Interview: id Software's Todd Hollenshead
We met id Software's CEO for an in-depth chat about Rage, the astonishing id Tech 5 engine and what it means to the games industry at large. Plus: comments on gaming for the Mac, Steam, Epic, Romero and what the future holds.
At the recent Ubidays 2008 event, a fellow journalist and I were chatting about the Beyond Good & Evil 2 teaser trailer shown the night before. This trailer, argued the games mag editor, was visually far ahead of anything we'll see this generation, and shows what the next wave of systems will be capable of. The arresting level of character and environment detail is, sure enough, worlds apart from the true reality of most current-gen productions - and is more comparable to overzealous target trailers shown three years ago. But my argument was that current-gen CAN basically look this good. I've seen it first-hand in Rage from id Software. I've seen it running not only on a PC, but also on PS3, 360 and Mac -- looking near identical on each.
Rage runs on id's next-generation "id Tech 5" engine, which will also power Doom 4 and is the successor to the Doom 3 engine that blew us away when it was first shown in 2002. And in my view, Rage offers a comparable level of visual fidelity as in Ubisoft's BG&E2 teaser video, which is running on unspecified hardware after all. In other words, Rage is the most impressive looking game we have actually seen running by quite some margin.
But id Tech 5 means bigger things for the Texas-based firm - and for gaming at large - than just its own two forthcoming games that run on it. More than ever before, id is now going to be all about licensing its technology for the rest of the development scene to benefit from, and as we learn in this interview, they're serious about competing with rival tech from Epic.
Todd Hollenshead, who joined id Software in 1996, is CEO and a key part of John Carmack's super-elite development outfit. There'll likely be further news on all this at QuakeCon 2008, which runs from July 31 - August 3 in Dallas, Texas. But in the meantime, we hope you enjoy this exclusive interview with Todd, who was also joined by Rage's lead designer, Matt Hooper.
Kikizo: No messing around, this is the best looking game in existence. But that's not to say we're not going to try and give you a hard time in this interview.
Todd Hollenshead: That's fair enough! We actually like the more challenging questions; they make us think about things. Sometimes things that we hadn't thought about before, so that we can go back and say, hey, they asked this and we hadn't figured out.
Kikizo: What was your background coming into id Software?
Todd: I started with id in 1996, right around the time Quake was coming out. id was a client of mine a couple of years before that, I was actually in public accounting and worked for Arthur Andersen for five years before that.
Kikizo: Einstein started as an accountant.
Todd: Hah, don't compare me like that - I can't live up to that! [laughs]
Kikizo: To what extent would you say that id is in competition with Epic, both now and moving forwards?
Todd: Certainly from a licensing standpoint I think that right now those guys are quite frankly the industry leader, and we're obviously in competition with them because we're going to be talking to the same people about licensing our technology for similar types of games. I think that what they do with their tech is different than we do with ours in a number of respects, and so maybe there are some people that our technology fits a little bit better with; maybe there are some people that they have a better fit with Epic. And I expect that you will see that. But I really do think that regardless of whatever your preconceived notions of that technology are, if you're looking for something as a multiplatform solution, if you don't take a hard look at id Tech 5, then you are making a very, very bad mistake. Probably a mistake that ought to cost you your job.