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Warmonger, Operation: Downtown Destruction Announced

This press release offers the official announcement of Netdevil's AGEIA physics/Unreal 3-engine project, titled Warmonger, Operation: Downtown Destruction. The game is described as a first-person shooter set in completely destructible near-future environments, but there is also a reference to MMO aspirations that are not completely explained. Here's an excerpt:

The year is 2029 and the Global Corporate Wars have begun! "Warmonger" is set against an apocalyptic setting, when two of the largest military spenders, PolyChem Oil and General Energy, clashed in a dispute over a large cache of Iranian oil fields. When the conflict escalated, an all-out war took shape on US soil. The game is staged for players to take down an entire city; one block at a time. As maps are won, a larger tactical influence is then triggered in the next, or surrounding, map(s). Each map instance will play differently as the sheer destruction of map elements forces players to adapt and find new ways to win or defend their objectives. Every round leads you closer to dominating the web of maps that make up the entire city and players have the ability to raise their ranking in a class, gaining extra abilities for high performance. "Operation: Downtown Destruction" is part of a longer series involving distinct periods from the episodic "Warmonger" story.

Unique to "Warmonger" is a destruction system that allows dynamic gameplay to emerge from the results of combat, where every aspect of the environment can be completely leveled. Destruction is done procedurally, rather than pre-canned animations that are found in most games today. As a result, explosives, rockets, indirect fire, and vehicle combat can literally blow away walls, drop ceilings and open up new pathways for enhanced gameflow. Collision detection has also been carefully considered during development, and the effect of destruction within the environment can be used as a weapon. A sniper can blow the stairs behind him to block access, but a rocket to the floor beneath him will drop him down, causing possible death.

“NetDevil has poured their imagination into this title, and it shows in virtually every aspect of the game,” said Manju Hegde, CEO of AGEIA. “We’ve been very impressed with what they’ve been able to do with our PhysX processor, as well as visual enhancements they’ve made to the game by combining it with the Unreal Engine 3. “The benefits of the destruction system are noteworthy, and added PhysX elements of fluids and cloth will give a depth and feel that truly reflect the cutting edge of gaming interactivity.”

Scott Brown added: “The 'Warmonger' concept was developed to bring UE3 expertise to the NetDevil team and position the company’s resources for a larger deployment of the design. 'Warmonger' is more than a proof of concept; it is the basis for a fully-realized MMO design that NetDevil will be looking to bring to market.”

In addition to AGEIA, NetDevil has leveraged the Unreal Engine 3 from Epic Games for the core technology underneath "Warmonger," and is also working with LIDAR Services, a Motion Picture CG VFX House using LIDAR technology to create the ultra-realistic 3D environments and assets for the "Warmonger" concept. Both partnerships are fundamental to the enabling of feature rich development and interactive content creation.

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25. Re: Environmental Destruction Jan 9, 2007, 21:53 Kxmode
 
Sorry. Gamers and politics don't mix.

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24. Re: Environmental Destruction Jan 9, 2007, 21:46 Jerykk
 
Actually, I think games are a very viable medium for political expression. As long as you keep things in focus and don't become too blatantly partisan, games can be a good way to get people to understand your views. Refer to the Deus Ex games for good examples of politics in games.


This comment was edited on Jan 9, 21:52.
 
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23. Re: Environmental Destruction Jan 9, 2007, 19:49 Kxmode
 
Games and politics don't mix

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22. Re: No subject Jan 9, 2007, 18:18 Jerykk
 
I wouldn't say tons.. just whatever ammo he has on him. And how can he destroy all access to himself? Only if allowed to carry an ungodly amount of explosive. There are creative ways to limit these things.

Well, roof access is usually limited to one staircase or one ladder (maybe two at the most) so the player would only need a few explosives to blow them all up. As for sniper ammo, all he would need is 20 bullets to rack up 20 kills, provided he's a decent shot.

Allow other players to "rescue" teammates who have fallen into holes; could be a simple as the use key. Get points for helping, like when you heal someone. You could even introduce items like ropes or rope ladders, or allow the player to move an object in the game like a pole or beam.

When I was giving theoretical multiplayer problems, I was thinking purely of deathmatch, not team-based gameplay. However, even your examples have strong implications. Rope ladders? Now the sniper on the roof can drop a rope ladder, allowing his teammates to climb up while he covers them. Then you have a whole team of snipers camping on an inaccessible roof, sniping away with the glee of schoolgirls.

As for helping people out of holes, how would that work? Would you just reach down and pull them out? What if the hole is too deep? Then you'd have to drop a rope or rope ladder. Okay, that could work. Except what if the hole is so deep that nobody can see the player inside? Would he just have to sit around waiting for somebody to notice him? In that case, it would be far more efficient just to commit suicide and respawn back at your base. And if players are just going to commit suicide to get out of holes, what's the point of even having them? You also have the camping potential of holes. You can bet that there would be players hiding around holes, waiting for another player to come by and assist a fallen teammate. This would generally dissuade players from going anywhere near holes.

It's easy to think up solutions for a problem but then you have to consider the problems that that solution might bring up as well. Really, though, the only way to really find out if it works is through actual implementation, which NetDevil appears to be doing.


 
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21. No subject Jan 9, 2007, 11:45 space captain
 
if they made Tribes 4 a PhysX game i would buy one of those cards in a nanosecond

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20. Re: Environmental Destruction Jan 9, 2007, 11:10 sauron
 
Adding grappling hooks and jetpacks adds a whole new slew of potential issues. What's to stop a player from blowing a hole in a ceiling, then jetpacking outside and flying across the entire level? Grappling hooks also potentially allow players to reach places they aren't supposed.

Man, that reminds me so much of Duke Nukem, and jetpacking across the submerged city level to that cave where you find the words "YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE" painted on the wall.

Good times.

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19. Actually... Jan 9, 2007, 09:44 Dreagon
 
I'm kinda happy to see this kind of thing. It's games like this that are really the only hope for the computer gaming community to have distinct and non dumbed down, non cross platform games.  
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18. Re: No subject Jan 9, 2007, 09:27 Atomic
 
Okay. A sniper climbs onto a roof, destroying all stairs and ladders behind him. He then spends the next half hour sniping everyone since he has the higher ground and nobody can reach him. Eventually, the other players can do enough damage to the building to blow it up. Unfortunately, by this time, the sniper has racked up tons of kills.

I wouldn't say tons.. just whatever ammo he has on him. And how can he destroy all access to himself? Only if allowed to carry an ungodly amount of explosive. There are creative ways to limit these things.

As for falling into holes, that's not good level design either. In a fully destructable environment, there would likely be very many holes to fall into. Forcing players to commit suicide would deduct from their score.

Allow other players to "rescue" teammates who have fallen into holes; could be a simple as the use key. Get points for helping, like when you heal someone. You could even introduce items like ropes or rope ladders, or allow the player to move an object in the game like a pole or beam. See? Stop thinking so linear. Fully destructable environments should create new challenges for the players and game physics should give them more creativity to respond to them.


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17. Re: No subject Jan 9, 2007, 08:06 Brainp0wa
 
+1 for flying sharks with lasers!

Hey, that really was easy to say.

Here's hoping that the destruction is "meaningful" as I agree that balance will be a big issue.

 
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16. Re: No subject Jan 9, 2007, 06:45 Jerykk
 
your multiplayer examples of why this would be bad are wrong!
Those things would be awesome.
If some player got on a roof and took out the stairs, then eventually the other players would totally blast the shit out of that building. And if you blasted a hole that your enemy then falls into.... too fucking bad, hes in a hole, he can kill himself or you can drop a grenade for him.

Okay. A sniper climbs onto a roof, destroying all stairs and ladders behind him. He then spends the next half hour sniping everyone since he has the higher ground and nobody can reach him. Eventually, the other players can do enough damage to the building to blow it up. Unfortunately, by this time, the sniper has racked up tons of kills.

As for falling into holes, that's not good level design either. In a fully destructable environment, there would likely be very many holes to fall into. Forcing players to commit suicide would deduct from their score.

A level that allows a player to snipe from an unreachable area is not a good level. A level that forces players to constantly commit suicide because they keep falling into holes is not a good level.

It's easy to say "Hey, wouldn't it be awesome if we could totally blow up everything? And, if like, we all had jetpacks with unlimited fuel and rapid-fire nuclear missile launchers and flying sharks with lasers!"

Unfortunately, what sounds awesome in theory often ends up not so awesome in practice. Good game design is a matter of balance. Something may sound cool but you have to consider the potential repercussions of its implementation. Even relatively minor things like production times, hit points, firing rates and unit cost have a huge impact on balance in RTSes, which is why good developers are constantly releasing patches that tweak them. You can imagine then how significant the balancing issues of a fully destructable environment are in an action game.

Like I said before, I applaud NetDevil for attempting to implement meaningful environmental destruction (as opposed to the purely aesthetic destruction seen in games like FEAR, Stranglehold, Black, etc) and hope they can actually pull it off. I'm just pointing out the numerous potential balance problems they'll have to resolve.

 
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15. Re: No subject Jan 9, 2007, 06:01 anon@24.76
 
your multiplayer examples of why this would be bad are wrong!
Those things would be awesome.
If some player got on a roof and took out the stairs, then eventually the other players would totally blast the shit out of that building. And if you blasted a hole that your enemy then falls into.... too fucking bad, hes in a hole, he can kill himself or you can drop a grenade for him.

Things like this would be great in a game sortof like Operation Flash Point or even BF2, super open levels so it doesnt matter that you can go anywhere. You dont need lame restrictions like magic walls and crap in mil sims like that.

Imagine at the end of the round, the level could be totally wrecked. It could start off like some nice urban setting with sky scrapers and stuff, and by the end its all like 9/11 ground zero, hehe.

I dont think any computer could handle that right now, but in a few years I hope.


 
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14. Re: No subject Jan 9, 2007, 04:30  cliffski 
 
maybe. except people have touted this as revolutionary for well over 10 years. Remember red faction? it died without trace, but i remember people going 'ooh' and 'ahh' at the ECTS demo before the game was finished, at which point as usual, most of that feature was removed.
Maybe its just totally incompatible with games.
 
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13. Re: Environmental Destruction Jan 9, 2007, 03:23 Jerykk
 
Adding grappling hooks and jetpacks adds a whole new slew of potential issues. What's to stop a player from blowing a hole in a ceiling, then jetpacking outside and flying across the entire level? Grappling hooks also potentially allow players to reach places they aren't supposed.

Sure, you can add limitations, like altitude caps, limited jet fuel, non-grappable surfaces, invisible walls, etc, but if you are going to do that, the grappling hook and jetpack become more like gimmicks than fundamental gameplay features.

Game balance is a very tricky thing and when you combine destructable environments, jetpacks and grappling hooks, it only makes things trickier. Hell, grappling hooks completely screwed up the balance of Tribes: Vengeance (which also had jetpacks).

With that said, I'm still interested in seeing how Warmonger will deal with such issues. At the very least, they are taking on a challenge that most game designers avoid.

As for Red Faction 2, I actually found it more enjoyable than the first game. For some reason, the first game just dragged like hell for me. Although the game was only about 10 hours long, it seemed like it took me 30 hours to beat. Not sure if it was the repetitious level design or the lack of enemy variety but the game just felt like it wouldn't end.

 
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12. Re: Environmental Destruction Jan 9, 2007, 02:04 MuzixMon
 
Giving the player something like a Grappling Hook or Jetpack would alleviate any issue of the player not being able to reach an objective if their set path has been destroyed. I'm all for destructable terrain! I hope it becomes standard in all games soon (to a certain extent of course). Even though Red Faction's GeoMod design was limited, I still had a great time playing it's multiplayer when it first came out and then lack of support from the developers ruined the game because the modders or better yet cheaters killed the game for everyone. Red Faction 2 was a total waste, it shouldn't even exist.

 
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11. Re: Environmental Destruction Jan 9, 2007, 00:01 Jerykk
 
Easy. Use the same parameters you have in the real world.

Except real-world parameters don't make for good level design. In single-player games, destructable environments may prevent a player from completing a level because they can no longer advance after blowing up the wrong thing. What if an enemy fires a rocket that blows up the only bridge to the next area? Or what if they blow up some stairs (an example used in the press release), preventing the player from reaching the next floor?

Destructable environments might make a level too easy, as you can just blow holes through obstacles in your way. Imagine playing HL with the ability to blow a hole through any wall. That would completely screw up the game, as the player is no longer required to follow the path designated by the designer. It would also enable the player to get to places he isn't supposed to go.

Multiplayer implications are equally problematic. Players could climb up to roofs and then blow away the stairs and ladders leading up there, allowing them to turtle until other players can blow up the whole building. Or it could lead to players getting the floor blown up beneath them, dropping them into a hole which they can't get out of.

So no, designing a good level with fully destructable environments is not easy.

 
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10. Re: Environmental Destruction Jan 8, 2007, 23:45 John
 
Didn't Black have totally destructible environments?

While not totally destructible, it was a pretty good balance. One thing I like is how you can destroy concrete pillars and such and see the steel reinforcement underneath.
 
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9. Re: Environmental Destruction Jan 8, 2007, 22:56 Wowbagger_TIP
 
How do you design a level so that a player can't break it by blowing up too much? Red Faction resorted to limiting the destruction to certain areas. Unfortunately, this made the destruction feel more like a gimmick than a fundamental gameplay component.

Easy. Use the same parameters you have in the real world. Sometimes it's ok to blow everything up. In those cases, go for it if it gets the job done. In other cases, though, the mission parameters are such that destroying certain buildings or objects could result in the failure of the mission, whether it be the inadvertant killing of noncombatants, or some other reason, too much wanton destruction would mean you lose. Then of course, there's also the question of how much the player can actually destroy given the amount and power of the weapons and ammo they have. The player isn't going to be able to destroy a whole building with an assault rifle, for example. While some thought would have to go into the level and mission designs, I think it could be done pretty well. It would definitely add a refreshing amount of replayability and non-linearity to the missions.

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8. Re: Environmental Destruction Jan 8, 2007, 22:38 The Half Elf
 
Oh sure why not, lets blow political bullshit all out of purportion. Better yet how about we save the politican commentary for well a political site, or better yet a Fox News Site.

 
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7. Re: Environmental Destruction Jan 8, 2007, 22:24 MikLoyD
 
Thank God for a warmonger like Churchill who was willing to go it alone, if need be.

are you saying 2001 Afganistan + 2002 Iraq were anywhere near the threat Germany was in the late 30s?

 
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6. No subject Jan 8, 2007, 21:55 space captain
 
destructible environments will be standard for games in the future.. im ready for this .. been waiting for ages

next thing they need to work on is AI - get some serious neural net type shit going

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