The way to get past that, Willits says, is to simply embrace it. "There's some small suspension tweaks, and some small physics tweaks that we do when you race and when you're in the wasteland, because you're in the same car. We'll have race-cars, but then you have your own car you can bring onto the track, but we do tweak things up a little bit because we found that it's really hard to do combat and racing with the same physics type. Suspension, stiffness, traction control, etc." He suddenly looks very tired. "No genre developer should ever look at another genre and say 'that's easy', because they're all hard."
It also raises the question of controls. PC gamers traditionally have the better of first-person gunplay, while console gamers do better with racing. But driving one way and shooting the other doesn't lend itself to pads. "We've learned a lot from Enemy Territory. So the controller scheme, and the driving scheme for...because for instance, keyboard is yes and no, and controller's analogue. That's a big deal," he says. "So there's definitely some issues with that. It's stuff you never think about until you sit down and try to figure it out. But actually there are some pieces of the game [right now] that you need to use the controller to complete because Robert hasn't hooked up the UI for that, so even if you run it on PC there are certain things you can't do, because we haven't made a button for it yet [laughs]."
If it doesn't sound like they're far along in development, they're not. "To tell you the truth, we haven't made the main character yet." But while it's only been in development about 18 months, according to John Carmack, they're definitely in production. "We have a lot of the settings, and a lot of the maps and the systems in the wastelands constructed and stuff, but you know how long it takes to do stuff," says Willits.
Something that obviously attracted interest during Carmack's keynote speech the other night was chatter about co-operative driving missions - having a gunner on top, and so forth. That and the idea of multiplayer races (Carmack said that he didn't expect the game to feature a "standard" sort of deathmatch, incidentally). The co-op stuff won't be drop-in or full-length though. "No. Because, this is what we found out with games that we play: games that take you 10, 12, 15 hours to play, I can't even find a friend for that long. But there's some missions that you need to find someone to play with." So how does that work? "You have your co-op kind of profile that's connected to your single-player profile, and when you do those missions co-op, the rewards that you get can go to your single-player profile. In order to really complete the game as a single player, you're going to have to find some buds."
That's most of what Willits could say, although he does delight in telling us that their in-game comet is a real one, and it's going to come dangerously close to Earth in 2029. Hopefully the game will be out before then. Willits has a lot of enthusiasm for it, and seems positive he'll be able to maintain that among the 26-man team. "One of the tools we've used to do that is...we have these milestones internally. When we work on a system like the racing, we actually got that built to a prototype state and had our own little internal Rage Cup, where for one day we froze the code, you had to get on there, you had to compete in that race, do those laps, and the person with the best time won the Cup. And we have a trophy - a real trophy - and they get that trophy on their desk until the next Cup."
Inevitably the release date is "when it's done", but don't expect when it's done to be next year. Carmack mentioned the idea of a four-year dev-cycle in passing during his keynote, and if they've done 18 months now, that'd put it at Christmas 2009 probably at the earliest. We can imagine that being a tough wait for id fans to endure - after all, Doom 3 came out in August 2004. To round out what we know, you'll be able to buy it on two DVDs or one Blu-ray, and it's coming to PC, Mac, PS3 and 360, with no cross-format multiplay on the cards. We're told to expect more reveals in the coming weeks and months, and then of course there's QuakeCon 2008, same time next year.
One final thing, though - reaction to the announcement has been uniformly positive at QuakeCon, but mixed in the wider world. To my mind, the interesting things about the way Willits describes it are that id's traditional strengths have been in things like the movement model, the physicality of the world, and their articulation of the game world itself, and, given the design, those are exactly the things that Rage's success seems like it'd derive from.
Coupled to a new engine whose virtualisation of textures tries to get devs out of the problematic texture memory ceiling that forces them to deface their own graphics to ensure fluency, instead allowing them to theoretically add more and more detail for as long as they want, and there's a sense that the more inferential reasoning you apply to what they're saying, the more there is to be positive about. It's an optimistic view, certainly, but it's hard not to find the QuakeCon enthusiasm infectious, and it probably erodes your objectivity. Either that or it's the diet of Bawls, Heineken and bagels under the heat of a thousand suns. Forgive me. And if you have any other questions, post them in the comments and I'll try and answer them.
Rage is due out on PC, Mac, PS3 and 360, and we reckon end of 2009 or later. Pop over to Eurogamer.tv for the first trailer.