Tim Willits On id’s Long Dev Cycle: It’s ‘Because Of John!’

Earlier today, Phil Hornshaw and I sat down with id Software Creative Director Tim Willits for lengthy and surprisingly enlightening discussion on topics ranging from the upcoming Doom 3 BFG Edition, to piracy in gaming. We were especially keen to discuss some of the issues raised by John Carmack’s exceptionally frank QuakeCon 2012 keynote speech, such as his admission that id Software’s development cycle has really become seriously overlong.

We asked Willits to talk about that issue from his perspective, and how id plans to reduce the time between games. His answer contained some delicious, if joking, behind the back talk about id Software’s cofounder:

Well the development runs long because of John (laughter). It’s John Carmack wanting to do new things in every engine (laughter). Yeah, that was John Carmack.

Yeah, heck, [what] if we would have taken the Quake 3 engine, which still powers a lot of the Call of Duty stuff, and made Doom 3 with that? And then just modified that and made Doom 4 with that, then Rage 1, and Rage 2. We would have had three more games done. That’s what Epic does; you think Unreal 2, and 3, and 4 are really that different? No (and Tim Sweeny said they’re not that different!) But John, he’s Fresh Start Man. ‘I have a new paradigm of making stuff’, and we’re like ‘alright, here we go!’

But we’ve always been small. We’ve been able to license our other IPs. And we’ve been able to take longer because [of those reasons], we’re able to generate income from other places, and that allows John to do that kind of stuff. But even John said last night, the jump between Doom 2 to Quake was so big we could have iterated there. But John just wants to do new engines, which is awesome for everyone but it does take longer for us to get stuff done because – heck, I can’t tell you how many times’ we’ve built whole areas and then ‘nope! that doesn’t work anymore!’ because the technology’s different.

John, and this is a true story, two weeks – two weeks! – before we shipped quake one he changed the way lighting works. So we had to go relight every map in Quake one. Two weeks!

For the rest of our conversation, including further insight into the botched PC launch of Rage, see our full feature on the interview, coming shortly.

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