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Id Software's Willits:  Rage  Mods May Not Be Possible
Id Software's Willits: Rage Mods May Not Be Possible Exclusive
September 17, 2008 | By Christian Nutt

Longtime id staffer and Rage creative director Tim Willits admits that it might turn out to be impossible to mod the title -- even on the PC platform -- but says the issue's still under consideration at id Software.

As Willits discussed Rage's story during his presentation at Austin GDC, an audience member asked him if the game would be as moddable as the company's prior titles.

Willits replied that id is as open to the idea of having the game modded as the company's always been, noting that his own career was launched due to users' ability to mod id titles -- but confessed that the technical complexities of the game may make it less possible for modders to work with.

Willits also noted that id's John Carmack is also positive on the modding community, but sees this technical issue as an obstacle.

"Unfortunately, Rage is going to be more difficult to mod," said Willits, primarily because of the complexity of the game's vaunted megatexture system, which stores the texture data for levels as one huge texture map that streams in, rather than many smaller textures.

Megatextures require huge amounts of processing power to be baked into their final form for distribution on the game disc; Willits alluded to a large number of computers working for a long time to process them, analogous to a CG render farm.

Willits envisioned modders developing modular chunks of gameplay that can be slotted into the extant Rage world, rather than full mods, as a potential solution. While the game's large central wasteland is a streaming hub world, its levels are instance-based.

The megatexture issue aside, Willits said other aspects of the game will actually be easier to work with than the company's prior titles. "The description languages and the tools are a lot easier to use than the things we've done in the past," he explained.

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Which goes to show even more how out of touch id is with their fans

Jarad Hansen
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We already had this same issue with Quake 1 and the long map vising and lighting baking. id had custom SG boxes to compile it or something?

The community coped, and desktop hardware got faster.

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>Yes, using megatextures is a bit complicated, notably when the tools are not as simplified and unified as those for the Unreal Engine

It's not the tool usage, the tools look pretty good, it's the sheer computing power needed to crunch down the editable data - where you pretty much have no limitations on the amount of unique textures, and can stamp and blend them however you want - to the final unified, streamable megatexture data that the run time engine uses.

And don't get me started on UTengine multiplatform content baking hassles.

Chris T
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@Stone Bytes

The explanation they give isn't as bollocks as you think it is. I like to think of it in terms of transcoding H264. On a normal computer at the highest settings, transcoding a dvd to a mp4 takes about 8 hours. On my quad-core with the latest x264 build and slightly less extreme settings, that gets down to 2 hours. That's one dvd (5gig).

If I try and transcode a blue-ray (50gig) at hd settings, that 2 hours is more like 12-20 hours of 100% processor crunching on 4 cores at 3gig.

From the way Id seem to be describing their mega-texture baking, and the texture detail they are describing, I would be expecting a huge number of very detailed textures, And if it takes Id Software a server processing farm to do it, I think we are talking something like a week or 3 of 100% cpu quad-core processing just for a smaller sized level.

That's not untenable, but it puts a serious crimp in your standard "build-test-revise" cycle when the build time is measured in weeks instead of hours. Being realistic, you'd probably break it up and it'd be more like days than weeks, but it certainly gets in the way.

I agree on your sentiments about id's tools though. They build their tools to suit their needs first, then later expand them to be more useful to the community at large. Epic however have been continuing to use and expand the same toolset over 3 generations, so have a much more fully featured editor suite that's in a ready-to-go state.

Nathan Hoobler
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I think it's kind of a throw-away comment. The comparison to lighting in Quake1 is somewhat apt, in that people will be able to produce mods if they're willing to accept process slowdowns that would be unacceptable for a professional developer. I don't think he was implying that this would not be the case.

However, I think it is worth pointing out that, compared to Quake2/Quake3/Doom, the challanges are much greater. Also, while lighting was a fairly large compute task for a moderate creative input (level lighting), Megatexture is a HUGE compute task for a VERY LARGE amount of content creation. Basically, the barrier for entry has just been raised, and that will naturally have a 'chilling' effect on the amount of mods that are produced, and an increase in iteration time. I think his comments imply that this will still be something that they are interested in supporting, but the fact of the matter is that at this point, the engine (more like the technology in general) is just going to be harder to make content for.

Benjamin Quintero
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A lot of you are taking this all wrong. He's just saying that it will be more difficult; not impossible. The media once again uses over-hyped subject titles to draw you in but this is the same story they've been saying for the last 3 years at quakecons. It's just too difficult for 1 or 2 guys in their garage to make something of equal quality as the $30M-50M original game. Someone can make a killer model or code some cool game gimmick but neither one (even put together) make a full game. I would be very surprised if they don't release the source for the game code within a few months after the games release. The tools will already be available through various commands in the console (like in idTech4).

The point that he is making is that each generation is pruning more and more of the low hanging fruit of wanna-be developers. You have to pretty much be a skilled professional to get anything into a modern engine these days; not like in the old days.

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Benjamin Quintero: "A lot of you are taking this all wrong."

Actually, apart from the very first comment, I think all of us understand that.

Ivan Mussa
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I don't know much about texturing... so, how would it affect gameplay mods? Like some Morrwind mods that alter the power, cost and effectiveness of weapons, the AI of the enemies... This style of mods would be as easy to do in Rage as it is in games that do'nt use megatexture?