Pick a computer game from the past few years. Any one. Like, seriously, just name one.
There's a very good chance this man is responsible for the technology that makes that game run. There's a reasonable chance it even includes some of his code.
John D. Carmack (born August 20, 1970) is a game programmer (and aerospace engineer) who worked for id Software. He co-founded the company with John Romero, and was the lead programmer for almost every game that company made.
He worked on a huge number of games in his prime (see the other wiki), but in recent years his productivity has declined due to having a second job as the owner of Armadillo Aerospace. His most notable games, usually because they included groundbreaking technology that he pioneered, are listed below:
- Commander Keen: Pretty much invented the idea of "adaptive tile refresh," or redrawing only tiles that have changed since the last time the screen drawn. Allowed cheap DOS computers to compete with specialized console hardware. note
- Wolfenstein 3-D: Popularized raycasting (the technique itself is much older than Wolfenstein 3D). Allowed cheap DOS computers to compete with specialized console hardware. note
- Doom: Vastly improved raycasting using techniques like blockmapping and binary search partition trees. Codified the FPS genre. Allowed cheap DOS computers to compete with specialized console hardware. (You might be noticing a pattern.) note
- Quake: Invented surface caching, an essential part of full polygonal 3D. Improved binary search partition trees. Was the first FPS to have fast enough netcode to be playable online (previous ones could only really be played over LAN). Supported a mod community that is still active today. Allowed cheap DOS computers to compete with specialized console hardware, and Windows computers too to an even greater extent not long later with GLQuake.note
Oh, and that bit about modern games including his work? That's not exaggeration - a lot of the technologies he developed, especially BSP trees, are practically essential to modern video games, even on consoles. And he's still at it - do a search for "sparse voxel octrees" if you want to see what the next generation of video game graphics will look like.
As of November 2013, he has resigned from id Software to work full-time for Oculus VR, the company responsible for the Oculus Rift. His reputation took a major blow when he has been heavily involved in the lawsuit that cost Facebook $500 million for stealing the technology behind OR, although the trial jury absolved Carmack of liability and his reputation has been slowly recovering ever since.