John Carmack, legendary game designer, rocket man and VR enthusiast, has announced that he is leaving both Meta/Facebook and the virtual reality business itself, after a decade as one of its most prominent champions.
Carmack’s position was like one executive consultant. After initially sending his resignation message to colleagues in an internal memo, when it was partially leaked to the media, he decided to post the whole thing – including some clarifications – on his Facebook page instead.
Here it is in its entirety:
This is the end of my decade in VR.
I have mixed feelings.
Quest 2 is almost exactly what I wanted to see from the beginning – mobile hardware, inside-out tracking, optional PC streaming, 4k(ish) screen, cost-effective. Despite all the complaints I have about our software, millions of people still get value out of it. We have a good product. It is successful, and successful products make the world a better place. It could have all happened a little faster and gone better if other decisions had been made, but we built something pretty close to The Right Thing.
The problem is our efficiency.
Some will ask why I care how the progress happens, as long as it happens?
If I’m trying to sway others, I’d say that an organization that has only known inefficiencies is ill-prepared for the inevitable competition and/or belt-tightening, but really, seeing a 5% GPU usage figure in production is more personal pain. I am offended by it.
[edit: I was being overly poetic here, as several people have missed the intention. As a systems optimization person, I care deeply about efficiency. When you work hard at optimization for most of your life, seeing something that is grossly inefficient hurts your soul. I was likening observing our organization’s performance to seeing a tragically low number on a profiling tool.]
We have a ridiculous amount of people and resources, but we constantly sabotage and waste effort. There is no way to sugar coat this; I think our organization is operating at half the efficiency that would make me happy. Some may scoff and claim that we are doing just fine, but others will laugh and say “Half? Have! I’m at quarter efficiency!”
It has been a struggle for me. I have a voice at the highest levels here, so it feels like I should be able to move things, but I’m clearly not convincing enough. A good fraction of the things I complain about turn around after a year or two and evidence piles up, but I’ve never been able to kill stupid things before they cause damage, or set a direction and get a team to stick to it . I think my influence in the margins has been positive, but it has never been a prime mover.
Admittedly, this was self-inflicted – I could have moved to Menlo Park after the Oculus acquisition and tried to wrestle with generations of leadership, but I was busy programming, and I assumed I’d hate it, be bad at it, and probably lose anyway .
Enough complaining. I’m tired of the battle and have my own startup to run, but the battle is still winnable! VR can bring value to the most people in the world, and no company is better positioned to do so than Meta. Maybe it’s actually possible to get there by just plowing on with current practices, but there’s a lot of room for improvement.
Make better decisions and fill your products with “Give a Damn”!
As his clarification states, while his comments may appear judgmental, they are not necessarily related to any individuals he worked with or decisions made over him. They’re more about his clear passion for the idea of optimization itself, a structural and systemic problem that, in a company as big as Meta, might have been crazy for a guy used to writing code and launching rockets into space.
This would normally be the part of a story where I’d drop some conjecture, perhaps how such a high-profile departure could mean trouble for Meta’s efforts in the space, but lol, I think Meta does a good enough job of shouting it from the rooftops themselves.