id Software Co-Founder John Carmack Joins Oculus as CTO

In a surprising move, game pioneer and id Software founder John Carmack has left his company to join virtual reality gaming startup Oculus as Chief Technology Officer, according to a press statement early Wednesday.

Update: Bethesda Softworks, id Software’s parent company, clarified that Mr. Carmack will retain a role at id after his transition to Oculus CTO: “The technical leadership he provides for games in development at id Software is unaffected.”

Oculus, founded by Palmer Luckey in 2012, is in the process of developing the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality head-mounted display that gives users the impression of being inside a game’s world. Using separate displays for each eye combined with motion sensors for head tracking, the Oculus Rift lets gamers literally move their heads to look around and interact with virtual worlds. The project is still in the works, although developers have already received prototypes for testing.

We have incredible news to share with the community: legendary game programmer John Carmack will be officially joining the Oculus team as our new Chief Technology Officer (CTO).

John is one of the brightest minds of our generation – pioneer, visionary, and industry legend. There are very few people in the world that can contribute to the Oculus Rift and the future of virtual reality like John can.

Mr. Carmack became one of PC gaming’s most influential figures after co-founding id Software in 1991. Under his direction, the company produced many breakthrough titles, including Commander Keen, Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake.

While his leaving id to join Oculus was surprising, Mr. Carmack’s involvement with the company is not. He has been a public supporter of Oculus since its inception, and id was one of the first companies to create special versions of its games with Oculus Rift support. Mr. Carmack explained his decision:

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!

Although it has become one of the most serious virtual reality efforts to date, the Oculus Rift is far from a certain success. Major issues dealing with latency and resolution need to be solved before the product can become commercial viable. With Mr. Carmack now officially on the team, however, Oculus’ prospects for success have certainly increased.

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