With the release of Bioshock only a few days away, and a little glimpse into id Software's new engine / game "Rage" only a week or so behind us, I can't help but reminisce a little about the (arguable) father of the first person shooter, and wonder to myself, "Is id still relevant?"
There was a time, of course, where every little thing they did sent ripples through the gaming industry. Wolfenstein was like a revolution in gaming. Doom took it to the next level. And then Quake -- ah, Quake -- among the first true 3D shooters. The game alone was a reason to upgrade your computer, to get a faster processor, to look at a better video card. And QuakeWorld helped launch the internet gaming frenzy that is still frenzying to this day.
Quake 2 didn't make quite the same impact, technologically, but its online component eventually became even stronger than its predecessor's. Mods by the dozen, by the hundred started to appear. You could have your deathmatch in just about any flavour you liked.
Id went online only with Quake 3, but faced tough competition from Unreal Tournament, which many thought -- myself included -- was a superior product. Around the same time, Half Life came along and, from almost out the blue, upped the ante considerably on what an engaging, first-person shoot could and *should* be.
Attempting to return to their roots, id annouced that they were developing a sequal to their genre-defining hit Doom -- a game that would be even more tense and frightening than the original, thanks to the significant change in technology in the intervening years.
People were excited. People were drooling all over themselves for the game. A NEW DOOM -- A DOOM FOR THE 21ST CENTURY. OH MY TEH GODZ.
And then it was released. And it was...meh. Meanwhile, everyone was humping Half Life 2 -- and it's hard to blame them. It'd be hard to develop a compelling argument that it WASN'T a better game.
And now it's 2007. Id is still alive, still hard at work, this time on something new. Something called RAGE. It looks pretty, to be sure. It's tech is obviously solid. But I still can't shake the feeling that, as much as I *want* to care about it, I just don't. It's been years since id did anything revolutionary with a game (beyond the engine), and as much as I'd like to think RAGE will do something spectacular, so far all we know is that it's got vehicles. Which is, uh...yeah, been there, done that.
I used to experience little gaming orgasms everytime a representative from id opened their mouth, everytime a new screenshot was released. They were gaming gods. But they just...they lost it. Maybe they jumped the shark. Maybe the put the focus on the tech and not the game. Maybe gaming just zigged while they were busy zagging.
I'm not sure exactly what happened. But I'm pretty sure that something did. And while we, as gamers, might be better for it (because we're getting stuff like Bioshock -- fuck yeah!), id is poorer. They haven't become a joke to the industry yet, at least. But they're definitely middle of the road. And far from the industry-defining all-stars they once were.