Carmack: I never wanted to license out our tech

Carmack: I never wanted to license out our tech

By Rob Crossley

June 9th 2011 at 5:04PM

Selling your engine restricts how you can manipulate it, id Software boss says

The co-founder of id Software has made an extraordinary admission that he never wanted the Quake creators to be in the engine licensing business.

The Texan studio is famous for its pioneering work in the FPS genre, but in industry history books the company will likely be seen as even more influential in the games engines space.

Two decades of id Tech game engines have been at the centre of numerous industry-defining games, from Valve’s Half-Life to Infinity Ward’s Call Of Duty.

The catch is that John Carmack, the studio’s widely respected co-founder, now says he never wanted to license engine tech out.

"It's interesting when you look at our technology licensing – it was never really a business that I wanted to be in," Carmack said in an interview with Gamasutra.

He said id Software entered the engine licensing business because “people would pester us [for our tech], and we'd just throw out some ridiculous terms, [but] we were surprised when people started taking us up on it.”

id Software was purchased by Zenimax media in June 2009 as part of a deal thought to be worth over $150 million. After the move, Carmack’s studio announced it would no longer be licensing its engines to external studios (Zenimax-owned groups are still allowed to use the tech).

Carmack claimed the shutdown on engine licensing means the studio can make sweeping changes to its own tech without significant consequences to licenses.

"[With engine licensing], I didn't want to be in the process of supporting a lot of outside teams, because you feel beholden to not make radical changes when it's going to pull the rug out from lots of other people," he explained.

"When it's your own team, you can make the sensible decision that [a big change] is going to be worth it, that it's going to suck for a while, but we make our way through it. But you don't want to do that to other people."