In 2008, Alien Arena received a major facelift that forever changed the look, as well as the tone of the game.  Gone were the completely campy characters(many of which were poorly constructed for 2000’s standards), as well as the weapons and items – replaced by much higher quality meshes that took on a more modern, and serious tone.  Oh, there was still camp, and still a retro sci-fi theme, but it was a signifigant change.  There were other changes as well.  We were moving away from our Quake 3 inspired roots, and shifting towards Unreal Tournament’s style of gameplay.  This was a time of massive content updates, often 5, 6, 7 maps with each release.  By the end of 2008, most of the content from the Gold and Uranium edition content replacement era had been replaced.  In some cases, maps were on their third iterations.  The game was in constant evolution, and to this day, still is.

From 2009 to 2011, the major attention shifted focus from content and to the engine.  We had little choice.  The CRX engine in March of 2008 was little more than the Q2 engine with some shaders and a few other effects like textured particles, bloom, and lensflares.  There was that pretty reflective water, but it ran slower than mollasses.  With rival games like Nexuiz making major engine advances at that time, we had to try and catch up.  By summer of 2009, we had per pixel lighting on all surfaces, and by that fall we had improved the lighting and shadowing signifgantly, and revamped the audio.  Skeletal model format followed in the summer of 2010, and by the 2011 release, we had ragdoll physics and implemented AutoTools.  We didn’t stop there.  In 2011, the major focus was on increased peformance, which by the end of the year was dramatic in comparison to what it was at the beginning.  The tables had turned – now it was time for the game to catch back up to the engine.

Back in 2009, a map called Dm-Deimos2k9 was released, and it represented a new artistic standard for the game.  Since then, we have gradually updated older maps, some with complete rebuilds(especially the older post Gold/Uranium era maps), others with more cosmetic improvements.  We also added a number of new maps over the years, each ramping up not only the visual presentation, but also gameplay wise as well.  An emphasis on flow and dynamic combat produced maps such as Deathray, Annihilation, Downfall, and Goregrinder.  We also started looking to add maps that fit the theme even better.  Deathray was a weird Martian station.  Invasion, Annihilation, and Impact were post-apocalyptic urban settings.  Neptune an ancient Martian structure under the sea.

Now in 2012, we have added a ridiculous amount of improvements, as well as new content.  We have seven new levels, a new weapon, a new player character, a boatload of new visual effects, and a signifigant improvement to our anti-lag code.  The list of changes and additions is likely to dwarf any release we have ever had, including the monumental 7.0 and 7.30 releases.  I’ll end this portion with our updated trailer…

Nexuiz/Xonotic – the saga continues.

Over the last couple of days, I had the chance to try out the PC version of Nexuiz by Illfonic.  Ever since the release of that game, I’ve followed the reaction by the Xonotic crew.  Most of them predictably pan it(and some even seem to harbor an unnatural hatred for it).  I decided to give the game a whirl myself, and while it’s in beta, I can at least comment on my experience and thoughts on it.

The first thing I noticed was that after starting the game, it had a nice, clean menu system.  Kudos to them for that, in an era where overdoing the menus seems trendy, this is what a game menu should be.  What it shouldn’t be though, is not allowing me to change my movement keys.  I don’t use the standard WASD config, and there was no way for me to change it.  Boo.  The second thing was, that I couldn’t just join a server.  I had to select a map, and it searched for matches using that map(without regard for game type) for me to join, placing me in some sort of lobby, where I couldn’t really talk or do anything but wait.  And wait.  And wait.  Once in a while it would say a “short” which I assume is Illfonic slang for “match” was starting in 25 seconds, but then somebody would leave the lobby, and it would revert back to “waiting for players” and start all over again.  It took me hours before I ever was actually able to play in a game.  I wound up in a CTF match…

But here is where the experience changed for the better.  First off, let me say this – the game has nothing in common with the original Nexuiz other than the name, and the names of a few weapons.  Otherwise, they could have called it “Battle Bots” or some other cheesey name, it wouldn’t matter.  It’s not Nexuiz as we know it.  Second off, I had to scoff at people(mostly Xonotoids) who claim that Xonotic actually looks better than this.  Are you kidding me?  The “new” Nexuiz blows Xonotic out of the water on a visual basis.  Look, I love the Darkplaces engine as much as anyone, but Crytek it is not.  Gameplay was actually quite fun, and I played a few rounds of CTF as best I could with controls I wasn’t used to.  Speaking of the Crytek engine, yes, the performance was not great.  Even on medium settings, the frame rates were pretty bad on my rig, which had little trouble with Rage.

Overall, not too bad for a beta.  Hopefully they iron out some things between now and release in a few weeks, and make it a little easier to join a match of your choice.

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