COED Interview: Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars’ Kevin Cloud

From Wolfenstein 3-D to DOOM to today’s release of Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, id Software has been jacking-up the ante on first-person shooters like no other team in gaming. We were fortunate enough to get i.d. co-owner and lead game designer, Kevin Cloud on the phone to discuss the new release. Enjoy!

COED: Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars is out today for Xbox 360 and PS3. What can we expect from the console versions?

Kevin Cloud: We’ve been working on the 360 and PS3 for almost two years now. Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, when we released it on the PC, we got a lot of editorial acclaim for it, if you’ll remember, a lot of awards and nominations, so there’s some really good gameplay in there.

It’s a really big game, a lot going on, so we wanted to make sure we got all of that in there. We got it running great, looking great, so we’ve achieved that. We had the design teams focusing on a each console to really make sure the game controls fit what players on that platform are accustom to, whether it’s shooting, driving, whatever.

We also focused on being able to take advantage of networking, and the way people go online on the console. On the PC, people are going onto dedicated servers and things like that. On the console, we wanted to make it really easy. So whether you’re on the PS3 or the 360, you can have matchmaking, friends lists, get into a game by picking out your preferences. We focused a lot of time on the A.I. [artificial intelligence], to make sure that, regardless of whether or not the player’s playing online or not, we can lead the player into the game. But we also spent a lot of time making sure that the A.I. can do all of the things the players can do. So, if you’re jumping online at two in the morning, and you’re not filling out that 12th player spot, you can have A.I. fill in for you, and it will do a great job.

For console users, they’ll be surprised by the depth of the game. There’s a lot of stuff going on, a lot of fun stuff to play with. The two different teams–you have Earth forces and the alien forces—both have different types of equipment and weapons. The maps are about a square mile apiece. There is a lot of territory to run around and have fun with, a lot of weapons, vehicles to have fun and explore with. It’s a big game, and we wanted to make sure we got that over to the console.

What type of gameplay can gamers expect from the console version of ETQW?

KC: First, players can pick a class of military role they want to play that’s designed around how they like to play. So whether they want to come in and run and gun and be a soldier and blow stuff up with a rocket launcher, or whether they want to play more of a support class–maybe they’re not as good with accuracy or just running and gunning and blowing stuff up isn’t their cup of tea–they can play a medic, providing supplies out to the team, reviving guys on the battle field—which, incidentally, is one of the most popular character roles. You can play a class where you wear disguises to infiltrate behind enemy lines. So there’s a lot of different things like that that players can do, that are of a particular interest.

The other thing is that the gameplay does not follow a point-based system. The players can, rather than getting a kill and getting a point, getting another point, getting another point, the team works toward a common objective. That objective can be compared to a military mission, like blowing up a bridge, escorting a mobile command vehicle to a destination. So the attacking team is going to all work together toward a common goal while the defending team is going to try to stop them. There are a lot of things players can do on the battlefield, but it’s all focused around a single objective. So when a team accomplishes its objective, you feel like the team really worked together to get the job done, so Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars really has that type of team-play focus that other games don’t have.

How has game development changed as the industry and number of gamers has grown?

KC: There’s a couple of thing involved in a game like Enemy Territory. The origins of the gameplay go back to Return to Castle Wolfenstein. The multiplayer version of that, which got a lot of acclaim when it was released, and got a lot of popularity, that gameplay evolved into Wolfenstien: Enemy Territory, which is still played a ton online, still the top online action game, in terms of the number of people playing it at the same time. So, it has a lot of popular roots, both in the amount of people that enjoy the game, and the level of critical acclaim the game received for providing gamers with something new and unique that the gamers don’t get with other online games. So that’s the origins of Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars.

We really tried to provide something for both the casual gamer and the hardcore gamer. For example, right now on Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars for the PC, we just released an update that provides support for tournament-level players. So there’s a focus in that direction. And when we were doing the console development, we had quite a few usability and user nets going on—players coming in, getting their hands on the game for the first time and sitting down to play, and us adjusting the controllers, and the training mode, things like that, to put into the game.

There is a growing community of people out there that are interested in playing games not for an hour and then tossing it away, like what might have happened in the past. Now they stay on and build communities and play for a very long time. Enemy Territory is the type of game you can have fun with on the first day or the first week, but it doesn’t wear itself out after a week or two weeks. There’s more—new strategies players can develop, new maps. People that like to work together as a team, they can put together friends lists. And especially on the consoles with VoIP and such, there’s a lot of opportunity for players to work together and help strategize together. It’s just a much more fun gaming environment.

What is the development process like at id?

KC: Well, you know, it varies from game to game. I think it’s commonly true that the most fun part of game development for any game is during the initial development cycle and the ending development. The reason is, when you first start a game, the sky’s the limit. You don’t have to worry about things that have been made so far because you’re just coming up with a lot of cool ideas. When you’re in the middle of the development process, you’re just dealing with a lot of broken things. And so you’re sort of out there wondering, “When is thing going to get to a point when we’re getting in there and having fun with it,” especially games with a lot of new technology. Enemy Territory, for example, has a mega-texture technology, which is a texture stringing solution that allows us to do texture and the environment with one single texture. Rather than having a lot of textures, we have one texture that allows us to uniquely texture the entire terrain, so that if we want to, no pixel is alike, no area is alike, which creates a lot of unique area that you don’t see in other types of games.

We have a lot of R&D in our games, so we enjoy pushing the limit there. But that does mean that you’re in the middle of development and there’s things you’re not quite sure about. By the time you get to the end, though, you have a good game going, you can have fun with it. You’re tweaking things, but it’s a high-stress situation because you’ve nailed down a finsh-date and everyone’s working towards trying to get it done. And you’re basically pushing those long hours. It’s not uncommon for developers to work extremely long hours, and have a lot of pressure. But the surprising thing is this stressful period is one of the most fun times. There’s a lot of intensity to it. Everybody does exactly what he needs to do. They know what they’ve got, they’ve got a fun game. It’s just getting through those final bugs.

What advice would you give someone wanting to get a job in the gaming industry?

KC: There are a lot of good programs out there these days that are teaching people how to develop games. We have one here, locally called that produces some really good students. Programs like this give people that are interested in game development the opportunity to work together on teams to put together smaller games. When i.d. releases a game, we release the tools for developers to make maps and stuff like that. But also, for games like our QUAKE technology games, like QUAKE 3 and the original DOOM technology, we’ve released out the entire source for people to experiment with. These universities are picking up technology like this, and having their students work together to develop games. So that’s good. Also, in terms of the mod community, if you’re just out there and you’re wanting to make maps or full models, there’s a lot of mod community development out there, there’s a lot of sources of information for people to get in and start producing something cool.

So, whether you’re into massive multiplayer games, or if you want to make some cool maps for Enemy Territory, you can get online and get the tools to do that, so when you’re applying for a job, you can actually present them something, and show people what you’ve done. And I think that’s really important for developers, to immediately show what you can do.

There are developers that are very large, that have a lot of positions open for internships and things like that. id is a smaller developer and doesn’t really have any entry level positions. But I would say that anyone interested in a job should send out their resume to as many companies as they can, and I’m pretty sure they can get a job some place, get their names in a credit [for a game], so they can begin to show their work. The industry’s growing everyday, so there’s tons of opportunity out there. And there’s a lot of exciting talent coming out of the mod community, which is pretty cool.

Speaking of the mod community, how does id feel about open source gaming?

KC: id was one of the growing pioneers in releasing the tools for the people in the community to make new content for the games. We did that with DOOM. When we first decided to do that, at the time I didn’t think it was that great of an idea. I felt like it was going to create a lot of additional competition for us out there. But over time, I think it was a great thing to do. A lot of our people here at id began in the mod community. Our lead designer, one of my partners here, is from the mod community and a lot people get their start in the industry from that. And a lot of new good development comes from that.

The industry changes so quickly, and there’s a lot of talent and innovation out there, and I think that releasing the tools and eventually releasing the source code just helps further the industry, and the industry really needs that. We need great ideas because that’s what pushes us to evolve. It gives us something new and better each year.

Enemy Territory: QUAKE Wars is available now on Xbox 360 and PS3!

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