Eurogamer Expo 2011: 20 Years of id
This year’s Eurogamer Expo offered a compelling developer session with id Software’s creative director, the very affable Tim Willits. With heavyweight studios such as Infinity Ward and Bethesda Softworks currently occupying many gamers’ headspaces, it can be easy for newer gamers to dismiss id Software as representative of a bygone era. However, the Dallas-based company never went away, and have endured for two decades, where they’ve created one of the most popular game genres of all time, the first-person shooter.
The presentation was initiated with an adrenaline-triggering intro movie that chronologically covered id’s indispensable contribution to video games, featuring clips from their immense back-catalogue which drew audible nostalgia from the hundreds-strong audience. Along with a slew of superlative-laden quotes, the intro thrust the company’s lofty achievements immediately back into the mind, just in case anyone wasn’t aware or had the audacity to forget them.
Willitis then took to the microphone, showcased some humorous old photos of both himself and John Carmack (who had one heck of a purple sword) before going on to break down in further detail just how significant the intro movie’s featured games were. First up was the game that Willits referred to as ‘the grandfather of first-person shooters’, Wolfenstein 3-D. The 1992 title featured breathtaking graphics for the time and with its violence, Nazis and dark humour, was the antithesis of the wholesome ground covered by Nintendo. The all-time classic sci-fi/horror FPS, Doom (‘father of first-person shooters’), followed next, with its superior graphics, multiplayer deathmatch (a term Willits laments not trademarking), Shareware availability and brutal violence, inflicted upon foes with weapons such as the chainsaw and Big Fucking Gun. Doom fans will also be interested to know that Willits stated that the Cyberdemon is ‘the greatest boss ever’.
Doom II expanded on id’s achievements furthermore with enhanced level design, a widely available retail version (something the company hadn’t previously delved into) and what can only be described as ‘the descent into the colour brown’. Benchmark FPS, Quake, followed in 1996 and presented the first truly 3D world ever seen in a shooter. Willits talked in detail about the pride felt by members of the team observing the sheer detail of each other’s characters in-game and at this point the crowd was fully immersed in his nostalgic enthusiasm. Quake also birthed the seminal online deathmatch and subsequently, professional gaming itself. Interestingly, Willits then stated how he wished they’d not included Quake II in the franchise’s lineage due to its differing setting and focus on narrative structure, something id had previously never paid much heed to.
Willits instead said he saw Quake III Arena as the true sequel to Quake, due to its non-narrative and multiplayer innovations. The company then revitalised the Doom franchise with Doom 3, a superbly dark game that terrified audiences whilst simultaneously blowing their minds with its incredible graphical innovations.
The titles following this slew of expectation-smashing classics such as Quake IV and Quake Territory were then mentioned in passing as Willits led up to id’s latest franchise, RAGE. The audience were then treated to a demo of the post-apocalyptic game’s first quest, played live and with commentary from Willits himself. Ostensibly, the game is the hybrid lovechild of Borderlands and the second generation Fallouts, with added id-ness. The first thing that was apparent, aside from how good it looked, was that the game runs extremely smoothly. Willitis stated this fluidity and responsiveness was down to its 60fps and was something that will massively enhance players’ experience of the game.
Willits then went through some finer details such as variable ammo types, gravity-defying vehicular dismounting, enemy wounding reactions and, brilliantly, hidden wall-activated areas which explicitly reference all of the titles previously mentioned in the presentation. The session was excellent, and it was great to see Willits’ passion for what he does and gaming itself shine through in almost every sentence he uttered. This was a great reminder of just how vital id is to the gaming industry and it’s great to share in Willitis’ optimism for its future. Read more about RAGE in my forthcoming hands-on preview.