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Technology, Design: Rage
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Technology, Design: Rage

August 6, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next

The writing and design side also seems very unlike most id games. There are a lot of interlocking world systems – quest NPCs with dialogue, more connected locations, things like that. How did you determine the upper complexity threshold there? You've stressed this is still an action game.

MH: Well, to be honest, we probably went too far. We probably have too many systems. That's why the game has taken as long as it has. But, in the end, it's going to be well worth it. We really didn't know. We just keep pushing each of the systems as far as we can in the time we have.

For the writing, Tim [Willits] does most of the top-level writing and the specific missions. But again, we're just looking for opportunities as we move through the design: "Hey, we need to add a sniper mission on the top of this mountain, because that's a great place for the player to have fun." We'll write some new dialogue and expand it.

But we're really conscious to keep the design and the scope of the different systems still on the action-shooter side. Those were conscious decisions. We don't want you to have to read tons of different dialogue. We'll put it in the inventory so you can read it. But we do want the story to be rich. That's why we went with this casual kind of storytelling.

When [NPC] Carlson in [a demonstration of the game] says that somebody attacked the wells, we give what we feel is just the right amount of information. You don't have to sit there for half an hour hearing this long dialogue, but you do understand what this means to the region and why you have to go down there. In the well, you overhear the guys talking about how to poison the water. They're ruthless. It gives the player context. We hope that compels the player to live through the story.

I noticed that despite the fact that the world is very decrepit and gritty, the guns don't necessarily reflect that. They have a very crisp, id-like feel and efficiency. Was that a decision you ended up with for the sake of gameplay perhaps over world immersiveness?

MH: Yeah. That is something we've always done, so we feel pretty strong about it. The control and the feedback is really what it's all about in the end. But we tried tons of different things. The Settler machine gun, for instance, has a larger spread. It's looser than the Authority machine gun you get later.

But we look for opportunities. Because it's so loose, you can get an attachment that stabilizes it. We go all over the place with weapons. But there are a number of things you would consider traditionally "id," and then extra things specific to Rage that you've never seen before.

How integral are systems like a world economy? Are you designing them with the intention to be integral to the gameplay experience, or is that a bit more peripheral for players who want more than just the action game?

MH: I think it's all integral. I feel confident that it doesn't disrupt the FPS. Yes, you do go to town. Yes, you interact with NPCs. Yes, there are opportunities to play mini-games and pick up side missions. But really, just go and talk to the merchant in Wellspring. It's a super cool 3D interface for buying, selling, and manipulating your loadout. What we found in all of the other id games was that about halfway through, you had a billion shotgun shells and none of the thing you want.

So you get to make the choices. All of the weapons are much useful and have nuances. Maybe you want to go stealth, and there's an opportunity to take somebody out with the crossbow. There are a lot of things that at first you consider to be part of an RPG or an adventure game, but they're just things we borrowed from different genres to enhance the first-person shooter.

These days within the action and RPG spaces it seems like it's all becoming so cross-pollinated that it's increasingly difficult to draw genre lines.

MH: Yeah. I would agree.

The reason I pressed that line of questioning, though, is because when you were demonstrating the game, you kept repeating, "But it's still an action game!"

MH: Yeah. And it's hard, because you want to show the things that are different, but sometimes when you do that in a demo, people just latch onto the things that are different. It's still an action shooter. That's why we make sure to reinforce that. At the same time, we want to show the wasteland, we want to show the vehicles, and we want to show you walking through town because it's a different story delivery mechanic, and we're proud of it. We think it works.

But showing a game is a difficult to task -- how far do you go without losing the focus of, "You know, we still have these crafted experiences you go through."

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