One of the biggest iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad releases of the season has been welcomed with as much criticism as praise.
RAGE, the latest creation by experienced developer id Software, is without question among the most visually impressive portable games ever made, and yet it's taking on a hefty load of complaints.
John Carmack, the iconic programmer behind the ambitious project, spoke with us about the tough decisions involved in making RAGE.
From why leaderboards aren't supported to the decision to axe a melee attack, Carmack provides a candid look behind the scenes of one of the most anticipated games of 2010.
Success on day one
"We did what we set out to do on the device," proclaims a confident Carmack when asked how he views the game now that it's available for purchase on the App Store. "I'm excited, it feels like the early days when we released Doom and Wolfenstein and waited to see the reaction."
Reaction has been good. RAGE HD is the top grossing game on the App Store and currently sits at number two on the overall sales chart beneath perennial favourite Angry Birds. Early commercial success hasn't prevented complaints from being lodged against the game.
Carmack understands the criticism, but points out that the development team's primary goal was to deliver phenomenal production values tied to simple, accessible gameplay. "We wanted the presentation to be all good, all the time." Viewed through that lens alone, RAGE is a rousing success.
Answering his critics
Yet, Carmack knows the game is missing features. The lack of leaderboards is chief among a list of quibbles and he's quick to agree.
"We actually did have Game Center integrated, but when it came to crunch time we didn't feel that the integration was polished enough to keep it in the initial release." Scoring quirks led Carmack to pull Game Center, leaving RAGE without leaderboards at launch - a tough call to make.
A similar decision was made regarding melee attacks. According to Carmack, "There was a melee attack in the game that didn't work well, so we took it out. It never had that solid feel and with as many virtual buttons as are already on the screen, it proved too much [to have a melee attack button]."
He assures us, "We made the right choice to omit it. So much of game design is know about what to leave out as much as what to put in."
While melee attacks are out of the picture, Carmack promises Game Center integration in an update planned for later this year. "I expect it'll take another week or two for polish," he tells us.
What the future holds
As for introducing new content in future updates, Carmack admits he's not interested. "It's unlikely that we'll offer new levels or weapons due to the amount of retuning required and the fact it raises the file size."
Instead, he's eager to move forward on two additional RAGE games for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. "I want to have us do two more RAGE mobile games before the PC and console game ships," he says.
"I want to continue to explore different aspects of the universe in future games. I'd like to support [iPhone] 3G and second-gen iPod touch in those games too."
For now, he's keen to resume work on the main RAGE game slated for release next autumn. "I promised myself I'd only spend 10 per cent on mobile projects and I've broke that bank on this game, but it was worth it."
Thanks to John for his time.