As always, I am generally writing to and from the position of FPSes.
There are three axes for skill settings, broadly speaking, which can change (non-exclusively) to adjust the difficulty, they are:
Behavioral – Enemies gain or lose abilities, display different reaction times, change tactics, and vary in accuracy and prediction. A simple illustration of this is in the original Unreal where the combat capability of the monsters was modified by the difficulty level you selected.
Nightmare difficulty deserves a special note here, as it often increases monster attack speed, general aggressiveness, and may include elements such as respawning. Nightmare was created for Doom in a patch, a response to player complaints that Ultra-Violence was too easy. You may want to read my small article on Duke Nukem 3d’s higher difficulties.
Economical – Health, armor, and ammo are more scarce, inventory may be limited. This can engender an anti-completionist attitude, or drive the secret hunter all the further.
Circumstantial – This one is a bit broader and can include changing level layouts, though less common due to technical and labor reasons, but more often involves Economical changes on top of enemy positioning, quantity, and composition changes. This method was commonly used in FPSes and can be seen extensively in Quake for the wide shifts in level density and battle complexity depending on the difficulty.
These increase the cognitive load on the player, asking him to factor in more at a time for decision making, thus asking the player to use their existing education about the game in a more strenuous form, while mentally juggling changing data points, which takes us back to the simple notion that learning is fun, when focused and applied. Continue reading →
John Romero recently shared the original sequence of maps for Quake, as of March 26th 1996, using the internal file names. It revealed a different structure to how we think of the game. Where the final release is four distinct episodes with separate entrances from start.bsp, where episode one is a cross section of maps and styles, with the remaining episodes being primarily owned by a particular mapper and of just one theme, we now can see an earlier and different beast: There was no start map, and the game led with all of the base maps, before going through the themes of medieval, metal, wizard, and elder. Sure that sequence is familiar enough, but as I’ve covered before, Quake has a rhythm, where Doom has a flow. The interrupts of the base maps at the beginning of each episode lends itself to that rhythm. This original structure flows, more like Doom. Below you can see the full plan, and my write-up of how the sequence would go using the final file names, with the reference having been graciously provided by John. Continue reading →
For someone who loves classic first person shooters so much, I’ve never been a fan of Nightmare modes. Doom had enemies respawning, Quake had faster attack rates (and a faster Vore firepod), Blood had substantially healthier enemies, and Duke3d, like Doom, went with respawning enemies. I didn’t care for these because they tended to mess with the rhythm of the game. Quake doesn’t feel like Quake with monster attacks spamming, Doom can’t build its sly creepy mood if you’re forced to keep moving like it is a deathmatch session, and the robed cultists in Blood should not require four shotgun shells.
I recently dropped by GalleyUK’s YouTube channel, home of some of the finest playthroughs of first person shooters, and saw he had somewhat recently re-recorded his playthrough of Duke3d, all secrets, all monsters, all four episodes. But this time he did it on Damn, I’m Good, the game’s equivalent to Nightmare. Damn, I’m Good respawns the monsters, but only if a solid corpse is there. And Duke has corpses which react to splash damage. Immediately the pipebombs and laser trip bombs gained value beyond toying about (and in Dukematch). Galley would toss a pipebomb amidst corpses and detonate, or lace the room with lasers before leaving.
Explosions are somewhat obvious, but this also inflated the value of the Shrinker and Freezer, elevating them beyond gimmick – they didn’t leave solid corpses either. Killing an enemy in a doorway would result in the corpse getting squished, also preventing a respawn. But my favorite was the HoloDuke, a toy copied straight out of Total Recall, I never found a use for it. But Galley, without any explosives to his name and an abundance of corpses, left the hologram running in a thoroughfare as he continued his exploration of the level. He later returned, and all of the enemies had respawned, but instead of fanning out in search of Duke, they were preoccupied with the hologram. He kept them in check.
Where other games, excellent games which I love, lose something from their highest difficulty level, Duke Nukem 3d gained an additional layer, and turned the trinkets into tools. We need more games like that.
The topic of consoles versus PCs is something which comes to mind for me rather often. I see the subject surface in strange little ways across a myriad of discussions, and once in a while in a big way. It is regularly debated in practically every place it can be, but it is always from the angle of the gamer, rather than the game. My issue with consoles isn’t one of value (though I do find them to not be a good value), but rather that when you develop for a console, it comes at the cost of the game. The hardware restraints, the common user setup, available input devices, and the garden wall structure all impose costs on the design and development itself. I don’t want console games on PC, I want the best games that can be designed and developed, and that won’t happen when a console is being considered.
The dedicated hardware of a console was for a very long time, the advantage of a console. Where PC gamers had to run a game on top of an operating system, consoles were comparably leaner, and the game had more resources at their disposal. The trick there was the different architectures between the consoles, so even if a developer had the freedom to release on the leading platforms, they rarely had the fiscal freedom to do so. Consoles were faster, but inflexible, and PCs were growing in both strength and selective standardization.
With the Xbox 360 and PS3 we saw more defined operating systems, and thus some actual overhead to the games, while at the same time PCs were immensely powerful. Sure the 360 and PS3 had some muscle behind them on launch, but that muscle was fixed. Over time, developers learned the systems and the games looked better and better. Competition naturally set in, and more of that processing power went toward the environments and effects. Games streamlined toward gated stories as we see in things like The Last of Us, where it is easy to control what a player can currently possibly see. As expectations of detail levels increased, larger and more open (in terms of choices and exploration) environments decreased. With the fixed hardware, the two could not coincide. Meanwhile on PCs, you simply need to raise the minimum specs some, or advise the user disable a more costly effect. The design wasn’t encumbered. When a game is being ported to PC from console, I expect more limited environments, and being forced down certain areas with no ability to backtrack. Continue reading →
I didn’t directly participate, as on this subject I find Twitter’s character limit to be too restrictive. Jehar and negke jumped in with thoughts, but I figured I would share mine here. At a glance Doom and Quake seem to be similar games. First person shooters made by largely the same team, and with the same key people of Romero, Carmack, and Petersen at the helm. But they have many fundamental differences, such that I find it hard to articulate it succinctly. As negke has dubbed me a master of verbosity, I shall do my best to live up to that. Continue reading →
Note: This post was written before the pack was released, so I’m far more embarrassed as to the map’s quality now than I was when this was written.
I’ve been rather quiet for a number of reasons, but a big one was my participation in the Quake community map jam. This is the third like it, and it used a Zerstorer theme. Being so inexperienced in the ways of mapping, and a huge fan of the mod Zerstorer, this appealed to me as there is room for brutalist architecture in a Zerstorer theme.
By brutalist architecture, I mean low skill. So I pounced on it. I am rather proud of the fact that despite its numerous problems, the small scale, the features cut, and having ~1/4th the detail level I would like, that I still completed it. It is a titled level which you can play from start to finish, with themes, traps, secrets, and little bits to it. So this is kind of a post-mortem, but since I mostly did things wrong, it functions more as a list of things I need to do next time. I probably won’t do another map jam because though the deadline kept me motivated, it also put some stress on my family life. Sure a Quake map was part of my “bucket list” (or backpack list for Quake), so we pushed through knowing the deadline, but in the future any mapping will be likely on my own timeline. I.e., over months, rather than weeks.
Recently the gaming journalism scene appears to have gone into over drive to display their lack of professionalism. That is concerning unto itself, but I’m not going to post on those hot topics. I would rather prefer to focus on the simple things that they get wrong, things which do not provoke a sense of scandal, but when noticed call into question their position as those who bring us gaming news.
As I have brought up previously, often game journalists have the same comprehension level of games, ludology, and the technology as the average consumer which results in them being as qualified as any commenter on YouTube or reddit. This is more grave through the simplicity of it. You need to understand the difference between a franchise name, and a game title.
The new changes to Quake Live were announced recently. They were controversial, and logically a lot of people had a variety of emphatic responses. This was covered at Kotaku by Nathan Grayson, and by covered I mean there was some copy and paste, screenshots of comments, and filler. In the original article Nathan spoke of “classic Quake” and how Quake Live was based off of “Quake III Gold”. The problem is Quake Live is an adjusted and free version of Quake III Arena, and has no bearing on the original Quake other than franchise name. The article also incorrectly cites nostalgia when referring to an active and current community. Nostalgia does not apply to the present, nor the recent. This set me off a bit and I commented on this a fair bit on Twitter: Continue reading →
This was requested by onetruepurple in a thread about replacement textures and remakes of older game content with skacky and Daz. This is how Quake looks for me, 1680x1050x32 with the original textures, original lightmaps, realtime shadowmaps from dlights and the world, and a little bit of bloom. I am using a recent release of the DarkPlaces engine by my good friend LordHavoc.
I might do another post later on about the significance of art design, and how games age. You may have noticed that this post got its own category called Quake. Quake is an exception to me, it stands above all other games for a variety of reasons, and I do hope to showcase the game periodically on this blog.
We all remember our first time, for anything substantial that happens after early childhood. I see this more and more often in the realm of games. We attribute the benefits of a genre to the first game that we play in that genre, and we attribute the gains of a technology to the first game that we play which uses it, and if it is our first game for either, we were generally unaware of the substantial gains already made in those areas by prior releases.
Typically these things happen in waves with adoption of other technology or hardware, demographic activities, infrastructure rollouts. So games which release in a timely manner around these events are poised to be received by a whole host of new customers who don’t know their genre or the technologies they use. Many of my favorite games saw the benefits of this, and I will be attempting to list a few examples of this below to illustrate my point. I will be focusing on the first person shooter genre, as it is my genre of choice. Continue reading →