Gameplanet: Nice demo. Why did you choose to show it on console, rather than the PC?
Willits: That is an excellent question. There's actually two answers for that. The first is that logistically, it's way easier to bring 360's to Utah than it is to bring PC's. And the second answer is that we've varied the different platforms. I don't want to say we have a "lead" platform, but everyone knows the PC is going to look great and be great. To get people their hands-on, and to see it on 360 or PS3 rather than PC is to show that if it plays great and looks great on these systems, you know it'll play great and look great on the PC.
Also, we have to break from our PC shell, our reputation as a PC developer. I've done interviews all day and people have said "You're id. You're expected to do this, expected to do that." For us to come to these events and show the game on the console, and have new technology on the console, it changes that reputation. And it's way easier to bring all the consoles! (laughs)
GP: So all platforms are developed together? Because PS3 games frequently look visually different to Xbox 360 titles...
Willits: I'll tell you exactly the reason for that. It's that most developers have pre-existing technology, and they take that and literally cram it into these consoles. So what John Carmack and the programming team did is that they looked at the landscape of all the systems, and they really built it from the ground up. It's really really tricky to take a single threaded engine and multi-thread it. But if you build it multi-threaded from the ground up, it's much easier. Because we do so much transcoding of the textures, we actually use every single SPU (Synergistic Processing Unit) in the PS3. Internally we had it looking good on the PS3 before we had it looking great on the 360 because of the different graphical API's. But a lot of the struggles that other people have had, we haven't had.
Just because we've shown it here today on the Xbox 360 doesn't mean it's the best platform, it ebbs and flows. Recently we showed it on the PS3, and each system has it's nuances, their little issues here and there. But sometimes it runs great on some systems, sometimes it runs slow on others. For a while it was running slow on the PC, and we had to get it to run faster, so it changes. But it's all one code base, so any performance enhancements that we do for each system helps them all. Did you see the QuakeCon footage from last yeah?
Willits: We had the PS3 version running next to the Xbox 360 and PC versions, all on ten-foot screens, all showing the same demo. We had three people playing it live. Because, you're right, every developer says "we look great on both systems", but when the game comes out, they don't.
The QuakeCon audience are all really smart, so you can't trick them! People saw it for themselves, and it was a great success.
GP: First new intellectual property in fifteen years?
Willits: Yeah, long time!
GP: How has it been, trying to live up to expectations? To get everything gamers want into this game?
Willits: That's a great question because everybody's expectation of what constitutes id game is so different. But if you look back at the history of the company, there were decisions that we made in the past that a lot of people at the time questioned. For instance, Quake III required a graphics accelerator. People thought we were crazy. People didn't know what we were trying to do with the original Quake. Even the paradigm shift of the way in Doom 3 with the dynamic lighting, bump mapping and specular mapping, all these things that people take for granted are pretty much what John invented with Doom 3.
There are many expectations and many beliefs, but we've gone about RAGE in such a different way. But it's the same guys, so it's not like I'm the new guy and I'm going to make this different, I've been around from the start, same as John Carmack. But every new game we approach, we need to do things differently, we need to move past peoples expectations. We can't make a game for every single person, we need to make the best game for us. We need to do the best job we can, and the fans will follow if you put your heart and passion into it.
RAGE is very different from Doom, Wolfenstein, and Quake, and people have asked why it's so different. It's because we've evolved, players have evolved, the market has evolved. We're showing it on consoles instead of PC, and we're trying to do the best we can. That's a long-winded answer to that question! (laughs).
GP: RAGE does remind us of Borderlands, would you say it's designed around the same concept of freedom?
Willits: Well, I haven't actually played that game, but I hear it doesn't take place on earth, is that true?
GP: That is true...
Willits: (laughs) there you go. But I haven't actually played it.
GP: What kind of freedom does RAGE have then?
Willits: We call it "open but directed". There is a story, and there are primary missions that you need to follow. But along the way there are a number of difference choices that you can make. For instance, we have these environments, or levels infested with mutants that are completely optional. There's some really cool combat and cool environments that have nothing to do with the main story path.
With racing, you can go through all the race circuits if you choose. In the campaign you actually only have to do three races, but if you want to get all the really cool upgrades for your vehicles you have to do the other races. Of course, Bash TV, you can play that again, and we have sniper missions. We even have delivery missions where you have to deliver packages as fast as you can. But we don't want people to feel lost or confused, so we give people the opportunity to explore and we reward them for doing that.
GP: Speaking of being lost, how do you steer the player? Are we glued to the mini-map at all times?
Willits: We keep the indoor parts of the bases pretty directed. As long as you keep moving forward and follow the guys who are fighting you'll make it through. But we've also tried to make the Wasteland with some very unique elements, so you'll feel you know where you are. The Meteor Crater and the Dead City are quite different, for example, so you'll have a sense of place as well, which helps a lot.
GP: That's got the moving forward covered. What about backtracking?
Willits: There are a few areas that you have to go back through. But the great thing about RAGE is that we have this type of layering tech. We can really change up the level so you don't feel like we're making you play through it again just to extend the gameplay. There's none of that. When you go back to the Dead City, you go to a totally different area, and you fight the Authority instead of the Giant Mutants. When you go back to other areas, there's different gameplay, different engineering items to use, different ammo types. So we do break it up, it's not the same thing over and over again, because that would drive people nuts!