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Despite New Owner, id Still Lives Or Dies By Their Engines 131

The Guardian has an article about id Software's status after being purchased by ZeniMax (Bethesda's parent company) not long ago. While id gained considerable financial stability out of the deal, it's clear that what Bethesda has to gain is access to top-of-the-line engine technology, which they've often needed to license. id's Todd Hollenshead said, "The videogames business is defined by technology, which is why guys like JC [John Carmack] are still so significant. Consumers may not be as in touch with the intricacies as they used to be, but you can still make significant, impactful change. We're confident Rage will be one of them..." He also mentions that "the PC market has receded in terms of significance," a sentiment evidenced by id's aggressive expansion into the iPhone games market.
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Despite New Owner, id Still Lives Or Dies By Their Engines

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  • If the PC market has "receded in terms of significance" it is due solely to developers abandoning the platform. If developers like id or Valve (with their recent Left 4 Dead 2 fiasco) would remember the platform that made them what they are, then the platform itself would still be doing just fine, thank you very much. PCs haven't changed. Developers have.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I don't get how you think id and Valve have forgotten the platform that made them big. Pretty much all of id's work lands on PC first, and Steam is a distribution platform for PC games.

    • by mlts ( 1038732 ) *

      I think the quote "receded in terms of significance" means that because consoles don't have the illusion of piracy problems that PCs do, and consoles can also bring a lot of additional revenue streams that are not present with PCs (like DRM-ed downloadable content), it means that more bucks on average can be made from the console gamer than the PC gamer.

      PCs are not going away anytime soon. In this economy, it becomes harder for someone to justify the cost of a console if they don't have one already, while

    • by ae1294 ( 1547521 )

      It's pretty clear to me what is going on.

      Someone who spends 300+ dollars for a console (which is nothing more than a propitiatory computer) are more likely to spend money on games for that platform and then turn around and buy the new platform in 2 years. They are already totally on board with the idea that they will have zero control and are willing to pay whatever you demand. People who play or did play computer games are much more likely to cause trouble and bitch.

      Some people do hack and mod the systems

    • Developers want to make games for whichever platforms sell. With hardcore PC gamers only wanting to play MMOs or FPS sequels, and casual PC gamers only playing browser games, then developers will concentrate on consoles and handhelds.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I agree with you, but i wouldnt toss Valve into the mix. Valve has been great on the PC. Steam while it still is a copy protection scheme, is still a pretty dam good distribution platform and a great gaming community. Yes its a form of DRM but they're pretty fair with the users and Steam doesn't hassle the user in any way really. Its very light on resources and it enhances the gaming community.

      Valve has also been incredible with Team Fortress 2. They've supported it quite well and Its far better than anythi

  • by G3ckoG33k ( 647276 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @03:34AM (#28578459)

    Thanks id Software, for the GPL of Doom/Quake. Right now it is a serious blessing! Thanks!

    • They've already made it clear that when the time is right they will GPL idtech5 (the rage engine, though ofc they never release the gamedata)

      • by Obyron ( 615547 )

        For reference, the engine is called id Tech 5, and it is being used for a game called Rage, amongst other things. The RAGE Engine is Rockstar's engine, which was used for GTA4, Midnight Club LA, and for the upcoming Max Payne sequel. Not replying to you specifically so much as all the people I've seen referring to id's "Rage Engine". It's going to get confusing...

  • by dstyle5 ( 702493 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @03:36AM (#28578471)
    "the PC market has receded in terms of significance,"

    While its true that PC gaming is sharing a larger and larger chunk of its gaming dollars with consoles, there is still money to be made on PCs IMO. For people like me I'll take mouse/keyboard over a console controller any day for FPS games. Perhaps id would make more money if their more recent PC games were actually good. Given their new found financial resources I hope id takes the time and creates something other than Doom X with shiny id Tech Y. Try adding some new, innovative game play in your next game and perhaps I might buy it.
    • None of the new games with "innovative" gameplay have been as good as the early offerings of id.

      • by MrHanky ( 141717 )

        True. And the great games within the genre weren't all that innovative; Half-Life and Half-Life 2 didn't "innovate" much on Doom/Quake, they improved on it with excellent level design and a mysterious setting, giving a sense of playing through a varied story instead of the repetitive "find the key card and shoot up yet more monsters" mechanics of other FPS games. The levels work more like tracks on a roller coaster than actual levels, which limits the freedom of the player but at the same time allows the de

        • by Korin43 ( 881732 )
          Unfortunately, when Half-Life came out, having a story actually WAS innovative.. And some companies still haven't caught on.
          • by MrHanky ( 141717 )

            The story of Half-Life is mostly ripped from Doom: "A portal to Hell/another dimension appears. There be monsters." System Shock [] is an earlier game that is much more story driven.

    • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @05:21AM (#28578837)

      It would seem from a number of ways of looking at it, that the PC is as large a market as any given console. It is the "4th console" as it were. As such that means the market is not at all insignificant. Part of the problem I think is that some publishers view it as "PC vs Console" where all consoles are unified in to one market, and the PC in a separate one. They then think that the PC market should be as big as the console market and bemoan that it isn't. That's just not a good way to look at it.

      Also some developers at least are showing a renewed interest in the PC. Capcom, for example, decided to bring Street Fighter 4 to the PC. It comes out next Tuesday. They had done some of the SF games on PC, but stopped after Alpha 2. However now they are trying again. Part of it may be because the Arcade version of the game is a Windows PC (it runs on Taito X2 hardware which is an XP embedded PC) but they also must see the PC market as worth the port, as they've already one Xbox 360 and PS3 ports.

      I do think you are on to something with the quality of iD's games. I have been very unimpressed. Quake 4 in particular was a real disappointment. However not only have their games disappointed me, but their engine has as well. That was traditionally their big thing. Their engine was the cutting edge.

      Well when Doom 3 came out, showing off iDTech 4, I was real underwhelmed. The "all real world light sources" were neat, but poorly done. Shadows were very dark and very harsh, owing to the fact light only bounced once in the engine. What's more, texture detail was substantially below what I was used to. Personally, I felt UT2004 (Unreal Engine 2) looked better over all. Not as many advanced features, but the graphics were more pleasing. Also Doom needed a beast of a system to do what it did, whereas UT2004 ran very well on moderate hardware.

      Also iDtech 4 hasn't advanced much at this point. It is still their top flight engine and Unreal Engine 3 totally blows it away. Thus far, they've had no good response.

      You can see it in the sales too. Currently there's 7 games that use iDTech 4, and over half of those are iD or Raven (who works closely with iD) games. UE3, which has been out for much less time, has near 100 games using it, including non-FPS games (such as the Last Remnant, an RPG).

      It seems like iD isn't making first flight engines, which would be ok if their games were great, but their games are also rather undifferentiated. That is not a good situation to be in. A mediocre game with amazing graphics can still sell well, and of course the engine can be licensed out for all kinds of stuff (maybe the game is just a tech demo more than anything). Likewise a great game can get by just fine with mediocre graphics. However being not so god at both isn't a real recipe for success, especially not if you are spending the money developing your own engine.

      We'll see what happens. I hope iD Tech 5 is awesome, but I worry. There really hasn't been anything out of them in terms of news or demos or the like since 2007. That is not a good sign to me. A lot changes in computers in 3 years, you'd think we'd see at least some more news about the status or demos or something. Any time a project is announced and then falls silent for a number of years, I worry that there are problems and it isn't going to be what it should.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rockoon ( 1252108 )
        I think one of the main reasons that the Unreal engine really took off is that it comes with UnrealEd.

        With ID's engine, you were shopping around for some 3rd party editor and then importing the data, while with Unreal you STILL had the option of importing from 3rd party editors and could do some final tweaking (or working from scratch) while running under the very engine you are targeting in realtime.
    • For people like me I'll take mouse/keyboard over a console controller any day for [first-person shooter] games.

      What will the other three players in the room take, if not gamepads?

      • Extra keyboards and mice? Good luck getting Windows to tell the game which keyboard or which mouse made a given keystroke or movement.
      • Extra PCs? I babysit, and children usually can't bring in dad's PC.

      Besides, what controller do you prefer for non-first-person shooters such as Zero Wing or Ikaruga?

      • Besides, what controller do you prefer for non-first-person shooters such as Zero Wing or Ikaruga?

        Arcade-style joysticks.

    • by ogdenk ( 712300 )

      I agree....

      Now another thing about consoles. Try playing a realistic flight or space sim on them. You'll run out of buttons real quick. Consoles are USELESS when it comes to realistic sims. Especially something like IL2 Sturmovik.

      Consoles are neat but with the limited controllers and little room for expansion when it comes to things like flightsticks and rudder pedals and such they just don't interest me much.

      Plug 3 video cards into a console.... can't do that either. Multihead gaming.... also cool for

      • Now another thing about consoles. Try playing a realistic flight or space sim on them. You'll run out of buttons real quick. Consoles are USELESS when it comes to realistic sims. Especially something like IL2 Sturmovik.

        Of course they're useless for that, because no one's ever done a Falcon/Jane's/bearded sim grognard with a full cockpit setup type games for them. Doesn't mean they couldn't be done though. In fact, a version of IL2 is going to be released for the PS3, Xbox 360, DS and PSP with two modes, a

        • by ogdenk ( 712300 )

          I doubt that XBOX version of IL2 will let you tweak response curves by hand or let you have multiple input devices like rudder pedals and a joystick.

          Those multihead hacks for grand turismo are cute but unsupported for other games and require too much equipment. And I can't imagine the latency is low over ethernet for that GT4 hack either.

          Consoles are cool but are no replacement for a good PC. And they never will be. Try setting up head tracking and stereoscopic video on that IL2 port for the XBOX 360 for

          • let you have multiple input devices like rudder pedals and a joystick.

            We know multiple input devices can be done, so it's up to the developers to put that support in, it's not impossible. I also know that the Xbox 360's Hori Flight stick (for use with Ace Combat) has rudder controls on the throttle. That stick itself is a clone of the Saitek X-45.

            Try setting up head tracking and stereoscopic video on that IL2 port for the XBOX 360 for example.

            I'll grant you that's not likely to happen, but how many player

  • by DirtyCanuck ( 1529753 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @03:37AM (#28578475)

    With the recent closing of the doors to 3d Realms it's good to reflect on the old heavy hitters in a contemporary complexion.

    Back in the day it was the Unreal Engine and the Quake engine that were the benchmark for graphics. The build engine for 3d realms spawned countless titles, though that was the last great engine they had.

    So today, it seems that what is most important to some firms is the quality of the engine rather than the games they produce. This however results in titles that are simply showcases, appose to good games.

    It would be nice for developers to have enough in house resources to do both. Create an amazing game around an amazing engine.

    With that I look with optimism to the future of id in hopes that they bring back some of that old sparkle that has been lacking as of late.

    • by JCZwart ( 1585673 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @05:18AM (#28578829)
      I always thought Id's games were perfect examples of engine showcases. I remember being very fascinated with Quake; read all about it, BSP modeling etc. (I even tried to create my own 3d-engine, which failed miserable, by the way).

      Anyone else remember Ramblings in Real-time [] by Mike Abrash? Worth a read if you're interested in the mechanics of the Quake 3D-engine.

      But Quake still wasn't very much more than showcasing... Id often seemed to rely on parties such as Raven Software for convincing storylines, exciting level designs, etc. I'd like to see them produce a game like Oblivion... A cutting edge 3d engine to power a convincing RPG world, what more would you want!
      • Mod parent up.
        I opened that link thinking I'd just close it after 5 minutes like most links here on /. but I've been reading for the last half hour.
        Very interesting!

      • by unfunk ( 804468 )
        To this day I am amazed at just how many games the Quake 3 engine ended up powering. When I first saw Q3, I was pretty amazed by it, but I never thought it had what it took to power "full" games. Call of Duty just blew me away, and even more so when I found out it was the Q3 engine.

        I'm kind of disappointed they didn't see that level of success with the Doom 3 engine. There was plenty of potential, but nobody seems to have chased up on it.
        • I'm kind of disappointed they didn't see that level of success with the Doom 3 engine. There was plenty of potential, but nobody seems to have chased up on it.

          id Tech 4 had some issues. [] The per-pixel lighting made it quite resource-hungry, and it's only useful for "spooky" games. And, at first, it couldn't handle wide open areas well. So most developers thought it was wiser to go with the Unreal Engine 2.

      • Note that Abrash defected from I.D. (Quake) and went to work for Microsoft (XBOX), then defected from Microsoft and went to work for RAD (Pixomatic) whos technology is found in.. you guessed it.. the Unreal engine.

        I recently heard that he was now working for Intel (Larabbee) but can't find anything official-sounding to back that up.
      • While Quake was a pretty unexciting game, it was an excellent tech demo. I struggled through the first chapter (against boredom, not against the game) and couldn't be bothered with the other three. Making the QuakeC compiler free, however, was a stroke of genius. The game was in three parts, the progs.dat file, containing a bytecode-compiled version of the game logic, the engine binary that loaded and ran the bytecode, and the artwork / models / levels.

        By making QuakeC free, anyone could write a repla

      • Raven Software... and Valve software.

        Half-Life's game engine, now known as GoldSrc, was a modified Quake 1 engine.

        Of course, Valve has spent the last 10 years since then modifying it in ever newer versions of the engine now known as Source.

      • And only now do I find out that Id has actually been acquired by Zenimax, which owns Bethesda as well. According to this interview [] with John Carmack, Doom 4 will actually be a Bethesda title.

        So I guess we might as well expect a Doom-4-engine-powered Oblivion II. Exciting!
  • by Inconnux ( 227132 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @03:40AM (#28578491)

    I wonder if this means they wont GPL any further game engines... This news was kinda sad, one of the top tier developers sells out... a sad time for pc gamers... but I guess it could have been worse, EA could have bought them.

    • by spire3661 ( 1038968 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @04:15AM (#28578623) Journal

      Carmack said in a press release recently that their feelings towards open source are not negotiable (paraphrasing) and that every tech engine they make is intended for eventual open sourcing. Its simply part of the entire design philosophy

    • John Carmack seems like the type who wouldn't buy into this kind of thing unless they let him do what he wants. He owned a big part of id. The open sourcing shall continue.

      • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @04:35AM (#28578697)

        HE owned a big part of Id, but unless it's in the buyout contract I wouldn't be so certain it will happen. Management can change it's mind at any time. It probably won't for the next engine to be opened, because they want to keep Carmack happy. But I'd be surprised (pleasantly so) if it actually continues long term.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Aliotroph ( 1297659 )

          That's exactly what I meant to say. He wouldn't sign up for a contract stopping him from carrying out at least a large part of his vision for the company. Everything I've read from him indicates this and so do the things I've read about him.

          He seems happy to work with them for now, indicating he likely got pretty much what he wanted. There are really no arguments against open-sourcing deprecated code. Things like that are great for PR, great for training programmers, great for keeping the games alive, etc

  • Curious (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GF678 ( 1453005 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @04:44AM (#28578733)

    Why is John Carmack the only developer of commercial game engines who actually releases the source code after they have become technically obsolete? I mean it's very nice, since it's given us games like Urban Terror and OpenAreana which can be released completely free as standalone games, but companies very rarely do things out of the goodness of their hearts.

    The only reason I can see him doing this is because he believes in the open-source cause, but will his new owner allow him to continue this trend?

    • The only reason I can see him doing this is because he believes in the open-source cause

      That, or he's just curious what will happen if people start tinkering with it.

    • Re:Curious (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Bert64 ( 520050 ) <bert&slashdot,firenzee,com> on Saturday July 04, 2009 @05:57AM (#28578929) Homepage

      Releasing the source works out extremely beneficial for them... By the time a game gets opened up, it has very little value as a commercial game anymore, but look at any modern platform that has been cracked or released open - a port of quake or doom is one of the first things to spring up. So something that has virtually no commercial value now becomes a free advertising platform and keeps your name prominent.
      Most games from the same era as quake are languishing as abandonware and occasionally being played under dosbox, quake runs natively on virtually anything these days.
      It's also only the engine that's open, the data files are not, so you can either use third party data files (like urban terror and openarena), the original demo files or buy the original data files (you will usually be able to find a dirt cheap copy of the game in a bargain bin somewhere).

      I think all game companies should do this, having the source to old games is good for everyone involved and far better than games becoming abandonware that won't even run on modern systems without some form of emulation.

      • It also helps to train the next generation of games developers - it's a shame the practice isn't a standard of the industry.
      • I'm a bit surprised that updated versions of the old engines don't take an business from him. Something like the DarkPlaces engine, based on the Quake 1 engine, is not up to the same standards as top-of-the-line commercial engines today, but it still looks good and is free. If the selling point for your game is how fun it is to play, then using an engine like this is much cheaper than licensing a commercial one. If the selling point is how good it looks, then you need to be writing your own engine or you
      • There's probably a variety of reasons, but some of them are:
        1. Licensing/Ownership issues. Over the course of the 5+ years it takes an engine to become obsolete, a lot of game developers don't exist anymore, have been bought out, merged, changed management, changed publishers, etc. Between commitments to publishers, distributors, creditors, licensors and such, even if they do still exist, it may no longer be clear if they even legally can release the source, and doing so may open them up to legal trouble

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I think it was Seymour Cray [] who made a boat every year and finished by chopping the boat up and having a barbecue. If I could somehow dispose of the megabytes of legacy code I have to deal with at work, moving forward would be a lot easier. So maybe GPLing code is Carmack's way of saying its done. Now forget about it and move on.
    • I mean it's very nice, since it's given us games like Urban Terror and OpenAreana

      And Nexuiz!

      It's really great. The weapons are somewhat sci-fi'esque: the sniper rifle shoots blue "laser" beams, and the Electro shoots funky blue balls which explode either on proximity or by being hit.

      The maps are great; "dm6" is obviously "stolen", as is Agressor (I guess, since it's also in OpenArena).

      Try it out some time :)

      (happy customer, not paid shill; besides, they can only pay me in source code which is free anyways :D)

  • by cliffski ( 65094 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @05:39AM (#28578885) Homepage

    "The videogames business is defined by technology"

    Really? I've only been playing games since pong, and worked in them for 10 years, but stupidly I've been defining the videogames business by 'fun'.
    It's a pity this has ended up a minority viewpoint.

    • by MrHanky ( 141717 )

      Look up the definition of "define".

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Not saying this is the only thing but:

      Fun ~= Immersion
      Immersion ~= Technology

      I do remember the first game that went from water was a blue surface w/static animations to water being a T&L surface with actual waves where you can go splashing in the water and it was just like WOW. People don't like limitations that just seem arbitrary compared to the real world, if it's a 3D world you're simulating why can't you see it in 3D? Why can you only move in n fixed directions when in real world you can go in what

      • I do remember the first game that went from water was a blue surface w/static animations to water being a T&L surface with actual waves where you can go splashing in the water and it was just like WOW.

        What game was it for you? It was Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance for me. I think I spent a minute or two just walking around in it when I first ran into that water early in the game.

    • I've been defining the videogames business by 'fun'

      Epic Games defines it as 60 hour minimum work weeks :-)

      Apparently their code all looks like it was written at 1:50am as well (they have compulsory 2am leaving time), but everyone seems to be using it...

      EA defines it as changing a number in the product manual to match the current year.

  • Oblivion 5: (Score:2, Funny)

    by ikono ( 1180291 )
    I guess now we know what TES 5's subtitle will be now that Bethesda has the option of iD's engines... The Elder Scrolls V: The Sacred Torch
  • A successfully adopted engine is their only truly viable option considering the not exactly stellar performance and reception of games like Doom 3, Quake 4, and Quake Wars. They need to focus on something. One thing. Regroup. Then come out swinging with that one haymaker rather than increasing the number of projects they're on and diluting their brands with titles that no longer rock the gaming world.

    It isn't like they are lacking in fan-base or good-will, if they make such strides.

    Also, there is no way the

    • by Ant P. ( 974313 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @08:11AM (#28579325) Homepage

      Also, there is no way they're going to stick with the name "Rage". I believe they learned once before that you need to use your engine as a marketing tool by tying it to your identity as a business and not calling it something obscure.

      You mean by calling it something like... I dunno, "id Tech 5 []"?

    • DOOM fans may have not been big on Doom 3 but it sold very well.

      "Since 1996, id powered games have generated worldwide revenues in excess of $2 Billion. id's most recent internally developed title, DOOM 3ï½, extends a proven track record with over 3.5 million units sold and is id's most successful game to date." []

      They also did focus on one thing at a time until more recently. Raven made Quake 4, Splash Damage made ET:QW, then id fixed Qua

      • I wonder how many Doom 3 sales were driven by mods. Quake 1 looked good and was quite fun in multiplayer, but the single-player game sucked. The mods, however (especially things like Team Fortress), really sold it. Half Life was similar; fairly good single player, okay multiplayer, but mods like Counter Strike were the reason most people I knew bought it.
  • by Iyonesco ( 1482555 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @11:34AM (#28580405)

    Id was at its best when Jon Romero worked there since Carmack would focus on the graphics and Romero would focus on the gameplay. Since the break-up of this partnership Id's games have gone drastically down hill while Romero found he couldn't make a game without Carmack. Romero appeared to have trouble with the technical side of Daikatana with lengthy delays and terrible visuals when it finally was released. Daikatana received a poor reception but the gameplay was clearly there with some innovative ideas and great feel to the movement control. It was the technical execution that was lacking, likely a result of not having somebody like Carmack.

    Carmack's engines always look amazing but the engine is now Id's only selling point and their games are just dire. Id desperately needs to recruit someone with a proven record of making fun games so they can bring their gamplay up to the level of their engines. I vote for Romero, and bring American McGee back while you're at it. That would really return Id back to its past glory.

    • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @03:44PM (#28582085)

      I agree it does sound like a good idea. i.e. The whole bit about having the flashlight and being able to shoot mutually exclusive in Doom 3 just wasn't a very good design decision.

      Unfortunately, that's not to happen. I had dinner with Romero at E3 - he's busy doing 5 (!) MMOs. I actually asked about Daikatana. :-) I didn't realize it sold 200,000 and broke even for Eidos. He admitted that one of the mistakes made was hiring inexperienced people. One of the lesson learnt was "Hire the most experienced people first, the least experienced people last" which sounds pretty reasonable.

  • Hopefully Bethesda will use the quake or doom engine in their new games. I never liked the feel of the controls in Oblivion or Fallout 3. The movement just felt weird compared to say, ETQW or other id titles. Like the controls were a little too loose or something.

  • Videogames business is defined by technology? Not true anymore, it's pretty much all about the content. Everyone is at the moment accustomed to great graphics so that argument just don't cut anymore. That's why games like GTA and Fallout 3 are top sellers. People just won't buy "gfx demos" like Doom3 anymore, because they can easily check the word about the game from 'net, or from Steam directly.

Truth is free, but information costs.