id's legendary robo-brain John Carmack has broken the developer's rather inadvisable silence about the mucky state of Rage at launch on PC last week. Apology? Nah? Accepting blame? Nah. It's all ATI's fault that id released a game designed for future rather than existent drivers, he says. Oh, and the reason the game, once working, is still not as super-shiny as we might have hoped is because "We do not see the PC as the leading platform for games." Here we go again.
In happier news, the first Rage patch is out, and thank the god of textures, it introduces a much-needed graphics settings menu to the game.
All this and more was told to Kotaku, by the way, whose piece here you should read for the full picture of the C-talk.
Here's his take on the driver issue:
"The driver issues at launch have been a real cluster !@#$. We were quite happy with the performance improvements that we had made on AMD hardware in the months before launch... We knew that all older AMD drivers, and some Nvidia drivers would have problems with the game, but we were running well in-house on all of our test systems. When launch day came around and the wrong driver got released, half of our PC customers got a product that basically didn't work...
"Unfortunately, we have had video driver issues that have caused problems and frustrations with our PC fans. Everyone at id Software is very upset by these issues which are mostly out of our control. We are working with both AMD/ATI and Nvidia to help them identify and fix the issues with their drivers."
OK - but I still don't understand why the driver wasn't released before the game, given some version of it must have been used in-house at iD to develop/test Rage on. I still don't understand why id and Bethesda were happy for a game to launch knowing that 50% of their PC players probably would't be able to play it. I don't understand why they didn't do their best to ensure it was at least playable on older ATI drivers, even if some whizz-bang was missing. Obviously, I'm being an armchair analyst not privy to the real inner workings of what went down, but at the very least this could have been communicated a whole lot better than it was.
Then there's the other bit, where Carmack admits the entirely unsurprising news that consoles are now more important to id than PCs. I'm not irked because it's to be expected - if expensive games want expensive promotion, they need to have consoles front and centre in their mind. However, when a game really takes off on PC it can huge, wildly huge - and I do think too many companies see it as too much of a gamble and don't invest as much as they could/should to seriously increase the chance of high returns. Battlefield 3 is going to be very interesting in that regard.
Anyway, here's Carmack's platform-mulling:
"You can choose to design a game around the specs of a high-end PC and make console versions that fail to hit the design point, or design around the specs of the consoles and have a high-end PC provide incremental quality improvements. We chose the latter. We do not see the PC as the leading platform for games. That statement will enrage some people, but it is hard to characterize it otherwise; both console versions will have larger audiences than the PC version.
"A high end PC is nearly 10 times as powerful as a console, and we could unquestionably provide a better experience if we chose that as our design point and we were able to expend the same amount of resources on it. Nowadays most of the quality of a game comes from the development effort put into it, not the technology it runs on. A game built with a tenth the resources on a platform 10 times as powerful would be an inferior product in almost all cases."
I agree with him, broadly, for what it's worth, but I don't think it excuses the sloppy state of Rage's launch or irritations such as how lousy some of the game's textures are close up or the mouse moving at twice the speed in menus. Is it really not possible to do a bit more incremental PC work after making the console version tip-top than they actually did here?
Hopefully, id are indeed on the case now - a patch landed last night which added the much-missed graphics options to the game. It's basically a friendlier way of activating the config file tweaks people came up with last week, so if you've held off from doing that from fear and confusion, let Steam update Rage now and you'll find easy options for texture caching (to fix the pop-in), anisotropic filtering (to fix the blurry distant textures) and Vsync (to semi-fix the screen tearing). Hopefully there'll be more patches with more options further down the line.
Full patch notes here.
I should add that, since tweaking and driver-fiddling, I've been enjoying Rage an awful lot. As I said here.