Depending on which vomit-and-time-encrusted pub on the edge of the Internet you walk into, Facebook’s $2 billion purchase of Oculus Rift is either the worst or most worthy of cautious optimism thing to ever happen. Many developers are on board with the idea. Notch, however, is not. Oculus’ most recognizable faces – all of which now presumably sport company-mandated books – are quite pleased, but what of the notoriously opinionated (if not exactly outspoken) John Carmack? The former id Software tech guru has always marched to the beat of his own drum, so a corporate overlord like Facebook might not seem like his cup of perfectly optimized (for both flavor and caffeination) tea. But if there’s one thing Carmack is always good for, it’s surprises.
Carmack, now Oculus’ CTO, offered a characteristically frank response in, er, the comments of a post made by Anamanaguchi player and songwriter Peter Berkman:
“There is a case to be made for being like Valve, and trying to build a new VR ecosystem like Steam from the ground up. This is probably what most of the passionate fans wanted to see. The difference is that, for years, the industry thought Valve was nuts, and they had the field to themselves. Valve deserves all their success for having the vision and perseverance to see it through to the current state.”
“VR won’t be like that. The experience is too obviously powerful, and it makes converts on contact. The fairly rapid involvement of the Titans is inevitable, and the real questions were how deeply to partner, and with who. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting Facebook (or this soon). I have zero personal background with them, and I could think of other companies that would have more obvious synergies. However, I do have reasons to believe that they get the Big Picture as I see it, and will be a powerful force towards making it happen. You don’t make a commitment like they just did on a whim.”
Carmack even went so far as to weigh in on the issue of Facebook’s rather notorious data-mining policies, falling very much in favor of it by way of some exceedingly Carmack-ian logic. “I’m not a ‘privacy is gone, get over it’ sort of person, and I fully support people that want remain unobserved, but that means disengaging from many opportunities. The idea that companies are supposed to interact with you and not pay attention has never seemed sane to me.”
“Everyone tut tuts about companies ending up poorly by blindly following data, but cold analysis of the data is incredibly important, and I tend to think the world will be improved with more and better data analysis.”
Did John Carmack, most analytical man on the planet, just lock up the award for Carmackest John of 2014 already? I think he may have.
Of course, other commenters dug into issues like data ownership, Facebook’s sometimes dodgy monetization of said data, potential side effects of all that information being stored in one place, and unintentional consequences of a person’s data being made more public than they’d like, but Carmack has yet to drop his two cents on those subjects.
All of that said, Carmack seems to be cautiously behind Facebook at this point, so it’s doubtful that he’s going anywhere even though he was apparently not involved much with the decision to sell. And if that changes in the future? Well, he’s John Carmack. Somehow I doubt he’ll have much trouble finding a new job.