Interviews// id Software on Doom 3 BFG

Posted 22 Aug 2012 22:30 by
Games: Doom 3 BFG Edition
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 I?ve said this before - like a real labour of love. It?s 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. We?ve 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 it?s 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. There?s 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, ?Why did we do this? This is not fun. Fix that!? It?s 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 you?d be surprised how much of a difference our small changes made. We upped the player speed and the ammo, and immediately there?s 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 didn?t change the fundamental AI system, or the quest system or anything. That stuff is still there. I?d 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 that?s been improved. It?s what Doom 3 should have been... but better, because we fixed the whole flashlight thing.

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

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

SPOnG: That?s 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 ?100% Uncut?. How do you feel about how censorship has progressed over the years?

Tim Willits: Well, I?ve been in the industry for 18 years, and I?ve 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 we?ve 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. They?re not out to do anything to society.

E3 2012
E3 2012
And it?s been much easier lately. Working with Bethesda?s been really nice. Especially in Germany. We?ve had a very good relationship with the USK, and we?ve been able to work with them - RAGE was uncut, Doom was effectively unbanned... that?s come from our close relationship with Bethesda. So I think we?re trending towards being appreciated like movies and other forms of art.

Moving forward, I think we?ll have a... I don?t 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, we?ll 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 - they?re playing with people all over the world. They?re solving problems with people in Asia, Europe, Middle East... and they?re 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, it?s 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 there?s also Ouya, the Android based platform.

Tim Willits: You know what?s funny, is that most people have asked me to respond to Gabe Newell?s Windows 8 comment [about how it will be a nightmare for developers - Ed], but I haven?t actually touched it at all, because I?m 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. There?s the micro-transactions or the free-to-play model - which is kind of an oxymoron because they?re not actually free... they cost money too [laughs].

There?s 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, it?s 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, that?s only on the PC - that?s pretty cool. So there are ways that developers can do well on the PC. For us, we?re definitely the multi-platform business paradigm, we go for all the systems. We think that?s where we can succeed. But it?s interesting to see how the PC market is evolving.

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

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

SPOnG: You?re 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 you?ll have to look at what John said.

SPOnG: He also apologised for RAGE, didn?t he?

Tim Willits: Well, that was John?s opinion. He said it ended abruptly. But, I don?t remember him ever mentioning that during development. I guess hindsight?s 20/20 [laughs]. But yeah, John?s welcome to his opinion. I don?t necessarily agree with him, but that?s 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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