The next release of Alien Arena(7.51) is right around the corner.  The big news for this release is the dramatic increases in performance due to some major optimizations.  The numbers are simply astounding, and make the CRX engine one of the faster rendering idtech-based open sourced engines.  This has always been a major goal, sometimes the solutions aren’t as easy as some people would believe, and other times they are.  We also added a bit of new content, some new fx, and a few bug fixes.  We still haven’t finished the new GUI, but that is coming eventually. 

I will be speaking at this years Palmetto Open Source Conference in March(, as well as having a booth for Alien Arena there.  I will have one breakout session for 45 minutes on some general open source gaming discussion, and Alien Arena, as well as a two hour workshop in which I will go into detail on how a character is created and rendered in our engine.  I am very flattered for being invited to this, and very excited as well.

A few months ago I wrote about the release of Xonotic(and it’s bad timing), and I was genuine when I mentioned that I thought it showed a lot of promise.  Since then, things have gone rapidly downhill for this game.  The biggest issue is the major amount of infighting among the community and developers.  Xonotic has a feature which allows for the balance of the game to be determined by a config file.  This is an absolutely horrible concept to begin with, as players may not know how the the game plays from server to server, not to mention that getting people to agree on what should be the “default” is near impossible.  It doesn’t help that the game is barely playable either, due to some big time performance issues with the Darkplaces engine.  Part of this is due to the over the top polycount of the player models, but there is definitely something wrong when your framerates drop from 150+ to 40 or lower when a few players come into view.  There are some wonderful aspects of this game, such as the new weapon models that are in progress, some of the new maps, and the visual/aural appeal, it’s a shame this game seems mired in turmoil.

The trend of gamers flocking to slow paced, military themed shooters seems to be neverending.  I just saw over 4000 players on Urban Terror servers!  Despite all of the popular “backlash” about them, it seems people are playing them more than ever.  That said, I would never change Alien Arena to be slower, or military themed.  Popularity isn’t a prime objective for me, producing a game that I, and people like me enjoy is.  On a similar note, I really get annoyed seeing the phrase “fast paced shooter” used for every quake based deathmatch game.  Some how it seems that for many, movement became vastly more paramount than aim, and some of these games have increased movement to the point where players are just flying around not hitting/getting hit by anything.  Maybe that’s the appeal of these “race modes” that a few of Alien Arena’s competitors have adopted.  That’s one mode I’ll never understand the appeal of, and it will never find it’s way to Alien Arena.

It seems to me that open source engines are really starting to close the gap on the commercial ones.  Part of this is due to the nature of open source where information is shared, and you wind up with an accellerated curve of development, but another reason is that game engine tech advancement is really starting to slow down.  Remember the 90’s, when you saw the rapid progression from 2d, to the faked 3D of Wolfenstein, then Doom I/II, then Decent and Quake with true 3D, and eventually Quake using OpenGL?  There seemed to be a slight lull in the latter part of the decade, but by the middle 2000’s, we saw dramatic rendering improvements with lighting and shadows, as well as performance.  Now, it’s really kind of slowed down.  Cryengine, IdTech5, UT3.5, they haven’t really made these huge strides, and open source engines are catching up to them in terms of the raw tech.  Don’t think Id hasn’t taken notice, as it appears that they will be making the Tech5 source available immediately after the release of Rage.  Wonder why that might be?

I have many ideas for Alien Arena going forward.  There are certainly some rendering techs that I am exploring such as global dynamic illumination, refraction, steep parallax mapping(with self shadowing), and making things even faster.  I’m also going to get back into a “content mode”(that’s not content as in pleased, but as in game media), and start producing some new maps and updating some more models.  I think I’m gonna start with the megahealth model first, and then possibly do some new models for TCA mode.  I think TCA mode could use some updating anyway, it’s a great concept, it just needs some new, better maps and models for it, and some tweaks that will make it very exciting.  I am also going to do a CTF/TCA version of dm-violator2k11, which I think is maybe my best work to date. 

Speaking of Dm-violator2k11, this is the third time I have created this map.  Originally this was known as dm-probe, originally released in the summer of 2005.  The layout was a fan favorite, despite it being exceptionally dark and hard to see.  In the summer of 2006 it was rebuilt from scratch, and became possibly the most popular map in the game.  It’s style truly reflected the direction we were going in back then, with the cleaner, techy look, a nice departure from the grungy, rust look of before.  I always loved, loved, loved the layout of this map, with the big central, two tiered room, and the looping, intertwining pathways that circled around it.  It made for some dynamic, exciting gamplay.  So for the 2011 version, I once again started from scratch, but keeping the layout concept intact.  This time around things are a little more confined and smaller, but vastly more detailed.  The result is a map that flows like no other in the game, and quite possibly is the most beautiful in appearance. 

Speaking of trends once again…it seems very fashionable these days to bash id Software.  Well this isn’t exactly something new, it’s really been going on since they reached their pinnacle in the late 90’s.  I’ve seen more ridiculous criticism of the upcoming game “Rage” than I care to mention, but let’s suffice it to say that this game isn’t even released and the jackals(meaning 12-15 year old know it alls) are ready to pounce and tear it apart.  Let’s get something straight here – I’ve seen the screens and videos, and the renderer is as good as it gets(yes, better than the latest Cryengine, IMO), and the gameplay looks positively badass.  They really haven’t shown enough to make a judgement too strong one way or the other, so the bashing is a bit over the top.  I feel bad for id Software(well as bad as one can feel for multi-millionaires), they have done more for FPS gaming than any company in history, yet they can seem to do no right in the eyes of cynical fans anymore.  It’s pathetic to me how jaded gamers have become.  Give the game a chance, it may very well suck, but if you go into it with a pre-conceived notion that it’s going to, well, it’s never going to measure up.