Recently, I spoke with Tim Willits, Lead Designer at id Software. Tim was kind enough to take a few moments from to discuss Rage, the highly anticipated upcoming new intellectual property.
Questions from Gareth Von Kallenbach
Skewed and Reviewed
1. Tell us about the background and setting of the game
The basic setting and back story of Rage is, of course, brand new intellectual property from id Software. If you’re not familiar with id, we invented the first-person genre, with Wolfenstein, and we were involved with Doom and Quake. With Rage, we wanted to do something that was different enough to really make it stand apart from the other games that we have done. We didn’t want Rage to just be another corridor shooter with mutants. So, the game is set in the distant future after an asteroid strike has destroyed most of the human civilization and mankind is trying to rebuild itself. You play a survivor – somebody that was a part of a program that the governments of the world initiated before the impact. Where, instead of building one big huge Ark underground, they built thousands of these smaller complex supporting pods. We call them Arks but they’re very small and you’re basically frozen for years. The plan was that after the dust settled, these Arks would reappear and the people would come out and find each other and they would rebuild society.
The game starts in your Ark, which is damaged, and there’s an emergency so it brings itself back to the surface. You’re the only one in your Ark that survived and you discover that the world is a lot different than what anyone expected. There are mutants, bandits, peddlers, more people survived the impact than initially expected and the entire project has long been forgotten. You eventually discover that there is a force in power called “The Authority” that is trying to shape the future of mankind in the way that they want. You will ultimately fight against them to save the future of man.
Many people ask us: “Why another post-apocalyptic game now when you have Fallout 3 and all these other games out right now?” For us, the setting is there to support the game but really it’s the story and the gameplay and what you actually do in the world that makes up the bulk of the experience. Whether it’s a nuclear war or an asteroid or some other method of apocalypse, the post-apocalyptic world worked well for us and what we wanted to do. When we set out to work on the id Tech 5 engine, we were looking at what we were able to do with the technology. We knew we could build these large, outdoor, very lush and very detailed environments. In order for players to really experience these environments to the fullest we knew we wanted people to drive around in them. We all have a love for muscle car type vehicles and we wanted to put machine guns on them. In addition, we all love science fiction. If you want sci-fi elements, muscle cars and machine guns on them, there’s really only one setting you can use. The Mad Max film series immediately comes to mind, which is exactly how we arrived at the setting for Rage.
2. What kinds of locales and missions will we get to see in Rage ? How are missions assigned and what have you done in terms of mission linearity?
The wasteland is basically a plate, which holds all of the missions. You can have a mission that happens in the wasteland where you don’t have a load a traditional level. On the other hand, there are some missions in the wasteland were you have to go into more traditional id Software environments, where you’re shooting indoors. However, the missions in Rage are all very different. We like to call the game “open but directed.” There is a story arc and path that you follow and we tried to make it appealing to the largest audience possible. If you’re a player that wants to do what you’re told to do, you can follow the main storyline missions and have a great experience. On the other hand, if you’re a player that likes to explore and follow side missions, race vehicle, hunt bandits, play mini games, etc. you have many opportunities to do this in Rage. The actual missions range from kill everyone, to more puzzle-like missions, to saving people, etc. and vary greatly. There’s quite a bit of mission variety but as always there is a lot of shooting.
3. What types of enemies will be featured in the game?
One of the cornerstones of the new technology is the virtual texturing system, which allows us to uniquely paint everything in the world differently; you won’t have to worry about running around in the same corridors for 20 hours. When we looked at the environments and how diverse we could make them we knew that we also had to make the enemies and their combat styles very different as well. In our E3 and Gamescom presentations we highlighted 3 groups of enemies::
One of our objectives in Rage was to make sure enemies are different and fight differently. Of course, The Authority also has another kind of fighting style. Variety is the spice of life in the Rage universe.
4. What kinds of weapons will we get to see in Rage and how customizable will they be?
In every new area or level in Rage we tried to make sure that the player will have something new to play with. Whether it’s an entire new weapon, an ammo type, or an engineering item there’s always something new in your arsenal of tools. We don’t have weapon customization in the sense that you can tweak weapons up to make them unique and different but we do have weapon add-ons, different ammo types and engineering items. In testing, we found that some people really enjoy the ammo types. They’ll make sure to use a certain type of ammo when fighting the wasted clan, for example. Some people like to play with all engineering items such as machine guns, turrets, RC bomb cars, etc. In other cases, there were some people that just like to use the shotgun with no ammo type. So again, players will have a clear choice and variety is something we’re trying to emphasize with Rage.
Any BFG weapon in Rage?
There is an Authority type weapon that might be comparable but it is different from the classic id Software BFG. However, Rage definitely has some badass weapons.
5. Are there any well known voice actors that play characters in Rage?
John Goodman. He was great to work with and has a rough, natural deep voice that fits well with the wasteland environment.
6. Tell us about the new engine
Rage is built on our brand new technology called the id Tech 5 engine. The cornerstone of this technology is that it allows us to paint everything, as I mentioned earlier. It was built from the ground up, which allows us to take full advantage of the power across all systems. We feel that we’ve been able to overcome a lot of the struggles that most developers have with cross-platform games. The game plays at 60hz on each system and when you play a game at 60hz, versus 30hz like lots of other games, there’s a huge improvement with the precision, control, and sharpness. In fact, at QuakeCon we had a live
Rage demo running on the PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 at the same time on big 10ft screens so the audience could see that they look exactly the same and they all ran at 60hz. It’s truly a cross-platform engine and the texturing technology allows us to move past the tiling texture system that most games have.
7. I really like the idea of the vehicles but sometimes vehicles in games can be somewhat limited, such as Quake 4. Will I be able to use a vehicle whenever I want or will they be limited to only certain missions? Are vehicle functions limited in any way?
In most of the missions you are either in a vehicle or on foot. You can get out of your vehicle on “vehicle missions” but it probably won’t be as much fun. We wanted to make the vehicles as approachable as possible to first-person fans. A classic part of id Software games is you pull the trigger, the cool gun goes off, and hopefully you kill some people. In the cars, we use a really straightforward interface: gas, break, some auto targeting, etc. When we were working through the physics and the car functionality, any time that we came to a path that crossed another, in terms of realism vs. fun, we always chose fun. For instance, in all our games when you come across a bounce pad you can control yourself in the air a bit. In Rage, we added air control when you are airborne in a vehicle. Of course, this isn’t realistic, but it makes it much more fun and the experience is more enjoyable. The vehicles in Rage are used to get from point A to point B, there are vehicle specific missions where you need to go and find certain cars, hunt them down and kill them, etc. with as much fun thrown in as possible. You are able to get out of your vehicle wherever you are in the world, but your vehicle is one of the safest places in the game. Vehicle upgrades are fairly standard: armor, front smashers, weapons, drop bombs, and so on.
How are vehicle upgrades earned?
Racing is a key component in Rage. We don’t force players to race much, if they’d rather not, but we encourage players to race by offering vehicle upgrades after winning them.
8. WIl the PC use an in-game save system or a console style checkpoint save system?
You will be able to save whenever you want and all 3 systems will be exactly the same. Checkpoint games drive me nuts and I don’t understand why any developers would still use that method. Auto-saves at the beginning of each levels are fine but – save anywhere and play the game how you want to play it.
9. What’s the music like in Rage?
Music is based on the setting, there isn’t a move-like soundtrack. When you’re in combat music picks up, when you’re exploring there’s more subdued music and so on. However, we are still possibly working on some type of theme song.
10. During the game’s development, what have been the largest challenges and rewards?
The vehicle racing and vehicle combat was much more challenging than we thought it would be and I now have a lot of respect for developers that do racing games – it’s hard to do and everybody has a different opinion of what is fun. Some people love the Gran Turismo feel, others love the MotoStorm feel, etc. and there were several conflicting opinions and thoughts on what a game with vehicles should include. We tried our best to make it as approachable as possible for everybody.
As far as rewards go, it’s always exciting to check on an artist’s progress on some work, after not looking at it for a week or two and seeing the amazing progression and creativity. They can do anything with the map textures now, with the new technology, and they aren’t limited by texture size. There are some really cool areas like the Dead City, an old area with knocked down buildings a great landscape.
11. What do you think the future will hold for the new engine?
One thing that’s different this time around is that we are not licensing this technology. This was previously announced but I’m not sure that everyone has picked up on it. Historically, our engines have powered some of the best games. Now that we are a part of the Bethesda/ZeniMax group we are keeping the technology in the family. So, if a new game is published by Bethesda, of course it can have id Software technology in it but we are not licensing to outside publishers or developers.
As we move in to the future John Carmack has talked about some really interesting things he wants to do with id Tech 5 in order to expand and enhance it to work great on the next consoles, he’s working on an iPhone game that uses some of the id Tech 5 core technology and he’s looking forward to working with some of our new ZeniMax partners to do new games as well. So, the future is bright all in all.