The Tao Of Id - Kevin Cloud, Steve Nix Talk Tech, Future Of PC
August 17, 2007 Page 2 of 5
Are you trying to eliminate the concept of a lead SKU with this solution?
SN: Yeah. I think the lead SKU in development, you pick a platform or another, and [that] might be mirrored mainly what you're doing your testing on. We are trying to ensure that more people in the studio are working across different platforms simultaneously. We don't have the sort of stepchild platform that's going to be a year behind that you're going to try to pack it onto after the fact. We think about the game and all of the platforms which is what this technology allows you to do.
A lot of people were starting to build on the 360 and they had to go cross platform to the PS3 and were having trouble chopping everything up and fitting it in.
SN: Yeah, you don't have to do that with this technology.
Do you have a dedicated team for the engine side versus the game building side?
SN: No. This is the technology that's being constructed for our next game. It's not a separate team. It's the guys who've been making games for a long time. We kind of understand with next generation where we are at right now, that the tools, the teams need to be effective so those tools that we need to make our own internal titles successful are the same tools that licensees will need to make their titles successful.
KC: That's an important sort of decision from our point, because the idea is that when you're not applying these technology decisions directly to a game solution then the decisions you make on the engineering side become more theoretical than they do practical. You end up having technology solutions that don't really apply to anybody, or have too much overhead, so it's really important for us if we do things that are practical for games. Things like maintain a really super frame rate, and keep the technology more open and generalized for the applications that get added on to a game later, rather than trying to make all these little minute details that we think somebody may want five years down the line or something like that.
But if you don't have a dedicated team, are you able to provide support at all?
KC: Yes. In terms of support side, resourcing, people asking questions, needing help actually working with the technology, things like that, yes.
SN: We have a support department now, which is something we recently added. Their job is only to focus on support to our licensees and technical documentation, so absolutely they get support. But there's a key difference there because we don't have the approach that people say, "Hey I really need this feature in your engine to make our game. Can you write it for us?” The thing is, we have the most well-structured, elegantly written code solution available and this gives you... well, the thing about Quake III, which was a very successful multiplayer game, but at the same time some of the games that came out of that -- Call Of Duty, Medal of Honor, James Bond -- those were great single-player games which were made on a multiplayer engine.
The reason why is because that fundamental core-level code is so well written, so well-structured and so easy to get to, you can really do anything you want. What's so great about that is you're not limited to making a game that looks just like the technology that you licensed. When you have that approach you can actually go in and make better, more creative games because of just the way it's structured.
KC: It's just like with Quake III and Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Wolfenstein Enemy Territory. Super-successful in their own rights, one single-player, one multiplayer focus, using the same base core technology.
SN: We'd much rather give someone advice. They could come to us and say "This is how we were thinking about writing that system" and we could say, "This is what we think about it. Maybe you want to look over here." But we honestly don't think it's in the developer’s interest for us to try and implement this system for them.
Obviously, id's done a great job of building out as a software brand, but I don't often see the name as prominently as a tool. I'm not always aware when someone is licensing with the technology you have. Is that going to change?
KC: Oh yeah. I think in terms of id Tech 5, we're here. We're showing it to publishers and things. We're definitely taking that type of focused approach. I think with when you look back at Quake III, like Steve was saying, it's extremely successful for us. I think the difference when we went to Doom... the thing was with Doom 3 was in a lot of ways PC-focused. We were sort of in that middle ground between the console transitions.
That sort of left Doom behind because I think a lot of developers, rightfully so, want a multi-platform solution. So with id Tech 5, we made the decision when we first started on it, this is going to be... it's not just a technology that has multi-platform because we developed separate engines, it's multi-platform because John took an approach, knowing how all the hardware worked, to make one technology that works best for all platforms.
What would be the advantages you would say -- a softball question [laughs] -- over Unreal to use your tech? Because it seems like everybody and their mom is...
SN: Epic has a lot of licensees, no doubt. I'm not familiar with what they're talking to their current licensees about or their road map or anything, but what I can say is that with id Tech 5 that we have a solution that runs extremely well on the platforms today. It runs at a high framerate and it's not really a bifurcated technology approach. Ninety percent of the code runs the exact same in all the platforms. If you put an asset into the game once, it's the exact same asset across all the platforms.
That's obviously a strength of our technology, because with id Tech 4, that essentially had the megatexture approach on the base terrain texture, which allowed you unlimited texture memory. It's only constrained by the physical medium, of how much texture you can put on there. But with id Tech 5, we've actually extend that to the entire world.
Being able to put unlimited textures on the floor, the tables, the models, the characters... really empowers artist because that is the number one constraint you deal with in console development, getting under your texture memory limits towards the end of development. That's totally irrelevant for id Tech 5. Basically there are no texture memory limits, practically.
KC: Plus, the games business, like any other business, where you’re basically want to provide entertainment to people, it's important to differentiate yourself. For John Carmack, the one thing he has done in this industry, over time, is continue to innovate and innovate. He's done things that people didn't think were possible. He's always ahead of his time on those types of things and broken new ground. This technology approach, besides the tools that they're providing, besides the multi-platform solutions, is a really innovative approach to the technology and it's a differentiating element.
Games using this technology, they’re only limited by the creativity of their artist, so people coming out using it can create something very, very different. They're not locked in to the traditional mold that other games have been straddled with in terms of their artistic presentations and their uniqueness.
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