Posted on August 7, 2012, Phil Hornshaw Willits ‘Proud’ of RAGE, Despite Driver Debacle at Launch
Almost a year has passed since the release of id Software’s last major game, RAGE, and its difficult birth on the PC. The launch even prompted an apology from studio co-founder John Carmack during his keynote speech at QuakeCon 2012.
We caught up with Tim Willits, id creative director, during the convention and spent a few minutes talking about RAGE with him — what went wrong with the game’s PC launch, and what he and the rest of id thought they got right with the game.
The primary trouble with the PC launch, Willits said, came down to graphics card drivers.
“First of all, you should never make people install a new driver,” Willits explained. “But even with Doom 3, if you remember, you had to download and install a new driver from both NVIDIA and ATI when Doom 3 came out, and no laptop was able to play Doom 3 because the drivers took so long.
“So if you had an ATI card, you needed to download a preview driver, which makes it even more complicated, a preview driver for RAGE. So what we did is on Steam, it knows you have an ATI card, it said, “Go to this site and download new drivers.” Well, they had the wrong drivers on that site. So 100 percent of the population who had ATI drivers, after they clicked, had the wrong drivers, and it was bedlam from there.”
Part of the problem was derived from a lack of testing from the developers working on RAGE, said Willits, because nobody at id was using an ATI card. So going forward, id is making sure that more ATI cards are being used in its machines, rather than just NVIDIA cards, to which the studio had become accustomed.
But while the launch of the game didn’t go so well in some areas, there were several other aspects about RAGE that Willits said he was happy with. For one, he said that the game was extremely stable on Xbox 360, relating an anecdote in which Microsoft said it had to recheck the software that monitored games for crashes and failures to make sure it was working. Apparently, RAGE rarely crashed in its console versions.
RAGE was also a big step forward for RAGE in terms of challenge, Willits said, because it included a number of features the company had never tried in a game before.
“One of the coolest things that happened after RAGE is, I read a review for Twisted Metal, and the reviewer said – and Twisted Metal is a good game, but it’s a vehicle combat game. The reviewer said, the vehicle combat in Twisted Metal is good, but it’s not as solid as it was in Rage. I was like, ‘F–k yeah! There we go, right there, that’s a review!’” he said.
“We could have made another corridor shooter and we could have stuck with on-foot stuff and we could have stuck with 10 guns, and everyone at QuakeCon would have been like, ‘Yeah, it’s awesome.’ But the fact that we did so much stuff that was so freakin’ hard. You know, we made it more difficult for ourselves, but it actually kind of worked. So that’s why John said last night [during the keynote] that it’s very tempting to do a RAGE 2, because there’s a handful of things, and we all know what they are… Fix that handful of things, do the same thing, and RAGE 2 will be awesome. But we were like, nope, let’s work on this [Doom 4].
“So I am proud of the fact that we took a huge risk, and we did things that nobody in the company – nobody had ever done vehicle work. Nobody had ever done the stuff that we did in that game, and I’m very happy that we pulled it off.”
Willits wouldn’t say if RAGE 2 was in the works in any capacity right now or not. We know most, if not all, of id Studios is working on Doom 4, and that the company even closed down its mobile division to repurpose those developers for Doom work.
Then again, id’s Jonathan Wright said during a modding panel at QuakeCon 2012 that he was working on an unannounced project. So…who knows.