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Mailbag
October 18, 1998 -- Previous Mailbag

My Life without the Thrill Kill cult
From: Anonymous

At first, I didn't agree with EA's canceling Thrill Kill... I would be very angry if a game I worked hard on wasn't released. However, finding out that Thrill Kill features sex acts has changed my mind on this particular title.

I have a problem with games that go to extremes in violence and sex content just for the sake of being controversial. I'm not talking Postal, or Quake, or Grand Theft Auto... Those games are tame. But if someone were to create a deathmatch game which featured photorealistic death scenes (not, for example, a detective game with FMV of someone getting shot) I'd have a problem with that.

I also have a problem with one of the characters that's being put into Prey. The "topless female alien" is going a bit far... I mean, it doesn't even LOOK like an alien. They're obviously just doing it for the shock value, to see what they can get away with. I'll happily play the game, it is only one isolated monster, but I frown upon them for stooping to such low levels. I hope the game industry isn't going to start becoming like the porn industry. Production value speaking of course.

Q3 won't suck
From: Juggernaut [DofA]

Okay, let's get this whole Q3A single-player stuff under control. The fact is that Carmack had decided to forego his "usual" single player game for a different style, where you would face enemy AI's of increasing difficulty. Just because we'll no longer be hunting for keys and opening doors does not mean that the game will suck.

The type of single player game Carmack has decided to make is nothing new. In fact, it's been around for decades. Ever hear of, or actually play Pong? It's the same idea...play against the computer in preparation for playing against others in multiplayer. Just about every single arcade game (the Mortal Kombat series, or any fighting game for that matter) has the same basic premise.

To say that Q3A won't sell well because it is not your standard "shoot tons of stupid enemies with increasingly larger guns while opening doors and finding health packs" game* is naive at best. The types of games described above have proven to be quite popular, and I don't see this as any kind of exception. The fact that Carmack has decided to devote all of his time to the multiplayer game (of which the single player will just be an aspect of) speaks volumes about his dedication to making the best possible game.

*Editor's note: Also known as a STOSEWILGWODAFHP

-MrCoffee

Q3 will prompt people to stop playing with themselves
From: Jeff Buckland

I see a lot of people talking about how a majority of the game-playing world doesn't play online, so if id targets Quake 3 to multiplayer people, they're going to let down a majority of players. Well, think about this guys - don't you think this game would maybe *prompt* a lot of people who have never tried multiplayer to finally try it? If they integrated a server browser like GameSpy and made it super-easy to play online right out of the box, Q3 could turn that majority of single player gamers to multiplayer. Let's face it. Even if id's vision of multiplayer isn't what you want, it IS a step towards the future anyway. All the CRPG fans moan at the idea of more online deathmatching, but hey, maybe we'll see more multiplayer, co-operative RPG games using things like the Q3 engine. Anyway, id Software has broken new ground with almost every game they have made, and people doubt them EVERY time. But guess what? id continues to succeed every time. Get used to it, nay-sayers. This will break new ground as well, and everyone else will stand aside and watch as id sells a million copies of another game. It's happened before and it's going to happen again.

Unreal gets a raw deal
From: Nemesis

Why has everyone started bashing Unreal lately? It seems that every PC game site I go to is making some backhanded statement about Unreal. It started with the multi-player aspect (which to some degree was warranted), but Unreal is great fun to play on a LAN or with the bots provided. At least Epic included something other than a straight death match. People forget that most of what made Quake and Quake II fun to play over the Internet had nothing to do with id. Why does id get all the credit? It is the gaming community that added all the cool mods. If all you could do was play Quake II the way it shipped it would suck. Now don't get me wrong I like playing Quake II, but not in single player and not multi-player without all the incredible mods you people have created. I only bring this up to put things in perspective.

Another criticism I keep hearing is that "The weapons in Unreal are weak!". There are weapons that let you kill someone in one shot. What more do you want? To kill 10 people at a time? These same people are the ones whining about people using the BFG in Quake II. People complain when the weapons are too powerful. They say it is unfair. I think the weapons in Unreal take skill to use, and are just as fun as those in Quake II.

Yet another comment I hear is "Single player Unreal is boring?". Name a better single player FPS that is currently out, or was out in the last two years (007 for the N64 does not count). I am not saying that it is perfect, but I enjoyed it. I loved the beauty you could find just around every corner. The story was weak, but I felt like I was exploring a strange new world. Not like in Quake II where I felt like I was in an old abandoned military complex. I have seen enough brown in Quake II to last me a life time. Both of these games have their strengths and weaknesses. I am just sick of all these people trashing on Unreal. When Unreal first came out there was not a bad review to be found, but now everyone is putting it down. I am sure that Unreal will soon be put to shame by Half-life and others, but it is not a bad game.

Hell comes to Fragtown
From: HellBringer

Personally, I've always respected id software. Ever since Wolf3d, I've followed the company and have delighted in all of their games. I viewed Quake 1 and Quake 2 as two separate (and both fun) games, which approached FPS gaming from slightly different angles (yet with 100% id-style of play, mainly focusing on quality of gameplay over a highly developed plot or supreme level designs - though IMHO their levels are usually good quality and at least above-average).

Now when Quake 3: Arena was announced a whole lotta people "put on the brakes" when it came to riding the id fan-bus around. Critics have both praised and condemned the game and its concepts; even though we have seen but a few brief glimpses of the total game. I personally took the skepticism with a fair-sized grain of salt; yet the comments added up over time. BUT, I still stayed true to id in my feelings about them as lords of the FPS gaming community (as a company) - and fairly caring and "on-the-level" with their fans. They seem to support the anti-shovelware tactics such as those that have embroiled the Duke franchise and MicroStar; and though they DID seem a bit over-eager with some mod groups and wanting them to license the full engine (a la Team Fortress 2) - I still feel that it was their right as it was their technology.

So now we have this announcement that id wants to keep Quake2 alive and kicking for a while... I KNOW its hard to turn a good profit; but we all know that id has to have had one of the most lucrative histories in the history of small-developer-gaming itself! Is it odd that this seems to be timed to coincide with things like the Xmas shopping season or the release of Half-Life, another Quake/Q2-engine-based game? Or is it just that id is hyping mods for multiplayer play before their debut multi-player-oriented game gets ready to ship sometime in the first half of next year!?!? While I'm a big Half-Life fanatic and all, neither of the above questions bothers me as much as this one: WHY is id making money (by selling a retail product) off of mods that were distributed via the Internet originally for free?? WHY should id or its affiliates receive remuneration for the hard work and talent of so many mod groups out there trying to show their skills, make fun game-play ideas a reality, and make a name for themselves?? Does id feel that the mod-developers will allow this to happen or something simply because they will get additional exposure through this? Part of me wants to believe that id still cares about the community and isn't trying to make money out of this deal - but it is worrisome to me that this is taking place.

I suppose I should add this disclaimer in all fairness though: I have no evidence that shows that id is going to sell this product for more than their cost of production; and I don't know any details about what they may or may not be offering to the mod-development teams. HOWEVER, just ponder these simple statements:

1) id is going to be selling a retail product
2) id's "new" product is going to be other people's work (barring installation programs or new documentation, etc).

If I were a mod-development team or team-leader and id contacted me about this - I would sit and MAKE SURE I was getting something out of the deal. I'm not saying you should be asking for thousands of dollars or 50% royalties... But make sure that your team gets recognition for its work; and some sort of compensation in lieu of the fact that id will be making their own money from this deal (i.e. Don't settle for autographed Q3:Arena posters for your staff). I hope more details on this issue come to light in the days to come; as at this moment I'm straddling between fan-dom and a lack of respect; and with the already unstable nature of the gaming industry - the old mare of fear and anticipation is buckin' something fierce.

PMS got you down? Use new Gex Pads!
From: The Czyz

Screw those PMS mouse pad things, the best mouse pad I've ever used (and *still* use*) is the Gex-3D mouse pad they gave away free at the Midway booth at E3 in Atlanta this year. Perfect size, grip-ability, and it's got Gex the Gecko (or whatever his name is) on it.

Will Prey become carrion?
From: Concerned Fan

Well, I can't help but feel a little saddened by the news about Paul and William leaving 3D Realms and Prey.

I remember Duke Nukem 3D being one of the only games that could be labeled a "Doom killer" (two years after, mind you) so when Prey was announced all us id Software fans got little goosebumps on the backs of our necks thinking about what 3D Realms was going to cook up. I remember screen shots and the phrase "Quake killer" being used before Quake even hit store shelves. Publicly a lot of Quake addicts scoffed at the thought that Prey could surpass anything by id, but deep down I think we all wanted to see something that wowed us. That made us all quake <sic> in our boots and watch Carmack try to beat it.

When much of the team left in '96 I think a lot of us listened to the "don't worry, it's business as usual" schtick. But especially in recent months as we see scads of screen shots and demos for games like Shogo, Requiem, Thief, Prax Wars, and the like, we've also witnessed a dead quiet from the Prey team. Right when we should be getting ready for release we have gotten eerie silence. I don't doubt that Paul and William's departures are both directly and indirectly related to how late the product is, and I would hazard to say that if I was 3D Realms I'd be looking to rock the boat right about now too. But it's a shame to see the project as a shell of its former self.

Do I think Prey is dead? No, I actually see the exact opposite. I think the project will now enter "Just-Get-The-F*ing-Thing-to-Market"-mode and this will almost definitely be reflected in the quality of the game. It's really too bad to know that the game we all feared and hoped would be the ultimate "Quake Killer" might make as many ripples as a pebble in an ocean.

Alien beings VS. Crackhead Czar
(or "FPS XXIII: The Crackhead Alien Flamewar")

From: Debabrata Banerjee

Czar: How's the crack pipe?

I'm saying 'hi' from the mothership, because I can certainly see the difference between 25/35/60+ fps. How, do you ask? A PII 450 with a Voodoo2 and cl_maxfps 90 is real nice when I'm sync'd to 60hz. Ever try cl_maxfps 25, or even 35? If you can't tell the difference you must be blind. I'd sync to a higher refresh, but unfortunately whenever the Voodoo2 can't keep up with 85/120fps you get a little "skip" for the missed refresh. Keep in mind that this skip usually takes place in less time than one frame at 35fps.

Try this:

Start up a map and find a small room, now use the _arrow keys_ not the mouse to turn. Now turn down your cl_maxfps to 35, and now do the same thing. Big difference eh? If not, how thick are your glasses?

Your hardware might suck too, so if you think your getting enough fps to convince you of fluid motion, then move around a bit and see if you can see the individual frames, i.e. find a object and turn your POV infront of it. Do you see multiple images? Now get up.. Look at your surroundings, and turn you head. Do you see this in reality? NO, not unless your under flourescents, which is why I hate flourescents personally, and it makes other people sick.

Yes I can see scanlines on NTSC,  and yes the 25fps at the movies bug me.

Bottom line: If you can't see past 35fps, good for you, but don't try to convince me I can't.

WARNING: Oven mittens recommended for reading
From: Grant Rodgers

The following e-mail was sent to Brett Todd.

I think it must be hard to be an editorial writer, in which you have to express your opinions, knowing full well that they might be opposite what the general public thinks. I feel sorry for you because every article you write has to be about why you think others are wrong, and then said others say back to you:

1. You're completely wrong.
2. You are such a jerk.
3. Boy, are you ever a jerk.

Having said this, I give you my thoughts on your recent rant about Quake 3, [in] which I was a member of said others.I don't take it too seriously, it's just an offering of my opinions, similar to your recent offering.

I don't know about you, but I don't think it's always a wise idea to give the people "what they want". Like you imply with your comparison of the logos (I'm sure you know this, but that is not the q3 logo) minor changes in an established genre are not enough to guarantee a game's success. However, you state that instead of pursuing new directions, Carmack and team should crank out yet another traditional FPS; and in doing so either make both the single and multiplayer experiences mediocre, or make a game in which one aspect is much more emphasized than the other, leaving customers dissatisfied with the product. In the past, a really standout game has not been a rehash of old ideas or new twists on established hits. The instant classics have been those that were completely different, that bucked the trend that gaming seemed to be following. Before Wolfenstein, the most popular games were vertical side scrollers like Commander Keen, then Wolfenstein came along and began a new genre, in the process becoming a classic game. People don't say to developers (most of the time), "This is what I think would be a great game, so give it to me and I will buy it." They sit back and wait for a good developer to innovate. Thus, giving the people "what they want" is not always the same as making a classic game. Although I don't think appealing to such a small market is a particularly good decision financially, Carmack has the capital to take that risk and see if he can create a new gaming sensation (namely, easier-to-use online FPS games). He also states in the PC Gamer article that if q3 doesn't do very well, then he will go back to the traditional format of FPS games. This is the proper way to listen to the public. He is taking a new idea that he thinks is a good idea, then seeing if the public likes it, then basing his next decision on that. This is the process involved in "the continuing evolution of the gaming industry." Carmack's move toward more specialization is not necessarily a bad thing though. He has proven with his own company in years past that being very good at a particular aspect of gaming can be a financially sound plan. When Wolfenstein came out, I would never have thought that a company based entirely on making FPS games could make it in the cutthroat gaming world. Carmack's decision to pursue the multiplayer aspect of FPSs may seem risky, but it still has the potential to keep the company in the black while they continue to evolve the gaming industry. What resonates with the world is not necessarily more of the same, but is a new tone never heard before. Which are you going to notice, the bell that simply rings more sweetly than the other hundreds of bells ringing the same note, or the one bell that rings a different note altogether?

I can't resist addressing some specifics of your article (in other words, here come the flames): It's possible that John Carmack is arrogant, ignorant of the people, and solely pursuing his own interests, but I defy you to find any programmer who thinks he is lazy. What in your opinion would be a "real Quake 3"? A copy of Unreal or Halflife with no originality? You seem to look down upon these copies with distaste, and say that the public does not care about them, yet you say that id should do one anyway. You speak of the evils of being "damned righteous" and "true to your visions", and the worthlessness of "artistic integrity", but your article seems to be full of these same evils. How can you justify your criticism of q3's lack of a story by saying "Personally it doesn't interest me" and then turn around and say that Carmack abandoning the original Quake 3 because it didn't interest him was "improper game design"? You condemn the PC Gamer article for appealing to the more technically oriented because in your opinion, the general public has no interest in the details of a game's design. Which game provides the "full 3d shooter experience"? I haven't found a game yet that combines backstory, scripted plot, and atmosphere with a fun to play 3d shooter in which the backstory is little more than the standard "You have to escape this bad situation by killing everyone in your way" and the scripted plot tells you what happened when you pushed this button, like all the other scripted plots. Maybe what the public wants is one shooter which focuses on being a blast to play and skips the story, and another which focuses on the story elements more than the gameplay.

The above represents two different approaches to a critique of your article, and should probably not be considered together. They are meant to be separate discourses, each of which I thought had its own advantages.