An inventory

About the Remake Quake project.

Ironically (seeing as our last demo was an overall success and we reached several technical milestones recently), it seems like people are leaving the flag.

This is due to real life issues, side projects becoming main projects, and other such reasons. There is always a good reason why someone is occupied elsewhere, I don’t doubt that, but regardless of that, the result is the same. What was once a team of 12-18 members is down to 3-5 people. A bloodletting.

Right now there is a proposal by Project Lead to downsize and restructure the project, and reallocate resources. The rough outline of this is to cut half the singleplayer levels and the multiplayer, abandon the episodic structure, and divert power to the remaining maps and the other aspects of game design.

This may sound radical compared to vanilla Quake’s four episodes and 30 single player levels, until you realize that RMQ’s levels are a lot bigger, more detailed, and more complex than Quake’s. Most modern games don’t have 30 single player levels simply because those are a huge time sink and require a lot of manpower to create. Much the same goes for multiplayer – if you want to create a multiplayer experience that actually gets players, you’d best create a dedicated game for that because adding good singleplayer is just going to eat up resources that an independent game, or a hobbyist mod, doesn’t have.

A coop mode is probably doable in a singleplayer focused game, but CTF or Domination or objective based teamplay is so different from the game’s core that it’s going to require more resources to do it right. Sure you can throw in Duel or FFA modes with the singleplayer maps, but RMQ maps at least are generally too large for that. It would be an awful lot of running around. Maps designed for multiplayer will almost always do a better job.

Fact is, what exists of RMQ is a single player game with massive levels and a few platforming elements. How to fill those massive levels with interesting gameplay is an ongoing discussion – no, shooting 600 zombies won’t cut it.

There are some possible solutions in the works for that last problem. Most likely the game will have more for players to do than “kill monsters, find exit”. And I’m not talking about grappling hooks and pushable boxes.

Related to the old episode structure were the player characters, only two of which ever got fleshed out beyond wishful thinking. No more episodes, no more episode-specific characters or weapons, obviously.

This means that people can expect a smaller, but more polished game, most likely.

It is ironic that we needed five years to arrive at this insight; an independent, unpaid team cannot create 30 large singleplayer levels, plus CTF and what-have-you, to semi-modern quality standards on hacked 15 year old technology. Okay. It’s not over though; let’s now see what it can do in the reasonable remaining time of 2 or 3 years.

About possible future projects:

I personally am semi intrigued about the idea of creating a free single player game. Another idea that’s been loosely discussed is working on an indie game – there are, I believe, several written or unwritten design documents (no, not Quake remakes) floating around RMQ team members’ proverbial drawers. This could entail the creation of a game studio or something like that. I have been looking at the options for a while. Anything that’s done by anyone will need an engine. What engine is largely determined by what kind of content one is making, and what level of eyecandy or photorealism one is looking at, and of course by the target hardware and the performance needs which in turn also depend on the content.

What kind of content is in turn largely determined by what sells or doesn’t sell, at least if you expect money to be made.

How much content is determined by size of the team, which probably means “small” in all imaginable cases. No more than 8-12 small/medium singleplayer levels, for example – a lot of development time would go into gameplay, GUI and assets, not level design. This is a lesson well learned – level design is expensive (and mappers tend to be divas, actually). Another lesson is that there would be central creative direction, no questions asked and no exceptions made for anyone.

The target platform would most likely be the PC, at least for a start. The level of gloss would be “good looking but with performance and easy workflow for an indie team in mind”. The tools would likely have to be freely available and easy to produce acceptable results with.

So we’re looking at “not a terrible lot of content” and “much attention paid to gameplay and creative direction”. We’re also looking at “free tools and easy workflow on the PC”. This is what any engine / tools / formats must be chosen for.

Finally, the technological base must already support common features. It is unacceptable if we have to code support for rotating entities or pushable boxes ourselves (for fuck’s sake). It must support skeletal animation, physics, and hopefully already have single player gamecode including acceptable enemy AI and the usual triggers and entities. It must support good quality lighting (no, 8 bit is not good). It should have proper collision on mapmodels. Content creation must not depend on anything like 3ds Max, Flash/Scaleform or the like.

I don’t see too many possible options there. I’m not sure if any Quake 1 based engine is an option at all either. Furthermore it is perhaps tempting to choose a free software approach over commercial package deals, especially seeing the requirement for free tools.

Distribution would be via the internet, obviously. Production timeline would be 1-3 years (hopefully not 5+ years like RMQ – for fuck’s sake). Alcoholism would be restricted to Sundays. And it would most definitely not be a remake of anything.

Advertisements

11 responses to “An inventory

  • DOSMOT?

    So, what will be left for us to play?
    The whole 1st episode remake, about half of 2nd and 3rd episodes and most likely not 4th episode at all, and all these maps (about 12-15 big maps I guess) are arranged in one long game without episodes, with “hi-tech” first levels and “medieval” and “lovecraftian” levels after.
    Not bad, actually.
    A little wish: if it is possible to merge 2-3 original levels structure into one level remake, than no one will even be sad with level quantity decreased.

  • onetruepurple

    Feature creep takes over? Sounds familiar, somehow…

    “10. I tried to be different and unique. In fact there is usually a reason why something is done a certain way. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    “Less is usually more, and overkill is usually bad. Knowing what the strength of the game is, and then basing your level around that, is probably smart, too.”

    If only that guy came to that realisation much faster.

  • getbutterfly

    It’s a shame to hear this. It was a nice project with a lot of perspective. Maybe it’s a lesson learned. Maybe it’s something you were supposed to go through to learn how to organize yourselves.

    Hopefully, you won’t abandon game development and continue doing interesting stuff, just like RMQ. Or maybe go on and take RMQ a step further.

    I’ll be watching you for the next 2 or 3 years. 😉

  • kneedeepinthedoomed

    We’re not finished discussing this internally, but here’s what it now looks like.

    1. What will be left for you to play? A full game with a structure that makes sense (a short tech lead in followed by a nexus, with thematic loops of levels arranged around it is the sort of structure that’s being discussed). Roughly 15 (we don’t have a finished list yet) large, detailed SP levels. That’s not nothing. Several new bosses, probably (meshes and partly rigs & code exist for them). Some different player chars, probably freely selectable (meshes & rigs exist). Some added more-than-combat gameplay. Modern GUI. Added backstory and depth to the world. Is this worth playing and having? I think so.

    2. Combining levels or areas from levels into one. Yes, this has already been done, and it is being discussed. This is one way to include some signature areas while cutting other parts. The same has been done in commercial remakes, and it makes sense (if done well).

    3. Feature creep – this is a misinterpretation. It is not feature creep, it is simply “quality over quantity”. Delivering a polished, smaller game is better than trying to make levels until everybody croaks (and coders get bored) and then not delivering. Otp, it is normal that people go through a learning process, which is why you can’t really hold the crap we said 2 years ago against us.

    • DOSMOT?

      Sounds nice! Just one more question:
      >a short tech lead
      Will it include e1m1rm with that mega-badass Ka-52 helicopter?

      • kneedeepinthedoomed

        Heh 🙂 You’re right, the helicopter is badass, and it would be a shame to waste it. Not sure about the fate of e1m1rq, the area with the helipad is absolutely huge and would be time intensive to complete and polish. Can’t say atm. I’m a little torn – I do like that setpiece a lot, and others have also said it looks good, but if I go and finish that huge area, then I might as well finish the entire map. So… I’ll have to think carefully about that, probably over a bottle of whiskey.

        A lot depends on how difficult the terrain generator turns out to use. Because large parts of my maps are simply terrain. I like building outdoor areas, I mean I love Crysis and Stalker, but again, they need detailing and trees and all that stuff so it’s a matter of how much time we have and how well everything else is going. You have a point though.

  • negke

    Sadly, it seems this was kind of bound to happen. It’s what I meant when suggesting a more focused approach instead of going berzerk with huge maps that are several times the size of the originals and eventually only remotely related. At the very least you might want to consider incorporating key features or memorable setpieces from the maps that likely aren’t going to make it into the existing megamaps.

    Would have been better to work on the game in episodic form with the whole team, one episode at a time with every member involved (e.g. KDIZD?) instead of everyone cooking his own soup. The different story trees and player characters didn’t help in this respect. I wasn’t very keen on them anyway – would have been better as alternative elements beside the standard player/story that give a new spin to the gameplay (different weapons/skill sets, and possibly individual story elements that only appear when playing with them).

    Maybe now you will reconsider the idea of making use of the available GPL remakes (e1m1rmx, dm3rmx (soon dm7rmx as well), e3m5rmx, e4m6rmx) – four less maps to worry about.

    Feature creep, well… At least in my view, from a certain point onwards, you seemed to be getting increasingly carried away, which was my main gripe and concern. More and more stuff was added seemingly just because you could and it eventually developed a dynamic of its own. In the end it often seemed like you were trying to turn Quake into a modern game by force and subsequently reached a point of no return. Ironically, this also includes features that you originally criticized, but then praised as the right and necessary thing. Perhaps a more “back to the roots”-like mindset (or at least awareness of it) might help getting back on track. Re: focus

    Hope this is only a temporary hiccough and will just sort it out without overly drastic measures. What the “inventory” doesn’t say is what you already have, how many maps and how complete they are. A shift of attention, diverting manpower to what’s left in order to complete episode one and three, assuming it’s only “a couple” of maps…

  • kneedeepinthedoomed

    The problem of “everyone cooking his own soup” is really hard to avoid with an unpaid team, since there is no central authority handing out paychecks. The reason for this kind of problem simply lies in the nonprofessional origin of the project as a fan made mod. You may believe me that there were harsh internal conflicts about this type of problem, but in the end project leaders / founders have no decisive leverage in a hobbyist project.

    May I remind you that certain community projects at func_msgboard failed for similar reasons (and amidst bitter personal infighting), such as the “Base Pack”. This situation is a hazard to all hobbyist projects.

    I wouldn’t classify this as a hiccup. It is a stage in a learning process. The change is likely to be permanent, but it doesn’t mean the project is dead. Our core team is very determined.

    We do have a lot, as I said earlier. I think I recounted our existing / likely to be finished assets relatively precisely.

    Existing GPL remakes: We are already using some of those, but it is probably no longer our goal to create a 1:1 recreation of vanilla Quake’s layout. Our new approach means that we no longer have to “fill the level slots” or “complete episodes 1 and 3”. There probably will not be any “episodes” or “level slots” anymore. It is a paradigm shift that allows us to be more flexible yet still produce a well rounded result.

  • Spiney

    Regarding story structure, you could do storyboard cutscenes.
    Max Payne 2 is a game that uses those for example.
    Between levels there could be something of a comic or flipbook, which you could move back and forth through — would need gui support, but seems doable.

    If you need an illustrator I could help you out here, I could give you professional quality artwork — I’m a bit occupied for the next months though.

  • kneedeepinthedoomed

    Good idea, although our story probably isn’t deep or complex enough to warrant storyboards. There aren’t that many interesting story related events in the game, apart from one that is hopefully very deep or even shocking, which I don’t want to spoil here.

    We have GUI support thanks to Spike’s client side QC, we can easily display graphics anytime we want to. In fact we do have some plans that involve (probably fullscreen) graphical overlays (with some text) that could probably benefit from real artwork or even illustrations.

    If you’re interested, I can open the private forum up for you. I can’t really discuss the stuff we are planning in detail here – but we have internal tickets for it. Time isn’t really an issue, if you can make like a dozen sketches in 2-3 years that’s more than plenty… all static stuff, no animated graphics. Possibly monochrome even.

    HUD elements and icons are another thing that an illustrator could do – I mean I can draw, but as you’ll imagine I have tons of other stuff on my hands, I do almost any kind of task already, so if you’d take some off me, that’d sure be helpful.

    Come on our private chat thread and I’ll explain more.

  • kneedeepinthedoomed

    And ironically, what most people will never know is that more than 50% of my project time by now is consumed purely by talking to people.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: