Quake Expo ended not long ago, and it left me pondering quite a few things.  One thing for certain is, that the Quake community, while still alive to a degree, is certainly far less active than it was just even a few years ago.  Part of this is natural evolution of a 15 year old game’s lifecycle(and it’s remarkable that it has lasted this long), part of it is people moving onto other things, and part of it is a little less savory.  IGN has pretty much stripped it’s “Planet” sites down to bare bones.  Planetquake nearly found itself in archive status, and only by the good graces of PappyR and HappyFriar is it still alive at all now.  Once a mighty hosting site, and central location for all that was Quake, it’s all but dead.  Now the community is quite fragmented with no real central location for modders to gather.  Inside3D could be a place like this, but that site is primarily focused on Q1 and Darkplaces mods.  QuakeDev is going away, and other places focus on just one version of Quake or another.  Despite this, Qexpo was pretty successful, with maybe a near record number of booths, but to be honest, the amount of activity and production of actual content was a bit disappointing.  More disturbing were certain people/communities that were well aware of it really didn’t participate.  No Open Arena or Warsow booths.  Xonotic put up a booth but did nothing with it.  However, Tastyspleen did a great job though of talking about Qexpo and the projects with the radio broadcasts, which was a very refreshing and positive development, and given that they are a Q2 oriented group, give hope that maybe there can be further unification in the future.  On the flip side again, that certain prominent projects didn’t bother with a booth(and one flat out said “I’m not participating”), also shows that there could be a growing rift, or attitude of not caring about the original Quake community and just doing their own thing.

Another sad trend I see, is the continual gravitation of new gamers(and even some old) towards slow moving, realistic military shooters in liu of the traditional, fast-paced arcade style deathmatch games of the past.  I still maintain that this is a fad, and that eventually people will once again grow to appreciate the speed of the old-school games.  It really is a natural evolution of skill.  Military shooters are slow, and far easier to learn than the likes of Quake and Unreal Tournament.  Another problem is boredom.  Long standing players just eventually get bored and move on to other things.  Why do you think “race” modes got so popular for awhile?  People had grown tired of the same old run and gun, and wanted another way to challenge themselves.  New players don’t want to take the time to develop the skill necessary to compete in the faster games, and well, many kids just love playing “army man”.  Hell I did as a kid, and now with these virtual worlds where you can shoot bullets and blow things up safely in, it’s no wonder so many people choose this type of game.  But, boredom can affect these games too.  Players want to eventually challenge themselves, and that is where the old-school, past paced shooters come back into the equation.

Speaking of “fast paced” shooters…fast movement is not equal to fast paced.  In fact, some games that claim to be super fast paced because of their movement are IMO, not really that fast paced because their weapons are too weak, or the speed of movement is too fast that it allows too many players to escape combat situations.  Some even say they “prefer” long drawn out battles with weaker weapons, which is really saying “I want it to be slower paced”.  Achieving good, fast pace is a combination of movement, weapon power and weapon balance.  It’s not easy….and it’s easy to have misconceptions about what “pace” really is.

A new version of Alien Arena is around the corner…and it’s now been five months since our last release.  Some extenuating circumstances have prevented us from including everything we wanted to, but there is actually a good amount of new things that will be included.  One item we worked on was adding shadowmapping of our foliage shaders, which now allow for very realistic outdoor lighting and environments.  To display this technology, I created a new map(dm-impact) to show it off(and it’s a pretty good, fun map to boot!).  We also decoupled the renderer from the client, so now having high framerates won’t flood your connection to the server, and smoothed out stair climbing physics.  There were a variety of bot improvements, a new mutator, better LOD detection, and quite a few bug fixes and little optimization tweaks.  On the content front, we replaced all of the old powerup models with shiny new ones, and hope to have four new maps completed.  Another new feature that is in the works for this release is an actual account system, so that stats are now secure and tied in with a player, preventing situations of stat – spoofing and other hijinx.  Looking through the SVN changelog today, the list of updates is a bit more extensive than I had original thought.

All in all I’m pretty pleased with how the game has been developing over the last two years.  After the big content replacement in 2008, we were able to spend a lot more time on the engine.  It’s evolved in fits and spurts, almost haphazardly in some ways, in that we kind of bounced around from one aspect to another, but with such a small team, that is to be expected.  At times it was all about adding new rendering tech, other times it was about making speed optimizations, other times just about cleaning things up.  It’s gotten to the point now where everything has kind of come together and the engine is quite solid and stable.  I’m sure we’ll find new things to tinker with and advance, but it’s nice to be able to focus a little on content and gameplay now.