"But [when] you're six months into a game and things are not running smooth and the tech is running slow, people that are new to the industry can get a little fazed by that. But once they're through one project, they start to see the way a game development cycle normally flows. You do start off and things are all broken, and you have to work through them, and you do get to the point where the design has gotten so large that it only fits into the handful of designers' minds and everybody else can't sit there and read enough to understand the whole scope of the design. All these types of things every game crew goes through ... and once you go through it once you kind of know it."
I asked him for an example of a time when he thought designing games wasn't such a good idea after all.
"I remember back on Doom, we were thinking that we could have textures of any size," he said. "And so Adrian [Carmack] and I were working on wall textures. The whole game was developed in 11 months, so you make a lot of progress on wall textures in a very short time. So we had really beaten out a lot of wall textures of different sizes, and then we learned that wall textures had to be powers of two. They had to be like 8x8 or 64x64 that type of thing. We had to go back and rework all the wall textures. And that just happens. ... That's just common to games."
What isn't common is one company with a repeatedly demonstrated ability to immediately find the pulse of the consumer and release a polished game that meets their demands time after time. Now that id is once again chasing the bleeding edge of multiplayer gaming with Quake Wars, I asked Cloud what challenges the company still had to face, and what the next frontier might be for multiplayer gaming.
"There are aspects of the way players work together and communicate together that I'd love to explore and improve," he said. "A lot of it has to do with how you define objectives for them and what classes can do the objectives and how you communicate that to the team. And we've come up with some prototype ideas for that but I don't think we've really nailed it. I'd like to get that because I think communicating in a team play game is really key.
"I [also] think we need to spend more time focusing on how to bring people together; ways to get people into forums and get them matched by their skill and have them set up automatic tournaments and ladders. Let's say I'm an average player, and out of a million players, [I'm ranked] 500,000. That's sort of depressing even though I might be pretty good.
"How do I bring that together? How do I find people who are in the same skill range, localize events and put in a tournament range where I might be competitive? It's something that you see in sports: My son plays soccer and he loves soccer, but if he played against the high school team he probably wouldn't like soccer any more. He would get beat. But you don't have that as easily in the game world right now. I'd like to be able to explore that as we explore online games in the future. And I think we will."
What does the future hold for Cloud? "10 years from now I'll be 52, and frankly when I was 32 I could not have imagined making games when I was 52. I certainly hope that I'll able to do so. Where I want to be is where I am, doing what I'm doing right now. I just hope that I can [keep] playing games and have my ideas remain relevant to people. That's the biggest challenge.
"Times have changed. You can't really get anything done in a week [now] because we're dealing with very complex and detailed things. ... But still, on a fundamental level, you're still creating cool stuff. You're still bringing things into the world that nobody has ever seen before or thought of before. That aspect is still the same, and I hope that doesn't change."
Russ Pitts is an Associate Editor for The Escapist. His blog can be found at www.falsegravity.com.