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Carmack Critiques New Consoles In Keynote

John Carmack has used his keynote speech at the annual QuakeCon event held late last week in Grapevine, Texas to discuss the future of Id Software, and his more overarchi...
John Carmack has used his keynote speech at the annual QuakeCon event held late last week in Grapevine, Texas to discuss the future of Id Software, and his more overarching thoughts on the next generation consoles and the industry at large. In what he described as an unscripted "stream of consciousness" speech, Carmack spent some significant time discussing his personal views on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (the Nintendo Revolution was not mentioned). The Xbox 360 was the recipient of the most amount of praise, with Carmack applauding the ability of the "very, very thin API layer that lets you talk pretty directly to the hardware" and describing it as the "best development environment I've seen on a console." Carmack did, however, warn of the danger of diminishing returns with the new consoles, claiming that programming for multiple processors, instead of the multiple thread processors of modern PCs, would initially lead to disappointing results. "It will take a long time before game developers will figure out how to get the most out of parallel processors, and in the meantime, it's going to make high-end game development more difficult," he said. The question of improving physics simulation in games was also come in for a surprising amount of skepticism from Carmack, who indicated: "Personally, I would rather see our next generation run at 60 frames per second on a console, rather than add a lot more physics." Responding to a question from the audience, he was also somewhat skeptical about the concept of physics-related chips, commenting: "There will probably be some focused key additions to some important games that do take advantage of [PPU solutions such as the Ageia chipset], but I don’t expect it to set the world on fire." Although he did seem more generally impressed by the Xbox 360 toolset and development environment, Carmack did go out of his way to praise Sony for its theoretical plans to make the PlayStation 3 more of an open environment for development, something that, in his opinion, Microsoft was unlikely to do with the Xbox 360. He ended his discussion of the next generation consoles by also appearing to question Microsoft’s emphasis on HDTV, with only around a quarter of those in the convention audience – who by their nature are amongst the most hardcore of early technology adopters – indicating they had access to such screens after he questioned them. Carmack specifically commented: "Microsoft has got this big push that I am somewhat at odds with them about, about minimum frame-buffer rendering resolutions on the Xbox 360... they’re essentially requiring all games to render at HDTV resolution." The rest of Carmack’s speech centered on more consumer related issues, although there was no specific information on Id Software’s next, post-Quake IV project. Carmack once again enthused over his work on a Doom mobile phone game though – praising the open development environment, but questioning how long it would remain and whether mobile development costs would continue to stay low. Finally, Carmack noted that the source code for Quake III: Arena is close to release, indicating: "I would certainly expect [the GPL source code release] within a week."

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