Dear John Carmack.

LovePosted by Eskil Sat, October 15, 2011 00:48:00
I'm currently playing Rage and I must say I'm really enjoying it, but please John, don't ever make a game like Rage again.

Long before I was ever a programmer I was a big fan of you. Doom2 and Quake are among my favorite games ever. Even today I play through them every other year or so. They are fluid, fast and not bogged down with cut scenes or story. I don't even feel the need to save my progress when I play because I know rather just replay it next time.

From a technical point of view, the great thing about the id games from the 90s was that every other year a new game would come out it would be full of new ideas, and interesting solutions, that while not always pointing to a mainstream future made them unique and worth exploring.

With Doom3 something happened. It took 4 years. I don't blame you, I blame arist's. Artists don't want 40 characters on screen, they want 10,000 polys per character. Artists don't want you to run fast, they want you to enjoy the scenery. Artists don't want slow projectiles you can dodge, they want realism. The thing with artists is that they so easily can become perfectionists and just like programmers can lose themselves in the whirlpool trying to write the optimal code long after any reasonable performance optimization is left to be made, they get stuck refining every texture pixel by pixel. The truth is that single line drawn by Picasso can (and most often is) more aesthetically pleasing then the meat-head character someone spent six months sculpting in Z-brush. By creating Mega Texture (Really cool by the way) you gave in to your artists desires. There is a Swedish saying that goes something like "Give the bear honey, and it will take you entire arm off". It feels applicable.

I think everyone who makes something is battling this problem: should I sink all time and resources in to one big thing, or should I try many smaller things? God knows I am. If I do something big maybe I will spend all my time on the wrong thing, and if I do something small maybe it will be too small for anyone to take notice. The big decisions always come at the beginning so the longer you work on something the more trivial your impact on it becomes.

Many games designers think its their job to tell stories, but games isn't a story medium, they should go write books or make films. Many artists think that games are about attention to graphical details and in extension to proving how ambitious they are. They should go make art. No, games are about mechanics, they are about feedback, and that is something that programmers provide. Games are not a contest where the developer who spends the most money and time wins either. The greatest legacy of id, is inventing the first person shooter, and things like mouse look. The greatest stories created by id, was not something written, but something that emerges in gameplay. You did that.

If it was all about implementing megatextures, and not about your artists spending years using it, you could have made a game in 18 months not 6 years, so it could be argued that your artists stole 3 Carmack games from us, by demanding perfection.

Some time ago a stumbled on a video interview, where you said that rockets are too complicated to simulate, and that is why Armadillo aerospace builds at least one new rocket every 6 months. Real artist ship. That's what I would like you to do. Get a team of no more then ten people, purposefully don't have more then 2 artists and maybe one level designer on that team and make something in 12-18 months, and dont make it perfect, make it different. Build an engine based on Raytracing, Voxels, particles, Signed Distance fields, vorenoi patterns, or something else we haven't seen. Make something that requires 16 cores, or what ever, just push the envelope in some way. Don't tell a story, don't make a world, make a Descent or a Conterstrike something that doesn't live on content. With a fourth of the time and a tenth of the staff, ill bet you it will be a better investment then Rage.

The thing is you don't have to make something big to get noticed, you are John freakin' Carmack.


I find it interesting how people read things on the Internet. Sometimes I think they don't read it at all, they just scan to try to find out as quickly as possible if something is a Flame or Praise, so that they can go ahead and either Flame or Praise it in turn. The world is less binary then that.

Trying to clarify things for people who read the Internet like that may be a lost cause, but hey, here I go:

The story most of you are talking about is story telling being told in text, cut scenes, voiceover, and machinima. None of that is a game, its other media squeezed in between what is a game. Games have emergent stories, or what I prefer to call drama. That's the thing that happens when you are the last counter terrorist trying to defuse the bomb in counterstrike. Quake, and Doom had drama, modern AAA games have Story telling.

I think that each studio, should make the kind of game that fits them best. I hate the idea that all games that comes from a major studio has to be the same. (currently a realistic, or semi-realistic scripted FPS with cut-scenes). Why cant we let X-Com be a turn based game? Why cant we let Syndicate be a top down RTT game? The problem with Rage is that its trying to be a "modern game" instead of being the kind of game that fits John Carmack. Only one studio in the world can have John Carmack as its lead engineer, so why cant that studio make games based on tech rather then art and design? I'm fine with them being tech demos, as tech demos go, Doom and Quake where pretty great. If it takes Carmack a year and a half to make an engine and then he has to wait 4 and a half years for the art department to finish the game, then clearly id isn't utilizing their greatest asset by the type of games they make.


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Posted by Josh Thu, February 23, 2012 17:03:08

Bethesda, Valve and Epic. My favorites!

Unreal Engine, the hammer who smash id forever. The fault? not only the artists, but Carmack as well.. the last 10 years, he done the same shit, nothing amazing to say "no one can defeat".

id is just a distant past.

Posted by crazysuger Thu, December 29, 2011 21:37:03

This probably sums up everything a game should be like. I have mainly switched to indie games now because most of the big games are mainly generic fps's with different weapons and a different storyline. I prefer games that has a new elements to it like the portals in portal or the ultimate sandbox environment in minecraft these elements makes the game unique and stand out from the big games that seem to always be the same just with better graphics and new characters. How developers such as infinity ward and bungie got big in the first place was because they tried something new, call of duty with its dramatic moments and halo with its balanced weponry and combat systems. But now it seems that these companys are following the rule "if it aint broke dont fix it" and just seem to give us the same game but with a spit shine but the problem is that the development of good games is coming to a halt and only inde developers can have the freedom to create something new but they dont have the funding that big shot developers seem to waste on improved graphics and effects which stops indie developers from making these games as good as they could be or it can stop these unique games from being made at all.

Posted by Square Watermelon Sat, December 17, 2011 22:02:45

i can't believe RPGs were only mentioned once in the comments, maybe thats just the crowd, i find it more and more common now adays in the Modern Warfare crowd that few of them have played a good RPG. The article/blog is a good opinion and points out an interesting point, but is still an opinion. Most of the commenters pointed out your "life is not so binary" statement saying exactly that in that games are a mix of many many things. One of the things i enjoy most about RPG games is that they allow me to have a some what visceral role in a story. Ultimately, games are not reality and any "story" I create in them is not real, its just an escape/pleasure/distraction, that is the reality, speaking from the articles perspective of we should create our own story. RPGs add a visual and involved element to books, i've said this many times before, RPGs are books YOU GET TO PLAY, thats fine, there is nothing wrong with that. However, IN MY OPINION, i still enjoy "story games" aka RPGs, the most. i really like the "story" and could care less what some one projects onto their meaning of what a "game" is. Thats what it breaks down to, what does something mean to you, to the individual, anything else is just following the masses.

Posted by Banky00 Wed, November 30, 2011 05:00:16

Get an attention span and you will like the story parts :P

Posted by NemesisLeone Tue, November 29, 2011 21:40:05

Games are a blend of everything. Counter Strike->Halo->Call of duty. Games being movies. This is bad. Blend of everything, variety is good. Lack of mechanics is bad. Lack of dramatic presentation is bad. We have lack of mechanics currently, rampant. Care with fervor about this. Care before it gets worse. Demand more mechanics. This is not a rejection of other parts of games. This is a call to defend mechanics that are currently neglected in the industry.

(((The above is an example of a short response. Please do this in the future. Everything was covered, and it is short.)))

Posted by NemesisLeon Tue, November 29, 2011 20:44:19

Your responses should be limited to 1 paragraph. We don't have all day to read these comments, but those of us interested would still like to know. We'd like to know without excessive reading. Condense your responses please.

Posted by Barry Kelly Thu, November 24, 2011 23:36:40

Story is very important for adding meaning to gameplay. Thief 1 and 2 would be far worse games without their story; the fact that the player character Garrett has a voice, and not only that, a likeable sarcastic cynical one that yet still reluctantly ends up doing the right thing, hugely adds to the atmosphere of the game dynamics. Deus Ex is similar. But it has to be done properly; I've never felt less like a scientist than when playing one in the Half-Life series - there, it's all gameplay, the player character is no more than a mindless gun-toting lump of muscle who does what he's told. Who knows how Gordon Freeman got his PhD.

Games in the ilk of Doom and Quake are, by today's standards, semi-enjoyable mindless shooters, in the same way that Tetris is a mindless block stacking game. The problem with Doom 3 wasn't that it wasn't like Doom enough; it was too much like Doom, with predictable traps, zombies lurching out of shadowy corners like grunts and imps would in Doom 1 or 2. They engage at the reflex level, but not at an emotional level.

The best games have multiple layers: enjoyable mechanics, fidelity of experience and enough of a story hook to suspend disbelief. The first is a minimum requirement; a game like Tetris or Pacman still works, but these games are usually only pursued by the indy scene, and frankly they aren't worth much. Phones are a good place to relegate them to.

Fidelity of experience, when done very well, can be enough to suspend disbelief - but only until newer games come along and break the spell by doing it better. Doom seemed somewhat realistic, with its murky shadows and echoing roars of grunts and growls of imps; but today, it's as abstract as Tetris, and has very little ability left to generate tension. I could tackle a cyberdemon with a pile of rockets and a rocket launcher - hell, just give me a shotgun and room to move - right now without breaking a sweat; just circle-strafe and spam, rinse and repeat. The gaming world has moved on, and such games only have as much entertainment value as a Tetris - that is to say, a certain kind of timeless appeal, but a fairly cheap and mediocre one as cultural experience goes.

No, to compete these days, you need story to encourage suspension of disbelief, so the player can really immerse themselves in the game. They have to feel like they're really in there. And if you have too much silly stuff, or a really poor story, it breaks the spell.

So that's my formula: you absolutely need decent game mechanics, but to get a full experience, you need suspension of disbelief, and that requires some combination of story and fidelity; a stronger story means less fidelity is needed (Thief is still playable in an immersive sense today, because of this); while iD has for too long relied on fidelity to make up for how bad they are at story, but technology has caught up with them: they are no longer able to outdo past games by enough of a margin for the trick to work. The game's up, and that's their problem.

Above all, making things more like Doom and Quake, would not work. At this point, you need good story.

I'm playing Skyrim right now; the character I've created for myself, with his path through the Dark Brootherhood and his mastery of sneaking and daggers, is its own story. RPGs, done properly with enough flexibility, let the player create their own story.

Posted by PHOSPHORBURNNER Wed, November 02, 2011 19:07:30

Why not try to have a consensus ? I suggest to keep all the fine arts & game engines, all the stuffs, etc and LET THE USER DECIDE "BEFORE STARTING PLAY !!!!!!!!!!!" when enable it!!!!!!! to avoid to much details, cut scenes, slowdown, NOT HAVE FUN & GOOD EXPERIENCE, etc ... So we could leave in peace in GAMELAND (greeks+Troians, working together)

Posted by Typical Mon, October 24, 2011 13:03:24

"Sometimes I think they don't read it at all, they just scan to try to find out as quickly as possible if something is a Flame or Praise, so that they can go ahead and either Flame or Praise it in turn."

Hey, I just scanned your post as quickly as possible and found this quote. I agree completely and would like to praise you for this piece of insight.

Posted by RooMHM Fri, October 21, 2011 20:59:14

Thank you for this magnificent blog post which tells about everything about video games and shows what has gone wrong with most developpers.
I totally agree with you with almost everything, the fast that stories are for movies and books, and all. Uncharted games which are so praised or the Mass Effects have very few gameplay phases and game aspects, they are travesties of movies. When I see novels out of video game stories, it goes out of my fucking mind. But people buy those games without any innovation, evolution and with the same boring gameplay, design etc... People like movies more than they like games it seems.

Posted by Kriss Fri, October 21, 2011 13:59:38

Careful now.

You will upset the writers,

they will come and write things at you.

Posted by zugu Fri, October 21, 2011 13:04:07

I miss the good old days, when Quake II was nothing more than an engine with a minimalist menu (probably designed by a programmer) strapped over it. The game had a frigging console in it, with hundreds of commands and adjustable variables. And no, this console wasn't hidden, one didn't have to enable some developer mode bullshit to access it. Most Quake II levels had this unfinished, untextured feel, and almost everything in the game was brown.

And nobody cared, because Quake II was an excuse for people to shoot each other in multiplayer mayhem, and Lord knows I spent nights of my life doing just that.

Then Doom 3 happened, and Quake 4 (Raven, I know), and now RAGE. I'm afraid there's no going back. id used to be *the* gaming company people turned to for competitive multiplayer shooters, but it seems others have stole its crown in the last decade (*cough*Valve*cough*).

Posted by alex dante Fri, October 21, 2011 05:34:10

Agree with you 100%. While it's possible for narrative to occur within gameplay (my favourite example is the God of War series' use of environment to tell story), more ofthen than not it feels like a crutch used to try and mask the thin-ness of the actual game mechanics.

I feel much the same way about the application of RPG-style levelling to pretty much everything these days.

Posted by P. Mera Thu, October 20, 2011 20:57:29

Can't agree with you. As a game designer, my design approach is that games are not about the mechanics, the art, the tech or the story. It's the blend of them all, and there are players and a market for each mixture of them.

There are games thar are more heavy on story and there are people who love them, so why try to limit games to just the ones you like?

Posted by Côme Calvez Thu, October 20, 2011 17:39:01

Brilliant. As game designer, I totally share your point of view. Game experience is and must be central in game creation.

Posted by arconovum Wed, October 19, 2011 21:03:18

Interesting article, and one of many asking the same questions as I did after having played Rage through to the end, and that questions was at first "What is wrong here?"

The answer is : We will never know the true answer, and only hypothesis. And on that note I will take a shot as to why Rage is what it is.

I think rather than having great aspirations for another great game from ID, gamers have unrealistic expectations from ID to produce the next frontier of games. The hard reality is Rage is a mediocre game, that was meant to be mediocre, and gamers can't accept it(myself including initially). Why is this? I have this notion of ID that I formulated ever since Doom3, and convinced of with the release of Rage. In my view ID are now strictly making game engines and not games themselves per-say. The games they do make are merely test cases for testing and promoting the engines/technologies John Carmack develops. And this is why in a nutshell whether it's Rage, Doom, or whatever else ID makes in-house is not a failure its merely mediocre, and it serves its purpose, and that is what it is. In the end there was nothing wrong* with Rage, Rage was a vehicle to promote ID technology, and what better way to do that than in a game, because nobody would spend 60 dollars on a tech demo, but we did! .

* opinion ignores the technical video hardware related issues.

Posted by Crudepixel Wed, October 19, 2011 18:00:08

I think we need to distinguish the difference between narrative and story. A game can be narrative focused as opposed to story. Take Journey for example.

Posted by David Tue, October 18, 2011 18:16:32

Don't like story? Sounds like you need to play a few more games :)

I'd suggest Bastion. Everyone likes talking about the story in that game, if you haven't noticed.

Games are not all about mechanics. They aren't all about art. They aren't all about story. It's the blend, the amount of each, that really gives flavor to a game.

You might criticize art, but the art is the most visible aspect of a game. It's hard to "see" story as well as mechanics from just pictures. Videos can easily be deceiving and generally depict story only so-well.

As for your claim that Carmack should make games that require 16 cores... well, that's a horrible business decision. He'd be stupid to do something as that. He has and will push the envelope in a reasonable and smart way.

Posted by chico Mon, October 17, 2011 23:52:09

I don't believe you can tell stories in games.
Steve Jobs


Posted by Sheldon Hearn Mon, October 17, 2011 10:27:23

Rage is the first id Software game that I haven't purchased or played. I would be sad, but the guys in the office tell me that Doom 4 will be a return to the original Doom roots (reflex over progression, drama over story, speed over detail) using the same engine as Rage. That sounds awesome.

Posted by Andrew Mon, October 17, 2011 07:56:54

It took them four years to go from prototype technology to production use. It had nothing to do with the artwork. All the problems were with trying to get all the texture data loaded into graphics memory fast enough off the disk.

Also I disagree with your opinion on what you classify as "modern" game. Cut Scenes, Voice overs, etc are a part of the game and what helps set the scene without them the game wouldn't be the same, in fact it would be less interesting to play.

I find it quite ironic that you're criticising this since when I played your own game I found the icons incomprehensible, spelling mistakes in the tutorials and the art direction making it impossible to see what is going on.

Perhaps if you spent time on the art and making your game more mainstream you'd have more success as I've seen lots of comments about these issues all over the web. Perhaps it's not the fact that what RAGE did was wrong but about your own viewpoint on game mechanics.

Posted by Brigther than You Mon, October 17, 2011 07:00:59

"Than" is not the same word as "Then", you clueless burk.

Posted by Shifty McSly Mon, October 17, 2011 05:48:47

I love reading your stuff Eskil. I feel so few people really understand games, but I suppose applying analytical thinking to games must seem an odd thing to do. I don't know how anyone could actually be emotionally involved in the story cutscenes of any AAA games. At most I think "cool" or "interesting". There's just too big of a disconnect between the game I was playing and the story I'm watching to feel personally involved. Story revealed through cutscenes, voiceovers or text are self-evidently not "games". You can't interact with these elements in any way, so by definition they are not a part of the game. This isn't even about "what a game should be", it's about what a game is BY DEFINITION.

On the other hand, drama is VERY powerful. I don't think my heart rate has ever been as high as when I was on my last few pixels of health fighting the taurus demon in Dark Souls. It's a fair criticism to say that games aren't very good at creating feelings other than tension, anger, fear, but I think that's something we'll start to see as game designers start acting more like actual designers and less like producers.

Posted by Piat Mon, October 17, 2011 05:33:44

Fumito Ueda says...

You're argument is invalid

Posted by Thomas Grové Mon, October 17, 2011 05:19:56

I like your article.

As for me, when I'm interviewing game designers (I manage about 60 designers across four studios) I always ask them what their favourite game is and why they like it. The ones who say "Because I love the story and the art is beautiful" do not get the job.

Posted by Felix Mon, October 17, 2011 00:06:13

Doom and Quake don't have drama, they have a bit of suspense and the immersion into space. They are the stupidest thing in terms of drama that can possibly be created. The technology may have been innovative, but technology is only providing the means to an experience. Experiences have to fashioned after limited factors. You make different sorts of puzzle games, action gamess, tactical games but in the end, what's providing the variety is always the creativity of storytelling, of a setting, characters, ideas of interacting with the world in a meaningful or emotional way, etc.
What do you want? A new oldschool shooter every year? How is that creative and innovative? Aren't there enough of your geeky mod-friends around trying every single option of squeezing a little bit of variety into every shooter framework?

It is beyond my capability to comprehend someone who still plays Doom and Quake regularly and hails them as cornerstones of innovation. But I can feel with you insofar that the trends of game development aren't necessarily always bent on providing the best results. But I still prefer the examples of games providing emotional, atmospheric investment, intelligent styles and storytelling over staring at a basic geometric framework and retarded little monster designs.

Posted by Martin Watts Sun, October 16, 2011 23:27:01

This was a really interesting read and I couldn't agree more. It certainly feels like developers are pushing games in the wrong direction at times - too little focus on the actual mechanics, probably because they know that fancy graphics sell.

I like your notion of "drama" too. Having lots more characters and action on screen rather than high-detailed characters could possibly create more of this drama, and, thus, more meaningful gameplay experiences.

Games are playing. Movies and books are for storytelling. Well done on this great article!

Posted by Confusatron Sun, October 16, 2011 23:26:11

You make some excellent points here, but ultimately I don't believe that art in games or storytelling is what causes the situation you're talking about. Rather, I believe it is the effort to make technological progress on systems already years old.

The problem is when your argument declines to "Many games designers think its their job to tell stories, but games isn't a story medium, they should go write books or make films." you lost me with that line of thinking.

It's not even a question of agreeing with you or not, it's simply that you're confining what games can be. I understand the point you're trying to make but I believe you're making it in a wrong way.

I'll write a longer response in my own blog to avoid taking up space here, but in short the idea is that story has always existed in games. As technology improved, so did the methods of conveying that story. There's always been some storytelling element to games, even in those old-school gems you mentioned.

Posted by bennettp123 Sun, October 16, 2011 18:45:31

Nice post, but I disagree that games shouldn't tell a story. Some of the most compelling stories I've experienced have been games. For me, the truly memorable games are the ones with the most compelling stories. What you are right about, though, is what rage does well: in rage, the controls, gameplay mechanics, and enemy AI are better than any I've experienced in a game in a very long time. And the graphics, while not great, are nonetheless the most convincing I've ever seen. Damn it, rage is a lot of fun to play! But without a compelling story, it's just another mindless shooter. Or perhaps I expect too much. :)

Posted by crbrsd Sun, October 16, 2011 17:37:21

I have to say I completely agree with your article. id previously distinguished themselves by making games that were technically innovative, and honestly they were never any good at story.

It seems now that the technical innovation has been moved to the back, and story/graphical design is taking precidence ("living on content"). The market is full of story driven FPS games with elaborate set pieces, and frankly Rage doesn't do much to distinguish itself.

I see a lot of people bitching about how the megatexture streaming system is a significant technical innovation, but really it changes nothing significant from a user point of view. 'Truly' innovative work (in this case meaning that it has a real effect on gameplay) appears to be happening, but it isn't being done by John Carmack.

Voxel tech as advanced as in the Atomontage engine has never seen use in a game before (as far as I know). It would be great if id made something like that into a mainstream game.

Obviously, some people like their games to be more rooted in gameplay, whereas some prefer their games to be more based on content. I wouldn't argue that either is intrinsically better than the other. In the end, Rage is catering to a market, I'm just disappointed that it isn't me.

Posted by Adam Rademacher Sun, October 16, 2011 15:31:20

I don't understand what you're complaining about in this article. You flame Carmack for design decisions in Rage (clearly not his department at all) and demand that he get back to making awesome tech (of which Virtual Texturing clearly is). Sure, Doom 3 may not have been the game you wanted it to be, and RAGE may not have been the game you wanted it to be, but Carmack is still making badass tech in his engine and you're claiming it's because Artists are forcing his hand?

Surely no game artist on the planet came to John Carmack and said "My art requires a texture with 128,000 x 128,000 pixels. Make an engine for me." You act like Carmack is solely responsible for the flaws in recent id games and that he should be the supreme authority on good art and good design in his games while still demanding that he develop impressive technology to showcase those.

You fundamentally misunderstand the structure of the game industry and the process of game development, sir. The gall you have to suggest that one of the most renowned programmers in the industry is doing wrong when he is already doing exactly what you suggest he should be doing is absurd. id Tech 6 may very well have Spare Voxel Octrees and raytracing, but I suppose virtualizing the geometry would be simply bending to the desires of the artists to allow more detailed models in the game, eh?

Posted by Jonas Sun, October 16, 2011 14:42:55

How about you stop telling other people how to make games? Just because you claim that "games are only this" or "games are only that" doesn't mean that everyone else has to subscribe to your personal dogma. If you think stories don't belong in games, make games without stories, and let the rest of us make the games we want to make.

Posted by Ape Sun, October 16, 2011 14:16:28

Are you stupid or something? I hate stupidity in all its forms. I don't know where to begin with the inaccuracies and attention-seeking contained within this stupid blog posting.

Posted by kairo Sun, October 16, 2011 13:35:05

Just as an aside from weather or not I even agree with your Idea: "Don't tell a story, don't make a world, make a decent or a Conterstrike something that doesn't live on content."*

Wow, as an Games artist, Fuck You. I'm don't want to troll and run, I just want you to take this as a messages of how insulting your article is to artists.

*I don't, and are you honestly serious?

Posted by chris Sun, October 16, 2011 13:03:38

I just can't agree with most of what you've posted. I want a game to have a solid story and be immersive. Ids older games didn't have that and were still good, but times have changed. I not expect something along the line of HL2 to be honest. Having fancy tech without gameplay and story doesn't make the game great imho.

Posted by cassus Sun, October 16, 2011 12:03:50

I agree with most parts of your post. I'm so freaking tired of gameplay coming second or even third behind story and graphics. Mass Effect 2 is the perfect example. People always talk about the story. I never made it more than 8 hours into that game, by that point I was so bored of the unbelievably dull game mechanics that I just stopped playing. Dark Souls, on the other hand.. An absolute joy to play. That game is all mechanics and atmosphere.

Posted by Eskil Sat, October 15, 2011 22:52:39

A few clarifications:

First: I want Carmack to write an interesting engine, not necessarily a good game. Yes he has pushed gameplay forward, but he has done so by pushing tech.

Second: The story most of you are talking about is story telling being told in text, cut scenes, voiceover, and machinima. None of that is a game, its other media squeezed in between what is a game. Games have emergent stories, or what i like to prefer to call drama. Thats the thing that happens when you are the last counter terrorist trying to defuse the bomb in counterstrike. Quake, and doom had drama, modern AAA games have Story telling.


Posted by Ken Sat, October 15, 2011 19:55:22

"but games isn't a story medium"

The games that tell a story are the games I enjoy the most. People are different, so different games cater to different crowds.

Posted by Bob H Sat, October 15, 2011 14:38:21

To my mind the biggest challenge is that in order to have a commercial success you either build something 'genius' and 'unique' or you build something 'big'. Many times people have churned out the same thing and it might keep some satisfied but it won't build new business. If you have the inspiration to keep it fresh then you can repeat a success but that inspiration is rare.

Otherwise you build something spectacular, you build something that a great deal of work went into and give people something sensational that they can feel they get value for money from. If they get that then you can build the PR machine, you can build the marketing and you can make a return on your investment.

Kind of like a TV show, either churn out the same formula time and again, or create something big and expensive. But you can create something unique on a budget and make a fortune, except that inspiration is rare.

You are right though, big budgets can bleed out the inspiration from a project without good and strong leadership.

Posted by Mentat Sat, October 15, 2011 13:34:43

@ Polta_: I stand corrected. However, the point that the engine will be used for other projects still stands. The days of a developing an engine for only one game are probably over (at least for the major players). On a side note, this game is in serious need of a Podracer mod.

Posted by Poita_ Sat, October 15, 2011 11:37:55

@Mentat: "they're also in the business of developing, marketing & selling engines"

Actually, they're not anymore.

Posted by Mentat Sat, October 15, 2011 11:31:24

There's one important point that you all seem to be missing. id software isn't just in the business of developing games; they're also in the business of developing, marketing & selling engines. In other words, the game itself is only a piece of the action. There's a lot of competition out there & if id software can't keep up in that arena, they don't meet their maximum profit potential (this is what's important to investors/shareholders).

I don't disagree with much that you've said. I'm not even going to buy "RAGE" until it's in the bargain bin because I don't care much for single-player & certainly not if there's no first-person shooting in multi-player (MP). Vehicular combat is great, I love it in "Twisted Metal" & "Wipeout" & I would've loved it in "RAGE" as a mod (not as the only mode of MP gameplay).

Posted by Professor Paul1290 Sat, October 15, 2011 09:20:17

I also think games are becoming too much about art. I like it when games look nice but not when it prevents you from doing something that would be very doable on the programming side of things.

Suppose allowing a 3D character to climb over obstacles rather than jump over them would be possible but might not be done simply because it would require too many animations to look nice with a variety of objects.
I would rather the character climb over with a simple animation and let their knees protrude into the object sometimes rather than remove climbing entirely. I think that allowing them to climb even if it does look awkward would be better than not allowing them to climb at all, though perhaps some would disagree.

2D games with sprites can have it even worse sometimes. Players rarely notice that 2D sprite games often don't have more than a couple playable characters, enemies often have very few frames of animation relative to the player character, and NPCs often spend most of the time standing in place with maybe a couple frames of animation showing.
This is because while 2D sprites are easier to make than 3D models at first, the work of animating them grows very quickly as you add more characters, especially if the characters are going to get a lot of screen time.
The solution is often to simply not make a 2D sprite game that allows for more than a few possible playable characters and restrict the number of NPCs that spend a lot of time with the player.
I think that's a sad answer.

When you don't have to worry about everything having to look good then you can sometimes accomplish much more with the programming.
Dwarf Fortress is an extreme example of what programming can do when it doesn't have too much art to hold it back. If some of the things in Dwarf Fortress had to be visible and animated much of it wouldn't be allowed to happen by most developers.

Posted by rawr/Samakon Sat, October 15, 2011 08:46:04

Fix love instead of playing rage, then raging about it. i want to play love again before the end of the year.....

Posted by Mewler Sat, October 15, 2011 04:32:55

"The greatest legacy of id, is inventing the first person shooter, and things like mouse look" um. That was Bungie.

"The next major step was using the mouse to control the free look. Marathon by Bungie, released in December 1994 for the Apple Macintosh"

But yea, apart from that I mostly agree with you. I find myself liking smaller games by smaller teams a LOT more than most current AAA titles. And I'd love to see "an engine based on Raytracing, Voxels, particles, Signed Distance fields, vorenoi patterns, or something else we haven't seen.". But sadly the way Carmack is going thats going to be 12 years away. The only people really using more experimental tech like SDFs is the Demoscene. :/

I don't see why you think artists are pushing for more realistic gameplay though. I don't get that. I also don't see why you don't think games are a 'Story medium'. I'd say they are. A very different type of story, but a story nevertheless. "The greatest stories created by id, was not something written, but something that emerges in gameplay.". Exactly. But its still a story no? :)

Posted by troll Sat, October 15, 2011 04:02:21

Man Love could use some better art direction I'm sure a couple of artists could really make this thing shine Trololololooo

Posted by Aaron Hunter Sat, October 15, 2011 01:20:19

While I agree with much of what you said, I find the assertions that games are about mechanics rather than stories or art to be somewhat erroneous. Games are, as a medium flexible, but they are about - in varying amounts - stories, art and mechanics. I agree that technology is key, but technology without content is an engine - not a game. Furthermore, programmers do not provide feedback and mechanics in a vacuum - they model and implement the work of designers. Feedback, player interaction, etcetera are in the domain of game design - level design is a subdivision of that discipline. Game designers study movement patterns or suggest methods of player feedback, programmers study four loops and suggest levels of rendering shaders.

Moving on to engage with what is correct in your article, because there is a lot there, I think that smaller teams with more focus producing more games in shorter amounts of time at id is an excellent suggestion. A coder centric team can push the envelope in pure engine mechanics and technical spec, a designer centric team can push game mechanics/feedback/level design, and an art/writing centric team can push immersion with visuals/audio or a story. Each team can deliver smaller, more extreme experimental titles, and then maybe they can all get together and build another full game.

Posted by MaxOfS2D Sat, October 15, 2011 00:58:25

Pretty sure that John Carmack wasn't involved in Rage more than with "engine programming" — as in, he didn't make any significant design choices.