The Problem with RAGE


Yea, yea, I know I'll be inviting ridicule about this post because who am I to say this. Fan boys will come and leave nasty posts because they feel I'm attacking their idol. That can't be helped.

RAGE came out for iPhone and iPad recently which shows off the latest tech from Id Software. Id has done a great job of hyping it up and it looks great. Unfortunately it seems to me like the tech is a dead end.

First off, some background, mega textures are not new nor were they invented by John Carmack. The first time I heard about mega textures was in 2001. The Sony PS2 Developer's web site had videos from their developer's conference where there was a talk by the engineers from Baldur's Gate for PS2 which had 3 unique features. 1) a VU based particle system that could render 180,000 particles at 60fps. 2) A VU based water ripple system that let players walk through water and leave wakes. 3) Mega textures. All background art was rendered using 1 giant mega texture that was spooled off the DVD as the players walk through the level.

So what's the problem with mega textures? In short, they take too much space.

RAGE: Mutant Attack TV is the perfect example. The game is 1.2 GIG and you get barely a few levels. John Carmack has been quoted as saying the PC version of the game is over 20 GIG! That's 3 DVDs. And that's exactly the problem. Games have budgets (1 DVD costs less than 2 or 3), systems have memory limits. How many 20gig games can you install on your 360? How many 1.2 gig games can you put on your iPhone/iPad?

Id claims that mega textures free the artists and designers to do whatever they want. This is not true though. When adding a single table to a room adds several megabytes of textures to the DVD that actually removes freedom because the DVD is full. Decide you want to add a room to some level because it would make it more playable? Sorry, that would add 100meg and overfill the DVD. If you want to add a room here you're going to have to delete a room from some where else, either here or another level. That's not giving the artists and designers more freedom, it's just a new kind of limit and one that is MUCH MUCH harder to deal with. When all you're concerned about is "does my level fit in memory", that's much easier than "do all the levels fit on the DVD". That's because it's easy to find out if a level fits in memory. Just run it. Where as checking if all the levels fit on disc is much harder. There can easily be 70+ people making content and any one of them can take the entire thing over the storage budget every day.

Maybe the RAGE tech is at exactly the right place at the right time and storage issues won't matter. People won't mind downloading 20+ gig for small games. Storage space will balloon in time to keep up. It's certainly possible. I'm betting though that it's just a little bit too early for that.

The WebGL Aquarium running on the Google Liquid Galaxy
GDC 2011 Report