Between all the blaring heavy metal music, impromptu Pat Benatar concerts, and five hour-long John Carmack manifestos, you could be forgiven for thinking that QuakeCon is not a place for serious business. And you'd be right. Well, mostly.
Fortunately, we were on hand in an effort to collect whatever scraps of news might fall from id's table, and we came away surprisingly sated. So, without further ado, here's what happened.
Doom 4 Nowhere to be Found, Check Back Next Year -- It was the perfect storm. John Carmack tweeted that he was working on a little something special for QuakeCon, and Todd Hollenshead – who is incapable of lying – said we'd see Doom 4 this year. One eternity in a room with John Carmack later (rumor has it that he's still talking), and here's what we've seen of Doom 4. See it? Right there? Oh, is that a blank space? Huh. Imagine that.
Day one of id Software’s annual ode to the art of frag is in the books, and as with any slain beast, that which was inside it (usually blood, sometimes candy, but – in this case -- news) is now out in the open for all eyes to see. So, without any further ado, here’s today’s installment of the QuakeCon Times.
Premium service coming to QuakeLive, Carmack confirms – There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, and Quake Live’s learning that lesson the hard way. According to id’s John Carmack, in-game ads simply couldn’t rocket-jump the game into profitability, so a subscription-based tier was needed. Fortunately, it’s optional, so – whether you’re filthy-rich or dirt-poor – blowing anonymous people into tiny giblets will always be a viable option.
New RAGE trailer makes us feel another emotion: envy – Guys and gals who are play-testing this game right now, we hate you. RAGE looks amazing, but one can only watch a trailer so many times before they start longing for something more. Luckily, we hear RAGE will include that newfangled “gameplay” feature that so many games these days support. Now if only we could try it out…
Carmack says id will put three AAA titles into development – So let’s see, that’s RAGE, Doom 4, and…? Don’t think id’s trying to pull a fast one on you, though; even Carmack and co. don’t know what their third team’s up to – mostly because they haven’t decided yet. Odds are, though, we won’t find out for quite some time, especially because…
Oh no! The sky is falling; PC gaming is doomed; they cancelled Firefly again, etc. After essentially tasting, feeling, and smelling like a multiplatform developer for a couple years, id Software – this time through the mouthpiece of CEO Todd Hollenshead – has finally come out and stated the obvious.
"There's no question that our roots are in PC gaming. And when I play a first-person shooter, keyboard and mouse is the configuration that I want to play on," Hollenshead noted. "But we feel like, in terms of your triple-A, big-budget, big-market title, that you really have to be cross-platform to be successful, unless you're a first party."
"As an independent developer, we feel like we have to be on all the relevant platforms. So we don't really view ourselves as PC first."
Is PC gaming The Future? Who knows – but multiplatform development is now, so excuse us while we don’t spit our cola onto the face of the nearest onlooker.
In other news, Hollenshead said that id will announce “some new stuff” at E3, and that Doom 4 will be like other Doom titles, but not – meaning that guns and demons are probably in, but that those of you who wanted conversation trees and complex interpersonal communication will probably be disappointed.
Read the full interview here, if you want. A word of warning, though: It’s long – and there aren’t many pictures.
Here’s the second part of our exclusive QuakeCon interview with John Carmack. In the first part of our conversation, Carmack discussed his hopes for Quake Live and the id Software’s new gaming direction in Rage. This time around, he gets more into the heady technical stuff with his thoughts on Nvidia’s CUDA, physics accelerators, general purpose computing, and ATI’s rumored Fusion technology. Here’s a snippet:
John Carmack – I was well known as not being a supporter of the PhysX accelerators. It’s always felt like a gimmicky plan with people setting up a company to be acquired. For years, the tack has been what do you do with any time Intel delivers something more with processors and more cores? It’s never really proven out right and there’re a lot of reasons for it.
For one thing you can’t scale AI and physics in general with your gameplay, while with graphics, you could scale. Without scaling, you can’t design a game that requires fancy AI and then turn off the fancy AI for the low end systems because practically that’s not possible. Similarly for physics, if it’s anything other than eye candy, you also can’t scale. If the building is going to fall down you need to know whether you’re going to be able to get past it on the high end or the low end.
John Carmack may be the face of id Software, but he’s definitely not the only person working on Rage or the next Doom. We spoke with Robert Duffy, id’s Programming Director, and Matt Hooper, Rage’s Lead Designer, about their upcoming shooter. The conversation delves into topics ranging from art design to multiplayer modes, and touches on the challenges of developing on both console and PC hardware. Here’s a snippet:
MaxPC: With the combination of driving and fps gameplay, what’s fun and exciting that we should look forward to that we haven’t seen before in games? Matt Hooper: The thing you haven’t seen is really the mix. We’re still id software and we’re still making this intense, action shooter game. Those moment to moment, finely crafted action sequences – running around with the coolest weapons and shooting guys – that’s still there. We invented that and we’re still going to do that really well. Just around the office everyone likes a lot of cool games. What we did was pull in these different elements that don’t detract from the action but add this little bit of flavor, and the vehicles are a part of that. The vehicles are almost an extension of your FPS avatar – you’re “running” around with a vehicle. It has armor on it, it carries a cool weapon, you fire that weapon, and the other car blows up in a cool satisfying explosion. It’s not as far removed as you would probably initially think. It all feels really good together.
We interviewed John Carmack back during this year's E3 when id first announced a partnership with EA to publish their next shooter, Rage. We had a chance to sit with Carmack again at this past weekend's Quakecon, where we followed up on our earlier discussion to squeeze more details out of the legendary game developer. Carmack dished out more details about their plans for Quake Live (including their high expenctations), the technology powering Rage and the next Doom, their cancelled Darkness project, and his thoughts about the current modding community.
Take a seat, grab a Mountain Dew, and click through for the full interview. You'll even find out which aspects of id Tech 5 may not be as powerful as id Tech 4!
Here's some shocking news just breaking from the Quakecon Keynote: Rage and Doom 4 will not be sold online via digital distribution. Rage, being published by EA, would be an obvious choice for EA's Downloader service, but apparently that won't be the case. The only way to buy the two games whenever they come out is in stores with boxed copies.
Additionally, Rage will most likely ship on multiple game discs for the Xbox 360. The DVD-only format for the Xbox 360 is its biggest limiting factor, since the Xbox 360-formatted discs actually hold 1GB less than standard 4.7GB DVDs (multiplied by two when dual-layered). And since the royalty charge per disc is actually surprisingly high, id hopes that Microsoft will make a concession for Rage, or else the company may actually have to sacrifice texture and asset quality to get the game to fit on fewer than THREE discs. The cost of the 3rd DVD alone would cost millions of dollars with the current royalty rate, says John Carmack.
When comparing the Xbox 360 to the PS3, the more spacious Blu-ray format is the only thing Carmack likes more about Sony's console. Everything else is better on the 360, he says.
John Carmack gave QuakeCon attendees a glimpse into his thoughts about the next-generation of gaming graphics. id Tech 6, for example, probably won't be coded in Java or any protected language. It also will be designed for hardware that doesn't excist right now. With new discrete graphics players entering the field (Larrabee, Fusion, etc), Carmack knows that the PC space is relavent, and that's where he'll be looking when thinking about coding his next engine.
When considering console technology and the next-generation of consoles (whether it's PS4 or Xbox 720), Carmack actually hopes that the console generation will last twice as long as the previous ones -- though he doesn't think it'll be a reality, as console makers will want to one-up competitors with early releases. Doom 4 will come out for this generation of hardware, but anything after that is up in the air. But one thing he's certain of: the practical approach for people who want to code games that look like today's games but better will be polygon-based.
With CUDA and General Purpose Computing, Carmack says he thinks it's interesting, but he's still waiting to see if there will be other real-application standards to drive graphics. There's no solid background for these new technologies like there was with OpenGL and Direct3D. He sees these technologies as toy research products, and not real applications. It's just like the mid 90s, when graphics were in a period of flux. Billions of dollars are being spent to make bets on the next big thing, but he's worried about years being wasted on speculative architectures.
More frag-related news coming out of QuakeCon's annual keynote. On the topic of Quake Live, John Carmark revealed that the project had to change its name from Quake Zero because of an enterprising domain squatter who bought up the related URLs immediately after the project's announcement last year. But since the game was still very early in development, the team had no problem changing the name to Quake Live.
We prodded Carmack during our E3 interview about mod support, and we finally have an answer. Because the game is web-browser based, with minimal installation, it will not officially support any in-game modifications. Instead, id is taking advice from gamers who've played Quake 3 for the past 9 years and trying to incorporate as many features into the release as possible. There will be no Quake Live SDK -- the free game is supposed to just be a gateway for gamers to enter the deathmatch scene. Id will, however, continue to integrate improvements with regular updates after the game is released. Officially approved user-generated maps that run on official servers is definitely a possibility, said Carmack.
Even though Quake Live is only being worked on by a team of 8 people, it sounds like id really wants and needs this experiment to succeed. For anyone who wants to see a true sequel to Quake III Arena (or as Carmack calls it, Quake Arena), that title will probably never be created if the Quake Live project doesn't pay off.
In other Rage and Doom 4 related news, Rage will be a fixed 60Hz game and Doom 4 will be 30 Hz (with 3 times the graphical horsepower of Rage) on consoles. On PCs, however, Carmack believes Doom 4 will be able to run at 60Hz if you have state of art hardware (who knows what that could mean by the time the game is released). Rage will definitely be out by the QuakeCon after next year.
One of the big themes to this year's QuakeCon is the idea that id Software wants to put a new emphasis on making games that are fun. The creaters of Quake and Doom are well-known for the technical prowess and graphical achivement in their games, but it sounds like they realized that a few of their most recent games were missing a key ingredient: Fun.
At this year's keynote, John Carmack used the "F" word (fun, of course) when describing id Software's upcoming projects: Quake Live, Rage, and Doom 2 RPG. For Quake Live, they are tweaking the matchmaking to ensure that players of all skill levels can have fun. With Rage, the only word they'll give about a release date is that it'll ship "when it's fun and when it's done."