John Carmack discusses RAGE on iPhone/iPad/iPod

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This month we’re privileged to share a special diary from the legendary John Carmack, technical director and co-founder of id Software. In addition to his current work on RAGE — coming to Xbox 360, Games for Windows, and PlayStation 3 on September 13, 2011 — and id Tech 5 technology, John has been working on an iPhone/iPad/iPod touch version of RAGE that will introduce gamers to the game’s story and world.

Round of applause for John Carmack…

RAGE for iPhone

Our mobile development efforts at id took some twists and turns in the last year. The plan was always to do something RAGE-related on the iPhone/iPad/iPod touch next, but with all the big things going on at id, the mobile efforts weren’t front and center on the priority list. There had been a bit of background work going on, but it was only towards the end of July that I was able to sit down and write the core engine code that would drive the project.

I was excited about how well it turned out, and since this was right before QuakeCon, I broke with tradition and did a live technology demo during my keynote. In hindsight, I probably introduced it poorly. I said something like “Its RAGE. On the iPhone. At 60 frames a second.”  Some people took that to mean that the entire PC/console game experience was going to be on the iPhone, which is definitely not the case.

What I showed was a technology demo, written from scratch, but using the RAGE content creation pipeline and media. We do not have the full RAGE game running on iOS, and we do not plan to try. While it would (amazingly!) actually be possible to compile the full-blown PC/console RAGE game for an iPhone4 with some effort, it would be a hopelessly bad idea. Even the latest and greatest mobile devices are still a fraction of the power of a 360 or PS3, let alone a high end gaming PC, so none of the carefully made performance tradeoffs would be appropriate for the platform, to say nothing of the vast differences in controls.

What we do have is something unlike anything ever seen on the iOS platforms. It is glorious, and a lot of fun. Development has been proceeding at high intensity since QuakeCon, and we hope to have the app out by the end of November.

The technical decision to use our megatexture content creation pipeline for the game levels had consequences for its scope. The data required for the game is big. Really, really big. Seeing Myst do well on the iPhone with a 700 meg download gave me some confidence that users would still download huge apps, and that became the target size for our standard definition version, but the high definition version for iPad / iPhone 4 will be around twice that size. This is more like getting a movie than an app, so be prepared for a long download. Still, for perspective, the full scale RAGE game is around 20 gigs of data with JPEG-XR compression, so 0.7 gigs of non-transcoded data is obviously a tiny slice of it.

Since we weren’t going to be able to have lots of hugely expansive levels, we knew that there would be some disappointment if we went out at a high price point, no matter how good it looked. We have experimented with a range of price points on the iPhone titles so far, but we had avoided the very low end. We decided that this would be a good opportunity to try a  $0.99 SD / $1.99 HD price point.  We need to stay focused on not letting the project creep out of control, but I think people will be very happy with the value.

The little slice of RAGE that we decided to build the iPhone product around is “Mutant Bash TV”, a post apocalyptic combat game show in the RAGE wasteland. This is the perfect setup for a quintessential first person shooter game play experience — you pick your targets, aim your shots, time your reloads, dodge the bad guys, and try and make it through to the end of the level with a better score than last time. Beyond basic survival, there are pickups, head shots, and hit streak multipliers to add more options to the gameplay, and there is a broad range of skill levels available from keep-hitting-fire-and-you-should-make-it to almost-impossible.

A large goal of the project has been to make sure that the levels can be replayed many times. The key is making the gamplay itself the rewarding aspect, rather than story progression, character development, or any kind of surprises. Many of the elements that made Doom Resurrection good the first time you played it hurt the replayability, for instance. RAGE iOS is all action, all the time. I have played the game dozens of times, and testing it is still fun instead of a chore.

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Welcome to the Family

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With the news of Shinji Mikami and Tango Gameworks joining our company, Todd sent over this image of the two hanging out at our office. Hypothetically, if Todd and Shinji’s teams worked together on a project (they’re not BTW), what type of game would they make?  The burning question for me is whether or not inventory would be weighted or using a grid system (a la Resident Evil 4).

Share your ideas in the comments section.

Your Fallout: New Vegas launch day stories

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Photos of the Irvine launch event courtesy Kate from I Shoot Games

Getting time off from work to play a game can be tricky. Ryan devised a unique, but particularly painful solution to the problem for today’s Fallout: New Vegas launch:

I’m a school bus driver in cold ass Duluth, MN. Time off isn’t given to me very liberally, so unless I have a valid reason, I don’t miss a day. However, this game is something I’ve been looking forward to since its’ February announcement. I had to guarantee myself some time to play it, without anyone being able to ask me to move off of the couch. So, what did I do?… I scheduled all four of my wisdom teeth to be removed tomorrow, and I will have to be off work for five days, recuperating on my couch, and unable to help family or friends with anything at all. It’s time to Fall-Out!

Rodent” had a more direct approach:

I just straight told my boss that I can’t come in on Tuesday because Fallout trumps trolling on the computer. It’s even marked “FNV” on the calendar — but indecently I logged about 80 hours of Fallout 3 just at work so it’s not even an issue.

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New Vegas News: It’s done! Plus PC reqs, and cake

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As you may have heard in this week’s episode of The Bethesda Podcast, Fallout: New Vegas is officially finished and off to manufacturing. Congratulations to the team!

In other news, look at that cake. It was presented to New Vegas designer Robert Lee on his birthday, which happened to coincide with the official end of development.

“Complete surprise birthday present from my wife,” says Lee. “I had no clue she was planning this.”

The cake was designed by Christopher Garrens, whose Costa Mesa bakery “Let Them Eat Cake” is regularly featured on WEtv’s Amazing Wedding Cakes. Click here and here for a few more angles.

Also on the podcast, we revealed the PC system requirements for New Vegas. In case you missed it, here they are in chart form:

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The Bethesda Podcast Episode 3: Parity Error

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It’s all New Vegas, all the time on the third episode of The Bethesda Podcast.

In our first segment we sat down again with Fallout: New Vegas senior producer Jason Bergman for a lightning round of fan questions ahead of the game’s October 19 release — including an update on the PC system requirements from a special guest. Then it’s on to our long talk with Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart on all things Fallout.

You can now grab the podcast via any of the following methods:

Download Link
iTunes
RSS
Streaming

Hunted fan interview kicks off

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Similar to what we did with Fallout: New Vegas, today we’re kicking off our fan interview for Hunted: The Demon’s Forge. Send your questions to our Twitter account, Hunted Facebook page, our email address, or simply post a question in the comments section below.

We’ll then pass along the best questions to the team at inXile. Once we have answers to your burning questions, we’ll let you know.

Ask away!

New Vegas Companions revealed on PlayStation Blog

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Today on the PlayStation Blog (both in North America and Europe), we’re sharing information on the eight companions that can accompany you in Fallout: New Vegas. As mentioned in previous interviews and coverage, while playing the game, you’ll be able to have one humanoid and one non-humanoid companion at anytime.

Head over to Sony’s blog to meet these handy helpers.

Joel Burgess: A Level a Day Keeps the Docs Away

Bethesda Game Studios lead level designer Joel Burgess offers his thoughts on best documentation practices following an appearance on the “World of Design” panel at last month’s QuakeCon.

QuakeCon was awesome. Among other things, we got an amazing demo of Rage, walked around a BYOC that would make anybody believe in PC gaming, and heard the news that Arkane joined up with Zenimax. Which, believe me, is worth being excited about.

I think our World of Design panel went well, but I had a feeling that one of my remarks might raise some eyebrows. Sure enough, the next morning I had an email waiting for me from an astute SMU student, asking me to explain my thoughts on documentation for level design.

During the Q&A session, I advocated just getting into the editor and going after ideas rather than spending much time planning. This is looked upon poorly by some designers, and actively discouraged in a lot of school curricula. SMU students, specifically, write up an abstract and an LDD (level design document) before beginning work on a level. So why would I suggest this isn’t the best way to go?

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New Hunted footage and interview from Inside Gaming

If you couldn’t make it down to PAX to catch our presentation of Hunted: The Demon’s Forge, no problem — we’ll be hunting down the latest coverage of the game in short order.

To kick things off, the folks over at Machinima.com’s Inside Gaming have a full interview with Hunted director Maxx Kaufman, along with plenty of gameplay footage to accompany. Check it out above.