Interviews// id Software on Doom 3 BFG

Posted 22 Aug 2012 22:30 by
Doom 3. It's considered the black sheep of the classic first-person shooter franchise. And now, some seven years on, id Software is going back to fix what was wrong with the hellish blaster.

And with Doom 3 BFG Edition, it's the little things that make all the difference. Creative director Tim Willits tells me that the majority of issues came from simple ammo, input and speed gripes. So id has addressed that to come back with a much prettier game.

Here's what he had to say on censorship, the PC industry and more...

SPOnG: How does it feel to come back to something like this after so many years?

Tim Willits: You know what, it feels - and Iíve said this before - like a real labour of love. Itís been a heck of a load of fun working with the guys again on this, because our goal was to do more than just stick all the games into a box. We could have easily just re-released all the games on the Xbox 360 and walked away, but we actually tried to make the experience better.

So we went through every single level of Doom 3 - as well as Resurrection of Evil - and if we spotted any areas where the combat had been frustrating, we fixed it. Weíve adjusted player speed, how the flashlight works, ammo, lighting, the control scheme, autosave... The music and sound effects have all been changed as well. We really tried to make a much better product, rather than just a re-release.

E3 2012
E3 2012
One thing we added and changed, for example, which the techy guys will love... John [Carmack] dug deep into the input controls for this game. In fact, we brought that system over from RAGE - the input control for that game was really well received. People said it felt responsive and fast. So John looked at that code, and was very excited to be able to shave 16 more milliseconds on the input response from when you push a button on the controller in Doom 3.

So you know itís an important project when John Carmack has shaved 16ms off of a single button press. The input control system in Doom 3 BFG is more responsive than it was in RAGE.

SPOnG: So you took elements from your past games.

Tim Willits: Yeah, and sometimes going back through the game and finding what to fix was actually quite humorous. Thereís one level in Doom 3 where there you walk up these steps, but then the steps fall away and enemies spawn right there in front of you. it was very frustrating. We all sat down and thought, ĎWhy did we do this? This is not fun. Fix that!í Itís been very interesting.

E3 2012
E3 2012
SPOnG: What changes have you made to the core game itself? Did you make any drastic changes to the code, or did you want to keep it pure?

Tim Willits: We wanted to keep it pure, but youíd be surprised how much of a difference our small changes made. We upped the player speed and the ammo, and immediately thereís a huge ripple effect.

The reason behind these changes were... we pushed it more towards an action-oriented game than go all-out on survival horror. Although Doom 3 was never really a horror game, a lot of the time you had no ammo and you ended up having to hit enemies with your flashlight. That was a bit scary.

We wanted to streamline the action to make it a little bit more enjoyable. But yeah, we didnít change the fundamental AI system, or the quest system or anything. That stuff is still there. Iíd also like to mention, one thing that your readers should understand - the original Xbox 1 version of Doom 3 was a trimmed down, not-as-fun version of Doom 3. This is not that game. This is the PC game thatís been improved. Itís what Doom 3 should have been... but better, because we fixed the whole flashlight thing.

E3 2012
E3 2012
SPOnG: I assume, since weíre in Germany, this is 100% uncut?

Tim Willits: Yes. And, we can now release Doom 1 and 2 in Germany too.

SPOnG: Thatís right, I remember the previous Doom games had a lot of problems...

Tim Willits: They had a lot of problems in Germany. It was the Wolfenstein stuff. That secret room. Which is... frankly... the game never needed it. That was the whole problem, so that was easy to fix. Honestly, nobody will miss the secret Wolfenstein level of Doom.

SPOnG: You see a lot of games advertisements in Cologne, proudly stating that their games are ď100% UncutĒ. How do you feel about how censorship has progressed over the years?

Tim Willits: Well, Iíve been in the industry for 18 years, and Iíve seen the industry develop and grow. As everyone knows, id Software has definitely been in the spotlight for that sort of thing - unwittingly, I might add. But weíve had some big successes. Like the US Supreme Court decision that video games are art forms, which helps tremendously.

We found that the ratings boards in a number of countries are much more understanding of the games and the impact that games have. And I think as games are becoming more accepted socially and more massmarket, these organisations are seeing the reality of what they are. They are art forms. Theyíre not out to do anything to society.

E3 2012
E3 2012
And itís been much easier lately. Working with Bethesdaís been really nice. Especially in Germany. Weíve had a very good relationship with the USK, and weíve been able to work with them - RAGE was uncut, Doom was effectively unbanned... thatís come from our close relationship with Bethesda. So I think weíre trending towards being appreciated like movies and other forms of art.

Moving forward, I think weíll have a... I donít want to say an easier time, but the agencies will be more understanding, certainly. The US President - his daughters have a Wii in the White House. Someday, weíll have a President who has a Quake nickname or a Prestige on Modern Warfare or something.

And this is a little lofty, but I think video games have really made the world a smaller place. The guys playing games now - the young people growing up playing games - theyíre playing with people all over the world. Theyíre solving problems with people in Asia, Europe, Middle East... and theyíre realising that they solve problems exactly the same way.

I think that when these gamers become the leaders of the world, it should be a safer, better place. Our culture in games and social media, itís making the world a unified and much smaller place.

E3 2012
E3 2012
SPOnG: I wanted to get your thoughts on how the PC landscape is changing. Everything seems to be moving onto browser, and there are concerns with traditional operating systems, like Windows 8. And thereís also Ouya, the Android based platform.

Tim Willits: You know whatís funny, is that most people have asked me to respond to Gabe Newellís Windows 8 comment [about how it will be a nightmare for developers - Ed], but I havenít actually touched it at all, because Iím the only developer at id that has a Mac as a primary work station!

The PC market is very interesting, because it allows developers to explore other avenues of business. Thereís the micro-transactions or the free-to-play model - which is kind of an oxymoron because theyíre not actually free... they cost money too [laughs].

Thereís also subscription-based and the social, ad-driven based games. Quake Live takes a subscription and ad-driven approach. So you definitely, as a developer, have a lot of opportunity to explore different business models.

And you have a lot of different operating systems, which also causes problems. On top of driver issues, as we all know from ATI and RAGE. But, the PC is still a wonderful platform. I still wish, after 20 years, that it would be more unified! Now we have mobiles, web-based and so many different things! But it is expanding, itís still a great platform, we will still continue to support it.

John still wants to open source engines if he can. The VR Oculus Rift peripheral, thatís only on the PC - thatís pretty cool. So there are ways that developers can do well on the PC. For us, weíre definitely the multi-platform business paradigm, we go for all the systems. We think thatís where we can succeed. But itís interesting to see how the PC market is evolving.

E3 2012
E3 2012
SPOnG: Do you see yourself supporting Ouya?

Tim Willits: Youíd have to ask John that question. That is definitely a John question [laughs]!

SPOnG: Youíre working on Doom 3 BFG, Doom 1 and 2 have been unbanned... are you gearing up for Doom 4?

Tim Willits:[Laughs] I cannot talk about future titles! I know John mentioned a few things at Quakecon, so youíll have to look at what John said.

SPOnG: He also apologised for RAGE, didnít he?

Tim Willits: Well, that was Johnís opinion. He said it ended abruptly. But, I donít remember him ever mentioning that during development. I guess hindsightís 20/20 [laughs]. But yeah, Johnís welcome to his opinion. I donít necessarily agree with him, but thatís just the way it is.

SPOnG: Thanks a lot for your time.

Tim Willits: No problem!
Games: Doom 3 BFG Edition


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