John Carmack just can’t let the ‘90s go! The id Software co-founder and creator of foundational games like Doom and Quake is committed to the era that birthed his fame. At the beginning of May, the man helped celebrate the 20th anniversary of Wolfenstein 3D by putting together a massive commentary video walking through the DOS version of the game. That’s not ‘90s enough through. At E3 2012, Carmack didn’t bring a new game, but new VR headset technology that works with the HD remaster Doom 3: BFG Edition. The future for Carmack is in headgear that looks straight out of The Lawnmower Man. Someone get this man a pair of Bugle Boys, stat.
Jokes aside, Carmack’s interest in headgear rather than more powerful CPUs and GPUs speaks volumes about what his studio’s interests are as the industry draws closer to Xbox 720, PlayStation 4, and the next round of PC hardware from Intel and others.
Speaking with GamesIndustry International, Carmack said that its technology like VR headsets that will make the biggest leaps forward for video games, not better graphics. “Sony and Microsoft are going to fight over gigaflops and teraflops and GPUs and all this. In the end, it won’t make that much difference,” said Carmack, “In the end, it won’t make that much difference. When you get to this, it really makes a big difference in the experience. Nintendo went and brought motion into the gaming sphere and while only having a tenth of the processing power was able to outsell all of them in all of these ways. I think someone has an opportunity to do this here [with VR headsets]. It takes a whole ecosystem though, but it is almost perfect.”
The demo set up Carmack had at E3 was very much cobbled together but it did create an immersive Doom 3 session, with full on head tracking. When you look right wearing the goggles, you look right in the game world.
The id Tech engine creator might be underestimating the console makers of the world though. Microsoft patents published in March described technology called “Project Eyewear” that would work with the Xbox. Unlike Carmack’s headset though which immerses the player in the game, Microsoft’s headset would create an image that appears projected in front of the player around 21-inches away. This would free the player from needing a television while also recreating standard game experiences as they currently are.
No company has found a way to keep players from looking stupid while wearing a VR headset though.