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RAGE Interview

with id Software's Creative Director Tim Willits

By Jeff Buckland, 10/1/2010

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"I've never even played Catacombs. That's embarrassing." Catacombs 3D was id Software's first 3D game, one that predates their early breakout title, Wolfenstein 3D.

id Software's Creative Director Tim Willits isn't afraid to admit the gaps in his own history as one of the founding fathers behind where first person shooters today, but he's still got more rattling around in that sharp mind of his - especially within the genre he helped mold and create - than many developers today. He expresses interest in the idea of a journalistic story on what happened to Ken Silverman, the once-teenager behind the engine that powered games like Duke Nukem 3D and Shadow Warrior: "That'd be an interesting story. For people like us." I suggest to him that "people like us" - the developers of, and the community centered around, first person shooters from way back in the Wolfenstein, DOOM, and original Quake days in the early and mid 90s - are not only so vastly outnumbered by today's gamers, but that so many of them seem to have disappeared. Jokingly, I suggest that maybe some of us have actually died of old age. To hear some younger gamers scoff at the relative primitive graphics of these classics, you'd think we'd belong in a museum next to an ENIAC and an abacus.

Alright, it might not be quite that bad, but id Software finds itself in a post-Modern Warfare world with an audience now primarily made up of gamers that, in some cases, weren't even born when DOOM was released in late 1993. Some of them see developers like id Software as archaic representations of a distant past, like they're World War II veterans trying to get onto the internet for the first time or something. But after a visit to the id Software offices, I found a great cross-section of game development: the names and faces of action-game pioneers like Willits, John Carmack, Christian Antkow, and many more, but plenty of younger guys making art and designing RAGE, too.

In fact, it's almost too many people to fit in their offices: up until a couple of years ago, id Software was a small, boutique-size studio with only one major team working on a game. Now that Bethesda Softworks' parent company Zenimax has acquired them, they've filled up most of the floor in their non-descript office building. id Software is located in the Dallas suburb of Mesquite, TX, and having lived in the Dallas area for years, I can assure you that id Software is making, by far, the most interesting things to have ever been created in Mesquite. But they're running out of space and looking to move to a bigger office, as they've had to do things like convert a closet into cubicles to stuff more employees in. Pretty good work for a company that hasn't delivered their own major-title game in years.

Most of their effort over the last five years has gone into RAGE, a new first person shooter that dumps players into a post-apocalyptic world full of mutants, shotguns, dune buggies with weapons all over them, and graphics so mind-blowing you'll think that the next generation of consoles is here already. But they're also looking to the PC as their bread and butter, too, offering things like an in-game editor for mod support, massive texture quality for high-end PCs, and pretty much the best game engine that the world has seen. The id guys don't try and go out of their way to point to the PC as the "primary platform", but if you look at its extra features and see how much better it runs on even a mid-range gaming PC, you'll realize that this is almost definitely what they're doing.

It's centered around a system called Megatexture. In almost every cutting-edge game, memory constraints drastically limit the resolution and quality of the art, and much of the development process is spent figuring out how to take artists' super-high-res art and show it, at some reduced resolution, in the most optimal way. This is why you often see blurry textures in places that are just off the beaten path in most games, and why the gun you're carrying looks so much more detailed than the guns other characters are holding. But with Rage, lead programmer John Carmack - a man who has done as much to shape today's video games as legendary designers like Sid Meier and Shigeru Miyamoto - figured out an entirely new way to use the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit, the chip that directly draws 3D graphics to the screen) that's in every modern console and gaming PC. Megatexture paints huge swaths of outdoor terrain with one massive piece of art, using revolutionary tech to quickly retrieve the data for whatever the player is looking at. It eliminates that "texture tiling" effect seen in many games when the developers are trying to fit the textures into the machine's RAM. The end result is that we see much better detail while still maintaining a blistering 60fps speed, a frame rate that has already been demonstrated on consoles and can be achieved with a mid-range gaming PC. And for even faster PCs, higher screen resolutions, extra effects, and even sharper textures will be possible.

But id Software has been in this position before. Gamers played Quake 3 for ten years, but many of those people will tell you that they only played id's followup, DOOM 3, for less than ten hours. DOOM 3 was more of an engine demo to some of id's old-school fans. My first question to Tim Willits is what he has to say to them with regard to RAGE.

AtomicGamer: There are people who are skeptical about RAGE and its longevity. They're wondering if it's a benchmark game, one you play for a little while and then you only fire it up to test your video card.

Tim Willits: Oh boy, no. John [Carmack, id technical director] has said that the technology choices he has made are definitely not going to tax the person that spent thousands on his machine. There are things that, if you're a PC user, that you'll get the benefit from, like people saw at QuakeCon. Of course, you can crank up everything and run uncompressed [textures], but no, I think the benchmarking days of id technology [won't be like before]. I know DOOM 3 was at the cutting edge of tech at the time, and it really pushed everything. We focused a lot of attention here at id at getting systems [into RAGE] we'd never had in before, like vehicle stuff. Much harder than we thought!

We were focusing much more on gameplay elements than technology. John showed off this part of this technology on the iPad, and one of the great things about this is that it's pretty scalable. It's very scalable. Theories and bits of the tech can end up on the iPhone, and John believes that this technology will be very viable will into the future because there are lots of opportunities to push it. But for RAGE, we definitely push more of the story, gameplay, and gameplay variety over the tech demo.

AG: So, id Tech 5 isn't just about enabling players to throw excessive amounts of hardware and horsepower at the screen and hoping for a better result. Is id Tech 5 is an objectively better technology for allowing artists to get their work into a game?

TW: You are correct. The great visuals that we are able to display come from giving the artists the freedom from texture limitations. In the past artists were so confined in what they could accomplish that you were really limited by the technology. In id Tech 5 the artists can be artists, we've uncaged them and let then fly.

With the stamping technology, an integral part of the tech, the artists can continue to stamp textures until the day before we ship. They can continually improve the look of the areas with no performance implications. It's really the backbone of our Megatexture system.

AG: There's been lots said about id Tech 5 over the years. It's now at home at Bethesda and id and won't be licensed outside of your group -

TW: Yes.

AG: Is that a big change for you guys?

TW: Actually, not really. We've never had an employee dedicated to working with licensees. It was never a cornerstone of our business to license. We had some great relationships. We had some super huge successes. Every time I play Modern Warfare 2, on the very front splash screen, the very last line on the screen says "id Software technology included". It leaves a warm little glow in my heart - "ooh, id Tech!". So we've had huge successes, and we've had luck with it. But it's never really been - we've never hired a person, dedicated. Robert Duffy would help, Jan Van Waveren would help, and of course John [Carmack]. But that was never a really big part of our company. Heck, for us, it makes it a bit easier, but that was a strategic decision by the Bethesda-Zenimax family, to keep the technology inside the group. But the group's pretty big. There are genres, as you can see that are not first person shooters. The nice thing, working with the Bethesda group, they have some design philosophies and production philosophies, and even some technology sharing that we've already done, that has benefited everybody, so it is quite exciting. Because in the past we always had good relationships with Activision and EA, companies like that, but we always felt like a cousin. And now we're more like brothers and sisters.

AG: That means that Bethesda's next Elder Scrolls has got to be id Tech 5. It better be.

TW: [laughs] Well, you'll have to talk to [Bethesda's] Todd Howard about that.

AG: Yeah, unfortunately, I would. He clams up really well.

TW: Yeah, he is very good at keeping his cards close to his chest until it's time to show them.

AG: But that Gamebryo tech [which powers Oblivion, Morrowind, Fallout 3, and the upcoming Fallout: New Vegas] is possibly some of the worst tech for such fantastic games.

TW: Yeah, that is a testament to their design skills, and [Todd's] team. And Bill Kessman? has been there so long, too. He has guys he's been working with for fifteen years.

AG: Since Daggerfall.

TW: Or even Arena.

AG: I never got into those when they were new. I got into Bethesda's games with Morrowind.

TW: I played Terminator. I thought that was awesome. And Morrowind was the RPG I really played a lot of.

AG: Oh yeah! Terminator: Future Shock. Great game. It had some really interesting features in it - back in what, 1995? - that nobody had seen before. Full mouselook without screwing up your perspective, floors over floors without tricks, large outdoor spaces.

TW: And what happened to those guys? I mean, I know it's Bethesda, but the core tech group. See, another story.

AG: Alright, let's talk a bit more about RAGE. Some are skeptical, saying that it's watered down by pulling in parts from other genres, like every other action game nowadays. Everything from Modern Warfare 2 having you level up in multiplayer, to Borderlands going completely over the top in making an action-RPG that's almost equally both. Where does RAGE sit?

TW: One of the things I've always tried to make a big point about is that at its core, RAGE is still a first person game and even though we have things like an inventory and [the ability to] make things, we keep it very straightforward and simple. For example, all of the offhand weapons are just instant use - the Wingstick, the RC Bomb car, and the turrets. Originally we had them as weapons, where you select them and place them, but it took too long, so we sped that up.

The inventory system has no encumbrance - anything you can pick up, you can always pick up. You can carry every single weapon that you want. [On consoles,] we have the four quick [weapon selection] thing because it makes it easier to find the ones you want to use, but they're all in your inventory. At its core, we want to stay true to running, gunning, and having a good time. But we wanted to add elements to support that to make it a rich experience, and you really feel that with the arcadey, over the top gameplay style - like with the vehicles, we added air control. Because it's an id Software game! It's not very realistic, but it's more fun. And originally we had this animation of you getting in and out of your vehicle, which was really cool five or six times, but after that - no. So, fast, simple, have fun, but have a rich world to do it in - that was our design philosophy. At its core it's a first person game but with other elements that don't overburden it.

AG: We've seen so many shooters take on things like, well, you can only carry two weapons in our game because that's how Halo did it. You have regenerating health because, well, just about every game in the last decade did it. And then every once in a while we see a game that bucks that trend, like Raven's Singularity which didn't have regenerating health. You had to use health packs, and I was surprisingly okay with it. Where do you find RAGE in that sort of creep?

TW: Because I hate dying in video games - well, I'm busy. I've got five kids. You're a busy man. What we've done with RAGE is allow the nano-trites inside your character, the little tech parts that are integral to the story, they will regenerate you. We have health that you can pick up and use if you need to, and if you find the components and improve your [maximum] health, we can do that. And if you die, and your defibrillator is charged up, you can bring yourself back to life and move on.

So in RAGE, you can die, yes. But we try to make it not frustrating, because I hate playing games that have these checkpoint saves, and you go and get killed, and get killed, so you say, "I don't wanna play anymore. I'd rather go play with my kids." So you can save anywhere in RAGE, and we give the player enough opportunities to continue the action. But yes, there is a challenge in that you can die. I know some people are like, "What? You have regen and health packs? I'll never die!" I tell them not to worry about that. We will still kill you.

As far as where we're going on that, we've definitely incorporated elements people are familiar with, but we've kept things that made id Software games id Software games, like all the weapons. For me, two weapons sucks. I understand those games, they're super popular, sold like a zillion billion copies, but I just wanna carry everything.

AG: And in a game like Call of Duty, why couldn't you at least put your sidearm in a holster on your side and make that a third weapon?

TW: [laughs] Trust me, if I could sell as many copies as they did, I'd have no problem. But there are some things that we won't change at id.

AG: You mentioned having the ability to save anywhere. Now, I think Doom 3 back on the Xbox is still the only action game on consoles that had a quicksave button. It was on the Back button. Are you guys planning on doing that again?

TW: We ran out of buttons. We actually have you go to the menu to save [on consoles], because we have Options [on the Start button], and then we have the inventory [on the Back/Select buttons].

AG: Aw, that means Microsoft is gonna make us do that "Do you wish to save?" and then "Are you sure you want to overwrite?" crap that all Xbox games have to have when you save manually.

TW: And that is [Microsoft's Technical Certification Requirements]. There's nothing we can do about it. It's something they require. But yeah, we've just run out of buttons [for quicksave]. Heck, if I could get one more button in, that - that's one great thing about the keyboard on PC.

AG: You could make it a combo, like hold Back and hit Start.

TW: I had some combos in, for selecting stuff, and every tester was like, "Ugh, why isn't this like Call of Duty?" But people always ask me, what games do you borrow from, and we use the big Call of Duty buttons, because if 25 million people learned that this is jump, don't change the button. Because fans hate that.

AG: Halo Reach. They changed the control configuration again. I think almost every Halo has had a different config. They move the reload button, they move the melee button.

TW: I haven't played that yet, but we have copies here. One of our designers bought the big, cool set for $150, which is pretty awesome. It's sitting on his desk. But yeah, don't change the button configuration. If there's nothing integral to your game, just leave jump to where everyone thinks it should be. Good, simple rule.

AG: So, let's talk about modding. Bethesda, as a developer, they seem to really like community-made mods.

TW: Clearly.

AG: Shipping editors and mod support alongside their games. Is that something they want you guys to do?

TW: Oh, yeah. We are id. If it wasn't for John Carmack, there'd be no mods, for any game in my humble opinion.

AG: I don't know if people would have even thought of modding without some prodding by developers like John. Now, people mod games that were never intended to be modded, but that came about because of built-in modding.

TW: With John, some of the things he's done have really shaped the video game world more than I think some people realize. So in RAGE, same as DOOM 3. Hit the tilde key, type "editor", all the tools are there. And actually, they're way more robust. We have a tools team, not just one guy, and heck, we hired another tools guy just the other day. So, there's animation stuff, prop stuff, and because we have a layering system for all the areas and levels with RAGE, I think we'll see more people doing stuff with current content than trying to make new content. You go into, like, the Ghost Hideout after you kill off the Ghost Clan, and it'll fill up with mutants. So you have different layers based on where you in the game, so mod guys can go, "Oh, I'll make another layer, I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna script this and put these guys in."

AG: Which is a lot like what people did with Bethesda's own games -

TW: Exactly.

AG: - modifying existing content, which is much easier than creating brand new content. So these editing features are just on PC?

TW: Yeah, just PC.

AG: Well, I can see why - Far Cry 2's map editor wasn't exactly fantastic.

TW: I just don't know if hardcore console players want mods. I think it's a different mindset.

AG: The Forge mode in Halo is popular, but it's not the same. You're given a map and you just place stuff inside it. With Reach, you can actually build larger structures that don't just fall apart, but it's still more basic.

TW: Yeah. I always hear the question, "is PC gaming dead"? No. There's the mod community, social community, millions of people are still playing World of Warcraft every day.

AG: And on the sales side, the estimation was that half of all PC games are now sold on digital distribution services, and none of them publish their sales numbers. It does seem like digital distribution has got to be the way to go.

TW: Yeah. Now, we know nothing about future consoles, so there's nothing I'm trying to give away here, but my own personal opinion is that, I'll be curious to see if they even have DVD or disc-like drives. You'll get all your content online.

AG: I'm in agreement. It's so much easier to control release dates, piracy, and used game sales on a console if there's just an internet connection and a hard drive. Unless a publisher wants to specifically build in used sales, which no one wants to do.

TW: True. But then you get into these wars with the brick and mortar folks.

AG: But if you don't sell your game with brick and mortar at all, there's no war to really have, though, is there?

TW: A part of me believes that DVDs or Blu-Rays will no longer exist. Start a download, or pre-load like Steam does, and play it when it's ready.

AG: So, for Quake Live, we've heard complaints about id Software trying to sell a ten year old game with a monthly or yearly fee, but Quake Live really is more of a service, right? The charge is for things like running servers.

TW: Yeah - I'm not the Quake Live guy, but with the beta phase done, you can now launch servers, run servers, there's new content that's becoming available, and it's pretty cheap. Yearly cost. There's Pro and Premium. [The Quake Live team] is a tight-knit group. Steve Nix is working on that, but there's never been any marketing. We've done some stuff, but not any mainstream marketing. And it's still my opinion, even as old as it is, it's still the best one-on-one, fair playing field, precision multiplayer game.

AG: My opinion is that it's Quake 2, but -

TW: Hey, I made Quake 2, so it's very near and dear to me. You know, the funny thing is, there's Quake, Quake 2, and Quake 3. You know you're a hardcore gamer when you can explain to somebody the rocket launcher differences between each of those games. A lot of decisions that we made for Quake 2 were a result of Quake being so hardcore. And we reverted a bunch of those for 3. But there's a very dear place in my heart for Quake 2. It's one of my favorite games of all time. Just about every map had something I did in it.

Just yesterday I launched the RAGE map editor. Matt Hooper always gets nervous when I do that. I wanted those guys to change some things, and I was gonna take a screenshot and just draw some things, but I thought, "no, I'll just load it up in the editor. Copy it out, load it up, put a box here, put stuff here, put some crates there." No, they weren't crates, but I loaded it up and the guys were like, "What are you doing in there?" [I replied] "I used to do this for a living!" [And they came back with,] "Well it's very different now, Tim, very complicated, you just stand back..."

AG: Is there a push to do another competitive multiplayer game? I mean, of course there's always the possibility...

TW: Yeah, there's always the possibility. But that's all I can say about that. I can talk about RAGE...

AG: Do you still play the older id Software games? Do you look to them for inspiration for what you're doing in RAGE?

TW: Yeah!

AG: And do you wish you'd done things differently back in the day for those games?

TW: Oh yeah. The biggest mistake we made here at id Software was call Quake 2 Quake 2. We should have called it something else, called Quake 3 Quake 2, Quake 4 something else, too. Because there's an identity crisis between the games. That would have been much easier for people to figure out.

AG: [joking] So is that why John Romero left?

TW: [laughs] Come on! You have to ask that question? He left because John [Carmack] said, "You need to go."

AG: But there was an identity crisis just inside the first Quake too, right? It's such a wonderful game, but you can see it all over, the medieval meeting sci-fi and crashing together in sometimes really jarring ways.

TW: Yeah, that right there is a whole other story, to get the truth of the Quake saga - which is not exactly in the Masters of Doom book. So, one of the great things about Steam is that you can get the id Pack - which we all have - and it's still fun to go back and play. Especially the old school Doom. And I can still beat everybody. The young guys are like, "Oh, I've played Doom!" "Do you really wanna play deathmatch with me?" And I waste them.

AG: It's just so fast compared to today's games. And you move faster when you move with that turn-strafe diagonal thing.

TW: You can strafe alongside a rocket. And there's no crosshair. ZDoom added the crosshair, and that's what we play here because that's just the easiest way to play.

AG: Yeah, I've played some Skulltag. Just dump 32 bots on some Doom II map. Completely ridiculous.

TW: Wow. But yeah, I destroy those guys. I grew up playing with Romero. And Shawn Green. [Gestures out to the offices] Some of these guys weren't even born when we were playing these games.

AG: You were in diapers when I was fragging fools!

TW: We used to play a drinking game. Much younger liver. The more you get fragged the worse you play.

AG: I always felt there was a bell curve. You got less predictable with a few drinks, but then at some point you're just running into a wall.

TW: Some of those old Doom matches were so much fun. But the most fun I've had in multiplayer were in the team games in Quake 3 Team Arena when we were making that game here. When you have a group of guys, and they're all about the same level, and they all know exactly what to do, and they all know the map, that is awesome.

AG: Very little communication required. A Zen-like experience, not like today with Ventrilo and voice chat.

TW: And you're all on a LAN. That is the greatest game experience ever.

AG: LAN play is missing in so many games, especially when you try to have a LAN party. Three people just bought the latest game, the other six or seven haven't, and then you're trying to talk them into it and they say, "well, we're just gonna play this old game", then there's this push to have those people go to Fry's and pick up a copy, but they're already all set up at the LAN. That's when you wish we could just do the Starcraft spawn a copy for everybody and just let everyone play.

TW: LAN parties are a dying breed. You have to go to QuakeCon to do that now.

AG: So, on to some business stuff. I think everybody was surprised when Zenimax acquired id. Well, Bethesda. Well, Zenimax. Sorry, we mostly hear about Bethesda rather than Zenimax, the actual parent company.

TW: I know - we often call Zenimax the Bethesda family. But Bethesda was almost bankrupt, I think. Then Robert Altman, founder of Zenimax, he did some other media stuff, then he purchased Bethesda.

AG: Not the movie producer, right?

TW: Nah, that's the other Robert Altman.

AG: Okay.

TW: This is the younger, better-looking Robert Altman. He founded Zenimax. He was working in other fields, bought Bethesda, saved them, and got them out of trouble. And that's really been the main source. Then, Bethesda Works is the publishing arm. So there's Todd Howard's group, Bethesda Works. Bethesda Works will publish RAGE.

There's the Zenimax group up top. But John Carmack was like, "Who?" when we started talking with them. And that was one of the plans, that Robert, he always wanted to keep [Zenimax] in the background and push the Bethesda brand forward. So that's how that works, if you're curious.

AG: I was, actually. So, thinking about id as a developer: there are not a lot of independent game developers left. Certainly not triple-A.

TW: No.

AG: I kinda figured id Software was gonna be one of the very last. So what is it like, having the overlords, whether they're beneficial or not?

TW: It's definitely much nicer because, well, we have a DOOM 4 team now, which we would not have done before. We're building and supporting the Quake Live group. We have a bunch of guys working on the iPhone stuff.

AG: Are the iPhone guys here? In these offices?

TW: Yeah! And we would never have been able to do that because we were too small. And John, because he always liked to develop new technology, our dev cycles were very long. Yes, we could have iterated on the Quake 3 tech forever. Heck, there's still lots of popular games using Quake 3 tech.

AG: Lot of people have been iterating on Quake 3 tech seemingly forever.

TW: Yeah, and made lots of money on it! But that's not something John ever wanted to do. And it was for all practical purposes John's company anyways. So, if he wanted to scratch everything and spend four years working on a game, okay, let's do it. And we were small enough that we could afford to do that and be successful. But the problem is that we lasted too long, we came up with too many IPs, and it became impossible to do them ourselves, and it was becoming very difficult, working on great games and working with outside people, so that was one of the reasons.

And now, we have more resources, RAGE is gonna be better, those guys have been great to work with. id fans will definitely benefit. QuakeCon still went on. We even ran into that, that first year [when Zenimax acquired us] that we had a big issue with the hotel. Zenimax helped us.

AG: Yeah, it was the Gaylord, then back to the Hilton, then back to the Gaylord for one year, now the Hilton again.

TW: Yeah, the Hilton had a big pharmaceutical convention that was gonna make them more money, so they booted us, and we were like, "Holy crap, if we cancel QuakeCon this year, everyone's gonna think it's because of Zenimax." But they said, "Nope, let's do it", and they jumped through hoops like you can't believe to make it happen.

AG: It didn't seem like the Gaylord really wanted QuakeCon back after that one year.

TW: You know, it's a business. But hey, the Hilton Anatole's a nice place. But if it wasn't for Zenimax, we would have canceled. Because I don't think we could have done it. We had no place to go, we had run out of time, and it was super expensive. So Zenimax saved the day.

AG: Yeah, QuakeCon's not a money maker with free admission, and especially on short notice. No possible way.

TW: Nope. It's never - it costs us money every year.

AG: Even with all the volunteers chipping in.

TW: Yeah. Now, we can roll it into a marketing budget [with Bethesda]. [At first], it was something that we put on, when it was just us four owners. It would be impossible without the volunteer staff, and then we would have to charge people, and that would lose its luster. Yeah, this year we had some panels that were great. The Todd Howard, and Vince [Zampella] and Jason [West] panel.

AG: The creators of Call of Duty! Did they get a big standing ovation?

TW: Ehhh, the QuakeCon group is interesting. I think John is the only one that really gets a standing ovation at QuakeCon. [But with the panel,] Todd Howard turned to me and said, "Man that was a good panel. I would have liked to listen to that." And we had Adam Sessler is the chair of the panel, with us four. How awesome is that? But for me, that was the greatest panel ever.

AG: PAX is known for some good panels.

TW: We didn't do any of those, but we were at PAX. You know, when we were there, it's at the Seattle Convention Center, which is very tall and skinny. I think the main floor is on four, and we demoed on six. And then there's tabletop gaming on three and two. And I was like, "Oh, so that's where Wizards of the Coast, and those companies would have their booth! That would be cool - I wanna check out their booths." No, that was two floors of dudes playing tabletop games. There were hundreds of tables and all these open rooms of guys and they're playing D&D and Magic the Gathering.

AG: That's the BYOC of PAX.

TW: Yeah, and then if you had a DS, you could all link up. They had beanbags on the ground, you go and sit on them.

AG: And some of those throw-it-together tournaments were the best ones. I remember almost ten years ago, back at the last The Frag event, there was a Soul Calibur tournament a few guys put on with a couple of Dreamcasts and some projectors. Was a blast.

TW: Yeah, they had Street Fighter at QuakeCon this year.

AG: And last year, too. I remember they also had Rock Band projected big on the wall at QuakeCon. Some of that was really fun! One thing that's weird about QuakeCon is that over the years, you didn't see much other than Quake. Doom, Counter-Strike. Maybe that one latest game that's trying to be the next big thing. But now -

TW: But now, you're right, there's everything.

AG: I see strategy games, League of Legends, Plants vs Zombies, down to -

TW: But we closed the ports for games like World of Warcraft. Bandwidth issue. We have to limit our bandwidth to the outside.

AG: There were no Steam connections allowed, right?

TW: There was some hole we had to have for some issue, but yes - all those external things were just too expensive.

AG: I heard about some controversy -

TW: About file sharing this year? Do you know why? This is what people would do. They would go, set their machine up, queue up all this stuff that they wanted to steal. Then they would let it go, maybe go volunteer for an hour, finish their download, come back, grab their machine, and they were off. So this year, there were people that showed up, set their machine up, discovered there was no file sharing, got their machine and left.

AG: I can't believe some people.

TW: They would never go to actually play games. People said, "But if I wanna grab a demo, I can't get it." I said, "No one comes to QuakeCon without everything they're gonna play already on their computer." Second, if somebody needs to give you a demo, get a USB stick. They sell them at gas stations. You can get a 32GB stick at a gas station. I think just about any game you want will fit. I think RAGE is the only game that won't fit in 32GB. I'm just joking about that, I have no idea what our final file size will be, but it's gonna be big.

AG: That MMO Vanguard was around 17GB, World of Warcraft is well over 15GB with the expansions.

TW: See, that's not so bad, because we're 2 DVDs on the 360, and then John will probably wanna make things a little more fancy on the PC.

AG: You know, Forza 3 is a racing game on 360, and it's two discs. It asks if you want to install the second disc's content, so when you do the game waits for you as you eject the first disc and drop the second one in, and it installs the second disc's data to the hard drive. This whole "two DVD" thing seemed to be an issue with some gamers when you guys first talked about going multiple discs a few years ago. But with a good half-dozen games doing it now, it seems less of a big deal. Plus, who has an Arcade 360 with no hard drive now?

TW: Well, luckily, people who have Arcade 360s aren't on the internet so they can't complain. [laughs] No, I'm just teasing. Even with the new Kinect, you need a hard drive. And that's a casual target. But to be honest, most people that play our games have a hard drive. And if you play Call of Duty seriously have a hard drive.

[Editor's note: it turns out that Microsoft very quietly did mention a Kinect-bundled 360 with no hard drive and 4GB of flash-based storage.]

AG: Yeah, because the downloadable content won't fit on those old memory units.

TW: And all we need is half those people. [laughs] We're not worried about that. It'll run fine. You get more texture paging.

AG: You guys do have a system for copying the whole game to the hard drive on 360 -

TW: Ehhh...

AG: Well, there's Microsoft's own solution, but it gets a little weird with a multidisc game. But you guys have a solution -

TW: Yes. Well, we haven't figured that out yet. We actually have a solution, but I don't know if it's actually gonna work. We're working on that. That's a TBD.

AG: Ah.

TW: Or you can just buy it on the PC.

AG: Especially since you can put together a pretty nice gaming PC now for well under a thousand bucks.

TW: And yeah, you can roughly figure out the size of the install. And again, John will probably wanna put a little more on there.

Thanks to Tim Willits for talking with me about id's history as well as RAGE. The game is set to ship on PS3, 360, and PC in September 2011.



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