John Carmack, legendary game designer, rocket guy and the VR enthusiast has announced that after a decade as one of its most prominent champions, he is leaving Meta/Facebook and the virtual reality business itself.
Carmack’s the position was like an executive consultant. After first sending his farewell message to colleagues in an internal message when it was partially leaked to the media, he decided to post the whole thing – including some explanations – on his Facebook page instead.
Here it is in full:
This is the end of my decade in VR.
I have mixed feelings.
The Quest 2 is pretty much exactly what I wanted to see from the start – mobile hardware, upside down viewing, optional PC streaming, 4k(ish) screen, cost effective. Despite all the complaints I have about our software, millions of people still get value from it. We have a good product. It is successful and successful products make the world a better place. Everything could have happened a little faster and gone better if different decisions had been made, but we built something very close to the right thing.
The problem is our efficiency.
Some will ask why I care how progress is made if it is made?
If I’m trying to influence others, I’d say that an organization that has only recognized inefficiencies is ill-prepared for the inevitable competition and/or belt-tightening, but it’s actually a more personal pain to see 5% GPU utilization in Production. I am offended by this.
[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 are constantly sabotaging ourselves and wasting effort. There is no way to sugarcoat it; I think our organization is operating at half the efficiency that would make me happy. Some may scoff and say we’re doing it well, but others will laugh and say, “Half? Ha! I’m at quarter power!”
It was a struggle for me. I have a voice at the highest levels here, so I feel like I should be able to move things along, but I’m obviously not convincing enough. A good fraction of the things I complain about eventually turn around after a year or two of playthroughs and the evidence piles up, but I’ve never been able to kill the stupid things before they do damage or set a direction and the team actually sticks. it. I think my influence on the fringes was positive, but it was never the main driver.
This was undoubtedly self-inflicted – I could have moved to Menlo Park after the Oculus acquisition and tried to wrestle battles with generations of management, but I was busy programming and assumed I would hate it, be bad at it, and probably lose. anyway.
Enough complaining. I’m tired of fighting and I have to start my own launch, but the fight is still winnable! VR can bring value to the majority of people in the world, and no company is better positioned to do so than Meta. It may indeed be possible to get there by following current practices, but there is plenty of room for improvement.
Make better decisions and infuse your products with the words “Damn”!
As his explanation states, while his comments may seem incriminating, they don’t necessarily relate to any individual people he’s worked with or decisions he’s made over him. Rather, they’re concerned with his clear passion for the idea of optimization itself, a structural and systemic problem that, in a company as large as Meta, could drive a person used to writing code and launching rockets into space insane.
Normally this would be the part of the story where I’d drop some conjecture, maybe how such a significant departure could spell trouble for Meta’s efforts in space, but lol I think Meta does a good job of shouting it from the rooftops.
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