QuakeCon 2007 Conference Report

Rage, Wolf movie, Quake Zero, and two hours of John Carmack.

id Software finally unveiled its new game, Rage, and made a number of crowd-pleasing announcements during a densely packed QuakeCon press conference led by CEO Todd Hollenshead and the show's keynote address from John Carmack.

Rage, which is built on id Tech 5 and will be released for PC, PS3, Xbox 360 and Mac, blends first-person shooter elements and driving in what Carmack said would be a much brighter setting than a lot of id's previous titles.

No release date was announced, which is par for the course - id being well known for its "when it's done" mentality.

Equally of interest was the news that while one part of id works on Rage - a game so vast it will come on two DVDs or Blu-ray disc - a new, second development team is being created with an initial remit to create a browser-based version of Quake 3 Arena called Quake Zero.

Quake Zero will be completely free, funded by advertising. During his keynote, Carmack explained that the team making it would be built up gradually and eventually work on a fuller Quake Arena title built on id Tech 5.

If those were the biggest announcements, there were still plenty more headlines for the Texan developer to grab. Its games will now be available through Steam, Valve's digital distribution service, starting tonight. And not just some of them, but 24 archive titles that have been updated to run on modern operating systems - everything from Commander Keen to Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil.

Hollenshead, who whipped the crowd into a frenzy with almost every slide he clicked through, also revealed that Return to Castle Wolfenstein would become a major Hollywood film, written and directed by Roger Avary and produced by Samuel Hadida. Their respective credits include Pulp Fiction, The Rules of Attraction and, in videogame adaptation terms, Silent Hill and Resident Evil on Hadida's side, and Hollenshead described them as "a team that will be capable of making the movie come up to the level of quality we've always been able to achieve with the videogames".

Castle Wolfenstein, the game announced way back in October 2005 at a Microsoft press conference, featured only peripherally, with Hollenshead clarifying that Raven Software is developing the single-player aspect while Threewave Software handles multiplayer. The latter company is best known for Quake modification Threewave CTF, and this tidbit drew cheers of appreciation from id's die-hard fans, many of whom had queued for nearly 45 minutes to attend the product showcase.

Other announcements included a release date for Enemy Territory: Quake Wars (2nd October in the USA) and confirmation that a Quake title, Quake Arena Arcade, will be released on Xbox Live Arcade in future. Interestingly, Carmack later said that Microsoft seemed to be against retro projects for Live Arcade most recently, and that id had had to work harder than it did with Doom to convince the platform holder to host its new Arena title. He confessed to not really understand Microsoft's "strategic meanderings", but acknowledged that, as the biggest software company in the world, he was prepared to defer to their logic to some extent.

Prior to that though, the discussion of new products gave attendees a demonstration of Orcs & Elves on DS, as well as some information on its mobile forerunners like Doom RPG, which id announced has sold 1 million copies worldwide. Orcs & Elves DS is expected to be "available for the holiday season" according to Katherine Anna Kang of development partner Fountainhead Entertainment, who demoed the game to a receptive audience.

The press conference element of id's Friday showcase then concluded as Hollenshead made an impassioned claim for id Tech 5's relevance in a world of technology licensing perceived to be dominated - at least on PC and 360 - by the strength of Epic's Unreal Engine 3.

"There's another option out there," he declared, prior to introducing Carmack's keynote. "Because of the way the technology works, it is really platform agnostic, which means Mac, PC, 360, PS3, so you don't have to have console hate if you're a PC player because we're focusing on the console, and if you're a console owner you don't have to wish that your version was as good as the PC because the technology does all that stuff.

"So if you're a developer or a publisher that is considering a third-party licensing solution, and you don't take a very close look at id Tech 5 among the choices of what you consider, I really think you just don't understand what your job is and you must be in somebody's pocket - and all you guys in the press can write that down," he declared to rapturous applause from fans who, in fairness, probably didn't need much convincing.

Rage's video unveiling was used to segue into Carmack's seemingly unscripted keynote, which began with a discussion of the game's history. id had finished Doom, he said, and wanted to do something new. Initially this resulted in a project codenamed "Darkness" - a dark, serious survival-horror title set on an island "with magic and creepy monsters".

However, after a year of development id took the decision to reject Darkness. It wasn't going, Carmack said, "in a winning direction". At this stage they reflected on their love of "apocalyptic road war" films and ended up with the concept for Rage - half racer, half shooter.

What structure the event had then disappeared as Carmack, in t-shirt, jeans and trainers, moved into a wide-ranging, crowd-pleasing series of interlinked sermons that touched on an incredibly broad range of topics.

One area of focus was the "degrading" process of porting cherished projects from high-end platforms down the chain of lower-end hardware, handhelds and eventually mobile phones until they were "pale shadows of something that was great originally". Given the tens of millions of dollars it would cost to develop something like Rage, Carmack posited that an alternative approach - developing a half-million-dollar mobile title to found your IP and approach, and then moving onto other platforms, as id is evidently doing with Orcs & Elves' passage from mobile to DS - could be preferable. "Instead of porting down, it's porting up. It's wonderful...We took a game that was already fun and made it more fun."

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