As gamers from around the world wheeled their home-tweaked shoot-'em-up-optimized computers into the Hilton Anatole this afternoon, industry maven John Carmack was getting his call to the stage in the hotel's grand ballroom for his 15th annual QuakeCon keynote at the largest free networked gaming party in the world.
It's "the most exciting two hours in gaming," said Bethesda SoftWorks' Pete Hines by way of introduction, because you'll never know what Carmack will show up ready to announce. "We'll come and find out he got Doom running on his wristwatch or something," Hines said.
Carmack's demo that followed -- his first demo during a keynote, he said -- proved Hines wasn't all that far off, as he took an iPhone from his pocket, plugged in a video cable and lit up the three video screens behind him. While a bunch of zombie types swayed around a rich virtual world on the screens, the audience was silent for a moment as they let it sink in. Carmack offered a little help: "iPhone. Rage. 60 frames per second," he said, and the room went nuts. The Tweeter behind @QuakeCon captured the feel: "OMG! Carmack is showing RAGE on an iPhone!!! 60 FPS!"
The full game won't be released until sometime in 2011, Carmack said, but sometime before the end of this year there'll be a small version of Rage in an iPhone app -- just enough of the game so "people show off why their phone is cooler than their friend's phone."
Looking around the QuakeCon tournament area it's clear that getting to lay claim to the superior gear is no small consideration. The crowd of mostly pasty, dead-serious folks will swell to thousands over the weekend, with $50,000 in prizes on the line (plus a pair of Shelby Mustangs) -- and bringing your best machine to the LAN party can make all the difference.
We'll be around all weekend soaking up the scene around the tournament, including tonight's panel on the intersection of video games and private space exploration -- Carmack's other big passion. Earlier this afternoon, though, Carmack took his time onstage to dish out his latest thoughts on his place in the ever-changing gaming world.
Once his iPhone demo had wrapped, Carmack barely moved from his spot on the stage, staring straight at the back of the room, arms held behind his back, speaking extemporaneously about what id Software's been up to, and what's had him excited lately.
Until there's video posted, here's a liveblog from the keynote. But a few highlights from Carmack:
On Rage: "It's probably a little premature to say it's in the home stretch." But the major pieces are all "basically decided."
On why Doom 3 turned out so dark (too dark, plenty of game critics have complained): It's probably has something to do with id Software's headquarters. "The lights are all off, the windos are all shuttered, and everyone's staring at the screens. The artists hiss at us if we turn on the lights."
On the value of graphics vs. gameplay: "It's worth remembering that people go to museums to see art that doesn't even move."