id Software finally unveiled its new game, Rage, and made a number of crowd-pleasing announcements during a densely packed QuakeCon press conference led by CEO Todd Hollenshead and the show's keynote address from John Carmack.
Rage, which is built on id Tech 5 and will be released for PC, PS3, Xbox 360 and Mac, blends first-person shooter elements and driving in what Carmack said would be a much brighter setting than a lot of id's previous titles....
Equally of interest was the news that while one part of id works on Rage - a game so vast it will come on two DVDs or Blu-ray disc - a new, second development team is being created with an initial remit to create a browser-based version of Quake 3 Arena called Quake Zero. Quake Zero will be completely free, funded by advertising. During his keynote, Carmack explained that the team making it would be built up gradually and eventually work on a fuller Quake Arena title built on id Tech 5.
Given the tens of millions of dollars it would cost to develop something like Rage, Carmack posited that an alternative approach - developing a half-million-dollar mobile title to found your IP and approach, and then moving onto other platforms, as id is evidently doing with Orcs & Elves' passage from mobile to DS - could be preferable. "Instead of porting down, it's porting up. It's wonderful...We took a game that was already fun and made it more fun."
DS development, he said, made him reminisce about older projects, and programs he had coded many years before. "The DS is almost exactly one one-thousandth of the high end platform we're running Rage on," he explained, and yet moving between the nascence of Orcs & Elves and coding on Rage had been "amazingly seamless" for him, and something that he evidently took a lot of pleasure in.....
.....It was during this section that he mentioned a desire to work on Nintendo Wii and a Quake DS title he hopes to get developed.
One of the great things about being a private rather than publically owned company was his ability to make all these aspirational statements out in the open, he said.
This took him in the direction of the first of several uncompromising observations about game development. "A high end cell-phone should kick the crap out of the Nintendo DS
," he said, "but you're really hamstrung by the APIs
". He called Java "a way to make things a tenth as fast as they should be," to laughter from the crowd. "Java on a resource-constrained device - that decision never made much sense to me."
.......He also revealed that he had been disappointed by Apple's announcement that iPhone would not allow for open development. "I had a pretty serious argument with Steve Jobs after the Worldwide Developer Conference [where id Tech 5 was unveiled] about the iPhone,
" he revealed. He joked that when the announcement was made that development was to be restricted to third-party "applications" via the Safari web browser, with no full programs from anyone besides Apple, he had been sitting in the front row booing and hissing
. He said he was "totally not buying" the argument Apple made about security. "If you can't make a UNIX-based computer, which is effectively what the iPhone is, secure, there are bigger problems," he said.
.....He wants to work closely with them (Apple)to ensure an incredibly responsive gaming experience, and believes their control over every link in the chain - hardware, device drivers and all - will allow an almost inconceivably deep exploration of where lag originates in the user experience. To illustrate the depth he believes he could go to, he talked about using oscilloscopes to explore the latency inherent to subpixels in LCDs
.......... Following a lengthy section on id Tech 5's intricacies and megatexture evolution, Carmack - whose primary development platform is known to be PC/360 - spoke frankly on some of the difficulties he's encountered with PS3.
"The PS3 and 360 are far closer than any two gaming platforms have ever been before,
" he began. "[But] there's no doubt that when you have a problem moving over it's going to be the PS3 - it's just the way it is.
The PS3 version of Rage will take more effort to get right, he said, although he doesn't imagine the end product will suffer in any noticeable way.
Right now though, the developer is "suffering through" problems relating to the way PS3 and 360 respectively deal with memory on Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, which is in development at UK-based Splash Damage. "The PS3 version is lagging quite a bit behind in terms of getting it up to the same quality and experience,
" he said.
Elsewhere in his speech, there was terrific fodder for fans - he said he wants to make a Smartphone application to fly his Armadillo Aerospace spaceship via Wi-Fi, and that he built the 3D engine for Nintendo DS by holing himself up in a hotel for two weeks. Later he joked about how he can legally make his spaceships fly around the world after someone asked if they could function as ballistic missiles and hit North Korea. It was quite surreal.
"When I started off the new generation of technology, it was a pure shadow buffer renderer, and you could at least initially choose between lots of different sampling parameter levels, and the conclusion I reached was four-tap sampling is acceptable, not spectacular," he said in one of his more understandable comments.
Plenty of it was accessible though, and he won big cheers during the Q&A for saying that he would continue to put out open-source programs. Doom 3 will become open source, he said, although he wouldn't commit to a date, and even id Tech 5 will at some point.
He also won a spontaneous round of applause when he attacked patents, calling them "reprehensible" and "a sham". They are, he said, "a parasitic tax on those who do creative things".
He was self-critical too, talking about inherent flaws in Enemy Territory (the tick-rate for animation is 30Hz and the frame-rate is 60Hz, apparently, although he reckons this is acceptable in-game now
), and denying a suggestion that Havok physics were going into id Tech 5 by commenting on Raven's decision to use Havok for Quake 4. "I thought it was a bad decision - I still think it's a bad idea."
Overall, despite falling behind Epic (to whom he paid tribute) in engine sales and deferring to Valve for digital distribution, Carmack was relaxed about id's profile. He said a business-orientated id Software would have been different, but concluded that he's quite happy how it's wound up.