John Carmacks 2005 keynote
This is the full transcript of John Carmacks QuakeCon 2005 keynote session, including the questions from the audience in the end. A big thanks to John
Cropt for sending us this article.
John Carmacks QuakeCon 2005 speech
Introduction - Graphics Industy Reflections
John Carmacks throughts on Console
Advancements in Physics and AI
Cell phone games and Innovation
What hardware should evolve towards
John Carmack answering questions
Tradeoffs when developing for multiple platforms?
Next game after Quake 4?
PSP or portable platforms?
Stand-alone physics cards?
Tradeoffs when developing for multiple platforms?
Creative gameplay design?
LGPL middleware solutions?
The orders of magnitude we’ve seen in graphics?
Networking side of things?
When is the Quake 3 GPL release?
Tools and middleware versus APIs?
Armadillo Aerospace update?
Facial expression in games?
Introduction - Graphics Industy Reflections
First, it's worth sitting back and reflecting about how amazing the industry
has been and the type of progress that we've seen.
A long time ago, a graphics pioneer once quipped that reality is 80 million
polygons a secondA. We're past that number, right now, on cheap console hardware.
Later that number was fudged to 80 million polygons a frame, because clearly
we don't have reality yet, even though we have 80 million polygons a second.
But still, the fact is that number was picked to just be absurd. It was a number
that was so far beyond what people were thinking about in the early days that
it might as well have been infinity. And here we are with cheap consoles, PC
cards that cost a few hundred dollars that can deliver performance like that,
which was basically beyond the imagination of the early pioneers of graphics.
And not only have we reached those kind of raw performance throughput numbers,
but we have better features than the early systems that people would look at.
You can look at a modern system and say it is better in essentially every single
respect than multi-million dollar image synthesis systems of not too many years
Unlike a lot of the marketing quips that people make about when this or that
chip is faster than a supercomputer, which are usually fudged numbers when you
start talking about only executing in cache, ignoring bandwidth, and this or
that to make something sound good, that's not really the case with the graphics
capabilities we’ve got, where not only do we have raw triangle throughput,
we've got this programmability that early graphics systems just didn't have
at all. We've got better image fidelity coming now, we've got higher multiple
scan-out rates, and all of this stuff, and we're getting them in the next generation
of consoles for just a few hundred dollars. And the PC space is still advancing
at this incredibly rapid clip.
Well everybody's kind of saturated with the marketing hype from Microsoft and
Sony about the next generation of consoles. They are wonderful but the truth
is they're about as powerful as a really high end PC right now and a couple
years from now on thAe PC platform you're going to be able to put together a
system that's several times more powerful than these consoles that are touted
as the most amazing thing anybody's ever seen.
But this trend of incredible graphics performance, what it's allowed us to
do, and this is great just following up on the Quake 4 demo, because there's
a whole lot of shock and awe in everything that they showed there. And that
is a direct result of what we're able to do because of the technology. id is
often sort of derided as being a technology focused company where a lot of people
will get on this high horse about game design purity, but the truth is, the
technology that we provide, that we're able to harness from the industry, is
what lets us do such a memorable gaming experience.
While you can reduce a game to its symbolic elements in what you're doing and
what your character accomplishes, you can't divorce that from the experience
that you get with the presentation. So the presentation really is critically
To some degree id software has actually been singled out by developers as causing
problems for the industry by raising the bar so much and I am sympathetic to
It's a serious topic to talk about in software development where as the budgets
get larger and larger, we're talking about tens of millions of dollars. There
are people that have said explicitly they wish that Doom 3 or now Quake 4 hadn't
shipped because now every game is expected to look that good. Every game is
expected to have that level of features because the bar has kind of been raised.
Things like that happen in a lot of other areas also. It's going on with physics
as well as graphics, where every game is expected to have a physics engine and
I have some sympathy for them.
I sometimes find it unfortunate that we effectively have to make a B-movie
to make a computer game nowadays, whereas sometimes it would be nice to be abAle
to concentrate on a game being a game and not worrying about having to have
hours of motion capture footage and cinematic effects but that’s just
kind of what games are expected to have nowadays.
But the technology has provided real absolute benefits to the game playing
public, to the people that are playing these games. Sometimes people will look
through the tinted glasses of nostalgia and think back to some time where maybe
gaming was perhaps less commercial, less promoted, less mainstream, less whatever,
and think back to, you know, the golden age.
But the truth is the golden age is right now. Things are better in every respect
for the games that you play now than they ever have been before. It’s
driven home when you take something like watching the Quake 4 trailer here and
then you go back.
Most people here will have fond memories of Quake 1. I know the great times
you had playing that and the things would be stuck in your memory. But you then
go and run them side by side, and you could have fun in that game, and there
are the moments of wonder at the newness of it, but it won’t have the
presence and the impact, and the ability to really get in and stir up your guts
that we can do with the modern state of the art games.
So I’m not apologetic at all for the effort that we put in to pushing
the technology, what we’ve been able to do to allow the artists and designers
to present a world that’s more compelling then what we’ve been able
to do before and to make stronger impacts on the people playing the games. That’s
all been really good.
And the trends are still looking really strong. There’s nothing on the
immediate horizon that would cause us to expect that over the next several years
we’re not going to see another quadrupling and eventually another order
of magnitude increase in what we’re going to be able to do on tAhe graphics
side of things.
John Carmacks throughts on Console Development
So the console platform is going to become more important for us in the future.
It’s interesting now that when we look at the xbox 360 and the PS3 and
the PC platforms, we can pretty much target essentially all of them with a more
or less common code base, more or less common development strategies on there,
and this is I guess going to be the first public announcement of it, this will
be the first development cycle for id software where we’re actually going
to be internally developing on console platforms for a simultaneous, hopefully,
release on there.
In the last couple weeks I actually have started working on an xbox 360. Most
of the upcoming graphics development work will be starting on that initially.
It’s worth going into the reasons for that decision on there. To be clear,
the PC platform will be released at least at the same time if not earlier than
any of the consoles but we are putting a good deal more effort towards making
sure that the development process goes smoothly onto them.
While Doom 3 on the xbox was a great product -- we’re really happy with
it, it’s been very successful -- it was pretty painful getting that out
after the fact. We intend to make some changes to make things go a little bit
smoother on this process.
We’ve been on-again off-again with consoles for a long time. I’ve
done console development work back on the original Super Nintendo and several
platforms up through today, and there’s always the tradeoff between flexibility
on the PC and the rapid evolutionary pace that you get, and the ability to dial
down and really take the best advantage of the hardware you’ve got available
It’s worth taking a little sort of retrospective through the evolution
of PCAs and the console space.
In our products if you look back at the really early days, up through basically
Doom, the original Doom, we were essentially writing register level access to
most of the PC video cards, we would use special mode X graphics and things
like that to get a few extra features out of that.
Once we got beyond that point, especially after we moved to Windows, with post-Quake
development, it’s become a much more abstract development process, where
we program to graphics APIs and use system software interfaces, and that certainly
helped the ability to deploy widely and have a lot of varied hardware work reasonably
well. You can certainly remember back in the original Doom days we had a half-dozen
different audio drivers for Pro Audio Spectrums and Ad-Libs and all this other
stuff that we’ve been pretty much able to leave behind.
Eventually with the 3D space there was the whole API wars issue about how you
were going to talk to all of these different graphics cards because for a while
there, there were 20 graphics chips that were at least reasonable players. It’s
nice now that it’s essentially come down to ATI and NVidia, both of whom
are doing very good jobs in the 3D graphics space.
Especially in this last development cycle, in the last year, that I’ve
been working on some of the more advanced features, it has been troublesome
dealing with the driver situation. Bringing in new features, new hardware, new
technologies that I want to take advantage of, that have required significant
work in the driver space where there have been some significant driver stability
issues as they’ve had to go do some major revamps to bring in things like
frame buffer objects and some of the pixel buffer renderings and stuff like
That has given us some headaches at id where we have one driver revision that
fixes something that makes our tools work correctlyA but that happens to cause
the game to run slow because there some heuristic thing going on with buffer
allocations and we’ve had things kind of ping-pong back and forth between
some of that and I’ve had some real difficulty trying to nail down exact
graphics performance on the PC space because we are distanced from the hardware
a fair amount.
The interfaces that we go through, they don’t map one-to-one to “calling
this” results in “this being stuck into a hardware buffer which
is going to cause this to draw”. There are a lot of things that are heuristically
done by drivers now that will attempt to not necessarily do what we say, but
do what they think we meant in terms of where buffers should go and how things
should be allocated and how things should be freed. It’s been a little
bit frustrating in the past year trying to nail down exactly how things are
going to turn out where whether I can say something is my fault, the driver’s
fault, or the hardware’s fault.
So it’s been pretty refreshing to actually come down and work on the
xbox 360 platform, where you’ve got a very, very thin API layer that lets
you talk pretty directly to the hardware. You can say “this is the memory
layout”, “this call is going to result in these tokens going into
the command buffer”, and so on. The intention is I’m probably going
to be spending the next six months or so focusing on that as a primary development
platform, where I’ll be able to get the graphics technology doing exactly
what I want, to the performance that I want, on this platform where I have minimal
interface between me and the hardware, and then we’ll go back and make
sure that all the PC vendors have their drivers working at least as well as
the console platform on there.
We do have PS3 dev kits also, and we’ve brought up some basic stuAff on
all the platforms.
A lot of people assume for various reasons that I’m anti-Microsoft because
of the OpenGL versus D3D stance. I’d actually like to speak quite a bit
in praise of Microsoft in what they’ve done on the console platform, where
the xbox previously and now the 360 have the best development environment that
I’ve ever seen on a console. I’ve gone a long ways back through
a number of different consoles and the different things that we’ve worked
with, and Microsoft does a really, really good job because they are a software
company and they understand that software development is the critically important
aspect of this, and that is somewhat of a contrast to Nintendo and Sony, and
previously Sega, who are predominantly hardware companies, and decisions will
get made based on what sounds like a good idea in hardware rather than what
is necessarily the best thing for the developers that are actually going to
be making the titles.
Over the history of the consoles there’s been sort of this ping-pong
back and forth between giving good low-level access to the hardware, letting
you kind of extract the most out of it, and having good interfaces and good
tools to go with it.
In the real old days of side scrolling tile based consoles, you got register
access, and that was pretty much it. You were expected to do everything yourself,
and the hardware was usually pretty quirky and designed around a specific type
of game that the vendors thought you would be making on there. It’s entertaining
to program in it’s own way.
But the first really big change that people got was when the original Playstation
1 came out, and it had a hardware environment that didn’t originally let
you get at the lowest level graphics code on there. But they designed fast hardware
that was easy to program. One fast processor, one fast graphics accelerator,
Aand you got to program it in a high level language on there.
The contrast with this was the Sega Saturn at the time, which had five different
processing units and was generally just a huge mess. They did document all the
low level hardware for you to work at, but it just wasn’t as good an environment
to work on.
So it was interesting to see with the following generation, that Sony kind
of flip flopped with the Playstation 2, where you now had low level hardware
details documented and all this, but you were back to this multi-core, not particularly
clean hardware architecture.
And then Microsoft came out with the xbox which had an extremely clean development
environment, the best we’ve really seen on a console to date, but you
didn’t get the absolute nitty-gritty low-level details of the 3D system
on there. And I know Microsoft actually, there’s a lot of bickering back
and forth about “was it NVidia’s fault or Microsoft’s fault”
or whatever on there, but still it was a clear advantage for developers. If
you ask developers that worked on xbox and PS2, the xbox is just a ton nicer
to develop for.
So it’s been interesting to see that Microsoft has had a good deal of
success, but they haven’t been able to overtake Sony’s market dominance
with the earlier release of the PS2.
So it’s going to be real interesting to see this how this following generation
plays out, with the xbox 360 coming out first, and being more developer friendly,
at least in our opinion, and Sony coming out a little bit later with PS3.
Hardware-wise, there’s again a lot of marketing hype about the consoles,
and a lot of it needs to be taken with grains of salt about exactly how powerful
it is. I mean everyone can remember back to the PS2 announcements and all the
hoopla about the Emotion Engine, and how it was going to radically change everything,A
and you know it didn’t, its processing power was actually kind of annoying
to get at on that platform.
But if you look at the current platforms, in many ways, it’s not quite
as powerful as it sounds if you add up all the numbers and flops and things
like that. If you just take code designed for an x86 that’s running on
a Pentium or Athlon or something, and you run it on either of the PowerPCs from
these new consoles, it’ll run at about half the speed of a modern state
of the art system, and that’s because they’re in-order processors,
they’re not out-of-order execution or speculative, any of the things that
go on in modern high-end PC processors. And while the gigahertz looks really
good on there, you have to take it with this kind of “divide by two”
effect going on there.
Now to compensate for that, what they’ve both chosen is a multi-processing
approach. This is also clearly happening in the PC space where multi-core CPUs
are the coming thing.
Everyone is essentially being forced to do this because they’re running
out of things they can do to make single processor, single thread systems go
much faster. And we do still have all these incredible market forces pushing
us towards following Moore’s Law -- faster and faster, everyone needs
to buy better systems all the time. But they’re sort of running out of
things to do to just make single processors much faster.
We’re still getting more and more transistors, which is really what Moore’s
Law was actually all about, it was about transistor density, and everyone sort
of misinterpreted that over the years to think it was going to be faster and
faster. But it’s really more and more. Historically that’s translated
to faster and faster, but that’s gotten more difficult to make that direct
correlation over there.
So what everybody’A;s having to do is exploit parallelism and so far, the
huge standout poster-child for parallelism has been graphics accelerators. It’s
the most successful form of parallelism that computer science has ever seen.
We’re able to actually use the graphics accelerators, get all their transistors
firing, and get good performance that actually generates a benefit to the people
using the products at the end of it.
Multiprocessing with the CPUs is much more challenging for that. It’s
one of those things where it’s been a hot research topic for decades,
and you’ve had lots academic work going on about how you parallelize programs
and there’s always the talk about how somebody’s going to somehow
invent a parallelizing compiler that’s going to just allow you to take
the multi-core processors, compile your code and make it faster, and it just
There are certain kinds of applications that wind up working really well for
that. The technical term for that is actually “embarrassingly parallel”
-- where you’ve got an application that really take no work to split up
-- things like ray-tracing and some of the big mathematics libraries that are
used for some vector processing things.
The analogy that I tell hardware designers is that game code is not like this;
game code is like GCC -- a C compiler -- with floats. It’s nasty code
with loops and branches and pointers all over the place and these things are
not good for performance in any case, let alone parallel environments.
So the returns on multi-core are going to be initially disappointing, for developers
or for what people get out of it. There are decisions that the hardware makers
can choose on here that make it easier or harder. And this is a useful comparison
between the xbox 360 and what we’ll have on the PC spaces and what we’ve
got on the PS3.
TAhe xbox 360 has an architecture where you’ve essentially got three processors
and they’re all running from the same memory pool and they’re synchronized
and cache coherent and you can just spawn off another thread right in your program
and have it go do some work.
Now that’s kind of the best case and it’s still really difficult
to actually get this to turn into faster performance or even getting more stuff
done in a game title.
The obvious architecture that you wind up doing is you try to split off the
renderer into another thread. Quake 3 supported dual processor acceleration
like this off and on throughout the various versions.
It’s actually a pretty good case in point there, where when we released
it, certainly on my test system, you could run and get maybe a 40% speed up
in some cases, running in dual processor mode, but through no changing of the
code on our part, just in differences as video card drivers revved and systems
changed and people moved to different OS revs, that dual processor acceleration
came and went, came and went multiple times.
At one point we went to go back and try to get it to work, and we could only
make it work on one system. We had no idea what was even the difference between
these two systems. It worked on one and not on the other. A lot of that is operating
system and driver related issues which will be better on the console, but it
does still highlight the point that parallel programming, when you do it like
this, is more difficult.
Anything that makes the game development process more difficult is not a terribly
The decision that has to be made there is “is the performance benefit
that you get out of this worth the extra development time?”
There’s sort of this inclination to believe that -- and there’s
some truth to it and Sony takes this position -- “ok it’s goinAg
to be difficult, maybe it’s going to suck to do this, but the really good
game developers, they’re just going to suck it up and make it work”.
And there is some truth to that, there will be the developers that go ahead
and have a miserable time, and do get good performance out of some of these
multi-core approaches and CELL is worse than others in some respects here.
But I do somewhat question whether we might have been better off this generation
having an out-of-order main processor, rather than splitting it all up into
these multi-processor systems.
It’s probably a good thing for us to be getting with the program now,
the first generation of titles coming out for both platforms will not be anywhere
close to taking full advantage of all this extra capability, but maybe by the
time the next generation of consoles roll around, the developers will be a little
bit more comfortable with all of this and be able to get more benefit out of
But it’s not a problem that I actually think is going to have a solution.
I think it’s going to stay hard, I don’t think there’s going
to be a silver bullet for parallel programming. There have been a lot of very
smart people, researchers and so on, that have been working this problem for
20 years, and it doesn’t really look any more promising than it was before.
Advancements in Physics and AI
One thing that I was pretty surprised talking to some of the IBM developers
on the CELL processor, I think that they made to some degree a misstep in their
analysis of what the performance would actually be good for, where one of them
explicitly said “now that graphics is essentially done, won’t we
have to be using this for physics and AI?”.
Those are two poster children that are always brought up of how we’re
going to use more CPU Apower -- physics and AI. But the contention that graphics
is essentially done I really think is way off base.
First of all, you can just look at it from the standpoint of “Are we
delivering everything that a graphics designer could possibly want to put into
a game, with as high a quality as they could possibly want?”, and the
answer is no. We’d like to be able to do Lord of the Rings quality rendering
in real time. We’ve got orders of magnitude more performance that we can
actually suck up in doing all of this.
What I’m finding personally in my development now is that the interfaces
that we’ve got to the hardware with the level of programmability that
we’ve got, you can do really pretty close to whatever you want as a graphics
programmer on there.
But what you find more so now than before is that you get a clever idea for
a graphics algorithm that’s going to make something look really awesome
and is going to provide this cool new feature for a game. You can go ahead and
code it up and make it work and make it run on the graphics hardware.
But all too often, I’m finding that, well, this works great, but it’s
half the speed that it needs to be, or a quarter the speed, or that I start
thinking about something “this would be really great but that’s
going to be one tenth the speed of what we’d really like to have there”.
So I’m looking forward to another order of magnitude or two in graphics
performance because I’m absolutely confident that we can use it. We can
suck that performance up and actually do something that’s going to deliver
a better experience for people there.
But if you say “ok here’s 8 cores”, or later 64 cores, “go
do some physics with this that’s going to make a game better”, or
even worse, “do some AI with this that’s going to Amake a game better”
-- the problem with those, both of those, is that both fields, AI and physics,
have been much more bleeding edge than graphics has been.
To some degree that’s exciting, where the people in the game industry
are doing very much cutting edge work in many cases. It is “the”
industrial application for a lot of that research that goes on.
But it’s been tough to actually sit down and take some of that and say
“all right lets turn this into a real benefit for the game, lets go ahead
and how do we use however many gigaflops of processing performance to try and
do some clever AI that winds up using it fruitfully”, and especially in
AI, it’s one of those cases where most of the stuff that happens in especially
single player games, is much more sort of a directors view of things. It’s
not a matter of getting your entities to think for themselves, it’s a
matter of getting them to do what the director wants, to put the player in the
situation that you’re envisioning in the game.
Multiplayer focused games do have much more case for you want to have better
bot intelligence. It’s more of a classic AI problem on there, but the
bulk of the games still being single player it’s not at all clear how
you use incredible amounts of processing power to make a character do something
that’s going to make the gameplay experience better.
I keep coming back to examples from the really early days of the original Doom,
where we would have characters that are doing this incredibly crude logic that
fits in like a page of C code or something, and characters are just kind of
bobbing around doing stuff.
You get people that are playing the game that are believing that they have
devious plans and they’re sneaking up on you and they’re lying in
wait. This is all just people taking these minor, minor cues and kind of Aincorporating
them inside their head into this vision of what they think is happening in the
game. And the sad thing is you could write incredibly complex code that does
have monsters sneaking up on you and hiding behind corners and it’s not
at all clear that makes the game play any better than some of these sort of
happenstance things that would happen as emergent behavior of very trivial simple
So until you get into cases where you can think in games, games like “The
Sims”, or perhaps massively multiplayer games where you really do want
these autonomous agents, AIs, running around doing things. But then that’s
not really a client problem, that’s sort of a server problem, where you’ve
got large worlds there which again isn’t where the multi-core consumer
CPUs are really going to be a big help on that.
Now physics is the other sort of poster-child for what we’re going to
do with all this CPU power. And there’s some truth to that, I mean certainly
what we’ve been doing with the CPUs for the physics stuff -- it’s
gotten a lot more intensive on the CPU -- where we find that things like rag-doll
animations and all the different objects moving around, which is one of these
sort of “raise the bar” things every game now has to do this. It
takes a lot of power, and it makes balancing some of the game things more difficult
when we’re trying to crunch things to get our performance up, because
the problem with physics is it’s not scalable with levels of detail the
way graphics are.
Fundamentally, when you’re rendering an image of a scene, you don’t
have to render everything at the same level. It would be like forward texture
mapping, which some old systems did manage to do. But essentially what we’ve
got in graphics is a nice situation where there are a large number of techniques
that we can Ado that we can fall off and degrade gracefully.
Physics doesn’t give you that situation in the general case. If you’re
trying to do physical objects that affect gameplay, you need to simulate pretty
much all of them all the time. You can’t have cases where you start knocking
some things over and turn your back on it and you stop updating the physics.
Or even drop to some lower fidelity on there, where then you get situations
where if you hit this and turn around and run away, they’ll land in a
certain way, and if you watch them they’ll land in a different way. And
that’s a bad thing for game development.
And this problem is fairly fundamental. If you try to use physics for a simulation
aspect that’s going to impact the gameplay, things that are going to block
passage and things like that, it’s difficult to see how we’re going
to be able to add a level of richness to the physical simulation that we have
for graphics without adding a whole lot more processing power, and it tends
to reduce the robustness of the game, and bring on some other problems.
So what winds up happening in the demos and things that you’ll see on
the PS3 and the physics accelerator hardware, you’ll wind up seeing a
lot of stuff that are effectively non-interactive physics. This is the safe
robust thing to do.
But it’s a little bit disappointing when people think about wanting to
have this physical simulation of the world. It makes good graphics when you
can do things like instead of the smoke clouds doing the same clip into the
floor that you’ve seen for ages on things, if you can get smoke that pours
around all the obstructions, if you get liquid water that actually splashes
and bounces out of pools and reflects on the ground.
This is neat stuff, but it remains kind of non-core to the game experience.
And an argument can be made that we’vAe essentially done that with graphics,
where all of it is polish on top of a core game, and that’s probably what
will have to happen with the physics. I don’t expect any really radical
changes in the gameplay experience from this.
I’m not really a physics simulation guy so that’s one of those
things where a lot of people are like “damn id software for making spend
all this extra work on graphics”. So to some degree I’m like “damn
all this physics stuff making us spend all this time on here”, but you
know, I realize that things like the basic boxes falling down knocking things
off, bouncing around the world, rag-dolls interacting with all that, that’s
all good stuff for the games.
But I do think it’s a mistake for people to try and go overboard and
try and do a real simulation of the world because it’s a really hard problem,
and you’re not going to give that much real benefit to the actual gameplay.
You’ll tend to make a game which may be fragile, may be slow, and you’d
better have done some really, really neat things with your physics to make it
worth all of that pain and suffering.
And I know there are going to be some people that are looking at the processing
stuff with the CELLs and the multi-core stuff, and saying “well, this
is what we’ve got to do, the power is there, and we should try and use
it for this”. But I think that we’re probably going to be better
served by trying to just make sure that all of the gameplay elements that we
want to do, we can accomplish at a rapid rate, respectable low variance in a
lot of ways.
Personally I would rather see our next generation run at 60 fps on a console,
rather than add a bunch more physics stuff. I actually don’t think we’ll
make it, I think we’ll be 30 fps on the consoles for more of what we’re
doing. AnyAways we’re going to be soaking up a lot of the CPU just for
the normal housekeeping types of things that we’re doing.
So I’m probably coming off here as a pretty big booster of Microsoft
on the 360 and their development choices, the potentially really interesting
thing on the other side of the fence with Sony, is that they’re at least
making some noises about having it being a more open platform. This is always
been one of the issues that I disliked about the consoles.
I mean I don’t like closed development platforms. I don’t like
the fact that you have to go be a registered developer and you have to, you
know, have this pact where only things that go through a certification process
can be published. As a developer I’ve always loathed that aspect of it.
Nintendo was always the worst about that sort of thing and it’s one of
the reasons why we’re not real close with them.
It’s the reality of the market when they sell these platforms essentially
at a loss they have to subsidize those to make it back on the unit sales of
the software. It’s why I’ve always preferred the PC market in the
past. We can do whatever we feel like, we can release mission packs, or point
releases, we can patch things, all of this good stuff that happens on the PC
space that you’re not allowed to do on the consoles.
So Sony has been talking about more openness on the platform, and I’m
not sure how it would work out there directly, but if you had something where
if the PS3 became sort of like the Amiga used to be as a fixed platform that
was graphics focused, that could be potentially very interesting. Microsoft
certainly will have nothing to do with that [...audio dropout...]
As a quick poll here, how many people have HDTV? The console vendors are obviously
pushing HDTV but I’ve been hearing this sense that... the Super Nintendo
way Aback when had “HDTV output support” it’s been over and
over and over that it hasn’t turned out to be a critically important aspect.
For console as computing device, having a digital output, HDTV, may be one of
the key things that makes that possible, because WebTVs and such have always
sucked, nobody actually wants to do any kind of productivity work on an NTSC
TV output, but digital HDTV is really pretty great for that.
Microsoft’s got this big push that I’m somewhat at odds with them
about, about minimum frame-buffer rendering resolutions on the 360 and it’s
not completely clear how that pans out, but they’re essentially requiring
all games to render at HDTV resolution. And that may not be exactly the right
decision, where if you’ve got the option of doing better rendering technology
at less pixels with higher antialiasing rates, that seems like a perfectly sensible
thing that someone might want to do, but having a blanket “thou must render
at 720p” or something, probably not.
But some marketing person came up with that and decided it was an edict, which
is one of those things that I hate about the console environment -- that you
get some marketing person making that decision and then everybody has to sort
of abide by it. Not clear yet exactly how that turns out. Obviously things like
Quake 4 are running good at the higher resolutions but the next generation rendering
technology there are some things like if it comes down to per pixel depth buffered
atmospherics at a lower resolution, I’d rather take that than rendering
the same thing at a higher resolution. But I’ll be finding out in kind
of the next six months about what I actually can extract from the hardware.
Cell phone games and Innovation and creativity
To change gear a little bit on the platform side, something tAhat also ties
into the whole development cost and expense issue. A lot of you have probably
heard that several months ago I actually picked up some cell phone development,
which has been really neat in a lot of ways.
Coming off Doom 3’s development, which was a 4 year development process,
which cost tens of millions of dollars, with a hundred plus man-years of development
effort into it, to go and do a little project that had about 1 man year of effort
in it, a little bit more, and was essentially done in four months, there’s
a lot of really neat aspects to that.
One of the comments I’ve made in regards to the aerospace industry, talking
about rockets and space and all that, is that the reason things have progressed
so slowly there is because there’s so much money riding on everything.
If you’ve got a half-billion dollar launch vehicle satellite combination,
engineers just aren’t allowed to come up and say “hey I got an idea,
lets try this”. You know, you don’t just get to go just try something
out that might lead you to much better spot in the solution space. You are required
to go with what you know works and take a conservative approach that will have
very low, as low a likelihood as you are able to guarantee against failure.
While in game development we’re a long ways from that particular point,
but when you’re talking about tens of millions of dollars, sure it’s
not hundreds of millions of dollars, but it’s not chump change either.
You look at game development process, and if someone is going to be putting
up a couple tens of millions of dollars, there is a strong incentive to not
do something completely nuts.
You know they want to make sure that, you know, and even the people working
on it, if you’re going to work on something for four years, it’s
all well and good to say “we’re going to bAe at the vanguard of creative
frontiers here, and we’re going to go off and do something that might
turn out to be really special.
But if you spend four years of your life developing something, and it turns
out to be a complete flop, and you spent all of your money and publishers don’t
want to give you another deal for your next one because you just had a flop,
that’s a real issue. And that is what is fueling the trend towards sequels
and follow-ons and so on in the industry.
And a lot of people will deride that and say well it’s horrible that
there’s no innovation and creativity and all this here we’re getting
Doom 3, Quake 4. You know, I’ll look at it and say yeah but they’re
great games -- people love them, people are buying them and enjoying them and
But there is some truth to the fact that we’re not going off and trying
random new genres.
The cell phone development was really neat for that. Where we went and did
a little kind of turn-based combat game, I think there’s going to be a
few people with some of the phones around here you might be able to take a look
at it, but the initial version was just tiny. We had to fit in a 300k zip file
essentially on here. It was almost an exercise in pure design. It’s not
so much about the art direction, about how we’re going to present this
shock-and-awe impact that we’ve been doing on the high end PCs. It’s
about what are going to be the fun elements here, you know, “how much
feedback you want to give them”, “what loot does the player get”,
“how do you get to bash monsters”, and it’s almost at the
symbolic level because it’s so simple.
Now, after I started on some of that, it wasn’t long before I had a backlog
of like a half dozen interesting little ideas that I’d like to try on
a small plAatform. And these aren’t things that are anything like what
we’re doing, I mean I’ve got some ideas for a rendering engine for
a particular type of fighting game or sort of a combat lemmings multiplayer
game on cell phones and so just cool things that we could never just go off
and try on the PC space because id does triple A titles, you know, we’re
not going to just be able to go and lets try doing a budget title or something
like that, it’s just not going to happen. The dynamics of our company,
we need to continue to use the people that we have at the company, we’re
not about to say, “well we don’t need level designers for this project,
all you guys, have a good life”. Our projects are defined by the people
that we have at the company.
But the idea of having other platforms where you can start small, at this one
man year of effort or so, to just try out new things, I think is really extremely
There are two predominant platforms on the cell phone for development, there’s
the Java platform and the BREW platform. And what’s really neat is the
Java platform is essentially completely open. Literally I was looking at my
cell phone and said, “I’d like to try writing something on this”.
I just poke around online, download the development tools, download the documentation,
and go upload a little program. And you can just start just like that. That
was sort of the feel that I had way back when I first sort of learned programming
on like an Apple II or something. You just sit down and kind of start doing
Sometimes I worry about people trying to start developing today because if
you start on the PC and you’re looking at Doom 3 or something and you
open up MSDEV and say “where do I start”, it’s a really tough
issue. I’ve always consciously tried to help people over that gap witAh
the tools we make available for modding and source code that we make available,
specifically for that to kind of help people get started.
I guess now is as good a time as any to segue on this. The Quake 3 source code
is going out under the GPL as soon as we get it together now. So there are a
few actual key points about this. We’re going to cover everything this
time, I know in the past we’ve gotten dinged for not necessarily getting
out all the utilities under the same license and all that, but we’re going
to go through and make sure everything is out there and released.
All of the Punkbuster stuff is being removed, so the hope is anyone that’s
playing competitively with released versions should be protected from potential
cheating issues on there. We’ll see how that plays out.
One of the kind of interesting statistics that Todd and Marty told me just
earlier today, is that the entire Quake franchise, all the titles that have
been produced on it, our titles, our licensee titles, have generated over a
billion dollars in revenue worldwide. And the source code that’s going
out now is the culmination of what all of those were at least initially built
I have a number of motivations for why I do this, why I’ve been pursuing
this since the time the Doom source code was released. One of them is sort of
this personal remembrance where I very clearly recall being 14 years old and
playing my favorite computer games of the time, like Wizardry and Ultima on
the Apple II, and I remember thinking it’s like “wow it’d
be so great to be able to look at the source code and poke around and change
something in here”, and you know, I’d go in and sector edit things
to mess with things there, but you really wanted the source code.
And that was something that later on when it turns out that I’d been
writing the games that a new Ageneration of people are looking at and probably
thinking very similar things, that wouldn’t it be cool to be able to go
in and do this, and the original mod-ability of the games was the step that
we could take, but when we’ve been able to take it to the point of actually
releasing the entire source code on there, it opens up a whole lot more possibilities
for people to do things.
The whole issue about creativity in the development environment; that is one
of my motivators for why I give this stuff out there, where I actually think
that the mod community and the independent developer community, there are a
lot of reasons why we can look for creativity from that level, where people
can try random things, and there’s going to be fifty things and forty
of them are stupid, you know, and some of them turn out to be good interesting
ideas. Like it’s amazing to look at how Counterstrike has gone which was
somebody making a mod to make something fun, and it’s become this dominant
online phenomenon there.
So there are also the possibilities of people actually taking this and you
know, perhaps doing commercial things with it. The GPL license does allow people
to go make whatever game they want on this and sell it. You can go get a commercial
publishing agreement and not have to pay id a dime if you abide by the GPL.
And I’m still waiting for someone to have the nerve to do this, to actually
like ship a commercial game with the source code on the CD. I mean, that would
be really cool.
We always have the option of re-licensing the code without the GPL. You can’t
do this if picked up random people on the net’s additions to it, you know,
that’s stays GPL unless you go get a separate license from everybody there,
you’re stuck with the GPL.
But if you work with the original pristine source from id, you can always come
back to us and say “wellA we developed all of this with the GPL source
code, we want to ship a commercial product, but we don’t want to release
our source code, so we’d like to buy a license”, and we do that
at reasonably modest fees, we’ve done that some with the previous generation,
and that’s certainly an option for Quake 3.
I do hope that one of these days that somebody will go and do a budget title
based on some of this code, and actually release the source code on the CD.
That would be a novel first, and the way I look at it, people are twitchy about
their source code, more so than I think is really justified. There’s a
lot of sense that “oh this is our custom super value that we’ve
done our magic technology in here”, and that’s really not the case.
A whole successful game, it’s not about magic source code in there, it’s
about the thousands and thousands of little decisions that get made right through
the process. It’s all execution, and while there’s value in the
source code, it’s easy to get wrapped up and overvalue what’s actually
Especially in the case of the GPL’d stuff, I’m mean here we are,
it’s like I’m releasing this code that has this billion dollars
of revenue built on it, don’t you think it’s maybe a little bit
self righteous that the code that you’ve added to it is now so much more
special that you’re going to keep it proprietary and all that.
There have been some hassles in the past about people that developed on previous
GPL’d code bases and don’t follow through and release the code,
and occasionally we’ve had to send, get a lawyer letter or something sent
out to them.
But for the most part I think a lot of neat stuff has been done with it. I
think it’s been great that a lot of academic institutions have been able
to doA real research based off of the code bases, and I am still waiting for
someone to do the commercial kind of breakthrough project based on the GPL stuff.
Previously I would have several people say “oh but you didn’t get
the utilities licensed right” or any of this stuff as sort of an excuse
about it, but we’re going to have all that taken care of correctly this
time, and anyone can kind of go with it to whatever level they want there.
That’s one of my multi-pronged attacks on hopefully nurturing creativity
for gaming on there, and I do think making the canvas available for lots of
people to work on is an important step.
The low end platforms like the cell phone development, I actually have sort
of a plan that I’m hopefully going to be following through to develop
a small title on the cell phone and then possibly use that, if it’s well
received, as a springboard towards a higher level title, which is sort of the
opposite way to people doing it now, where usually on the platforms on the GBA
and the cell phone stuff, you’ll see people that have a named title on
some other high end console platform, and they release some game with the same
title that has almost no relevance to the previous thing, but you’re just
using some brand marketing on there.
I think that there’s the possibility of doing something actually the
other way, where if we do something neat and clever or even just something stylistically
interesting, that people can look at and say “this is a good game”,
and you get a million people playing it or something. Using that as your kind
of negotiation token to go to a publisher and say “all right, now we want
to go ahead and spend the tens of millions of dollars to take this to all the
high end platforms and really do an awesome job on that. We’ll see over
the next, you know, year or so, if any of that pans out.A I think there’s
a better chance of doing that than your random cold call.
id software is in sort of a unique position of we can just say this is the
game we’re going to do next, and publishers will publish it because we
have a perfect track record on our mainstream titles, they’ve all been
hits and successes.
But even in a lot of the companies that we work with, our partner companies
-- companies that we help on development projects and try to help get projects
going -- it’s tough to pitch a brand new concept. It’s pretty easy
to go ahead and get titles developed that are expansions and add-ons and in-themes
and sequels, and the stuff that known to be successful, but starting something
brand new is pretty tough.
I think that things like starting from mods or small game platforms is an exciting
idea for moving things a little bit forward there.
On the downside, the pace of technology is such that while our first cell phone
target was for this 300k device, we later made an upscale version for one of
the higher end BREW platforms and it’s 1.8 megs and I looked at this and
said well, we up-scaled all of this, but if somebody targeted a game development
specifically for the highest end of the cell phones now, you’re already
looking at million dollar game budgets, and given a year or two we’re
going to have PSP-level technology on the cell phones, and then a couple years
later, we’ll have Xbox, and eventually you’ll be carrying around
in your hand the technology that we currently have on the latest consoles, and
then people will be going “is it worth 20 million dollars to develop a
cell phone game”.
So this is treadmill that really shows no sign of slowing down here. And there
are going to continue to be problems in the future. And I’m not sure how
you scale down much further than that, so there might only be this wAindow of
a year or two where we’ve actually got the ability to go out and do relatively
inexpensive creative development before the bar is raised, as the saying goes,
over and over again, and you’re stuck to huge development budgets even
on those kind of low-end platforms.
What hardware should evolve towards
In terms of where the things I think hardware should be evolving towards, honestly,
things are going really well right now. The quibbles that I make about the exact
divisions of CPUs and things like that on the consoles, they’re really
essentially quibbles. The hardware’s great, I mean everybody’s making
great hardware, the video card vendors are making great accelerators, the consoles
are well put together, everything’s looking good.
The pet peeves or my wish list for graphics technology at least, I’ve
only really got one thing left on it that hasn’t been delivered, and that’s
full virtualization of texture mapping resources.
There’s a fallacy that’s been made over and over again, and that’s
being made yet again on this console generation, and that’s that procedural
synthesis is going to be worth a damn. People have been making this argument
forever, that this is how we’re going to use all of this great CPU power,
we’re going to synthesize our graphics and it just never works out that
way. Over and over and over again, the strategy is bet on data rather than sophisticated
calculations. It’s won over and over again.
You basically want to unleash your artists and designers, more and more. You
don’t want to have your programmer trying to design something in an algorithm.
It doesn’t work out very well.
This is not an absolute dogma sort of thing, but if you’ve got the spectrum
from pure synthesis that like to make their mouAntains and fluffy clouds out
of iterated fractal equations and all this, down to pure data which is nothing
but rendering models that are already pre-generated, I’m well off towards
this side, where I believe in simple combinations of extensive data.
The texturing is one of the areas I think we can still make radical improvements
in the visual look of the graphics simply by completely abandoning the tiled
texture metaphor. Even in the modern games that look great for the most part,
you still look out over these areas and you’ve got a tiled wall going
down that way or a repeating grass pattern, maybe it’s blended and faded
into a couple different things.
The essential way to look at it is that texture tiling, the way it’s
always been done, texture repeats, is a very, very limited form of data compression,
where clearly what you want is the ability to have exactly the textures that
you want on every surface, everywhere.
The visual results you get when you allow an artist to basically paint the
scene exactly as they’d like, that’s one of those differences where
a lot of people are sort of wondering what going to be the next big step, where
obviously look at the Doom 3 technology versus the Quake 3 technology, we took
a massive leap in visual fidelity.
Now there’s a ton of graphics algorithms that you can work on that will
be of improved quality in similar models, that we can take forward, and a lot
of them are going to be pretty important. High dynamic range is the type of
thing that can make just about everything look better to some degree, and you
can do all the motion blurs and the subsurface scattering, and grazing lighting
models, and all of this.
And those are good, but they’re not they type of thing that for the most
part when you glance over someone’s shoulder walking by that it makes
what’s on the screen look radically betAter.
Unique texturing is one of those things where you look out over a scene, and
can just look a whole lot better than anything you’ve seen before.
What we’re doing in Quake Enemy Territory is sort of our first cut at
doing that over a simple case, where you’ve got a terrain model that has
these enormous, like 32000 by 32000, textures going over them. Already they
look really great. There’s a lot of things that you get there that are
generated ahead of time, but as the tools are maturing for allowing us to let
artists actually go in and improve things directly, those are going to be looking
better and better.
We’re using similar technology, taking it kind of up a step, in our next
generation game, and I’d really love to apply this uniquely across everything.
It’d be great to be able to have every wall, floor, and ceiling uniquely
textured where the artists are going around and slapping down all these decals
all over the place, but it’s a more challenging technical problem where
there’s a lot of technology that goes on behind the scenes to make this
flat terrain thing, which is essentially a manifold plane, uniquely textured
with multiple scrolling textures and all this stuff going on behind the scenes
-- it doesn’t map directly to arbitrary surfaces where your locality can’t
necessarily tell you everything. An obvious case would be if you’ve got
a book. A book might have 500 pages, each page could have this huge amount of
texture data on there, and there’s no immediately obvious way for you
to know exactly what you need to update, how you need to manage your textures.
Lots of people have spent lots of time in software managing these problems
-- you get some pretty sophisticated texture management schemes, especially
on the consoles where you’ve got higher granularity control over everything.
But the fArustrating thing for me is that there is a clearly correct way to
do this in hardware and that’s to add virtual page tables to all of your
texture mapping lookups and then you go ahead and give yourself a 64-bit address
space, and if you want, take your book that has 500 pages, map it all out at
100 dpi on there, and give yourself 50 gigs of textures. But if you have the
ability to have the hardware let you know “ok this page is dirty, fill
it up”, whether it’s fill it up just by copying something from somewhere,
or more likely, decompressing something, or in the case of a book, using some
domain specific decompression -- I mean you could go ahead and rasterize a PDF
to that, and actually have it render just like anything else.
This is one of these things that has seemed blindingly obvious and correct
to me for a number of years and it’s been really frustrating that I haven’t
been able to browbeat all of the hardware vendors into actually getting with
the program on this because I think this is the most important thing for taking
graphics to the next level, and I’m disappointed that we didn’t
get that level of functionality in this generation.
What you want it to do is if it’s missing the page, not mapped in, it
just goes down the mipmap chain and eventually it stops at a single pixel, whatever,
it’s all completely workable, there are some API and OS issues that we
have to deal with, exactly how we want to handle the updates, but it’s
a solvable problem and we can deliver some really, really cool stuff from this.
The only other thing that I have to say about graphics now really is that getting
people to concentrate more on the small batch problem is important.
Microsoft is focusing on that for Longhorn to try and make that a little bit
better, but it’s a combination hardware software thing where ideally you
want your API to be aA direct exposure of what the hardware does, where you just
call something which sets a parameter, and it becomes “store these four
bytes to the hardware command buffer”, and right now there’s far
too much stuff that goes on which winds up causing all of the hardware vendors
to basically say “use large batches”, you know, use more instancing
stuff, or go ahead and put in more polygons on your given characters.
But the truth is that’s not what makes for the best games. Given a choice,
we can go ahead and have 100,000 polygon characters, and you can do some neat
close-ups and stuff, but a game is far better with ten times or a hundred times
as many elements in there.
For instance, we’re a long ways away from being able to render this hall
filled with people with each character being detailed because there are too
many batches. It just doesn’t work out well, and that’s something
that the hardware people are aware of and it’s evolving to some correction,
but it’s one of those issues that they don’t like being prodded
on it because hardware people like peak numbers. You always want to talk about
what’s the peak triangle, the peak fill rate, and all of this, even if
that’s not necessarily the most useful rate. We suffer from this on the
CPU side as well, with the multi-core stuff going on now.
But overall I’m really happy with how all of the graphics hardware stuff
has gone, the CPUs, and it’s sort of fallen off my list of things -- about
four or five years ago I basically stopped bothering talking with Intel and
AMD because I thought they were doing a great job. I really don’t have
much of anything to add. Just continue to make things faster, you know, you
don’t have to add quirky little things that are game targeted.
And you know the last year or two, even the video card vendors -- I continue
tAo get the updates and look at all of these things -- but basically it’s
been “good job, carry on and get the damn virtual texturing in”,
but that’s about it.
So life is really good from a hardware platforms standpoint and I think the
real challenges are in the development management process and how we can continue
to both evolve the titles that we’re doing and innovate in some way, have
the freedom to do that, and that’s probably a good time to go ahead and
start taking some questions.
Tradeoffs when developing for multiple platforms?
Ok, so the tradeoffs when you are developing for multiple platforms. It’s
interesting in that the platforms are closer together in the upcoming generation
than the current generation.
There is a much bigger difference between Xbox and PS2 than there is between
Xbox 360 and PS3.
There were clearly important design decisions that you would have to make if
you were going to be an Xbox targeted game or a PS2 targeted game, and you can
pick out the games that were PS2 targeted that were moved over to the Xbox pretty
That’s less of a problem in the coming generation because both a high-end
PC spec and the 360 and the PS3, they’re all ballpark-ish performance-wise.
Now the tough decision that you have to make is how you deal with the CPU resources.
Where you might say that if you want to do the best on all the platforms, you
would unfortunately probably try to program towards the Sony CELL model, which
is isolated worker threads that work on small little nuggets of data, rather
than kind of peer threads, because you can take threads like that and run it
on the 360. You won’t be able to get as many of them, but you can still
run, you know you got three processors with two threads, or three cores with
two threads in each one.
So youA could go ahead and make a game which has a half dozen little worker
threads that go on the CELL processor there, and run as just threads on the
360 and a lot of PC specs will at least have hyper threading enabled, the processor’s
already twice as fast, if you just let the threads run it would probably work
out ok on the PC, although the OS scheduler might be a little dodgy for that
-- that might actually be something that Microsoft improves in Longhorn.
And that’s kind of an unfortunate thing that that would be the best development
strategy to go there, because it’s a lot easier to do a better job if
you sort of follow the peer thread model that you would have on the 360 but
then you’re going to have pain and suffering porting to the CELL.
I’m not completely sure yet which direction we’re going to go,
but the plan of record is that it’s going to be more the Microsoft model
right now where we’ve got the game and the renderer running as two primary
threads and then we’ve got targets of opportunity for render surface optimization
and physics work going on the spare processor, or the spare threads, which will
amenable to moving to the CELL, but it’s not clear yet how much the hand
feeding of the graphics processor on the renderer, how well we’re going
to be able to move that to a CELL processor, and that’s probably going
to be a little bit more of an issue because the graphics interface on the PS3
is a little bit more heavyweight. You’re closer to the metal on the Microsoft
platform and we do expect to have a little bit lower driver overhead.
People that program directly on the PC as the first target are going to have
a significantly more painful time, although it’ll essentially be like
porting a PC game, like we did on the Xbox with Doom, lots of pain and suffering
You take a game that’s designed for, you Aknow, 2 GHz or something and
try and run it on a 800 MHz processor, you have to make a lot of changes and
improvement to get it cut down like that, and that is one of the real motivators
for why we’re trying to move some of our development to the consoles is
to sort of make those decisions earlier.
Next game after Quake 4?
No I’m not going to really comment on the next game right now.
PSP or portable platforms?
No, I haven’t done any development on those yet. I just recently looked
over some of the PSP stuff with. We tossed around the idea of maybe taking a
Doom 3 derivative to the PSP. I really like the PSP. I don’t play a ton
of video games, but I like the PSP, one of the few things I’ve been playing
I think it’s a cool platform and we’re looking at the possibility
of maybe doing something that would be, it would have to be closer to Quake
3 level graphics technology because it doesn’t have as much horsepower
as the modern platforms. But it’s got a nice clean architecture, again
back to one reasonably competent processor, and one fast graphics accelerator.
The development tools again aren’t up to Microsoft standards on there,
so it’s probably more painful from that side of things, but it looks like
an elegant platform, that would be fun to develop something on.
Stand-alone physics cards?
Ok, stand-alone physics cards. They’ve managed to quote me on the importance
of, you know, physics and everything in upcoming games. But I’m not really
a proponent of stand-alone physics accelerators. I think it’s going to
be really difficult to actually integrate that with games. What you’ll
end up getting out of those, the bottom line, is they&A#8217;re going to pay
a number of developers to add support for this hardware and it’s going
to mean fancy smoke and water, and maybe waving grass on there. You’re
not going to get a game which is radically changed on this. And that was one
of the things again why graphics acceleration has been the most successful kind
of parallel processing approach. It’s been a highly pipelined approach
that had a fallback.
You know in Quake, GLQuake, and Quake 2 timeframe where we had our CPU side
stuff, and the graphics accelerator made it look better and run faster.
Now the physics accelerators have a bit of an issue there where if you go ahead
and design in these physics effects, the puffy smoke balls, and the grass and
all that, you can have a fallback where have a hundred of these on the CPU and
a thousand of them if you’re running on the physics accelerator.
Once of the problems though it’s likely to actually decrease your wall
clock execution performance, and this is one of the real issues with all sorts
of parallel programming is that it’s often easy to scale the problem to
get higher throughput, but it often decreases your actual wall clock performance,
because of inefficiencies with dealing with it. And that’s one of the
classical supercomputer sales lines that you can quote these incredibly high
numbers on some application, but you have to look really close to see that they
scaled the problem.
Where usually people when you think of acceleration you want to think “it
does what I do only better and faster” and a lot of cases in parallel
applications you get something where “well, it does what I do, it’s
better, but might actually be a little bit slower”, and this was one of
the real problems we had with the first generation of graphics accelerators
until 3DFX really got things going with Voodoo.
A lot of the early graphicAs accelerators you’d take the games, they would
run on there, and they would have better filtering and higher resolution, so
in many cases they’d look better, but they were actually slower -- in
some cases significantly slower than the software engines at the time. It was
only when you got to the Voodoo cards that actually it looks better in every
respect and it’s actually also faster than the software rasterizer version
that they became a clear win.
So I have concerns about the physics accelerator’s utility. It’s
the type of thing where they may be fun to buy for their demos, it might be
cool, and there will be some neat stuff I guarantee it. I know there’s
some smart people at the company working on it that I’m sure will develop
some great stuff, and there will probably be some focused key additions to some
important games that do take advantage of it, but I don’t expect it to
set the world on fire really.
Creative gameplay design?
Creative gameplay designing -- that was sort of one of my themes about the
issues of development and this was another kind of interesting thing with the
cell phone project. Lots of people will go on about the lack of creativity in
the game industry and, you know, how we’re lacking all of these things.
It was interesting when we interviewed at Fountainhead, we were looking for
some additional people to bring onto the development team for cell phone projects
and we have several cases of people going “eh, I don’t want to work
on a little puny cell phone” essentially.
Everybody wants to work on the next great sequel, you know, people go into
the game industry, they want to work on Doom 5 or whatever, you know the games
that they’ve had a great time playing and there’s nothing wrong
with that, but it was a little disappointing to see Aa lot of people give lip
service to creativity and innovation and being able to go out and try different
things, but there’s probably not nearly as much when it comes down to
actually walking the walk on that, it’s probably not as widespread as
a lot of people who just chat on message boards about how awful and non-creative
everything is these days.
But I do think that, like I said, my key plan is, small platforms may be a
cradle for innovation and then I leave a lot in the hands of what people can
do with the source code platforms we have released as an ability to kind of
strut your stuff.
And the other aspect of the source code is it is the best way to get into the
industry. Do something with the resources that are available out there.
If you do something really creative and you get thousands of people playing
your mod online, and everybody likes it, you can get a job in the industry,
because those are credentials. That’s showing you’ve got what it
takes to actually take an idea from a concept to something people actually enjoy,
and that’s been a really positive side effect of the whole mod community
in general, and the source code stuff is a follow on that.
LGPL middleware solutions?
So, LGPL middleware solutions -- I’m not really up on all the middleware
-- so are there actually any significant middleware solutions that are under
<Audience member unintelligible>
Yeah, we use OpenAL for some of our audio stuff.
The GPL has always been sort of a two edged sword, where a lot of people will
just say “well why don’t you release it under the BSD license or
something so we can do whatever we want with it” and there’s something
to be said for the complete freedom, but I do like the aspect of the GPL about
forcing people to actually give some back. I do Aget a little irritated about
people getting too proprietary about their addition to the code when it’s
built on top of what other people have put far more effort into.
But any of the work that goes on for developing GPL or LGPL stuff, it’s
been to some degree, there’s a lot of stuff that goes on in the development
of sort of amateur graphics engines that people are doing because it’s
fun -- and it is -- and not so much because it’s something that’s
really going to be helping anyone produce a title or do something interesting
I think that in general people trying to actually make a difference would be
better served working in one of the established code bases, because in the development
process, the last 10% turns out to be 90% of the work.
There have been dozens and dozens of projects that are done in a somewhat public
form that look like they’re making great progress, and you take a quick
glance at it and say “oh this is 90% or 80% of the way to something that
can be a commercial game” when in reality it’s 10% or 15% of what
it takes to actually get there.
So I certainly encourage people to work inside the context of full complete
code bases that have a commercial kind of pedigree on it, but the great thing
about any of that though is if you just want to program to have fun -- which
is a perfectly valid thing to do -- writing graphics engines and middleware
solutions sort of from scratch has it’s own appeal.
The orders of magnitude we’ve seen in graphics?
The numbers of orders of magnitude we’ve seen in graphics is really stunning.
It’s easy to be blasé about the state of everything, but if you
step back and take a perspective look at this, I stand in awe of the industry
and the progress that has been made here.
I mean I remember wrAiting character graphics depth buffer on a line printer
at a college VAX. All the Apple II graphics and line drawing so on like that.
I could not say that I envisioned things at the point that we’ve got right
I mean it’s hard, even if you say right now, what would do with four
orders of magnitude more performance. I mean I can tell you right now what I’d
do with one or two orders of magnitude. There are specific things that I know
look good and will improve things and do all of that. But just imagining out
another couple orders of magnitude, is pretty tough.
Even at the worst of times, I’m a glass is half full sort of person,
but this glass is overflowing. I don’t have anything that I look at as
“darn it’s too bad we don’t have all of this”.
Networking side of things?
On the networking side of things, it’s been extremely gratifying seeing
the success of the massively multiplayer games. You know we certainly talked
about doing that type of stuff early on in the Doom days. We actually started
a corporation, id communications, with the expressed idea that we should pursue
this type of multi-player persistent online experience.
id never got around to all of that, but when the early Ultima Online and Everquest
were coming out, I was certainly looking on that eagerly anticipating how they
would do and the huge success that we’ve seen with all of those has been
really cool. It’s again one of those things that we’re not directly
a part of, but I can very much appreciate the raw neatness of how that’s
There are technical directions that things would go if performance, if broadband
performance continues to improve in terms of bandwidth and latency and variability,
there are other styles of technology that one would do. You can make all the
clientA side cheating sort of things impossible if you had enough bandwidth to
essentially have everyone just be a game terminal where you’re essentially
just sending compressed video back to them so there’s no opportunity for
driver cheats or intercepting game positions of things. If someone wants to
actually write optical analysis software to analyze compressed images to target
people, go for it -- that’s a hell of a research project. Something like
that would be a direction that things could change.
I think that the push that Microsoft’s done with Live in a lot of ways
has been good, making voice kind of a standard part of a lot of the games, and
the work that’s going on in terms of infrastructure and back-end in matchmaking,
Microsoft’s been pretty smart in a lot of things they’re doing there.
So it was a lot of fun doing the early networking work, but it’s a reasonably
well understood problem now.
I don’t expect to see really radical changes in the technologies that
are going on in games. It’s just gotten easier with the broadband, where
we don’t have to cripple the game or the single player aspect of the game
as much now.
Quake 3 was all built around minimum transmit, all presentation client-side,
and that actually made Quake 3 a little bit more difficult of an engine for
developers that took it and made single player games out of it. A lot of times,
like some of Raven’s titles, they would wind up making two separate executables,
where you take one that’s more derived from the Quake 3 original source
and one that they took a hatchet to, to make a great single player game out
As people start going through the source code in the coming weeks, it will
be interesting to see what people make of those necessary tradeoffs.
Well we tried to start getting it put together but everybody’s really
busy. Timothy is going to be taking care of making sure its got everything,
its got the right GPL notices in it, that everything builds, the utilities and
everything are done. I’m hoping it’ll be next week.
When is the Quake 3 GPL release?
It would have been nice if we could have had it done and actually up on the
FTP site now, but things like working on Quake 4 is still taking priority for
a lot of resources there. I would certainly expect within a week.
Tools and middleware versus APIs?
Ok, tools and middleware over APIs, you know there are interesting tradeoffs
to be made there. For years the middleware companies were really in kind of
a dodgy space in terms of what they could provide and the benefits that you
get from that, and it was really only with the PS2 that middleware companies
really became relevant for gaming.
Now id has always been sort of the champion of full engine licensing. We have
no intention of changing from that model. I think that a company will get more
out of taking a complete game engine and modifying that to suit their game,
if they’re looking for something that’s reasonably close to what
the game engine does, rather than taking a raw middleware technology and using
that to build a game on top of.
Now the nastier the platform is the more valuable middleware is. Middleware
was valuable on the PS2 because there’s a lot of nasty stuff in there
the developers didn’t want to work with.
It may be less valuable on platforms like the 360 that are really pretty clean.
There will be more solutions for things on taking advantage of the CELL processor
where you’ll probably be able to get neat little modules that do various
speech and audio processing and certain video effects, and things like that
where you just know oh I can just go ofAf and run this on a CELL processor, I
don’t have to worry about figuring out how to do that and it’ll
go do its job and add something to the game.
So there will be some good value there. There’s definitely a valid place
for middleware solutions, but again there’s a ton of success that’s
been built on top of the engine licensing model.
Armadillo Aerospace update?
Ah, the Armadillo Aerospace stuff. Well I could talk for another two hours
about all the aerospace side of things.
In October we’re going to be flying a little vehicle at the X-Prize Cup,
to show rapid turn-around. The big change that we’ve made in the last
six months is we’ve abandoned our peroxide based engine. We’re using
liquid oxygen and alcohol engines, which we’re still getting them to melt
sometimes, got a few issues left to work out on that.
The upside is that it’s essentially a combination which you can credibly
build an actual orbital booster out of. The combination we were using before
was optimized for ease of development and making it generally safer and lot
less problematic for us to develop, but now we’re going ahead and taking
that big step of making it work with cryogenic propellants, it will be the platform
that will be able to take us into the future.
I actually just recently sold my last Ferrari. I’ve been sort of pawning
them off for a while, and a lot of people commented that for a while in my old
house I didn’t have much space in my garage, so I had my little machine
tools and my mill and my lathe, small things, and I would be setting books and
manuals and parts on my Testarossa, people were like “this is just appalling”,
but it was table space for a while there. But I did just recently sell the F50.
TAhe rocket work kind of drove a lot of vehicle choice where I drive a BMW X5
to carry boxes around here mostly, cause I have to lug things around, and it
just doesn’t work having boxes of industrial parts sticking out of a Ferrari
My wife’s car is a BMW Z8 which is a neat little sports car. It’s
not a Ferrari, but it’s actually in many ways sort of a more little fun
car to drive.
Recently just before I sold the F50, I drove it around for a little while.
It had been in the shop for a long time actually getting the turbos taken off,
because the damn Ferrari purists, none of them want a turbo Ferrari. It’s
like I don’t understand it. They would rather pay more for this pure car
that you’re in danger of having someone with a Mustang with a big shot
of nitrous running ahead of you. It’s like that’s no way to have
an exotic car.
But it was interesting to just sort of go ahead and drive it again like that.
Yeah when you run it flat out, it’s a fast car. And it’s faster
than the Z8, but just for most day to day around town driving, the Z8’s
actually a more fun little car.
You know the cars I have the fond memories of are things like my 1000 HP Testarossa,
which is just a completely different quality of experience. It’s not just
a little bit faster, you know, it’s “See God and hope you don’t
die” type of fast. And you know that’s spoiled me for years. It’s
like forever after probably I’ll test drive somebody’s new supercar
and it’ll be like “oh this is... pleasant.”
Facial expressions in games?
Ok that’s another kind of good example about how we really need more
of stuff. If you look at the movies doing facial expressions, they will have
hundreds of control points going on, tugging every littleA muscle that makes
up the face.
We as an industry know how to do very realistic facial work there if we follow
the movie example, but it’s time consuming and expensive, and I don’t
expect radical improvements in that, where if you look at the Lord of the Rings
work on there, in a lot of the making of stuff where they talk about how they
animate Gollum’s face and it comes down to an insane amount of man work
just going in tweaking every last little control point. Yeah they capture most
of it, but everything gets touched up.
And that’s just what’s going to be leading us to hundred million
dollar game budgets. And these are just all the things that, it’s not
going to be long before we literally see a hundred million dollar budget game
that’s going to employ all of this level of movie production values going
in there and human faces are one of those really tough things.
id has classically intentionally steered away from having to do that because
it’s a tough problem solvable only by large amounts of manpower and money
going towards that. And unless you’re perfect, it can still come off looking
It’s one of the problems that scare me about doing the more and more
people that you do have on there. I mean even at the movies, you look at the
movies that have the incredibly huge budgets, you tend not to have synthetic
computer actors doing close up face shots. You have the computer animated guys
screwing around doing their action things down there, but you don’t do
a zoom-in full face close up on a simulated character, because even given unlimited
resources, you get a few things like Gollum, and that’s not a human --
you get away with it because it’s a creature.
When you take an actual person and simulate it, it’s possible to pull
off, but it’s incredibly expensive and that’s one of the realA challenges
facing gaming today, as you get a lot more games that are kind of set in conventional
modern world environments where you’ve got more and more things that people
are used to looking at and used to interacting with, solving the people problem
is a really big issue because it starts rearing it’s head as the thing
that will dominate your experience of how realistic the people look, and in
a lot of games people just have to kind of swallow that little bit of disbelief
and say everything else look really lush and wonderful, but the close up facial
expressions are not there yet. I’ll be surprised if we do get there in
this coming generation.
I think that’s about my time slot, thanks