How Rage’s Blurry Textures Tried To Push The Envelope Of 3D Gaming

How Rage’s Blurry Textures Tried To Push The Envelope Of 3D Gaming

Five months is a long time in the games industry. Rage, released in October of last year, already feels like a relic of another age. After a rocky launch, and a so-so patch aimed at PC gamers, there hasn’t been much else to talk about regarding id’s shooter of mixed acclaim.

Contributing to the game’s notoriety was its lauded “MegaTexture” technology that, while impressive on paper, mainly manifested itself to players as an inconsistent streaming texture system that resulted more often than not in blurry visuals. With the benefit of hindsight, what can we take away from id’s attempt to, once again, evolve the looks of 3D gaming?

Shamus Young, a programmer and self-confessed writer, took it upon himself to answer this question in the video above. It comprises a layman’s explanation of MegaTexture, as well as an even-handed analysis of what it did right and wrong. Young also does a good job of justifying why id decided to use MegaTexture in the first place and why, when confronted with its potential weaknesses, charged on ahead anyway.

An interesting point made in the video is that boosted visuals and realism weren’t the only goals of MegaTexture — it was designed to make artists’ jobs easier. The tech takes on a different light when you consider what Carmack, and his cohort of coders, was trying to achieve. That said, ultimately, it’s what we gamers see in the end product that’s important.

id’s Doom 3 (id Tech 4) showed the world what graphics cards with fully-programmable pipelines were capable of in the right hands. You can’t be angry at the developer for trying to again push the envelope with Rage. It’s a shame it had to burn through almost all its gaming cred to do it.

id Tech 6, the currently in development successor to Rage‘s id Tech 5, will reportedly use ray-tracing and voxels. For the developer’s sake, I hope the investment pays off.

Reset Button: MegaTexture [YouTube]


  • I loved Rage. The texture thing was a bit of a pain on PS3, but I wouldn’t say it was anything more than a minor inconvenience. It never stopped me from playing properly and it was still an incredible looking game.

    • The clip does mention the PS3 played a significant role in the whole “blurry texture” saga.

      It’s interesting now to look back on how much Sony talked up the hardware (Cell), yet now it seems to be the platform where developers run into trouble — at least in cross-platform development (Skyrim is the most recent example that comes to mind). From what I’ve heard, it’s a memory issue, not a processing one. I can totally relate — during my time at Tantalus staying within memory budgets was always tricky.

      Of course, you get great dedicated stuff like Uncharted 3, which makes it hard to know what’s going on. 🙂

      • Developers had the same grief with PS2.

        But, for the PS4 they are scrapping Cell and going with AMD, same as Xbox.
        The two consoles could very well be very similar. . . which would be a smart move for both Sony and MS and much easier for developers.

      • Uncharted 3, MGS4 fantastic looking games, Rage and Skyrim are the exceptions. Those games point to poor development whether this is due to budget or time restraints enforced by the publisher who knows. What I dislike is the 4 point difference on metacritic b/w Skyrim’s PS3 and Xbox versions, did those reviewers finish the game? Because it was impossible to get through the game without major frame rate issues let alone finish.

        • Ahem, Uncharted 3 and Metal Gear Solid 4 are PS3-exclusive titles. Of course they’re going to look and perform better on their intended hardware than games being coded for multiple platforms such as Rage and Skyrim. If Rage were programmed to be PC-exclusive then I doubt there would have been any technical issues.

          • WRONG!

            There will always be technical issues with any game, claiming otherwise is incredibly short sighted. Out of all platforms released PC is the standard which has evolved and changed (Not just in terms of time, but also between brands) so much so that there are large gaps in the PC gaming scene (but not just restricted to) that are unsupported.

            AMD has become infamous over the years for firing out tonnes of beta drivers that either A) don’t support certain tech or B) are just incredibly in-efficient at certain tasks.

    • I also loved RAGE. (I have the 360 version.)

      The visuals were FANTASTIC.

      The frame-rate was exceptional.

      The quality of the art was amazing.

      The biggest problem was low resolution textures, the almost total lack of humour, and the worst ending since Borderlands.

      I don’t know why people complain about Rage so much. I think the technology is great.

  • I had zero issues with RAGE. Enabling GPU transcoding made the game run 60fps solid with no texture popin while looking (mostly) beautiful.

    The game itself wasn’t the best thing id has ever developed.

  • The whole blurry texture complaint about Rage really irks me. It stemmed from whiny PC elitists running around with their nose against every wall and floor, criticising the textures rather than just looking around them. Yes the textures were blurry, but the over all image was utterly beautiful. Levels were so organic. Nothing looked like it and nothing has since.
    The only problem I had with the visuals was that to achieve the framerate it had, everything was baked into the textures, for example lighting and specularity. This had the effect of making it feel not alive.

    I think this tech is perhaps a generation too early

    • On pc at least the issue was not just with blurry low res textures in general on everything but with the fact that if you turned fast you would see all the textures loading. No excuses for this as even better looking games with great textures do not have this problem.

      • That was a bug with video drivers which have since been fixed (at least for me they had). Claiming the fact other games don’t do it and therefore Mega Texture shouldn’t, doesn’t really prove anything as they’re completely different systems for loading in the data. Mega Texture constantly streams in the gigantic textures, your typical engine has all the textures loaded when the level loads.

        As i said, i think Mega Texture is perhaps a generation (maybe even more) too early. Hardware isn’t quite ready to support textures of this enormity efficiently. And nonconstructive whinging about it, which the majority of PC users were doing, doesn’t help anyone. I look forward to the future of this tech. Rage is only the first baby step, it’s only a pity the game wasn’t great IMO and console version was made the priority :\

      • i found that my new rig with the game installed on ssd made that problem dissapear entirely…
        go figure, developer releases game which requires the newest in technology!

        “can it run cry*cough* Rage?”

        • Funny enough I still had the issue on my ssd. And even to this day with latest patches etc I still have the bloody issue. And that’s with a 6970, so while not the latest and greatest its more than enough for this.

    • You’re right, nothing has come out since that has looked like a severe case of runny diarrhea sprayed all over everything.

      Whiny elitists? The textures looks absolutely god damn awful irrespective of what distance you looked at them, but I guess you must be another one of the apologists who needs to rationalise that they didn’t waste money on another turd Carmack game.

      And the graphics were the least of Rage’s worries. If the game had provided a compelling and interesting experience then most people probably would have overlooked its graphical short comings, but in reality it was an utterly mediocre and forgettable experience.

    • I would think that doom 4 will leave us with the same sense of deep satisfaction that doom 3 left us with – ID would not (and couldn’t afford to, as you’ve said bjg) deliver any less on their flagship IP. Think of rage as a glorified tech demo/experiment. Kinda like FFVIII was.

  • I admit that the blurry texture thing is a little bit concerning, but I actually really loved this game…I play it across 3 monitors and it looks great. I still use a few tweaks to sharpen things up and help the textures load faster @ a rez of 5760×1080 it’s not too bad…always a solid 60 FPS.

  • i didnt mind rage apart from it being extremely way to short and the outside being devoid of life apart from the odd car, but thing that i absolutely hated was the lack of decent textures on all the clutter. the textures on actualy ground and walls was no issue for me, it was the extremely low rez boxes and such that pissed me off

  • Very interesting video. As someone who has done 3D modeling and some textures before it was especially interesting. I can relate to the horrors of trying to get square textures to look nice on a curved object, or well, any object which isn’t square or rectangular.

  • thats funny, i enabled gpu transcoding when it appeared after release and it noticably slowed the game down on my gtx580…Rage was fun while it lasted, all 20 or so hours of it until the devs seemed to get bored of programming it which manifested in the shittest ending ever.

  • “it was designed to make artists’ jobs easier”

    And there is where it went wrong. It’s either a radical new idea to do something or a cheap shortcut, in RAGE’s case it was the latter. Trying to make art is meant to be a painful process regardless of medium and for every 1000 shortcuts only 1 will result in helping art evolve.

    Plus, it’s not surprising that ID’s biggest fuckup came from trying to work in the world of consoles. The simpler, closed-off nature of consoles are a detriment to development (kinda like Apple). Variation and complication is what fuels the best ideas. It challenges those involved to work their hardest rather than coast along and taking the easy route.

  • Played for ten miutes… got bored of the texture pop-ins moved onto games that worked properly (PC version). Have not yet gone back to see if it has been fixed

  • Great commentary, though I feel the author made some omissions.
    It’s all about trade offs, right?

    Well the quality of animation of the actual characters in RAGE was extraordinary – quite beyond anything else yet seen. They could move w/ amazing speed & fluidity.
    Surely this was a conscious design decision? Lower some texture detail & ramp up character movement @ 60fps.

    Additionally, colour, geometry (which is alluded too in this piece) & the amount of detail on screen.
    RAGE has a subtlety to its colour palette that makes it literally beautiful.
    I think many people didn’t appreciate the effect id were striving for in the way it rendered the wasteland – a concept art kind of graphic novel/comic effect.

    For me RAGE is the most beautiful game I’ve played & hugely under rated in terms of game play & polish despite a weak ending & lack of serious difficulty in combat.

  • you’re absolutely wrong. the game was nowhere near a failure, the game didn’t run too hot on consoles, oh well, consoles suck and are already behind technologically by a magnitude of 30. otherwise, any technical kinks that were present at launch are all fixed on the pc. the video card im using is at least 3 years old and runs the game great with minute texture popin.

    id tech 5’s texture streaming system works as intended and is a major advantage against conventional rendering technologies.

    stop crying because developers made a game that runs better on a PC

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