"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 second. 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 ago.
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 the 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
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 this.
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
able 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 the
graphics side of things.
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 on consoles.
It's worth taking a little sort of retrospective through the evolution of
PCs 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.
That has given us some headaches at id where we have one driver revision
that fixes something that makes our tools work correctly 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 stuff on all
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, and 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
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, 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
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'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 doesn't happen.
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.
The 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 good thing.
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 going 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 it.
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.
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 power -- 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 make 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 incorporating
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
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 do 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
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've 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
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
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. Anyways 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 back 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 phones and fostering innovation and creativity
To change gear a little bit on the platform side, something that 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
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 be at the vanguard of creative frontiers
here, and we're going to go off and do something that might turn out to be
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 all that.
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 platform. 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
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
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 something.
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 with 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 generation 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 "well 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
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
do 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
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. 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
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
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
window 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.
Where the hardware should go
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 mountains 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 better.
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
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
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
But the frustrating 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
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
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 a 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
to 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
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.
Question: 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 clearly.
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 you 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
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
You take a game that's designed for, you know, 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.
Question: Next game after Quake 4?
No I'm not going to really comment on the next game right now.
Question: 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 recently.
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.
Question: 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'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
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 graphics 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.
Question: 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
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 a 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.
Question: 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
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 get 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 there.
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.
Question: 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 writing 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
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".
Question: 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 all gone.
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 client 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
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
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 of.
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.
Question: When is the Quake 3 GPL release?
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.
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.
Question: 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 off 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.
Question: 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.
The 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
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."
Question: 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 little 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 real 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.