Okay, so time for my QuakeCon wrapup. Like the last time I went (1999) it was pretty dang cool – but it was also not nearly as cool as if I had brought my own system.
This year I went with my wife Wendy and some of her gamer cousins, the aforementioned Moe and Robert. However, the first day (Friday) it was just me and my wife. So we get there and we get our little name tags, placing our names on them. Then we step into the BYOC room. It’s much bigger than last time – the size of a couple of gymnasiums. She immediately kept apologizing to me that we hadn’t planned well enough to bring our PC’s (or perhaps just mine) but I assured her it was alright. Next we stepped into the room with the exhibits and displays. Immediately I was drawn to the table under the large banner reading “DOOM – Game Boy Advance” where they had four GBA’s networked together running the GBA port of DOOM. While the screenies I’ve seen of this port looked crappy to alright, I can tell you this much – this port kicks ass in the flesh. While it can’t really hold a candle to some of the recent Win32 ports with higher resolutions, it works really well. One thing though – neither myself nor anyone who was around when I was fiddling with it (some of which were wearing Activision T-shirts – the DOOM GBA publisher) could get Multiplayer working. Oh well – I’m sure they’ll either iron it out or it will become obvious with the inclusion of a manual. I’ll tell you this much – money permitting the day they come out with that port I’m picking up four GBA’s, four copies of DOOM GBA (this game’s too big to do the “one cart” thing), and a link cable. Yes, you’re invited.
Next up was Return to Castle Wolfenstein. My lone disappointment with this game is that it’s swastika free (as far as I can tell). I guess it’s because in a multiplayer game having someone with a Swastika be the winner is a dangerous precedent (the original Wolfenstein had no multiplayer). Not that I like swastikas, mind you – but killing Nazi’s without them just isn’t as much fun. I bet they still can’t sell the game in Germany as it is. They had four PC’s running the single player version, and twelve or so networked ones running a multiplayer “Axis Vs. Allies” game (think Counter-Strike in WWII). Very cool – and very well done. Also, Raven had two PC’s running Soldier of Fortune II. Lots of good old carnage.
Then for some reason my wife and I took a Discreet seminar. Discreet is the company who spun off of Autodesk and now handles the 3D Studio MAX product. They were giving seminars on how to use GMAX, a product which is a subset of 3DSMAX. The idea (I think) is that a game developer pays however much Discreet’s cost is and buys GMAX to be used on their game. They then can write level and model exporters for GMAX and distribute it (with those exporters only) free to their end users. So we went to the “Character Modeling” seminar and my wife gave up at some point. I was barely able to keep up, and even then I had the horns on the wrong side of the thingy’s head. Oh well.
After lunch we waited for the id press conference and the Carmack talk. My wife is bored out of her mind at this point. Couple that with the fact the press conference was late, the people around us were “unusual”, and the fact that the smelly guy next to her couldn’t stop staring with his creepy beady little eyes at whatever breasts were around (read: not that many at QuakeCon) and she was slowy becoming miserable. I pointed out John Carmack with his wife Anna Kang (not sure if that’s still her last name) as they walked by to which my wife was shocked that they looked so normal. So finally they let us in and we all get to sit down. Todd Hollenshead (CEO) gives a little schpeil and then shows some video footage of Quake, Quake II and Quake III, the last of which was the Team Arena teaser again. He retorts, “I guess you’ve all seen that before,” which gets laughter from everyone but my wife, who hadn’t. Then they announce Quake IV, outsourced to Raven. Looks like that rumor was right.
Then they announce that their unannounced game is untitled and is a “multiplayer experience not based on an existing property” but not a MMORPG. Ok, cool. Next.
Next is the DOOM III demo. It looks badass. It has all the stuff from MacWorld and more. No gameplay or sound yet. Also no title. Damn. But it looks cool. Then comes a scene with a dead guy on the floor with his guts being feast upon by a demon, complete with blood curdling down the drain. Great id, just fucking great. I have to justify that the game industry is not full of evil violent school-shooting shit every day to some people and you go and pull something like that. Suffice it to say Wendy was not amused. To their credit it looked more like they were going for that Resident Evil, Silent Hill horror movie feel (as opposed to the more ominous Hitman feel) and they stated that this probably wasn’t going into the final game, but it was still a gruesome sight.
Carmack followed that with a talk. Surprisingly, I could keep my head above water, which is more than I can say for the crowd which ranged from enthralled to filtering out to sleeping. Carmack of course is going on about everything he feels like talking about, no structure, no goal, he just goes on and on. It’s like listening to a genius on the Hawking level – if you’re looking for someone to sell you something, move along, but if you want to listen to one of the few geniuses in the game industry just go on about whatever, Carmack’s the guy. His lone fallacy is his shrill, nasal voice and a habit of being just a little too phoentic at places. I didn’t notice it too much (I heard him speak two years ago), but my wife couldn’t stand it. Then there was the usual Q&A session.
The next day the cousins joined us, and Wendy brought a book. We had noticed that almost everyone had their handles on their tags instead of their names, so I wrote “Schnapple” on mine and Wendy wrote “Mrs. Schnapple”. We attended Paul Jaquays’ “Trash my Map” session where the id mapper critiqued people’s Quake III levels – not so much on style or content, buyt mainly for technical aspects and their use (or overuse) of polygons – interesting insight into what level designers have to do to get levels everyone can run. Then we toured the joint, playing games and such. We wrapped up the day by watching the showing of Jedi Knight II. Folks, Raven is the shit. This is going to be an awesome game, handlily surpassing the first game. You know you get to see the good shit when they won’t allow video or photos of the game to be taken (they did this at the DOOM III demo as well).
So that was QuakeCon – it sucks that I didn’t get to bring my PC (especially when I discovered that when I arrived not all the BYOC slots were full), so the thing got dull quicker, but I got to see the id press conference at least (which was my main goal) and I got a T-shirt or two out of the affair. I got to show my wife that this was in fact a real industry with a huge following and I got to hang out with some family members I don’t see that often.
So, what else? Well looks like the aforementioned (yes, I like that word) Moe redid her page, and apparently has been redesigned using Pepto Bismol. I was going to make a pee-on joke at her expense, but looks like she ditched that page. Drat.
Oh, and I rolled back to Windows 98. Guess that precipice had a bungee cord after all. Ironically I ditched XP not because of the OS – the OS is fine, in fact I miss it already. I ditched it because of no Voodoo3 drivers. Anything and everything I found just didn’t work too well. I guess I could do the “install/roll back” dealie every time I wanted to play a game, but I didn’t want to mess with that. If I owned a GeForce 3, I wouldn’t have a problem – pretty much every video card whose maker is still alive has at least some beta drivers that work. In theQuake games there’s some minor OpenGL glitches, but Black & White is unplayable, due to garbled text. I read I could turn off AGP text caching but it turns out I don’t even have that. So even Direct3D games are spotty. Here’s the thing, though – whose fault is it? Is it 3dfx’s fault? Well it is in the respect that they’re not here to make new drivers, but does this mean that every piece of technology dies along with its maker? To Microsoft’s credit, they at least have a pretty good attempt at a Voodoo3 driver, but perhaps it’s their fault old Win2K drivers don’t work. Maybe it’s Nvidia’s fault – they “own” what’s left of 3dfx and appear to be burying it in New Mexico along with those E.T. carts. Word is they refuse to let Microsoft have the source for the 3dfx drivers, and since Nvidia’s not working on new drivers (they want you to buy Nvidia video cards, after all) then the drivers die. Perhaps it’s EA/Lionhead’s fault – they’re the developers of Black & White and they don’t have a product that supports XP yet – it supports ME and 2000, so XP should be a given, yet it isn’t. Sure, come October they’ll probably have a a patch out, or at least a workaround, but I don’t need a workaround, I need a game.
So I’m not good enough to hang with the Beta OS boys after all. Ironically this wouldn’t be a problem if I didn’t run games – meaning that XP has at the very least made its claim as a professional OS. More ironically, short of the fact that the XP compatible drivers they made were imperfect, this isn’t even a Microsoft problem. 98 is like The Phantom Menace, it ain’t perfect and in some cases isn’t even pretty, but it works for what it does. Consequently, there’s no way I’m buying XP unless they can come up with a version that runs my 3dfx card flawlessly, so basically I’m going to have to hold off until I can get a new video card – like a GeForce 3. My wife couldn’t do the XP thang since it doesn’t like her hard drive controller (?). Same old stuff – new hardware for new OS.