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Tim Willits believes that id Software, the iconic game development company that created some of gaming’s most cherished brands, is in its golden age.
“We’ve never had all four of our intellectual properties in development and so successful,” he said in an interview at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the game trade show in Los Angeles last week. “This is the golden age of id. It’s awesome.”
I played Rage 2‘s demo at E3, and then I interviewed Willits, studio director at id. Willits has been at the studio for a long time, and he provides the connection between id’s origins and the new generation of developers that have joined id under the ownership of Bethesda and its parent company ZeniMax Media.
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Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
GamesBeat: The colors are a lot different, right?
Tim Willits: Well, you have to deal with this 50,000-pound gorilla here. When I met with the Avalanche guys, I wrote on the whiteboard, “More crazy than Rage.” That’s been the lens we’ve looked through in our game design decisions. When it comes to color, Rage and Mad Max used every shade of brown. Both studios said, “We need to move away from brown.”
We set the world far enough ahead from the events of Rage to separate them. In the fiction, we have these eco-pods that come down and start to re-fertilize the Earth. We have forests and swamps and jungles and lakes. The color of the environments led to more colorful characters, which led to more colorful towns, which led to more colorful packaging. It all came out of getting as far away from — well, we still have brown. We still have some white sand stuff.
GamesBeat: It’s nice to know that not everything is a wasteland.
Willits: There’s still some of that, but it adds context to the story. We really wanted to punch it out with this game, because — well, we gotta get away from this game here. We wanted to make a statement with the gameplay and the colors and the look to set us apart. I’ve even got colorful socks on. Color!
GamesBeat: Pink is a pretty bold move. Pink isn’t usually a shooter color.
Willits: Yeah, but remember, pink was always a punk thing in the ‘80s. Some of the art inspiration for Rage 2 came from old comic books, too. You’re right that it’s kind of an unusual color for an M-rated game. If you noticed, in the demo, when you get to the Eden Space Center, in the sky it looks fine, but when you get to the top, we actually change the sky to make it pink. We’re driving that through the whole game. It’s a dynamic engine.
GamesBeat: But is it still as relentlessly bleak?
Willits: No, no, no. Well, yes? We call it the post-post-apocalypse. We’re trying to evolve past the apocalypse. It’s been a long time. People aren’t desperate for water. Society has formed. Even the mutants have formed a kind of loose society. We’re trying to evolve the setting to get away from that bleakness. We can infuse that color in. We should not be afraid of color. You know how id Software is usually afraid of color. Quake was brown. Quake II was green. Quake III was red. DOOM 3 was dark. Rage was brown again.
GamesBeat: Are you trying to get away from that tribal warfare as well?
Willits: Oh, no, we’ve got plenty of tribal warfare. That’s all the game is!
GamesBeat: Humanity hasn’t really advanced so much.
Willits: The humans haven’t advanced at all. [laughs] We have the factions — the Goon Squad were the ones you encountered — but each of the factions has a personality and a look and a combat style. That’s the foundation of moving through these different environments and interacting with different factions. So no, people haven’t evolved.
GamesBeat: These guys are very interesting.
Willits: That’s the Authority mutants. The Authority continues their experimentation with mutants. As you saw from the video, we have the big giant — people loved the mutants in Rage. We wanted to bring that back and have bigger sizes. It’s definitely a key part of Rage 2.
GamesBeat: I remember liking the carnival-like groups, the madman clowns.
Willits: The Mutant Bash TV? Yeah, Mutant Bash TV is back. Mutant Bash TV kind of sums up the spirit of the game in one little experience. It’s kind of fun. It’s kind of over the top. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. By the end of Rage 2, there’s multiple Mutant Bash TVs.