Rage: 'We're doing things other companies can't'
23rd Jul 2011 | 15:30
id Software is considered by many as the daddy of the FPS, which probably goes some way towards explaining why there's a fair amount of anticipation for the studio's latest, Rage.
But, so far, Rage doesn't look like the product of a company that's resting on any kind of laurels.
With glistening graphics, a world full of character and the knowledge that any shooting mechanics are being cradled in id's safe hands, it wouldn't surprise us if Rage introduced itself as a top shooter.
But these days you have to do more than match the best to really make an impact.
We sat down with senior producer at id Software Jason Kim to talk about what Rage is doing differently, the power of id Tech 5 and just how much the studio is pushing the current generation.
Tell us what the idea is behind Rage and what you hope it's going to contribute to the market that's not already there.
Obviously we hope that it goes out on the market and fans really love it and that it's able to compete with all the best shooters out there. Some of the new things we're doing with vehicles, we've never done that before, being able to drive around in the wasteland... We have limited upgradable parts on vehicles that are different from what you would find on a racing game.
It hits some of the cool things that we want to do in Rage; have some big armour and a lot of weapons. So we have a progression in the vehicles for that.
Another thing that we're bringing to the table that's new and different is we're really going deeper with the story and creating fun and colourful characters that you interact with and forge a relationship with in the game.
So hopefully all those elements, combined along with having some really cool weapons, different ammo types which are certainly new for us as well: With the pistol you have standard bullets but you have three other different ammo types that you get along your progression and you're able to use in different ways.
The engineering types are also really new and different and allow the player to take the combat situation and really turn it on its face. Now it's no longer just about the weapon in your hand and shooting a gun, now you can actually put something down - an automated turret, a century bot - that will actually seek out enemies for you. That allows you to go around and flank the combatants that you're fighting in any given combat situation.
There are so many different things that it's kind of all coming out in this disorganised fashion but we hope that people do see all of the new things and say that there are things that are different.
We have a backdrop to the game. It's kind of post-apocalyptic because a big rock from outer space came and hit the earth and then everything went to hell. That's a backdrop, it's not what Rage is about but it's where Rage happens.
Sometimes people tend to focus on the backdrop more than what Rage is about. If people can understand that once they start playing it and talk about all these different things that I just said, that would make me proud and hopefully that allows them to say in the end "Wow this game really is a good game."
And it's going to be the first game to use the id Tech 5 engine, how important is it for Rage to be an impact piece to really show off what the engine can do?
It seems like there's a lot of pressure there but there but we've always had a new technology to work with when we develop a new game, especially from the very beginning with John Carmack building a new technology and then building a game around that. So this is actually no different from what we've done in the past.
The bigger pressure for us is to create a game that really pushes the boundaries, obviously the technology is pushing the boundaries within the rendering technology but we have a lot of smart and talented team members from programmers to artists and designers that have to create a game around all this.
So we're pushing the boundaries, not just from a technology standpoint but a design and even an artistic standpoint because a lot of this technical language about the rendering technology can't be done unless you have really good art to take advantage of.
It's not just about going into Photoshop and making a texture and slapping it onto a bit of geometry, there are ways that we do things that other companies can't do or even have in their process.
That's not to say there aren't games that look as good as ours, but we have a unique opportunity with the abilities and the intelligence of the programming team and, of course, John Carmack to be able to push the boundaries on that.
We really want to be able to marry that to the design to push on all fronts, not just technology. It really is about story, gameplay, the design really is a big part of it.
All that comes together with the technology to create a nugget of ... I mean, when you look at all the different games that are out there, there's a lot of good games. We don't sit on a pedestal and say we're better than these guys - there's absolutely no way.
There are so many cool things that developers are able to do now, it really is about execution. There're so many people that enjoy gaming as a legitimate piece of entertainment. You spend a lot of money now to sit in front of a TV and be immersed in that world. We want to provide that world and we want people to have fun doing that in an FPS that is pushing the boundaries.
A couple of other big developers out there like DICE and Epic are putting out new engines that they're describing as next-gen experiences on current-gen consoles. Would you say the Tech 5 engine is on a par with them, are you really pushing the boundaries of this generation?
It's hard for me as a producer not a programmer, not understanding system level differences between all the different technologies and what the Epic guys do and what the DICE team does.
All I know is when I look at the game we work on the fidelity and the visual quality is really amazing. I think John has already come out and said - and I totally agree with him - there are things that other developers are able to do that are as amazing as ours, they're just doing it a different way.
I think we're coming to a point where it is evolutionary steps to the next and better things and how well it runs on the different platforms, because it's not just about pushing pixels and making it look good but doing it efficiently and doing it better than the other guys.
We do have a lot of smart people to be able to push on those things, but in comparison to the other technologies, I think there's just really cool stuff being done at other developers and I think that's healthy for the industry.
And is there any sense at all from the team that they're itching for new hardware like a PS4 or Xbox 720?
The first parties are really quiet about what the next thing is going to be. As a developer with new technology we want to be able to make as many games for the current technology as we can but as soon as we have information about what the next piece of technology's going to be, you know we're just going to be there.
We're going to take that apart and understand the limitations and we'll be right up there with the big developers that are making triple A games, not just for the current generation but the next generation as well.
Have you lead on any particular platform?
Well there are differences between all three platforms. There are more similarities between the PC and 360 architectures whereas the PS3 is kind of its own animal. So we have had to do different things for the PS3 compared to the 360.
But we make exactly the same content for all three platforms. Being able to leverage what we do with the technology to be able to run on all three platforms, it's under the hood - people don't see it but it has to be done.
All pieces of hardware don't work the same across all three platforms so, of course, we have to do some programming to make it work as well as well on the PS3 and 360 and PC across the board. But our goal is to make each experience from the different platforms exactly the same.
You're not having dedicated servers...
John's already come on record to say that we're not having dedicated servers but even with Rage there are really compelling reasons to stay with an architecture that works across all three platforms without having to re-engineer everything to be able to support client server technology that is not really needed for Rage.
We want to minimise risk as much as possible. When we analysed the situation there really wasn't anything compelling us to make a dedicated server component for Rage's online component because we think it stands on its own, the performance is going to be there. It's not one of those games where people are going to have five dedicated servers and jump in and play. So there wasn't really a need for it from a practical stand point.
Theoretically it's what people perceive to be a really optimal way of delivering content online for clients. We've done it before, we know how it works, we think it's a really efficient way of doing things but for Rage it wasn't needed.
There's a lot of debate, especially between our readers, as to whether games with a strong single-player should even have a multiplayer. What are your thoughts and how has your approach benefited you?
Sometimes it seems really wacky; why would you make a vehicle rally mode when you could make on-foot combat competitive mode. It's not something that we came to answer to very easily.
We did discuss this at length with a lot of different people. There's going to be a lot of expectations as to what the online component is going to be but when you really analyse it, even from a consumer standpoint and what Rage is really about, its a pretty straight forward and practical way to answer some of the questions that might come up because it is something that we want to develop within a new IP. It's not just Rage single player and then we tack on a multiplayer.
There's an opportunity to be something compelling there and make it be part of that story and, as I said before, we want to push the boundaries not just with the technology but with the design the story and the art.
So this is a way of pushing on all of those things, not just the technology but with the story, the design and the art. This is just another way of us reaching that goal. We're pushing off on all of those things and using the online component as an opportunity to take some of those single-player elements and make an online component that actually makes sense in the Rage universe.
How does that generally make us feel generally about multiplayer and other games? It depends on what that game is, what the technology is, what is going to be the next biggest thing in our mind and, without those questions being answered, it's tough to say what it's going to be.
Gamers are really savvy these days and there are so many things that could be done within the technology not just from us but even from other developers. If you want to stay competitive and you want to make compelling content for people, you need to offer something that is innovative and really is combined with something that feels cohesive with the package.
We think it's important going forward and I think it can be done in different ways. It doesn't always have to be the way that we're doing with Rage but it made sense for Rage.
The other announced title for Tech 5 is Doom 4, how will the engine be used differently there? Is it going to be using the same sort of strengths as Rage or is it adaptable enough to bring a substantially different experience?
We're not really talking about what Doom's doing right now or how the technology will work with Doom but we do have other projects going on at our studio and we'd be foolish not to take the understanding and the technology that we're working on now to work with other projects.
It's something that's really important to us because it makes us more efficient, it makes us think about design on a level that allows us to take advantage of things we've been able to develop on other projects but we still try to innovate wherever we can.