Over the past few years, the plan for Oculus has been confusing. Since the company was purchased by Facebook in 2014, nothing has seemed to go well for the brand. When Facebook became Meta last year, it was believed by some that the company now had a focus, but that does not appear to be so. John Carmack, the company's former CTO, has announced his resignation from Meta with some harsh words for the company.
Who is John Carmack?
John Carmack is a nearly essential person in gaming history. He is the co-founder of id Software, which is responsible for highly respected titles like Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, and Quake. In fact, Carmack was the lead developer for all of these titles and more. As the lead developer for some of the biggest games of the 1990s, he had a major influence on the future of gaming as we know it.
After leaving id Software in 2013, he joined Oculus as the company's Chief Technology Officer - a position he held until well into Facebook's ownership of the brand. In 2019, he decided to step into a "Consulting CTO" role, where he would still have a lot of say in the technology decisions of Oculus while giving him more time to focus on his interest in artificial intelligence.
John Carmack to leave Meta
This week, Carmack announced that his time with Oculus and Meta has come to an end after nearly a decade. This was inevitable when he became a consultant instead of a full-time employee. However, it is a monumental day, since Carmack was a huge factor in the direction of the hardware itself. In a Facebook post, he said,
Quest 2 is almost exactly what I wanted to see from the beginning - mobile hardware, inside out tracking, optional PC streaming, 4k (ish) screen, cost effective. Despite all the complaints I have about our software, millions of people are still getting value out of it. We have a good product. It is successful, and successful products make the world a better place. It all could have happened a bit faster and been going better if different decisions had been made, but we built something pretty close to The Right Thing.
However, that wasn't all. He went on to say that his leaving is in large part due to the inability of Meta to move in any direction because of its unique ability to sabotage itself.
We have a ridiculous amount of people and resources, but we constantly self-sabotage and squander effort. There is no way to sugar coat this; I think our organization is operating at half the effectiveness that would make me happy. Some may scoff and contend we are doing just fine, but others will laugh and say "Half? Ha! I'm at quarter efficiency!"
It has been a struggle for me. I have a voice at the highest levels here, so it feels like I should be able to move things, but I'm evidently not persuasive enough. A good fraction of the things I complain about eventually turn my way after a year or two passes and evidence piles up, but I have never been able to kill stupid things before they cause damage, or set a direction and have a team actually stick to it. I think my influence at the margins has been positive, but it has never been a prime mover.
For many in the industry, this has been well-known for years. In fact, when senior engineers are offered positions at Facebook/Meta, including some in our direct circle here, they are usually turned down because of the engineer-driven nature of the business, leaving planning, direction, and success by the wayside.
If John Carmack, one of the most influential engineers in entertainment software wasn't able to steer the Titanic away from icebergs, then it is likely that Meta will be clobbered by another company's better-focused VR ambitions in the future.