Watch the full interview with Todd embedded above, or click here to watch it in HD
: Hey guys, welcome back to AusGamers once again; we’re out of QuakeCon. I have another gentleman with me today, who needs no introduction, but for anyone living under a rock, this is Mr Todd Hollenshead.
Sir... twenty years!
: Just Todd [laughs].
: Twenty years, it’s fantastic. Obviously a great party last night. Congratulations, you guys must be elated.
: Oh yeah and I think that what we’re elated about is not necessarily what's gone in the past. We understand that's a path to get us to where we are today, but what I really think is that... for me, I've been doing this at id for fifteen years and I can tell you that I'm just as excited today as I was the first day that I started at id.
I know a lot more but I also know a lot about the potential that we have in front of us. I'm really stoked about the upcoming launch of RAGE and the stuff that we have in the development pipeline. It's a great time to be President of id; I've got the best job in the world.
: We're obviously here for QuakeCon and it's been a massive success for fifteen years. Humble beginnings obviously, but the BYOC [Bring Your Own Computer] scene is not as strong as it used to be. But thankfully you guys are kind of keeping it alive. I guess I wanted to get your view on that, on that concept that that multiplayer, that BYOC type of community is just not as strong as it used to be.
: Well you know, the whole BYOC LAN stuff, I think... at QuakeCon we're looking at things like going through a bit of a transformation of it. Because you know when we started QuakeCon -- and we only first got involved in it in '97; it was completely just done by the fans in '96 -- but what it was is that you wanted to get on a LAN so you didn't have to worry about your ping time playing right?
But now everybody's basically playing over the Internet and even when you're at the BYOC, playing with the LAN, you're authenticating with Steam and all this sort of stuff. So there's a persistent Internet component of the games today that there weren't fifteen years ago where you were just coming in and playing completely offline.
But still, people who meet and play each other over the Internet love to come here and meet and play each other in person and be able to buy somebody a drink and shake their hand; give them a hug, get married! We even had that happen at QuakeCon -- get engaged. So this year really, it's been about getting the BYOC back up to the performance that it was back in the days where we just had a supremely fast LAN.
So partnering up with AT&T and Alienware and the investment that id and Bethesda have made in the network core and the switches, I think put it like "this is a network that people want to come and play on, because it's better than what you can play on at home". So there's that kind of aspect brought back into the event. But you don't have to get disconnected from the stuff that you love to have at home, like your Facebook pages or your Twitter and just being able to just access the Internet and all that stuff thanks to AT&T.
So we're trying to sort of re-invent what the BYOC is all about, so it's not just cloistering yourself in a room for three days without any access to the outside world. It's like, now you're in a room with a bunch of people and you're playing games and you've still got all the stuff that you had at home, except you get to meet and play with your friends in person and have a beer with them afterwards.
: You mentioned the persistent online component. Do you feel like the landscape has changed so dramatically from what id sort of created back in the day, with DRM and stuff like that, can you see a point where companies just need to scale that back a bit to allow this sort of stuff to happen maybe on a smaller scale than what you guys are doing today?
: I think there's always some friction between protecting your rights against thieves and taking away the rights of your paying customers. Traditionally over the years, id has sort of always sided on probably the more open side. I mean John Carmack always releases the source code to the games. We release the tools and stuff for people to make their own content -- although that's gotten more and more difficult with each iteration of technology.
But I think that line is a sort of grey-area, it's not a bright line of you can do this but you can't do that. And frankly I think that -- for events like this and people who want to get together and play is that -- most of those people, the reason why they want to get together and do that is because they're fans of the game; not because they're trying to steal stuff.
So on things like that or even on a smaller scale, my personal opinion is to be more flexible than hard and fast with it.
: What can you perceive the future being, I guess for multiplayer. Because John [Carmack] basically made everybody happy during his keynote mentioning that dedicated servers are coming back through id. And obviously that's for a future project that you guys aren't really talking that much about -- but we can put two and two together -- and I know a lot of people were a bit disappointed that there's no dedi-servers for RAGE -- especially with the mod stuff there.
But do you guys see... I mean RAGE is going to be a big game, then the next game is probably going to be just as big and it seems like id is sort of back on this path to maybe leading the industry a little bit again.
: Yeah, that's always out goal, is to be right out there on front and on the bleeding edge of everything that we can possibly do. Now we can't do everything that you can possibly do in any given game; we do have to pick out battles and make our inflection points where we really get the most leverage off of our talents as a studio. Which is really making first person shooter games that are right on -- as John says, right on -- the bleeding edge of technology.
We’ve had a long time since we’ve had a release of a game so it’s really important what we’ve done on RAGE here. I’m really enthusiastic about the reception we’ve seen here at QuakeCon and the reception we’ve seen of the game elsewhere as we’re really on the cusp of putting it in the box the game has really come together nicely. It’s one of those things is that you can work for a long time and be working on really good stuff, but unless you actually have something to ship and show for it it’s “what have you done for me lately?”
That’s just kind of the way the industry is, but that’s ok because I think that RAGE is going to be a game that is one of the top games of 2011, if not the top game. That’s not for me to choose or decide; I already know what my favourite pick is. I’ll go one and two for you -- RAGE and Skyrim how about that? [laughs].
But I really am excited about the direction that we’ve taken with RAGE. It’s the deepest game that we’ve done, but we’re still using cutting-edge technology. We’re still staying true to what I think is the core id experience, which is a real fast, tight shooter experience with amazing art. Then we have all of these other elements in the game to incorporate in it as well.
I think the vision for the company has sort of come up and we’re looking down the path and we want to make... our goal is to make the best games that not only we can make, but the best games in the business. We know there’s a lot of competition and you know, bring it on!
: There seems to be a resonating point here at this particular QuakeCon that: yes it took eight years to get this out the door, but the development cycle is going to be a lot quicker moving forward for you guys. And I guess part two to that statement is: now that you’re under the Zenimax umbrella, has the culture changed much for you guys internally? Especially also because it’s not just PC development now, it’s across the board with consoles as well.
: I think that being part of the Zenimax family gives us some enormous benefits that we didn’t have before. We’ve got the resources and financial capital of a large organisation as opposed to just funding ourselves and with the investment it takes to make games these days, that economic question has changed from the beginning days when Wolfenstein 3D was made in six months for example.
You’re talking about six months to six years and going from a staff of five to a staff of seventy-plus for a given development team. Those are huge changes in terms of what your investment structure is. But one of the greatest things about the merger is -- in addition to just having the financial resources -- is that id is a partner at the table now in everything that we do.
When it was just our games that were published by someone else, we never knew whether they were giving our game top billing or not. But now we know. We’re involved in all the top decisions not just from game development, but we’re also involved the sales and marketing decisions as well. We have a much bigger role to play there and that has changed how we look at things a little bit in terms of the overall picture of what you do to market, sell, not just make a game.
But in terms of making the game itself, it’s still the way that we really have always done it. That has not changed really at all other than the team sizes getting larger which is just a factor of advancement in the industry. So we put our heart and soul and everything we can into games because we love them and we want to make great games.
: So obviously you’ve got RAGE; Doom 4 has been announced in some capacity; but the event is called QuakeCon and Quake is the phenomenon. Will we ever see id return to that? Will we see just Quake coming out and being Quake and giving it back to the fans?
: Well, I’m going to have to walk on eggshells a little bit with my answer here, because I can’t announce something that is unannounced. But let me just sort of assure the fans out there that Quake is still a very important brand to id. We spent a lot of resources and are still working on Quake Live -- that’s really the featured tournament here with the Intel pro-master championships for both Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch. We put enormous effort into leverage the AT&T stuff to stream those tournaments out to the fans all over the world so that people can watch what’s going on at QuakeCon in real-time.
And Quake as a game, from Quake to Quake 2 to Quake 3 to Team Arena to Quake Live that I have personally spent hours and hours playing -- I’m a huge fan of the brand. And without making any specific commitments or statements, I think what I can safely say is that fans shouldn’t worry about whether we’re going to abandon Quake. Because we love it just as much, if not more so than you guys do.
: Awesome. Well, we’ll leave it there at that precarious little point, but thanks so much. Once again, it’s a fantastic event, fantastic game, fantastic id.
: Excellent [laughs]. Welcome to Texas!
: Cheers. Thank you.