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.
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.
Seems like he ended up quite depressed.
Still I am thankful to the world for him to exist.