Though other employees of the Carmack and Hollenshead persuasion get a lot of the attention at legendary Texan FPS developer id (Doom, Quake series), creative director and co-owner Kevin Cloud is one of the key powers behind the id throne.
He's currently working as the executive producer for Splash Damage's major externally developed titled Quake Wars: Enemy Territory, and works alongside key new hire Steve Nix. Nix formerly headed up Ritual Entertainment, and is now director of business development at id, which is significantly ramping up to start licensing id Tech 5, its latest multi-platform engine being created by Carmack and team.
Gamasutra recently sat down with Cloud and Nix at the recent E3 Media Summit to discuss major topics such as the future of PC gaming, the company's DS and mobile phone work, the firm's new desires to externally license its engine, and a multitude of other topics.
So let's start with discussing piracy - I know [id CEO] Todd Hollenshead talks about it a lot, and you are pretty fierce in combating it. Are you still doing the dongles thing? Is that going to go forward?
Kevin Cloud: Well we do dongles for our own internal builds between when we bring things out and things like that. But in terms of dongles for release software, not that I know of.
O.K.That was one potential thing that he was talking about. What have you looked into so far?
KC: Well when you're dealing with something like Enemy Territory, its piracy protection measures are you have to have a code to play online, you register an account, you get a registered account name and to play -- to keep your persistent stats -- you have to be verified to play online with that account. So it's pretty standard things for that.
Definitely in terms of our position on piracy, it's not unusual to id, as a game developer where we don't support piracy. [laughs] But it has to be a balance between stopping illegal use of the software and still keeping it easy for people to use. The whole goal is to make games fun. So we're going to make sure anything that we do still keeps the games fun and accessible for everybody.
Yeah. It seems like the online platform and registration that way is pretty much the de facto way to do this sort of stuff -- the single player box games, those are the big issue really. Is developing for console also a potential solution to the piracy issue?
KC: We're definitely looking more at console, in fact our id Tech 5, our technology that we're working on for our next game, is multi-platform. It's running on the Mac, PS3, 360 and the PC right now. I don't really see that as a "piracy solution", it's just that these are great gaming platforms now for first person action games. They are definitely well-accepted as a gaming platform for those types of games, and we're going to hit them hard. That's a real focus of ours. But it's not really a piracy solution.
Steve Nix: It's just that a lot of people want to play games on their consoles. They're great platforms and Microsoft did a great job establishing the shooter genre on the Xbox and it's really bloomed on the PlayStation as well. So people want to play action games on the console, and we make action games primarily, so it just makes a lot of sense for us to be there. Even Enemy Territory should be shipping on PS3 and 360, and so console is very important to us these days.
With your new tech, are you considering licensing it?
KC & SN: Absolutely.
You've been a little more selective with partners in the past, rather than all-out licensing, though?
SN: We've had a very successful technology licensing history going way back. I think the first Doom had some licensees even. Some of the best games in history were not partner games. Half-Life used our technology. Call of Duty used our technology. Medal Of Honor used our technology. Bond: Agent Under Fire used our technology. There's a long list of people who licensed id Tech.
KC: Yeah, when we were looking back and just looking at the different games using the Quake 1, Quake II, Quake III technology cycles, we were calculating well over a billion dollars in industry revenue coming from games using that technology. It's something that we've always done and we've been open to licensing our technology. The thing is now with our new technology, id Tech 5, we've just made a strong push to be multi-platform, which I think is a necessity these days. It's a technology solution. We probably spent the first year of development while John [Carmack] was working out rendering solutions; the rest of the team was working out tool solutions to make it easier for people to use. We're definitely giving it a strong push.
SN: Yeah, absolutely. We already have the new tech running on those four platforms at a high frame rate with the identical assets which is sort of unheard of. There's no baking, there’s no packaging process. You just make a change to the game, period, and it automatically applies to all the platforms so it's really a new paradigm.
KC: One of the key elements of it is the unique texturing, the textural virtualization solution. So besides allowing artists complete freedom, they're unrestricted about how much detail and how much variety they want to put in a world. It's also just a very scaleable solution so it works perfect for multi-platform because you're not worried about taking out twenty textures to make it fit on the PS3, it just works.
SN: It turns the traditional development cycle on its head because generally what happens is level designers start making maps. They immediately start throwing textures in that illuminate. They make these great looking maps and what happens is it turns out parts of the maps don't work. They're no fun and they end up having to take out and radically alter parts of the game so they ended up wasting a lot of art resources.
But the way our process works is, you go in, you make the game, you make it fun, you get it nailed down. You can basically apply almost infinite art resources to the world to make it look as good as you want until you're tired of working on it. You need to ship it and you just say go. But with all the texturing the artist can do, in the end it has no performance or stability effects.