Speaking of Carmack, Orcs and Elves is his, right?
Now that that's coming for the DS, are you guys doing that internally or are you having someone else do it?
KC: It's an outside team doing the DS work. All of the core engineering is John Carmack. Same thing with the mobile phone stuff that he's working on, same thing with the DS, that's all John. Frankly, I don't know where he finds time to sleep.
Well I've asked him to be involved in a couple of things every once in a while with Game Developer and he's always said "Nope, too busy."
KC: He is. I was just talking to somebody about this earlier in terms of his mobile phone work. He rarely goes on a vacation so his wife talks him into finally taking some time off and spending time out on the beach and he says, "O.K. I'm on the beach. What am I going to do?” He finds his wife's cell phone and starts playing a game on it and says, "These games suck!" so he goes back, gets on the computer at the hotel and starts downloading some information about it. Comes back from vacation and says, “You know, I started working on the cell phone game."
[starts laughing] On vacation! That's just John. I think things like the cell phone and DS are intriguing kind of puzzles for him because they're very restricted situations so he can look at them like a lock box and try to maximize their potential. That's one of the things that John's been able to do for years.
SN: It’s an interesting diversion because obviously the games and the technology that he works on takes years. For him to be able to take a project start to finish in six months is something that we don't get to do very much with our primary games at id. It's a lot of fun for him. John really seems to enjoy it and it's been successful. Kevin saying "John says 'I want to write a cell phone engine'" turned into Doom RPG. It was one of the bestselling games in mobile history, having done over a million units.
Is that just in North America?
SN: No, that's worldwide. And then Orcs and Elves has won numerous awards. We won the game of the year from the Academy of Interactive and Sciences using the same technology. Then we just announced Orcs and Elves 2 and Orcs and Elves for the DS. This fun little thing that John was interested in and we worked with Fountainhead Entertainment on for the development has turned into a nice little sideline business.
So it's more of a John Carmack and his satellite brain, than it is an id thing?
KC: No, I mean all the guys are participating and playtesting and giving feedback and definitely stuff like that, but in the same way as Enemy Territory is being developed outside by Splash Damage in cooperation with id Software. I'm working with Raven on Wolfenstein. Then we're also working with Fountainhead on the mobile phones and DS. The same type of co-operation.
Does it feel nice doing something fresh, with [newly announced id title] Rage?
KC: Yeah it does. It's a blank slate in terms of, definitely. We're an action shooter first person game company. So no worries about that. To get a blank slate... Tim Willits is our lead designer and director on that project. He's the man on that and yes, it's going along great.
Excellent. That cell phone engine, are you licensing that?
SN: We just started talking apout that. Honestly, I just started talking to John about that yesterday and were like "yeah, it makes sense." We've just been busy with a few things and we just haven't gotten around to it. But it's good technology and it makes sense for us to license it out so that's probably something that we will start talking about, the cell phone and the DS.
Yeah, because if you do it for DS there aren't really DS engines out there that are licensed or licensable. I think it would be a good thing for those indie types that need to get stuff done.
SN: What's interesting for a lot of people who try to write their own cell phone and DS engines, they make a lot of the same mistakes that the guys were making ten years ago on the PCs and early consoles. When John started investigating those technologies, he said, "Man, I can't believe these mistakes are the same ones that we were beating our heads against the wall with ten years ago."
We solved those problems, but people are still doing it again. So when John went in, it was relatively trivial for him to create a really clean, super nice engine for the smaller platforms.
I wonder how he finds time to build rockets, too. [laughs]
SN: [laughs] He does. He never sleeps, I guess?
KC: John's just basically a genius. Has all the traits and brain power that comes with that, so he's able to do those types of things. Not too many people have a hobby of making real rockets.
Right. Do you think anything will ever be as ubiquitous, game wise, as Doom? Anytime any new device comes out that has a screen all I have to do is wait two months for some port Doom to it.
KC: Yeah, well... Doom sort of captured people's attention because it really brought something new to the industry, this idea. It wasn't the first first person game, but definitely the level of immersiveness was there. That sort of fast-action first person shooter, the immediate interaction between you and the world was there. That captured people's attention. Our goal with any game is to try to recapture that. My hope and expectation is [Rage] is going to do that. We've got a lot of cool ideas with it.
In terms of the open-endedness of the technology, it's just a blank slate for the artist to do with it what they want to, and we have some of the best artists in the business now. Frankly, if I had to go back and get a job at id, they would cut me out. They would say, "No way! You don't have the art chops to do it." Our guys are great. So some of the stuff we're working on is going to capture people's attention in that same way, so I'm expecting a lot of great response from our next game.