Doom creator John Carmack on working with Apple and their view of gaming

Mon, Nov 9, 2009


John Carmack is a gaming and programming legend, having co-founded id Software and having served as the lead developer on iconic games like Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake.

Most recently, Carmack has been working to port some of id’s classic titles over to the iPhone, and more often that not, has had positive things to say about the iPhone’s capabilities as a gaming platform.  But that doesn’t mean that his experience of working with Apple has gone off without a hitch, and indeed, his interactions with Apple stretch back to before the iPhone was even under development.

In a recent interview with Kotaku, Carmack discussed what it’s like working with Apple and his opinion on how Apple executives truly feel about the iPhone as a gaming device.

“My relationship with Apple has been long standing, but it’s a rollercoaster ride,” said Carmack. “I’ll be invited up on stage for a keynote one month and then I’ll say something they don’t like and I can be blacklisted for six months.”

But Carmack is nonetheless encouraged by the fact that his long time colleague and former id employee Graeme Devine now works in Apple’s iPhone Game Technologies division.  Devine’s portfolio includes work on Quake III, Doom 3, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Age of Empires 3, and Halo Wars.  So yeah, he’s legit.

Kotaku notes that Devine began working at Apple earlier this year, and Carmack sees this as a positive step in the right direction.

“Graeme Devine is in a significant position as a game developer at Apple,” Carmack said. “I have a real man on the inside now. We knew each other from way back in the day. He’s a real developer and I understand everything he is saying.”

The most interesting thing Carmack had to say, however, centered on what he feels is Apple’s underlying disinterest in gaming.

“At the highest level of Apple, in their heart of hearts,” Carmack said, “they’re not proud of the iPhone being a game machine, they wish it was something else.”

And truth be told, for a company that’s been as averse to gaming as Apple has been over the years, I can definitely see some truth in that assessment .  While I’m sure Apple doesn’t mind that people enjoy using the iPhone to play games, I wouldn’t be surprised if the higher ups at Apple are afraid that the iPhone/iPod Touch will be defined by that sole feature when the device is truly capable of so much more.


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9 Comments For This Post

  1. Momo Says:

    It seems to me that Apple’s embarrassment about gaming goes back to the earliest days of consumer PC’s, when the PC pundits scoffed at the Mac as “toy” computing device when compared to the more business-like IBM PC. The irony is that while Apple was trying to be serious, PC games were becoming big business, and I honestly believe that gaming is one of the levers that propelled Microsoft to dominance.

  2. koj Says:

    macs are sh-it. nuff said.

  3. Sachin Says:

    iPod Touch is now a gaming device not iPhone

  4. Phil Says:

    @koj Well that’s an intelligent comment. Your argument is so persuasive that I think I’ll throw out my iPhone and MacBook, and buy a Dell instead.

    @sachin The iPod Touch and the iPhone are the same thing, except the iPhone has the capability of being a mobile phone as well.

    Personally I disagree that Apple have ignored the gaming community altogether. Firstly, they attempted to release their own console a while back which flopped (see Secondly, their operating system and hardware is more than capable of running today’s PC games.

    It’s the software publishers that are holding back on releasing decent games on the Mac due to probably their minor market share compared to PCs. Similarly, only now is there a decent market for mobile gaming which games publishers are opening up to. And naturally, they are going to release games to the number 1 device which just happens to be an Apple iPhone.

    In my opinion, the iPhone is useless for playing most console/PC-type games, especially first person shooters like Doom. Lacking button controls, it just makes it too fiddly and unresponsive. However, I do appreciate the efforts that companies like iD have gone to, to release their brilliant back-catalogues onto such a portable device.

    Now iD… how about a Nintendo DS version of Doom… you managed it with the SNES 😉

  5. Keem Says:

    Developers have ZERO incentive to make mac games given the abundance of intel macs with boot camp.

    HOWEVER, having said that, OS X itself is not as well equipped for game engines as Windows with OpenGL being extremely underdeveloped compared to DX11

  6. cak Says:

    It seems to me that Apple are just embarrassed that they haven’t managed to control how the device is now seen.

  7. nburman Says:

    Then why did they advertise the games you can play on it on the TV ads?
    Besides, gaming is big money. I don’t see the shame (and I’m not a gamer).

  8. Craig Says:

    @Phil “operating system and hardware are more than capable of running todays games”

    That’s not true though. Their OS is not capable of running DirectX, which means it can’t run most of today’s games.

    Yes they could run it if games were supported OpenGL, however since Windows can also run OpenGL just fine there must be a reason developers wouldn’t target both OS’s at once.

    DirectX continues to be a much easier to program and faster to render graphics engine than OpenGL. Until much more money, time and support is thrown at OpenGL sdk’s, DirectX will remain the top performer.

  9. S Says:

    I think game makers have no incentive to develop games for Mac. People don’t buy a Mac to play games. That’s not how the purchase decision is made. Gamers buy high-end PC rigs and are obsessed with performance. Why use a technology like OpenGL that’s generic when DirectX is optimized especially for the platform. The sales generated aren’t worth the risk to lose performance on the generic technology. That’s my opinion at least. If the Mac sales tilt though, this could change and give an incentive to game makers.

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