OK, this post certainly led to some fun internet hopping.
I liked this vintage Carmack quote from Ken Silverman's website:
St. John: If you could just hire anybody from the 3D world, who would you hire?
Carmack: Well there's a big difference between who I consider the most talented and who I would necessarily hire, because you have to hire people that fit right. If I had to pick who I think is just the most talented, it would probably be Ken Silverman, the guy that did the BUILD engine. He does engines and tools. He's great as an editor. He writes all the code for everything, and he's just extremely talented. I think it was 3D Realms' worst decisions not to coddle him, or whatever it took, to keep him on board. I think if he was still working directly for 3D Realms, they would have a Quake-type game shipped by now, just because he's extraordinarily good. There's maybe a half dozen people that are top-notch A-level 3D programmers. I'm not going to give you a list because I'd leave somebody off and they'd be all pissed off at me.
St. John: You've already left off 90% of them by naming Ken Silverman.
Carmack: All the people doing things that people are talking about now are pretty talented. The Epic people have been working on it for a long time. They've gone through a big learning process, but they've got the issues under control and they're going to ship a product.
St. John: So you think one day Tim Sweeney might grow to be as successful as you.
Carmack: It's hard to become successful by following in footsteps. This is probably going to come out sounding demeaning, but Epic wants Unreal to be Quake. Everything they did with Unreal, they did because they wanted it to be like what Quake turned out to be. And they're going to achieve a lot of that, because they're doing a lot of things well, but you're just never as big when you're second in line.
Hook: Just like Dark Forces and Duke were both phenomenal games, they still definitely didn't have the impact of Doom simply because they just weren't first out the gate.
Carmack: Like Prey, there's a lesson to be learned, something a lot of companies don't really ever learn. You hear it from the fan base a lot. "Do it right. We'll still be here. We'll wait," and it's tempting to just let things slip. But that's really not OK. If you're doing something cutting edge, you're making fundamental decisions about your architecture, and if you let it slide for a year or two, then it's just not the right decision anymore. Even if you pile on all these extras, it's not optimal. It's not targeted at what you're doing. So I have some concerns about Prey coming out this late.
It's funny to see Carmack trash talking what Epic was doing with Unreal now, given the way history has unfolded. Tenacity, persistence, and consistency can outweigh the disadvantages of following an industry leader with a me-too product.
And for anyone else who eats this kind of thing up, David Kushner's Masters of Doom is a great read that I can't recommend highly enough.
p.s. I can definitely identify with running across popular commercial game codebases which are composed almost entirely by one source file.
>It's funny to see Carmack trash talking what Epic was doing with Unreal now, given the way history has unfolded. Tenacity, persistence, and consistency can outweigh the disadvantages of following an industry leader with a me-too product.
If you're talking about how Epic does really well in the licencing space while Id does not, I believe that an intentional decision by Id to not compete in that space post Q3.
Not trying to fanboy anyone here, but while id was still in the "license the engine out for fun and profit" game (especially during the quake 2 - 3 era) they dominated. It wasn't until id tech 4 and Unreal Tournament 2004 (and the Unreal 3 engine) that they stopped being really competitive in the engine space, and Epic is as big as it is today not just because of Gears of War (was UT3 popular?) but because they own the high end licensed 3d engine space.
My impression after reading "Masters of Doom" was that Carmack never really wanted to be in the licensing business. The main driver behind id's early licensing pursuits was Romero, and although Carmack went along, he did so without enthusiasm. After Romero got fired, there was no one at id pushing for the studio to do much besides making games. Epic Games, on the other hand, took engine licensing very seriously from the beginning. There is a feeling of "continuity" between iterations of their technology, and this is very important to toolkit licensees, and something that you don't get from id. I've always felt that Tim Sweeney has a lot more business acumen than most people would expect from a programmer.
Awesome and depressive.
He set his engine as something he will never top and believes it, and that is only thing keeping him to make something amazing.
Some people got over self imposed limits and are blasting.
Some are fine where they are.
Still I am thankful to the world for him to exist.
I think Carmacks comment is still spot-on - Epic did get what they have now by doing something on their own: putting all their weight behind the licensing which was always only "we have to do it, but we do not want to do it" for ID, i.e. they found an area where they area number one and executed well there.