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Carmack Demos HMD, Talks Long Next-Gen Console Future

id Software Technical Director John Carmack said this week during E3 2012 that the next-generation consoles -- namely the Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4 -- should have a really long lifespan. He made this prediction as he demonstrated Doom 3 BFG Edition running on a customized Head-Mounted Display that he's been working on since the release of RAGE back in September 2011.

Typically when Carmack wraps up development on a game, he turns to rocketry and aerospace engineering. But this time he wanted to experiment with HMDs and virtual reality (VR). He dumped money on a $1,500 HMD, dismantled it, and began to study its weakness in optics, tracking and processing. He fooled around with the gyros and then supplied the data to motion sensing tech firm Hillcrest Labs which in turn wrote new custom firmware that doubled the refresh rate.

Ultimately his goal was to reduce the latency between the game, the computer or console's video processing, and the motion tracking tech in the HMD. He set out to build a new screen using cellphone sized displays, but then came across PalmerTech's Oculus Rift. The firm thus sent him a prototype and he began integrating Doom 3 with the display.

"I actually think it is better than anybody has done in terms of VR demos," he told USA Today. "Over the last few weeks of playing with this I have probably had some of the more stick-with-me moments in a game that I have had over the last two decades. Projected into there and having the subtle little bits about looking around and having things come out at you, it is a different experience."

Now the headset is slated to be sold in a limited edition of Doom 3 BFG Edition for the PC that will be sold in limited quantities for around $500. Technical difficulties prevent the headset's resolution from matching current HD graphics, but the movement is reportedly so fluid, it's life-like. Carmack is hoping to have a large number of kits thrown together by the time QuakeCon 2012 launches in August.

This week as he showcased Doom 3 running on his new headset, Carmack admitted that it would have been a lot easier to make the HMD edition happen on the consoles. "Unfortunately, you can't just plug a USB device into a console and have it work; you have to have it certified and go through a whole process," he said. "And that's a little bit of a shame because even though the PC is ten times more powerful, sometimes getting something done at the exact right point is easier on the consoles - it's a place where you know what scanline you're on at any point, and so on."

He went on to add that console gaming might actually morph into a niche product. "You can certainly see cloud gaming being built into every display device and traditional consoles could become more like the audiophile niche of people who want the extreme experience there," he said. "I hesitate to predict anything five, six years into the future, but the next generation should last a long time."

Still, Carmack seems rather dazzled over his new project, saying that until now, there couldn't be a case made for HMDs being fundamentally cool. "With it integrated into the game -- it has all of the axises on there and I got out all the latency out -- it's really pretty damn cool," he said. "You can see an inkling of where it is going."

  • aoneone
    Long lifespan? Please don't make me laugh again...

    Remember Bill Gates in 1981? "640k ought to be enough for anybody..." Yeah lets not jump to conclusions here LOL
  • juanc
    You didn't understand there are tech issues... he needs/wants to know the exact scanline (line you are drawing on the display) at a certain point which is hard to know when you have hundreds of different displays, video cards, drivers, and OSes.

    In a console, you have ONE of each only. Closed ecosystem.

    By the way. I thought that was over after C=64
  • captainnemojr
    I'm glad that since the fail of Rage, instead of working on Doom 4, he's been working on a headset to go along with Doom 3 Reloaded......
  • nukemaster
    I fully enjoyed Doom 3 Back in the Geforce4 ti/Radeon 9800pro days, but I would much rather get a NEW game not add some levels and slight graphics enhancements to an old games.
  • officeguy
    Typically when Carmack wraps up development on a game, he turns to rocketry and aerospace engineering.
    . I do that too :)
  • house70
    This guy has abandoned PC gaming a while ago; even now, when "working" on a PC game, he still bitches about it. Rage was a flop on PC, and he took the Jobs' attitude "you're using the drivers wrong". Like he didn't have access to the video drivers during development...
    He's dead to me, I am sorry I bought his games and will never buy any of his work again. Let him develop for consoles, phones and what ever else he thinks will bring in a quick buck; he's not getting any of my money anymore.
  • rantoc
    I might start to respect him again as a pioneer much like the old days when Quake was new and he made the best 3d engine with the latest hardware (Voodoo from 3dfx or Riva anyone?). Since then ID haven't been pushing any boundary's at all but rather made efficient use of already old hardware.
  • I don't know about anyone else, but I'm looking forward to a decent HMD VR unit. I remember back in the day going to an amusement park, and inside the arcade they had setup some Sega VR test units. 5 dollars for about 2 minutes and it was AWESOME!! Or so I thought as a young boy. Since that point, I have not seen a similar system and have been extremely disappointed with every product I have tried. "20-45 deg. angles and head tracking that doesn't work, pfff." ended up being my final thoughts.

    If Carmack can deliver an HMD with a 90 deg. viewing angle and head tracking that actually WORKS for $500, I'll be all over that! Doom 3 that actually works with the HMD? an added bonus!

    But thats just my 2 cents.
  • Prey
    I will say this trailer looks awesome, but the only boundry that id and Mr Carmack are pushing is how long you can rest on your laurels.

    IMHO I look at Rage as a victory for Carmack, it seemed like after Doom3 he didn't want to do any dev work for PC, so Rage was his "See I told you so." So now he must feel fully justified abandoning the PC market. While he probably didn't want it to fail, it was good for him that it did, so he can make console games.. again.. just good for him.
  • shloader
    Prey's right. Rage was just decent enough (barely) that it was a no-lose scenario in the eyes of the Carmack. On the flip side the man's influence is heavily erroded that he's more irrelevant every year. He has so effectively alienated id's original following that no one really cares about their games on PC anymore. In the console space id has no real reputation with that crowd so they must co-develope to get a recognized studio involved... or should I say 'ride on their reputation'?

    "Doom? Didn't my dad play that when he was in high school?" - There, ya feelin' old now?