Id: Why Two Different Developers Made Two Different Console Ports Of ‘Enemy Territory: Quake Wars’

Usually when a PC game is ported over to the both the Xbox 360 and PS3, one developer works on the game for both platforms.

Not so in the case of “Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars.”

Last month I saw a demo of “Enemy Territory: Quake Wars” on the Xbox 360. Ported from last year’s PC title, the Xbox 360 and the PS3 versions of the game will be out on May 27. Two different development teams worked on the ports — Nerve Software on the Xbox 360 and Underground Development (formerly Z-Axis) on the PS3.

Kevin Cloud, lead artist and co-owner of id Software told me about the main differences between the platforms and why id chose to use two different developers:

“Nerve has a lot of experience on the 360 but they don’t have a lot of experience on the PS3 development. For a team that would have to do both for a small company, we felt that it would be best to put the 360 development with a team that really knows the 360 and put the PS3 development with a team that knows the PS3 and that was Underground. We really wanted to give both consoles the best chances to succeed for their audiences and for their platforms, so we went that route.”

But that made me wonder: Did id think there was a difference between PS3 and Xbox 360 users? Why was the PS3 version made to be more similar to the PC? Was cross-compatibility between the platforms ever an option?

Read on for Cloud’s answers to all these questions.

Multiplayer: How has it been communicating with all of the developers?

Cloud: Well, with the multiple teams running, keep in mind that the 360 has been in development for almost two years. Nerve has also contributed to the PC development as well. They created maps, and they also did a lot of the A.I. support in terms of making it work on the maps. At the same time we also had id working on the game itself. All the A.I. programming was done at id Software and some map work was done at id Software as well. So it was a real cooperative effort.

The communication solutions were just a lot of electronic solutions, a lot of virtual office space going on. We had an IRC channel with all the programmers talking with each other everyday about different problem-solving. As far as design, we were cycling maps to the different teams and such. It’s really interesting because you would think that it could be more of a hierarchy of just a handful of people talking to each other. But with all the different ways to communicate these days, it was more like one large group of people communicating together online.

Probably our biggest challenge is just time zone differences especially when we were working with Splash Damage more often on PC because there was a six-hour time difference. But people adjusted worked their sleeping schedules around it. [laughs] It worked out well.

Multiplayer: Can you talk about the differences between the PC, the 360 and PS3 versions?

Cloud: Again, we wanted the different teams that know the different platforms and their audience. That was important. And so the result of that is the different teams making decisions they felt were best for what they wanted to accomplish and still fit within id’s overall goals for the game. On the 360, we spent time taking advantage of the Achievement point system and taking advantage of Xbox Live functionality and the party system and things like that. …

On the mission system on the PC, you could cycle the different missions. We took that out [in the 360 version] in favor of a more simplified system of just pressing a down button, so you could see all the things you need to accomplish or highlight. We felt that with all of the different goals played would have with the Gamerpoints and things like that, that’s plenty for them to focus on and deal with because there’s a lot of new stuff in there. With the PS3 we left that in. The mission system you’re familiar with on the PC is on the PS3.

In terms of getting all the A.I. more guided towards being player-focused, we worked on getting that on both consoles. Also, the offline campaign mode is not in the PS3. The offline campaign mode is, again, focused on providing goals for the player in the Achievement system as well. That just wasn’t the focus of the PS3. It was trying to get as much of the PC functionality and all of that into the game and getting it looking as good as it possibly can on the PS3, so that’s what they put most of their attention on.

Multiplayer: Can you explain why there’s a training mode on the Xbox 360 and not the PC and PS3?

Cloud: Training mode is 360 only and campaign mode is 360 only. As far as the training mode, it was really something that was a design and vision direction that came directly from Nerve working with our team there. That’s something they were really interested in and started focusing more of their time on there. Meanwhile, the PS3 team was focusing in on other things like in terms of making the game look as good as it could on the PS3, getting the PC systems over like the mission system, creating systems that do what Xbox Live [already] does like matchmaking, server migration, creating those for the PS3 so it would have all those systems.

Multiplayer: Before, you said that the Xbox 360 version was heavily focused on the Achievement system. Are there similar types of rewards for the PS3 version?

Cloud: Well, in the campaign reward system, players that are doing something that fits their role and that helps their team, like medics reviving and engineers repairing and that type of stuff, [get rewarded]. The more they do that they’ll get XP and those result in different player improvements, enhancements to their class. So you have that.

Then on top of that for both the PS3 and the 360, you also have a set of persistent stats and achievements that are tracked. Players can gain rank, a persistent rank, they can gain medals based upon doing their class very well, and they can also track their stats, see if they’re best in using a particular weapon; there’s almost a thousand stats that are tracked. For both consoles there’s a portion of stats presented in game and also all the stats are presented outside on the website. So players can go to the website if they want to and they can see all the different comparisons and sort themselves based on the leaderboards and things like that. So all of that is there.

What the 360 offers is their Gamerpoint system. Basically we’ve done things to support that system. Players can gain Gamerpoints, and it’s basically split up in thirds — offline, offline campaign and online. So across those three different ways to play the game we have those Gamerpoints spread out. That’s really the significant difference — taking advantage of the Gamerpoints in terms of the Achievement system.

Multiplayer: Do you think there’s a significant difference between PS3 and 360 users, or that PS3 users and PC users are more similar?

Cloud: I don’t believe there are significant differences between PS3 and 360 users. However, the platforms themselves are different, which results in some different development priorities. For example, the PS3 version doesn’t offer the same robust back-end online support as Xbox Live and we wanted to make sure that regardless of what platform you’re playing, it’s easy to find a great match with similarly-skilled players or friends. So that functionality had to be added to the PS3 game.

We also looked toward other popular games on the specific platforms as a guide for what experiences people are looking for. For example, flying control schemes are generally handled differently on the 360 and PS3 so we tuned our controls to work the way we that most people will expect them to work for their preferred platform.

In the end, the game experiences are the same. Players can play as a Strogg or human and take a role that best suits their playing style – setting explosives, taking disguises, reviving teammates, deploying defense turrets, launching missiles, etc. And players on both the PS3 and 360 can play offline against the computer’s amazingly life-like A.I. or jump online and find a good match quickly and easily. Again, the solutions may be unique based upon the differences in the systems and player expectations but the gameplay experiences will be very similar.

Most developers usually roll out the 360/PS3 versions together and make the console versions more similar to each other than the PC version. Is tailoring the game to each specific console something that id will continue to do for its titles?

Cloud: Our goal isn’t to create different games but to create an amazing, immersive experience for each platform and we will continue to take that approach for future games. … To be able to bring that over to the console intact was a great accomplishment for the team due to the technical differences in systems and what players have come to expect as standards for each platform. If your platform of choice happens to be PC, PS3 or 360, you’ll experience the same gameplay with all the same classes, weapons, vehicles and tools and ultimately, the addictive fun that id Software and our development partners strive for.

Multiplayer: Was it ever considered to try to integrate the cross-platform play?

Cloud: No. I mean, the thing is that, especially when you’re looking at something like what a lot of people are focusing on today, is the idea of maybe Xbox playing against PC users — I think there’s a lot of opportunities for that in a different type of game. But still in “Enemy Territory” once people are going online, there’s some competitiveness to it. You’re playing with a team but you’re also playing against a team.

So there’s certain game control things that you need to do on the Xbox to make it more playable, like aim assist and things like that, and those are things you wouldn’t have on the PC, that would not work on the PC. And so it’s very difficult to make those two audiences [play] together, be really satisfied with the game experience and think that it’s an even playing field. I think if you were designing a game from scratch to take advantage of that I think it would work great.

And for developers, every time some new technology like that comes out, I think it’s exciting for developers because it just opens up some new opportunity to create something for game. But for us, the game was pretty much already set before really a lot of that was there to deal with.