John Carmack talks about the physics of light and rendering

For a while now I am thinking that you don’t really know something until you can easily explain it or talk about it, in simple words and with people who might not even know one thing about the subject.  John Carmack is well known and respected in the field of computer graphics and gaming, and watch him talk about light and rendering!  I now nothing of it, and I watch this whole talk, glued to the screen, catching every word.

Apart from the physics of light, this provokes thought on other subjects too.   The complexity of simple things comes to mind.  Something that we all observe every day and seldom think about – turns out to be so complex.  The importance of computer games is another subject.  I’m a big fan of Quake in particular, and I’ve heard a billion times people asking questions on why is this important at all and how this makes the world better.  Well, I guess, that question is easy to answer now.  Some game makers push the technology, push the science, and they do make the world better.  But they need us – gamers, once in a while, to pay for that and to provide feedback on what works and what doesn’t.

Very quick pass through 100% of Quake

Quake, a revolutionary game released back 1996, is awesome even by today’s standards. Maybe the visual effects have moved up a notch or two in the modern games, but the game play, the maps, the balance of the weapons – all these are much harder to figure out and Quake still kicks butt of the most modern games in those aspects.

Today, via Goblin, I came across these awesome video – a guy is going through Quake levels as fast as he possibly can, but at the same time, opening each and every secret place and killing each and every monster. That’s a 100% pass! Most of us, even hardcore gamers who finished the game back in 1996, haven’t seen every corner of every map. Now is the chance.

It takes only a minute or so per level. The precision and the speed are mesmerizing, sucking into the monitor. The sounds and familiar locations bring back nostalgic memories. I almost want to install Quake on my laptop and give it another go through. Maybe now, in 2011, I have a machine to run it at full speed.

Another Quake 3 impression

As I mentioned earlier, I’m back to Quake 3 battle fields.  I am still trying to remember things, and adjust my brain to how it all works.  While major things are still there, and still important, there have been quite a few small changes.

Quake 3 is very much about mods (modifications).  There are many mods out there, and each of them takes Quake 3 into a different direction – different physics, different graphics, different gameplay.  When I used to play Quake 3 five years ago, the two most popular mods were OSP and RA3.   I never particularly liked RA3, despite its beautiful graphics.  All my time was spent in OSP.

That’s where I started now.  But what I quickly found out is that OSP isn’t as popular now as it used to be.  The mod of the new generation is CPMA, which stands for Challenge ProMode Arena.  It has OSP built-in as an option.  It is also based on the ProMode settings, which we also played sometimes.  But overall, it’s a different thing.

What is different?  Here is a quick overview as I saw it:

  • CPMA is much much much faster than OSP.  It’s unbelievably fast.  OSP was never slow by any means, but CPMA is so much faster that I’ll need a lot of time to adjust.
  • CPMA introduces more moves and enhances the old ones.  Double jumps are there.  Circle jumps.  Strafe jumps are there, but they are much faster now.  There is more in-flight control, as it was in ProMode.
  • CPMA brings in more maps with more tricks.  With all those increased speeds, a new set of maps was pretty much a requirement.  The well-known pro-q3dm6 used to good enough for TDM and 1v1.  With CPMA it feels very small, almost tiny, even for a duel.  CPMA maps are bigger, but not more complex.  They also provide features for all those tricky moves.
  • CPMA uses faster weapon-switching, like it was in ProMode.   Instantly switching between weapons in heated combat adds to intensity of the game.
  • CPMA handles timing differently.  First of all, the timer doesn’t show seconds.  Players are forced into doing timing in their own head.   Although this is not a big problem for a mildly experienced player, it still feels a bit weird.
  • CPMA handles health and armor stuff different.  I’m not sure yet how differently, but it seems that when hit, player loses more health even if he has armor, than he does in OSP.  Also, picking up armor is a bit different now.  Basically, you can’t pickup yellow armor after picking up red, without receiving some damage in between.  Oh, and there is a green armor there too now.  So it works out like this:   green armor is the weakest, then yellow, and then red.

There are probably a few other things that I haven’t noticed, but even these are make for a sufficient list.  How does it feels now?  Here is how I feel about it after playing a couple of times:

  • Extremely intense!  I still can’t believe how fast this thing is.  It’s painful to watch.  It’s even more so to play.  I can’t blink once over the course of a whole match.   Two main components of this intensity are greatly increased movement speeds and instant weapon switching.
  • Timing and movement is everything.  If you can’t move, you are dead.  Instantly.  If you can move, you are dead instantly anyway.  The only way to survive even a brief fight is to have you health, armor and weapons packed.  And for that you need timing.  Aim is a good addition to the list, but it’s not a requirement.
  • Respawn points are much more important in CPMA than in OSP.  Respawn points are well known (CPMA even highlights in the special way).  When a player enters a game, he is not moving.  For a split millisecond he’s stationary.  That’s an easy target.  And when a player enters a game, he has no armor or weapons (except for a tiny machine gun and a gauntlet).  It’s like shooting fish in the aquarium with a shotgun.   Oh, and there is a sound that notifies your enemies at which point you respawned.
  • Communications in TDM are less important now.  Things are changing too fast – items availability, players locations, etc, to notify team-players about them.  And there is  plenty of stuff going on on its own…

Stay tuned for more of these, as I get more practice…

Born again Quaker

I am back in Quake 3.  It all happened very fast and very unexpected.  I used to play Quake 3 about five years ago, and I have to tell you, we had plenty of fun back then.  But one thing led to another and I dropped out.  I haven’t heard anything about Quake 3, haven’t watched any demos, or haven’t even talked about Quake 3 in the last 5 years or so.

A few days ago I noticed a colleague of mine spending his lunch break chasing someone in pro-q3dm6 map.  I got a overwhelmed by a wave of memories and forgotten feelings and I asked him if I could play a round on his computer.  He agreed.  It turned out, he was playing against my own brother.  My brother, being a mean chap as he is, started playing Quake 3 too, with some guys from the college, but never pushed me to return.  Now that I was chased by him around the arena, I remembered that he mentioned his comeback once or twice.

Anyway, the quick match showed that my Quake 3 skills were gone.  All of them.  Even despite playing on somebody else’s computer, using half-baked configuration, and playing over 150+ ms ping, I still could feel how bad I am in the game.

In a quick chat after the game, my brother mentioned that my laptop should be fast enough to run Quake 3.  Of course, it’s not a gaming station by any means, but it should be sufficient to handle a game written a decade ago or so.  He was right.  I fetched a dusty CD-ROM and installed the game.  A quick Google search over my blog archives helped me to get back my old config file.  And I started practicing with the bots a bit.

Boy, was I ashamed.  Bots were killing me with any weapon on any map in any position on any level of difficulty.  It was almost unbelievable.  Everything was gone.  I couldn’t move. I couldn’t aim. I forgot the maps.  I forgot the controls.  My hands were getting tired after just a few minutes…  It was like I never played Quake 3 in my life, but worse.

Anyway, I got interested in getting back what I once had.  I was never by any means a top player or a particularly skillful one, but I could run around properly and kill a few people even.  I wanted my skills back.

It turned out I wasn’t the only one.  I quickly found another three or four people who wanted to play some proper Quake 3.  We played a few matches on our own server.  It was slow and laggy, but it felt good non-the-less.

I jumped on my connections to find out what happened to the old servers and old people that used to play.  Surprisingly, the server is still up, and there is another new one brought up just a couple of days ago, and there seem to be some interest – a few people play on a daily basis.  Wow!  That was much more than I hoped for.

Today I truly got back into Quake 3.  I played for three hours, and I played with some people who I haven’t seen for the last five years.  I was surprised to see that they remember me, and that they missed me and all that…  So, what have changed?  Here is a briefing:

  • There are more maps and mods than I can remember.
  • There are more servers around.  Back in the days we had like one or two servers with all proper maps and patches.  Now I have four servers in my bookmarks.  And most of them are faster and richer than those that we used to play on.
  • People are more interested in the game.  Five years ago, Quake 3 in Cyprus was more of a fashion game.  Most kids were playing Counter Strike, and Quake 3 was sort of a “change of environment”.  Not many understood it, not many liked it, but many tried it.  With this, a lot of people were passing by.  Now, Quake 3 is a classic game.  Many games have been made since it was released, and most players moved on.  Only those die-hard fans are still around.  And some new blood, people who want to learn the proper game.

A few things changed.  But the main one is still there.  Quake 3 is still a lot of fun.   The years that passed by, the new technologies, the life changing experiences that happened, none of these changed the my attitude towards Quake 3.  And I feel that I am not alone… and it feels like Quake 3 is not just a game, but a lifestyle.

You will probably hear more about my Quake 3 adventures on this blog in the near future.  Until then, happy fragging!

Mokh is back

[bofh]mokh returned back to Cyprus a few days ago. He’s going to be here with his family for a long time. He is still arranging for the basic needs – Internet connection, phone, and a place to live, so we didn’t have time to chat a lot yet.

But something tells me that my gaming days aren’t just over yet. It’s been a while since I had a railgun in my hands. I was living in piece for years now. But the time of war practice has come. We’ll be doing a lot of shooting soon.

Want to take advantage of me? Start your practice now… before I do.

Quake 4 is out and shipping

Here is a paradox that I encounter most often – the more news and announcements I read, the more I stay behind. The most recent examle of this happening to me is the release of Quake 4. This game is something I has been waiting for the last three or four years. It was The Reason for all hardware upgrades. It was The Reason for all gaming SPAM I receive. And now I missed it.

On October 4, 2005 id Software announcent that Quake 4 was done. On October 18, 2005 Quake 4 started shipping. Trailer has available for some time now too.

And all this passed me by – unbelievable…

Ladies and gentlemen, charge your credit cards!

Quake III Arena source code GPLed

id Software has released the source code for its Quake III Arena for the public under the GPL. That is even before Quake 4 has been released! If you’re interested, you can download the source code here.

Now game writers all over the world can unite and produce some really cool games for Linux, Windows, and Mac. Yeah!