It was a warm night out on the 14th of September when id Software took to the stage at the Sydney Opera House. The intention of their visit? A look at the “past, present and future of gaming.”
The presentation was delivered by Tim Willits, who is perhaps best known for his work as the lead designer for Doom 3. At the time of writing, Willits is leading the development team on id Software’s latest title, an original IP known as RAGE. Powered by id Software’s new engine and promising a marriage of the RPG, racing and FPS genres the game has sparked a fair amount of excitement.
In light of the hype RAGE has generated, it is easy to forget the significance of titles the developer has created in the past. Eager to remind the audience, the night kicked off with a video presentation showcasing id Software’s most significant titles in a chronological montage overlaid with critical praise from a variety of outlets. Titles such as Commander Keen, Wolfenstein, Doom, and Quake drew loud responses from the audience who seemed eager to cheer on their old favourites.
Although the presentation was obviously centered on creations from id Software, walking through the past certainly served as a reminder at how far the video game industry as a whole has evolved, and not just in appearance. Games have steadily become more complex and mature as their player base grew up with them.
Willits spoke fondly of the early days of id Software and was happy to share the story of how he came to work with the developer, illustrating his tales with hilarious photos from the 90s featuring himself and John Carmack, with most at the expense of the latter’s dignity (Carmack was not present).
Laughs aside, it was evident that the studio’s decision making was quite revolutionary and daring at the time. Willits spoke with fervor about the cultural impact throughout the years that various id Software titles have had on both the industry and by extension, game culture itself.
The first title he covered was Wolfenstein 3D, which he alleged was important in its role as the first true First Person Shooter which fully immersed the player in the game.
The following title was undoubtedly one that struck close to the hearts of many – the DOOM series. A game that was quite shocking with its gory art style and occult themes, DOOM was a standout during what was described by Willits as the “Nintendo age” of mushrooms and princesses. Much to his chagrin, he also expressed regret at not trademarking the term “deathmatch”.
Quake was the first 3D game with full mod support and played a strong role in the competitive gaming scene. Willits revealed that the idea of having dedicated servers for multiplayer was something that was initially met with negative reaction from the team. It was believed that nobody would want to utilise such tools for multiplayer. Equally viewed as useless was the creation of maps solely for multiplayer matches (such things were unheard of at the time).
With RAGE the new focus of attention of id Software, one can only really wonder what direction the developer will take players next. Touting a brand new graphics engine, RAGE was certainly visually exciting as Willits proceeded to play through a selected mission for the audience. Without revealing too much, the game presents the player with an array of weapons to take on the responsive AI in gorgeously textured environments. With such hype already backing the title it still remains to be seen whether critical response will be favourable.
Willits also kindly clarified the proper way of pronouncing id Software. Despite popular use, the articulation “eye-dee” is actually incorrect and the name should be pronounced phonetically; id.
The night was eye-opening in its reminder that as players, we take so much for granted. Decisions made by developers in the past have paved the way for the industry. Adult themes, dedicated servers and the competitive gaming scene would not have been possible today without the risks that were taken then.