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Carmack: iPhone Powerful as PS2, Xbox

By - Source: Tom's Hardware | B 23 comments

Among the hardcore gaming crowd, John Carmack’s work with id Software is legendary for producing 3D gaming works such as Doom and Quake. Although Carmack is clearly comfortable pushing the limits of PC hardware, his latest interest appears to be in mobile games – and his sights are now set on the Apple iPhone.

"We wanted to do something for the iPhone, but we just didn’t have the scheduling or the resources available," Carmack said to Forbes. "I really regret not having something at launch."

The launch that Carmack referred to was the launch of the App Store on iTunes, which coincided with the release of the iPhone 3G. The App Store allows iPhone and iPod Touch users to download and install applications and games for use on their mobile device.

While Carmack won’t have the usual dual-core CPU and blazing AMD or NVIDIA GPUs on tap, he seems more than confident that the iPhone is capable of delivering the graphical goods.

"The iPhone, as a device, is in the same generation power-wise as the PS2 or Xbox," he said. "The graphics are a little lower but the RAM is a lot higher. … You could easily spend $10 million on an iPhone game, but the market just can’t support that yet."

Anna Kang, president of id Mobile, explained that the game for iPhone would be based off an existing id property, meaning that it could be from id’s roster of first-person shooters, the old classic Commander Keen, or even the lesser known Orcs & Elves game from the Nintendo DS.

Carmack isn’t letting on what type of game it’ll be, but he intends to impress. "We have a title we want to develop exclusively for iPhone," he added. "I’m not announcing anything specifically, but it would be a graphical tour de force."

Of course, PC faithful need not worry that Carmack is moving away from making shiny, flashy 3D engines. These mobile games are likely side projects that he does in his spare time. His next engine, called id Tech 5, will power the game "Rage" and is set to push the modern graphics and game consoles.

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  • 0 Hide
    lobhob , July 30, 2008 8:08 PM
    I could see it as powerful as a psp, which can more or less sort of simulate ps2 graphics, but not as powerful as a ps2 because it wouldn't have a powerful enuf processor in it without it at least having heat problems for the iphones size. I don't see where ram can improve grphics as it says in the article, just load times idk.
  • 1 Hide
    martel80 , July 30, 2008 8:22 PM
    What about Doom 2 level 1 deathmatch over bluetooth-ed iPhones? :) 
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , July 30, 2008 9:01 PM
    It doesn't say that ram improves graphics. It says that the graphics aren't as good but it has more RAM.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , July 30, 2008 9:18 PM
    Carmack is dreaming gagain...pure lol
    Iphone has so far even from PSP's capabilities...uncomparable...not to mention PS2 or the Xbox, heh
  • 0 Hide
    grieve , July 30, 2008 9:46 PM
    I have to agree with yuko, I have a 3G, PSP and a long time ago I had a PS2 (have PS3 now).
    My Iphone 3G occasionally has lag not even gaming, the graphix are awesome (for a phone) but it certainly is not capable of Quake death-matches.

    I dont doubt for a second Id Software could make a PS1 type game for the 3G, but not PS2 or PSP unfortunately. Furthermore the touch display is fantastic but I cant see it functioning well for many types of games, in particular a first person shooter.
  • 0 Hide
    The_Blood_Raven , July 30, 2008 10:20 PM
    Sounds like more accessories for the iPhone... so you can play decent games...
  • 0 Hide
    waxdart , July 30, 2008 11:39 PM
    Dear all the above.

    For argument's sake - Lets say the graphics are the same or even better than a ps2 or xbox.

    ok - "The graphics are the same or even better than a ps2 or xbox."

    How long will the battery last? No good having a phone if you've used the power on a 15min death match.

    Yes its a pain having to carry all these bits, but when one runs out of juice, I can still use the others. I for one, am a naysayer till they fix the issue of me having to remeber to charge everything up all the time.
  • 5 Hide
    bydesign , July 30, 2008 11:56 PM
    Carmak has lost his mind. For a while now he been spewing absolute nonsense. The next time someone reports something about him hopefully it's about him checking into a rehab clinic.
  • 0 Hide
    JonathanDeane , July 31, 2008 3:25 AM
    LOL ByDesign agreed he has been on a binge lately, although not as bad as Romero's hmmm maybe they could convert DaiKatana for the iPhone lol

    I like the iPhone and want one so bad I have been looking at Chinese clones www.dealextreme.com (but the quality is probably far far lower then Apples)
  • 0 Hide
    jaragon13 , July 31, 2008 4:03 AM
    yukoCarmack is dreaming gagain...pure lolIphone has so far even from PSP's capabilities...uncomparable...not to mention PS2 or the Xbox, heh

    Yeah,but I guess you cannot still play on a Mac.
  • 0 Hide
    nukemaster , July 31, 2008 4:14 AM
    The_Blood_RavenSounds like more accessories for the iPhone... so you can play decent games...

    so true
  • 0 Hide
    admiral_grinder , July 31, 2008 12:50 PM
    I can see the iPhone doing Quake 3. I had a p2 333 celeron in 1999 with a TNT2 Ultra that could play it just fine. A quick comparison of the specs of the iPhone supports that idea unless there is some major architecture problems. I wouldn't worry about heat so much since these chips are vastly scaled in size and use less power. The small screen will help, it is only 480×320, a cake walk for even software renders.

    The Xbox is only a 733 celeron with a modified geforce chip and 64 mb of ram, and with better compiler optimizations, iPhone could do it too.
  • 0 Hide
    ize , July 31, 2008 1:41 PM
    I love to see how many people claim that the iPhone is so inferior without stating any facts to support the claim. Keep in mind that the iPhone has a 600 MHz ARM core which most certainly beats the crap out of a 733 MHz Celeron (I thought it was an 800 Celeron in the XBox but it doesn't matter, its the same ballpark).

    Yes Carmack might be stretching the envelop a bit much this time, but fact remains that he is the pro. We who make comments are just amateurs. That makes Carmack much more suitable for making educated guesses just how much performance can be squeezed out of the iPhone.

    As for battery life: The thing that takes most energy in a phone is sending voice over the phone network. That's why you have 60 hours standby and 5 hour talk time normally on a phone. Obviously back-light will take power as well as a 100% loaded CPU core. Exactly how much remains to be seen, but it is very easy to test. Write a homebrew application which loads the CPU to 100% and has the back-light on and see when the phone dies. If it lasts for an hour, then we have a platform which is OK for gaming. And yet again, don't you think Carmack has tested this already?

  • 0 Hide
    bretthowell , July 31, 2008 1:50 PM
    Thanks admiral_grinder, at last someone pulls out the facts rather than relying on a distant memory of "how cool" those consoles used to be....

    Guys come on, the PS2 and Xbox were released in 2000 and 2002 respectively. Electronics either get faster or smaller, in this case what Carmack implies is that the horsepower has been packed into a deceptively small case.

    It's been reported tha iPhone has 677 Mhz CPU, and 128MB RAM... add a math coprocessor and the raw numbers are very close to the Xbox specs admiral_grinder shared.
  • 0 Hide
    gaiden , July 31, 2008 2:16 PM
    The_Blood_RavenSounds like more accessories for the iPhone... so you can play decent games...


    ya it would be called iBatteryPlus, something you can attach to the bottom of your iPhone just like the Wii MotionPlus except the iBatteryPlus would be a 12cell 7lb battery to ensure long lasting entertainment while unplugged :p 
  • 0 Hide
    patchez , July 31, 2008 3:22 PM
    admiral_grinderI can see the iPhone doing Quake 3. I had a p2 333 celeron in 1999 with a TNT2 Ultra that could play it just fine. A quick comparison of the specs of the iPhone supports that idea unless there is some major architecture problems. I wouldn't worry about heat so much since these chips are vastly scaled in size and use less power. The small screen will help, it is only 480×320, a cake walk for even software renders. The Xbox is only a 733 celeron with a modified geforce chip and 64 mb of ram, and with better compiler optimizations, iPhone could do it too.

    LOL, i remember seeing some webpage a few months back with someone playing Q3 on their Ipod Touch - http://www.engadget.com/2008/04/05/quake-3-hits-the-ipod-touch-makes-for-portable-lan-party/
  • 0 Hide
    grieve , July 31, 2008 3:31 PM
    I can assure you the Battery life is more then a small issue.
    If I play Texas hold'em while the 3G is not plugged in the phone will die in about two-three hours.
    Keep in mind This poker game doesnt have a lot of movement, it does look pretty nice.
  • 0 Hide
    ize , August 1, 2008 12:56 PM
    grieve, don't forget that powering a display of that size is much more energy consuming than powering an ARM core. If you have 3 hours playtime in the poker game I would guess that there are at least 2 hours playtime of quake or an equivalent.
  • 0 Hide
    nukemaster , August 1, 2008 4:22 PM
    The downside there, is during a day, if you kill your PSP/DS, you still have your phone. If you kill your Iphone playing games, you are out a phone too.
  • 1 Hide
    Kuukage , August 2, 2008 1:45 AM
    Benchmarks of the gpu-chip in iTouch/iPhone say its capable of accelerating 7M polygons per second while the PSP gpu goes 33M/s.

    I don't call that little. iPhone architecture is great for general use and some kind of games but certainly it does NOT shine in the 3D department.
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