idGames :: Exclusive Interview with Tim Willits
(German Version: http://www.idgames.de/showthread.php...it-Tim-Willits)
At the RAGE-Event at the Kesselhaus venue in Munich, 07/28/2011 I had the opportunity to have an interview with Tim Willits, Lead Designer of RAGE.
Following a summary of the discussed topics.
id Tech 4 as open source engine
Regarding the question when id Tech 4 will be released as GPL-licensed open source engine he pointed toward the statements of John Carmack. But to remind me he mentioned that Prey 2 is still coming and Brink just got recently released, both games that are build up on the id Tech 4.
First we need to talk to the licensees to make sure that no game on the engine may be harmed due to its open source release. Even if this is approved it still tooks quite some time to prepare the code and prepare the release.
As an example he mentions the release of the id Tech 3. As well-known even one of the most popular shooter-franchise Call of Duty still uses parts of the id Tech 3. So id had to make sure and assure Activision and Infinity Ward that the release won’t hurt the franchise. It’s a pretty time-consuming process.
Are there any remakes planned like e.g. Doom HD?
It would be interesting, especially for the german market.
Tim mentions that Doom got banned from the german market also for including the Wolfenstein-reference (a swastika was shown in E1M4 in the early versions). He also wasn’t pleased by it – a co-worker had it included against instructions.
RAGE: Is there an ETA on the release of the SDK?
It should be released pretty soon after the release of RAGE itself.
RAGE: Are there any Linux or Mac OS plans?
No, Tim thinks that the market is just too small. Also all internal resources are currently used to capacity due to RAGE, Quake Live and Doom 4. Even though there’s currently a huge Mac hype going around he smiled and said “Mac users don’t buy video games. They buy Angry Birds.”.
RAGE: How do we start modifications? Is there a dedicated interface?
No, like before you start them with a command line switch. There are currently no plans about an mod interface.
RAGE: In which development phase is RAGE currently? The tested version already looks pretty done.
Currently the game is in Q/A. The whole team is fixing bugs and some other stuff up to the morning hours due to crunchtime. There are still some bugs left but those are probably gone in the retail version.
RAGE: RAGE will use Steam. Which features of Steam are used? Do you use Steam Cloud?
Like the console versions you will have achievements. Also the profile itself is saved in the cloud. Unfortunately Mr. Willits couldn’t answer the question if the savegames are also stored in the cloud. (We’re still waiting for a qualified answer)
RAGE: Is it possible to play platform independent? So I can race on my PC against my friend who has an Xbox 360?
No, neither Microsoft nor Sony would allow this.
RAGE: Are there any plans for DLCs?
Currently we’re in QA but afterwards we will check the possibility. But there are huge chances.
RAGE: While I was playing I noticed entries to sewers around the wasteland. As I wanted to enter them a message popped up that this is only possible if I download those missions. What does that mean?
RAGE will be delivered with activation codes for specific features and items. One of those codes will activate the sewer missions.
This was a commercial decision. With used sales the publisher loses potential money which he can compensate with such boundaries. So if you buy a used RAGE version and want to have the full blown experience you will have to buy the additions. If you buy a new copy of RAGE you will have everything.
RAGE: I took the opportunity and looked at the options menu. There were no graphic options beside resolution, brightness, anti-aliasing and GPU transcoding. Is this a limitation of the test version?
This is a feature of the id Tech 5. The Engine automatically adjusts to your hardware to ensure the best performance and graphics the hardware can provide.
For example: You have a video card with 512MB VRAM, 4GB of normal RAM and a decent processor. Now the id Tech 5 adjusts the quality of the Level of Detail to the available resources. If you have twice the RAM the engine scales dynamically up to it, improves the textures and objects in the far look sharper and more detailed. At the same time the engines tries to keep running at 60 FPS even though this is not also possible – dependent on the situation.
RAGE: There’s a coop and a rally mode in the multiplayer. Especially the latter one would be a great opportunity for global ladders. Is something like that included?
There are ladders but Tim couldn’t say if they are globally. Unfortunately the multiplayer team wasn’t reachable because at the time of asking it was around 3 o’clock in the morning in Texas. We’re still in contact for an answer though.
RAGE: Which rally modes are there?
There are three different ones. There’s Combat Rally where you drive against each other with weapons attached to the cars like in a deathmatch. Then there are normal races against time and a mode where your team is collecting XP and have to drive them back to the base.
RAGE: While playing I noticed that a quick turnaround shows very unsharp textures even though this is only for a few miliseconds. What’s the reason?
The id Tech 5 dynamically adjusts the quality of the shown scene. Everything that is not visible to the viewpoint will scaled down to a minimum of details. So if you quickly turnaround the engine first must scale them up to a proper quality. This is currently much more visible than it will be in the final version. The console versions on the other side will take longer to scale up because of the limited RAM.
RAGE: It seems that the dynamic Level of Details plays a huge part in the id Tech 5. Is there more you can say about it?
While creating and baking the Megatextures the tool chain will automatically detect which parts of the area aren’t able to be visited by you or which ones are always in the distance. These parts will be scaled down to reduce the size on the hard drive and the ram. The designer doesn’t need to take care of this.
RAGE: As idGames is taking it roots from Doom3Maps our readers are pretty interested on how to create maps and modifications. You already mentioned in some other interview that you can access the development tools via the console command “id Studio”. Are there any things to consider beside that?
You must be using an 64-Bit operating system. Because you can create and edit Megatextures with the id Studio and this process takes up a “shitload of RAM” we limited the Studio to 64 Bit.
RAGE: How much RAM would you recommend to a mapper or modder?
As much as you can afford. If you only modify the existing maps and add some new objects, change the scripts there’s no huge performance impact. But if you change something on the existing Megatextures or even create a new one the process of baking those will eat up all your ressources.
RAGE: Which software and operating system do you use to develop?
Even though the whole company is using Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Visual Studio Tim's using a Mac.
RAGE: id Software always said that the development with id Tech 5 is completely platform independent. To be precise only one push of a button.
Right. Tim Willits explained that after a check-in of a code change to the “bakingserver” the source code automatically is getting compiled for the different platforms (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360). Graphical assets and megatextures are also being baked and matched to the specific platform.
He gives me an example. Let’s say a developer changed something on the “Wasteland”-Map and added a new object which isn’t optimized for the PS3 and would cause a huge loss of performance.
The bakingserver will compile those changes to the specific platform. If an adjustment is not possible the developer will get notified and is able to see the specific errors on a webinterface. There he can draw conclusions back to the specific person, object, platform and analyse the error.
The developer now knows that his recently added object would cause performance issues on the PS3 and is now able to optimize it.
With the webinterface it’s possible for every developer to track the development of the game and get statistics over specific parts or the whole project.
RAGE: You say that the process of baking a Megatexture takes a long time. Why is that and what helps do speed up this process?
Like already mentioned it requires a huge amount of RAM and also a fast hard drive because there’s an permanent exchange of data. To speed up the process a fast processor with multiple cores also helps. The engine dynamically splits up the optimization of the texture into multiple processes which then will be allocated to the cores.
For example: if you have eight cores you will have eight concurrent processes of optimization.
RAGE: Is it possible to create maps or modifications for the consoles?
RAGE: Like already mentioned RAGE will be released on three DVDs on the Xbox 360 but only one Blu-ray on the PS3 due to the nature of a much bigger medium. On how many DVDs will the PC-Version ship or are there plans to release it on Blu-ray?
It will probably also ship on three DVDs on the PC.
I’d like to thank Tim Willits (id Software) for the extensive interview and also Peter Langhofer from ZeniMax Germany GmbH who made this possible.
Cool, danke fürs Interview.