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John Carmack, the programmer who brought us Doom, Quake and Oculus/Meta virtual reality products, has stepped down from his senior virtual reality consulting position at Meta.
In a post to employees, Carmack said, “This is the end of my decade in VR. I have mixed feelings.”
Carmack joined the VR team at Oculus in 2013, quitting his job at Bethesda’s id Software and transitioning from traditional games to VR. He continued after what was then Facebook bought Oculus for $4 billion in 2014. In 2019, he stepped down from the CTO role at Oculus for the consulting role.
“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,” he wrote. “Despite all the complaints I have about our software, millions of people still get value out of it. We have a good product. It’s successful, and successful products make the world a better place. It could have all happened a little faster and could have gone better if other decisions had been made, but we built something pretty close to the right thing.”
He said the problem was the company’s efficiency. He said 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 utilization figure in production is the more personal pain. I’m offended by that.” (In a Facebook post, Carmack said he was being “way too poetic here.”)
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Carmack said, “We have a ridiculous amount of people and resources, but we’re constantly sabotaging and wasting effort. There’s no way to sugarcoat this; I think our organization is operating at half the efficiency that would make me happy. Some may scoff and claim that we’re doing just fine, but others will laugh and say “Half? Ha! I’m at quarter efficiency!”
He said this was a struggle for him and even though he has a voice at the highest level, he feels he should have been able to move things forward. He said he has “never been able to kill stupid things before they cause damage, or set a direction and get a team to stick to it.” He called this self-inflicted, since he never moved to Menlo Park where Meta is based. But he said he was busy with programming and probably would have lost leadership battles anyway.
“Enough complaining,” he said. “I’m tired of the battle and have my own startup to run, but the battle can still be won! 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.”
Carmack often criticized his bosses in internal and external communications. And he also frequently blasted Bethesda’s owner ZeniMax Media, which bought id Software in 2009. ZeniMax and id sued Oculus and Oculus founder Palmer Luckey in 2014 for allegedly misappropriating trade secrets. The complaint cited Carmack’s role in helping Oculus while still working for ZeniMax. The trial was settled in 2018.
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