updated 09:45 pm EDT, Wed June 8, 2011
We chat with id's Rafael Brown at E3 2011
Legendary first-person shooter developer id Software was at the Bethesda booth for E3 2011 as part of its tie in with ZeniMax, and we got a chance to talk to the company's Rafael Brown, who handles much of the company's mobile work. He discussed the company's current hesitation on Android and gave us brief hints about iPad 2 and iPhone 5 plans, the Sony PSVita, and even hints of a Mac port of Rage.
Extrapolating from what co-founder John Carmack said, Brown reiterated the view that Android was "big but fragmented" and that there were several not just technical but also economic issues keeping id from leaping in immediately. Along with having to contend with multiple hardware designs, even simple things such as graphics rendering could be complex; NVIDIA's DXT texture compression on a Tegra 2 was very different than the tile-based rendering on a PowerVR chip, for example.
There was also the question of being paid. id wanted to make sure it got paid for apps and that gamers didn't simply pirate the app. He agreed with the view that Android skewed much more to free apps where paid apps like those id wants to offer are the dominant approach on iOS.
The company did have test devices and was even working with partners, he said, but it would be preferable to work on "one concrete platform" where id knew what to expect from the hardware and software. NVIDIA has been offering help on the Tegra 2 but has so far been turned down. One long-term possibility was bringing games to just a handful of devices to "test the waters," though he didn't confirm any definite plans.
On the the existing iOS platform, Brown hinted that much more was coming soon. A more full-fledged Rage game was already known to be coming to Apple's devices, but he mentioned that "incredible stuff" would be coming to the iPad 2 and the iPhone 5, which he believed shared the same architecture. Brown wouldn't detail the upcoming game, but he did hint that economy and inventory systems were likely to come in, as was better artificial intelligence. The gyroscope might get used more and would help remove clutter from the heads-up display on screen, where id has used traditional controls.
id "learned a ton" from Rage HD in designing its next project, he said, including even basic things like taking the scoring system from the iOS game and putting it into multiplayer on the console edition. Carmack's emphasis on moving to smaller teams was said to be paying off as it led to concepts finding their way into real projects rather than design documents. More about the future game was likely to be mentioned at QuakeCon this summer and the final game released roughly in the timeframe of the TV- and PC-oriented versions in the fall.
id has also looked at going to traditional mobile gaming handhelds and has discussed the prospect of a PSVita port with Sony, although nothing had solidified. Because of the ARM Cortex-A9 chip, the new Sony system shared much in common with the iPad 2 and iPhone 5, with the main difference being the number of cores. Carmack had mentioned that the full Rage game was very plausible on the Vita and that the main limitation was the texture density, which at the size of a Blu-ray would require an extra-large and very expensive game card.
We wrapped up with Brown talking about the prospects of a Mac port of Rage. He mentioned that id hadn't announced anything but gave strong hints that a version of the wasteland action game was in development. id had had some kernel issues with Snow Leopard but was looking into Lion. Not much of an incentive had existend in the past since many of the fast Macs capable of handling an id game were already running Boot Camp, though Steam was a new incentive as it would let a gamer have both Mac and Windows versions through Steam Play if it was used.
More than anything, Brown said, was id's reputation for having Mac versions of its games on the market, which he suggested was a clue as to the future of Rage. "id has a long history with Apple," he said.