Tim Willits is serious business. The id Software lead designer was a co-owner, joining the developer’s original team in 1995 after impressing with DOOM levels he’d created in his spare time. Fifteen years on, he’s focused on RAGE, the FPS-driving hybrid set to be the firm’s first release since being bought by Zenimax last year.
One-on-ones with Willits don’t happen every day. After a look at a new demo, we were lucky enough to get the opportunity last week in France, grilling him on id Tech 5 licensing, RAGE’s economy, the reason for the game’s slip to 2011 and how many discs you’ll be juggling with the 360 version.
The best-looking game ever? New shots here. Hit the drop for the full chat.
Interview by Johnny Cullen.
I think you brought up something last year about the economy system, just before Christmas. Could you…
Tim Willits: Go into that more?
Tim Willits: This presentation, we wanted to focus a lot on the core aspects of the game, show you the different bandits. But there are other aspects to the game that are important, and one of them is the economy. Now, we made it simple enough or really complex; you can buy this stuff and sell this stuff, but as you adventure around the wasteland, or the bandit hideouts and mutant caves, keep your eyes open for stuff. You may pick up rare things, like feltrites. They’re part of the meteors, minerals in the meteors and they’re very valuable. There’s also usable goods you can make stuff with, or just random stuff that’s valuable that you can go back and sell.
One thing we found out is that you spend a lot repairing your vehicle, so it’s important to make some money. Another thing that’s neat about Rage, that I didn’t mention here in this presentation, is that we have some very-easy-to-get-into mini-games, so if you’re in town and you’re out of cash, you can always go make some. There are side missions to earn cash as well.
John Carmack said last year that it wasn’t set in stone whether or not there would be any dedicated servers. Is it certain yet that there won’t be?
Tim Willits: Yeah. What John said still goes. There’s a group of guys working on the multiplayer, and yes, he was correct on that. But again, we haven’t finished multiplayer yet.
Tim Willits: So, yeah. I can’t speak for John, but he’s right in saying it’s not set in stone, but we probably won’t have them. I’ll just reiterate what John says, because [whispers] that’s the safest thing to do.
We spoke with Todd Hollenshead at QuakeCon last year, and he said that while a multiplayer beta was doubtful there probably would be a demo. Are there any more concrete details?
Tim Willits: Well, I can’t give you any concrete details now. But, we do have a team of guys that are busy working on multiplayer, and we want to make sure that multiplayer has some Rage feel to it. It’s important to us. Like the game itself, there are some unique aspects to multiplayer that make it challenging to refine, and one of the great things about id is that we have a inner-tilt process, where we can prototype stuff, where we can throw in a game type and see if it’s fun.
Heck, I think we’ve tried many different versions of different game types, and then eliminated a bunch. So we are refining it, and I don’t really want to talk about multiplayer because until we know, “This is awesome, this is fun,” it’s not worth talking about. We could change it and then we look like a bunch of goofballs. We are working on it, and it’ll have a Rage feel to it, but we’re hesitant to really talk too much about it.
Will you be talking about it more at E3?
Tim Willits: Again, we haven’t worked through our E3 presentation yet, so I really don’t know. It’s a strategy that we have to plan through.
I want to talk to you about technology. Epic licenses out Unreal Engine 3, Crytek’s licensing out CryENGINE 3; what’s id’s plan for Tech 5?
Tim Willits: Well, as you know, we’re part of the Zenimax-Bethesda family, so our focus is wrapping up Rage and getting that technology polished. Until we’re done, there hasn’t been any company decision yet on whether or not we’ll license it, but I think when we get closer to finalizing the game, somebody will make a decision on that.
For me personally, I’m focusing on getting the game done. We have a great set of tools, and if you’ve modded previous id games and you have the PC version of Rage, you can pull the console down just like in other games, type “editor” and you can launch our suite of tools. One of the neat things about Rage is we have this layering system, so if you’re not really into rebuilding the maps you can change the gameplay and you can add a different layer and integrate that.
So, I do think there are some tools there that crafty people will be able to play with, which is obviously exciting.
I asked you during the Q&A earlier if it would release this year…
Tim Willits: Next year.
And you told me it would be next year.
Tim Willits: Yes.
Tim Willits: [Laughs] Because that’s when we’ll be done, brother.
That’s the million dollar question.
Tim Willits: Yes, yes, yes, yes. Because we haven’t even hit alpha on this thing yet. But we’re working very hard and we’re getting close to that. But it’s important that we get this right. There’s nothing worse than pushing something out before it’s ready. And the great thing about Bethesda and Zenimax is [that] the executive management has the faith in us to give us the resource that we need to do the right game. Because, trust me, it would be horrible if we were to release it and it was bad. So, we’re going to get the resources that we need and we’re going to get the polish that we need.
As you saw, it’s running well on the 360. There are some graphical things that John’s working through, that he’ll get fixed. But the engine’s pretty solid.
You also mentioned the game on Xbox 360 will ship on multiple discs.
Tim Willits: Yes.
I can’t remember if you said if you said two or three?
Tim Willits: Two.
Todd said last year at QuakeCon that the game would probably come on two discs, one for single-player and one for multiplayer. Would that be the case?
Tim Willits: No, he was incorrect. Disc 1 will be the first half of the game and Disc 2 will be the second half. There’s a logical break where you go, “OK, let’s go to this part of the world,” so there’s no reason to switch discs, and stuff. Multiplayer will be on the disc, so you won’t have to switch discs for multiplayer, or anything. Yeah: just two.
Awesome. I hope you don’t mind me asking this…
Tim Willits: No problem.
…but what would be your opinion on the whole Infinity Ward situation?
Tim Willits: Well yes, trust me: those guys are very good friends of mine. They make a super-awesome product. I wish them luck in whatever they do. But yes, again, I don’t know enough about that. All I know is that I’m friends with those two guys. That’s all I know. And I wish them luck.
I have one more question. I probably should have asked this at the start. The Wasteland; what are you doing to make is more engaging for the less hardcore gamer? Someone from id said…
Tim Willits: Getting the average person into the gameplay and making it accessible to them? Yeah. When you start out in the Wasteland, you don’t have the entire Wasteland available to you. We have Teach, Practice and then Challenge. We start with pretty simple things. We start with a Four-Wheeler first. But if you’re hardcore, the Four-Wheeler’s got boost, you can get to things with it, to the action really quick, but if you’re a novice you’ve got plenty of time to tool around with the Four-Wheeler. We’ve made the environment interesting enough to attract people, to make them go, “Oh yeah, that’s cool. I’m going to go do that rather than just get to my mission and get back.” I feel we have enough flexibility in the game to make it enjoyable.
And you said something about fast travel?
Tim Willits: Yes. There’s no fast travel, because we want getting from point A to point B to be as fun as what you do in point B. Plus, the Wasteland is a gargantuan. So yeah, it’s part of the gameplay experience.