As many of you undoubtedly know, John Carmack recently gave his address at QuakeCon 2011. Not surprisingly, most of his talk focused on Rage, thought not quite in the way once might expect. Overall, Carmack's address was one of the more interesting ones I've seen during my brief stint here on Gaia. Rather than outright plugging the game - waxing poetic about how this will be the greatest visual feast since god invented sunlight - the address gives an interesting peek into the world of game design. Rather than succumbing to this rather obnoxious tactic, we get a frank discussion on the state of the game - in particular, highlighting the problems that have plagued Rage during the course of its development.
Read on after the jump!
Carmack explains the difficulty of resource allocation for illustrating the intricacies of the game Evidently, the PS3 has been the most problematic of all (Rage will also be released for Xbox 360 and PC), as its OS takes up a good deal of memory that could otherwise be used for gameplay. As the MegaTextures - the the technique of using a massive file, rather than scores of smaller files, for maps - work best on a hard drive, constantly streaming data can be a tall order, with Blu-Ray being the worst offender. To counter this, consoles will keep a cache of data in the system's memory after it has been streamed from the disc. "It'll be nice when no longer have that little physical element that we have to be scheduling for and working around," he said. Overall, despite the hurdles that have needed to be overcome, coupled with the games exceptionally long development cycle, the team behind Rage has "hit everything we set out to do with the game."
While the id stands firmly behind PCs, he does express some difficulty with their resource management. Mainly, this has to do with the memory architecture of computers; while they offer the potential for more raw power - PCs with high-end graphics cards having "at least ten times" as much - the simplicity of their console counterparts and the uniformity of their design can make life easier for programmers.
So if you're planning to play Rage on a console, which should you choose? The Carmack suggests the 360, assuming you're willing to go through the bother of a full data install. While the PS3's partial installation saves time, Xbox's "all or nothing" data install offers the quickest accessibility for textures. Apparently id and Bethesda are in negotiations with Sony as to how much data Rage will be allowed to install on the hard drive - especially important files are being allocated to the data install - but regardless, PS3 owners will have to come to bear with the limitations of optical media. Overall, graphics issues aren't quite as much of an issue on PC - video settings can be tweaked to accommodate different hardware capabilities - but on the consoles, it goes without saying that having the proper settings is a must. All that said, graphics aren't the main thrust of Rage's visual experience. Though graphics still matter, and though there were certain design choices that could have given the visuals that extra bit of flair, "I'd rather have twice the framerate." Honestly, I much prefer this attitude. One of my pet annoyances with my PSP, with regard to
both the Prince of Persia ports one or two titles that shall remain nameless, is that the framerate is so dismal that it's a constant distraction. I'm all for strikingly gorgeous visuals, but in the end, I'd rather have a game that runs well.
I'm not much for this whole "fanboy" business, but I do have quite a soft spot for all things id. My youth was peppered with mid-day bike rides down to the local Radio Shack, playing Wolfenstein 3D on their display computer (I'm sure the staff was thrilled); Doom served as the forerunner to my love of survival horror, and I spent far too many nights fragging and being fragged on Quake multiplayer. While the genre has evolved, latter-day FPS games owe a great debt to Carmack and his cohorts for creating titles that, though primitive today's standards, were incredibly immersive at the time - and for those of us who harbor fond memories of late school night battling Cyberdemons, still strike a certain nostalgic chord.