The Oculus Rift Kickstarter page (and various other places) announced today that John Carmack is joining them as their new Chief Technology Officer. John is one of the biggest names in the industry of 3D gaming, having been on the forefront of technology with Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Quake, and Rage. The fact that he’s interested in Oculus Rift shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, and in fact everyone I know that has had a chance to see the technology in action has been impressed. I wasn’t able to get there at CES 2013, but I know Brian stopped by—he mentioned that the transition from the Virtual Reality environment back to the real world was disorienting, in a good way (i.e. it was much better VR than we’ve seen in the past).

Of course, this isn’t the first time John has had anything to do with Oculus Rift—he was the first developer to get the Oculus running with a 3D game (Doom 3). In a statement to the community he writes, “I have fond memories of the development work that led to a lot of great things in modern gaming – the intensity of the first person experience, LAN and internet play, game mods, and so on. Duct taping a strap and hot gluing sensors onto Palmer’s early prototype Rift and writing the code to drive it ranks right up there. Now is a special time. I believe that VR will have a huge impact in the coming years, but everyone working today is a pioneer. The paradigms that everyone will take for granted in the future are being figured out today; probably by people reading this message. It’s certainly not there yet. There is a lot more work to do, and there are problems we don’t even know about that will need to be solved, but I am eager to work on them. It’s going to be awesome!”

Just to be clear, John isn’t leaving id Software for this new position; he will continue his work there, as well as with other companies/projects. It’s also interesting to look at the last id Software release, Rage, and think about what John might have to say regarding gaming performance of the Oculus Rift. Rage basically made itself useless as a benchmark by targeting a maximum frame rate of 60FPS, and it would dynamically adjust quality to hit 60FPS as best as it could, generally succeeding even on relatively low-end hardware. For Virtual Reality, I can see having a constant 60FPS stream of content being far more important than getting additional graphics quality, so hopefully John can help other developers realize that goal.

As for the Oculus Rift, with many (over 17000!) development kits having now shipped to the community, as well as showcasing the 1080p HD version at E3 2013, we’re getting ever closer to the final hardware. The 0.2.3 SDK is also available, and besides the $2.5 million from the initial Kickstarter campaign, Oculus Rift has brought in a significant amount of additional funding over the past year. There’s still no official release date, but given the progress from the last year I’d expect to see the first consumer release within the next year, and very like before then. I’m sure they’d love to get on shelves before Christmas this year, but whether or not they can manage that remains to be seen.

Source: Oculus Rift Blog

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  • flyingpants1 - Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - link

    Kids, this is how you end up with an expensive, incompatible, buggy flop of a launch.
  • Dentons - Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - link

    Alternatively, it's how you miss your market window entirely and fade into technology history.

    The tech industry is littered with products that 'could have been', if only they'd shipped in a reasonable time frame.
  • Mondozai - Thursday, August 8, 2013 - link

    Oh, I see the haters are out in force.

    Carmack has a very good reputation. He has consistently tried to avoid taking a specific deadline but his games usually ship within reasonable timespans.

    Interesting to see human psychology at work, some people immediatedly try to bring the OR VR down.
  • Dentons - Thursday, August 8, 2013 - link

    Most criticism is not hating. Oculus seems to be making some very bad decisions. The only question is, why?

    Their product is in tremendous demand. The manufacturer has already delivered over 10,000 developer versions. The existing product has received raves, not just from the specialist press, but the mainstream press. Developers who react to such fanfare by saying they 'hope' to release in a year or so are asking to be beaten to market by more nimble foes.

    At the very least, this indicates a real disconnect or lack of funding. Failures to deliver are storied in the tech industry. It's not enough to have a good idea, you have to deliver before your competition. Developers are often their own worst enemies. They want the product to be perfect. Saner heads often need to force developers to release a product they're not entirely happy with. That doesn't mean a buggy, terrible, product. It means when a product is 'good enough', it's time to release. If it's successful, there will be a 2nd gen, 3rd gen, and more.

    In truth, he who ships first often wins. If some Chinese company decides to reverse the existing dev model and sell it for $149, Oculus could die before they ship a single consumer unit, and it will be their own damn fault.
  • HisDivineOrder - Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - link

    I'll believe a release when I see it. They've been making noise about releases for what? Years now? They're always "close" to release, but they never quite get there. They never QUITE have the tech they need. And they never have any software that's truly there for them that anyone truly wants to play.

    It's always tomorrow, tomorrow. I'm beginning to think this isn't going to ever come together the way they promised it would. I think the pricing is going to be absurdly higher than they promised and I think the software is going to be lacking. I mean, we all have these images in our head (of images on our eyes) of how it will be, but besides some E3's and some shows, what real proof is there they can get it out within the price point they claim with the functionality they claim?

    Next you'll have Gabe Newell releasing a version of Portal 2 specially built for this thing and you'll have fully Razer Wii-stick'ed it or Northwest Falcon (?) orb-thingy'ed it.

    I just don't buy it. They aren't moving like a company that's actually releasing something anywhere in the next two years. They're moving like a company searching for investors.
  • Dentons - Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - link

    For whatever reasons, they clearly seem to be delaying a consumer product release.

    You may be right. They may not have enough funds to take the product to market.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 8, 2013 - link

    You can purchase a devkit right now for $300, though obviously it's more for developers than consumers at this stage. So $300 for a functional implementation is at least something reasonable. Give them the next 12 months and I suspect 1080p at a similar price point will be done.
  • Mondozai - Thursday, August 8, 2013 - link

    I think you're right. You can fix the audio problem with vibrations to the cheeckbones.

    What is harder to fix is getting that lag on the display down but even more so, motion sickness. Still, I find it hilarious that some people say that "this won't be hot in 3 years".

    Eh, yes it will. VR is such a huge step that in 3 or even 5 years from now, it will still crush the status quo. We'll still be playing smartphone games on a 5" screen with no or bad sound and/or playing on the PS4/Xbox One. That will never be able to outcompete a true VR experience.

    Carmack's philosophy has been to "ship when it's ready" like Blizzard. His game creations stalled in creativity(same old, same old) but he is renowned for his technical brilliance.

    The only question mark is how someone like Carmack, who likes running things, will handle the inevitable competition for power with the younger, more inexperienced CEO?
  • JeffFlanagan - Thursday, August 8, 2013 - link

    I don't think the motion sickness can be fixed with technology, unless you include drugs in technology. Some subset of the population just isn't capable of using HMDs without becoming sick. The O.R. team can't rewire the user's brain.
  • Guspaz - Thursday, August 8, 2013 - link

    They're delaying a consumer product release because what they have now is nowhere near ready. I'm speaking from personal experience here. The dev kit is neat to play around with, and good enough for development work. It is also extremely flawed, because they still have a lot of issues to work out.

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