John Carmack: as a mad genius from Kansas brought PC gaming to greatness
In the 8 years he repelled an invasion of aliens. 14 tried to steal from the school Apple computers. At 23 I opened a portal to the underworld and became an overnight billionaire. Such stories are commonly found on the pages of science fiction novels — but there are people who managed to make the wildest dreams come true. His name is John. John Carmack. Today eminent programmer, designer and dreamer turns 47 — it’s time to remember how (not really) a regular guy raised PC games and the whole industry with his knees.
John D. Carmack II born August 20, 1970 in the family of Stan Carmack — respected Kansas reporter from the TV station KMBC-TV. From childhood little johnny was this: while my peers dreamed of a career in sports and show business, the 12 boy from Kansas city dream complex technologies, preferring running around with the ball Assembly toy rockets and gatherings for Dungeons & Dragons. And after meeting with arcade machine Space Invaders in the summer of ‘ 78. and video games.
Not very smart and too arrogant lad still at school understood that he is better than his year — and did not hesitate to demonstrate superiority at every opportunity. The popularity of such conduct he did not add — but the bespectacled teen didn’t bother.
“In my youth I was a jerk. Constantly boasted that smarter than others, but at the same time felt unhappy: I could not do what do you want,” John Carmack about yourself.
Then, in the early ‘ 80s, microcomputers and the like were not held in high esteem — and the poor guy didn’t know where to go. Arrogance and frustration are motivated by unfulfilled dreams haunted and typical geek in Hollywood comedies has turned into a rebel. Of course, the troubles in his own head John was, like any fledgling Creator who created them for himself.
His most famous trick — the theft of the Apple II from the school in an affluent area. About the long search was not necessary: his institution could not afford such a luxury technology, and 14-year-old nerd decided to take the “purchase” of equipment in their hands. Alas, despite all the preparations and a special blend for melting glass (our hero is well understood in chemistry), the Heist of the century failed: the minor offender was caught red-handed. And when it came to psychological assessment, John kept it real — talking honestly from the heart.
— If you are caught, you would have done something like that?
— Yes, certainly.
— I know, pretty stupid to admit that you’re willing to commit a crime again.
— I said “if you don’t get caught”, damn it!
The following year he spent in a children’s correctional facility. Conclusion benefit: an unusual experience is slightly tempered the ardor of a rebel, and he has channeled his boundless energy in the right direction. Sitting in a room all day alone with a monitor, a keyboard, and pizza, John taught themselves coding. Study brilliant recluse is also not abandoned, successfully releasing from school, Shadi mission with four as the average score.
However, free Carmack, Jr. has not increased: parents forced to enroll in the University of Missouri in Kansas city. Nothing better to do, he enrolled in courses on programming and then, in the tradition of many successful individuals, and all left the University in just a couple semesters.
“It wasn’t worth the time spent” — John Carmack about studying at the University.
Life between the lines of code
Finally an adult, John decided to earn money on their own talents and become a freelancer. For a start went into the Apple, she just left and Steve jobs and a place of eccentric genius was vacant. For a long time in “Apple” the walls hard worker, meanwhile, is not delayed: pay the company a mere pittance.
In the end, fate brought a young coder in Shreveport, Louisiana. It was settled firm Softdisc — more recently, it specialized in the publication of the disk (on floppy disks the compiled collections of articles, videos and useful software), but in 1990, the top management decided to follow the latest trends. Thus was born the Gamer’s Edge — the same collection, also on floppy disks, but not programs, and games. Primitive, sure, but who will condemn the anthology “twenty-in-one”?
The head of the project appointed John Romero is an ambitious game designers, who had by that time making more than a dozen simple interactive fun. Being a man of shrewd, Romero quickly recognized in freelancer from Kansas city brother’s mind — and these need to always keep on hand. After a little persuasion coder self-taught moved to the Louisiana office full time. Not calmed down there, Romero organized a transition in his Department Adrian Carmack — namesake John D. and officer of the art Department Softdisc. The fourth and final member of the yet unnamed rock band was Tom Hall — even if he did not cooperate with the Trinity directly, but helped at night, after the end of the day.
Carmack is a programmer and Hall quickly found a common language — both cared about the limited ability of the then computers. Hard to believe, but at the turn of the decades, the world was ruled by the console — the PC could only envy the abilities of the same Nintendo Entertainment System, the gift that sported the same chips and, in fact, technology. The main stumbling block was the inability of computers to dynamically redraw the image to make this Toolkit platformer level Super Mario was impossible. At least, this was the professionals.
John also perceived the situation as a clever riddle: the answer was somewhere on the surface, just no one has noticed. Parallel to the main work, the guy stuffed all day on the keyboard all sorts of options, until one day he took the solution is really quite simple. Just needed to redraw all at once: only those objects that changed their position in space.
As a sample, Carmack and Hall successfully recreated the first level of Super Mario Bros. 3, put it on a floppy disk (signed by Dangerous Dave in the Copyright Infringement) and showed Romero the next morning. He, without thinking, offered to contact Nintendo, saying, “we can do PC-version Mario want?” The Japanese predictably refused: they were not interested in the PC market. In the course went to plan “B” — manufacturing their own masterpieces. First, the composition of Softdisc (a contract’s a contract), then the company Apogee, and a little later, since 1991 under the banner of the legendary id Software.
The geek-rockers from Dallas
To settle the guys decided on neutral territory, in Texas. Their first notable success is the series of platformer Commander Keen — cycle comely action about a boy who saves humanity from aliens. John Carmack, as usual, was responsible for the technical part. But once having conquered saydskrollery, he wanted to move on.
Inspired by the holographic deck from the TV series “Star trek” John has long been desired to realize a truly fantastic (for the time) concept of virtual reality to life. The last straw was the release of the space simulator Wing Commander. Kind of “out of sight” and thereby created an immersive impressed with the young coder. He is familiar with such games future.
“The concept of the world in a box there is something incredibly attractive. If you can become Emperor of the virtual world using only a cheap computer, is it bad?” — John Carmack on virtual reality.
Stuffed his hand in Hovertank 3D and Catacomb 3-D (real grandfathers of the FPS genre, which, by the way, debuted the ray casting technology), in 1991, the Quartet issued id’s Wolfenstein 3D — the famous Thriller about the cool American spy, sheepish Nazis and Mecha-Hitler. The shooter was considered a breakthrough for a number of reasons, not least because of the picture — John tried to make the jaw dropped for everyone.
Works and long months of polishing paid off: Wolf brought its creators for 120 thousand dollars a month, and a 21-year dropout from Missouri became a millionaire. In its place, many would have gone to relax to Hawaii or the Caribbean — and Carmack decided to jump above a head.
Released in 1993, the year DOOM walked W3D in all respects: more weapons, more enemies, more meat and, of course, cooler music — Bobby Prins otherwise simply could not. But I won’t gameplay and not even a jaunty soundtrack, and the engine — such beauty in those days gamers have not seen before. A variety of colors, most likely (albeit not purely illusory) 3D complicated in comparison with the previous projects of the Studio geometry and technical side conquered even those usually not interested in graphics. The talents of the programmer suddenly started talking all. And PC as the platform finally came out of the shadows: why, with such cool exclusives.
Thank guy in the head is not hit: the words he preferred. For example, out of curiosity, pile engine to re-release DOOM on the Atari Jaguar. And then he had released the source code of their works in free access, to the delight of modders. And like any self-respecting rich man, even engaged in charity — funded school, enthusiasts and just good people.
However, despite enviable successes, the band went wrong. And it’s not big money. Little by little, friends began to look at each other differently, more hostile — not in the last (maybe even first) place because of John D. Carmack.
Portrait of a genius
The psychological expertise that John was forced to undergo at the age of 14, brought an interesting detail of a minor character of a bully: he’s not looking at others as equal. To him, they are tools, nothing more. And that he was “brain on two legs”, infinitely distant from the world. The years have passed and nothing has changed.
Stories about the quirks of the founder of id will suffice on separate article: suffice it to say that the jokes and pranks he was not touched. Exactly like life Pets accidentally trapped in the walls of the Texas Studio. Once it without a second thought sent his cat Mitzi to the shelter for homeless animals — there was nothing to spoil an expensive leather couch, he reasoned. Protests and accusations (“what are you, her W lull!“) passing by the ears: that’s life, what to do. Even obscene video that friends sometimes ran next to him laughs, and they did not cause him any particular emotion — dabble okay, what to do. Life Carmack always was a workaholic who put work above leisure and socialization. Which, of course, affected the team.
First fell into disgrace Tom Hall — he too liked the brutality of Wolfenstein and DOOM, and thought-out scenarios over and over again went in the scrap: two John believed that their works of ingenious plots to anything. In the end, Hall left id during the break between DOOM and DOOM II.
After the team left Romero. He believed that technology should serve the game design, not Vice versa. Carmack, the programmer to the bone, protested: he was much more interesting to pore over engines and the game will somehow collected itself — otherwise, why would they hire so many professionals and enthusiasts to help me? In such an atmosphere and created a Quake in the middle of an irreconcilable conflict between two icons of the industry.
However, regular disputes about the philosophy of the hero of the article did not care — which is not too frequent get-togethers of co-founder. Cold logic suggested to get rid of the unreliable employee — which is what happened. The decision on dismissal is adopted by the Council of the Studio. Formally.
Love and space
Without a charismatic, influential designers, the company grew into the forge technologies. John just couldn’t stop, each time raising the bar higher and higher. And, admittedly, his inventions actually went to the people: the Quake engine, for example, became the basis for the beloved Source (nee GoldSrc), whereas on the basis of id Tech 3 made more than a dozen shooters (among which the first Call of Duty, Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Jedi Knight cycle). The victim of this approach have become the games themselves: id did only what was true in the market — and only by order of who understand. And the targets set were in the spirit of “by the Way, Quake III is a multiplayer action, work“. Arguing with your boss, no one dared.
Cares enough, however, Carmack decided that the management of one firm is not enough. To relax and to remember his childhood, he founded Armadillo Aerospace is an independent company, to create the space ships. Worth a passion for mere pennies — million a year. And while John treated the business more like to the outlet, AA successfully competed with NASA’s part of the technology. That, however, was not a surprise. But the sudden marriage of genius has shocked many — especially those who knew the reclusive programmer is an introvert person.
His wife was Catherine Anne Keng — game designer and producer, with which John Carmack met on the sunset of the 90s, during the exhibition QuakeCon. The relationship began, as it should be all romantic stories, bet 27 — year-old guy believed that Catherine did not gather enough participants for a women-only tournament, Quake , and promised to Finance the event, if I am wrong. Logic dictates that such games are addicted to only men but life sometimes presents surprises. Three years later we tied the knot and since then have been working (and living) together. Wonderful Wolfenstein RPG and DOOM RPG for mobile phones — their handiwork.
Failures and care in VR
Sooner or later the streak had to end and it happened with the long-awaited release of DOOM 3 in 2004. Despite the good ratings shaft of the press (well-deserved, everything else), people action didn’t like. Too dark, too slow, too dark — not like the predecessors. Even a mind-blowing engine with a magnificent play of light and shade is appreciated in so far as: Yes, beautiful, sophisticated, but who cares if the screen is constantly Black square? To top it all hyped id Tech 4 licensed rare — and covert won the war Studio Epic Games with its Unreal Engine 2 and 3. But anything can happen: the first tangible setback did not bother Carmack, and he began designing a new version of the Toolkit.
Return the status of the king of the keyboard was the megatexture technology — instead of creating a dozen different textures in id Tech 5 has generated a giant one for the whole level. Sounds like a revolution — however, the product is also not caught on, was rarely used. It looked pretty ugly sometimes, especially at first. The subsequent achievements of the programmer (say, cleverly rewritten code DOOM 3 BFG Edition specifically for the PS3 and Xbox 360) passed by the masses — is the era of global turmoil was long gone.
However, upset John D. was in no hurry: in 2013, he found new passion for virtual reality. However, ZeniMax Media bought id software in 2009, was not going to support any glasses there — not seen potential. Carmack, without thinking, left the Studio, leaving the memory of the achievements of id Tech 6. Mutual divorce, alas, did not happen: firm accused legendary coder of stealing information. That, in turn, sued for non-payment of 22 million for the purchase of the company. To make it teach.
Now the hero of our article was happily working within the walls of Oculus VR, satisfied with the position of chief technical Director. Someone will say that this is a significant downgrade compared to the previous post before that, he was involved in high-profile projects, shook the industry with the ideas, organized the revolution. And now he is doing something for Facebook. But it makes no difference.
It just so happened that John Carmack for 40 years doing what he wants and how he wants and lives happily ever after. Juvenile delinquent, genius, inventor, astronaut, rich, happy family man with a wife and two children is a good summary for botany from Kansas city, isn’t it?
Lyricist: Igor eryshev
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