The capabilities of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are “essentially the same,” says industry legend John Carmack.
Speaking at QuakeCon, Id software's technical wizard admitted he hadn't done serious benchmarking and that he had to keep some details secret due to NDAs, but said the similarity of the systems is overwhelming.
“It's almost amazing how close they are in capabilities, how common they are, and that the capabilities they give are essentially the same,” said Carmack in his annual keynote.
“We can talk about the differences in memory architectures but the bottom line being that they are mulitcore AMD processors with AMD graphics – it's almost weird how close they are.”
Perhaps the biggest difference has been in public perception, and Carmack said he felt much of the controversy surrounding the Xbox One's “always on” used games systems and Kinect 2.0 was “a bit of a witch hunt.”
While there's certainly some reason for concern, Carmack pointed out if someone had introduced a device that had access to a user's e-mail, social media, and GPS ten years ago, there would probably have been a similar reaction.
“The idea that 'yeah, but the Government's gonna have back doors into all of these, they can turn them on and track where you're going...' and yeah, that's pretty much the situation but we just kind of carry on,” he said, drawing some laughs from the audience.
While he says much of the controversy is about things like Google Glass that he feels are inevitable and a net positive, the Kinect itself isn't bringing much to the table.
“I'm still not really sold on Kinect,” he said.
Admitting his needs and expectations might not match the broad consumer base Microsoft is targeting, Carmack compared Microsoft's motion-control to the problems of Apple's one-button mouse.
“Anybody working with a mouse, more buttons are helpful there,” he said.
“Kinect is sort of like a zero-button mouse with a lot of latency.”
Aside from the controversy, Carmack believes the most important thing about the new console generation is the sheer volume of memory available to developers, and that the days of maxing system specs are over.
“Tons and Tons of memory is the thing that makes game development a lot easier,” said Carmack.
“I think the writing's on the wall that pushing things to their absolute limit is not really tenable for development because there's just too much that you can do.”
The new generation of consoles means developers can simply focus on making a good game, rather than chasing the pipe-dream of a perfectly optimized system.
“It was one thing when you had a system that you could hold the entire reference manual in your and and say, 'we're going to do as close to the absolute best we can imagine is possible on this'.”
“But today, no one person has the entire capabilities of one of these modern platforms in their head. There's too much to wind up with this crystal jewel of perfection like you might have deluded yourself into thinking you were approaching in previous years.”
Carmack's keynote can be found on YouTube, with the man himself appearing at minute fifteen of the first video.