QuakeCon is a special kind of convention. One of the only free general admission conventions around and home to the famous BYOC event they host every year. QuakeCon originally started as a small handful of people meeting up and playing Quake and such together by hooking up their PCs to one another. Then… it grew… and grew… and now they had over 3,000 people just in the BYOC event alone. It is rare to find that many hardcore gamers (mostly PC too) in one place. Just image the electrical bill needed for that room! In addition to the BYOC growing, they have added more exhibitors at the exhibition floor and have had more special guests to appear on panels and such throughout the weekend as well. Each year they keep improving on the previous, and so why don’t you stay awhile and listen.
I started off playing QuakeCon 2012 with Arkane Studios’ new first person assassin game. I already did a full detailed experience of the demo and so I won’t say too much other than it was incredible to mess around with going stealth and going all out guns blazing. I found the weepers, the plague ridden citizens of Dunwall, to be very creepy and the tallboys to be a little intimidating at first. However, even with time and experience the most challenging part of the demo was certainly figuring out how to fulfill your mission. Even going guns blazing required some thought behind it.
The Annual Keynote with John Carmack
This is just a general welcoming and
a few a lot of wise word from John Carmack. They started off stating the plan for the weekend and explaining what the prize car would be for this year. Every year they have a vehicle to raffle off and this year was a super sweet Shelby GT 500! They also announced that the previous organizer of QuakeCon, Marty Stratton, is stepping down and Michael Wolf has taken his place. I’m sure Michael will do an excellent job in the future QuakeCons. They also went to announce that they had demos of Dishonored and Doom 3 BFG Edition on the showfloor and that the Dawnguard expansion for Skyrim is currently available for the PC, but the PS3 version is still in the works. Also Steam decided to put together a really sweet QuakeCon sale and had all the Bethesda/id Software titles on a massive discount. I personally took advantage of the Doom/Quake sales they had. Also QuakeLive isn’t dead afterall. Last year John Carmack gave the impression that QuakeLive was simply not working out and is in the process of dying, but through a QuakeLive Pro membership they have slowly started to rebuild themselves. They are now offering a 1, 3, and 6 month Pro membership in addition to the previous annual one. If you are a previous annual member then you get 2 free months as well.
Then John Carmack stepped up to talk about a few things. He begun stating that Rage had a few flaws; this included the crappy ending and the checkpoint system. More importantly, he apologized deeply for the PC version of Rage as it had so many problems for many of its users. They really wanted to fix their mistakes and hash out a Rage 2 or something, but they figured that it would be best right now for the team to be focused on Doom 4. Which
Bethesda the team decided it wouldn’t be best to talk about right now and wait for it to be more done. John also made a comment about his impression on games before and games now, and the way he sees it is that games are better now. Through the graphical and programming advances made since the olden days he believes that games are well made and more fun, but the old games are still so much harder and no less fun than what they used to be. Then things got really interesting with his keynote. He began to talk about virtual reality and how he expected it to be just awesome, but it hasn’t been too impressive in the past. So after a decade of waiting for someone to perfect it, he still didn’t see anything much better. Well John got tired of waiting and so he stepped into the equation finally and started doing things himself. Through this journey he encountered a fellow named Palmer Luckey who was behind this company Oculus and they were making this headset called Rift. John was extremely ecstatic and got behind it right away by putting Doom 3 BFG Edition as the first Oculus ready game.
The Game of Making Games Panel
A group of great game developing minds got together and answered a couple questions about making their games. Todd Howard from Bethesda says that great games are played and not made, meaning you play the game as you develop it to understand how to make it great. He feels that you can’t over design things, as it can get a little bit out of control sometimes and that you really need to understand how things feel in the game in order to make them work. Ted Price from Insomniac says that their games are tested daily, because a great idea on paper might not translate into a fun concept in the game. They mainly aim for a fun experience with their games and they really like crazy and unique weapons in their games. One downside to testing daily is realizing you might have to “kill your babies” (throw away your ideas) and that is a very difficult thing to do for everyone. Raphael Colantonio from Arkane Studios says you need to embrace the fact that there will be bugs, because that is an unavoidable fact in game developing. You need to design with the most basic rules and the way they do it is just design aspects separately then put them together in the game and experiment with how the game reacts. You literally let the game engine decide the outcome and progress of your game.
The age old question of how to actually get into game development was asked and these guys provided some great tips! For one, put your ego away. That is something everyone has a problem with, but you work as a team and for it to function you need to understand you aren’t the greatest thing ever. Also you need to find your passion in games whether it be fighting games, racing games, role playing games, etc… You also need to prepare for the difficulties, like mentioned earlier about having to “kill your babies”, and use modding tools in games to play around and create stuff. A lot of the id team is from the modding community. Probably most importantly though, is you need to have that drive to be good.
Interview with Harvey Smith
Harvey is an awesome guy and I was happy to get to speak with him for a few moments at QuakeCon. I already have a fully detailed description of our talk and so not much will be said here. I will say that Dishonored is a game bred from a group of people who love the first person stealth action kind of game and so that game is in good hands.
Capturing the Fan Panel
This was dedicated to understand the making of multiplayer games and featured some great minds behind some great multiplayer games. There was Max Hoberman from Certain Affinity whose first multiplayer experiences came from the Mac and then Warcraft 2 and Marathon, also we had Chet Faliszek from Valve Software who used to sit around and drink beer while playing Doom and Quake as his first multiplayer experience, and lastly was Marty Stratton from id Software who would go around arcades with friends trying to beat each others high scores and later Doom/Doom 2 and Command & Conquer as his first experiences. In terms of what makes multiplayer games engaging Stratton believes that it comes from the new experiences in the game developed when playing with friends; Max believes it comes from the epic and crazy unique moments that can only come from a multiplayer match and that we all are actually social creatures; Chet told of a story about a soldier in Afghanistan who would play Left 4 Dead with his wife in the states instead of talking over the phone or through Skype, because their own worlds were really sad and depressing (zombie world not too much better to be honest) and playing a game together got their minds off of it. Now we all have to wonder what goes through the mind of developers when they put/don’t put multiplayer in games that we play, so the panel gave some insight on that subject. Stratton says that a lot of different things filter into that process and with Rage for example, they just wish they had more time for it and he assures us they have big plans for multiplayer at id as well; Chet spoke in regards to Portal 2’s multiplayer, he said that he heard about people playing Portal by switching off to see if they could beat each others times and working along side each other to try solve the puzzles so at Valve they decided to implement a co-op feature that always required a second person; Max believes that not every game needs to have a competitive multiplayer experience and that co-op is the right direction, and more importantly he feels that if you are doing something then you need to do it right. At id, Stratton says that the biggest hurdle in multiplayer for them is trying to be a service and be a game at the same time. You have to understand the scope of it all very well and have a lot of resources available.
On the subject of how multiplayer is evolving Stratton says that the current tech drives the progress of games; Chet says that he doesn’t want to be tied down with mobile games, because they are time wasters and it isn’t tech or anything that drives multiplayer, it is the community; Max says that games that don’t require instantaneous reactions is growing and the reason is that way you don’t have to coordinate between friends. Next they go into detail about why modding is import and Chet says that it is important because it allows them to play the way they want and that those who do it should be justly rewarded; Stratton believes it is a huge part to games and would love to make it easier and the Rage editing tools are planning on being released sometime, but they hire a lot of people at id who were modders of their games first; Max wants to see more user-generated content on consoles, because even on consoles you can be creative like with the Halo forge mode and the community works around the limitations.
Next are a couple fan based questions such as why are some publishers encouraging or restricting modding? Chet says that unmodded games give a guaranteed experience; Stratton says that if you’re restricting mods then you have more control over the intellectual property; Max basically said their team was just like “ah screw it lets do it” to modding. The final question was in regards to the decision of LAN versus online connectivity. Stratton says they are gearing towards connectivity, but it is still important to have LAN; Chet says that the future is for connectivity, because patches and such allow for developers to take risks and that is a good thing; Max says that they want to bring the magic of LAN onto the online experience and it started for him with Halo 2.
The Virtual Insanity Panel
This panel is similar to the end of the keynote presentation, but goes into more detail and had a couple other brilliant minds up there such as Michael Abrash from Valve Software, John Carmack from id Software, and Palmer Luckey from Oculus/ModRetro. Michael actually worked on the original Quake games and in fact! Valve started off their company using the Quake code base apparently. Michael says that we’re at a point in the game industry like when Quake came about and revolutionized first person shooters, but this time with virtual/augmented reality. He believes that in full potential augmented reality will be a game changer and will appeal to the masses, but virtual reality will no doubt give the best gaming experience possible. He then went into saying that Valve is actually doing R&D with both AR(augmented reality) and VR(virtual reality) and would love to get games on the Oculus Rift. Palmer has been into VR most of his life and in fact owns 42 unique units of VR headsets and as he collected them he took them apart and reverse engineered them to understand it and he used what he learned to construct the Oculus Rift. I go into detail about the Rift and have videos on another article so make sure to check it out and learn more about it along with my personal experience with it.
So basically QuakeCon is amazing and there was a lot to see this year. Ranging from Arkane Studios’ supernatural assassin game to getting virtual with the Oculus Rift. Also no where else on the planet will you find as many people playing games in the same room… ever. I hope you guys make your way out to Dallas next year to check out what Bethesda and id Software have to bring to the table. I’m sure they’ll bring out Doom 4 next year too! *crosses fingers*