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Doom III @ Activate
Post by Gobo @ 09:12pm 06/08/02 | Comments

I just got back from lush Singapore, land of singapore noodles, the singapore sling, and possibly the only place in the world where selling chewing gum is illegal.

Activision sent me over there as part of a small contingent of game writers (and a much larger contingent of retail representatives) to attend Activate, which was their conference detailing their hottest games.

It's smart thinking, but I'll reserve commentary on that possibly for another occasion. What is interesting is that amongst the plethora of console titles and other funky stuff that Activision Asia-Pacific had put together, they managed to drag a couple of bums from id Software that y'all might have heard about. Tim Willitts and Todd Hollenshead. They were there to talk about Doom III.

Pretty much what was shown was an updated presentation from E3. You got to see the same in-game demo. Then after that, Willits demoed the game itself personally. He made a point of spawning zombie fatass dudes and showcasing their AI (or lack thereof, mainly the bad guy stumbling after you in a straight line) and more importantly, the visual effects.

The interplay of light across different surfaces was a highlight of the demonstration, and to prove to anyone who may have harboured doubts about the real time rendering and lightmapping that is one of DoomIII's selling points, Willitts then stepped through and applied in real time different light filters. He gradually removed all light sources until only the odd glowing console or button was in evidence, and then displayed a variety of different lighting effects - everything from horizontal barred lighting to the full lightmap intensive hog. All of which didn't cause a performance hit.

Interestingly enough, id chose to use a Geforce 4 as its video silicone for this demonstration (on a 2GHz CPU), and something that Hollenshead confirmed for me was that Dolby Digital is being decoded on the fly by the game. Not by hardware, but by the game. Hollenshead claims it's the first time he's heard of any game offering this on the fly. The frames of the game were just as smooth as @ E3 on the Radeon silicon, in fact some of the stutter I saw @ E3 seems to have been eliminated. The id guys did state that this was an upgraded version from the last time, but didnt specifically mention "new build". The console reported "Doom III 0.02".

Willitts seemed pretty proud of the physics model of the game, which seems to respond in a realistic fashion to most collisions and interactions with scenery. In one scene a newly dead-ed fat zombie guy slowly slides downstairs, and it's definitely a lot more realistic than even the Raven ragdoll effects that were incorporated into SOFII.

Hollenshead went to some pains to move away from id marketing spiel and to talk about how the id engine is all about thinking smarter and not just throwing humongous silicon firepower at an engine and hoping people will upgrade for the game (although we all know that is precisely what will happen). He stressed that it's not a case of each model having a gazillion polygons, rather it's an increasingly refined method of bump mapping that is being applied, so the poly count on many models and figures may be in the same ballpark as Q3, but the textures and bumpmapping effects push the detail to a new level.

It was a pretty illuminating presentation. Perhaps the most eloquent testament that can be given to how impressive the demo remains is that for the event Activision split up all the different countries' attendees into groups. Apart from one other Aussie media dude, everyone else in our small group was a retail person. Through every single game demo we were shown at the event, these retail guys literally did not ask ONE question... except for the DoomIII demo, where they actually came to life and asked "When?".

Hollenshead: "2003".