Facebook consulting CTO and legendary game developer John Carmack described Oculus as “a bit of a mess” before the social networking giant acquired it in 2014, concluding that the deal was the “correct thing for the company”.
Writing on a post on Hacker News (which he verified as himself on Twitter), Carmack noted that he wanted Facebook to “impress itself more strongly” on Oculus post-acquisition, adding that “frankly, Oculus was a bit of a mess.”
Carmack didn’t directly explain exactly why he thought that of Oculus at the time, but did say the company “was given an enormous amount of freedom for many years” after the buyout.
“Personally, nobody ever told me what to do,” Carmack said, “even though I was willing to “shut up and soldier” if necessary — they bought that capability! Conversely, I couldn’t tell anyone what to do from my position; the important shots were always called when I wasn’t around. Some of that was on me for not being willing to relocate to HQ, but a lot of it was built into early Oculus DNA.”
Carmack joined Oculus in August 2013, around seven months before the Facebook acquisition was announced. But the developer already had an established history with the company, collaborating with Palmer Luckey to create the first prototypes of the Oculus Rift. Over the years he’s often provided rare insights into the workings of Facebook and Oculus, especially during his now-infamous Oculus and Facebook Connect sessions.
“I could only lead by example and argument, and the arguments only took on weight after years of evidence accumulated,” Carmack continued. “I could have taken a more traditional management position, but I would have hated it, so that’s also on me. The political dynamics never quite aligned with an optimal set of leadership personalities and beliefs where I would have had the best leverage, but there was progress, and I am reasonably happy and effective as a part time consultant today, seven years later.”
Coming to a conclusion, he said: “All in all, not a perfect fairy tale outcome, but I still consider taking the acquisition offer as the correct thing for the company in hindsight.”
Carmack stepped down from his full-time role at Facebook in late 2019, but still hosts sessions at Connect conferences and often talks about VR on Twitter. In January the developer defended Facebook’s privacy policies, saying the company takes the situation “extremely serious”.