By Dylan Moran
In terms of a first-person shooter pedigree, Tim Willits is probably more of a thoroughbred than most – and the perfect person to lead the development of id Software’s upcoming title Rage.
Willits was hired by id after impressing the company with the Doom levels he made in his spare time and uploaded to the internet when the world wide web was in its infancy, and has been with the company since Doom 3.
For Willits, Rage is something of a mongrel – the company has only developed Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein games since 1992.
“Understandably, the company really wants Rage to be successful. One of the very early decisions made in the design process was that it would become an R-rated title, something of an oddity in today’s world of first-person-shooters,” says Willits.
Willits says while Rage was originally intended as a PG title, the designers enjoyed creating the game so much it quickly headed in a more mature direction.
“We started out with good intentions and then we ended up with better intentions. We just felt that the vision and what was the most enjoyable and had the kind of ‘oh wow, that was cool’ effect, just led the game to a more mature rated title.
“We just wanted to make some of the over-the-top action more mature,” he says.
While Willits warns gamers not to expect the swearing and other aspects synonymous with R-rated games, he says the gore is the aspect the developers wanted to focus on – along with a few elements which will ensure it is not a clone of the Doom and Quake series.
“We wanted to focus on the vehicle combat, the racing and all these other elements in the game that we wanted to focus our attention on.”
One other difference for Rage when compared to its FPS stablemates is its small online base. While franchises such as Call of Duty and Battlefield try to cram as many people into online lobbies as servers can handle, Rage has taken a different approach – limiting games to four players.
“We originally thought ‘how many people can we pack in?’ and it was just too hectic, especially with the vehicle component. It was just too difficult to get your foot in, to get moving, to line up your shots, it was just a smash-up derby really, and so we kept moving until it got fun, and we think we got to a good position where matches are small enough that you can find other gamers quickly, you can get in, you can easily score points, so it’s very approachable, it’s easy to get into and we wanted our multiplayer to stand apart from Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein.
“We have the vehicle component, which is centered around combat rally, where you earn points for racing to the rally points, but at the same time you earn points by blowing up your buddy and we have XP unlocks, so the better you do the more XP you earn, you can unlock cool cars, weapons and power-ups.
“Then we have our co-op, where you can play split-screen on the consoles and of course over the internet on all the systems and that’s definitely a lot of fun, we call that Legends of the Wasteland, and those are co-op missions that extend the fiction of the game.”
It’s a hugely-anticipated game, and coming out ahead of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 it is in a good position to attract those FPS junkies hanging out for a new fix – along with id’s attempts to break into a new audience.
A promo for the game ran during the NBA finals featuring rookie of the year and dunk competition winner Blake Griffin of the LA Clippers.
“One of our marketing guys was watching him play, and he dunked the ball and our brand manager said ‘hey that guy dunks with some rage!’ so then he pitched the idea, hey we should get this guy to do a commercial for us, and we all looked at him like ‘are you crazy?’ but it was a super-huge success,” Willits says.
While he maintains the usual television advertising campaigns will run in the lead-up to the game’s release in October, he says non-traditional marketing is incredibly valuable in promoting a game such as Rage.
“We found that people are so connected, and they’re so aware of products and what we’re working on that they appreciate those kinds of off-beat promos, they get lots of buzz, they get passed around on social media networks and it’s been a real big success for us, plus it’s just a heck of a lot of fun to do,” he says.
You would think a game coming from the Quake and Doom lineage and published by the same team who put out the cult-classic Fallout and Elder Scrolls series probably doesn’t need any more hype, but Rage got an extra boost from an unlikely source – a methamphetamine cooking junkie on US television drama Breaking Bad.
“Bethesda has a good relationship with the AMC channel, and when the production company was looking for something new, something different, they were like ‘hey, these guys are working on this Rage game, maybe that’ll work out well’. One of the artists at id is a super huge Breaking Bad fan, so we were able to capture the video footage,” Willits says.
But while Bethesda’s relationship with AMC may be a harmonious one, Willits says there were some concerns about the way the game was portrayed with the use of a gun peripheral, while this is not an element of the game.
“The production company really wanted to focus on it being a light-gun kind of game, and we were like ‘oh it’s not, it doesn’t really work like that’ and they were like ‘oh no it’s cool, it’ll be great.’”
Overall, however, he is incredibly pleased with the game’s inclusion in the show which has won six Emmy awards, including three consecutive best actor titles for Bryan Cranston, who plays lead character Walter White and last year’s outstanding supporting actor award for Aaron Paul, who plays Jesse Pinkman – the character who plays Rage.
In fact, Willits and his team are so happy with their involvement with the show, they’ve left some bonuses in the game’s final release for Breaking Bad fans.
[SPOILER WARNING: The
following contains spoilers for the third season of television show
“If you watch the clip, the ‘Gale’ graffiti in the show is on the wall, and we left that in the final game, as well as around the corner, Gale's address is also on the wall as graffiti.
“There is a super-special Breaking Bad Easter egg that I will task you to find, somewhere in Wellsprings. If you’re a fan, you’ll see it and you’ll know exactly what it is. You won’t be able to miss it, but it’ll test your true fan-ness,” he says.
Rage is released in New Zealand on October 7.