Interview: 10 Minutes with Tim Willits of Id Software (Exclusive Doom 4 Detail Revealed!)

Here is an interview that Tom did with Tim Willits, Studio Director of Id Software. This interview was given during QuakeCon 2012. Tim discusses his history at the prolific game development studio, how he got started making FPS’s, Doom: BFG Edition, Rage and even a single detail about Doom IV!

Tom E: How long have you been with Id and where would you say your story really started with Id?

Tim Willits: Well, I’ve been with Id since ’95. So I came in March, ’95. And my story really started with the shareware version of Doom 1 and I was in college, I was a computer science major at the university of Minnesota. And I downloaded the shareware episode of Doom 1 and I just got a new PC. So I never even played Wolfenstein. So I was running around the shareware, the first room of Doom and I didn’t realize that in the hallway, that gray thing was a door, because it kind of looks like a wall. And just in that shareware… that first room… you know E1M1, I was like, ‘This is cool! Yeah I could see this. I’ll buy the full game.’ And then when I found a way to open that door at the end of the hallway, I knew my whole life changed when that door opened.

Tom: That was your Id moment?

Tim: That was my Id moment. Then, I started working on levels and back then, there really wasn’t much of an internet. So, I uploaded them to Software Creations BBS. And then the company was looking for folks to do the “Master Edition“, The Doom II Master Edition levels. So I contracted that and then, you know, they hired me. And the first thing I actually did was the Ultimate Doom, which was awesome since it was Doom 1. The Ultimate Doom, when we added an extra episode.

Tom: That was my personal introduction to Id. We had our own custom Acer our dad put together. One of the games we always played on there was Ultimate Doom on DOS.

Tim Willits: Now you can get the BFG Edition on the 360 and the PS3 and you can play Ultimate Doom and Doom II and Doom 3, The Resurection of Evil, the new stuff. But you know what? Doom, the way that the guys implemented the PS3 version of Doom 1 and 2 is so ingenious that it runs at 240 hertz. It’s awesome. [laughs] It’s pretty sweet.

Tom: How do you feel about this modding community, the way things have really just exploded? The fact that people are still making mods for Doom 1… and even Wolfenstein 3D sometimes.

Tim: Yes, I know. You know what’s really cool about the Doom 3 source code, is now people are actually making super mods. Or whole different kinds of executables. It’s one of the things that John Carmack has always pioneered and championed, is the giving stuff away for people to mod. It’s really exciting to see what people do. Heck, I still think its the best way to get a job in the industry.

Tom: Id does seem to bring a lot of people off the net. That is how you boosted development for Doom II, isn’t it?

Tim: Well, Quake II. Because I came right after they finished Doom II and then we worked on the Ultimate Doom. And then we didn’t hire anyone off the net during Quake 1. And then Quake II, we hired Brandon James.

Tom: Now, I’m gonna ask you a question and it’s a bit of a sensitive spot for Id. How a lot of people would say was sort of a dark time for Id Software when John Romero had split up…

Tim: That was not a dark time for Id. It was a shining light for Id.

Tom: I understand there was a lot of internal conflict.. how would you say a lot of that turned out? Like when they unfortunately kicked out Tom Hall, who has gone on to do his own successful games, and actually now is doing a bunch of stuff with Romero again. It’s a weird thing when you see you were best friends and then that one thing just kind of drives a wedge in it. I think a lot of people forget, you guys are people… you’re not just a company.

Tim: No, it was really no problem for us. It was not a dark time for Id. You know, he had to go and they got rid of him.

Tom: There was no hard feelings like, ‘it kinda sucks to get rid of you but its for the good of the company’?

Tim: Yeah, its always unfortunate but it was more like yes, ‘it kinda sucks but its best for the company’. But you know what? He’s gone on to do his thing and we’ve gone on to do our thing.

Tom: A lot of people used to say that John Romero was the soul of Id and he had a lot of creative ideas. And argumentatively, he had a lot of ideas but he was often considered a bit impractical.

TIm: Sometimes what people see from the outside is not always necessarily what happens on the inside.

Tom: What would you say your experience was dealing with John Romero?

Tim: Yeah, he was fine. But I mean again, it was like ’96 or ’97. It’s not very relevant to stuff that we’re doing now. But he’s fine. I wish him luck. But, it’s not really relevant to what we’re doing now.

Tom: As you can see, we’re 90’s gamers… obviously for us, there’s a lot of nostalgia there…

Tim: There’s less nostalgia internally than externally.

Tom: How do you feel about the unfortunate  fact that Doom 3 wasn’t as well received as it deserved to have been. I’ll be honest, I was just as guilty of this. I thought that the game was too suspense based and coming back to play it, I love it. But when it came out, I almost felt like it was a great game but shouldn’t have been Doom 3, in that it was slow. And I understand the BFG Edition will speed this up a lot?

Tim: Well, its not a ton. Have you played the new version?

Tom: Not yet.

Tim: You should play it. We can’t make the same game. Doom 3 is a great game. And every game that we do is markedly different. I feel sorry for game developers that have to make the same game, every… year. But no, it sold really well. And the demand for the BFG Edition has been great. So, I cannot be more happy for the current reception for the, kind of retro bundle package we’ve put together.

Tom: A lot of people, including myself who were a little harsh on Doom 3 in the beginning are now happy to see this coming out. How does that make you feel, that the community went from kind of a bit turning their backs on you because they got angry at you? More because of common nerd anger because we don’t want things to change…

Tim: It’s nice to say I told you so. But you know what? It’s great to have passionate fans.

Tom: It’s nice to have everybody back together and cheering Id’s praises again.

Tim: You know, there were always people cheering Id’s praises.

Tom: When you read the reviews on Amazon and you see someone complaining about the Steam download service, meanwhile, Rage is an amazing game, what do you think?

Tim: You know, I don’t let it bother me. Trust me, I’ve been in the industry so long…

Tom: What is it like for you during a common day at Id?

Tim: As Studio Director, it’s very busy. I deal with everything from needing a toaster in the kitchen to making sure that QA has the right build to test.

Tom: You’re everybody’s mommy…

Tim: Yes, but its very exciting. we’re much bigger now than we were before. We have a new office which is really nice. I still love working at Id. I love coming to work. I feel like one of the luckiest guys in the industry to have the job that I have and you know, there’s always exciting things that we do. So, I’m thrilled. I’m very busy, but I’m thrilled at the future.

Tom: How many versions of Doom do you think the average owner probably has, because very few people have just one?

Tim: Yes, hardcore Id fans have them all. They have iPhone versions and Genesis versions and Saturn versions…

Tom: TI89 version

Tim: Did we make a TI89 version?

Tom: Somebody else did… its a fully functional version that works on the TI89 and TI92

Tim: I’m excited. Hopefully they’ll pick up the compilation version. [makes a gunshot sound] And then they’ll put that on their shelf and be like, theres our compilation edition. So, it’s very cool.

Tom: I’m gonna ask you… and I realize you guys are keeping this fairly hush…

Tim: You can ask all you want about Doom 4. I’m not talking about it.

Tom: Can I have a wink as to, is it going to be…

Tim: No.

Tom: …Amazingly good like we’re all hoping?

Tim: Well, it’s going to be amazingly good…

Tom: We have it first!

Tim: But no, that’s definitely all I can say about that.

Special thanks to Tim Willits of Id Software for taking the time to interview with us. His patience and fan appreciation with Tom would have earned him a medal in the Army…

 "Well, it's going to be amazingly good..."
-Tim Willits of Id Software on Doom 4

Doom 3: BFG Edition’s release date is October 16, 2012.

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