QuakeCon 2008 Keynote Liveblog - QuakeLive! DOOM4, DooM2 RPG, and Rage!


QuakeCon keynote liveblog is starting now! We're watching a video, and Todd Hollenshead is getting everyone all cranked up about the Corvette that Ventrilo is giving away.The real news starts momentarily. Click through the jump, and make sure you're logged in to get live as we post updates.

Todd Hollenshead's left now, and Marty Stratton is talking about QuakeLive.

6:24: Everyone here is getting QuakeLive beta access, which is pretty sweet. We're looking at a QuakeLive video from SpikeTV now. Everything I love about Quake3 is in Quake Live it looks like, we just saw DM17, one of my all-time favorites.

6:30: QuakeLive beta has been going with 100 people 3 months ago, and invites have grown it to about 6000 players. Feedback is what they're using to make the game. QuakeLive is facelifted Quake 3 Arena, with some geometry changes, new maps, etc, and it's something you can play online for free. Load it up in your browser, and play. They're going to keep dumping new content, but you can play on any PC. Also, it's free, which is pretty sweet too.

6:35: Marty's talking about the tournaments here, with $50k in tournament prizes.

Todd's back up. He's letting everyone know how much he loves his IR remote and his Mac. (they played the Rage video early, by accident)

Next is Katharine Anna Kang talking about id's mobile games. It looks like a Wolfenstein game, oh... Wolf RPG for phones. It's a java-=based game, and people in the audience are laughing a little at the video, but it reminds me of the early first-person RPGs that were maze crawlers.

There's a special guest from Doom in WolfRPG. It's on the floor, so I'll play it later and report back. Next game is... .Doom RPG for cell phones!

6:33: Now Hollenshead is talking about Wolfenstein, seems like he's getting everyone pretty riled up. Just took a shot at poor Kevin Cloud. Now they're going to play some exclusive QuakeCon content. Do you still play BJ? Do you fight Nazis? Are the Nazi's into the occult? There's multiplayer it seems. There's squad-based combat. This is the first time they've ever showed this footage, much more than the E3 teaser.

This video may be inappropriate for children. The sub pen is really huge. There's a lot of physics, and there are shaders that run across the whole screen. Jetpacks! Lots of destructable rooms and stuff. Wow, bad guys are disintigrating pretty good too. This looks quite nice. Release is"when it's done"

6:36: Some dude just yelled out "Tell us about Duke Nukem Forever!" Everyone laughed, and Hollenshead is mocking the Macbook again. Marty Stratton is laying on the floor mashing buttons.

Next up seems like it's Rage... What else could they be showing?  DOOM4!!!

No real details, but basically it's going to be Doom, and maybe it seems like it's going to be on earth.

Carmack's coming up next to talk about Rage!

6:40: Carmack promises this is going to be intelligible. Rage is being worked on, but it had a reboot earlier. Did we know that?

Rage characters are shown. The environments are huge, and don't look like they're height-mapped to hell. Looks very- Max Max. There are lots of people in bars, monsters,tons of everything. Loks like melee combat, plus weapons, and there are some badass looking mutant dudes.Kind of like the kid from Gooonies. There will be racing, in additoin to open world stuff. In the races you have guns. Big guns. Looks like all the best stuff from Car Wars in a videogame that looks pretty sweet.

Rage runs at 60Hz, like John told us in E3. Doom 4 is the same engine, but runs at 30Hz instead of 60. Should be 3x richer than Rage, it will look like it's built with a next-gen engine.

Now, instead of doing just one project at a time, and working with partners to expand their catalog of games, they're doing lots of games. They're growing slow up until this point, doing one really good project at a time. Fifteen years later, with 4 year dev cycles, they can't continue doing that, so they're spooling up.

They've got big guns - AAA titles like Doom 4 and Rage. They have mobile - short game cycles and room for lots of innovation. "It seemed like a good idea and it seemed like it might work out" they've sold 2M units on phones. Each game is better than the next.

6:50: Most of the games they've sold on phones are under 300KB. They're thinking about features based on the amount of code they involve. It's limiting they fear, but they're increasing their low-end spec. 600K minimum size now, 2.5MB on low-end. He's disappointed that the market hasn't moved any faster than it has, and the low-end phones are still very low-end.

He's not talking about the iPhone yet. Oh wait. Here it is.

6:55: He says that the iPhone dev kit is much better than Java or Brew phones. Pure graphics are roughly equivalent to Dreamcast he says. It's about what you can do on a PS2 or Xbox, and you have a boatload of RAM, more so than on the earlier phones. Not as much in graphics, but more memory. You could make a $10M game for the iPhone today, but he doesn't know if they can make it back. Orcs and Elves was on the iPhone, but they didn't want to devote 3 man-months to make it happen.

6:56: id has plans for two games on iPhone. One RPG style game, one graphical tour de force. He says it's more powerful than the PSP or DS.  No idea when this is going to happen, but they think there's a good market. Only about 15% of people in this audience have an iPhone though.

The touch interface could be both an excellent phone and an excellent gameplay device. The all-in-one awesome device. Apple's done a lot of stuff that John really likes. They make nice to him when they want him to do a keynote, and then they "put him on the shitlist when he says something else in interviews". The SDK is great, and marketing support is good. Apple still doesn't get games, but they've got people who are trying. He's excited to see the sales numbers for the games on the iPhone. 8 of top 10 apps on app store are games. He hopes that the iPhone will scare the providers into making good hardware.

7:00: iPhone isn't going to take over the world. There won't be a billion iPhones going out into the world. Carmack's really excited about mobile.  He doesn't like the carriers or the phone builders. He's hopeful that Google will bring something out that's awesome. He wants to do native apps on Android, but it's possible that it will be a non-native Java version. there are performance problems. Next up is Symbian, since Nokia owns everything outside the US. EA takes the two versions (high and low) that id provides, and then EA converts it to boatloads of different versions of a lot of different phones.

Doom RPG 2 is "fun". Doom RPG had moments. They're really cranking up the quality of the products on Doom RPG 2. Will there be a double-barreled shotgun? They're going to have a iPhone version of Doom RPG 2.

Next up, Quake Live.

7:05: Web development is hard. He says that the game was done about six months ago, and they're working on the web side for the last six months. They've got stats, friends lists, leaderboards, etc. They're ramping up slowly, adding 1000 people per day. Matchmaking stuff isn't working here, but it will be when the game goes live. I'm really excited about this.

They collect a crazy number of statistics, and they're going to do cool stuff with achievements, tournaments, etc because they're collecting a boatload of stats.

This is pretty experimental. Not sure it's a good business decision, not sure if it's a good idea or not a good idea. What if we take a nine year old game and we put it out, and no one shows up. With just 50k users, they have spent a lot of money on nothing.

There's a good community there, and they think they can enhance it to bring in lots more people, but they have no idea how many people will actually show up. He says "we're groping in the dark with two orders of magnitude". 100,000 people signed up with no promotion at all. "This is a gratifying turn of events."  Quake Live is special to him, because he loves the purity of the game. You can't do a $50 boxed game that's that pure. When you buy a game, they expect a $20M development cost game, which they're doing with Rage and Doom 4.

Quake Arena was tournament deathmatch oriented game. He thinks they can really make a run of it this time, and it's a helluva lot of fun, especially if it's free.

They did an in-company tournament, and he was rusty as hell. He used to win the in-house tournament, now he gets spanked. He made it past the first round. It's still a fun game. It looks a little better, a little more polished, and just a little bit better. "It was hardware accelerated and really realy fast, which was cocmpletely fine back in the day" They went in and did another polish pass on the game, which has made it a lot better. They've integrated the in-game advertising, without it looking bad. In-game ads make sense for certain types of games. He seems very sensitive to putting the ads in the games in the right way. You don't want to see an Intel ad when you're shooting Nazis.

7:13: The have 8 people internally working on the project now. Worst case, they've trained a whole team of people through an entire dev cycle, which is pretty unusual now. He's excited about being able to do that with a high-end PC project, and put them on another project and it won't be money wasted. He's really stoked about the game, and that it's approachable. If you join the game, it won't put you on servers that you'll get spanked on. Matchmaking is going to put you with people that you'll have fun playing with.

Hardcore gaming community is different than most people. Hardcore gamers are an insular community. Frag or be fragged isn't fun for normal people who play GTA single player. There probably won't be another Quake Arena project right now. They're working on Doom4 instead, but if Quake Live is a huge success, they'll probably change their mind and do it anyway.

7:20: There aren't any mods in Quake Live. They've integrated lots of stuff that mods implmented, but they're taking advice from the people who've been played the game for 9 years. They're pulling the best rulesets and gameplay types, but there is no ability to take a SDK and build a mod that we support. It won't be hard for someone to go from QuakeLive universe to step over to the classic scene, where the code is open source, and you just have to buy the game off of Steam. Quake Live is the gateway drug to Q3A + online multiplayer.

They want to integrate some of the better stuff into the game after they get started. There will probably be officially approved user-generated maps that run on official servers. It's a web service, so there's a lot of flexibility to try out a lot of cool stuff. They're on new ground, expect some mistakes, but the core is that the game is good, it's fun, and there's good infrastructure. What they're putting around it is state of the art.  Community forums, matchmaking, friends, all that is state of the art, and will be supported in future games. It's not just a portal for other games to play online. It's not a new "casual gaming destination.

It's playing to the PC's conventional strengths. the hardware's better, but there's the same compatiblity problems. There won't be more big budget AAA titles on PC again. They're still going to support it, and you can crank it way the hell up, but it's not going to make worlds of difference. Rage runs at 60Hz.

Read on to the next page for the second half of the keynote!

7:27:  They want to make the game great for everyone that Quake Live is something anyone can play, and we can get people who'll never pay $60 for a game. He's interested to see how QuakeCon changes next year. Will newbies come down to Texas next year?


He's still locking himself in hotel rooms and working for new platform work. Most of what he does is on stuff like id tech 5.

7:30: All the guys who are making games on the BREW and Java platforms are making the classic mistakes, with clipping problems, cracks, and other weird shit happening. John and Michael Abrash made highly-polished rasterizers that looked good. Hardware accelerators saved you from having to worry about that stuff. Only Mesa devs had that stuff.

Had two days one time and two days another time to make the BREW rasterizer. Wow. It's sounds like really scary assembly code.

7:32: He spent a few days looking at vision of the future. 90%+ of his time is spent working on Rage, and soon Doom. He gets to choose what he works on. Robert Duffy is the lead programmer now, John just does the engine stuff. Now  they have more programmers at id than they had employees when Robert Duffy started. John leaves the programmers alone so that he doesn't get "promoted past his point of competence".

Pulling the switch on a major change to animation, and one significant thing that needs to happen to make Megatexturing stuff working. They did some stuff that are two separate parts of the wasteland to make the video look awesome, when they're really going to be separate areas.

With Doom, they want to exploit the full potential of the current generation. They're going to have a working set of tools to do the most they can with it from teh very beginning. They'll be able to provide one strong graphical hook, but the designers should be able to do the best job they can with it from the beginning. While programming was the long pole of the tent for a long time, it's always the thing that gates the whole process. Even though there's a massive amount of data to create, programming is still a gate. This kind of goes against what he said at the GDC keynote in 05 or 04.

7:45: He's always worried that no matter how carefully polished he's made his code, that someone trashes a pointer and breaks everything.He's talking about defect management, and people are leaving. "We're not on a quest to make perfect code, we're on a quest to make good enouhg code"

I'm really very, very hungry. Haven't eaten since west coast breakfast.

He seems pretty tied to C++ for AAA games, simply because the performance isn't there for the more managed languages like C#. Could id tech 5 have been something that's a stable dev tool, like Renderman? It seemed like you could do that, but if you want to be a fast, 60Hz game, you can't be flexible and Renderman esque or you can't take advantage of the incredible power that you have now in hardware. 1,000,000 times as powerful as when he started.

He doesn't think that id tech 6 and other next-gen titles (Xbox 720 or PS4) will be in Java or a protected language.

7:50: There will be a next-gen engine that uses hardware that doesn't exist right now in id tech 6. There's Larrabee, Fusion, and a lot of other players. There are people who think the PC will come back and will make consoles obsolete, but "I think that's a naieve view" PC space is still relevant.

Nintendo kicked everyone's butt this generation. Nintendo has always been id's least friendly first-party, and it's great to see them win big. What happens wiht all these vendors on the next-generation? We don't know a huge amount more about the next steps. Honestly, it will be great if this generatoin of console lasts twice as long as the last one. He doesn't think it's going to turn out that way, and he thinks that different console manufacturers are going to jockey for early mover advantage. He hopes that Doom will come out on this generation of hardware. Power PC across the board is nice.

7:55: The stakes are really high with the console wars, and a monoculture isn't a good probably. Larabee vs. CUDA derivatives is interesting. He's concerned about massive parallelization, everything is 16 or 32 vectors wide. There will be massive amounts of stuff running on these massively parallel hardware apps that will use 1/10th of the available power. He's talking about the voxel stuff. Parallelisation is sometimes really hard. The real difference is memory scatter and gather, which lets different elements pull from different areas of memory.

Does this mean that lots of other algorithms can't benefit from parallelization? He doesn't know, but thnks probably not. People have been working on parallelizatoin a lot for a long time, but it doesn't work that well. VErtexes nad fragments iwht graphics processing are the two best, most parallelizable.

No one has the hardware to work on. CUDA gives Nvidia a strong lead right now, and it's influencing their directions. ATI and Apple have general purpose computing stuff, which is interesting, but he thinks Nvidia has the lead. Does Microsoft have a standard that will drive sutf? We don't know. There's no background,like there was like Direct3D and OpenGL. These are all toy research projects, and no real apps. Billion dollar bets happening with this. We're going enter a huge period of flux again, like mid-90s. Yo ucan't spend yeras on speculative architectures.

8:01 - Carmack sent a couple of days fixing a deadlock on Microsoft's Xbox 360 background video loading code. He tried it, it works, and then it hung 1 minute into a setup on loading in their code. He never figured out what the problem was, but he stopped doing one thing that just happened to fix it. You don't have the source code, and sometimes stuff just is fixed. You don't have time and mental bandwidth to evaluate everything in the codebase.

He knew everything about Quake3. He had global knowledge until the end, when he added Jean-Paul's bot code, which he knew nothing about. In Doom 3 he knew about very little of the game. That's only going to get worse, and parallelism makes everything worse and harder to make work. This is something to worry about, and we need to make architectures work better with this. He's usually an optimist, but on this he's really concerned.

Q&A next -

One of the reasons that Rage is published by EA is that Rigatello had cogent points to make on actual gameplay when he came to Texas to look at it .No falling out with Activision, there's every chance that Doom 4 will be published by Activision. They don't sign long-term contracts though.

When you were working on Quake, when did you realize it was great? With Quake, there was a moment early on in the game's development, and he was on ledge looking down, and the shambler was walking below. He was plodding, and had weight and mass and that was one of his defining moments for Quake.

How do you manage creative types? id used to be a very Darwinian environment. There used to be owners and employees. With Doom3, there were leads (designer, artist, programmer). We might add one more thin layer. Is it because we're getting older and are more mature instead of egotistical loudmouth 20 year olds? Maybe, but no one wants to put $20M-30M into a game when people behave like children. He has distanced himself, because he's bad at dealing with people. That's cool that he can see that. John makes tactical decisions now about the games, "The gun should react like this"

ATI has its first Cinema 2.0 with voxel rendering. Is that something that's generic, or could Nvidia do that? Carmack can't speak to specific implementation details. Everything's going throgh triangle rasterization pipelines. The underpinnings aren't built for voxels, but this is real programming now. You can be much more clever with these general purpose architectures now.

How's stuff going with Valve and Steam? What do you think about digital distribution and your relationship with valve? He's happy about the id megapack, because he doesn't want old games to just disappear.For the current slate of products, they're probably going to be boxed goods, without a novel online distribution. Big bet titles will remain conventional (Rage and Doom4, no digital distribution.

He plays a lot of Wii and DS games these days. Looks at all the serious titles, and everything looks really great. There's a lot of great talent in the industry, and you don't see a lot of people releasing games that have amateurish mistakes or flaws.

He doesn't like software patents. He can put a dozen developers in a room, and half will come up with a similar solutoin. It's about an equally smart person who followed a similar development path and he feels strongly about the fact that that's bad. Gaming industry is hyper-competitve. In aerospace, it's a lot different. In two decades, not much may change, but everyone shares info.

More Quake Live info. The baseline isn't out of the box Q3, but lots of what the community evolved to support competitve play.

Will there be closed-captioning or subtitles in id's games for deaf and hard of hearing? There was closed-captioning on Doom 3, from an end user mod.

Are there any suprises from id Tech 5? The neat thing about id Tech 5 is that artists can build stuff that looks really amazing in a really short period of time. The stamping approach makes them able to do something using Megatexture that's really unique. The first game never has all the capabilities right, but the engine gets better and better as ti evolves.

Quake2 was an accident, so they finally just said screw it, we own the trademark, we'll use Quake.

Sequelitis isn't necessarily a bad thing. Call of Duty 4 kicked ass, and it was different than Call of Duty prior. We can't make games fast enough for people who want to buy them. People know what they're getting with franchises and they know what they're going to get for their $60.

Maybe would have been better off to just make the next game twice as good, rather than tear up all that work and do a new IP and need all new art.

What's your feeling on Linux? I can't say that I feel really good about Linux.  Mac is the next target for Quake Live, after that maybe Linux. The AAA titles won't have day-and-date :Linux ports. If someone wants to do it internally, on their time, they can, but not on company time. PC problems are an order of magnitude worse on Linux.

He doesn't see conditions that are going to force that to change, unfortunately. Linux might not be good as a console OS, but open source would be good. Basic OS of current consoles are pretty competent. Linux is not even on our radar right now for our current projects.

And that's it! Check back this weekend for more Quakecon 2008 live reports! Happy fragging!

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