What can one possibly say about John Carmack? The man is heralded as a legend in the gaming industry, having coded engines for Doom and Quake. His most recent engines id Tech 4 and 5 have been used in games like Doom 3, Brink, Prey, Quake 4, Rage, Wolfenstein: The New Order/The Old Blood, The Evil Within and so on. He’s one of the founding members of id Software which revolutionized the first person shooting genre, introducing many of the conventions we know of today. If that weren’t enough, he’s also working with Oculus for its VR hardware Rift. Carmack has seemingly done it all but how much do people really know about him? Let’s take a look at five facts you may not know about John Carmack. At least one of those involves the live-action Doom film.
Work and Play
At one point in time, Carmack was described as having “no empathy for other human begins”. The man is well known for his work ethic which involved coming into work at ungodly hour, getting everything done and then repeating the process (to the tune of 80 hours a week). Heck, his idea of a vacation was to take his computer to a hotel, isolate himself from the world and just code for a week or two. So it’s somewhat surprising that he settled down and married Katherine Anna Kang in 2000. Kang was renowned for the mobile games she created for id Software including Doom RPG and Orcs & Elves which were critically acclaimed. It seems like a match made in Heaven…and of course Carmack had to bring his workstation along when they went on their honeymoon. What can we say? There’s an impeccable work ethic and then there’s business as usual for men like Carmack.
During the early days of id Software, John Romero found himself locked in his office. The solution would have been to simply call the handy man but John Carmack at the time observed the door and decided to use a battle axe on it instead. Yes, a friggin’ battle axe and not just any battle axe either – this was a $5000 custom made battle axe. The door was chopped down much to the joy of the staff at the time and the door itself remained in pieces for a good while afterwards. Let it not be said that Carmack couldn’t be metal as hell when he wanted to be.
It shouldn’t be all that surprising that some of the most brilliant minds dropped out of college when they could. Such is the case of Carmack as well – he pursued college for two semesters before dropping out and becoming a freelance games developer. Of course, it’s another matter that Carmack broke into his school at the age of 14 to steal some Apple II computers using thermite and Vaseline. It’s one thing to say that higher education would be wasted on him but honestly, it turned out to be the other way around as Carmack joined Softdisk, met John Romero and Adrian Carmack and subsequently worked on Commander Keen for Apogee in 1991.
Paging Dr. Carmack
Have you see the Doom live-action film? You know the one with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and a two minute first person shot that was the only good thing about the film? As it turns out, Carmack was referenced in the film in a fairly subtle way. No, he didn’t have a head on a pike named after him. Carmack was instead the name for the lead scientist in the film – Todd Carmack – who sent the distress call that brought the marines to the Mars facility in the first place and later mutated into some horrible thing to be killed. Feel happy that we looked up the summary for this abomination of a film to provide context for Carmack’s appearance. That’s three minutes of our lives we’re never getting back. Amazingly enough, Carmack himself didn’t hate the film and felt it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as Super Mario Bros. or Street Fighter. Then again, for being as pleasantly surprised as he was, Carmack did go in with “fairly low expectations”.
Armadillo Aerospace Founder
Carmack had always expressed an interest in unorthodox and far-flung ideas like space tourism. To further that dream – and to make use of the millions in his possession – Carmack founded Armadillo Aerospace. The organization started working on manned suborbital spacecraft and won various challenges in 2008 and 2009 for its work. In August 2013 however, the company would be placed in “hibernation” and subsequently acquired in early 2015 by former employees who began Exos Aerospace. While Carmack did dream big, Armadillo Aerospace is one example of things not quite working according to plan.