Interview / id Software’s Tim Willits and Jason Kim on Rage

It’s not everyday you get to talk to a legendary developer about a highly anticipated upcoming title that has sweeped up a number of awards before even being released. Such a chance arose at the Eurogamer Expo this year however as TVGB sat down with id Software’s Tim Willits (creative director) and Jason Kim (senior producer) for a talk about Rage, the beautiful post-apocalyptic shooter.

TVGB: Looking at Rage it’s easy to draw comparisons to Fallout 3. What’s there to really separate this game from Bethesda’s own?

Tim Willits: They’re strikingly different games. Fallout 3 is an RPG with character development and all that stuff. Rage is a first-person action game; there’s no fast travel but if you want to get from point A to point B you better have your car fixed up and machine guns on that thing cause you never know what you’re going to find when you’re driving around. But at its core Rage is a first-person game true to the id style. If you like immediate feedback, 60 Hz, the responsiveness, the id style weapons, that’s what you get in Rage with the extra stuff.

TVGB: Rage has a vehicle element to it but you’ve been clear in saying it’s still a shooter. Just how long will we spend driving around compared to shooting?

Tim Willits: Well one of the great things about Rage is if you like driving around you can pick up side missions and go around the wasteland and hunt bandits and do that as much as you want. Or if you’re into racing you can go to the race track and you can race and race. For instance at work we’ve been testing some of our live connections and scoreboards so we ran this test where we had a time trial; a simple little race where we go around a track three times. The guys at work are so competitive that they played it over and over again until they beat everyone else by like a tenth of a second. It’s kind of neat that the vehicle aspect of the game is definitely additive and it’s not like 50% or anything but if you like that, you can do it a lot. If you’re not into it you can just get in your vehicle, go to where you need to go, complete your mission and get on back.

TVGB: How much of a story will we find within Rage and how will it be told? Will we get cut-scenes, will it be delivered through NPCs?

Tim Willits: It’s definitely going to be delivered to you. There are no like classic cut-scenes because we like to keep the player in the game. The story is delivered through the primary missions and NPCs. If you’re the type of player that really enjoys getting into the lore and fiction of the universe it’s all available for you. If you dig further you’ll be more rewarded, but if you just play through naturally you’ll definitely get a hold of the story.

TVGB: Open-world games can struggle with mission variety, what can we expect from Rage? How many types of objectives will we see etc?

Tim Willits: First of all it’s good to mention that even though the game is open, it’s directed so it’s not really like an open-world game. There’s a story arc and opportunities to go on side missions and things like that but, as far as mission variety, in all there’s a number of different things from vehicle missions to kill everybody missions, to recover things, to find things, to escort people. The variety of combatants, environments, the arsenal and interior that you have really bring to the big play experience of Rage. I feel people aren’t going to get bored by Rage.

Jason Kim: The thing with mission varieties are when we’re telling the player the story of the game that’s what they’ll be most engaged in; the moment to moment experiences from getting into a combat situation and then getting to it again. So as we’re a shooter it’s not about the actual types of mission you go on. We have the different types of jobs you’ll get from NPCs that go along with the fiction but when you get into this combat situations, it’s about those individual moments and that’s what we try and focus on with Rage.

TVGB: Sticking with the variety, another aspect of the game I wanted to talk about was enemy variety as it’s easy in a game such as this to have a bog standard enemy type that you face in every mission. What can we expect to encounter?

Tim Willits: Well one of the great things about Rage is when we looked at what we can do with the technology and the fact we could uniquely make everything different we knew that we have to make every one of the encounters different. We didn’t want just “bandits” chasing after you so we have different size mutants that people have seen in the demo. We do have bandits but they also have unique fighting styles, each of the band of bandits does something a bit different. The tactical skill of the ghost clan is much different from the wasted or scorchers or something. Then of course we have The Authority which we haven’t talked about but it has a different type of fighting style so again a lot of variety with that.

TVGB: You said Rage has a directed storyline but with side missions etc, how much of a sense of freedom will a player have in the game? Will there be times they can turn it on, ignore the story and just go for it?

Tim Willits: Sure! You’re never forced to do anything but the game does progress. There are missions that you have to complete to keep the game going but as I said if you like to race you can do that or there’s vehicle side missions, on foot side missions, you can go hunt mutants in underground levels if you want so really you have freedom to do what you want, but it’s kind of freedom in a box. It’s open, but directed.

TVGB: What are some of the biggest challenges you as a team have faced over the course of development?

Tim Willits: id Software has always made technology and the game, which always takes forever. That was one of the reasons why we were attracted to the Bethesda/Zenimax family because what we’re able to do now is that we’ve built up a second team, everyone knows we’ve been working on Doom, they’re using ID Tech 5, they’re learning from our mistakes, they’re using some of our assets to experiment with. So instead of having these dev times that are like this long and some of that time is research, some is engine development, some is game development we’re gonna try to go like this. So moving forward we’re committed to using the same technology for multiple games and they’ll come a lot faster.

TVGB: Are you guys confident you’ll hit your 2011 release?

Tim Willits: Never in the history of the company have we missed a release date. We’re confident. If it doesn’t come out after September 13th 2011 then it’s slipped.

TVGB: You’re yet to talk about multiplayer, are there any light details you can reveal to us now?

Tim Willits: What I can tell you is that it’s not going to be like other id Software games, it’ll have a very Rage feel to it. If you sit down and think about the game you can kind of figure out the multiplayer that we’ll make but next year we’ll blow the lid off of that.

TVGB: Rage is also headed to iPhone, why did you choose to skip over other handhelds?

Tim Willits: Two things that are worth mentioning here: our iPhone plans are a smaller game this year, it’s not really Rage for the iPhone, it’s more like a tech demo. It’ll be a game but a flavour of Rage, not the main path and not even the same guy that you play. Next year we’ll do something that is more embedded in the game but it’s definitely an additive experience. I’ve had people say “Why would I pay $60 when I just get the iPhone game?”; it’s not Rage. We’re using the universe and the brand and the reason we came up with this version is because John Carmack likes developing engines on the iPhone, and that’s really about it. We feel like that’s a good market, he likes the capabilities or the device, our iPhone team is actually very small, so our focus is the big titles and platforms. This is just something he enjoys doing, it’s a good marketing avenue too. The market’s great but it’s not our key revenue source. It’s more kind of an enjoyable cool thing that John likes to do.

TVGB: If it’s successful could you see it going over to 3DS?

Tim Willits: I’m not sure, we’ve never done anything internally like that. It’s not something we have plans for right now.

Rage is scheduled for release on September 13, 2011 in the US and September 15 in Europe.