'Rage 2' Studio Director on Creating a "Fun" Apocalypse, 'Mad Max' Influences

id Software's Tim Willits asks if 'Fury Road' borrowed a few things directly from the 2011 installment of the gaming series.

Eight years after the original Rage took players to a postapocalyptic wasteland, Bethesda and id Software have returned with a far more colorful follow-up to the action shooter.

Developed by Avalanche Studios, makers of the Just Cause series, the new game aims to jump the franchise forward with overhauled gameplay, a splashy new color palette and a story that takes place a few decades after the original. 

While Avalanche is new to the Rage franchise, it does have experience dealing with the postapocalypse. In 2015, the studio developed an action-adventure game based on the Mad Max film series. When it came time to return to the wasteland for Rage 2, Dallas-based developer id Software, who also produced the first Rage, turned to Avalanche to take the reins on the new adventure.

Known primarily for the Doom series, id Software saw the potential in a new turn for Rage, a relatively modest hit from earlier this decade. Here, id Software studio director Tim Willits explains the fresh coat of paint on the Rage series, how he got Avalanche to handle the sequel ("They could have done anything!"), what the future holds for the franchise, what a hit would mean for Bethesda after the disappointing release of Fallout 76 last year and, of course, the plethora of weaponry at players' disposal in the new game.

Avalanche worked on 2015’s Mad Max game. Are there similarities to that world in Rage 2?

It is very heavily influenced by Mad Max. Even back when we were working on the first Rage, doing a postapocalyptic world with vehicles and combat, you immediately start to gravitate toward the movies that had inspired you when you were young. Rage came out in 2011 and Fury Road came out afterward and I swear some of those bandits they had in Fury Road were directly taken from [our game]. I think there’s inspirations going everywhere. Avalanche had made a Mad Max game so it was such a natural fit. 

How did you get Avalanche involved in Rage 2?

We liked their Just Cause games and when they became available, they were looking for projects to work on. They could have done anything, but they were big fans of the franchise and id and Bethesda. I make a joke that we were at a bar and one person looked at another person and fell in love. It’s been a ton of fun working with Avalanche. They share a lot of the same philosophy on game design.

What makes Rage 2 stand out against other postapocalyptic games?

It is a crowded field, but Rage 2 really has a unique feel and vibe to it. It’s not just because we decided to use pink everywhere. The core id Software combat loop that pushes forward combat with fun weapons and abilities for fun, quick combos. You put that in a world that is a ton of fun and you end up with something that is, for lack of a better word, a ton of fun.

What's different in the sequel?

Just about everything is different. Rage 2 delivers on the promise of the original Rage. The first one was kind of an open world, but the technology wasn’t really open world. Here, we have true open world technology. We have true nonlinear storytelling. We have more vehicles, flying vehicles, tanks. We have a whole host of different abilities that allow you to do superhuman things like ground slam and shatter and double jump. And the arsenal of weapons is different from the original. The only thing that carries over from Rage is the setting and the world, but it truly stands apart as a separate game. 

This sequel is much more colorful than the original. Was it a deliberate decision to brighten this world up and make it feel more "fun"?

Yeah, fun is a perfect word. I joke that the original used every shade of brown. When we set out to make Rage 2 we wanted to push it away from the original in style and personality and gameplay. One of the ways to do that is to evolve the world and move past this classic postapocalyptic setting and do a post-postapocalyptic world. We really wanted the game to stand apart from postapocalyptic games out there. Heck, we have the Fallout series we have to be separate from. We really felt that we went in the right direction with this. 

Where does the new story take us?

The original started the Authority Wars, and the Authority were the bad guys in the original. Everyone thought they were gone and defeated. Rage 2 opens and you open as a character named Walker — we’ve given you a name and a voice. You play as a Wall Rat in this town called Vineland, which is destroyed by the Authority. You must quickly graduate into becoming a Wasteland Ranger. You leave Vineland and go out into the Wasteland, and the plot revolves around three main characters that you work with to eventually take down the Authority. The way you interact with these characters is really up to you. You can explore the world or you can jump right into the story and try to get through the game as fast as possible. 

Will there be multiplayer in Rage 2?

No. It’s a single player game. In some of our post-launch activities there will be some community events like, for instance, if the community kills x number of this many creatures in the world everyone will get an achievement or reward. There is no classic multiplayer.

Tell me about the guns in this game.

Part of what we think about as id Software combat is “situational weapons.” Part of our philosophy in gaming is whatever situation you find yourself in, there is a weapon that you can use. We have your classic weapons like shotgun or assault rifle, but then we have more over-the-top weapons like the Firestorm Revolver where you can shoot into your bad guys and initiate a command that has it all explode and everyone catches on fire. We have a lot of weapons people are familiar with in id Software games, but we kind of “Rage-d” them up a bit and made them a little more over-the-top and fun to use.

How about the enemy types?

We have a number of different factions. For the bandits you have the Goon Squad and the Immortal Shrouded and the River Hogs and mutants. Each of the factions have different fighting styles. The Immortal Shrouded are very high-tech and have heavy armor and go invisible, whereas the Mutants just swarm you. When you find these different groups you will understand how it is they fight and figure out different tactics to use against them.

What does this game mean to Bethesda after Fallout 76's troubled launch?

We want it to sell a lot. (Laughs.) We’re proud of all the games that our brothers and sisters at Bethesda do. One of the great things about being at Bethesda is that every other studio supports each other. I think the company is very excited for this launch. We’ve had some really good previews. I think we have something special on our hands.

Do you see future games being released in the Rage franchise?

I hope so. Yes, is the answer to that question. We’ve always loved this franchise because it’s such a fun setting. We can do what we want. We were once talking about riding on giant cockroaches. What other game can you have a conversation where that’s a legitimate conversation you can have?! It’s a crazy, fun, exciting franchise and I hope we can make a third one as soon as possible.