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Plugged In

Game legend John Carmack signs on as CTO of Oculus VR

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John Carmack, going virtual (Credit: Oculus)

John Carmack, widely credited as the creator of the first-person shooter genre, has taken a new job.

The co-founder of id Software -- and one of the most highly-regarded developers in the industry -- was today announced as the new chief technical officer at Oculus VR, makers of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.

"I have fond memories of the development work that led to a lot of great things in modern gaming – the intensity of the first person experience, LAN and internet play, game mods, and so on," Carmack said in a statement. "Duct taping a strap and hot gluing sensors onto Palmer’s early prototype Rift and writing the code to drive it ranks right up there."

"Now is a special time," he continued. "I believe that VR will have a huge impact in the coming years, but everyone working today is a pioneer. The paradigms that everyone will take for granted in the future are being figured out today; probably by people reading this message. It’s certainly not there yet. There is a lot more work to do, and there are problems we don’t even know about that will need to be solved, but I am eager to work on them. It’s going to be awesome!"

[Related: Oculus Rift: Hands-on with the new face of virtual reality]

Awesome for Oculus, at least. What’s less clear is how this new gig will affect Carmack’s role at id Software.

Oculus says he will work full-time from the VR company’s forthcoming Dallas-based offices. However, Bethesda Softworks, which owns id Software, downplayed the effect Carmack's new job at Oculus will have on his input at the game studio.

"John has long been interested in the work at Oculus VR and wishes to spend time on that project," said Pete Hines, vice president of marketing at Bethesda Softworks. "The technical leadership he provides for games in development at id Software is unaffected. ... John will spend time working out of Oculus as part of his role with them, but he will also continue to work at id."

So two huge jobs, then? It’s still a little unclear. The news could mean that Carmack will wrap up work on the latest idTech engine (which will power the next Doom game) before departing, or he could simply be opting to work two jobs.

What is clear is that Carmack's work at Oculus is more than just a hobby, which is how he described his previous dalliances with Armadillo Aerospace, a company he built with the goal of creating a spacecraft capable of space tourism. Earlier this month, Carmack said he was 'winding down' work on that company after spending $8 million of his own money over the past 12 years.

As for priorities, Carmack made that quite clear in a tweet Wednesday morning:

Carmack has been loosely tied with the Oculus Rift since its introduction. He even gave the first press demos of the technology at E3 two years ago. The low-cost Rift headset has been largely praised by the games media, beating out both the PS4 and Xbox One to win the 'Best Hardware' honor at the E3 2013 Game Critics Awards.

The move is a huge win for Oculus, as Carmack truly defines the bleeding edge of technology. His pioneering work on titles such as Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake revolutionized the action genre and helped fuel the rise of 3D graphics in games.

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