Oculus CTO John Carmack On The Stand: ‘I Am Not A Mac User Unless Under Duress’

by Upload • January 13th, 2017

We’ve had a writer in a Dallas courtroom following the ZeniMax vs. Oculus court case this week and taking notes. Covering a court case as technical as this is new for us, as is the fast paced back and forth of questioning, so we are planning to dive more deeply into the specifics of the case as it progresses.

That said, our writer on the ground reports Oculus CTO John Carmack was on the stand much of the week as ZeniMax seemed to push for evidence in questioning that he violated his agreements with the company and shared information he shouldn’t have with Oculus.

The case, filed by ZeniMax after the 2014 acquisition of Oculus by Facebook for more than $2 billion, centers on Carmack’s agreements with ZeniMax as well as information and technology he allegedly shared with Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey. In 2013 Carmack left ZeniMax-owned Id Software, the videogame company Carmack co-founded in 1991, to become the chief technology officer at Oculus, though he was involved as early as 2012 in helping popularize the Oculus Rift.

Carmack is “a singularly experienced and highly proficient” programmer, as an amended complaint by ZeniMax describes him, and he’s popularly known as one of the fathers of modern 3D gaming, as well as for giving multi-hour technical talks at conferences with no speaking notes or breaks. This week, he answered hours of questions.

Among the exchanges our ears in the room overheard, he explained in open court what source code is and that ‘BFG’ stands for ‘Big Fucking Gun.’ In some instances his back and forth during questioning became relatively heated, with ZeniMax attorney Anthony Sammi pressing for answers about how Carmack handled certain computer equipment. One line of questioning asked whether Carmack knew about a “secret meeting” in a hotel room with Oculus co-founders Nate Mitchell and Palmer Luckey, to which Carmack responded “No I didn’t, it was a secret.” A MacBook was brought up during questioning as well, with the lawyer asking why it was never wiped, with Carmack responding: “I am not a Mac user unless under duress.”

The defense for Oculus is expected to weigh heavily on showing the jury that the startup designed all the components of the first Rift development kit, and developed its own software development kit without software or hardware from ZeniMax. One exchange in particular between Carmack and Sammi underscored the different claims being made in the case about the technical contributions made to the Rift, with Carmack saying early on that “Palmer provided the system” while Sammi claimed “Palmer provided the simple lenses.”

Editor’s Note: Writer Garrett Glass is in a Dallas courtroom this week following what’s going on for UploadVR. Stay tuned for more updates as the case continues next week. 

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What's your reaction?
  • johann jensson

    “I am not a Mac user unless under duress.” Instant classic.
    It’s so easy to love this guy. 🙂

    • Get Schwifty!

      I will use that line the rest of my PC-life….

    • Garrett Glass

      It was my favorite part too!

  • AtmosContagion

    Someone should really be recording carmack on the stand, if at all possible; it would probably be awesome : )

    As far as the actual case goes, it seems like zenimax is trying to argue that only some large lethargic corporation could come up with the idea of essentially strapping a phone to your face…Toss on some lenses to that phone screen and voila; dk1.

    I still say that zenimax is just out to make a quick buck and are sour they missed the boat and lost carmack in the process.

    • Not allowed unfortunately!

    • Ben Parry

      Back when the first few VR helmets came out late 80’s a friend of mine had used a cardboard unit to split his CRT up into 2 images which you looked at with a divider in the middle. This tech has been around since view masters. as you mentioned this could have been made by anyone with todays technology and its is indeed a cash grab.

      • td0g

        Kinda strange that Oculus needed to hire the father of 3D gaming, who had been working on this stuff for years, and his team to get their horrible hunk of nausea inducing junk to work then, isn’t it?.

        • Uncle

          Carmack is a multimillionaire, he doesn’t need a job, people like him work to actually try and invent something, he got into VR as Hobby, he said it many times as all of this started, he was messing around with different alpha and beta or Rift, starting from very first one glued from parts. Also Palmer contacted him on personal level and they got along, Carmack was in contact with Palmer long before Facebook buyout and before any jobs.

          As far as Palmer goes, I was hard into VR years before Oculus, I started with the 1K USD HMZ-T1 and than T2, so I was lurking on VR forums (back than we had 2 main forums), people were talking posting hombrew projects, DYI VR and improvements for HMZ model, back than Palmer was regular on forums, talking about developing VR and prototyping, he posted collection of his VR devices which he had MANY starting from very old ones.

          People knew about his Kickstarter years before the actual Kickstarer, maybe before the site went up I think he was going to do a pre-sale, Im sure if you google for it you can find the forums and look at old threads.

          All Carmack wants to do is advance the technology and make cool shit happen, hes is that kind of nerd, he got bored of working on 3D engines and Doom, so he moved on, he started at Oculus as free adviser actually.

          P.S. I would of been SUPER happy if I knew that if Oculus looses this than its going to hurt Facebook and not Oculus, we are too early in VR to kill one of the two mainstream VR companies especially one like Oculus that pays the devs to create UNPROFITABLE (Not enough potential buyers) AAA VR games.

          I hate facebook and would like to see them banned or bankrupt, its a THE biggest liberal Brainwash tool on the planet.

          And that schmock Zuckerbeg is one of THE biggest hypocrites on the planet.

    • JSM21

      They are just sore they didnt get that $2 billion payday for the Oculus hence why that is the amount in damages they are asking to be awarded. Would be interesting to see, if they win and get that amount, if they even try to make a VR headset.

    • I mean, if they have stolen and used ideas developed under Zenimax pay… then either they’re found guilty and justice is served or suddenly anyone should be able to use oculus tech openly. Why does only Oculus/Facebook get to steal?

      (If they did, I’m just saying, these are pretty strong allegations for some pretty underhanded business idea theft.)

      • Dave Van den Eynde

        You can’t copyright or patent an idea.

        • mamoru

          I imagine that’s why the complaint is that they stole code, not ideas.

        • David Austin

          Depends of your definition of an idea. Inventions are comprised of one or more ideas … but not all ideas are inventions … and non-invention ideas (those that don’t include verifiable descriptions of HOW something works) … those are the ideas that you can not patent.

  • Frederic Defoy

    People have been making diy hmd at home for over 20 years and the technology to do it has been getting more accessible every year, you have to be an idiot to think it takes a genius to do it or that Palmer and co. weren’t up to the task. Forums are filled with homemade hmd projects. ZeniMax, you should know better.

    • Get Schwifty!

      They do … it’s a corporate legal move, strategic to try to hinder another company worst case by creating a diversion, best case they actually somehow win and get money out of it.

    • td0g

      You’d have to be an idiot to think the people who invented Doom and Quake didn’t have a working VR prototype before Oculus. especially since John bragged about it and showed it off on many occasions.

  • James Abrahams

    Is there any way we can read or watch the full transcript?

  • AntoxaGray

    “I am not a Mac user unless under duress”

  • phinn

    The Carmack has spoken

  • Well said Carmack. Those who do, use a PC – those who do not sit at a coffee shop sipping the latest trendy drink and pretend to innovate with a MBP.

    • Religion is Cancer

      I bet you sit around smelling your own farts.

  • T Sheehan

    Huh. Funny how fickle the commenters are these days about this drawn out money-grab lawsuit run by a Bond Villain (Robert Altman) and his Russian tech chronies.
    Last year it was “I hate Facebook and Luckey, but loved Skyrim ergo Oculus must have stolen from Zenimax”
    This week it’s “Well, I love Carmack, therefore Zenimax must be Ambulance Chasers”
    You people are responding to the Cult of Personality, and throwing out the facts that were in front of every Kickstarter backer since before Carmack moved to Oculus.
    1. Palmer had functioning prototypes before being working with Carmack.
    2. Carmack had long said of his Overlords that they weren’t willing to back him in pursuing VR, so he jumped ship rather than just doing Doom reboots. Pretty hard to steal non-existent tech that was never approved to be worked on in the first place. Their only handhold was Carmack attempting to port Doom, and they knew it. Claiming that anything you drew on a napkin while being employed by Id is their IP doesn’t hold weight here. If I carve a wooden duck in my garage while working for Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart does not get IP rights to my Duck. If I answer a phone call on my iPhone while in the crapper at work, they don’t get rights to my Contacts list. That’s not how it works.
    3. Zenimax never said a word publicly until the Facebook buyout, and Oculus had already been reviewed by the Media as the Next Big Thing, before Zuckerberg bought them up. Those of us in the Kickstarter community wanted to invest before then, but weren’t allowed access to a public offering. Zenimax hadn’t cared either. UNTIL FACEBOOK AND 2 BILLION SHOWED UP.

  • EQRG_Chevalier

    Ok that’s brilliant! lol “I am not a Mac user unless under duress.”
    Looks like this is just the start of the VR war. Lets just hope there are as few a casualties as possible! while I find the tracking on the Vive better than the rift, both are great headsets. Now if only Oculus would open their store to other hardware (revive app shows us that exclusivity is bullshit), then VR will just get better and better! But over all, I don’t care what hardware someone has, if you can team up with me in Onward or Elite Dangerous in VR, then all the better 🙂