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hardcore_gamer

Why does Quake 2 look like crap compared to half-life in spite of using newer tech?

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Half-life uses a modified version of the same engine as the one used by Quake right? Why is it then that Half-life looks so much better than Quake 2 does, which uses a newer engine? I am not merely talking about the actual graphics, but also just the general look and feel of everything. The animations in half-life for example feel much more convincing than the robotic animations in Quake 2.

I know Quake 2 came out a year earlier, but even with that in mind I feel the difference is super staggering, seeing as goldsrc is just a modified Quake 1 engine.

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A full year more development than Quake 2. Even if they had an older engine to start with they had a longer time to develop it. They probably had more than one guy working on the engine too.

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Among Half-Life's selling points was its pioneering use of skeletal animation, which gave it precisely the advantage you mentioned vs pretty much anything else released at the time, and for the first time allowed cutscenes made entirely with the game's engine to not completely suck ass.

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I don't think Quake II looked bad at all. The robotic animations may come from the fact that the enemies are cyborgs...

Back in that time Quake II was among the good looking games. You have to compare it to other 1997 games like Dark Forces: Jedi Knight, Goldeneye and Turok. There were still Doom-like semi-3D games like Blood and Outlaws.

Half-Life was released in 1998 as well as Unreal. Back then everyone found Unreal to be the best looking game.

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If Half-Life is so awsum, please tell me how to force it to display its non-power-of-two textures in their original resolutions.

Quake 2 can do it. Half-Life looks like a blurry mess in the hardware-accelerated modes.

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Quake 2 used Id Tech 2, which was an evolution of Id Tech 1, which was developed for Quake. So Quake 2's engine is just a modification of Quake's engine, in the same way as Goldsrc. And it benefitted from one year's less development.

Furthermore, classically Id never used sequels to push the boat out on technology. Id Tech 2 consolidated the advances that had been pioneered on top of Quake: Client-server networking, and hardware accelerated graphics, but otherwise doesn't seem to have been intended as a great leap forward technologically.

Most likely, Carmack postponed the biggest, riskiest improvements for the next engine, Id Tech 3, which was introduced for Quake 3 Arena. Q3A was released in 1999, one year after Half Life, and I think it's fair to say it blows it out of the water in graphical quality.

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I think there are really two factors at work. One, as has been stated, I think the skeletal animations went a long way in terms of improving the appearance of the game. Not that the games were this different in comparison, but to use an extreme example, you're much more forgiving of a low-detail model that moves smoothly and realistically than you are of a high-detail model that moves stiffly and artificially. There's just something about smooth, realistic movement that makes us more willing to overlook problems in a character's design.

The other thing, in my opinion, was the different approaches to level design. Quake 2 still kinda had that, "Maze with fancy decorations," mentality that went into many of iD's earlier games. The levels were kind of abstract - they started to look more like real environments, even compared to say, Quake 1, but Half-Life really went all-out to make it feel like you were in an actual place, that everything there had a function, that you could actually visit Black Mesa and the layout and everything would make sense. This, coupled with Half-Life having a much more diverse and varied color palette compared to Quake 2, I think, really helped maintain the illusion a lot better, so that you'd be more immersed in the game and not noticed graphical limitations.

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The software rendering from quake 2 looks worse than half life in both modes, but the original OpenGL rendering from quake 2 should actually look good for its time. The lightmaps in the Quake 2 OpenGL mode where a big deal when it was released.

Half-life uses the Goldsource engine, a re-programmed quake engine, so it shares the same technological base as quake its engine from ID.

Quake 2 - 1997.
half-life - 1998.

Valve had an extra year of planning and possible development to fine tune their game and engine, this might have given it an edge. And if you are or where a gamer, you should know what one year could do for a game.

quake 2 plus points ;
- great looking lightmaps in OpenGL mode.
- normal quality textures for 1997.
- prefab breakable walls and objects.
- barrels you could push.
- transparent water effect.
- complex level design for 1997.

Quake 2 bad points ;
- models with jitter on them.

And a year later half life had more complex level design, better textures, more focus on prefab destructible objects, a bit more objects to push around, and a smooth rendering system without jitter.

Does quake 2 look like shit compared to half life ? no.
They have a full blown year of work between them.

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Let's also not forget that Quake 2 was released at a time when hardware accelerated graphics cards were just emerging.

I bought my first 3dfx Voodoo one week before I got Quake 2. With the added time Half-Life could take the presence of hardware accelerated hardware far more for granted. Q2 HAD to run well on software rendering. Of course all of Q2's assets had to be optimized for this rendering path.

I don't even remember if Half-Life even had software rendering anymore.

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Graf Zahl said:

I don't even remember if Half-Life even had software rendering anymore.

It has (or at least the WON release had, I don't know about the Steam version). And I'd actually prefer it to OpenGL if I was to replay the game, because it has 16-bit color => colored lighting is preserved.

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I vividly remember the original half life release utilized software rendering. I had the game playing on my old crt monitor with 320x200 since I was running a 66mhz computer at the time.

Funny story. That's the computer I registered on DW with.

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Half-Life has been Released a year after the Release of Quake 2, However it's engine is based on ID Tech 2 it Featured Skeletal animations and scripted cutscenes and even OpenGL and Direct3D Renderers which made it look more different, Of course these are the Reasons why Quake 2 doesn't as good as Half-Life, But the gameplay is still very close to Half-Life's which is good in this game .

Da Werecat said:

It has (or at least the WON release had, I don't know about the Steam version)

Steam version still allows switching to Software renderer from options,Just like CD-Retail version did .

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Because John Carmack's antics and ultimatums pretty much took all the focus off of art and design in the company. iD was little more than a tech house for the last ten years.

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Bucket said:

iD was little more than a tech house for the last ten years.

Quake 2 is slightly older than that.

Even if we were talking about Rage, it would be very hard to say that it's all tech and no art. Actually, it's the opposite.

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geekmarine said:

The other thing, in my opinion, was the different approaches to level design. Quake 2 still kinda had that, "Maze with fancy decorations," mentality that went into many of iD's earlier games. The levels were kind of abstract - they started to look more like real environments, even compared to say, Quake 1, but Half-Life really went all-out to make it feel like you were in an actual place, that everything there had a function, that you could actually visit Black Mesa and the layout and everything would make sense. This, ... I think, really helped maintain the illusion a lot better, so that you'd be more immersed in the game and not noticed graphical limitations.


I think that Quake II's level design is actually more complex than Half-Life's level design. HL is much more linear, has more room-corridor-room layouts, less height variation and so on. Just because it looks more like a real place doesn't mean that the level design is more complex.

And with the immersion it's more a matter of personal taste I think. For me Half-Life wasn't as immersive as Quake II. Probably because it tried to hard to be cinematic. All the NPCs didn't feel convincing, they felt like puppets. I still remember how awful the voice acting of the scientists was.
IMO Half-Life's achievement for it's time was the integration of scripted sequences as a clever way to tell a story in-game, but apart from that it is kind of overrated.

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Tetzlaff said:

I still remember how awful the voice acting of the scientists was.


I think it actually improves the game in a so bad it's good kind of way. I always felt the scientists voice acting was hilarious.

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hardcore_gamer said:

I think it actually improves the game in a so bad it's good kind of way. I always felt the scientists voice acting was hilarious.

I've seen many bugs in the Source port ,But this is the Funniest :p

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Bucket said:

Because John Carmack's antics and ultimatums pretty much took all the focus off of art and design in the company. iD was little more than a tech house for the last ten years.

Twenty years you mean.

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Tetzlaff said:

I think that Quake II's level design is actually more complex than Half-Life's level design. HL is much more linear, has more room-corridor-room layouts, less height variation and so on. Just because it looks more like a real place doesn't mean that the level design is more complex.


Agreed. Quake II's levels definitely had a somewhat non-human feel to them, aside from the technologically necessary simplifications they conveyed the 'alien planet' location rather well - emphasis on 'alien'.

Tetzlaff said:

And with the immersion it's more a matter of personal taste I think. For me Half-Life wasn't as immersive as Quake II. Probably because it tried to hard to be cinematic.


Funny thing is, when having to name a 90's game that had realistic looking levels I'd still choose Redneck Rampage, not Half-Life. RR's levels were huge and despite only being a 2.5D engine managed a lot better than the early full 3D stuff.

Half-Life was a major room-after-room-after-room bore for long stretches, it surely had its good parts but there was too much filler in there.

Tetzlaff said:

All the NPCs didn't feel convincing, they felt like puppets. I still
remember how awful the voice acting of the scientists was.
IMO Half-Life's achievement for it's time was the integration of scripted sequences as a clever way to tell a story in-game, but apart from that it is kind of overrated.


They were breaking new ground indeed, but look where it got us: By finalizing the transition to 'realism' nearly all fun had been squeezed out of first person shooters. For me Half-Life will always be remembered as the beginning of the end of fun gaming.

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I Loved every level in Half-Life, They're all well designed and Realistic instead of Textured boxes with Windows.
Solving puzzles in Pretty much every Room you access instead of just walking straight forward and killing ,and Continuous storytelling really fits the themes of levels .

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Quake 2 looks pretty baller, IMHO. The gore is satisfying and every weapon feels meaty and fun to use. Like every time you pull the trigger it feels like you are fucking up an alien and they are just bleeding everywhere. Half-Life looks good but not that good... Sometimes the lighting effects are far superior to Quake 2, but not all the time.

Also soundtrack... advantage: Quake 2
Story and progression... advantage: Half-Life

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Half-Life looks great if you run it in software mode since the textures don't look like they belong in Super Mario 64. HL's filters were awful.

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Goldsrc (HL1) and Quake 2 are both forks of the Quake 1 codebase. My understanding is that the biggest rendering enhancement in Goldsrc was that they rewrote the model rendering code. You can certainly tell that the HL1 models (scientists, monsters etc.) look much better than those in Quake 1. Quake 2 also improved things. I wonder if the way models and skins were implemented in Goldsrc was just a bit better (animated mouth movement for talking NPCs is a nice touch not found in Q2 for example). It might also be the case that they were pretty much equal in terms of technology, but perhaps the Goldsrc approach was easier for artists to work with. The page I've linked above says that the Q2 approach for model skins was difficult to work with.

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darkreaver said:

I think Q2 looks much better than HL.

Indeed. To me HL graphics always looked washed out, whatever the renderer.

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Well, the way the skins are laid out depends on the tools for creating the models, not the engine, at least in this case. Unwrapping was very limited at the time, that's why the skins of the stock models in Q1 are so inefficient and ugly. There's nothing in the engine to prevent you from unwrapping the model the way you want to.

The main problem with Q1 and Q2 model formats is that they're very "low res". There's not enough precision for vertices, hence the jittering during animation. The models in Q3 look infinitely better even without skeletal animation support.

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