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Carmack defends Call of Duty, calls out “snooty” devs and critics

Doom creator John Carmack wasn't trying to create an indie work of art when he threw Aliens, Wolfenstein 3D and Hieronymus Bosch into a bag and shook it up until Doom fell out. The game was groundbreaking in plenty of ways, but it also made its populist, ass-kicking intentions clear. Speaking in an interview with Industry Gamers, Carmack said he’s happy that id Software’s Rage is “a little bit different in terms of feeling and tone.” However, although Rage may have a lot more in common with other modern first-person shooters, the co-founder of id Software has little time for people who rag on games, like Modern Warfare just because there are uncomplicated and popular.

Speaking about the perceived creative slump within the FPS genre (you know the complaints: gray palettes, squad gameplay, pistol/shotgun/machinegun weapon-sets, etc), Carmack bristles. “As long as people are buying it, it means they’re enjoying it," he argues. "If they buy the next Call of Duty, it’s because they loved the last one and they want more of it. So I am pretty down on people who take the sort of creative auteurs' perspective.”

The designer’s first priority, he suggests, shouldn't be creativity but value. His job, Carmack argues, is “not to do something that nobody’s ever seen before. It’s to do something that people love so much they’re willing to give us money for." Carmack has little time for what he calls the “snooty attitude” of many regarding creativity: “It’s almost as if it’s popular, it’s not good. And that’s just not true.”


Above: If this is creative bankruptcy, it's hard to make a case for innovation

It’s the same argument often made by filmmakers or musicians when they turn out something that happens to be both well-received by critics and popular with the masses. Of course, you could argue that when people criticize shooters for being popular, they're really lamenting an industry that's less likely to take a chance on something that's a little harder to sell... but then, there was once a time when “shooting demonic zombies in semi-3D first-person” would've been a hard sell too. And that turned out okay, right?

Jul 19, 2011

30 comments

  • JornnyRamone - August 8, 2011 5:36 p.m.

    Just to quickly touch off on original IP's, considering Gears of War in '06 was a new thing, a really good original idea, despite being a shooter, but it was different, it brought something new to the table, and with that, Horde mode in Gears 2. Then there's Assassin's Creed. That was something new, and although repetitive to some, it was beautiful to look at, and it got better and better as the series moved on. Some games just stick, they hit the right notes (Guitar Hero and Rock Band anyone?!), and some games just don't. And although I've yet to try Deadly Premonition myself, didn't that game cause a fuss due to it's low review scores yet having a good amount of ideas thrown into it?
  • kjdubz22 - July 21, 2011 12:21 a.m.

    @raptorak Hahaha...I set myself up for that one.
  • raptorak - July 20, 2011 11:39 p.m.

    @kjdubz22 I completely agree - we are supposed to have fun with games, which is why I hate COD Black Ops :P
  • kjdubz22 - July 20, 2011 9:04 p.m.

    @CitizenWolfie I completely agree. Aren't we supposed to have fun with games? I don't own Black Ops but I've played it and had a blast, and I'm sure most of your have too (Of course a few of you will disagree, but I don't think you're being completely honest with yourselves). Why do gamers take everything so personal? It's like the gaming industry is against all real gamers...give me a break. And those Black Ops advertisements are called marketing. If any other company had the advertising budget of a COD game they would shove their games down our throats too. I'm not a COD advocate but I've been annoyed with the hate band wagon that's going on.
  • EwoksTasteLikeChicken - July 20, 2011 7:04 p.m.

    Sure there will always be a variety of games out there, but since casual gamers are playing CoD, it's so much harder for them to be recognized. I just went back and beat Mirror's Edge again, and it's sad to think that there might never be a sequel to that game, because of games like Black Ops an MW.
  • FizzyPop - July 20, 2011 6:45 p.m.

    *goes to buy a game from gamestop* (shadow of the damned, dirt 3 and who knows what other great games have came out since black ops) *looks at the posters near the entrance* CALL OF DUTY BLACK OPS *looks at the flyer the clerk stapled to his receipt* CALL OF DUTY BLACK OPS *looks at the bag the clerk put his game in* CALL OF DUTY BLACK OPS *goes home to browse on gamesradar, looks at background* CALL OF DUTY BLACK OPS i dont understand, when did gaming=call of duty. are other games really that much inferior to call of duty that i should have to see it plastered everywhere for the rest of my life. same thing will happen for modernwarfare 3 and all the other sequels (re-skins) that come after. sure call of duty is fun i enjoy them too, but cod games i only play so much. i have tons of games and 2 cod title among them, not tons of cod games and 2 non-cod titles. -.-
  • Spellbound - July 20, 2011 1:41 p.m.

    People don't hate the game because it's popular. People don't hate Activison because it's cool. And people don't rip on both of them just because. People hate CoD because it truly does fucking suck. The multiplayer is shit (horrible connections, weapons sux0rz, massive amounts of h4x0rz, etc.) People hate Activision because they squeeze games out their asshole for money without giving them time to smooth out and actually work. (exception being Spider-Man Shattered Dimensions) People rip on them because this kind of business is fucking gaming up the ass. They release the same shit with a worse smell every year. New maps, new guns, and another meh campaign. Black Ops ops could've been so much better had there been less glitches and more time was spent on it ironing things out. Also, 15 dollars for map packs, and they come with 5 maps all together. But CoD WaW map packs cost 10 dollars for 4 maps. Really? This is why I truly and whole heartedly say: Fuck off Activision.
  • ThatGuyFromTV - July 20, 2011 12:01 p.m.

    Why is America so obsessed with FPS's these days? Can't we do something other than shoot stuff?
  • fetalspray - July 20, 2011 11:51 a.m.

    I dont dislike COD for the fact its popular, I dislike it because its been the same game for 4 games now and isnt doing anything that could be considered new beyond stuff that other games have already done, new maps and guns. Plus the way people play it is infuriating, sniping in games is dead because of COD. If they made something that wasnt a re-skin id play it and would care about its popularity. But why settle for this mediocrity at the moment?
  • Imgema - July 20, 2011 11:23 a.m.

    Whoever said that "if its popular, its bad"? When i say that something is bad (my opinion ofc) is because its bad, not because its popular. I believe that COD is mediocre and boring. But no, i have to be careful with my words because its popular right? Or i absolutely have to like it (even if i really don't) because its popular? That doesn't make any sense at all. Being popular or not has nothing to do with the quality of a product. Something can be popular because its very good, yes, but sometimes something is popular because its made specifically for the stupid masses. Do i have to like Justin Bieber because he is popular?
  • raptorak - July 20, 2011 10:11 a.m.

    But let's not forget that Call of Duty sucks. I respect Carmack as much as anyone, but he's a programmer and rocket scientist, not necessarily a massive gamer or a designer. If he tells me Nvidia is better than AMD, or that Megatexture is some good shiznit, I believe that. But design? Well, I take his opinion same as anyone elses. He provides the engines that allow creativity; like Gibson make guitars for anyone who cares to use them, and if Carmack likes Britney Spears then that is his call, but she's still awful. And I'm yet to see Carmack rockin the Prius, that's popular, so you better give up that ferrari Carmack! :P
  • CitizenWolfie - July 20, 2011 9:01 a.m.

    Totally agree with him. It does piss me off these days how any article that mentions Call of Duty, no matter how tenuously, is greeted with a chorus of "Fuck CoD!" "Fuck Activision!" "Kotick sucks dick" etc. It's cool to hate on Activision, we get it. In another universe, I'd pretty much guarantee half these people would be saying the same thing about Battlefield if Activision released it and fawning over EA's Call of Duty. I like Call of Duty. I like the silly OTT single player campaign - brain on neutral, just enjoy blowing stuff up. I like how cheap-ass the multiplayer is - my friends and I can bond and have a laugh about some of the random stuff that happens. It's frustrating at the time but I wouldn't have it any other way. People take themselves way too seriously online anyway so it's nice to have them bought down a peg with some amateur with a noobtube or a rogue throwing knife. TL:DR - Not every game has to be Bioshock, Okami or Shadow of the Colossus. Lighten up and have fun.
  • avantguardian - July 20, 2011 7:07 a.m.

    @ghostlightning : seconded. @hester2 & redeater: you guys are both right, really. red's right about the business aspect, but hester's right that we will ALWAYS have unique games, because more than anything, game devs are GAMERS first. there will always be room in our culture for a more artistic extension of the mainstream. there just HAS to be. the problem i see is, you have no way of telling if something is going to take off or not. call of duty didn't HAVE to be huge. the list of improbable successes is just as viable a resource as games that have bombed. assassin's creed could have bombed badly, but its pretty much gold now. resident evil, dynasty warriors(huge yet niche franchise), skate, prince of persia, MARIO etc: all huge, all could have been one game. i'd like to see a study done on the relation of advertising funds to overall sales, 'cause it seems like that has a lot to do with it(Shadows and Child are good recent examples of this). bayonetta sold over a mil in Japan before even coming stateside. vanquish has sold over a mil (at least, it was 820k at the end of '10). i've seen mirror's edge with over 2 mil w/o including the pc version. enslaved, well, enslaved bombed. i bought, beat, and loved all of these, but i also am at 15th prestige on black ops. and ncaa football is my favorite series. if you truly love games, you can love them all. sorry tl:dr
  • GhostLightning - July 20, 2011 5:38 a.m.

    Good to see this. Fuck all the haters.
  • Gameguy94 - July 20, 2011 4:46 a.m.

    I hate Call of Duty and refuse to buy any more of them. I'm just glad the copy of Black Ops I (regretfully) bought was used. Its just not fun. Rage is looking to be awesome.
  • RedOutlive10 - July 20, 2011 4:19 a.m.

    He can't tear the series a new one when he's implementing Regenerative Health and what not in his own game. Developers like VALVe have all the ammo they need if they ever wanted to slam CoD and all other generic shooters.
  • RuBIX - July 20, 2011 4:11 a.m.

    This guys is pretty smart. People can argue that games are art and about creativity and anything else, but at the end of the day making videogames is a business and the big developers and publishers need to make money. And if they sink millions of dollars into a game, they cannot have it fail. It could be the end of their company and their job. Shooters are a hot genre right now so even a mediocre one is still going to sell decently. Lots of developers walk a fine line between making something creative, and making something that they know will sell well. And sometimes you get something really awesome like Bioshock. Its still a shooter, but with flair and a compelling story. Just kind of interesting to think about it from the business side of things.
  • Cloud1Fair3 - July 20, 2011 3:42 a.m.

    I think it's reasonable to consider games art. For me, it's like any other art. When something becomes big and successful, most of the cash cow artists(devs) try to emulate it to cash in. I could say it easily gets tiring, unless of course they don't overdo it and focus on core things such as story, visuals and improving gameplay diversity. Like any art form, it gets stale easily when overdone and everything becomes homogonous in the mad attempt to cash in on the market created by the originals success. I can't imagine FPSs will hold the market for much longer, because it's style has reached it's entertainment limit; at the very least, in my opinion nothing new and exciting has come from FPSs since Modern Warfare and I personally enjoy Battlefield for online shooters more. That being said, I'm looking forward to titles like Catherine and even though Uncharted may be the same as COD games later down the line, the two I've played have been excellent and just jaw dropping in terms of story and gameplay. I think though, I'll eventually get tired of Unchartd as well, unfortunately. I think as long as a game has substance and doesn't overstay it's creative welcome then I'll play it. The more original and genuine the game though, the more I'll play it and the more appreciation I'll have for it. I find I"m truly getting into games for aesthetics such as the art styles and just unique story lines and memorable characters. In the end, like in all art I just want substance, something memorable that I'll look fondly back on and will never really get old because the it's essentialy and deeply a great piece of art like Shadow of the Collosus, Okami, Persona 3, Uncharted 2, Red Dead Redemption, etc. Those are the games that will go down in the history of gaming and more importantly, in my nostalgia trips. On that note, does anybody else LOVE The Legend of Dragoon? Cause I can easily say that is my favorite game of all time.
  • Redeater - July 20, 2011 3:12 a.m.

    Ugh sorry to post again but this really bothers me. "It’s almost as if it’s popular, it’s not good. And that’s just not true.” If this was even remotely true how is it that you never hear anyone talk shit about Valve? Hell most of the people boycotting L4D2 were playing it on release.
  • Redeater - July 20, 2011 2:58 a.m.

    @hester2 No it's the fact that they are not in the business to make you happy. They are in fact a business and have shareholders to answer to. Do you think they are going to develop games that constantly bomb just to keep a small niche of gamers happy? The truth is that as games become more and more costly to create the chances are going to be less and less that a company is going to shell out money on original IPs. I'm still waiting for Beyond Good and Evil 2....

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