Recently the gaming world was rocked by an earthquake of indescribable magnitude.  That earthquake was the sound of one of the great titans falling–id Software, or more specifically that great god of gaming John Carmack.

For the past four years, id has been trumpeting the development process of their new engine, id Tech 5.  This new engine would support enormous textures (as high as 128,000×128,000), live streaming of textures into the game world, automatic optimization of resources to make cross-platform development easier, and dozens of upgrades to increase the visual quality of games, such as multi-threading and volumetric lighting.

Comparison: id tech 3, 4 and 5

But when the hammer hit the nail, some bad things happened.  Immediately the PC version of the game suffered from horrendous texture pop-in; if the player shifted their focus of view for even a moment, high-resolution textures would be moved out of memory, thanks to the texture streaming aspect that the studio so staunchly stood behind.  The result is a world of constantly smeared textures, which looks so badly like an overused highlighter that even Joystiq had to take a shot at them.

Compounding the problem, the game had virtually no settings the player could access.  Literally.  These are settings more or less like those found on console games, where there is no need to allow players to alter every aspect of the game’s performance.  A patch now allows more settings to be accessed, but being one of the chief advantages of the PC platform, this is something that should have been there from the start (and is there, in virtually every other PC game released in the last fifteen years).

This is all baffling when taken in the context of who made the game: John Carmack, one of the foremost PC developers of all time, and probably the most ardent crusader for the platform in this day and age.  At this year’s QuakeCon, he speaks of the differences between PC and console development and mentions (as he has many times before) that the limitations of consoles hold back PC game development because games essentially must be developed for the weakest platform, and can only be scaled up or adapted for the PC.  From the way he constantly brings this up, it seems the logical solution is to abandon console development entirely and focus, with religious zeal, on the PC platform.  But he insisted (or at least, someone insisted) on creating an engine and a game for all three platforms.  The end result is…well, you can see for yourself.

Making things even worse, id has recently revealed that their test builds of the game ran on machines with drivers that had been customized.  There are no words for how foolish a plan like this is.  This would be like custom building a car engine that ran on a homemade concoction of fuel, and then complaining when that engine failed to run properly on the fuel that people actually sell at gas stations.  AMD and nVidia, stunningly, have released driver updates that have greatly improved RAGE’s performance–but this arrangement is backward.  Developers don’t dictate to hardware vendors what their drivers should do.

And now, as can be read in the above link, id is saying that the PC isn’t the “leading platform?”

A titan has truly fallen today.  Let’s hope the PC pantheon can hold itself up.