sh0dan // VoxPod

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Book done

Just finished Chapterhouse: Dune yesterday night. A very open ending to the Dune Series - I still don't quite know what to think of it. It seems right, that Herbert had something planned, but never got it done before he passed away.

So now, I've begun reading Ender's Game. Actually this is a bit backwards since I "accidentally" started by reading Children of the Mind - the last book in the Ender series. Silly. I just didn't think there were books before this one.... Anyway, CotM was quite good, so I decided to start on Ender's Game anyway, even though i know the outline of the story.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Content Creation Tools

After finishing Doom3, I've begun looking a bit at the engine.

I was a bit surpised at how similar it was to the Quake Engine, and to be honest I had expected more development here. Of course changing the engine more radical would also mean that all previous licencees of the engine would have to re-learn things. Thus, by keeping the basics the same, the Quake to Doom3 transition will be much easier for licencees to accept. It does however mean that Doom3 becomes less attractive in the long run.

How was Doom3 done?
Basicly stuff is done by scripting, scripting and more scripting. While I can understand this for historic reasons it just doesn't seem like a very productive way of achieving things.

The very nice ingame GUI's are all described by scripts. All items are described by tediously entering coordinates, RGB colors, calling other scripts on clicks and so on. Honestly I cannot see (even as a programmer) how the iD folks could stand having to script literally hundreds of screens this way.

In similar way most, if not all, interaction and events are scripted in a C++ like language. So for a rotating bridge you need several hundred lines of code just to make an interactive bridge with a GUI-screen to select where it goes.

Artist Productivity
This leads me to the main point of this rant. How do you create things for maximum productivity for your team. Doom 3 is IMO an example of "overprogramming" - creating more hurdles and long testcycles for your entire team. The testcycle seems far too huge for so simple operations. Having to load the level, open the GUI just to see how your RGB-values align up just seems very counterproductive to me.

Scripts are popular. They give a great amount of flexibility. Everything is visible in scripts, but sometimes tedious and hard to debug. My guess is that scripts are also popular because their initial development time are rather small. Creating new features, where GUIs are needed takes more time to update than adding another script function. So the basic tradeoff are in most cases:
  • Time saved by getting new tools to the artist.
  • Extra time spent by the artist by having longer feedback time on changes.
Having a drag&drop interface for creating GUIs will make feedback time zero, since it's WYSIWYG. So when you are selecting a new color you get instant feedback on how it looks with the rest you are doing. When John Carmack talked about "ingame editing" this was what I imagined. Not having a console command spawn up the editor outside the game, or haing to reload the level for every minor change you make.

I think iD can only thank themselves for the long development cycle they've had, by not doing the content creation tools they IMO should have done. There are plenty of inspiration out there, and iD beeing so programmer-focused is not really what I expected. It is possible to have scriptlike features without having to script. And even though the Serious Engine is pretty dated, the instant-feedback editing and "visual scripting" does show that it is possible to do a lot more without having to go into script code.

More things
There are a lot of other related stuff I won't get into. But D3 IS impressive overall - but productionwise it's the same as Quake 3, with an upgraded graphics and sound system.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

ID software has done it again

Doom 3

It seems like ID software has done it once again; released a mindblowing game. I had the luck to get to play a few hours of Doom 3 at my friends place. The best word for it is "scary". It even surpasses one of my favorite games System Shock 2.

The graphics are great. It plays well on my Geforce 4 Ti4200, at lowest resolution. The shadows and general usage of light is the best I've seen - even better than what I've experienced in Thief 3. Having a room go completely dark or burning red while monsters roar around you is just scary.

But the best part of D3 is actually the sound. The ambient music, the voices all over and the mood of the sounds just make the entire experience. Running around with your flashlight while you hear a monster groan is very instense!

The story (and yes - for the first time ID has actually made a story worth following) is ok so far, but emphasis seem to be more on action and spooking the player. I just wish they had brough in Warren Spector in his glory days to help develop the story. It seems quite predictable, and not up to System Shock standard. But still way better than anything ID has ever done.

I'm looking very much forward to purchasing the game myself, so I can get on with the game.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

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