Doom 2
Image: id Software

The legendary John Carmack – one of the key figures behind id Software's glory days in the '90s – has resigned from his role at Facebook parent company Meta, where he was employed as executive consultant for VR.

Carmack co-founded id Software in 1991 alongside Adrian Carmack, Tom Hall and John Romero. He was the lead programmer on titles such as Commander Keen, Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Quake and Quake III.

He left id Software in 2013 to join Oculus VR, which was then purchased by Facebook in 2014. Under his guidance, Oculus (which has since been branded as 'Meta') released the excellent Quest 2, which is one of the most popular VR headsets currently available.

Referencing his resignation on Twitter, Carmack said:

I have always been pretty frustrated with how things get done at FB/Meta. Everything necessary for spectacular success is right there, but it doesn't get put together effectively.

I thought that the "derivative of delivered value" was positive in 2021, but that it turned negative in 2022. There are good reasons to believe that it just edged back into positive territory again, but there is a notable gap between Mark Zuckerberg and I on various strategic issues, so I knew it would be extra frustrating to keep pushing my viewpoint internally.

I am all in on building AGI at Keen Technologies now.

Carmack has issued a full statement on his Facebook account, which is reproduced in full below:

This is the end of my decade in VR.

I have mixed feelings.

Quest 2 is almost exactly what I wanted to see from the beginning – mobile hardware, inside out tracking, optional PC streaming, 4k (ish) screen, cost effective. Despite all the complaints I have about our software, millions of people are still getting value out of it. We have a good product. It is successful, and successful products make the world a better place. It all could have happened a bit faster and been going better if different decisions had been made, but we built something pretty close to The Right Thing.

The issue is our efficiency.

Some will ask why I care how the progress is happening, as long as it is happening?

If I am trying to sway others, I would say that an org that has only known inefficiency is ill prepared for the inevitable competition and/or belt tightening, but really, it is the more personal pain of seeing a 5% GPU utilization number in production. I am offended by it.

[edit: I was being overly poetic here, as several people have missed the intention. As a systems optimization person, I care deeply about efficiency. When you work hard at optimization for most of your life, seeing something that is grossly inefficient hurts your soul. I was likening observing our organization's performance to seeing a tragically low number on a profiling tool.]

We have a ridiculous amount of people and resources, but we constantly self-sabotage and squander effort. There is no way to sugar coat this; I think our organization is operating at half the effectiveness that would make me happy. Some may scoff and contend we are doing just fine, but others will laugh and say “Half? Ha! I’m at quarter efficiency!”

It has been a struggle for me. I have a voice at the highest levels here, so it feels like I should be able to move things, but I’m evidently not persuasive enough. A good fraction of the things I complain about eventually turn my way after a year or two passes and evidence piles up, but I have never been able to kill stupid things before they cause damage, or set a direction and have a team actually stick to it. I think my influence at the margins has been positive, but it has never been a prime mover.

This was admittedly self-inflicted – I could have moved to Menlo Park after the Oculus acquisition and tried to wage battles with generations of leadership, but I was busy programming, and I assumed I would hate it, be bad at it, and probably lose anyway.

Enough complaining. I wearied of the fight and have my own startup to run, but the fight is still winnable! VR can bring value to most of the people in the world, and no company is better positioned to do it than Meta. Maybe it actually is possible to get there by just plowing ahead with current practices, but there is plenty of room for improvement.

Make better decisions and fill your products with “Give a Damn”!