John Carmack Shares Thoughts On VR, Cautions Developers to not "Coast on Novelty"

Published: October 10, 2016 9:30 AM /



During last week's Oculus Connect event, a conference held in San Jose in California that VR developers use to showcase their new games and technology, prominent games developer and Oculus CTO John Carmack spoke about the nascent industry's recent exploits and shared his thoughts on where virtual reality should go next.

While speaking during the event's closing keynote, Carmack told the crowd that VR developers need to be harder on themselves in the future, noting that a lot of VR games don't offer much over a non-VR experience to consumers.

We are coasting on novelty, and the initial wonder of being something people have never seen before.

But we need to start judging ourselves. Not on a curve, but in an absolute sense. Can you do something in VR that has the same value, or more value, than what these other [non-VR] things have done?

Among the things that Carmack thinks need to be improved are things like a better UI design that takes advantage of the platforms capabilities, the lack of voice control built into the platform, and the current inability of developers to keep loading times under 29 seconds on the platform, which has been a gold standard for traditional video games but is a lot harder to achieve in VR.
That's acceptable if you're going to sit down and play for an hour....but [in VR] initial startup time really is poisonous. An analogy I like to say is, imagine if your phone took 30 seconds to unlock every time you wanted to use it. You'd use it a lot less.

There are apps that I wanted to play, that I thought looked great, that I stopped playing because they had too long of a load time. I would say 20 seconds should be an absolute limit on load times, and even then I'm pushing people to get it much, much lower.

Carmack also warned VR devs to avoid using the VR platform's novelty factor when they make their apps, saying that "almost every developer" has made this mistake to some extent, saying that this attitude is a misguided, and ultimately wrong, use of time and resources.

During the same keynote, Carmack states that he thinks that mobile VR is "the future" even though making apps for the GearVR is currently quite difficult.

There might be a hundred million PCs that can do this, but I believe in the mission that Facebook had when it bought into Oculus, of having a billion people in VR. So it's not going to be a higher and higher bar for performance; it's going to be a lower and lower bar for adoption.
Carmack said that he expects the PC platform to be the go-to platform for developers to experiment with VR before they push the technology out to lower-end devices, saying that he thinks that there is more than enough to work with on older hardware.

What do you think of Carmack's attitude to VR? Do you think he's right? Do you think he's wrong? Let us know why you think what you think in the comment section down below!

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Chris Anderson
| Staff Writer

I've been playing games since I was just barely able to walk so I might as well write about them.