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Tycho / on Wed, Aug 4 2004 at 4:30 am

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Der Hornen

He has returned, but don’t get too excited.  It’s just for this one comic, and then he’s going back.

I can say without satisfaction that we’ve been less than kind to Doom 3 over the course of its development.  We make the calls that seem appropriate based on the information that exists, and by and large I think we do alright.  Precisely because of the technology that runs it, the screenshots it produces are incapable of communicating what it can do in fullness.  Simply put, you have never seen the things you will see playing this game.  I’ll give you an example. 

They have a monster who is an upside-down head with legs, a la The Thing.  If you look at it in a screenshot, it looks pretty stupid.  When you see that the thing is actually draped with wet skin, skin that looks absolutely real in the simulated light, you might pull your feet back from under your computer desk.  Even their rocket heads were not as hilarious as still screens make them out to be.  Certainly, your introduction to them is highly unpleasant - but you probably know that already. 

My machine is not new in any interpretation of that word.  The only real claim to fame I have on here is the SATA RAID I sometimes refer to with affection - outside of that, we’re talking about an AMD 2400, a gig of RAM, and a 9700 Pro.  A couple summers ago, you might have coveted this beast at a LAN Party.  These days, Farcry takes this machine out behind the woodshed. 

I am startled at how well this game performs.

I’m running ATI’s 4.9 Beta drivers, designed with this game in mind, and I’m able to play the game at 1024 by 768, high quality, with enough performance to feel like I’m getting the real deal.  The game itself chose 800 by 600, but I have a reputation to maintain.  If it chose the same thing for you, make the jump to 1024 manually and see if you can tolerate it.  I think you’ll agree, that simple leap is the difference between “marginal improvement over other genre entries” and “I am looking through my monitor at events which are occurring on another world.”   

id’s storytelling, too, has come a long way.  Someone over there played and loved Irrational’s System Shock 2, working the notion of e-mails and audio diaries into the experience.  Let me say something about the interfaces in game for a moment - the computers one interacts with are essentially perfect.  Crisp, clean, genuine interfaces you manually interact with.  As a developer, you’re going to have a hard time getting away with some muddy, two-state texture after this. 

I think that what I had expected was another piece of powerful technology gummed to a bare-bones proof of concept.  That was cynical of me, but id virtually invented the “free standing tech demo as game” format.  I’m happy to be wrong - this is a rich experience in its own right, cunning use of custom technology married to narrative enough to provide momentum.  When one of these mod teams finalizes a co-op experience for this game, you may not hear from me for a while. 

The Zalman Theatre 6 I can’t recommend so easily.  It’s not the price that I find worrisome, I don’t have any problem paying sixty dollars for something I’m going to use every day for hours on end.  It’s just that before I had them, I wasn’t aware just how effective simulated surround sound was.  If you don’t have a point of reference, something to compare it to, there is this auditory wonderland that is just beyond your reach, and no technology enthusiast likes that sensation.  Don’t get me wrong - these headphones are an improvement over stereo headphones, which are themselves an improvement over two channel stereo speakers.  In my case, this is the only Surround Sound I’m likely to own.  The thing that is really potent about an actual surround sound setup that isn’t communicated by this device is that, in a room set up for this kind of equipment, not only do sounds fire from a specific position, they fire from another location in space.  The position is captured well enough, but you won’t be looking around the room for imps - the sense of a larger audio environment, as opposed to one that is simply more precise, was always (for me) the “point.”

At any rate, when I was setting everything up I found a surround sound audio file that helped me test things out.  If you decide to take some kind of audio plunge, it might come in handy.

(CW)TB out.

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