The man credited for creating the most popular games genre in the world, the FPS, spoke at the annual QuakeCon yesterday, and there he shared his thoughts on the next generation of gaming, namely PS4 and Xbox One.
As for how things will turn out, Carmack reckoned that next gen is “anyone’s game”, adding that “it’s exciting”.
To get things out of the way, Carmack started his keynote by giving his opinion on the difference between PS4 and Xbox One, stating that there’s not much that separates the two consoles in terms of capability.
“It’s almost amazing how close they are in capabilities,” Carmack said. “How common they are and how the capabilities they give are essentially the same. We can talk about differences in memory architectures, but the bottom line being that they’re a multi-core AMD processor with AMD graphics, is it’s almost weird how close they are.” It’s “an excellent thing for AMD.” Carmack said jokingly.
On the consoles having a great amount of RAM, Carmack, like every other developer, was happy, as ”It’s going to make things a little bit easier… There’s a ton more that we’ll do visually to the games there.”
Carmack then expressed his pleasure with Sony’s ability to regain developer goodwill after the problems it faced with PS3, namely the console’s complex cell technology.
“It’s no secret that in the previous generation I favoured the 360 over the PS3,” he reminded. “While there are certain things Sony did well for a game developer, the 360 was a nicer platform to work on… Sony has made large strides. Their development tools came out of the gate much, much better than they ever have. They’ve made some somewhat-more gamer-focused decisions in their strategies and architectures.”
On Xbox One, Carmack was still unconvinced about Kinect, complaining that it “still has some fundamental limitations with the latency and the frame rate”.
He added: “When you interact with Kinect, some of the standard interactions there like position and hold, and waiting for different things, it’s fundamentally a poor interaction. One way that I look at it is I used to give Apple a lot of grief about the one-button mouse, when anybody working with a mouse really wants… More buttons are helpful there. And Kinect is sort of like a zero-button mouse with a lot of latency on it.”
“Something like the PS Move where you’re manoeuvring around and you’ve actually got buttons on it, or something like the Sixsense Razer Hydra, where you’ve got position-tracking but also buttons to click, I think have some fundamental advantages.”
“It’s a technology that absolutely has a future, and Microsoft is pushing it hard, they’ve done a lot of excellent research with it,” he said. “But I’m still not completely convinced that that’s the cornerstone of the next gaming platform.”
As for the upheaval surrounding Xbox One, Carmack believes “the witch hunt was a little bit unjustified”, and that it’ll all subside overtime.
“One of the things that was up early before even the major issues with the used games and always-on and things like that was people being a little bit freaked out by Kinect being on all the time,” he noted.
“I am completely confident that that’s a very temporary vision about things, where if we go back 10 years the idea that everyone’s carrying around a phone that has your GPS-located position at all times would cause a lot of the tinfoil hat crowd to go absolutely crazy – the idea that, yeah, the government’s going to have backdoors into all of these, they can turn them on and track everywhere you’re going. Well, yeah, that’s pretty much the situation, but we just kind of carry on…
“It probably won’t be many years before we wind up with SKUs that just have the optical drives deleted.”
“We will just get used to it. A lot of these things are inevitable. Like, people talking about Google Glass and the issues with people carrying around having cameras recording things all the time. I think that’s going to be a net positive for society, having this sort of ground truth that’s retrievable in many cases in a lot of things. But it is, it does have social transition issues that we’re going to have to feel through as those are adopted.”
Carmack was also unbothered by the Xbox One’s game ownership policies.
“I think the witch hunt was a little bit unjustified there,” he said.
“I personally am extremely fond of having all of my digital purchases in a curated garden. All of my iTunes, all of my Amazon stuff, all of my Steam things. And it’s a positive thing. Yeah, you can have better and worse ways of doing that, but we are going to be very quickly past the age of having a game you hold in your hands on optical media.”
“It probably won’t be many years before we wind up with SKUs that just have the optical drives deleted and everybody will just be getting it through the net,” he continued. “The future is obvious right there and it will be good for us in general.”