By James Brightman
id Software co-founder John Carmack knows a thing or two about shooters. He helped establish the then nascent shooter genre with titles like Doom and Quake, and so in our recent conversation with Carmack we decided we’d get the man’s viewpoint on the shooter market today. Little did we know that we’d touch upon a slightly sore point for the legendary programmer.
When IndustryGamers asked Carmack about whether shooters had perhaps hit a bit of an innovation wall, where everything seems steeped in military squads, his voice clearly changed and he took a more annoyed tone. Carmack feels that certain developers and critics have gotten “snooty” when it comes to creativity in the genre.
“That’s one of the things – I’m actually happy Rage is a little bit different in terms of feeling and tone. It’s not just, ‘Here’s your squad mates.’ But that’s still a proven formula that people like, and it’s a mistake to [discount that]. As long as people are buying it, it means they’re enjoying it,” he said. “If they buy the next Call of Duty, it’s because they loved the last one and they want more of it. So I am pretty down on people who take the sort of creative auteurs’ perspective. It’s like ‘Oh, we’re not being creative.’ But we’re creating value for people – that’s our job! It’s not to do something that nobody’s ever seen before. It’s to do something that people love so much they’re willing to give us money for.”
“So I do get pretty down on people that – you see some of the indie developers that really take a snooty attitude about this. It’s almost as if it’s popular, it’s not good. And that’s just not true.”
Carmack also talked a bit about the evolution of the market from first-person to third-person, the rise of Call of Duty and the importance of frame rate.
“It’s interesting that over the course of it, once FPS kind of got out of being the sole property of id, it seemed clear to me that when we reached a certain level of visual fidelity, that third person was going to have certain significant advantages because you can use the tools of the director – these established, finely honed cinematography skills to do things in games that we never did before. And I was more or less expecting third person to be the more popular set of genres and indeed it was looking like, with Gears‘ success, that even in the serious action [genre], that it might end up trending more that way,” he offered.
“And I’ve actually been really happy seeing the success of Call of Duty, which is also a 60 fps game, which would validate some of my [thinking]. That was one of our big arguments internally as we were stressing over that, like, ‘Y’know, I think some of the success of Call of Duty is because of how good it feels.’ But seeing the huge success of that, it has been great to see it swing back towards people really seeing the advantages of first person perspective, the immersion that you get in the game – that you may be watching a kick arse movie in the third person view, but you’re in the kick arse movie with first person. But there will forever be first-person shooters and third-person shooters and all of that. They’re stable genres that will continue to be polished and improved forever after.”