Carmack compares Oculus Quest hardware power to last-gen game consoles

SAN JOSE—In a wide-ranging and occasionally rambling unscripted talk at the Oculus Connect conference today, CTO John Carmack suggested the Oculus Quest headset was “in the neighborhood of power of an Xbox 360 or PS3.”

That doesn’t mean the Quest, which is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC, can generate VR scenes comparable to those seen in Xbox 360 or PS3 games, though.

As Carmack pointed out, most games of that generation targeted a 1280×720 resolution at 30 frames per second. On Quest, the display target involves two 1280×1280 images per frame at 72fps. That’s 8.5 times as many pixels per second, with additional high-end anti-aliasing effects needed for VR as well.

“It is not possible to take a game that was done at a high-quality level [on the Xbox 360 or PS3] and expect it to look good in VR,” Carmack said.

Expecting Rift-level performance from a self-contained mobile headset like the quest isn’t realistic, Carmack said, partly for simple electrical reasons. While a high-end gaming PC often draw up to 500 watts of power, Carmack said the Quest only uses about 5W, a tidbit that should be of benefit to the Quest’s still unconfirmed battery-life statistics.

That relative lack of hardware power is going to require some developers to adopt “a different programming style that’s been necessary on the PC,” Carmack warned. “With a modern PC, you have so much extra power, you don’t need to be a hotshot programmer to make a game people love. You don’t really have that convenience on any mobile platform, really, but especially not on our platform.”

That’s not an insurmountable problem, Carmack suggested, as long as developers focus on the dozen or so things that players really need to concentrate on in an average game, rather than “thousands” of pieces of graphical fluff. He suggested developers look back to the lessons of platforms like the original PlayStation and Nintendo DS to see how developers crafted memorable experiences on much less-powerful hardware.


Some other interesting tidbits from Carmack’s meandering talk:

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