John Carmack says he's better at optimizing than GPU driver programmers

John Carmack doesn't lack confidence, nor should he, given what he's accomplished to date. But lest there be any doubt, Carmack made an interesting comment at Oculus Connect today, saying he's better at optimizing code than dedicated graphics card driver teams.

Carmack isn't pitching for a job at AMD or Nvidia, though he does have some constructive criticism. According to Carmack, GPU driver teams often make mistakes in driver development that ultimately break optimizations. This is something Carmack feels he can do better than them at the moment. "They often make mistakes," he said, referring to driver updates that can break things. "'Let me do the specific low level things, I know what I'm doing, I'll take care of it, you're going to make decisions that are not going to be optimal for me in various ways," Carmack said.

To be clear, Carmack wasn't throwing shade at AMD or Nvidia. His comment was made in passing as he discussed Oculus Go and various VR technologies. However, it caught our attention, especially given the challenges that driver teams at AMD and Nvidia have faced at certain points in time. AMD has especially struggled in the past, at least before bringing Raja Koduri on board to lead a dedicated Radeon Technologies Group that AMD formed in the lead-up to Vega.

These days AMD and Nvidia are both focused on delivering frequent driver updates to coincide with major game releases. New drivers are almost always optimized for specific games. If in fact driver teams do break things because of mistakes along the way, as Carmack suggests, the somewhat rapid pace at which new drivers are released could be a factor.

Correction: A previous version of this story included the quotes "They often make mistakes" and "I tell them to let me do the optimizations, I can do it better" which were misheard. We've updated this story with accurate quotations.

Paul Lilly

Paul has been playing PC games and raking his knuckles on computer hardware since the Commodore 64. He does not have any tattoos, but thinks it would be cool to get one that reads LOAD"*",8,1. In his off time, he rides motorcycles and wrestles alligators (only one of those is true).