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Game Plans

id Software's Steve Nix discusses the studio's latest initiatives.

Formerly the CEO of SiN Episodes creator Ritual Entertainment, Steven Nix joined id Software in November of last year. As director of business development heâs responsible for marketing and PR, and technology licensing is also an important part of his job.


GamesIndustry.biz caught up with Nix at the recent DICE Summit, where he appeared optimistic about the the opportunities now available for id. "Weâre not talking a lot about the new technology yet, but weâre very interested in getting out there for more technology licensing - building those relationships and getting the word out there that weâre serious about tech licensing again," he explained.

But technology aside, what are id's latest project plans? Will Nix's experience of producing episodic content come into play at id? "More than anything, gamers are driven by innovation - whether itâs graphical innovation, or some sort of interesting gameplay innovation.

"And the thing is gameplay or technology innovation takes a long time," Nix added, observing that it can take up to two years to develop something truly significant.

"The problem with episodic is how do you make something really compelling gameplay-wise or technology-wise in that short of a window? I donât know how you do it - itâs just really challenging.

"I think at the end of the day, gamers care more about those things than story."

Nix does believe that narrative is important, "But I donât think itâs the key reason people buy a game." So id has no plans to produce episodic content? "We would have to see the model proven a little bit more." In the meantime, the company is working on a couple of "interesting new things that weâre going to be pursuing that weâre not even close to ready to talk about".

Nix said that Doom 3 disproved the argument that you need 100 people to produce a next-gen game. Currently there are 34 staff members at id, and the studio plans to stay small. So, rather than expanding they're following an external production model.

According to Nix, "The hardest part is finding game development talent that thinks about games the same way we do. If we said, âAll right, at all times weâre going to have our new IP, weâre going to have a Wolfenstein, a Doom, a Quake game' - if you tried to do all those internally, we would have to have a pretty huge organisation... Our strategy really is to stay as small as humanly possible at id."

In his speech at the DICE Summit, Nix discussed the importance of managing priorities in the development process. He analysed the balance between schedule, budget and quality, observing that the axiom for most industries is 'fast, cheap or good - pick two'.

"In the game industry, weâre a little more constrained," he observed. "Iâd actually say pick one. At id Software, we pick one, and we always choose to pick good. We own our brands, and the games have to be great."

Nix couldn't reveal anything about the new IP in development from id, except that "the lead SKU on the new stuff is 360. And we havenât talked about other platforms yet".

He did note that mobile games have been a platform for proving original intellectual properties. "Orcs and Elves is a new IP for id - on the smaller form factor platforms like mobile," Nix said. As these IPs become successful, they can be moved up and up the food chain.

Would id ever do an MMO? "Itâs not something weâve seriously considered. Obviously at every company, thereâs MMO fans. I canât say weâd never do an MMO. Itâs not something weâre actively talking about now."

Development aside, there will be events this year, including the biggest QuakeCon ever. Nix is expecting "around 7000 people", with expansions planned for the exhibitor area. As for the new E3, id will be there. "Weâll have space, weâll be talking to people about tech there," Nix confirmed.

And then what? "When John [Carmack] is working on a title," Nix said, "Heâs usually thinking several chess moves ahead. Heâs thinking, âOkay, this is the way Iâm going to do it this time, but boy, Iâd sure like to do it this way next time.â He always has ideas of things heâd like to pursue."

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N. Evan Van Zelfden

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