"John is probably one of the most humble people I know," he said, "but he is a true genius."
He then gave me the following example: "John went on vacation, [and] I think he got a little bored on the beach. He decided to play with his wife's cell phone and decided he didn't like any of the games. He came back and [made] his own cell phone game and did it in his spare time. A little bit later, [using the same technology] we had Doom RPG, which is super successful for us.
"When [John Carmack] works on a new technology path, he wants to create something that's going to innovate what games can do. I don't think all games need to innovate. I think the industry, in order to succeed and survive over time, needs developers who want to innovate and push what games can do. In any kind of entertainment you need to differentiate yourself and do something different, what nobody has ever seen before, and that's what John delivers. It's great to be on his team, to be able to work on projects that do that."
"Great" sounds like an understatement. I asked Kevin if working with Carmack was akin to being on the Chicago Bulls, circa Michael Jordan's heyday; if working in the presence of genius, in other words, meant your own contributions were often ignored.
"When you look at what John delivers," he said, "it is impressive, and I think to some extent that level of technology can be overshadowing. The revenue generated for the industry was just over a billion dollars from the Quake games and their licenses. [That's] a huge impact, not just in forwarding games, but basically helping to create companies and helping other companies to be successful. So that's a big thing and I think it can overshadow the other efforts.
"At the same time, people can't judge a game by looking at its code. They can only judge a game by looking at what it does. When you look at what id does, in both the art and design space, we've been right there with the innovations. When you look at Doom 3, it rated in the 90s ... and it sold over 3 million units."
When you have that kind of track record, when every game you make turns to gold, racks up awards and sets a new standard for the industry, you're in a bit of a tricky position. A winning trend, after all, need suffer only one loss to be derailed. I asked Cloud how the pressure of being among the best in the industry made it harder to continue being the best in the industry, and how the development of id's latest game, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, stacked up against previous efforts.
"It's been good," he replied. "The Splash Damage team is originally from the community - they're mod developers. So these are guys who worked on games for free because they loved them and really wanted to create new stuff. So they have a passion for games and a desire to make something super cool.