Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: Quakecon

The Densest 2.5 Hours Imaginable

John Carmack again kicked off this year's Quakecon with an extended technical discussion about nearly every topic bouncing around his head.  These speeches are somewhat legendary for the depth of discussion on what are often esoteric topics, but they typically expose some very important sea changes in the industry, both in terms of hardware and software.  John was a bit more organized and succinct this year by keeping things in check with some 300 lines of discussion that he thought would be interesting for us.
 
Next Generation Consoles
 
John cut to the chase and started off the discussion about the upcoming generation of consoles.  John was both happy and sad that we are moving to a new generation of products.  He feels that they really have a good handle on the optimizations of the previous generation of consoles to really extract every ounce of performance and create some interesting content.  The advantages of a new generation of consoles are very obvious, and that is particularly exciting for John.
 
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The two major consoles are very, very similar.  There are of course differences between the two, but the basis for the two are very much the same.  As we well know, the two consoles feature APUs designed by AMD and share a lot of similarities.  The Sony hardware is a bit more robust and has more memory bandwidth, but when all is said and done, the similarities outweigh the differences by a large margin.  John mentioned that this was very good for AMD, as they are still in second place in terms of performance from current architectures as compared to Intel and their world class process technology.
 
Some years back there was a thought that Intel would in fact take over the next generation of consoles.  Larrabee was an interesting architecture in that it melded x86 CPUs with robust vector units in a high speed fabric on a chip.  With their prowess in process technology, this seemed a logical move for the console makers.  Time has passed, and Intel did not execute on Larrabee as many had expected.  While the technology has been implemented in the current Xeon Phi product, it has never hit the consumer world.
 
Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: iD

3+ Hours of discussion later...

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The beginning of QuakeCon is always started by several hours of John Carmack talking about very technical things.  This two hour keynote typically runs into the three to four hour range, and it was no different this time.  John certainly has the gift of gab when it comes to his projects, but unlike others his gab is chock full of useful information, often quite beyond the understanding of those in the audience.

 

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The first topic of discussion was that of last year’s Rage launch.  John was quite apologetic about how it went, especially in terms of PC support.  For a good portion of users out there, it simply would not work due to driver issues on the AMD side.  The amount of lessons they learned from Rage were tremendous.  iD simply cannot afford to release two games in one decade.  Rage took some six plus years of development.  Consider that Doom 3 was released in 2004, and we did not see Rage until Fall 2011.  The technology in Rage is a big step up due to the use of iD Tech 5, and the art assets of the title are very impressive.

iD also made some big mistakes in how they have marketed the title.  Many people were assuming that it would be a title more in line with Bethesda’s Fallout 3 with a lot of RPG type missions and storyline.  Instead of a 80 hour title that one would expect, it was a 10+ hour action title.  So marketing needs to create a better representation of what the game entails.  They also need to stay a bit more focused on what they will be delivering, and be able to do so in a timely manner.

Read the rest of John's Keynote by clicking here.

PC Gamers Rage Over Numerous RAGE Issues

Subject: General Tech | October 5, 2011 - 10:18 AM |
Tagged: rage, PC, id, gaming, carmack

Many of the PC Perspective staff members have been testing out RAGE this week, and were among the countless fans that had been waiting impatiently for id software’s RAGE (to be released) since the first Mega-texture screenshots surfaced of the first person shooter a few years ago. As the game finally unlocked (on steam) on Monday night; however, the game’s enemies were not the only thing catching fire. The Steam Users Forum started lighting up with numerous complaints, bug issues, crashes, and graphical woes and rolled into an uncontrollable wildfire.

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id Software's RAGE, when it's working

The major issues of RAGE include the trusty “CTD,” a crash to desktop, after the initial cut scene in the campaign as you emerge into the game world, screen tearing, mouse super sensitivity, and texture pop-in.  According to Maximum PC, Bethesda has stated that this error is caused when using AMD’s Battlefield 3 Beta performance drivers. I experienced this issue myself when testing out RAGE, and switching to these RAGE performance drivers fixed that particular crashing issue. There are also reports of crashing during other parts of the game; however, they are more varied than the previous crash issue and do not manifest themselves on all systems.  On the mouse super sensitivity front, using a mouse on in game dialog menus can be problematic as well. The mouse sensitivity seems to skyrocket, making it difficult to hit the “accept” and “decline” options compared to the mouse speed when using guns or walking around in the game world.  The same physical motions seem to be greatly magnified on the in-game menus, as shown in the video below.

The remaining major issues do not necessarily affect gameplay; however, they can be distracting and certainly can interrupt the immersion factor of the game. Specifically, there is currently a texture streaming problem such that when the player turns too fast (or at all in severe cases), the textures of the game “pop in.” What this means is that the game looks blurry and missing detail until the engine is able to “catch up” and present the gamer with the (correctly) detailed textures. Bethesda indicates that this texture lag/pop in problem is due moreso to driver issues than problems with the engine. It remains to be seen whether updated drivers will be able to fully fix the texture streaming issue, however. The video below shows the texture pop in issue quite well.

The texture issue is not only a PC issue, however. Giantbomb noted in their Quick Look of RAGE that the Xbox 360 version of RAGE also experiences the texture pop in issue, though not to the extent of the PC. Beyond texture pop in, the PC version also succumbed to screen tearing issues. As an example, when entering the Wasted Garage level, the left two-thirds of my screen became filled almost completely with a solid yellow color where the image was torn in multiple places. This image below is of another user’s screen tearing experience which was less severe than mine but still enough to cause problems in playing the game.

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GameFront is having RAGE screen tearing issues as well.

Finally, RAGE does not play nicely with FRAPS, which saw a massive slowdown in framerate when recording (much more than the normal dip experienced in other games). (UPDATE: the new AMD driver (updated Rage Performance Driver) seems to have fixed this for the most part.)

Some of these graphical issues may be attributable to the automatically adjusting nature of the game’s graphical settings as the game may not be able to cache/reuse textures it has recently loaded if the engine determines that the graphical settings need to be lower or higher, resulting in the engine needing to reload textures, and thus having what feels like lagging textures even in areas you’ve recently looked around. The extent to which it happens though is likely caused by a number of factors, that many hope a patch will mitigate.  On the other hand, Bethesda is indicating that the texture issue is not due to the engine but rather is due to graphics drivers.

Either way, gamers are not happy with RAGE and are waiting impatiently for drivers and/or a patch to fix the various issues, whichever the case may be.  It may be prudent to take a "wait and see" approach to the game before jumping in, if you haven't already purchased it of course.  Are you running RAGE right now, and if so what sorts of issues (and hopefully solutions) have you run into?  Vent your rage about RAGE in the comments below!

New Rage trailer causes an Uprising at Quakecon?

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | August 6, 2011 - 06:10 PM |
Tagged: rage, quakecon, id

The most important difference about Quakecon this year is that they can finally, for the first time in years, promote an upcoming in-house title. RAGE was definitely all the rage this year as John Carmack spent the majority of his keynote discussing the technical decisions made during the game for the 360, for the PS3, and for the PC. The biggest take-away that a lead game programmer could learn from the keynote is that you should never tell the artist team when approached about design specifications, “Make beautiful stuff and we’ll figure out how to make it work.” However, for the rest of us not on iD’s programming department, we get to see what a comment like that looks like in the new RAGE trailer.

Reminded of USENET a decade ago, “Syntax Error: Asking for the best computer, money is no object.”

Something has us believing that this will be a very profitable year for Bethesda’s parent company, Zenimax. With two large games, RAGE and Elder Scrolls V, coming out this autumn from Zenimax we hopefully should see them able to reinvest and grow over the coming years. As for the game itself, I get three distinct vibes from the most recent cinematic trailer: The first is Doom 3 which is most felt in the intro as the player is loaded into the pod-like device; the second is Fallout 3 from characters interact; the third vibe I cannot pin against any given game and mostly consists of the vehicular aspect of the trailer. What does it remind our readers of? (Registration not required for commenting.)

Source: iD Software

RAGE on, PC: PCGamer interviews John Carmack

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 11, 2011 - 02:28 PM |
Tagged: john carmack, id, E3

John Carmack was and is one of the biggest faces in videogame engine development since Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake. He was at E3 to promote his company, iD Software’s, RAGE: their nearest upcoming release. While he was there, PCGamer managed to corner him for a 22 minute interview ranging from RAGE; to the current and future state of PC gaming; to the perceptive effect of input latency and how framerate affects it.

Look at how stable the framerate is!

Some points of interest from the interview include:
  • Texture resolution and memory limitations on consoles
  • Higher end PCs being approximately 10-fold higher performance than the consoles
  • Sandy Bridge is finally barely good enough for integrated graphics to be viable GPUs for games
  • DirectX and OpenGL APIs hold the PC back, looking forward to new movements to access GPU better
  • His interest focuses on the toolset to let the artists do more with less effort
  • PC Gaming is still viable but a minority
  • Input latency is longer than people expect, sometimes up to 100ms and beyond
  • The exciting yet not necessarily crucial nature of newer rendering technologies

John Carmack always has interesting interviews from his very down to Earth and blunt tone. If you have a free half hour and want to hear one of the best game programmers in the world talk about his trade, this is definitely an interview for you.

Source: PCGamer

RAGE delayed a month, lives up to name

Subject: General Tech | June 10, 2011 - 04:55 PM |
Tagged: rage, id, delayed

RAGE, which was originally expected to launch September 13th on the PC, 360, and PS3, is now expected to be available on October 4th according to their official website. Neither Bethesda nor iD Software published a press release yet to confirm the release date push yet being on the game’s official website there seems to be little doubt that RAGE will end up being an October release.

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WHAT?!?!?!?

(Image from iD Software)

Without a press release there is still only speculation about the cause of the delay. Tom’s Hardware speculates that the planned release of Gears of War 3 a week after the original date for RAGE pushed up the release date into October to avoid Epic Games’ behemoth release. It is also possible that the one month delay was completely development driven. iD was long known for the old-school PC game development “done when it is done” mentality and they have no problems delaying a release to get it to the state that they desire it to be at.

Are you looking forward to RAGE? Discuss in the comments.