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John Carmack's QuakeCon Keynote

All the highlights. Voxelising is the future, you know.

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Image credit: Eurogamer

John Carmack delivered his annual QuakeCon sermon to devoted id Software worshippers in Texas tonight. Following a few announcements and brief trailers of Rage and Wolfenstein, introduced by CEO Todd Hollenshead, Carmack took the microphone and (after a while) a seat and rambled absorbingly about everything from mobile games and in-game ads to his admiration from Nintendo and his thoughts on the rest of this console generation. Here are few hastily transcribed highlights.

On making Wolf RPG suitable for mobiles

"I hope that Apple winds up scaring the rest of the carrier groups and handheld developers into adopting some of the progressive things that Apple's got there. I can't say I've got really high hopes for that. It's really frustrating dealing with a lot of it. As you may have noticed from the trailer, there's a distinct lack of actual Nazis or Hitler or any of that in the Wolf RPG, because T-Mobile and whoever just get all upset and irritated about such things that might upset their customers, and that is frustrating - it's like very old-days Nintendo. I think Nintendo grew up out of that kind of nanny protectionism sort of thing, and we can hope that the iPhone sends a wake-up signal and the other carriers will start thinking of relaxing some of the limits." [Carmack later says he hopes Wolf RPG will be out on every mobile platform this year.]

On how mobile could be the biggest platform

"iPhone is obviously significant but it's not going to take over the world. There's not going to be a billion iPhones going out there in China and India and all that. The other carriers and the other platforms are still important. When you look at the numbers there, there could wind up being more people playing games on the mobile phone platforms than on all the other platforms put together when you do wind up finding a good commercial infrastructure and hand-me-down hardware going into massive markets like China and India, so we still care about a lot of things there." [Carmack also says he will "at least be looking at" Google's Android mobile OS.]

On why it's "Quake Live" and not "Quake Zero"

We would have changed the name to Quake Get Indoors Before It Rains.

"Last year here we announced Quake Zero. This was an idea that had been born mere weeks before QuakeCon. Here we were being a little haphazard about it and I get up and I talk about it and some domain-squatter goes and grabs some of the internet names. They offered us a considered buyout option for it, but we just decided, 'heck, we're only a month into the development of this, we're just going to change the name and avoid paying the little blackmailers'." [Massive cheers obscured his next comment.]

On "the hubris of game developers"

"It's almost good to take some of these little moments of humility where...we were thinking it was going to be a six-month development project, and the gaming side of it really was, but the hubris of game developers! We were like, 'ah this web development stuff can't be all that tough' and that was the thing that really has been the driving factor on the project - making sure of all the crap that web developers know about like making it work on all the different platforms and OS versions. We're working our way through that and have brought in some people with that experience." [Id plans to open the Quake Live beta up to 100-200,000 people "over the next month or so", project lead Marty Stratton said elsewhere in the QuakeCon conference.]

On why Quake Live isn't a "fifty-dollar boxed game"

"Quake Live is really special for me in that [Quake 3 Arena] was always my favourite game at id. I liked the purity of the game. And it's unfortunately true that you just can't do a fifty-dollar boxed game that's that pure. For sensible reasons - that's a lot of money and people expect a 20, 30-million-dollar-plus development project when you go out and buy a brand new boxed game. That's just the reality of what the media-heavy, triple-A title market is - and we're pushing that with Rage and with Doom, but it's a little bit saddening when you have to do everything and the kitchen sink because it's expected, even if it's not exactly what the game is fundamentally about. And Quake Arena was always very pure - it is a tournament, deathmatch-oriented game, and to be able to take that back, polish it up some, and put you into an environment where we can make it - you can't go out and charge fifty bucks for something like this - but Quake is still a hell of a lot of fun."

On in-game advertising in Quake Live

Carmack reckons in-game ads actually suit Quake Live.

"I get asked a lot in interviews if we think in-game advertising is something that might be the wave of the future for PC gaming. And I always answer no, I don't think it's the wave of the future that's going to take off in lots of games, because there's lots of games it's just not appropriate for. We have said that if Quake Live is very successful the next thing we might look at [for a Quake Live-style game] is Wolfenstein Enemy Territory, which was always a more popular online game with more players than Quake Arena was, but it's hard to see how we do the same treatment with it. Like, you're running around fighting the Nazis and there's a billboard for Intel or something...

"But if you play Quake Live today and you look at it, the billboards...the set-up is really tastefully done, it feels right. The game was always about this arena for combat, and now it just has billboards, and looks stylish and cool, and while we talked about maybe at some point having some kind of a 'pro' mode where you pay extra, we wouldn't want to turn off advertising. I know that's popular for ad-supported stuff where you have an ad-supported mode, you pay something and the ads go away, but if you turn the ads off in Quake Live it will just look a lot worse - the levels would seem empty, the website would seem much more dead, and it just wouldn't be a positive thing, so that's not really an option we're even thinking about."

On the lack of mod support in Quake Live

"One of the big things that was unknown last year but we have a final decision on - and I'm sure it's not going to be a popular response, but there is no official mod support in Quake Live. As we surveyed all the things that we have to do and we want to do in terms of making the game as robust and seamless and problem-free, we just really can't support random mods. A lot of gameplay types that were popular have been integrated, but we do not have an ability to just say, 'here's the SDK for Quake Live, here's a mod, let me go start playing'." [...] "We're working with a lot of people on integrating things into Quake Live as official game styles and modifications, and we'll just have to see how that goes."

On what id won't do with the Quake Live concept

"Quake Live's not going to be a portal - I get asked that a lot. It's not going to become this place with lots of games where you can go and pick and choose. We may look at Enemy Territory, we may wind up supporting Doom in some way, but they will be separate and distinct projects. We're not trying to make a new casual gaming destination or something like that."