E3 2011: Carmack wants creativity, not tech, to take precedent

id regrets Rage’s seven-year dev cycle

Genius development engineer John Carmack has admitted that Rage has taken his studio longer than he would have liked, and put the delay down to its drive for top tier technology and tools.

“That’s the biggest thing when we look back on this generation,” said the co-founder of id Software, when asked about the length of time it’s taken to develop Rage in an interview with CVG.

“We had, at one point or another, seven years of work that went into it.

“It’s a foregone conclusion that we’re never going to throw out that much of the code base ever again. If we have eight times the resources on a next gen console, we can’t spend a decade writing the optimal technology for that. We need to be able to be at a point where we rewriter sections that matter and have an impact, and reuse as much as we can.”

He went on to say that his own development outlook has changed. He wants id’s content creators to be able to do their job without the never-ending drive for better technology getting in the way.

“A lot of the things we do nowadays, with the AI and the animation, is really good enough,” he said.

“Every aspect of Rage could be made better if we wanted to spend another two years on it, but it’s not the optimal use of [our] resources. I’d be happier if we produced two games in that time. And that’s actually my personal marching orders for technology development going forward.”

“I have at least two more graphics engine research projects that I want to undertake, but I’m probably more excited for what we can deliver to the end user by the optimisations I want to make to our development process.”

He wants id to spend money on high performance PCs first so the studio can iterate on the gameplay cycle more freely, so that designers can test out their ideas sooner. As a result of this faster iteration process, he sees the quality level of id’s games being a lot higher.

“While I plan to the do more graphics stuff – I hope to do megageometry in some form or another, getting it so that our content creators can create better content faster is more important.

“Games look fabulous nowadays. Even if they didn’t get any better looking, if they looked this good, but we can get twice the creativity going into them in half the time, that would be a worthy goal all by itself.”

He concluded by saying the balance between creativity and technical excellence has changed for him.

“I made the conscious choice that we can do something that looks arguably best of breed here [with Rage] and still run at 60 frame per second, and saying ‘I foregone all of these graphics algorithms in favour of a game that’s going to be more responsive’.

“You can look at that as the turning point where we no longer think that building the prettiest pictures is the best way to deliver value in games.”

Carmack has pioneered many graphics standards over the years. A specially made iPhone version of Rage arrived last August running at 60 frames per second, thanks to the use of megatextures, graphics technology invented by Carmack himself.

Rage is set to arrive on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC in September.

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