Doom might arguably be the most memorable (or at least the most popular) PC game of all time, and with good reason. Prior to Doom's release, programmers found themselves in the stone age of game development. For the most part, building a game meant starting from scratch and compiling all new code, but like the invention of the wheel, the advent of the game engine forever changed the PC gaming landscape.
Now, we know what you're thinking, and we're well aware that game engines existed prior to Doom's release in 1993; we're even going to cover some. But it was id Software's now legendary first-person shooter that pushed reusable 3D game engines as a viable programming model, and videogame development has never been the same since then.
On the following pages, we look back at all the major PC game engines and what made each one special. As a prerequisite, be sure to check out our history of 3D graphics, which covers video cards from the Voodoo to the GeForce and everything in between. Once you've digested these two features, you're guaranteed to have a new-found respect for gaming on the PC!
Zenimax Media, the parent company of Bethesda Software – the developer behind the Fallout and Elder Scrolls franchises, announced on Wednesday it has acquired id Software, the game studio credited with such massive hits as Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein. However, Zenimax has not divulged the financial details of the transaction. id Software’s top brass, including its founder and technical director John Carmack, will continue to be in charge. Bethesda will publish all new id Software titles from now on.
Oh no! The sky is falling; PC gaming is doomed; they cancelled Firefly again, etc. After essentially tasting, feeling, and smelling like a multiplatform developer for a couple years, id Software – this time through the mouthpiece of CEO Todd Hollenshead – has finally come out and stated the obvious.
"There's no question that our roots are in PC gaming. And when I play a first-person shooter, keyboard and mouse is the configuration that I want to play on," Hollenshead noted. "But we feel like, in terms of your triple-A, big-budget, big-market title, that you really have to be cross-platform to be successful, unless you're a first party."
"As an independent developer, we feel like we have to be on all the relevant platforms. So we don't really view ourselves as PC first."
Is PC gaming The Future? Who knows – but multiplatform development is now, so excuse us while we don’t spit our cola onto the face of the nearest onlooker.
In other news, Hollenshead said that id will announce “some new stuff” at E3, and that Doom 4 will be like other Doom titles, but not – meaning that guns and demons are probably in, but that those of you who wanted conversation trees and complex interpersonal communication will probably be disappointed.
Read the full interview here, if you want. A word of warning, though: It’s long – and there aren’t many pictures.
Update: Looks like we (along with a few other websites) spent too much time losing ourselves in Hollenshead's beautiful blues and -- hearts full of hope -- skimmed over his real meaning entirely. Maybe if they'd stop making these alarm buttons so red and shiny, we'd be less tempted to press them so often.
“When it’s done,” you’re done. Go running back to Duke Nukem Forever. You knew what this was.
While speaking with GameTrailers TV at last month’s DICE Summit, id Software CEO Todd Hollenshead gave gamers the signal to look out over the horizon, because Rage is a comin’.
When asked whether his company’s latest monosyllabic murder simulator would blow its top in 2010, Hollenshead replied, “No, we'll be out this year."
Well, that’s good enough for us. Rage will be published by Electronic Arts and will probably aid F.E.A.R. 2 and Sadness in helping some website establish a “Best Game Ostensibly about a Vague, One-Word Emotion” award category for their best games of – take of whiff of that new release window smell – 2009. We can’t wait to hear more.
That John Carmack! What a gossip, huh? He goes on a beer run with PC gamers and he’s all like, “I just wanted to… I just… I love you guys!” But then, after totally crashing a console-only party, he’s singing a different tune (possibly while wearing a dog costume). And now, once again Carmack’s shacking up with PC game—oh no! He’s here! Please, please, please don’t tell him what we said. That’d be soooo awkward.
"A lot of [Quake Live] was about doing something that the PC was going to be better at than the consoles," he told Gamasutra.
"Our modern triple-A stuff has to be somewhat more console-centric, with the PC as a peer, while this is an opportunity to do something where the PC will really stand alone,” he noted.
Carmack hopes to see Quake Live blossom into a sort of social-networking service – the one toy at show-and-tell that even Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo only wish they could get their grubby mitts on or toss in the sandbox or put in their mouths or whatever makes sense with this flimsy analogy.
"For years, I've often thought about the fact that a lot of people spend vastly more time on websites and forums about the games that they're playing than they actually spend playing the games themselves," he adds. "We hope to have some aspect of that here."
Well, that’s good enough for us, John. We’re yours forever now… wait a minute! Did you just steal this gift from our shelves – our shelves marked “1999” – and rewrap it? Is this all we are to you?
Videogames? In web browsers? When did this happen? Boy howdy – next thing you know, they’ll be putting those suckers in televisions. What a world.
Fortunately, if you’d like to set up shop on the ground floor of this sure-to-be revolution, you’ll soon have the opportunity to frag a Firefox with Quake Live. Or frag inside a Firefox. We’re not sure which, but both options sound equally awesome.
The free-to-play, browser-based edition of Quake III Arena will flip its window sign around from “Closed” to “Open” on February 24, assuming the above official teaser isn’t some kind of mirage brought on by living in a world without Quake Live for so many years’ worth of when-it’s-dones.
So, who plans on joining us when we christen a very special new browser tab on Tuesday?
“The keyboard/mouse interface is definitely still the superior interface for a competitive first-person shooter experience, much better than an analog joypad,” he told PC Gamer.
But why stop with games? Clearly, the PC can do at least two other things.
"The browser environment is faster—navigating web pages on the console is a really tedious experience… And I do think there’s the whole idea of PCs being everywhere, and having a game that you can play just about anywhere. Anywhere there’s a PC, if you’ve got a few minutes you can download Quake Live content and jump in and play your game,” he said.
However, Carmack conceded that console development definitely has its perks -- for instance, acting as a hardy shelter in the hail of issues that is PC development.
"There are interesting technical things, looking across the spectrum of graphics cards, looking at the very latest stuff on there, but there are also times when I say, 'Wow, the 360 is a nicer place to develop games.' You bypass a lot of the issues there. Wouldn’t it be nice just to develop strictly for that platform?"
At this year's QuakeCon, programming god John Carmack turned an entire Internet's worth of heads with his announcement that Rage would only storm your PC's walls via DVD-ROM. Well, kids, it's time to un-cry those salty tears, because id intends to digitally distribute its latest first-person beauty after all.
"We haven't quite worked through our electronic-distribution," said id Software creative director Tim Willits. "John Carmack [id co-founder] made a comment about the media size, which unfortunately wasn't exactly correct because we haven't crossed that bridge yet. He said it was going to be too large to download, and I was thinking to myself, 'You know, uhhhhh, people can do lots of things.'"
"Rage won't break the Internet. Our relationship with Valve and our stuff on Steam has been very successful for us. A lot of the older games that we had to fix to work on newer operating systems allowed us to make them current. I had a Steam account on my machine at work, and if I wanted to load up old Wolfenstein or Doom at work, I [would] load it up on Steam because of DOSBox and all that stuff. And it's actually pretty awesome. We've been very successful with that."
"We haven't figured out what we want to do yet. But I do want to fix the fact that John said [digital distribution is] not going to happen. What I'm saying is that's not true."
Update: Looks like this one got blown out of proportion. Willits, after a glance at his inbox, released the following statement: "During my talk at Austin GDC I mentioned that we originally wanted to have around five or six smaller wasteland environments but later decided instead to have two larger wastelands - mostly because we were going to be shipping on two DVDs for the 360 and felt that it would play better with one large wasteland on each disc so there would be no loading between wastelands. Not loading levels while you drive around is a much better decision regardless of platform. There was NO CONTENT removed from RAGE because of the 360--NONE AT ALL. Moving from multiple wastelands into fewer but larger wastelands was a far better decision and is actually giving us more gameplay in the game. We feel the 360 is a great platform and will provide a fantastic Rage experience."
"The PC is limitless in the amount of data you can put on it.The PS3 has about 25GB. But the Xbox 360 roughly has 6 to 8 GB of data. We're hoping we can squeeze the game down to two discs for the 360 version."
"I wouldn't say the overall story was changed in any way in order to fit on the Xbox 360 version," Willits explained, "but how the player experiences Rage's story has been altered."
Foremost, he said, the game's overall structure has changed significantly. Whereas before, Rage featured "several" wastelands in which players could run race and gun, now only two remain. Don't worry, though; the two wastelands have been split into multiple, hardware-friendly instances, so it'll be just like traveling through multiple areas!
Somewhat perplexingly -- though probably in order to wave the game out the door by "When it's done" instead of "When your great grandchild begins balding" -- id elected to take the razor to all three versions of the game, as opposed to merely the Xbox edition.
This, it would seem, is only the beginning of a very slippery slope.
"Mwahahaha," I cackled gleefully as I skewered a yet another hapless Storm Trooper in the recent Star Wars: The Force Unleashed demo. "Help!" the poor soldier's cry echoed off the walls. But I didn't care. With a flick of my character's wrist, my foe's armor was put to its final test: a steel reinforced ceiling. My grin only widened when gravity yanked the Storm Trooper out of his skyward flight, planting him on the cold floor with a satisfying crack.
I'm a maniacal jerk.
Or at least I was -- in the game. Actually, "irl," I'd say I'm a fairly mild-mannered person. But unless you consider cheaply-constructed, mass-produced action figures to be an artistic medium, videogames are the only medium that allows us to act out our (seemingly sick) fantasies. Gaming's greatest detractors fault our hobby for being violent, and I'm not inclined to disagree with them. But hey, over-the-top violence goes hand-in-hand with interactivity. With the aforementioned action figures, many of us staged tumultuous battles, with swords, guns, fists -- everything -- in an almost primal manner. And it was fun.
Fact is, people are inclined towards violence. We wolf down popcorn while watching actors pretend to put bullets in each others' brains; we slow down traffic for a gander at a car accident. Our media expresses this -- caters to it, even. But society goes on. Few of our sane population are lugging around shotguns or holding up convenience stores with trusty stabbin' knives. Sure, circumstances cause people to do some pretty awful things, but generally out of necessity -- not for fun. And really, that's why videogame violence is great. It's catharsis -- a harmless arena in which we can live out our horrific, Trooper-smashing fantasies.
So, what's the most sadistic, cringe-worthy thing you've ever done in a game? To take things a notch further, think about the gamess you typically play. How many of them aren't in some way violent?
Today's Roundup features games that are, as you'd expect, violent, but one in particular uses its controversial brand of destruction to further a greater cause. In addition, you'll find Clive Barker's pie-in-the-sky dreams for the horror genre, hardware manufacturers' dirty little piracy-related secret, and more. It's all after the break.