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GoatLord

On the subject of hardware advancements circa 1993

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Posted (edited)

In late 1993, a week before Doom's birth, Apogee quietly released Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold, utilizing a Wolfenstein-based engine that had been significantly upgraded—it had light diminishing, an automap, textured floors and ceilings, and a hint of modern interaction via health stations. Take a look if you haven't already.

 

 

Just days later, id Software released their most significant title, which was running (of course) on a brand new engine.

 

 

I find this contrast incredible, because even though the Wolf-based engine was quite a bit more robust than the original, it completely failed to be anywhere near as immersive or advanced as Doom's. More than any other era in gaming, this represents perhaps the most significant evolution of rendering technology within the span of a single year. There are other milestones, such as the jump from 8-bit to 16-bit, or the appearance of the first dedicated 3D consoles, but I find this moment particularly telling, as the games were released so close to one another.

 

Can you imagine how absurd it would be, to see a game running on an engine that was considered top-of-the-line in 2017, and just scoffing at it for being a mere year old? It takes a good five years or more for an engine to really show its age now, as we're in the era of refining micro details, as opposed to setting up the fundamentals. It seems doubtful a moment like this could ever occur again.

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Cool topic. Some day, it would be cool if a documentary is made showcasing the advancements in hardware and with each engine for these games. It's 2018 and vanilla Doom is still so fun to play, proving that it's withstood the test of time. 

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Duke3D's shareware episode came out on January 29, 1996 and qtest came out February 24, 1996. I would say that was a more profound leap in technology.

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Just now, Linguica said:

Duke3D's shareware episode came out on January 29, 1996 and qtest came out February 24, 1996. I would say that was a more profound leap in technology.

 

Totally agree. Duke had interactive environments and explosive walls. The world was quite lively in Duke 3D.

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Something something Ultima Underworld yadda yadda March 21, 1992 blah blah -1 years etc etc where's your God now.

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What if Blake Stone didn't fail because it had an older engine but because it was an inferior game with amateurish art design and unimaginative levels? Blake Stone wasn't even as good as the original Wolf3D, some new technical features aside.

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I agree that how a game is designed has a lot to do with its success, but I also feel that its poor design is result of the engine. I personally detest Wolf-based games because of their orthogonal nature.

 

And yeah I think Ling is right about Duke 3d versus the Quake test/demo. That was a leap from 2.5D to fully 3D. Probably a more significant leap.

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Rise of The Triad was a pretty interesting advancement of a Wolf 3D styled game.

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I missed out on Blake Stone. Looks like I own it on Steam in the Apogee Throwback Pack. This may sound snobbish, but I find these type of games archaic without the height variation. Looking back at Wolfenstien and Blake Stone here, it makes me think this is back when games or shooters had color... then seeing the comparison to Doom, that's when "realism" happened. Things were stone grey and brown with exceptions here and there.

 

Even if Blake is an upgrade, its too subtle for me to notice. There's just no wow factor comparing it to Doom. It needed a more ambitious programmer. Hey at least iD probably made some money from the engine.

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4 hours ago, DeadAstronaut said:

 

Totally agree. Duke had interactive environments and explosive walls. The world was quite lively in Duke 3D.

I think you missed the original point. Duke3D was still 2D (or 2.5D), Qtest (Quake Test), was a full 3D polygon based engine. That is, in my mind, a bigger step than Wolf/Blakestone to Doom.

 

 

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2 minutes ago, Jello said:

I think you missed the original point. Duke3D was still 2D (or 2.5D), Qtest (Quake Test), was a full 3D polygon based engine. That is, in my mind, a bigger step than Wolf/Blakestone to Doom.

 

 

 

That's pretty much what I am agreeing with in that post. I mentioned Duke's interactive environments and explosive walls for that reason. 

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The jump from id's Wolf 3D engine to their DOOM engine was certainly a big jump, even when other developers created upgrades on the Wolf 3D one (Blake Stone, Corridor 7, Rise of the Triad, Planet Strike).

 

I still really dig the Wolf 3D-based games though. They offer a totally different kind of challenge and are still exciting in their own way.

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8 hours ago, Linguica said:

Duke3D's shareware episode came out on January 29, 1996 and qtest came out February 24, 1996. I would say that was a more profound leap in technology.

 

It may have been a leap in technology, but it surely wasn't a leap in overall visual quality. DN3D, despite its less advanced engine looked a lot better than Quake, because its texture set is of infinitely higher quality than what id made for Quake.

 

8 hours ago, DeadAstronaut said:

 

Totally agree. Duke had interactive environments and explosive walls. The world was quite lively in Duke 3D.

 

... and that, too. I think comparing Quake and Duke Nukem is a really interesting case of two games that improved vastly different things.

While Quake solely focused on the 3D technology and nothing else, DN3D put gameplay and visual presentation front and center, among other things trying to create quasi-realistic locations instead of abstract places. And to this day I believe it is the better of those two games in nearly every aspect that is relevant. And let's not forget that DN3D had a true 4-dimensional level with Lunatic Fringe. Quake could never have done this. :D

 

This doesn't mean that what Quake did is irrelevant, but it's very easy to forget the kinds of improvements brought to gaming by DN3D.

 

 

Comparing the two screenshots in the first post, the thing that stands out most for me is the garish and unfitting colors in the Blake Stone screenshot. These hurt immersion far more than the engine improvements in Doom. These bright blue walls are an eyesore.

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Posted (edited)

I'm with Goatlord's original opinion on this one, not his purposefully hipocritic flip-flop. Screw Duke's fancy buttans & Quake's rooms-over-rooms. If technical achievment was what drove 3D gaming forwards VR should be a bigger leap than anything mentioned, but it's a billion-dollar investment drain that makes people sick, unless you cut the hamstring on the movement system, defeating the whole simulation purpose you started out to achieve. The other two noteables since Doom for me have been Half-Life (overshadowing Sin the same way Blakestone got overshadowed) and GTA 3. Not many revolutionary new gates broken through since then, imo. Cool as it is, and daily as I play it, Rocket League is more of a perfect dead-end, than a door thrown open to new possibilities.

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On 5/9/2018 at 6:36 PM, Linguica said:

Duke3D's shareware episode came out on January 29, 1996 and qtest came out February 24, 1996. I would say that was a more profound leap in technology.

And yet, Duke3D was actually successful, much more so that Blake Stone.

 

23 hours ago, Woolie Wool said:

What if Blake Stone didn't fail because it had an older engine but because it was an inferior game with amateurish art design and unimaginative levels? Blake Stone wasn't even as good as the original Wolf3D, some new technical features aside.

My guess is that Doom, Duke3D, and Quake just knocked everyone's socks off. I don't think anything could have stood up to them at the time, not for me anyway. Everything else just faded into the background noise.

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Posted (edited)

That's not true, though--there are a lot of FPS games from the era that don't have the stature of the Big Three but have significant reputations and active modding scenes. However, Blake Stone just wasn't that good and I have played through all of Blake Stone multiple times, including the shareware version which I got at about the same time as I got Doom shareware v1.1 when I was about five years old. The levels sucked. The art was serviceable but obviously inferior to what Id, Raven, and 3D Realms were capable of. The setting lacked any sort of real "hook" and the aesthetic was rooted in the 1980s and not suited to the early-'90s zeitgeist. You can do a lot with the Wolf3D engine (just look at mods made by members of the modern Wolf3D community, myself included) but you have to have a good, coherent game design to make a good game, and only Wolf3D had that, none of the other games that used the engine--even ROTT played like a hot mess.

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I played only the shareware Blake Stone, but I wanted the full game. I never got it. I even saw it in a bargain bin years later at K-Mart and decided against it, and later regretted not getting it and it wasn't there any more.

 

That said, Doom was unquestionably a better game that I still enjoy to this day.

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5 hours ago, Woolie Wool said:

That's not true, though--there are a lot of FPS games from the era that don't have the stature of the Big Three but have significant reputations and active modding scenes. However, Blake Stone just wasn't that good and I have played through all of Blake Stone multiple times...

I see what you mean. I should have listed Wolf in there too - it rocked. I liked Catacombs of the Abyss. I even had a pinky (though he wasn't pink), and a "lost soul with a body" - the end boss: A skeleton with a flaming skull. Really, anything 3D kinda blew me away. But when I saw Doom, I went forward and didn't look back. Duke3D was pretty kick ass too.

 

I appreciated Quake 1 immensely, and wanted to love it, but...something was off for me. My computer struggled a bit with it, but that wasn't it. Maybe it was the "overplayed 'Look, it's true 3D'" element of the levels, maybe it was the gold/brown dreary look. I do actually really like it, but I quickly went back to Doom. I totally missed Blake Stone. I guess I'm going to have to check it out.

 

Would you say that it was "filler material?"

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Posted (edited)

It's not so much "filler material" as an ultra-low-budget game made by two or three guys. There was no Blake Stone team working at Apogee; three guys approached Apogee to license the Wolf3D engine, called themselves a company, made their game, and got it published. They did the best they could under the circumstances but they had neither the experience, the money, nor the people needed to make a great game.

 

Compare that to the similar startup Parallax, who started with two guys, but they had substantial wealth and long resumes which allowed them not just to invest but borrow more money (and with lower interest rates too), and their money and personal clout allowed them to hire a lot of desirable employees, and thus they made a much better game (Descent).

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Wow, I didn't know Blake Stone was such a tiny project! That's really interesting. Id wasn't a whole lot bigger at the time, but clearly big enough to make a AAA title.

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On 5/10/2018 at 3:38 AM, Jerry.C said:

It may have been a leap in technology, but it surely wasn't a leap in overall visual quality. DN3D, despite its less advanced engine looked a lot better than Quake, because its texture set is of infinitely higher quality than what id made for Quake.

I actually played Quake before I played Duke Nukem 3D. ignoring anything about technical advancement and engine, there is absolutely no question in my mind that DN3D looks much better than Quake. In fact, I remember not really liking the way Quake and its polygon-based enemies looked. I remember telling a friend in college that I preferred the look of Quake 2 to Quake 1. Regardless of gameplay, story, etc. Quake 2 looked much better than Quake 1. The question of whether Quake 2 or Duke Nukem 3D looked better is a completely separate one.

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41 minutes ago, Pegleg said:

 I remember telling a friend in college that I preferred the look of Quake 2 to Quake 1. Regardless of gameplay, story, etc. Quake 2 looked much better than Quake 1.

Same here. Unlike its predecessor, Q2 tried to do real locations, albeit alien ones. I maybe did not realize this when Q1 was new but when I played through it last year again I realized how gimmicky the 3D in most maps was - less like a natural extension of the levels but more like "Geez, look what we can do." Q2 was totally different in this regard.

 

41 minutes ago, Pegleg said:

The question of whether Quake 2 or Duke Nukem 3D looked better is a completely separate one.

They feature totally different aesthetics, but for me both have aged relatively well - unlike Quake 1 and even more Hexen 2, which, if I remember correctly was the only other game to use a relatively unmodified version of the original Quake engine.

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Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, GoatLord said:

Wow, I didn't know Blake Stone was such a tiny project! That's really interesting. Id wasn't a whole lot bigger at the time, but clearly big enough to make a AAA title.

Neither were "AAA" titles. AAA games were stuff like Star Control II, Wing Comander III, Ultima VII, etc, which were major productions that involved many people.

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That's true. Makes me wonder about team sizes back then. What was id, about a dozen people? I suppose AAA titles back then had a few 10s of employees.

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