John Carmack Talks Possible Wii Development, iPhone, ‘Doom 4,’ More

id Software’s John Carmack gave us an update on the multi-platform development of “Rage” and the company’s exclusive iPhone title. He also mentioned that he’s in talks to work on an exclusive Wii game. That’s right… a Wii game.


During a phone interview yesterday with id Software’s John Carmack for the new browser-based “Quake Live,” we also asked him about the multi-platform development for id’s newest intellectual property “Rage.” He also talked about his enthusiasm for the iPhone, the possibility of working on a Wii game and what we can expect to hear about “Doom 4” this year.

MTV Multiplayer: How is multi-platform development going for “Rage”? Have you reconciled the differences between the Xbox 360 and PS3?

Carmack: Yeah, we’ve got a really good technical solution for that. Our current technology base is all built from the ground up to support this. And there is a little bit of least common denominator-ing, where usually the PS3 becomes the sticky point in terms of [being] a little bit slower on the graphics, you’ve got a little bit of less memory to deal with but a little bit more processing power. So you kind of have to balance the things between all of that. But our important fundamental decisions do have to be made around what’s going to work on the console, even though people with the very highest end PCs might have a system with a couple times the processing power of what a console has. We can’t do anything specifically focused towards that that would be in any way detrimental to the rest of the market.

MTV Multiplayer: Have you resolved the disc space issue with the Xbox 360 version?

Carmack: It is multiple discs. We think that it’s going to cram onto two discs right now. We’ve been spending a lot of effort on an extra compression method for it, and profiling where we can cut on that. We haven’t made a final call yet about whether we would actually compress things differently for the PS3, which could have a little bit higher quality. But there’s a lot of picky issues on that where the smaller we make it on disc, the faster it loads and other benefits like that. So if we get it to look decent on the 360 on two discs, we’ll probably leave it with that data set on the PS3, but we won’t make that decision final for another six months or so.

MTV Multiplayer: You’ve said in the past that you don’t think id titles will be on the Wii. Is that still the case?

Carmack: Interestingly, I actually spend far more time playing Wii with my four year-old boy than I do with any other game console. So I’m definitely sympathetic to the platform. But “Rage” is not a viable option on the Wii because of the technology. We’ve been pitched and talked about a project to do a title that would fit well on the Wii, and it’s actually related to an iPhone title that we’re doing. But that’s still kind of up in the air as to what other developer we would partner with on there. I’d like to do something there, because I love a lot of what Nintendo has done with the Wii and the DS, but it’s just out of sync with the developments that are currently going on at id.

MTV Multiplayer: Do you feel you’d have to create a new IP? Or at least a new game from the ground up for the Wii?

Carmack: Yeah, it would have to be a completely different game. We would use one of our existing IPs where we have a little bit of leverage. It’s not something that really any of our titles, that are under development currently would be appropriate for.

MTV Multiplayer: And id is currently working on a title exclusive to iPhone?

Carmack: We actually have a lot of things going on with the iPhone now. We have two commercial projects that are closing in on done. We’ve taken one of our traditional mobile games, “Wolfenstein RPG” which was just released on the BREW and Java platforms. And we have a spiffied-up iPhone version which has hi-res graphics, sound and 3D acceleration and all that on there. It’s pretty neat. That will be coming out maybe a month or so from now. But it’s not a designed-from-the-ground-up-for-the-iPhone game. We have another title, which isn’t announced formally, and we’ve been working with a partner company here locally in Dallas, that is designed from scratch for the iPhone but using some existing id assets on there. And it’s very graphically impressive but we don’t have an official release date for it yet. We’re having various challenges with that development. But literally before I came in on this interview, I was going around poking with some of our old titles. I’m really looking forward to bringing over an id classics line — start with “Wolfenstein 3D” and go through “Doom” and “Quake” and bring pretty much all of them over to the iPhone because I’m a really big booster of the platform. And it frustrates me to no end that here we are without product yet shipping in the iPhone. We’ve had a couple of thwarted attempts at different things. I’m frustrated about it and trying to do something about it. [laughs]

MTV Multiplayer: So that one particular iphone title you mentioned that you’re having trouble with — is that the one that will potentially be a Wii title?

Carmack: Yes, it could possibly lead into it. Not directly from that, but a very similar concept for something.

And I know that’s very cryptic. [laughs] But we haven’t made an official announcements about it because we’ve had some difficulties during the development. And we don’t want to announce something and then retract it. We want to make sure it turns out good before we actually talk about it.

MTV Multiplayer: Can you talk about some of the challenges you’ve been having on that iPhone title?

Carmack: Well, the developer that we’re working with doesn’t necessarily have the experience in some of these things that we’re looking at. I’m budgeting some time for me to spend a significant chunk of time putting my… there’s things that I’m going to be doing to help out the project. But I can’t budget enough time that I can guarantee that I can do everything myself, so there’s still questions about how it’s going to turn out.

MTV Multiplayer: And if there’s a Wii title, would you see yourself being heavily involved in that?

Carmack: There’s an interesting bit of technology — the idea is that we would be setting up the game in such a way that we would deal with some of the “Rage” content pipeline for the Wii. While we can’t do a freeform game like that, we could do a limited-scope game in a particular way so there would be a core bit of technology to develop there that would let it do something really visually stunning in a more limited game framework. And that would be the work that I would set off at the beginning of that. But that’s something we’ve had brief discussions with publishers [about]. At this point, we’re making sure that the core gameplay actually works out well first before inking anything.

MTV Multiplayer: Have you seen the ports of “Quake” to iPhone? What are your thoughts on those?

Carmack: Yeah, and the other thing that I’m working on for the iPhone — several things at once on this [platform]. We have “Quake III” up and running on the iPhone. It needs a new redesign of the render to make it fast enough to be really good playing on the iPhone. And I’ve got this interesting decision about it here. If we take all that around, we may go back and take all the changes that the “Quake Live” team has done from the original code base and make more of a modern “Quake III Arena” based on the “Quake Live” work. Which would be pretty cool.

MTV Multiplayer: Will there still be no digital distribution for “Rage” or “Doom 4″?

Carmack: Digital distribution may well be available for it, but it’s not the primary focus. And really, that’s the publisher’s call. They certainly have all the exclusive rights when they end up taking one or the other on that. It’s our understanding right now that the publisher for “Rage” and as we understand the prospective publishers for “Doom 4″ do not think that the electronic distribution will be a majority or probably even a significant part of the total revenues. But they don’t know everything and they may be surprised.

MTV Multiplayer: What are your thoughts on digital distribution in general?

Carmack: Well I think in some of the cases like “Quake Live” and online games, obviously “World of Warcraft,” as far as making money without necessarily taking all the boxes in… the iPhone is kind of the best case to show us the wave of the future there. I think it is good. I think it’s inevitable. Almost everybody will agree that it’s eventually going to be the primary way of doing that. But nobody’s really sure about exactly when that’s going to be. And I don’t think people are looking at it for this generation, especially on the consoles for big titles.

MTV Multiplayer: Will we hear about “Wolfenstein” and “Doom 4″ this year?

Carmack: I would expect “Wolfenstein” is going to have a big push. A lot of that is out of our hands between Activision and Raven working on that. For “Doom 4,” the current plan is that, just like we did with “Rage,” we are going to take it quite a ways internally on our own nickel before we take it out to a publisher. Because we have a lot more leverage that way. Publishers don’t have to be nervous about taking something early on in development and it works out better for us business-wise. But we are expecting to ink a publisher deal for “Doom 4″ this year. And then the media build-up should start then.


Check back tomorrow for more on “Quake Live.” [UPDATE 2/25: Here’s the interview about “Quake Live.”]

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