I had planned on reviewing the shooter Rage from id software back in early October – I really did. I had it pre-ordered on Steam, loaded it up when it was released and went to play it that night and … nothing. It simply didn’t work … well, that isn’t completely true. It would seem to want to start, but fail miserably, in spite of rebooting, checking drivers, and so on.
A quick check on the Steam forums – and gaming forums in general – revealed that I wasn’t alone.
How long have PC gamers had to deal with messy releases? Well, 2011 marked the start of my fourth decade dealing with buggy releases on the Apple II, DOS games that required endless fiddling and configuration, early Windows games that were ultra-finicky about specific hardware, and so on.
But this was different – this was ID SOFTWARE, the makers of Doom and Quake … they created the FPS genre as it exists today, and their entire history has been made on the backs of PC gamers who have forever pushed them harder and harder to lead the technology field. Yet in recent years id has become part of Bethesda, a company for half-hearted PC support.
Then as I continued working through the issues, I read this from Shacknews:
Rage got off to a slightly rocky start on PC, but things are turning around with new drivers from graphics manufacturers and a new patch issued by developer id Software over the weekend. id has also explained a little of why the PC version was in such a state.
Saturday’s patch brought changes including crash fixes, the ability to change the FOV from Rage’s launch options, and a few new graphics settings to fiddle with in the menus.
According to Rage creative director Tim Willits, a lot of the PC problems stem from wonky graphics card drivers. “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,” he told Kotaku.
id technical wizard John Carmack was less restrained, describing the launch driver issues as “a real cluster !@#$.” (That’s secret code for a naughty word.) While id and AMD had worked together before launch, with id making “significant internal changes” to work best with AMD tech, it all went to pot.
“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,” Carmack said.
Carmack also again explained why consoles were the lead platforms, not PC.
“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,” he said. “We chose the latter.”
“We do not see the PC as the leading platform for games,” Carmack explained. “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.”
As late as the end of October gamers remained unable to play the game due to issues with the game related to graphics hardware.
I had started writing about this in early November, but set it aside and forgotten the game until it was $14.99 on Steam , at which point I reinstalled and have finished playing it again. I can sum up my review in one word:
I had already played a bunch with my son, who had insisted on using birthday money to buy it for himself for full price. On that system the graphics worked well, the controls were tight, and although the game was still amazingly average, it all came together perfectly. Of course, he hasn’t played it SINCE October, as it falls below pretty much any other top-level shooter made in the last five years.
I call out one quote from id’s Carmack: “the quality of a game comes from the development effort put into it”.
Based on that all I can assume is there was very little effort put into the PC game – because it sucks. Technically it is a mess – and it is an embarrassment to his legacy that Carmack is blaming everyone else but himself. I mean, EVERY game has to deal with this, yet very few are released in such a sorry state with more than half of all gamers unable to play! The controls are poorly done, and the bottom line is this – the game feels like a first effort by an id clone company who would never get a second chance.
And for many such as myself, this was the LAST time I will front full price for a game by id Software. But it is worse – by doubling down on console gamers, not only did they alienate their PC base, they delivered such a mediocre experience that they failed to gain any NEW fans. In fact, what they delivered is what Carmack called an “inferior product in almost all cases”. Yeah, that’s about it.
Where to Buy: Steam
What I Like: Decent length single player campaign; solid graphics … if they work, and after they pop-in
What Needs Improvement: NOTHING is better than average; mediocre multiplayer; horrific bugs; terrible customer response
Source: Personal copy of game