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volume 1, issue 36

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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Acknowledgments: A lot of people deserve thanks for this article...Jason "loonyboi" Bergman took a moment to thank them all.

Raven-Games.com: A great resource for classic Raven games.

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Put a Little Love in Your Pocket!: Trying to understand Pokemon? Our loony editor got to the bottom of the GameBoy phenomenon.

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Inside Raven Software:
the definitive history (part two)

By Jason "loonyboi" Bergman

Needless to say, working on three games simultaneously was a lot of work for a relatively small developer like Raven. But, as Raffel explained, there were other factors involved, "everyone looks at id…these guys are the exception. They could control their destiny because they had the technology. We couldn't. We could be pushed around by publishers. And we were! We had publishers who would try to bleed us out…hold back payments, and then say, 'oh, we'll buy you.' So what we came up with was that we needed to have different sources of income coming in. We needed to grow to a certain size to bring in enough capital to go through those rough times and still have money." Regardless of the reasons, three titles are a lot of work for a single developer of this size. But according to Raffel, "one of the things we do really well around here, better than a lot of companies, is focus our people on deadlines and getting things done, and doing things in an organized fashion."

But no matter how organized they were, there was one windfall they weren't quite ready for. It's strange to think about from the sidelines, but up until Hexen II, Raven had never actually made a 3D game before. While those of us who played Doom and Quake naturally assumed the transition would be an easy one, that didn't seem to be the case at Raven. "We probably had as many people on Hexen II as we did on Hexen," Raffel explained. "We didn't realize the magnitude of going from the Doom engine to a 3D engine." Rick Johnson, who was one of the programmers on the title, put it all in perspective, "Hexen II represented a transition for Raven, or at least a time period of games when they kind of went from the small project to a larger scope. I think we didn't quite realize that during the development of Hexen II. When we started Black Crypt there were four of us: two programmers, and two artists who also did the levels. With Soldier of Fortune, right now I have eleven programmers and six or seven artists. So you can see in less than ten years how much the production process has grown. And with Hexen II, we didn't quite realize that yet. We just had two designers, Eric [Biessman] and Brian Raffel doing all the levels. And that was a tremendous amount of work. We didn't realize how much time it took to make a level, especially with the BSP problem. You make a level, you wait an hour or two, or if it's Brian Raffel's map, you wait eight hours sometimes…but that's another story."

"I was really bad," admits Raffel, "I remember I made this blacksmith's shop, and I put pokers coming out of the fire, and I had all this stuff going, just crazy stuff. But we didn't know what BSP was. And you know, they had leaks! You have to get this thing air tight."

GLQuake? What's a GLQuake?

But there were other major changes as well. Whereas Hexen and Heretic multiplayer were designed for LAN play, suddenly Hexen II had to be made with the Internet in mind, as Rick Johnson recalled. "We weren't used to how important the net play was, let alone how sensitive the Internet was. When Hexen II first came out it was horrendous. All these technologies were hitting us at the same time, and we really weren't prepared for it." Hardware acceleration was a whole other can of worms. If you weren't one of the first people to purchase Quake, then you don’t remember the fact that it was an MSDOS program. When Quake first shipped, hardware acceleration wasn't even thought of, let alone possible. But as work started on Hexen II, this thing called "GLQuake" was making the rounds…and suddenly 3DFX hit the scene. Johnson explained how weird this was, "So with software you’ve got sixteen megs of RAM. Now you've got this Voodoo 1 that only has two megs of texture memory, and all of a sudden our game didn't fit into it."


(Continued on next page)


Credits: Illustration © 1999 Rowan Crawford. This article is © 1999 Jason Bergman. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't try it...or we'll peck your eyes out.