To RandomCoderDude, Lucian303 and plus.google.com/106369163599131412142 :
Facebook was started by Mark Zuckerburg (one person) and money he borrowed from his parents in 2006. The company now makes almost $3b a year. Twitter came out of a failed podcasting venture by a couple of guys. And let’s not forget Jeff Atwood himself started Stack Overflow by himself and one lone server into arguably one of the most important developer forums anywhere. Any time I have a (I think) esoteric developer question, I search on Google, and the first result is almost invariably Stack Overflow.
And let’s not forget the Occulus RIft. Developed by a handful of folks into what many think could be one of the most important developments in gaming hardware.
I think Carmack is still right. It is still possible to do something amazing with a PC, some pizza and a dream. But it’s not easy. It never was. Carmack spent an INSANE amount of hours developing his skills to the point he was able to write Commander Keen, Wolfenstein, Doom and Quake. Granted, if you’re narrowing your idea of success to graphics programming, you’re right, it’s no longer possible for a single person to know everything (graphics, networking, sound, CPU optimization) and still be the best. Carmack admitted as much at this year’s QuakeCon 2013 keynote. But if you’re talking about making something amazing, take off those blinders and look around you. The opportunities are out there. But it will take a lot of hard work and an obsessive dedication to the craft and the dream to do it.
That’s why most of these success stories are from guys (and gals) in their teens and 20s, with no families, no children and no responsibilities. Once you have kids and bills to pay, it gets a LOT harder (see Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell). Making something amazing requires an enormous investment in time and skill. And yes, being there at the right time helps too, but only if you’ve put in the time and effort to get ready for it, and you take the risk. Anybody else could have done what Carmack did. He was using the same technology as every other developer out there. Carmack just was more hungry, more motivated, more driven. To the point that it tore apart the id family.
And for me, that’s been the hardest part of the book. I’m about 3/4 of the way through the audiobook (read by Wil Wheaton, and a pretty awesome read, if you don’t mind profanities – courtesy of Romero – blasting in your ear every hour or so :-), but the breakup between the original id guys, Tom Hall, Romero and Carmack is heart breaking. Carmack’s laser sharp focus on the code made him a machine, incapable of seeing beyond the needs of his latest engine. He didn’t care about sentimentality, emotions, empathy. And it cost him his friendship. I wonder if he feels any twinge of regret, now that he’s older, with a family of his own. I read a long time ago, that broken families raise kids who tend to raise broken families themselves. I hope John’s able to avoid the fate that befell Romero. I hope so, for his son’s sake.
Still, an amazing book. Thanks for the recommendation Jeff. (And for Stack Overflow. I can’t believe how much I’ve used it over the years.) Check out the audio book on Audible if you don’t have time for a physical book.