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    PlanetQuake | Articles | Interviews | Big Fuzzy Focus: Alternate Fire
   

Big Fuzzy Focus: Alternate Fire
New ways to live..and die.
— by Pappy-R


 - click for full size image
Tossin' Chaff!

Pappy: What have been the hardest goals to achieve to date, and do you have them licked or still on the drawing board?

haste: Hands-down, the hardest goal so far has been to get the Lightning Web to work just right, and I think I finally have it licked, though I think John Carmack would kill me if he saw the code. (Maybe not - I think if I just generalized it a bit that would do.)

At first, I had every web strand sending a new entity to each client. That was 70 brand-spanking entities for each client in one server frame, so I ended up lagging everybody for at least a second every time a web was created. I only discovered it when I put it on a server.

So I fixed it up to send one event instead and had the client figure out how to draw it, but that meant that if you weren't around to see it created, you would NEVER see it (or hear it), which was also bad.

I finally got it working so that it had one controller entity which was sent to the client as needed, but a bug somewhere else in my part of the code kept it from getting deallocated. The controller entity took up just enough CPU time on the client that, after about 20 or 30 of them were created, the client's FPS took a steep dive. It was ugly on that beta test - no Lightning Webs. Ack.

In all, it took about four iterations to get it right. Now it works. ;)

Pappy: Was it difficult getting a team together, and are you still looking for help?

haste: It hasn't been difficult to get a team together because I've been a one-man team. I will be looking for help on 2.0, since I'm not an artist and I'll be adding alternate powerups (like, you get almost a double powerup but you take a big penalty afterwards - imagine double-speed Haste with Lameness afterwards). The powerup items will need some new models, skins, or both.

I'll probably not need more on coding, since I'm not planning on doing anything especially complex. My goal from when I started was to add a bit more to the game, not change it completely around. (Of course, if my little changes end up doing just that, I won't complain.)

Pappy: What do you think are the strongest points or features about your project that will attract players?

haste: I'll have to split this into two parts - attraction and retention.

Attraction: I think people are initially attracted to the exploding ammo, the BFG overload, the homing missiles, and just plain cool special effects.

Retention: I think people will stick around because of return-the-flag CTF, the extra strategic elements, and the new slant on tactical situations. And the homing missiles.

The crazy thing is that the initial attractors don't seem to necessarily be the same things that make the game fun. Exploding ammo and a sabotaged BFG are actually useful in surprisingly few situations. On-demand immunity from splash damage, the ability to camp an item without being there, the extra effort it takes to retain your team's flag and the new and more difficult trains of thought required in battle are actually the things that make this mod fun and different.

And the homing missiles.

Pappy: How open do you think you are to community suggestions, and have there been many?

haste: To tell you the truth, at least half of the game is made up from suggestions. We've had many a brainstorm at work (I'm a programmer by trade) about this mod.

I'm always very open to suggestions from outside work as well. For example, when "Octovus" thought it would be cool to let you spectate your BFG overload shockwave and all the carnage, it was too cool to leave out of the next beta. I can't just blow off a new suggestion without thinking about it, and I always at least email back people who make them.

However, I do have some rough guidelines that I use to determine if something will make it:

  • if it's an attack of some kind, it can't overpower everything else; sometimes this means an "antidote" of some kind, dumbing down the attack, or giving it a deterrent (for example, the 1.5-second radius rail preload)
  • it can't exist for humor's sake *only* unless it's only cosmetic
  • it can't be a simple alteration like rapid-fire or making everything explode
  • it needs to add something to the game, either tactically or strategically (it must have at least one purpose)
  • it can't be so complex that I'll never finish it
  • it can't make the game so complex that it's unplayable
  • it has to be "cool" (very subjective) - it needs to be useful enough of the time - this can sometimes be weighed against the "coolness" factor - it can't require changes to existing maps
  • But don't let that stop you! If you have an idea, send it to me! Most of what's in the game has been worked and reworked until it fit the criteria. At one point, I was ready to toss the radius rail attack because its absolute badness would have kept everyone from using the rail gun's primary attack, but I saved it with the 1.5-second preload. I'm glad I could save it - it's easily one of the most popular attacks in the game.

    Pappy: Why did you choose the Quake 3 engine for your work?

    haste: I chose it mostly because I have a (legit) copy of it and id makes the game source available. That, and I'm also one of many thousands of John Carmack admirers - and I'm not ashamed to admit it! :)

    Pappy: If you could have anything you want happen with the project, what would that be?

    haste: I would love to see it on lots of public servers. If one day I loaded up GameSpy Arcade and saw a list of 20 Alternate Fire servers, that would make my decade.


    Related Links:
      Q3 Alternate Fire
      Talk about it on the PQ Forums


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