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volume 1, issue 24

Today in loonygames:

New!! The Archives have been cleaned up, fead links fixed, and printable versions restored! Also, don't miss the new comments on the front page!

Livin' With The Sims: theAntiELVIS explores the wild and wacky world that is Will Wright's The Sims, asking the inevitable quesiton, "is The Sims the first step toward a virtual life where everyone is Swedish?"

Pixel Obscura: Josh Vasquez on Omikron: The Nomad Soul.

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So Long, Crack.com: Another post mortem for a development house, this one from Jonathan Clark of Crack.com.


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Guest Editorial:
To Scuttle the Boat

By Randy Pitchford

"What more can you tell us about the game you are making?"

Prax War is known to some, but not all. I think itís valuable to share how our game concept was created and how it evolved and what impact this concept had on our eventual cancellation.

The first thing we all knew is that we would be making a first person shooter and that it would be fully 3D. Itís what all of the content developers had lots of shipping experience with and itís exactly what the technology Billy was creating would be perfect for.

Some interesting things were happening in the industry that influenced us two years ago when we were designing the game. The third person 3D game was evolving and it was exciting a lot of people. We had played Tomb Raider and Mario 64 and were taken by some aspects of what those games provided. I concluded that it wasnít the third person perspective in itself that was so great. After all, we (like everyone else) had difficulty adjusting to the problems of the control interface for both Tomb Raider and Mario 64. It seemed to be consistent that every third person game was much more difficult to control than the first person games we were used to. However, the thing that was uniquely cool about the third person game was that you could witness your character up-close performing cool moves and displaying animations and behavior that were fun to watch. That perspective was impossible, by definition, in a first person game. Our solution was to add several characters that were partners with the player that could exist in the game with the player and give us all the cool advantages of a third person game without the disadvantages of an indirect interface. It just looked cool to see a guy back flip off a wall or something. Since youíd never see your own character perform the act (as your eyes are in his head), we used the other friendly characters to show off the cool animations. The key to this would be hundreds of custom scripted animations and some good friendly partner AI.

Another thing that was bothering us with the first person shooter was that every game up until then had the universe centered around the player. Nothing in the world happened until the player stepped into the next room to wake up all of the creatures there. That wasnít good enough for Prax War. We wanted the player to feel like he was a part of something bigger. I always bring it back to the Star Wars Trilogy and compare our hero to Luke Skywalker. Heís the pivotal character that ultimately destroys the Death Star, but his success relied upon the influence of a number of other interesting and cared about sub-heroes. Luckily, the solution to the "center of the universe" problem came easily because we already had the group of friendly soldiers who would essentially support the player as he carried out his missions. Prax War was becoming a first person shooter with a squad, but I wouldnít call it a squad based game. "Squad based game" implies that the player must give commands to the other members of the squad. In Prax War, the friendly characters would act on their own. Our player wasnít required to command the other teammates any more than Luke commanded Han Solo in the movie.

In addition to developing an amazing 3D rendering engine, the Zelsnacks were big fans of physics. The content developers had just come off working on Shadow Warrior, which was one of the first 3D shooters to feature vehicles that the player could jump in and out of. The game didnít do vehicles realistically because of the limits of the sector based engine, but it was still fun. And, we were seeing how vehicle combat gaming with more realistic physics could make a really fun deathmatch in I-76. Our engineers were sure they could outdo the physics in I-76 (which they did) so vehicles became a big part of Prax War.

Finally, most of us knew that the future of the 3D shooter was going to finally have to take the player outdoors. Attempts at outdoor areas within engines designed for corridor shooters up that point had been not believable, at best. But, fortunately, the engine that was being constructed at RBR was based around the concept of arbitrary polygons. This would allow us to have small and detailed geometry for complex indoor environments and have huge polygons that could build a vast terrain mesh. We were going to be the first 3D shooter that did outdoor environments in the quality of a racing game or military sim. Doing so also allowed multiple structures with indoor complexity that was a little higher than a Quake level.

So, we had several strong hooks and worked the game concept around them. We had indoor/outdoor levels, vehicles, and a friendly team that would fight with the player. The concept of Prax War evolved from the basic premise of "GI. Joe vs. Cobra" to allow us to take complete advantage of all of our primary hooks.

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Credits: Guest Editorial logo illustrated and is © 1999 Dan Zalkus. This Guest Editorial is © 1999 Randy Pitchford. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited and not nice.