Will John Carmack Get What he Wants?

Will John Carmack Get What he Wants?

When the first whispers about a brand new game console hit the Internet, the hardware wishlists quicky follow. We want our new consoles to support HD, we want plenty of storage space for demos and downloadable games. We want smooth online interactions and easy access to indie and triple-A blockbuster titles alike. Also, we want to be able to ride the console like a pony.

But a developer’s wish list for a new console tends to go a bit deeper than that of the average player. For instance, John Carmack, the co-founder of id Software, knows what he’d like to see out of Sony and Microsoft’s next entries in the console race. and he goes over his desires in detail in an interview with tech website Tomsguide.com.

“One of the most important things…is a unified virtual 64-bit address space, across both the GPU and the CPU. Not a partition space, like the PS3,” Carmack said. “Also, a full 64-bit space with virtualization on the hardware units – that would be a large improvement.

“There’s going to be a heterogeneous environment here, and it’s pretty obvious at this point that we will have some form of CPU cores and GPU cores… It seems clear at this point that we will have a combination of general purpose cores and GPU-oriented cores, which are getting flexible enough that you can do most of the things that you would do on a CPU.”

Despite Carmack’s desires, he knows that there probably isn’t going to be a huge departure from what devs work with now on consoles, namely “traditional CPU core[s] [and the] debugger and development environment.” Carmack acknowledges that the formula still works fine, and should still work as long as neither Sony nor Microsoft mess it up in “some fundamental way.”

Carmack’s wishlist is understandable, but is it realistic? At GameIndustry.biz’s write-up about the interview, some commenters argue that Carmack is looking for a “standardized console” to develop on, and that the PC already fits the bill quite closely. But as far as consoles go, whatever machines companies like Sony and Microsoft come up with for the next generation, each carry its own traits: Standardization seems unlikely. As for the generation beyond, who knows? Maybe that’s when we’ll see a more universal console, though as long as Nintendo is in the game, it probably won’t go anywhere except in the direction it wants to go.

Carmack does bring up an interesting question about whether or not the next Sony and Microsoft consoles will primarily support optical media. A “Yes” on that is granted far more easily to the idea of Sony and Microsoft engineering standardized consoles. While there’s no question that the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network will be massively important components of the coming generation, console gamers need at least one more generation of disc purchases before they can be successfully weaned off them. This is especially true for parents buying games as gifts for kids. Also, North America’s ISP situation is not quite at a stage where we can realistically see every gamer getting everything he or she needs by conducting large downloads that consume chunks of bandwidth.

So as far as Carmack’s wish list for future consoles is concerned, he’ll probably see a small bit of it become reality in the next generation, though he’ll have to wait a little longer to get his true heart’s desire. But he seems to have a realistic outlook on the upcoming generation, so we’ll presumably be playing Doom 5 on whatever hardware corporations like Sony and Microsoft dish out. Meet you at the glistening  pile of imp’s guts.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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