The 2007 release of Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
)is without a doubt going to be one of the biggest gaming events of the year. Not just a big ‘multiplayer gaming’ release, but a huge
step forward in the mass market’s acceptance of and desire to play such games. We caught up with Paul Wedgwood at the developer Splash Damage recently for a nice long chat about how and why ETQW
is set to usher in a new era of multiplayer, online gaming. Here’s the third and final part of that fascinating interview.
Is it fair to say that you’re now at the stage with the game where pretty much all of your effort and resources are directed towards testing and balancing it?
Yeah. The game is mostly feature complete and near-final on art. We’re almost at what you’d call a kind of ‘true beta’… and so the focus now is on performance, optimisations, fixing the kind of final bugs and getting all of the balance feedback on all of the attributes and values of the game from the various people that are play-testing.
So – thousand-pound stirling question – can you give us an idea when it is going to go Gold?
Well, we definitely want to do it in 2007. That’s this 2007!
Beyond that it really is a “when it’s done” game. I mean, we have ideas, always, as to when we hope or expect to finish things. But this idea of an ‘arbitrary deadline’ and at that point the game ships, no matter what state it’s in - that’s kind of what lots of publishers do. And of course there are lots of developers that have to succumb to that. But id Software does it differently. They’ve always had a “when it’s done” ethic and it works okay for them.
Would it not be fair to say that it’s kind of what 99% of publishers do?
They probably do, but they just don’t admit it, and they keep changing release dates. id don’t do that quite as often. They’ll target a year. Then if they don’t make it they’ll push it to the next year. But in my experience of id Software they just don’t make up random release dates then constantly change them – you know “Oh, it’s out on 31 March… oh no, out April… oh no, May…” That just doesn’t happen! [laughs]
Vendors, of course, speculate all the time, but id Software aren’t out there telling people “it’s gonna be done, it’s gonna be done”…. Then getting themselves in trouble with huge launch parties being organised a year before the game’s actually ready… as some people have done!
It must give the fans a little bit more respect for you too, I suppose.
Yeah, well I do think that id… certainly on games like Doom 3
, Quake 3
and whatnot… that the quality level is clearly there at the point of release. There are certainly plenty of games that come out that are clearly rushed, and need to be patched like crazy after release and that can be hugely frustrating for people.
I heard the story – I don’t know if its true – of Gabe Newell from Valve Software going to the ATI-sponsored $2-million launch party for Half Life 2
on Alcatraz Island… when the game was a good year away from completion. And, you know, had this launch party organised and couldn’t back out of it. There are terrible pressures and things that a lot of people face.
But as a developer, the key there is – it may be true that other publishers work that way – but the developer isn’t the one that writes the schedule, sets the scope and tells the publisher when they are going to be done. That’s probably the difference.
With us, we actually write the schedule, we tell them what we’re working on, it’s all worked out with id Software, and we tell them when we’re going to be finished. It isn’t that the publisher is telling us when we’re going to be done, which definitely is
the case with lots of developers.