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    PQ | Features | Mailbag | June 21, 2002
   

PQ Mailbag

Surprise! A weekly mailbag!

Amazing, no? Two weeks and two mailbags. This limited my time to search for new sidekicks, however, and thus it will likely come as no surprise that the inimitable Dire Hamster is with me once again to abuse reader mail, frighten small children, and in general do all the things that hamsters of such size will do.


Question of the Week

Last week's question - is co-op in Doom 3 and Quake 4 worth the time it would take to create, or should they be spending the necessary time polishing single-player and (competitive) multiplayer more? That's not exactly the way it was worded, mind you, but that's the way we chose to interpret it. So, on with the show!


From: Gleeb
Subject: Q4/D3 co-op

You asked if it was worth their time, and I say yes. What's better than going it alone against hordes of hell spawn and stuff in hyper-realistic settings where the world is being invaded by things worse than all the bad bits in all the holy scriptures of every religion in the world? I would have to say doing the very same with your friends and loved ones! Just look at Serious Sam. Most of the servers for that excellent piece of happy are Co-op servers. A QuakeWorld Replacement engine just added Co-op support. Speed runners even do it in groups!

Besides, it's not hard to add support for co-op play either. It's just like DM, but you can't hurt each other (or shouldn't but can, my fave >=D) there is a plot behind the senseless killing, and server admins won't be bitched at for their Map Cycle. Personally, if either of those games didn't have Co-op, I'd be very disappointed, because the storylines really do lend themselves to co-op, what with Q4 being base on Q2, with its hoards of personnel being launched toward Stroggos, and DooM III being set on a different place and time (and character I guess), meaning that we know there is someone else, who can fight along side.


Basically, if there's no co-op, I'm gonna have to carve a chunk out of Texas.

Gleeb.

a madman: It occurs to me that the reason the majority of the Serious Sam servers are co-op is because it shipped with a single deathmatch map. I think there may be some kind of relationship there.

Dire Hamster: It seems to me that the reason that most games don't have coop any more is that it's next to impossible to do things like scripted events, interaction with the environment, puzzle solving, interaction with NPCs, or just about anything else that isn't running and gunning, which tends to get boring on its own. That's basically all Serious Sam was, and while it may have only taken me four days to beat, I was tired of it by the third. Had I not been forced to complete it for a review, I probably wouldn't have.

The only other game, I can think of in recent years that had coop play was System Shock 2, but I really can't say how that turned out. I stopped playing long before the patch ever came out, because of the goddamned space monkeys. Monkeys not only aren't scary, they're non-scary enough as to make the rest of the game seem ing stupid.

Someone needs to make a list of things that aren't scary for game developers to read, and mutant monkeys need to be at the top of the list, along with evil clowns, and zombie crows, and women in dominatrix gear. Oh, and here's a head start on any future monster ideas: baby duckies aren't scary either.

a madman: I think you got just a wee bit off-topic there. I'm not saying that there was much topic to stray from here, because it mostly just boils down to "co-op is good" or "co-op is bad." Sure, it might make an interesting addition - but it's NOT going to be as simple as adding monsters to deathmatch. Running co-op on a hub-based system, which I assume that Quake 4 will use, is an order of magnitude more complex because it requires a separate game, as it were, for each area in the hub. Scripted events, as my esteemed colleague has already pointed out, are damn near impossible to implement well when you don't know when each player will enter the triggering area. The reasons for this should be fairly obvious if you take the time to consider them.

Dire Hamster: I'm not saying that I don't think mission-oriented coop wouldn't be possible, or that it wouldn't be cool, but it would require a lot of effort. The missions would basically have to be designed completely seperately from single-player, which probably wouldn't be worth the effort for the developer, considering there's no real evidence anyone buys games based on the strength of their coop.

a madman: So to sum up: do we think that co-op for these games would be worth having? Yes. Is it worth delaying the release of the game for several months, though? Probably not, considering such an effort would likely be a last-minute hack job. I'd rather see it done well and released later in a patch. I'd also like to note that this was not the only death threat Raven received if they should choose to leave co-op out of Q4. Strange but true.


From: Phoenix
Subject: Coop for Doom 3 and Quake IV

If Doom 3 or Quake IV don't have coop I'm still going to play them regardless, but I think adding coop would open the door to a very fun and sorely neglected part of gaming. Coop has always taken a back seat to deathmatch which I don't think is entirely fair. We already have so many forms of deathmatch to choose from, but what do we have for coop? Quake III has no cooperative play beyond CTF and Team Deathmatch, but it's still player vs player, not player vs monster. Hunt pioneered a cooperative type of play for Quake III, and we're expanding on that with the Resurgence mode for Generations, but even that is a ways to completion so we're still left wanting. That takes us back to the Quake 2 era, and while I really liked Quake 2's cooperative gameplay the only thing I didn't like is there was to my knowledge no way to disable cheating during coop, making online coop servers nonexistent. I've seen ONE to date, and it was plagued by cheaters which completely ruins it. Where's the fun if someone does a "give all" and starts railing YOU alongside the monsters? Team killers, llamas, item hogs, cheaters, etc, tend to ruin the fun and that needs to be dealt with. Maybe if your authentication idea (which I'm still a tad uncomfortable with) was implemented in a decent fashion to get rid of THAT kind of lameness I might buy into it. I hate team killers worse than bot campers and I would like to see both do a backflip into the lava. Preferably with a nice hard shove.

I know Id said that net play isn't a priority for Doom 3, it's primarily single player, but that does not mean Raven has to take that stance with Quake IV. Coop allows for more flexibility than deathmatch and the netcode can be handled differently. Look at Serious Sam's coop, it's very well done and the prediction is very smooth, even for missile-based weapons. When I think back to the old Doom days something always seemed to stand out verses the Quake era of games. Doom's networking had very little network useage, and the effects always seemed to be instant because each client ran their own game environment. The peer-to-peer scheme of Doom's networking code was very effective on a LAN, but the internet (Zdoom here or any of the other Doom ports) has always been a sore spot because of modems being so slow and the fact that peer-to-peer forces the game to run at the lowest common denominator. Usually the guy with 500 ping ruins it for everyone else. However, for Quake IV or Doom III if most of the game functions were to be handled client-side for coop, with the server merely acting as a bridge to let the clients update each other, cooperative play over the net could be a lot more practical. All the game environments would have to do is keep each other abreast of what is going on and give the server the final say if there's a conflict. If player A shoots a zombie at the same time as player B, and the server updates from player A before player B then yes, it would cause some prediction issues but I think that's tolerable for a monster fest anyway. I think, I'm not positive, but Serious Sam's coop seems to behave in this manner. Deathmatch I think the server should still be in control, as that is the tried and true formula. God knows how many cheats there are for client predicted hit code.

This kind of netcode would also open the door for cross-level coop. That's one area that I've always wanted to see is the ability for each client to go to a separate map and do things that affect the overall game before rejoining to go through some other area. That way we don't ALL have to go to the same place every time someone exits a map if you're still in the same "hub". I could infiltrate the security bunker while ConfusedUs could go to the toxic waste dump, leaving LeeMon free to take out the reactor core. Afterward we join up back at the cooling facility and battle through to the next section. Of course that could be a nightmare to implement codewise also, and the server would have to have to update 4 map entitylists or so at once. Would be a blast to play though and someone could really get creative with how they rig their maps, allowing a much more varied gameflow than the usual "find key, open door" and linear scripted format we've seen to date.

Either way I want to see coop make it into at least one of these upcoming games, regardless of what form it takes. It's very fun and good coop is long overdue.

a madman: Man, this guy talks about Generations more than I talk about Bazooka Quake 3. The peer-to-peer connection is an interesting idea for network code, but I really can't see it working terribly well. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Descent is the last game I can think of that used this kind of technology. Considering the FAQ covered such questions as "why can I not see people that are shooting at me?" and "why don't people drop items when I kill them?" I'd say this might not be the best solution. The biggest problem I see with this, though, is that the server basically needs to run a separate server for each of the hubs to keep track of the different enemy and level states in each.

Dire Hamster: Given the amount of RAM that the average computer will have by the time Quake IV comes out, I don't see any reason to believe that a hub system will be necessary, particularly if they plan on including coop play.

a madman: Point taken. Still, the deal with Quake 2 was that it was supposed to feel somewhat continuous rather than simply being a series of discrete levels. That would make for some immense levels if they kept that philosophy for Q4. The real problem will probably be video ram, though, as bumpmapping essentially doubles the amount of texture memory required. Multitexturing even moreso.

Dire Hamster: Anyway, what I think might be a better idea than trying to adapt the single-player campaign to coop play would be to have a bunch of discrete coop maps that could be loaded up and played in any order. That way you could have the more mission oriented goals, and try beating them with different tactics. Besides, you're probably not going to want to sit down and play through the entire game in one session, and saving coop sessions, or rather, trying to get everyone back online together later, is a huge pain in the ass.

a madman: Sounds good to me, but I think people are looking forward to actually playing through the plot of the game with multiple people. At least that's what I'm getting from this letter.


From: Deathgiver
Subject: Co-op in Doom 3\Quake 4

Hi there, I personally think that Co-op would be awesome in Doom 3 or Quake 4, since co-op is single-player with friends

Deathgiver

a madman: Um, right. File this one under "Co-op is good." We'd answer this one again, but it's simpler for everyone involved for you to just scroll back up and read the previous answers again.


From: Jube
Subject: Re: 06/14 Mailbag

In regard to your 06/14 mailbag letter from "Adam" who wanted to know how to play Quake online and use bots... I received that same email, and I answered his question much better than you did. :PPPPPPpppppPPPPPpppppPPPP ;)

I was also going to bitch in regard to "\sp_devmap [mapname]", and the use of of the backslash instead of a forwardslash. But it appears that you can use both, so you're off the hook!

Jube

P.S. I think it's time for Vile Hamster to go back to his cage. He's an evil, evil little man.

a madman: Ahh, but using tab-complete for console commands inserts a backslash. So apparently not only do you do it improperly, you also waste your time typing the entire thing every time. As you didn't see fit to include your response to the question, I am forced to disagree with your biased opinion of your own work when compared to mine. So nyah.

Dire Hamster: Ok, so basically the reason I'm always showing up in the mailbag is that I live right down the hall from him, and I happen to know computer games. So, basically, it's because I'm easy to find. It's certainly not because I'm the most knowledgeable person about Quake, or the most genial guy around.

I'm constantly in his room at all hours, looking through his computer when he's not around, eating his food, and borrowing his car without asking. To be honest, I don't know why he still likes me.

Even when I'm not writing it, my influence is still there, because I'm usually around when he's writing it. And noone else is willing to put up with the screwy hours he keeps. I never sleep, so for me it's no big deal.

As far as I know, he's still looking for a sidekick, and I could use a break from it to be honest. Hell, if you wanted to write it for a week, I certainly wouldn't try to stop you.

a madman: You know, I know someone who used to be pretty evil herself, back in the day. Whatever happened to the good old-fashioned Desktop Readings?



And so concludes the feedback on last week. Next up - tech support and strange people.

Next: It's like the first page, only different!


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