Interview: The Rage & Lust of id’s Tim Willits

By Alec Meer on August 26th, 2011 at 3:00 pm.

This is not Tim Willits. Although he did used to have a moustache

Immediately after sitting down for a surprising hour with id’s forthcoming shooter Rage, I collared creative director Tim Willits for a quick chat. Covered: how close to finishing the game id are, how they hope to do DLC right, how people are playing the game in different ways, how… noteworthy he found some of the game’s female voice actors, and Rage’s ‘imperfect is good’ approach to character design.

RPS: So you’ve finished Rage, more or less. How does that feel after all these years?

Tim Willits: Er, well we’ve mostly finished. We’re working with Sony and Microsoft to wrap up our cert issues, but because we’re Steamworks on PC, which is really nice, we get to keep working on our executable so the guys are back doing some last-minute tweaks on the PC version. It’s always been solid, but there’s some things they want to do like better automatic machine configuration, get more cores to transcode the textures and stuff like that. So the guys are finishing some cert issues and doing some last-minute optimisations on PC, but when you authenticate on Steam for the first time, that’s when you’ll actually get the executable, so we can work on that until we have to ship it.

RPS: Does that mean you’ve got most of the team off on holiday and just a few very grumpy guys left locked in the studio finishing things up?

Tim Willits: Actually, the programmers are all very, very, very busy, but the level designers and the artists are starting to work on some DLC. But we want to hold off a bit and find out what people like.

RPS: That does seem like the smarter way to approach it – I think the Borderlands guys did something similar.

Tim Willits: Yeah, because you shouldn’t just assume people like that then find they want something else. So we wanna find out what they actually like for the DLC.

RPS: It must be pretty exhausting compared to how you used to make games – you can’t just sit back and relax once it’s shipped now, you’ve got to start working on extra content and community stuff right away.

Tim Willits: Yeah. Well, it’s good too because, when people buy the game, they spend a lot of money on it. To them it’s an investment. If they feel like the company that made it doesn’t want to invest in it, then they don’t want to invest in it. That’s why I think DLC’s important. We’re the patch kings, you know, so if there are issues that come up we’ve got to patch them. I think those things are important, to let people know that you still care about that franchise, and you want to support that franchise. Then you can make them say ‘okay, I’ll put my money down on this franchise.’

RPS: Do you think people have got the right sense of what Rage is? Playing it just now, I had some of my own expectations subverted quite a bit – it’s a lot more measured and relaxed than I’d expected.

Tim Willits: That is the biggest issue that we’ve had, and that is why we did the big, three hour previews recently. Unfortunately at Gamescom you’ve only got an hour, but when we did some stuff in Europe and in the States, we were like ‘listen – just come in, play it for two or three hours and do whatever you want.’ And then the journalists were able to get their minds around it. Because honestly, it’s not the easiest game in the world to explain to somebody, plus people have preconceived notions of id, first-person shooters…

The first-person shooter landscape in our industry is definitely shifting. We have games that sell 25 million copies, which means that’s about 15 million people who may never have even played a first-person shooter before and are new. So they have their preconceived notions, and then you have the id legacy and they have their preconceived notions, and then we’re going to do something else. It’s not the easiest landscape. So I think the best thing for us is just letting people play. I’ve always said, you play Rage for two hours, you’re going to like it.

RPS: Last time I played, I was just dropped into random missions, so I had it pegged as more of a straight-up action game.

Tim Willits: Yeah, you feel disconnected. The problem is we’re time-constrained, we want to give a sense of all the stuff, but you don’t really get it unless you just play it.

RPS: I never thought I’d be saying ‘the new id game is one of the classiest shooters I saw at Gamescom’, but I’ve seen a bunch of games here that are just noise-noise-noise, death-death-death, then this was a chance to sit back and soak up a world somewhat.

Tim Willits: Yes, we try to have our pacing. Historically, we’ve been a bit… frantic. We hit the gas pedal and never let up, but in Rage when you’re in town, it’s okay, I am in a town. There’s no combat, I take my time, play some mini-games, buy some stuff, build some stuff. Then you’re like ‘okay, I’m going to go find the bandit hideout, so now I’m in the wasteland.’

So you get in your car and you go find it. So you’re in that mindset, and then when you get into that area you think ‘I know when I click on this and it loads, then I’m ‘id’, the classic id, and this is the mode I’m in now.’ I think by putting everything in its own little compartment, it’s really helped the pacing.

RPS: Watching people play it here and at the other media sessions, did they in general follow your expectations? Were they tending towards playing it in a linear style, mission-by-mission, or were they wandering off and trying to do their own thing?

Tim Willits: People miss a lot of stuff. Especially the sewers – sewer missions are included with the retail purchase, and only one guy so far came up to me and said ‘ooh, I’ve found this mission, but I said that I needed to download something.’ But most people just totally miss that. Wingsticks, people miss that…

RPS: Oh, I found that – the wingstick training mission with the girl, yeah?

Tim Willits: But you found it on the way back, yeah? Cos you got your [main] mission, you jumped in your ATV and took off?

RPS: No, I did it before I left, cos I had this packrat mentality, so I was searching every bit of town to see if there was anything to pickup or buy.

Tim Willits: Yeah, that is the right idea. Most people, it’s just boom, they’re gone. We also found that most people… at first, we had no map, and then we had a compass, and people still couldn’t find where they’re going. Then we had the map with the dot, and people couldn’t find where they were going. Now we had the map with the dot and a line to it, and we still get people that go left [out of the first settlement instead of right, to the first mission], so we bring up a sign that says ‘look at your minimap’, because if they keep going left there’s a bandit blockade with a rocketguy who just fucks ‘em up. I saw a couple of guys doing that, so I’m going ‘you’re gonna die! You’re gonna die!’ and then BOOM. ‘I told you you were gonna die…’

RPS: It’s the Bartle gamer psychology – the fighter, the explorer, the socialiser, the collector… I suspect those guys were fighters. ‘I must enter combat, no matter how obvious it is that I can’t win.’

Tim Willits: Which is so funny, because we’ve seen it in people at work. We’ve got the ammo types, and there’s engineering items and then just the weapons. For me, I’m all about ammo types: I get pop-rockets, fat mommas and then I’m [makes a noise I can only describe as ‘Robocop-y’]. Some guys at work are all about turrets and spider-bots and RC bombcars. When I get an RC bombcar part, I sell it. Then there’s some guys at work who just use the shotgun. All this stuff and they’re just ‘I just play the shotgun.’ It’s so funny.

RPS: It was the shotgun for me just now, actually. I was trying to use it like a pistol or a rifle, which I knew was stupid, but I almost couldn’t be bothered to change. I just quite liked the feel of it, it was comfortable.

Tim Willits: What’s cool is the pop-rockets. Wait until you get those. It’s a shotgun round that explodes when it hits, and it has a little of an arc. So the guys without armour, like the Ghost bandits and the mutants, they just blow up when you hit them. It’s awesome. [Happily makes explosion noises for a few seconds.] Guys at work are like [puts on sulky voice] ‘these are too powerful!’ And I’m ‘that’s awesome!’

RPS: Another thing I liked was that when you went and talked to an NPC, they say a little line or wisecrack first, they don’t just drop straight into quest dialogue.

Tim Willits: Yeah, so we have Approach VO, which is automatically triggered when you get close to them, then you have the job description, which is ‘hey, can you help me?’ and then at the end they pop up the text so you can read it, and there’s actually some more information in there, and then the ending VO, like ‘can you do this for me?’ So if you go up to the guy and read it, then you click away, he’ll repeat that last line or if you go back and the mission is still in progress there’ll be a reminder, like ‘did you kill those guys yet?’ Then when you finish there’s a completion dialogue, like ‘good job’ and then it goes into the next thing. That’s how that functionality works.

RPS: I was really, pleasantly surprised by the character designs, especially the faces. The Wingstick girl…

Tim Willits: [Interrupting] She’s pretty hot, isn’t she?

RPS: [Blushes]. I’m not usually a lech towards videogame characters, but I kept going back up to look at her because the detail in the face was fascinating.

Tim Willits: Yes, yes. That’s Loosum. We want to maybe make her sister or something sometime and maybe call her Finesome. And Amanda Troop is the actress, she’s been in Mad Men and she’s done commercials…

RPS: Is that her face as well as her voice in the game?

Tim Willits: No, but we try to pick people where their voice fits how the character looks. So we audition a lot of people and go ‘ooh, that one works!’ And then in real life, she is as cute as a button.

RPS: Are you a little bit in love, Tim?

Tim Willits: [Laughs] Inside I was thinking ‘I’m always going to hire her.’ And then Claudia Black, she’s in it too, she’s from Stargate and Farscape, and she’s hot. When I was watching that show I thought ‘man, she is cute’, then I saw her on the list and I was ‘we’ve gotta hire her! We’ve gotta hire her!’ And then in real life she’s tall too – she towers over me.

We have John Goodman too, which is awesome. He was great. He showed up early to the VO session – stars never show up early. They’re always late. He was early. Then he walks up to me and says ‘hi, I’m John Goodman.’ [Shakes head in disbelief].

RPS: I’ve heard many times that he’s pretty much the nicest guy in Hollywood.

Tim Willits: Yeah.

RPS: The way you’ve done the faces, even on the nominally sexy girl character, is fascinating – the nose looked a little crooked, the mouth slightly wonky, then the guy next to her had these embarrassingly large ears…

Tim Willits: Yeah, she’s not perfect. No-one’s perfect in the game. We really tried to make everyone a bit different. Like, they’re all sunburned, their skin’s a bit dry…

RPS: And you manage to keep that up throughout the game? It doesn’t become Generic Desert Man Number 4 later on?

Tim Willits: Yes. Actually, we do have some generic guys in some of the towns, but they’re all pretty cool. Our character guys are really cool. Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds – you remember the big guy, ‘Nerrrrrrrds!’? – he’s in the game, and then JK Styles… And Mick the Mechanic in Wellspring, he’s awesome. Actually we’re hoping we can get a lot of these characters back in Rage 2. You want to spend time with them, but they say like four things to you and that’s it. You’re ‘that guy’s so cool, I want more of him!’

RPS: Thanks for your time.

Rage will be released in the first week of October this year.

, , , , .

57 Comments »

  1. Inigo says:

    when people buy the game, they spend a lot of money on it.

    Helps if they’re stupid, of course.

  2. Vinraith says:

    I’m just going to put this here:

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/08/10/ids-tim-willits-backs-always-on-diablo-3/

    and then go on about my business.

    • Mattressi says:

      Yeah, I decided that Rage would be a ‘buy when on a good sale’ after seeing that. I’d like to play it, but I have such a huge number of games that I have and want to have to play that I can afford to be extremely picky about what I do and don’t buy and when (and for what reasons).

    • skinlo says:

      So?

      Two different games, Rage doesn’t require always on DRM as far as I know. Life isn’t black or white, you can like always on DRM and still be a nice guy you know.

      Boycotting buying this because of that is pathetic.

    • googoogjoob says:

      yeah i can’t read this article without remembering that this is the dude who was stupid enough to say “If we could force people to always be connected when you play the game, and then have that be acceptable, awesome. In the end, it’s better for everybody.”

    • Vinraith says:

      @skinlo

      Rage doesn’t require always on DRM as far as I know

      I’ll just quote the previous piece and, once again, move on.

      If we could force people to always be connected when you play the game, and then have that be acceptable, awesome. In the end, it’s better for everybody.

    • ezekiel2517 says:

      I was browsing through the interview hoping that Alec would ask him about it. I don’t mind never hearing an apology from him, as long as we never have to hear him praise for something that should not exists at all, again.

      Talking about him only. I can see Rage has none of that nasty business going on.

    • Premium User Badge Mo says:

      Yes, lets shit on 6 years worth of work by a 100+ people, because one person said one thing one day, without the slightest hint of them actually doing any of that.

      Edit: also “and then have that be acceptable”. id software have a history of Doing The Right Thing for almost two decades. I don’t expect that to change.

    • redwall558 says:

      Alright, you have got to be kidding me. I am so tired of this nerd rage.

      1.) Blizzard made Diablo 3 to be played online. It’s an MMO. Freakin. Deal with it. Okay?

      2.) Tim Willit’s is not supporting always on DRM. This is not even DRM. He is supporting making things the way they are if it improves the game. Diablo 3 is built like an MMO, so it is better for it to be online. Want mod support? Buy a game built for that (Like I dunno, TORCHLIGHT 2)

      3.) Seriously? You’re now going to bring your internet activism to this great looking game, from a company that’s been bringing you great games for 20 years, because of what ONE employee says? You know what? No one cares. Stupid cause, you’ll just miss out. Really, your loss.

    • Mattressi says:

      It still makes me laugh that most people seem to be mindless consumers – to the point that they’re offended that someone would choose not to buy something. We’re not saying that we’re going to go and torch Willit’s house or hack id’s offices – we’re simply not going to buy something that they made. *Shock* *horror* *cries of “nerd rage”*. Get over it. As I said, I have a massive number of games that I own and that I’m looking forward to, so I don’t NEED to buy Rage right away (or at all if more games keep coming out which look good). Hell, I don’t NEED to buy any games. The only games that I’m likely to pay full price for right now are RO2 and Skyrim. Other games have to really convince me that I should buy them and having the mouthpiece of Rage telling me that I should be forced to be always online to doesn’t help that cause one bit.

      I doubt that many will be boycotting this just because the creative director is a douche, but it may be enough to put a sour taste in people’s mouths and make them a little less enchanted with the game. Games companies are still businesses and when the market is saturated with good games, you can’t afford to be vehemently agreeing with something which a decent percentage of your customers hate.

    • Premium User Badge Mo says:

      Well, I don’t really care whether you buy the game or not. I’ll enjoy it on release day, and id will do fine regardless. I just find the logic (in this instance) to be a little strange. The D3 thing I can understand.

      With regards to game companies being careful with what they say: I’d rather they speak their mind and have people be offended/pissed/whatever, than for us to get the usual stream of generic PR bullshit.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      @redwall558:.. let’s take this point by point here.

      1.) Blizzard made Diablo 3 to be played online. It’s an MMO. Freakin. Deal with it. Okay?

      Err.. no it’s not. You are aware of what an MMO actually is, right? Many games can be played online. Many games can -only- be played online. Most of these are not MMOs.

      2.) Tim Willit’s is not supporting always on DRM. This is not even DRM. He is supporting making things the way they are if it improves the game. Diablo 3 is built like an MMO, so it is better for it to be online. Want mod support? Buy a game built for that (Like I dunno, TORCHLIGHT 2)

      Huh. No, it’s not as if a hack and slash game (or action-rpg) as Diablo 3 is needs ‘always on’. Blizzard says as much. They simply don’t want off-line play (look at a game in the same genre.. like, say, Torchlight 2). Same with mod support. Oh and whether he sees it as DRM or not, he is in favour of ‘always on’ whether it is to the benefit or detriment of the player.

      See, ‘always on’ is only ever desirable (from a player’s point of view) if the game is of a genre which needs it to be multiplayer all the time. If a game is not such (like, say, Diablo 3) then it’s not necessarily to the benefit of gamers.. although it may certainly be beneficial to the developers/publisher. Why? Because ‘always on’ restricts the player and it doesn’t give additional functionality.

    • Josh W says:

      Interesting, I wouldn’t boycott rage for that reason, because on balance I still like Id, with their low bug counts and open sourcing and stuff. If they were already a dodgy company that might be the sort of thing to push me over, but honestly I’d be happy to support them.

      But then that’s academic because my game-hopper is getting large and I still haven’t played baldur’s gate 2 or half life 2! Rage, despite it’s cute customisation stuff doesn’t seem novel enough to jump the cue.

  3. Mattressi says:

    Is it weird that when I read the very last line, I imagined that Mr Willits had shown his true form as a PR robot? Maybe I’m just used to reading a response from an interviewee after RPS thanks them for the interview.

    • Mana_Garmr says:

      And now I keep hearing that line in a robot voice when I read it.

  4. Jesse L says:

    Thank you for showing my cyclops the weapon-monitor dude’s saggy old man chest ONE MORE TIME. Video game journalists of the world: moratorium, please.

  5. Joe Duck says:

    Rage 2???????

    • Koojav says:

      Joe, you got that all wrong.

      First there is going to be a DLC for the game that does not exist yet and after that comes the sequel. If it all goes well we’ll have a prequel to Rage announced by the end of the month.

  6. Magnetude says:

    Who is that eyepatch fatty that’s at the top of every other Rage article? Is it the character creation screen? Seems a bit strange to have one in an FPS.

    • Bilbo says:

      He’s just a guy you can hang around with, you know, just a bro to have a beer with, watch the game with, crash into real hard in the hallway… just a guy, you know?

    • Shooop says:

      Fallout 3 and Borderlands had character creation too. Borderlands to a much lesser extent, but it did change the way you looked to other players in co-op. Which this game has.

    • Magnetude says:

      Yeah, but Fallout 3 had a (terrible) 3rd person view and the frequent VATS cam that justified it, plus all the clothing and stuff. Borderlands, you could recolour your character, which wasn’t really much of a thing.

      It’s just the way he’s standing and the angle it’s shot from, plus the screen next to him, that makes it look like a character creation screen. Although now I look again, he could just easily be the gun merchant. Seeing as it’s a picture of a gun next to him. Yeah, that’s probably it.

    • Premium User Badge Lars Westergren says:

      That’s Dan Hagar I think. And no, he’s not fat. He looks like an extremely muscular and fit 45-55-year old in that screenshot.

      When upper middle age you reach, look as good, you will not, hm?

  7. Shooop says:

    Borderlands-esque gameplay, voice acting that doesn’t suck, and explosive shotgun shells.

    We may have a winner.

  8. TsunamiWombat says:

    NNEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRDDDDDDDDDDDDSSSSSSSSSS

    Ogre = Sale

  9. Burning Man says:

    I’m sorry but I’m not in the habit of hating someone one day and pretending it never happened the next.

    Fuck Tim Willits.

    • skinlo says:

      Whats your problem? You need to go to anger management classes I think.

    • Bilbo says:

      I’ve gone on a charm offensive (ironically by not posting offensive comments anymore) and created a “hate vaccuum”, people are just filling in the gap.

      I kid, my ego’s not that big

    • Magnetude says:

      Fill me in, chap. What did Tim do? This game only just made its way onto my radar the other day, so I haven’t been paying attention.

    • Shooop says:

      He’s only one man in the company though. Just because he supports the asinine “always online” DRM doesn’t definitively mean that’s what id’s going to be using.

      Rage is already confirmed to be using Steamworks.

    • Burning Man says:

      @Magnetude: Oh http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/08/10/ids-tim-willits-backs-always-on-diablo-3/ and http://www.gameinformer.com/b/news/archive/2011/08/12/if-you-want-the-complete-rage-experience-you-39-d-better-buy-it-new.aspx . I dislike being browbeaten into doing anything, so both those stories piss me off.

      @skinlo: Really? Anger management?? Sound like you’re overreacting a tad….. Hmm…. Haven’t gone all out on anyone IRL for a while. You may be onto something there. Maybe I’ll yell at the pizza delivery guy the next time he’s 10 minutes late. Should help.

      EDIT: In retrospect that sounds like a really odd thing to say. Oh well.

    • Magnetude says:

      Oh, that is an unfortunate view for a man to have. Can’t say it affects my enjoyment of this interview much though, game looks good.

    • HeavyStorm says:

      The game is good. Tim, however, man, where those fucked up capitalist opinions.

    • kyrieee says:

      I don’t like Tim Willits just from watching him talk about id and their games, he always seems insincere and super marketing focused.

  10. Turin Turambar says:

    Weird, you somehow forgot to put the last trailer (released yesterday) in this news Alec.

  11. Phinor says:

    See, if even they acknowledge that Rage is a bit hard to sell and that giving you an hour or two with the game usually helps, how about a good old demo?! Isn’t that exactly what a demo is supposed to be? Marketing + showing masses of people the game.

    Ah but I’m dreaming. Still, I’m going to support them because I happen to mostly like the video footage they’ve shown so far. I’m just afraid many people didn’t (like).

    • Magnetude says:

      Seeing as they could supposedly barely squeeze the game onto a blu-ray, I wouldn’t hold out hope for a demo.

    • Matt says:

      Perhaps it’ll be the 2011 version of the Requiem: Avenging Angel demo.

    • mwoody says:

      Wait, it barely fits on a 25GB (or possibly 50GB for dual layer) Blu-ray? So Steam should expect a 25GB download? How is it going to work on 360?

    • Shooop says:

      @mwoody

      John Carmack’s a goddamn graphics wizard, that’s how.

      Even though he said he hated working on the game for consoles for that very reason. Was talk about it being on 2 discs for Xbox even.

  12. lijenstina says:

    The skin is a bit dry?
    I thought that they got sunscreen and moisturizes in the Dystopic Apocalyptic future. That should be a great business opportunity for intrepid mutant entrepreneurs, maybe even a main plot for the sequel.
    Rage : The dermatologist of the Apocalypse
    Rage: Clear skin for the win
    Rage: Angsty teenager’s zits

  13. mwoody says:

    The bit about the game telling people to go right and all the gamers then going left strikes me as strange. He seems to think it’s because they don’t know which way they’re supposed to go. Speaking for myself and every long-time gamer ever, though, it’s inevitably because if the game tells you to go right, YOU ALWAYS GO LEFT. That’s where the secrets are.

  14. Iskariot says:

    Rage looks soooooooo good.
    I’m buying it on the first day of release.

  15. HeavyStorm says:

    Two quick things:

    1) Don’t like that idea of keeping the pace by compartmentalization. I’d love it to be seamless, more like real life (I mean, it’s not like I’m walking the street and “hey, here is safe — I can sleep on the curb” and “ooops, now I must draw a gun and make a bad macho face”.

    2) The characters must be wonderful. Too bad it’s still a FPS and not an Action RPG.

    • Josh W says:

      I think real life does have that kind of compartmentalisation, at least in seriously messed up places:

      You’ve got your territory, where you’re basically ok,
      then there’s neutral/contested ground, where you’ve got to be on your guard, but can be fairly calm assuming there’s no gunfire nearby,
      Then you’ve got another gang/militia/army’s territory, where you’re risking your life.

      If people in conflict ridden areas create spaces where they can feel safe, then that compartmentalisation would be perfectly natural.

  16. elnalter says:

    the bit about you two drooling over the girl is always entertaining :D

  17. Radiant says:

    Top image should have a “Dat Ass” alt title.

    Good interview quite looking forward to this game.

  18. <]:^D says:

    Well after quite a lot of negativity, can’t we all agree that this looks a lot better than Doom 3?

    • Premium User Badge Lars Westergren says:

      All agree, on the internet? That will be the day…

      But I agree at least. This is looking awesome in many ways. Thanks Alec and Tim for the interview.

    • Shooop says:

      Are we speaking graphically or in general?

      I do agree either way, but just curious.