E3 '07 Q&A: id's Nix on Tech 5 Engine licensing

GameSpot sits down with id's Steve Nix to find out about how the company is handling the business side for its new engine.

SANTA MONICA, Calif.--At this year's E3 Media and Business Summit, the id suite at the Casa del Mar hotel is bustling with Enemy Territory: Quake Wars activity. While a good deal of attention is being given to id's latest creation, many from the gaming press are more interested in id's Tech 5 engine, revealed by John Carmack at the Apple World Wide Developers Conference in June.

The company isn't ready to reveal its internally developed game or talk tech with the press, but we were able to sit down with Steve Nix, id's director of business development, to see what kind of reception id Tech 5 has been getting at E3 2007. id is currently only showing the Tech 5 engine to potential licensees at E3.

GameSpot: John Carmack had the big id Tech 5 demo at the Apple World Wide Developers Conference in June. Has your E3 been full of developer meetings who are interested in licensing your tech?

Steve Nix: What's funny is that there aren't a lot of developers at E3 this year. I mean, there are a number of developers, but not the normal number that you would have at an E3 with 60,000 people. I think we have about 5,000 people this E3. All the major publishers are here, and we've been talking to them about the technology licensing, and the response has been well above my expectations. Very happy people have been extremely impressed by the visual fidelity of the technology, but the tools and the cross-platform [support] have been the huge thing. Walking in and seeing the technology running just as well on the Mac, the PC, the 360, and the PS3 at a high frame rate--people weren't expecting it. It's not difficult. It's just that our approach to technology allows us to do it very efficiently. I think overall we've more than accomplished our goals for this E3. People have been really impressed and we expect that we'll have a number of tech licenses. We're starting those conversations today because E3 was the first time we've shown anyone the technology directly other that what we showed at the World Wide Developers Conference.

GS: When do you expect the first id Tech 5 licensed games to hit retail?

SN: It's hard to say. We expect the first licenses to happen later this year, but expect the normal two- to three-year [development] timelines beyond that. It's a next-next generation solution, but content creation is not any more difficult. Content creation, in many ways, is going to be easier, so I don't expect expanded timelines beyond what people have been seeing for AAA games, but I do expect that it will still take two to three years. I don't know whether you'd want to make a 12-month movie-license game with this technology. You could, but we generally try to steer our partners away from those 12-month cycles, because we want high-quality games to be made using our technology.

GS: Who do you see as your main competitors in the game-engine space? Is it mainly Epic Games and Unreal Engine 3?

SN: Yeah, there just really isn't a lot of competition in the engine-licensing business right now. There are a couple of smaller companies that offer basic rendering solutions and really aren't full engine suites, and then of course for RenderWare, I don't know of any new licensees there outside of EA. There really has just been one player right now, and I think, with our new solution, we have a very good option for developers and publishers who want to do next-next-gen technology and have a high-quality solution for the four platforms.

GS:id's known for specializing in a specific game genre. Will the engine work well for games that aren't shooters?

SN: Yeah, absolutely. Our code is the most elegant, best-structured base code in the world. When we started out with id Tech 5, we didn't hack onto an old engine and then sort of replace parts as we went along. It's an entirely new engine. The structure is super-fundamentally sound. If you look at Quake 3, which was a multiplayer engine, but again, fundamentally sound, the licensees who took that went on to create some of the best single-player games ever in history in Medal of Honor, Call of Duty--even James Bond: Agent Under Fire, a console title, used the technology. It's the same approach with id Tech 5. The way the rendering works, there are no more texture limitations. Any game can take advantage of that. In a massively multiplayer game, texture constraints are a big problem. Even a fighting game where you're trying to get the ultimate detail in a smaller arena, texture limitations tend to be one of your number one limitations. Not only do we think people can make games outside the action-shooter space with our technology, we encourage it. We'd actually like to see those games made.

GS: What are these developers, who are all presumably familiar with Unreal Engine 3, most impressed by when they see your engine?

SN: I'm not that aware of what our competitors are doing and what they're promising with their road map, but when people walk into our booth, they see that we have four platforms running at 60Hz with the exact same assets. We probably have artists in the company that aren't aware we have our new technology running on the PS3 because you need to do absolutely zero changes, no packaging, no extra baking, no extra steps, to get to the PS3. It really is a seamless, multiplatform, no-hassle solution. That's what people are telling us is extremely attractive. There's also the power of the rendering. No one has this rendering solution that we have with the unlimited texture. People are shocked by that. They weren't expecting it. It's a totally different path than where everyone else is going with their technology right now. It's Carmack again coming up with something that no one else in the market is thinking about. People are surprised by that. I mean, you expect John [Carmack] to come up with massive technological leaps in rendering, but at the same time people are really shocked to see it running on all the platforms.

GS: As we understand it, MegaTexturing on the PC streams data off the hard disk and on the 360, it streams off the DVD. On the PS3, will it stream off the hard disk because now all the systems have hard disks, or will it stream off the Blu-ray disc?

SN: I'm probably getting over my pay grade by speaking directly, but I understand that it's going to be either streaming off the Blu-ray disc or a combination because you are now guaranteed a hard drive with the PS3.

GS: How have licensing deals changed for next-gen gaming?

SN: It's a little complicated. Back in the Quake 3 era, you were licensing one platform: the PC. If people wanted to go and create console versions, we wouldn't charge them more than that because we were essentially just delivering a PC engine. The amount of time it has taken us to develop technology has increased over the years with next-generation stuff, and you also have the multiplatform. You have questions like do you price support separately? It's a more complicated pricing model for sure. We're not even talking to people about pricing models yet; we'll be getting to that in the coming months.

GS: Thanks, Steve.

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Discussion

96 comments
namdar
namdar

I can slowly see games kind of interwind each other. FPS with RTS functions and mix with RPG add a dash of Internet insert idea sprinkle on some marketing and boom you have new genre right there.. Oh wait alot of games already do that... I honestly say we should look at how we interact with games. Wii has the idea but not graphically capable. Microsoft and Sony will understand this and so will developers

DryvBy2
DryvBy2

@smoothn00dle Yeah, overrated is such a good word to use their. Who cares that they started the FPS genre and have helped created more great games than you can shake a stick at thanks to their graphics engine. By the way, it's id, not ID.

surppo
surppo

the reason why so many next gen games look alike is because their all fps games. i wanna see a new genre created for next gen or at least smart hybrids. why cant halo have an option to switch between first and third person. why cant you control individual units like action game in rts games. if they cant come up with new game types they should start mashing them together so we can get the experiences we always wanted but were denied because of technology. i want a mmortstpss (massively multiplayer online real time strategy third person squad shooter) is that too much to ask? if it is then one of these videogame companies need to give me a job so i can develop it. im tired of these derivative games. if i was gonna copy other games i'd take the best parts of halo, gears of war, command & conquer, socom, battlefield, and gta and make my damn mmortstpss. now that game wouldnt look like anything else and we would all being playin it instead of ragging each others systems. come EA give me a chance.

smoothn00dle
smoothn00dle

ID is in a crossroad. I think this company is overrated. Their next challenge will really test their character. ==================================================== The competition is fierce. Unreal engine 3 and Killzone2 engine, they are going to dominate console and PC. Killzone2 team has 125 developers consist of 20 different nationalities. Sony has shipped their best and the brightest scientists from all over the world to the Gorilla like a secret science project. Even Epic don't have that much resources. The biggest threat to ID is Sony. If they can't keep up, is game over ================================================= This time ID can't rely on new hardware with easy programming to help. The "It is just TOO HARD to develop" mentality from John Carmack, I believe will have some serious consequence.

drangel_jam
drangel_jam

It's awesome hear about another great engine. Praise th heaven, the new gen will not be boring and heavily Unreal 3 based.

terrabreak13
terrabreak13

CryEngine2 spanks all these graphic engines. UE3 is great with textures and normal mapping but the lighting and colors does not compare to CryEngine.

Dust24311
Dust24311

Unlimited textures are what next-gen gaming is all about. If Carmack can pull it off on every machine, more power to him.

Iriseon
Iriseon

"Err, hold on a minute. Why is multiplatform a good thing?" id is trying to sell a game engine. They are touting it's ability to be developed independently of hardware, with the implied bonus of easing development, as a selling point. Licensing an engine with cutting-edge technology and making it friendlier to use should theoretically give developers more time & ability to avoid poor cross-platform interfaces like Oblivion or Thief: DS, or Deus Ex: IW or....

SadisticSid
SadisticSid

"The new engine's multiplatform compatibility is terrific news. Be patient, grasshoppers, there will be terrific games coming our way soon enough!" Err, hold on a minute. Why is multiplatform a good thing? All the major games that have been released for consoles and the PC have made major compromises to accommodate console limitations, not least of which is the gamepad (Oblivion strikes me as the biggest example). From a technology and business perspective it's terrific, but I fear it'll mean more of the same one-size-fits-all stuff that's been coming out for the past few years.

knnth
knnth

It's just hype and vapor until it's real, then we can see how good it is.

Blue_Tomato
Blue_Tomato

I saw the demo of this engine, but I was not impressed at all when comparing to Unreal Engine 3, or the new Cry Engine used in Crysis. I guess their main selling point is cutting the cost of multi-platform development, and having good tools for the artists. But, as a consumer I am more interested in the end result, not how cheap the production was.

PacoL250
PacoL250

It seems they're doing what they did with the Doom engine way back in the day. And that thing was licensed so much to so many game developers. Hope this ends up doing the same :D

RorshachV
RorshachV

id really knows how to play its cards right

Talgrath
Talgrath

Interesting; if this is truly cross-platform and does what he's saying it does than that will mean we'll see a lot more games coming out for all the platforms...definately a good thing.

XAF1
XAF1

This is good. If texture restraints are less of a problem then we may actually get the next-gen looking games everyone has been talking about us seeing this generation. I've been waiting to see the games look like rendered video in the movies and still play well. Most developers will probably want to use both engines to keep their games from looking so similar to their competitions. This could also get rid of the some of the graphical/cpu restraints we see. Sounds good. I can't wait to see the first public demo.

lilkao
lilkao

i can see the future and i see DOOM 4.

chaduma
chaduma

Interesting, with a LOT of companies already havning dumped money to get the UE 3 license [Microsoft Game Studios, Sony, Midway, EA, Square Enix, to name a few]... I wonder who would still shell out for the iT 5 setup? Or how many developers are still in need of an engine/haven't already licensed something else?

easteast
easteast

id is a great company, I'll be looking forward to this game.

playwrite
playwrite

oh my god, he answered the questions asked in a straightforward manner. shocked and amazed.

Icarusmk3
Icarusmk3

I find it strange how this ID representative tries to downplay Epic's Unreal Engine, while stating that of Renderware (which has since gone down hill). I mean even EA (which owns Renderware) is licensing the Unreal Engine 3 for their latest games.

smoothn00dle
smoothn00dle

@psyconius What do you mean "change the title". This is an old news, right? I saw Tech5 engine on Mac world, it was boring and laggie. Compare to Gear of War and Killzone2, hahahaa. No way. I think ID is overrated. They are doing a DS game, the competition in graphic is not that fierce I hope.

psyconius
psyconius

Yes... I am very impressed that they changed the title of this article. It's nice to know they are listening to us trolling the comments :)

desolation00
desolation00

I'd be interested in hearing more articles about the tech and development side of videogames, personally.

ChinoJamesKeene
ChinoJamesKeene

Im still wonering how this unlimited texturing will work or whether its just unlimitied in a way that doesn't translate to on screen constantly. Still can't wait to see an engine that doesn't bring your PC to its knees, yea UE3....

705H1R0
705H1R0

I guess I'm one of the few people who thought Doom 3 was a really immersive experience... If this was really just a tech demo I'm wondering how much better an actual game will look. Can't wait for id's next release on this engine.

Skat137321
Skat137321

great words....i wonder if they will be true

pugkiller
pugkiller

For any one asking about why Cryengine wasn't mentioned, they were asking about competition for Tech 5, which is crossplatform, whereas Cryengine is PC. Thats the most important thing, it may be that Unreal and Cryengine are more powerful, but that Tech 5 works better for cross platform games (Assassins Creed, Overlord, etc...) that are going to be on several or all of the major next gen consoles So the point here is that even though Tech 5 doesnt look as good, since developers wont have waste time portinggames from one console to the other it will give them more time to make great games.

lostn
lostn

Looks like Doom 3.5. Doom 3 was never a very efficient or all that great looking engine. Nothing impressive here. Unreal3 spanks it. id have lost their touch since Quake 3. Cryengine 2 is the one to beat.

rockybob
rockybob

You can see it on youtube pretty easily. Just search for iD tech 5. Not the best quality but you get the idea.

genEXILEKeA
genEXILEKeA

Unlimmited rendering? and still running smoothy? wow i gotta see this, nothing that gets me going for a good game then the grafix that run smoothly, look forward to seeing your Tech 5 in action, gl in the future ^^

Pultron
Pultron

The important thing about licensing a game engine isn't all about how beautiful it renders but mostly how efficiently your team can work with it.

barlienb
barlienb

Yeah, can't really get why they didn't mention CryEngine2 when they where talking about competitors. That thing looks awesome. But whats even more important. The tool's are unparalleled. As they showed, creating a road in that engine is as easy as pulling it along, and pressing a button to get it nice and flat. Then again, I am pretty impressed buy this "endless-amount-of-texture" feature, and the cross platform compatibility. Sounds like a good thing, cause you won't get games that are, specifically developed for one; and then ported. I'm all for that. I guess its just a matter of "what-you-want" vs "what-you-need". Do you really need 40+ gig's of texture, ore do you want better compatibility.

stuckboy
stuckboy

I don't really like the direction that the texturing is going. Oh sure, every nook and cranny is entirely unqiue, but the demo shown at the Apple event used over 20GB of textures. 20GB! Their code is apparently the most elegant in the world, but the real elegance in game programming is creating something awesome that runs on within reasonable hardware constraints. My money is in Crytek's new engine. It can generate render an entire tropical island from far away or down to a minute level of detail. Whereas with Carmacks new engine, every texture is unique... whoopie doo.

Paceydre
Paceydre

Carmack did it again.. I think this time around more developers will be looking at Carmack's new engine. Compatibility across multiple platforms will be cost reducing to developers and that's always a good thing when creating a next-next gen game for multiple platforms. ID sparked the engine world and shook it real hard....now let us be patient for about 3 years and see what kind of games will be made.

lostn
lostn

I see gamespot has renamed the misleading headline. Good move.

Reetesh
Reetesh

This Looks good.. since every publisher wants to make thier games come in all platforms.. this will be the selling factor.

beckoflight
beckoflight

I'm looking foreword to see their new engine put in use ... till now my favorite engine is UNREAL3 & SOURCE + that engine made by infinity wars looks really nice !

GuitarsOfWarr
GuitarsOfWarr

Cool, I like seeing anpther great game engine, it's aout time we game some games to rival GoW!

eXists
eXists

In Carmack we trust.

dryden555
dryden555

The Doom3 engine was highly underwhelming. Best next to expect much right now from this engine until it proves itself.

LouieV13
LouieV13

I never really liked any games from ID cept Doom 3 but this engine seems kida cool

Latinbro1
Latinbro1

if this engine and its toolset prove to be as seamless as they make it out ot be for al three platforms (PS3, 360, and PC) then Epic might have some competition. I wonder if Crytech is licensing?

peeweeshift
peeweeshift

cool interview. seems a lit more old fasioned and less talk about a companies games for once. the unreal engine 3 is getting to many games for it. Thats the saddest part of this generation. most games are using some crappy engine and all the good games are using the unreal engine(well most of them). some games do look a lot different but with the same engine comes the same restraints and im getting tired of games that have a look reminiscent of gears. it actually made me to stop playing gears because so many games look like it now.

alexandregiroux
alexandregiroux

Cool interview! It's nice to finally have some id news. In my opinion, id's engines have always been the best of the industry.

psyconius
psyconius

I agree with Crzy1... It was a funny play on words, but it certainly reeks of "attention grabbing headline" syndrome. This is one of many puns for headlines that are misleading and ultimately a bit irritating... That being said, the article was great. Good, to the point interview and awesome news for gaming! =P CARMACK WGAH'NAGL FHTAGN!