Features & News

Interview: Tim Willits (id Software)

September 29, 2011, Author: Ray Willmott

id Software are no strangers to success. Wolfenstein, DOOM and Quake made the genre what it is today, and utterly changed the way we play computer games forever. So, when id make a new game, people are going to pay attention.

At the Eurogamer Expo, not only did I get the chance to go hands-on with their first intellectual property in over a decade, RAGE, but, alongside staff writer, James O’Leary, I also got to interview creative director and legend, Tim Willits.

RW: So, 20 years of id Software. That’s amazing.

“Yep, a long time.”

RW: From the very beginning, id Software defined the FPS genre and made it what it is today. why do you feel people are still interested in the genre 20 years on?

“Yeah, that’s an excellent question. I think the FPS genre gets you most connected to the game because you’re seeing the World through the player’s eyes, and in an FPS game, I feel you care about the character more than if you just see an itty bitty character on your screen.

You’re in the action, and thus, people can visualise and fantasise about worlds they’re in. Plus, the action is so fast and so exciting. First Person Shooter games are so cool now and we have some really awesome games out there.

It’s really awesome for me to still be working in the FPS genre, at the same time as we’re having these mega hits. From the start, we can see how it evolved. It’s amazing where people have taken it.”

RW: Why has it taken so long for you to create new IP? Have you been waiting for the right moment, been spending the time researching this, or was it just a mutual decision to do it now?

“You know, we could have been making DOOM games the whole time. Right now, we could be making DOOM 19 or maybe DOOM 13 part 2. We could have even put them all on the DOOM 3 engine and some people would have been happy! However, John likes to try new things and likewise for me, it’s exciting to do something different.

So, we have a new IP which allows us a fresh start. You can bash TV’s and go racing, as well as elements of a FPS that you’re used to. We make games because it’s fun. We’ve always tried to follow our hearts, and follow the passion we have, which led us to RAGE. It’s an exciting time for us, working on new IP, and with new technology. Gamers are smart and want more than cookie-cutter FPS shooters.

Hell, we’re offering the only new IP in the top ten of games this year, which makes us really proud.”

Tim Willits does not look like this in person. Honest.

JO’L: One of the things id revolutionised in, not just FPS, but also kind of horror genre, is the choice between flashlight or a gun. Whose idea was that? That was genius…

“That was actually more of a limit of what we could do technically, and so we had to try and work that into the fiction and gameplay. Of course now, many computers can play DOOM. Hell, you can even play DOOM on your iPhone, but back then it was different. Looking at everything we had available to us, we thought, let’s try this. Some people liked it, some didn’t, but it was very unique. It added an aspect to the game, that, even now, you don’t see much these days.”

RW: Sadly, I couldn’t attend the 20 years of id developer session, but I did hear that you will be offering secret levels from DOOM and Wolfenstein in RAGE when the player walks through secret walls. Are you able to talk a bit about that?

*Tim shakes his head.*

RW: No, not at all?

“No, c’mon, it’s a secret. It wouldn’t be a secret if I told you guys!”

JO’L: I promise we won’t tell.

“Yeah, right!” *laughs*

RW: *laugh* We’ll leave it at that.

Howdy Pad'ner.

RW: Honest question, 20 years from now, do you think we’ll still be playing First Person Shooters? Will they be as popular now as they are today?

“I sure hope so. That’s all we know how to make! In all seriousness, look at the different shooters out there. We’ve got the Call of Duty, Bioshock, Crysis, RAGE, DOOM, QUAKE universes. There’s a lot of writing and a lot of different impressions. Such a wealth of material.

Maybe the future in 20 years time will see us plugging something in the back of the head, and actually becoming the first person. Who knows? No, I don’t think they’re going away anytime soon, and I don’t think we’re running into first person fatigue.

They’re just so much fun, and so exciting, and there are so many different companies doing different things. Not everyone doing the same thing. It’s awesome!”

RW: For sure, and playing RAGE, you can see it’s a very diverse gaming experience with the driving and the mission scheme. Something very different and exciting from id.


JO’L: You’re showing the single-player component of RAGE on the show floor at Eurogamer, but I was just wondering if you could talk a bit about the multiplayer aspect?

“Sure. RAGE is predominantly a single-player game, but we do have two multiplayer modes as well. First is Combat Rally, which allows the player to collect a series of unlocks through XP, and it blends some racing, as you race to rally points and vehicle combat as you can blow up your buddy.

Then we have Legends of the Wasteland, which is a co-operative experience. It’s kind of a spin-off the single-player component of the game, but it does extend the fiction created in the main campaign.”

JO’L: Are both of those modes available in split-screen?

“Combat Rally isn’t, but Legends of the Wasteland is split-screen on consoles. You can also play over the net as well. Unfortunately, it’s not split-screen on PC, as, well, we thought it’d be tough to fight over a keyboard!”

Now there's a blowjob you'll never forget...

RW: As this is a new IP, and with so many gamers invested in so many different franchises, do you feel it is a danger not releasing a demo?

“No, I don’t think so. The problem with producing a demo for RAGE is that it’s too big. It generally takes most people an hour or two to get through training alone. If we released a level deep in the game, people would get confused, or if we just did the wasteland or a stand-alone mission, it’d be hard as it is so damn big. Also, the download would be enormous. It would just not logistically work.”

RW: I think the problem with new IP in today’s market is that people feel a danger investing in new IP as it is the unknown, and there is no way for them to trial unless they come to expos or take a chance and buy the game. At the same time it is difficult to translate that work into a demo, due to its size and scale.

JO’L: Do you think your previous history with the FPS genre will go a long way to helping people make the choice to buy RAGE?

“Yes, and that’s really the only way we can do it. If you want to release new IP and be a hit, you have to have a legacy. There are so many big games and so much noise out there, that you need to make sure game is great and that you have a pedigree people pay attention to. Even then, it is still a challenge. We’ve just brought RAGE to every show we can, we’ve gotten people to play it, play it and play it so more and hope they like it. Really, that’s the best we can do.”

RW: You developed RAGE for iPhone, which was a big hit for id. With a second iPhone game being investigated, do you think you’ll investigate connectivity with RAGE and future iOS games?

“Yeah, no. That sounds pretty cool, but it’s not something we have plans for. However, going back to earlier question about promoting new IP, this was one of the key reasons why we did the iOS game. It totally helped kick off our campaign. Suddenly, people were thinking about RAGE, and got more interested in the main title. It was a big success for us. Especially when we offered the game for free by liking our page on Facebook. It also gave more background to the main title. These are things developers need to do in order to get people talking about their product. It really worked out well for us.”


JO’L: The release of RAGE is a true celebration of 20 years of id, and, throughout those 20 years, the legacy of Quake has been apparent, especially within e-sports scene. Unfortunately, in recent years, we’re not seeing as many people signing up and playing Quake, which has led to, not a disappearance per say, but the scene has gone quiet. Have you got any plans on re-emerging into competitive scene in the future?

“Maybe. Maybe not. I dunno. We’re going to finish RAGE, work on next title, and then see what happens. It’s definitely something we’re still into.”

RW: You have mentioned DOOM 4 in the works. Are you all focusing attention on RAGE DLC for now, or is it all systems go with DOOM 4?

“We’ve got guys working on DLC. We’ll finalise those plans once we know what people like and what they dislike. We’re of the mind that once people invest in our product, they want a level of commitment from us. Games are different and there is a lot of competition; people expect to see developers give same level of commitment to their product.

We definitely want to make RAGE a franchise. This is not a fire-and-forget game. We want to support it in the future, and the first logical step is by releasing DLC.”

RW: The racing mechanic in RAGE is quite a unique element in the FPS realm, and after playing on the show floor, I found it to be more responsive than a lot of other games that have attempted vehicle handling in the genre. Did you have any specialists come in to help with the driving side of the game as this is new territory for you, or was it purely all your team?

“Purely us, just banging our heads against a wall trying to get it right.”

RW: Wow, that’s incredible.

“Making vehicle handling is tough, really hard. I’ve a lot of respect for developers who do that.

Reminds me of a funny story and I know we’re running out of time. One journalist spoke to me and said that he spent more time racing around in RAGE, than the previous racing game he’d played before. Obviously, he didn’t tell me what that game was, but we’re very happy about that. It’s an exciting thing and I think people will appreciate it.

Another journalist wrote about a piece about RAGE called ‘The Five Things to Love about RAGE’ and the first one was ‘Jackass Vehicle Physics’ and I was like ‘YES, That’s Awesome!’”

RW: *laughs* I’m sure when people get hands-on with RAGE; they’ll see just how good the physics and handling really are.

“Before we finish up, I want to emphasise to your readers that anyone can come in and play RAGE. We get this question a lot, as people are concerned by all the dynamics we’ve got going on in the game. We’ve got racing, different ammo types and some people are wondering if it is too difficult for them to play? We’ve worked very hard to make it as easy to play and approachable as possible. It’s pretty focused. You get one ammo type to start with and one weapon, and, as you go, you’ll learn more about the combat. Then, by the time the game opens up, you’ll feel prepared and not overwhelmed by how complex things are. That was always our aim.”

RW: Well, thank you for taking the time to speak to us; it was a pleasure to meet you.

“No problem. Thanks for coming by and checking out RAGE.”