id is not a publisher
FS: Are you interested in Halo at all?
John: I've watched the movies of it; it looks pretty good. The one problem right now is that there's no way to really judge anything from screenshots because any halfway competent rendering engine can render any given scene. And it's only in how things tie together that there's any differentiation. Certainly the Bungie people, they've got a lot of talent. And they've been doing this basically as long as we have. They were kind of id's Mac shadow for many years. But now that they've gone ahead and had some mainstream PC success, they're doing pretty well.
FS: Going back to creating new genres, and the resistance from the publishers, is that something you'd be interested in promoting, to help get new genres out there, maybe supplying money to publish these games?
John: I'm positively not interested in being a publisher. That was a multi-year argument at id. If you think back 5 years ago, all the game developers wanted to break in to become publishers because there were lots of the little teams. This was before everything consolidated down to the few major ones. We argued over that for a long time, and we self-published the original Quake shareware stuff, and when all was said and done, we probably lost money on it because of colossally bad business management in different aspects of that. But finally everyone agreed, especially as we see the publishers consolidating, coming down, that it is much better to be a developer than a publisher. Because being a software developer is this clean part of the industry, you hand off your CD and you get your checks in the mail. While, being a publisher, it just takes you into all these messy parts of the business that you really don't want to be, like getting people to pay you after they've taken and sold your product. I don't want any part of that side of the business.
FS: What about using your influence to say to some publisher, hey you know, maybe you should give this a chance?
John: I don't push a lot. I can toss an offhanded comment about something like that, but I try not to undertake things that I know that I won't have the time and energy to push hard for. In fact that's very key to a lot of my focus. I'm willing to just ignore a whole lot of things. And that's pretty important, because so many things come in that are potential demands on my time, and it's just easy to see how people that are in a similar situation, wind up just getting their entire days spoken for, and not being able to do any work because every day, there's phone calls and emails from people that want to do something, they want to have an interview, or pitch a business proposal.
Sometimes I wind up feeling guilty that I'm not doing more. Especially this coming year, there are going to be a lot of divergent hardware designs, and there's not a clear direction where everybody thinks things should be going. I'm telling myself that I should be out there, evangelizing things, and trying to bring a consensus, because I am in a fairly good position to do that type of stuff. Microsoft listens to me on a lot of stuff. And certainly all the hardware companies do, and there's a good general level of respect and all that. But during the development of Quake 3, the time just wasn't there; I couldn't go do it.
And now I'm running around, trying to go hit a bunch of things, but I know that even now I'm not going to be able to really follow through, because it would practically be a full time job to just try and do that, to try and shepherd some of the things in the industry in a direction that I want it to go. I don't have the hubris to think that the world's going to hell if I don't help it. So I can look at that and say, I'll do my best to help in a little way, but I'm not going to be able to give it the full attention.