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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.

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Inside Raven Software:
the definitive history (part three)

By Jason "loonyboi" Bergman

One of the amazing things about Heretic II's development, is how fast it was made. Heretic II, despite the licensed engine from id which wasn't suited initially for a third person title, was completed in under a year. "I was a slave driver," Pelletier joked. "We actually started production in February. [Initially] we had all artists on the project…they'd only been at Raven six months, and doing gaming for six months. As for our designers, the only accomplishment under their belt was the Hexen II Mission Pack: Portals of Praevus. So they'd only done like three levels or something. And even some of the programmers we had, we had just hired…so the first three months was just a struggle."

Let's plot out the time frame here. New staff is hired. Work begins on Heretic II in February…and in May there's a playable demo on the floor at E3? "When we had that demo done for E3, [that] was all the game we had. We didn't have anything else!" If that sounds crazy, think about this. E3 was in May, right? The game shipped…in November. "I think it had to do with the fact that a lot of the people on the team knew exactly what this game was going to be. We all shared the same vision. That's what made the game go so smoothly."

As work on Heretic II was getting into full swing, the rest of Raven started working on a different title, Soldier of Fortune [SoF]. The game marks a major turning point for Raven. For starters, it's a license, and not an original creation. But also, it's grounded in realism, instead of the fantasy/sci-fi worlds of their previous games. "This is the first realistic, in a worldly sense, game that Raven's ever done," Eric Biessman explained. He doesn't see that as hurdle so much as the sheer size of everything. "The thing that is the challenge, is the scale. That's the only problem. Because I can turn on the news and see all the conflict and strife that's happening now, and that can give us ideas to make the game more believable. But in terms of just creating the game, having guys in there that actually look like, 'oh, this is a door, it's not thirty feet tall.' Whereas if you're in space, an airlock, it can be however big you want it."

Solider of Fortune benefits greatly from GHOUL, their modeling system/creation tool. Using technology originally made for Spectre, the applications of GHOUL are really quite impressive. "GHOUL is a system for doing models and artwork essentially, so it encompasses the whole process from the content creation side all the way to rendering within the engine," Gil Gribb explained. "It's got a lot of good features in terms of flexibility of what we can do with the models. For example, a Cobra Helicopter, we can put guys on the inside and have them twist their heads." One of the really interesting features of this system is the way characters are made up. In previous games, you would have a single model that made up a character. With GHOUL, characters are segmented. They are in Quake 3: Arena as well, but GHOUL does it a little differently.

Remember when you were playing Half-Life and got really frustrated with the fact that no matter how many times he died, Barney just kept showing up again? Or the fact that there were only three different scientists? Well, with GHOUL, the designers don't have to worry about this problem. Each character is a mixture of different body parts, allowing for a huge number of possible combinations. Gribb explained, "there's multiple enemies put together in the same file. Our biggest enemy, the meso has more or less, three complete sets of enemies inside of him. He has something like two hundred and fifty-six different parts. Now for any given enemy you're going to see in the game, something like twenty or so of those will be on. Then when he gets shot, that will cause us to turn on more parts to show gore and things like that."

 

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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.