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Id co-founder John Carmack - co-creator of franchises such as Doom and Quake and coding pioneer - is not known for self-censorship. It's thus interesting to hear him speak as positively as he does about his company's recently-announced relationship with Electronic Arts, which will be publishing its first-person, post-apocalyptic driver/shooter Rage for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.
Here, Carmack, joined by id lead designer Tim Willits and David DeMartini, general manager at EAP, discuss the relationship, the game's move to a primary console focus, the broader philosophy that lead to the development of the title, and the future of the company itself.
I guess the most obvious question is: how did the EA/id thing come about in the first place?
John Carmack: Well, everybody knew that, or, most people know, at least, that id doesn't sign long-term contracts. Every title that we've had really has been negotiated separately. We have a long history with Activision - we've had a lot of success over the years - but we've had a couple disappointments, recently, with our partner titles... and Rage is a brand new IP, it's a fresh start for us in a lot of ways, so we did go out and broadly shop, looking really critically at all of our publishing options.
And, of course, in the end it came down to like four publishers - you could probably pick which four - and out of that, there's kind of a tier where you've got Activision and EA at the top, and then a couple others below that. And everybody made strong offers; all of them came to the table with a lot of money, good terms, and all of this.
In the end, the decision came down more to secondary factors: about how we thought that the company viewed us in relation to their other projects, what the top executives would think about our products competing with other products they might have internally, how they viewed our game and what they thought we'd do for them.
And we had, surprisingly - if you had asked me five years ago if we would be considering EA, I would've said, probably, no. Because I carried around, really, some outdated prejudices about EA, the big evil empire of gaming, that kind of bought and crushed and squashed a lot of small, creative stuff.
They admitted as such recently; John Riccitiello did.
JC: But when it turned out that we went in and we checked on some of these things, we talked with the developers in the EA Partners program, and we talked to Valve, and some of the other guys who we know, and at this point they say universally positive things about how working with EA has been.
I think there really has been a major intentional corporate change there. It came down from on high; it's like, "We're going to change the way things are done here." And the people that are there right now are happy working with EA, and I've looked over everything - it was a tough call, certainly; everything was strong out there, but we made the call to go with EA, and we're happy with how things are looking right now, and certainly going to be another question that comes up when we start shopping Doom IV.
David DeMartini: We're in day one of the marriage, and they're really happy, so...! (laughter from all)
The wedding day's been great, and all that other kind of stuff; and, you know, from this point forward you have to earn the business. Because, as John says, they sign one deal at a time. Which we're perfectly happy with, because in this business you're only as good as your last deal. They're only as good as their last game, and we're only as good as our last deal, and we're only as good as what we said we would do and then what we actually did.
And then now comes the time where we need to provide the appropriate service to the business, and do what we need to do to be the good partner that we said we would be. And we're very confident that with the right, humble attitude, that we will earn the business time and time again with partners like id.
TW: You know, one of the things, just to add to what John said about the top tier at EA, is, when we're coming down to the final decision, you know, Riccitiello and Frank Gibeau flew out to id and they gave them the game demo, and David was there, and all the EA people asked really intelligent game player questions. They were asking things about other games, and what we thought of this and that, and we were, as game players and game developers, very impressed that these guys at the very top, that run this huge company, are actually hardcore gamers. Moreso than I think people would realize, and it really impressed us.
It's interesting because - I mean, I've talked with you about this before - I've been following EA Partners for a while, and though I didn't know anything about this deal, it actually didn't surprise me too much, because you've got Crytek, you've got Valve, and they're some of the only developers that are sort of similar in spirit to id. And I'm wondering if that influenced this at all.
JC: I mean, the fact that they're happy with the relationship there meant a lot; and [Valve's] Gabe [Newell]'s gonna speak his honest opinion on everything like that.
And we got positive responses on that. And it is interesting, when we look at some of the premiere first-person action titles on there... We all looked at it, and we don't think that we're being - none of us are doing kind-of head-to-head bashing titles that are going to be competing against them; Rage is a different flavor than what any of these other things are going for, so it should be an amicable set of partner companies that are working on this, here.