Digital Foundry: Rage isn't just a shooter, you've got vehicles, you've got driving. This is a new discipline for you. What was your approach?
Tim Willits: Lots of prototyping and iteration, especially on the vehicles component. Let me tell you, that was way more difficult than we thought it was and I have way more respect now for the guys that make those racing games. But again, we tried to play everything, but really it's all about working on a system... we would just go and mess with all the variables, changing the physics until it felt right.
We'd drive around little square boxes to start with until those evolved into real cars. It's was really tricky, but it feels good now. It's well integrated into the game, we don't force you to do it more than you need to. Yeah, not to toot my own horn but I think I did really well integrating that concept into the game.
Digital Foundry: What about the physics simulation? How realistic is it?
Tim Willits: It's all about what feels good. We actually started down the reality path and that didn't feel good. Whenever we hit the crossroads between reality and fun, we'd always take the fun route. For instance, when you go off a jump, you can air-control your car which of course is not realistic but it's way more fun. When you drive around you want to feel like Bo Duke driving around in the General Lee, you don't want to feel like a London taxi driver.
It works well for the game which is a bit over the top, like our characters, like our gunplay, it's well integrated. There's a journalist who wrote an article about five things he liked about Rage and number one was the "jackass vehicle physics". I was like... "Perfect!" One journalist said to me that he played Rage and he spent more time racing there than he did in the driving game he had to review. He wouldn't tell me the game!
One of the cool things about Rage: in a normal driving game, you choose your favourite car and you go race. You do the same thing in Rage, you win, you upgrade your car and on the wasteland you're a badass and now you can go on a mission, you can blow these bad guys up. You have that connection. You have that reward and you use it in a fun, meaningful way throughout the campaign. That connection and those rewards for that side of the game really pay off well.
Digital Foundry: Going back to the virtual texturing for a moment, you've got to support hard drives, you've got to support optical drives, you've got to support systems that don't have any hard drives at all...
Tim Willits: Which is tricky, I can tell you. I recommend that everyone buys a hard drive. Buy them used on eBay!
Digital Foundry: There have been stories that the PS3 version has an 8GB install...
Tim Willits: Yes, that's absolutely true.
Digital Foundry: What are the elements that you require to install? Is it just that the Blu-ray drive isn't fast enough?
Tim Willits: Sony was great. Kudos to Sony for letting us do that. They don't allow every game to do that. So definitely, hats off. What we were able to do is install all the textures to the highest level. What is nice about the PS3 platform is that it's just one platform. Everyone has one Blu-ray drive, one hard drive, it's all the same. Some of the other systems you have... should I install it on my 360? Should I not install it? So yes, it's very nice.
Digital Foundry: Did you settle on two or three discs in the end for 360?
Tim Willits: Three discs. We recommend installing the game to the hard drive, but you don't need to install all three discs. If you don't have the space available on your hard drive, don't stress. Install the first disc, the first chapter, the first half of the game, then when you're done, uninstall and install disc two.
Digital Foundry: So there's a specific cut-off in the story? There's no need to disc-swap after passing that point?
Tim Willits: No, you can go back if you want to but there's really no reason to. You don't really need to install the multiplayer disc if you're really tight on hard disk space.
Digital Foundry: We've seen games with huge open worlds before and I think that Fuel was one where everything was procedurally generated. The world was all derived from some kind of huge mathematical equation. But Rage's world is hand-built, right?
Tim Willits: It's all hand-built. There's nothing procedural in the world. Every single texture is placed on there by a person. Every bush, every bit of rust is put on. We have this really complex back-end Cloud system that our Stampers use to generate all the lighting and the look and stuff. Stampers are the guys who put the finishing touches onto the environments. One of our guys had checked off 323 cores from our Cloud to make a stamp on our world.
Digital Foundry: Going forward, we know you're working on Doom 4. In the past we've had Carmack talk about how id tech 5 can scale between generations. We're approaching a stage of transition. Everyone's talking about the next E3, the next Xbox. Are you prepared for that?
Tim Willits: That's the great thing. We are prepared for that.
Digital Foundry: So you can pull the trigger on Doom 4 for the next-gen if you need it?
Tim Willits: Yep. Easy-peasy. Seriously. The engine scales up... and down, for mobile. John, he hates for me to put words in his mouth, but he did say this: we'll be using parts of this tech for decades.