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id's Rage and lack of innovation

I was pretty excited about Rage when I first heard about it. It was a chance for id to redeem itself for the mish mash of mediocrity that was DOOM3 and hopefully bring the company and the brand back to its prior glory. It had a punchy, single-worded title and a promising new engine from John Carmack. What could go wrong?

Needless to say, my expectations were high. id has a history of being the alpha-male of the pack, leading the rest of the industry into uncharted territory with a headstrong mix of rock solid, innovative technology and unrelenting action gameplay. From Wolfenstein 3D to Doom to Quake, id always left others in the dust. Hell, back in high school, their games inspired me to pursue a career in computer graphics. Could Rage recapture that magic?

Well, judging from the marketing materials and testimonials of those who have played it, Rage seems to be the product of id playing catch up with the rest of the industry. Ouch. Watching Tim Willits in those videos getting excited about the open-world wasteland, characters you can interact with, vehicles, and diverse weaponry is like getting a Facebook friend request from your senile grand father who used to be a rock star back in the day. And how our stars have faded.

But you know what? This is what id needs right now. The company has changed quite a bit in the past couple of decades, with key employees leaving, and it needs to find its groove with its new team. The industry has also rapidly changed, and id is likely experiencing some growing pains in order to adapt to the new realities of AAA game development. A wise man once said, you need to walk before you can run. If DOOM3 was a stumble (too damn dark to see where you're going lololol), Rage is id getting back on its feet. The old days of id sprinting ahead and blowing our collective minds like a shotgun may yet come in the future, but id will take it one step at a time.

I can't say that Rage looks innovative, but I can say that it looks polished, competent, and - quite importantly - fun. And I can respect that. Mike Tyson may not be able to knock his opponents out in 8 seconds flat anymore, but I still wouldn't want to get in a fight with the guy. Tiger Woods may no longer wipe the floor with players twice his age, but he's still way better than most golfers. So let's temper our expectations, give Rage a chance, and stop talking mess about id just because it is not the second coming of Christ. And hey, maybe the vehicle combat is actually quite innovative, and they just have no idea how to get that across in the marketing.

I'll end with a prediction: I think Rage will do quite well commercially. Sure, it looks a lot like Fallout 3 and Borderlands, but those games aren't coming out this fall. The other major shooters it will be competing with are Uncharted 3, Gears of War 3, Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3, Resistance 3, and Deus Ex: HR (which is technically, you guessed it, number 3 in the series). In terms of theme and gameplay - and apparently sequel status - Rage stands out. Bethesda is also leaving no stone unturned with its marketing campaign, and I imagine the vast majority of consumers won't care as much as we do about its apparent lack of innovation. If id makes a fun, solid shooter and Bethesda plasters that logo everywhere, it will do just fine and people will dig it.

A toast to you, id Software. May you one day strike gold again. But if you don't, that's alright. You've done plenty.
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About stevesanone of us since 11:25 PM on 02.22.2008