake had it's own C-like scripting language, QC I think)
- first true side-scroller for the PC - Commander Keen (modeled after mario brothers, but still the first on the PC)

In fact, he even helped write display drivers for Linux when he ported Quake(?) to the OS in one weekend.

Tuesday, August 3, 2004

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