QExpo Reviews

As previously mentioned I wrote some reviews for QExpo that RPG posted on his booth. Unfortunately due to time constraints a couple didn’t get posted so I’ve decided to post them here, along with the others I did.

DM3RMX by Than (download 2.33Mb, booth, func_msgboard)

Dm3rmx1Than slipped one in with a remake of DM3. Whilst not one of my favourite maps (to be honest I never particularly liked the original id DM maps) this remake is definitely worth a look. My first run through the level in DM wasn’t overly positive, I thought what the hell was different?

But years of custom map abuse have dulled my senses. I’ve become accustom to the good life and a quick look around Romero’s original reminded how utterly appalling it was in terms of architectural delights. And texture alignment? Mmm quite.

However what I didn’t realise was that there was twist, this is not just your standard issue remake or deathmatch level, it’s also a fully fledged single player level too. DM3’s original layout has been extended out to create a honeycomb maze style layout. As you progress you switch back and forth through previously visited areas, where panels have moved and doors have opened. It’s great fun but it has to be said that it’s unbelievable hard. I mean, three Shambler’s at once? Ouch.

In DM the map is very faithful to the original, with the SP mode’s extra areas blocked off, and for all intends and purposes, they don’t exist. Now I’m no expert on DM3 so will no doubt get lynched for whatever I say but to me a lot of play seemed to centre around the LG and RL water area with a bit of jostling for the Pent and MH and also in the two floored atrium containing another MH, RoS and Quad. Entertaining for a while but hardly making use of the maps large footprint.

Dm3rmx2The idbase textures (along with some extras) are put to very good use. It’s one of those texture sets that when used properly, looks great and this is a cracking level to look at. But you’d expect from Than. He might eff and blind like the true English man that he is, but he can map the pants off a Vore at forty paces.

There are also plenty of in references and some tough secrets. Actually, I must say I love the underground Doom II style secret. Very cheeky! This is how custom Quake maps should be done.

Travail Preview by various (download 6Mb, booth)

Travail_prev1So this Travail preview… well the start map is a nice opener. It’s very Vondur like in style with sprawling spacious atriums, overhanging ledges and intimidating architecture. As to how it fits in with the story line, I’m unsure, but I like it.

In contrast the opening map of episode one, Ingeniero de la Destruccion, gives a rather gloomy impression. It’s cramped, untidy and dare I say it, old looking. That said the initial bout is an intense affair, with reasonable use of the environment, keeping the player locked in small areas with lots of grunts and enforcers. Ammo and health are tight throughout the level, but if you’re conservative and accurate it’s not much of a problem.

Once you get above ground things you’re given a bit of breathing space to look around and admire the view. You emerge out from under a waterfall to be presented with a large open area leading off towards bridge and a couple of bunkers overlooking your position.

The peace and quiet doesn’t last long as an onslaught of orge’s, scrag’s and enforcers rain down. From here you end up back indoors inside a cavern with a water filled lower section. Again conditions are cramped and after another couple of battles, you exit via a drain. It’s a good 10 to 15 minutes gameplay.

I have some concerns though and they’re all with Ingeniero. In some parts of the level there just isn’t enough space and it feels hard to maneuvoure about or take some form of cover. Detail wise it’s also a little lacking. Some of the structures seem brittle and fragile, reminiscent of Quake’s original levels. The bulk and weight of Quake’s later custom maps seems to have been ignored. You only need to compare it to the start map to see what I mean.

Travail_prev2I’m also puzzled by the odd looking bridge near the entrance to the final section of the map. It’s chock full of crates and is a pain to navigate. It seems like an afterthought and stairs would have made more sense to me.

As an indication of the full fat offering, it’s promising. The execution and balance of the varying themes is good (even though there are lots of textures used) and the enemy placement is well thought out. It’s certainly hard but equally just as satisfying. My lasting impression was positive and I look forward to more.

TrincaSP3 – Underground Base by Trinca (download 4.2mb, booth, func_msgboard)

Trincasp3-1Potential, that’s the key thing to take away from these maps and it’s what Trinca has shown. Objectively though, the main level is a distinctly average map and whilst the list of deficiencies isn’t fatal, their cumulative effect does bring the episode down a few notches. My list was as follows: It’s mostly 2D, very hard, too linear, doesn’t fully do the texture set justice, some of the architecture is bland and the lighting is flat.

However the mini three level episode format (start, main map, end boss map) works well, and the idbase theme gels together nicely. They’re a playable set of maps with a very distinct beginning, middle and end. And I do like the variety of enemies which makes a change from the standard fare of grunts and enforcers (although there’s one or three hundred of them too). The centroids from Scourge of Armagon are a cool touch, but I didn’t particularly like the Zerstörer enforcers. Their blue uniforms just clash with everything!

Trincasp3-2There are also positives here for Trinca to take away. There is some attempt at making good use of the texture set, in particular the carved tunnels either side of the final blue key door. Perhaps looking at dm3rmx and e1m1rmx will give ideas on how to improve that further.

Also everything seems aligned properly and pointing in the right direction, which shows good attention to detail. Enemy placement is good too, with plenty to keep the player busy. Altogether it shows that the basics are in place. Now more concentration and effort is needed in pushing forward with architecture and layout detail. Keep at it Trinca!

Grunt Grenadin by Madfox (download 2.5mb, func_msgboard)

Grenade-1What? I’m sorry but I gave up on this one, I ended up going round and round in circles… apparently looking for the entrance to an underwater passage. Initial impressions were not good and it didn’t do anything to redeem itself. You have walls that are actually doors and keys that act like remote key fobs and open the walls… sorry, doors for you. The problem with that is that you then run around like a headless chicken looking for a door that no longer exists.

Oh and coloured lighting is like marmite, you only need a bit of it to get the desired effect. Real world lighting isn’t like the psychedelic vomit exhibited here. It seems to me like this is just one large test map where in parts the construction is bordering on the passable (like water area with the two overlooking buildings, one with a Quad symbolGrenade-2 on) but it’s mostly awful. It’s as if it’s just grown over time into this sprawling mess. It’s convoluted but that would have been ok if there was some level of consistency in the texturing and lighting. And enemy placement… why would a scrag be floating in an underground corridor?

So let’s stop whilst we’re well behind. Suggestions to the author, do not use colour lighting again until you’ve mastered basic texture alignment and trigger, item and object usage. Please? We’ll just pretend this was test map. Now where’s the aspirin…

Note: DM3RMX and Travail screen shots yoinked from RPG’s site.

Alt + Tab Replacements

Given that one of the most consistently *popular searches on my site is for TopDesk (blog posts) either with people looking for similar apps or serial number generators, I thought I’d try to help out with the former. The latter I’ve commented on before, $9.95 is cheap.

So here’s a list of what springs up on a quick Google search, with half arsed commentary:

  • TaskSwitchXP (free) – If you’re after a enhanced Windows replacement, this is the best of the bunch. A medium sized window appears on top of your desktop and you get a thumbnail view of the selected window, with a list of mini icons. It’s very tweakable.
  • Screen Edge Task Switcher (free) – Not a true Alt+Tab replacement. Move your mouse to the top edge of the screen and click and it’ll switch back and forth between the two last used windows. Good if you’re a mouse user, but heavy keyboard users (like me) will find this hard work… and a little bit pointless.
  • Alt-Tab Replacement – XP PowerToys (free) – Kind of like TaskSwitchXP in that it shows a thumbnail of the selected window, but that’s about it.
  • WinGlance ($11.99) – Takes over the entire screen, like TopDesk, and shows a reasonable size preview of each app with tooltip details on them. Kind of like TopDesk’s tile all windows option. Unfortunately it’s not multi-monitor compatible.
  • Exposer for Windows ($7) – The name is the giveaway here, it’s OS X Exposé for Windows. It’s not very good though since it’s slow to generate a list and then, even though its multi-monitor capable, it moved some apps to the primary screen when they were on the secondary. And it doesn’t replace Alt+Tab, its set up on different shortcut keys.

Out of the free ones TaskSwitchXP is best but it is just doing a replacement of what Windows does with more info. The commercial ones are going to offer you more and in particular it’s popular to emulate the OS X Exposé style of working. Out of them, and to be honest there aren’t that many, TopDesk is the best. It’s also worth noting that TopDesk is the only one to use hardware acceleration, which is a good thing.

So what do I use? I switch (pun not intended) between the default one and TaskSwitchXP. I’m a bit old school in my task switching.

*The most popular search at the moment being “Outlook 2007 crashes”, say no more.

Step Twelvety…

MPQ Archive is coming along nicely. I’ve managed to come up with a half decent theme for it. Here’s how it compares with the old site (on the left):

MPQOldNews MPQNewNews


MPQOldReview MPQNewReview


It’s a pretty simple design (with not a table in sight) and it shouldn’t take too long to get a fully functional site up and running again. It’s just a bit of code to get the news, reviews and comments output done. Onwards and upwards!

Zipping map files!

Not a bad first attempt at zipping up the maps files for MPQ Archive.


Some files I didn’t expect to cause problems where some of Vondur’s maps, but then I checked and found I’d only downloaded the Omicron bot versions of them. At least in this case I’ll be able to get hold of them. The rest are a varying mish mash of stuff, but at first glance I probably have them and it’s just that my convertor wasn’t clever enough to find them. Anyway, a step in the right direction!

Digging through MPQ…

Sadism-revI’ve just been restoring the files from my old MPQ backups and found this picture of one of my favourite reviews, yep Sadism by none other than Vondur. Not sure why it’s stored as a gif, but there you go.

So what’s the status of this there MPQ Archive? Well I’ve now got all the old DBISAM tables converted into a nice long SQL file that creates a MySQL database. Next problem is to write the code to display that content. I’ve been debating whether to just do the bare minimum, i.e. a review archive / listing or recreate the actual site again but without the input forms.

I’ve decided to go with the latter. I think it’d be fun to have all the old content visible and by going down the route of not having input forms comment spam won’t be a problem. It’s not something I want to be dealing with really. Potentially I could use a free Captcha style system but I don’t think it’ll be worth the effort. Most likely I’ll a have link to a post on here where people can enter comments. What do you think?

In terms of map downloads I’ve had to do a bit of messing around on my part. Apparently I already have 168 maps zipped… but there are 443 Quake reviews. But this isn’t too big a problem to sort, I’m in process of knocking something up that’ll go through the reviews, find reviews without .zip files and then go search my maps folder. If it finds a match it’ll zip them up. I’m hoping I’ll have all the maps but if not, I’ll be posting on func_msgboard. Someone there will be able to help.

By the time this post goes live, all the review images – 1861 files totalling just 66MB – should be uploaded. The next batch of content to upload will be the map downloads when I’ve sorted them out. I’m not sure what to do for a site design, Vondur did me a WordPress theme, but given I’m not using that, I’ll need something else. I quite like the colours of the holding page that Jay did but would also like to have the option to have the old site themes selectable. We’ll see though.

ETA for when it’ll be finished? How long’s a piece of string? If anyone has any suggestions or ideas for MPQ Archive, please let me know.

Quake is 10 years old!

Technically it was 10 years ago last Saturday, but who’s counting. To coincide with it, Quake Expo is running for 11 days to help celebrate the event. The idea is pretty simple, showcase and release various Quake related stuff. QExpo was something that started at around about the time I left the scene, which was about 4 / 5 years ago now. I’ve sort of kept tabs on what was going on but not that well. For this QExpo though I thought I’d try writing some reviews again and RPG is very kindly posting my chaff on his QExpo booth.

It’s also been interesting to see what’s happening with the Speedmaps as well since I used to run the sessions for it when it first started (for Quake. Speedmapping technically started with Quake 3). It’s changed hands a few times since then but it’s still going strong. They’re pumping out some interesting maps, but the problem I always found with it was that you end up with only a couple of people willing to consistently map. That then leads to maps in a particular style.

QExpo also managed a bit of scoop by interviewing John Romero (part one, part two). Everyone knows the story of how after Quake was published John left to start Ion Storm with Tom Hall, but the thing that made me laugh was that the Quake we all know and love is actually the result of id freaking out and being totally pushed for time (yes, the company that says it’ll be ready when it’s done) and scrapping it’s original plans:

John Romero …Quake was one original idea that got changed 7 months before shipping to something totally different and the name remained because the world already knew what the game was called.

…Originally the game was going to be much more like an adventure or experience – you traveled through a full 3D world with your massive hammer which increased in power as you defeated enemies…

…we reached a boiling point where some of the dev team was very worried that we wouldn’t be able to release the game within a year after our first year of development and they started to freak out. We held a vote and the vote was to just slap in DOOM-style weapons and polish it off and get it out the door.

Emphasis mine. Congrats to scar3crow on pulling the interview together, but ouch, it’s not very positive. Hardly something you want read to celebrate Quake’s 10th birthday. More questions about this memories and recollections would have been nice… but then again maybe not. If you’ve read Masters of Doom you’ll already know the turmoil id went through getting Quake out the door (excellent read btw).

Anyhoo, having gone back to Quake for QExpo it’s made me realise just how much fun it still is. I think it’s the only game I’ve kept on every machine I’ve had since I first installed it. Oh and in other news I’m very, very, very slowly recreating MPQArchive in PHP and hope to have it done before the 20th anniversary…

The joys of Firefox

I fired up my laptop this morning and went to run Firefox as usual, but something wasn’t quite right. The setup dialog box for Tabbrowser Extensions popped up asking me to pick my settings. Odd I thought, so told it import my settings from a backup. Then clicked OK, nothing happening. So I picked one of the default settings, click OK. Nothing again. I hit Escape and Firefox appeared.

Of course the Tabbrowser Extensions hadn’t loaded at all so Firefox looked a mess. So off I went in search of some answers… but then found out I had no search engines listed in the little search drop down top right. Very strange. So I searched the old fashioned way by actually going to Google by typing in the address and everything. My effort was wasted, nothing useful came back. So I uninstalled Firefox and rebooted. No difference.

So I thought this was an ideal chance to try out Firefox 2 Beta 1. Hmmm. No. It looks very spiffy and everything but none of my extensions were compatible (other than Download Statusbar). Feck. Back to 1.5 then. Looks like when I uninstall it leaves bits behind. So how do you completely remove it? Like this apparently! Uninstalling it again and nuking the application data completely (C:\Documents and Settings\USERNAME\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\), and then reinstalling it did the trick.

As to what caused it, I’m not sure… but Kate was using it the night before ;)