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    PQ | Features | Mailbag | August 31, 2002

PQ Mailbag

Back at last! Sorry about the delay(s), it's been a hell of a month. Missed a mailbag on the 10th because there was simply nothing to do a mailbag with. Missed the next weekend because, honestly, who in their right mind has time to write a mailbag while at QuakeCon? The next week, however, I was MIA because of a little side-effect of QuakeCon - a damaged motherboard that spontaneously rebooted every time I fired up the modem. It's a long story.

Now we're back in action and with me, as usual, is the profound and profane Dire Hamster to pick up the slack. Get ready and please make sure no children are present in the room as we take you for another ride through the reader mail.

Old questions

Nearly any response is old at this point, of course. No one seemed to care one way or another about the Punkbuster issue, but this straggler actually came in not too terribly long ago.

From: Aurora Slyde
Subject: Quicksave Question Revisited...Hopefully.

Hey You Slackers,

Ok, I know I'm late on this response. But I think the Punkbusterquestion just plain sucked. It seems like what a lot of people miss when you look at quicksave vs. game-time ratios is the fact that to keep people interested in gaming, they (them, the makers of games) have had to make the games more difficult. For example, the rampant absurdity in NES games was a form of difficulty. "What the fuck am I supposed to do?" was something I asked myself when I rented a game from the rental store down the street that didn't have the book to go along with it. And even then, some games were just plain old vanilla "wtf?!" even with all the explanations in the world for it.

Now-a-days the absurdity is still there but in a different form, like trying to get through a level of RtCW without getting your nuts blown off by a Sniper or get ambushed in JK2 by a metric ass-load of Storm Troopers from the hallway you just cleared out (or trying to press all the damn buttons needed to fire your weapon without carpal tunnel setting in). Instead of working on interesting designs, challenging levels, and well-balanced gameplay, most companies are just saying "meh, just throw fuck-all at them and see how they do. That sounds like a challenge." Hell, I know for a fact you were pissed when you met the cyborg doodads in RtCW just because they were tougher than anything else in that game up until that point.

Instead of making some interesting twist or coming up with some difficulty level that progressed as you did through the game, they just decided to see how much you could take. And that's where quick-saves come in. It's just a bad excuse by gaming companies that has almost been turned in rule and law. "If it doesn't cause them to reload, it sucks" or conversely "If it doesn't kill them, it wasn't designed properly." Basically it comes down to that brick wall the game erects in front of the user. If I remember correctly one of the major things that makes a good game is not having to reload (according to D.H.) -- Being so well-designed that a quicksave isn't needed. But what would that entail? Would people honestly see that as a challenge? It could be, perhaps, if the game designers themselves thought of *One* really intelligent way of finishing a level that require much skill and great timing. But once people knew that, what would they do? They would quicksave and reload if they strayed from that path. So you see, it is a Catch-22 either way you look at it. Either the game is going to be ruthless and not allow quicksaves and be just as hard as our current games, or it will be watered-down and more well-balanced. Is there really a middle-ground? I don't know. Personally, I think there needs to be a revival of the old Gradius games that wouldn't allow you to save or load. Now THAT'S entertainment.

Aurora Slyde

a madman: Hmm... absurd NES games? He must be talking about Zombie Nation.

Dire Hamster: No, he's definately talking about "Goonies II" here. I still remember that puzzle where to proceed you had to hit the old man on the head with a hammer. There were about 50 of those old men and they all looked like identical fat Buddha clocks, but when you bashed any of the others over the head they just said some stupid shit like "Ouch! What do you do?"

a madman: No, actually you had to punch an old lady in the face. Ironically enough, I believe you received the football helmet for this feat of heroism.

Reading a bit further, though, I come to the part about a well-designed game that didn't require quicksaving because a single intelligent way exists to beat a level. In response, I believe I need only mention the game Hitman: Codename 47. Sure, there probably WAS a way to beat each level without difficulty; you would certainly expect there to be such a path, anyway, as the game didn't have midlevel saving in any of the multi-hour missions. If you played through the game dozens of times you just might find it, but most people "beat" the game by uninstalling it instead. Actually, I believe the primary purpose of that game was not necessarily to play a game so much as it was an attempt to make you appreciate your life - namely, the fact that you're not an assassin and thus get shot in the face very rarely.

Dire Hamster: I think the real purpose of that game was to simulate as closely as possible the experience of being trapped in the movie Groundhog Day. But who even remembers that game? It was horrible.

a madman: Who remembers it? The survivors, that's who. The people who lived it - the people that were scarred by it. The real question here is, can we afford to forget Hitman?

From: "Robert Prus"
Subject: Quake 4

My I am Lovespunge, and I am a FPS gamer, they are almost all I play. I own all three released Quake games and would like to first comment on your article about Q4, it was almost "Wet-Yourself Funny", almost, I can't stress that enough. I think that there should be a good single player experience in Q4, something similar to the more intimate style that is promised by Doom 3, but the single player isn't that important. What is inportant is the multiplayer, that is where FPS's are made and die nowadays. Without a strong MP, the game will be a bust, that is why there are games specifically catered to the MP experience (Q3, Ut, UT '03 etc.). But, the Quake francise should come back to where it came from, the single player. When Q1 went public, nobody was thinking about it being one of the biggest MP games ever, they were making a single player game, with a kick ass atmosphere. So, a good SP mode, will basically make a good Mp Community, the two go hand in hand I think. Also, I think that a Class based MP will be horrible for the game, especially if it is the only style of play. Tha game should be a plain jib spewing, plasma launching, rocket jumping, slug shooting, grenade dropping slobber knocker that all the other Quakes were. It is as simple as that. Let the guns make the games. It isn't in fancy classes, it is in just brutally slaughtering your opponent.

But about Quake 2, I think F4nt0m45 said something about the great storyline in Q2? There is no deep storyline in Q2, as far as I can tell, it is kill aliens and blow up robots, that is what 80% of all FPS's are about. The other 20% are a mix of kill Nazi's (Wolfenstein) and monsters that come straight from hell (Doom). If you are looking for a deep storyline, I think you should go play Deus Ex. It is not a pure FPS, but it has a story, and if that is what you are looking for, then go play Deus.

a madman: He completely forgot KISS: Psycho Circus, where the point was apparently to kill lots of clowns. They may have been demon clowns, but I wouldn't know because I didn't actually play the game. Looking at the box was bad enough.

Dire Hamster: His argument does makes perfect sense if you disregard the fact that multiplayer doesn't sell games.

a madman: And that, of course, is why Counter-Strike is selling so poorly. Seriously, though, it is the single-player game that still has mass-market appeal. It may irritate a lot of people when they get a game home, beat it, and are done two days later... but by that point they've already paid their money and it's a bit late to return it. "Multiplayer-only" scares (normal) people off.

Dire Hamster: It doesn't really matter, though, since Doom 3, and presumably Quake 4 as well, will probably be synchronous connection only.

a madman: For those that weren't paying attention there, that means everyone needs to start the game at the same time. Just like Starcraft. Or Doom. It remains to be seen whether they will be providing any kind of utilities/online service to assist in setting up games.

Other miscellany

It's not tech support, it's not idiotic, it's just a letter from Mr. Mills. I've had the pleasure of chatting with him from time to time before, actually, but I believe this is his first time in the spotlight.

From: "Jerry D. Mills"
Subject: Floating ads

The recent floating Blockbuster pop-up ads that have appeared on your site are an abomination. It really detracts from your site. Please, at least give us the option of closing the ad if we aren't interested. As it is now you have to wait until the ad finishes before you can even start to read the PQ news.

Dire Hamster: We don't like them either, but GameSpy sells the ads. We have about as much control over that as the management of your local McDonald's has if corporate HQ decides to cancel your favorite breakfast burrito. A better target for your ire would probably be emailing Blockbuster video. If you could get together, say, 100 people to email and tell them you hate their ad and as long as you see it you'll stop renting from them, you might make some progress. You could at least expect to get a personal email back.

a madman: I'm not really sure which ads you're referring to, but I consider anything that pops up, flashes more than twice a second, covers the text on the page, has no immediately accessible "close" button, or plays music an abomination so I'm sure I'd agree. Unfortunately, those ads do provide the peanuts and goat feed that Pappy gives me in lieu of a salary - which still beats getting paid with that crappy Monopoly money they use in Canada. So this may be a bit counterproductive, but just remember that the the best defense against those kind of ads is to simply

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