I must admit that I am a big fan of guys like John Carmack. Carmack and his contributions to video games and graphics specifically were one of the main reason why I have followed a similar path in my own career. I can most often be found designing large systems and developing graphics pipelines today because I used his career as a road map for my own. Needless to say that there are a few forks in my road that did not lead to fame and fortune =), quite in the same way.
I do question however if success is a hindrance that breaks the best of our intentions. Take Rage on the PC for example. Rage PC had a less than smooth launch experience. Forums were filled within minutes of people installing the game because of bad drivers. But this was an engine that had been functional for most of 6 years, and yet the latest drivers were still not enough to fix the bugs that some users were having.
Reading Carmacks tweets you’ll find that many vendors, even beyond the video card world, are quite happy to bend to his requests. HMD vendors have modified their drivers, and static analysis developers have rushed overnight fixes and features. And of course, video card makers have augmented their drivers to support many of his feature requests. In many ways, this is great thing for someone to have the power to push an entire hardware industry like this but it also has it’s share of problems. We can run into issues where those hot fixes simply do not make it into the market in time for the software release.
As a John Doe developer, I am forced to work with the features that have been handed to me. I make lemonade from lemons, so to speak. Though I may not have the power to move an industry, I know my systems will work on day 1, because I am forced to use the same drivers as any other consumer. I can’t help but think that Rage was fully functional at one point before these bleeding edge features were requested of the video card makers. I can’t help but think that Rage would have been better off shipping with the assumption of a stable 1 year old video driver and patching to the bleeding edge features after the drivers had hit the market and had been thoroughly tested.
I understand Carmacks’ frustrations with AMD/ATI but I can’t fully blame ATI for this shake down. There was a breakdown in communication and ATI is notoriously slow to release stable driver updates but Carmacks’ star power may have harmed Rage more than it helped this time.