Lunaran.com Matthew Breit Level Designer | Texture Artist
Fri, Sep 3rd, 2004 | 3:23am
Well, sorta. It wasn't a milestone until just now when I needed to come up with a title for this news update, but it's an achievement on the Byzantine Project nevertheless. All voice acting has been recorded and finalized, so unless I suddenly become disenchanted with the audio quality and do some re-recording this December, this represents a concrete portion of the project that is complete and need not be touched again.
And I'm that much closer to being done.
Byzantine represents a heretofore unheard of level of dedication on my part towards completing the project. When school starts in two weeks, I shall be naming Byzantine as my senior project. I could just do some silly animation like everyone else does, but I don't want to be an animator, nor do I want to spend all my available time on some silly animation while Byzantine sits on the shelf and rots. It'll also feel pretty good to show up SCAD's fairly weak Game Design major by producing a sweet game-based final project without a single ITGM course on my transcript. How much gets done for the class and how much gets done afterwards is up to a lot of things, but for the moment, finishing Byzantine is only a question of when.
I also finished Doom3. I think the most important thought I had while playing it was the realization that I really wanted to map for the engine, but not that particular game. This poses a problem for me, for fairly obvious reasons, but fortunately Doom3 is so arrestingly moddable I can always just change the stuff I don't like, the list of which has unfortunately grown a little long.
Every time I played Doom3 I had a different problem with it. I wrote at length about various things I disliked on the func_messageboard, but here's the short and more complete version.
In order to heighten the tension, id skewed the design of the gameplay towards making it more difficult to avoid being hurt. In fact, in a lot of cases it's not really possible at all. This is due to a combination of all sorts of little things, including the spring-loaded imps, monster closets, continuously booby-trapped items, and the old "surprise it's behind you" trick, but it adds up to less dodging around and more getting hurt. Despite the various opinions bandied about on the board about what it all adds up to, the eventual translation is that it's just slightly less of a game to play. The designers take more of a role in your survival than you do, and all you're left with is a shooting gallery.
Because the monsters don't seem to be as versatile as they could be, seeing as so many inherently lend themselves less to combat than just making the player more unhappy (ie by moving so fast), the level designers were therefore left with few ways to engineer interesting scenarios. Therefore, the only way to make the game harder is to be less creative and more unfair, leading the designers to employ all the mean tricks mentioned above. My favorites include teleporting an archvile and two barons into a small locked room on either side of you, and the Sarge sequence, with the limited cover that kills you if you use it, to force you into the open where his BFG shots will push you off the edge into the bottomless pit.
Felt no different than Half-Life, and the elements they borrowed from System Shock 2 were hardly used to any decent effect at all. They could have woven a twisted story that unfolded around you via the emails and PDA audio logs, but the only real purpose they served was for opening doors and storage lockers. The actual story was over by the time the game started. With the exception of a few door codes, the entire game is playable without you needing to read a single PDA. Furthermore, Counselor Swann and the transmission had no impact on the story, nor did the corruption of Sarge. The first was a footnote, and the second translated into nothing more than another guy to kill. I wanted Sarge to lead me down the wrong path and pit me against Swann. I wanted to have to fight Campbell. Visible opportunity was missed left and right in this category.
I seem to be the only person on earth who was underwhelmed by the sound design. I will admit to playing the alpha, and will admit that the sound scared me all by itself. The monsters were loud, the zombies guttural, the weapons packed punch, the music was twisted as sin ... and then some as yet undisclosed bunch of shit hit a fan and Reznor left the project. Antkow and some guy named Ed Lima evidently scrambled to fill in for all the material that Reznor took with him, and I found the results hardly pleasing. The weapons became weak (the plasmagun disappointed me especially), the zombies whined like girls, and what music existed was hardly memorable.
Oh, but it looks awesome.
Actually, a sarcastic footnote like that is hardly fair to the artists. Carmack's skill is well documented everywhere else on the internet and there's no need for me to document it any further here, but id's strength for a long time has been their artwork. The sheer amount of work alone that went into the game's visual design and content deserves a Congressional Medal of Honor, but the talent behind it is a thick layer of icing on the cake.
I didn't buy it to look at, though. I had some fun now and then, but overall playing Doom3 just feels like work. I give it a 3.