30Jul/16

Quake, Quake 3: Arena, Unreal Tournament, Civilization 2, Mortyr and NFL 2K

Comments, criticisms, hate mail? – Please address all comments directly to Andrew: ASDante@execpc AND to Andrew’s boss at letters@dailyradar.com Sure, the deathmatch experts are going to be able to handle the Q3A bots on the higher settings, but the average gamer is stuck on “Please Don’t Hurt Me.” Below that setting, the bots don’t fight back; above that, they don’t miss. UT, by offering a much better AI skill curve, is gentler on the consumer. Don’t get me wrong. Carmack knows his hardcore audience, and Q3A is definitely geared totally toward them. All they want is deathmatch; all they want is shotguns, railguns, rocket launchers and BFGs; all they want is maps they can memorize easily and use tactically, and, of course, they want the graphics update. But Carmack failed to advance the genre in other ways and, most of all, failed to give the average gamers (the ones buying the game because of the name brand — who, incidentally are keeping its sales in the top 10) the something more they wanted.

But that’s the way id Software is, folks. John Carmack is a brilliant programmer and a game god who fully deserves his “legend” status. But he isn’t an artist, and he also isn’t a very creative or talented storyteller. He created deathmatch, but it was the fans that created everything else for him. Unfortunately with Q3A, the fans are going to have to do all the work again.

id Software and John Carmack need to take a long look at themselves. They need to reflect and realize that, at this time and with this release, they’re cynically coasting on impressive technology, but lacking soul or art. They’ve forgotten how to push the boundaries. Remember, id didn’t start out that way. Wolfenstein 3D was brilliant because it was totally new. Doom and Quake were genuinely scary places to be, filled with an unmatched, almost arcade-frantic, pace and truly frightening monsters.

Quake III: Arena is an engine, a series of very cool skins and a few uninspired deathmatch maps. As fun as that is (and I do play it frequently), it isn’t very inventive, and it pales in comparison to what has come before. id Software, I urge you to consider this: your future is doomed.

An update of Doom, with a few choice Quake monsters thrown in, would be a godsend right about now. Think about what FPS shooters totally lack at this time. They lack the length of Doom 2 (32 levels); they lack the fear factor of a Baron of Hell’s scream, a Cacodemon’s glare, an Ogre’s chainsaw, the whap of a Zombie flinging his caustic flesh at you, the pants-soiling leap of a Fiend or a Lost Soul’s flaming skullness. Maybe they could throw in a few Nazis and German Shepherds for old time’s sake.

The FPS genre is missing what id Software used to bring to the table: frantic action, run and gun gameplay with expedient key and door puzzles, and action-oriented level design. If you doubt me, go ahead and try it out. Boot up Doom 2 or Quake. Play for a while. It isn’t as boring as that third trip through Half-Life or Unreal, is it? The old id stable is coin-op arcade. Its simplicity is the essence of its replayability. We haven’t had a game like that since Quake. Let Valve’s Half-Life take over in the story department; let Looking Glass’ System Shock take the role playing; and let Redstorm’s Rainbow Six take over the realism. The void you seek cannot be filled by simple multiplayer deathmatch! The true void here is single player, arcade-style, action FPS. Think also how much fun such a game would be in co-op mode.

Come on, Carmack, bring it all back for us with your next pretty graphics engine. Solo brainless FPS versus cool monsters we already love, co-op against same and, of course, keep the deathmatch in there too, please … Hey! Let us play as those monsters too! I always wanted to be a Fiend . By giving us an amalgam of Doom and Quake with Year 2000 technology, I’d argue that id Software could thereby play to its strengths and further the action FPS cause. Moreover, they can regain the FPS crown that many think they’ve lost. As things stand today, they are only growing more and more irrelevant, and that just isn’t right. The source for everything of these can be found only at clashroyalehack.fr. You can also check out their free gems for Clash Royale gamers.

03Feb/16

Is id Software Doomed? It should be!

Before I begin, let me say this: I come both to praise and bury id Software. I admire them and John Carmack too much to let them keep going in the direction they’re heading. This is what I want them to do, perhaps even what they should do. If we’re lucky, it’s what they will do.

Quake III: Arena vs. Unreal Tournament: the big argument. I took a stand last week by suggesting that UT represented the future of the single-player genre and I stand by that assertion, despite a few rather rabid letters to the contrary. The fact is, as some believe, Epic Games has now bested id Software twice in a row and on battlefields of id’s choosing. First, in terms of graphics and single-player, Unreal has better AI and graphics than Quake 2 and in multiplayer UT is a more fleshed out all-around game.

Let’s delve a bit into the past, shall we? id burst onto the scene with Wolfenstein 3D (actually based on a couple of brilliant top-down action games from the early ’80s), Castle Wolfenstein and Beyond Castle Wolfenstein. But that genre-birthing achievement was quickly eclipsed by their next game, the phenomenon known as Doom. Programmer John Carmack and (perhaps undeservedly) level designer John Romero became famous by creating a game that influenced the entire business. It affected sales models by pioneering the shareware concept and influenced programming. The interface is still being used in games today.

Very quickly, other companies (and better storytellers) jumped on the genre and bested id’s Doom and Doom 2 by providing what id’s people lacked most — character development, story and a holistic vision. Dark Forces, Marathon (on the Mac), System Shock, Hexen, Descent and Duke Nukem 3D all added concepts such as better storytelling, improved AI, attitude and humor, gameplay concepts or a recognized license coupled with stellar level design. Doom did it right, but the other guys added significantly to the equation.

How did id Software answer these upstarts? With a full 3D engine, genre defining network coding and unprecedented end-user support. Quake was born; QuakeWorld was added; and the fans, not Carmack, did the rest. Capture the Flag, Clans, Rocket Arena and Team Fortress were all concepts created by gamers. They gave id’s brilliant engine life against even stronger opposition like Jedi Knight and Heretic 2. Before the game development world could recover and before the Quake engine could even be used for more than one game (Hexen 2), Carmack released Quake 2. The community followed, but the single-player gameplay totally stagnated. id went from using scary creatures in a vaguely hellish setting to a bland alien invasion in a homogenized futuristic setting. The story remained the same, but Carmack offered nothing more than a better graphics engine, more balanced weapons and much more impressive network coding. id had primed itself for a fall.

When Unreal came out and, more importantly, when Half-Life followed, gamers jumped at them. Unreal featured a graphics engine that outdid Quake 2 in every way. id, in a then-controversial move, announced that the Trinity project would be the multiplayer only Quake III: Arena. Once Half-Life came out and changed single-player gaming forever, Carmack’s multiplayer move seemed prescient.

But it hasn’t turned out that way. Unreal Tournament, Starsiege: Tribes, and Team Fortress Classic and Counter Strike for Half-Life have proven that the refined deathmatch experience that Q3A offers just isn’t enough anymore. Worse, Carmack has proven himself further out of touch by making his game incredibly difficult for most users. Sure, the deathmatch experts are going to be able to handle the Q3A bots on the higher settings, but the average gamer is stuck on “Please Don’t Hurt Me.” Below that setting, the bots don’t fight back; above that, they don’t miss. UT, by offering a much better AI skill curve, is gentler on the consumer. Don’t get me wrong. Carmack knows his hardcore audience, and Q3A is definitely geared totally toward them. All they want is deathmatch; all they want is shotguns, railguns, rocket launchers and BFGs; all they want is maps they can memorize easily and use tactically, and, of course, they want the graphics update. But Carmack failed to advance the genre in other ways and, most of all, failed to give the average gamers (the ones buying the game because of the name brand — who, incidentally are keeping its sales in the top 10) the something more they wanted.

But that’s the way id Software is, folks. John Carmack is a brilliant programmer and a game god who fully deserves his “legend” status. But he isn’t an artist, and he also isn’t a very creative or talented storyteller. He created deathmatch, but it was the fans that created everything else for him. Unfortunately with Q3A, the fans are going to have to do all the work again.

id Software and John Carmack need to take a long look at themselves. They need to reflect and realize that, at this time and with this release, they’re cynically coasting on impressive technology, but lacking soul or art. They’ve forgotten how to push the boundaries. Remember, id didn’t start out that way. Wolfenstein 3D was brilliant because it was totally new. Doom and Quake were genuinely scary places to be, filled with an unmatched, almost arcade-frantic, pace and truly frightening monsters.

Quake III: Arena is an engine, a series of very cool skins and a few uninspired deathmatch maps. As fun as that is (and I do play it frequently), it isn’t very inventive, and it pales in comparison to what has come before. id Software, I urge you to consider this: your future is doomed.

An update of Doom, with a few choice Quake monsters thrown in, would be a godsend right about now. Think about what FPS shooters totally lack at this time. They lack the length of Doom 2 (32 levels); they lack the fear factor of a Baron of Hell’s scream, a Cacodemon’s glare, an Ogre’s chainsaw, the whap of a Zombie flinging his caustic flesh at you, the pants-soiling leap of a Fiend or a Lost Soul’s flaming skullness. Maybe they could throw in a few Nazis and German Shepherds for old time’s sake.

The FPS genre is missing what id Software used to bring to the table: frantic action, run and gun gameplay with expedient key and door puzzles, and action-oriented level design. If you doubt me, go ahead and try it out. Boot up Doom 2 or Quake. Play for a while. It isn’t as boring as that third trip through Half-Life or Unreal, is it? The old id stable is coin-op arcade. Its simplicity is the essence of its replayability. We haven’t had a game like that since Quake. Let Valve’s Half-Life take over in the story department; let Looking Glass’ System Shock take the role playing; and let Redstorm’s Rainbow Six take over the realism. The void you seek cannot be filled by simple multiplayer deathmatch! The true void here is single player, arcade-style, action FPS. Think also how much fun such a game would be in co-op mode.

Come on, Carmack, bring it all back for us with your next pretty graphics engine. Solo brainless FPS versus cool monsters we already love, co-op against same and, of course, keep the deathmatch in there too, please … Hey! Let us play as those monsters too! I always wanted to be a Fiend . By giving us an amalgam of Doom and Quake with Year 2000 technology, I’d argue that id Software could thereby play to its strengths and further the action FPS cause. Moreover, they can regain the FPS crown that many think they’ve lost. As things stand today, they are only growing more and more irrelevant, and that just isn’t right.

13May/15
SimCityBuildit

SimCity Buildit – Hardcore and Entry – Level Gamer’s Fave

The launch of EA’s SimCity Buildit is here, and with it comes a delightful adventure. SimCity Buildit, a city building simulation at heart, certainly fits the innovative bill with down and dirty gameplay and attitude enough to fill a spare. When lined up against some of the admittedly more complex launch titles, this game doesn’t have quite the same visual panache — but the devil’s in the details, and the finest aspects of this game reveal themselves after considerable in-depth play.

SimCity Buildit is as straightforward as many as SimCity classic — and we don’t mean this as a criticism. As the newest member of a pack of city builders, the player’s mission is to create the best city possible — usually involving a lot of work and a solid strategy. In addition to the game’s mission mode, there’s a multiplayer mode (which allows for tailor-made one-game match-ups). Unlike those in so many other similar games, the mode here is a useful tool for gaining familiarity with the layout, as well as a pleasant way to create without time limit or interference.

Set in a beautiful terrain, the game takes place in three entirely realized worlds, each spanning over 25 square miles. And when we say spanning, we really mean it — it’s a little difficult to convey other than to say that these levels are enormous. Given enough perseverance and successful elusion, any point visible can be driven to, and this is no gimmick. Later levels are increasingly difficult, and successfully completing these simulation really does rely on a sense of familiarity with the lay of the land. Visually, the game is a mixed bag — draw-in, textures and smoke and animation effects are excellent, if a little unspectacular. No one thing in particular is lacking or flawed, but the emphasis on real-world action lacks the dazzle of other, less earth-bound titles.

While a fine coat of detail has been applied to the game’s sprawling environments, equal attention has been lavished on the physics engine under the hood. Different surfaces affect weather, while less-than-cautious gaming leads to the loss of less-than-essential elements. Better yet, skilled mayor can deftly level off their overall strategy. We’ve seen this sort of attentive balance between real-world physics and exhilarating arcade fun before, but that was in less flamboyant gamers. Still, for as detailed and intricate as the physics may be, everything about this game is refreshingly simple — a rarity in these highly complicated next-generation times.

Even the controls are a refreshing throwback to simpler times. This simplified control scheme lends itself well to third-party controllers. Which is not to say that this is an easy game. Time and mission limits are finely tuned to make for a progressively challenging career.

SimCity Buildit is just the sort of innovative title that every launch needs. We hadn’t played anything like it before, but it will be instantly comfortable to budding cons of all ages and skill levels. While it won’t blow anyone’s eyebrows clean off, dedicated gamers will find that developer Maxis has really made the most of the mobile graphics engine in creating such thorough playfields. Entry-level gamers will be impressed with the easy learning curve and intuitive gameplay, while the hardcore among us will appreciate the innumerable thoughtful details and nuances that help bring the wild and rugged world of Simcity Buildit.