All the RAGE: Matt Hooper

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RAGE design director Matt Hooper joins John Carmack and Tim Willits in having a new interview up on Bethesda Blog.

What do you do at id Software?

My title is Design Director, which would imply that I handle the design direction. However, like most folks at id, I’m allowed to apply my skills beyond my title’s scope into other areas that benefit the team as a whole.

So, while my main passion has always been design and I do work closely with our group of talented designers, I’ve also been responsible for collaborating with the core technology group. I’ve always been excited by our cutting edge directions we take at id, and one of my tasks has been to help focus the practical application of our technology. With industry leading engineers like John Carmack, Robert Duffy, Jan Paul Van Waveren, and many more, I consider that a fun and exciting endeavor more than just a task.

Do you remember the first game you ever played?

Like a lot of people my age, arcades were huge when I was a kid in the late 70’s / early 80’s. I remember playing all the classics but my fondest early memories are of Galaxian and Donky Kong. I also have super happy memories of playing all the popular games offered on the Atari 2600 around that same time frame.  No one game stands out on that system, but certainly the idea of interacting with that controller is stuck in my head. The TV it was connected to and the arrangement of our family’s furniture is a picture that remains vividly painted in large part to those memories. I can’t recall any of the other rooms in my home in that same way.

What was the first time you realized that you wanted to work in video games?

This is going to sound a little made up but it’s actually 100% truth. I used to dream of making video games after my first few sessions playing them. I remember winning a 6th grade drama class competition where we were asked to mime our desired profession. I choose to act like I was handling up on an Atari joystick with wide eyes affixed on an imaginary television. From that day forward I remember filling notebooks with video game worlds and ideas. Then, when I was going through engineering school in college Wolf3d and DOOM were released and I started building and realizing worlds. Shortly after, QUAKE was released and I went crazy building 3D worlds in notepad before finally ending up in the industry in 1996.

Did your experience in the modding community make the opportunity to work on DOOM 3 too enticing to turn down?

DOOM I and II had such a huge influence on me when they were released – especially the mod community that sprung up around those titles.  It was impossible to turn down an opportunity to work on a brand new DOOM with a technology that the world had never seen before.  I jumped at the chance.

What do you think was the biggest thing you learned about development before working for id?

I think the most important lesson I learned during my early years in the industry is that in order to maximize quality you need a team with not only talented people but also an atmosphere where everyone believes in the direction. It can be really disruptive and not productive when the vision is not shared but it’s a beautiful thing when you get a team of talented people all driving for the same goals. I’ve been really fortunate throughout my career to be surrounded by some really talented people.

If you’ve got a dinner reservation for two and you can invite one game developer to join you?

Well, that is certainly a difficult question that I can honestly say has never crossed my mind. I’ve been lucky to cross paths with some of the most talented and accomplished developers in my years in the industry. I guess I’d have to choose one of the developers I’ve not yet had the pleasure to meet. I’d probably choose Shigeru Miyamoto.  Miyamoto is responsible for some of my favorite games as well as being extremely influential in the industry for so many years. To be perfectly honest, I’ve enjoyed and continue to enjoy almost everyone I meet in this industry at every level.

What’s your proudest accomplishment thus far?

I’m proudest of shipping DOOM 3 and my contributions to that game. We had a relatively small team throughout development but I think we did some really innovative things with technology that was new to the industry. I really enjoyed the process and the team dynamics.

What’s your all-time favorite video game level?

That’s a very difficult question. There are so many game environments that mean such different things to the games they’re a part of that it’s difficult to compare in any relative way. There are also the nostalgic reasons that probably only make sense to me, like the first time I loaded up DOOM or walked around a QUAKE (Qtest) level. I know it would be difficult to top the feelings I had moving around the first few QUAKE levels realizing a truly three-dimensional world. I also have such fond memories of the places I visited in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and further back in time, playing Wizardry, where I certainly invented much more of the world in my mind then ever was realized on any screen.

What games have you been playing lately?

I just finished the Call of Duty: Black Ops single-player campaign and put a dozen hours into the multiplayer. The latest Assassins Creed is next up. In the past few weeks I’ve spent time with Vanquish, Halo: Reach, and Fallout: New Vegas.

What are your non-gaming hobbies?

I love playing golf, but unfortunately I’ve not gotten in many rounds this past year. We’ve got a few guys here at id that try and get together to play basketball when we can and that’s always fun. I’ve also got season tickets to the Dallas Opera, which I enjoy. I love my job and the gaming industry but I love spending time with my family as much as possible.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Only that I look forward to polishing up RAGE and getting it out to the world in September of 2011.

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