Cheapskates and corpses

· by Steve · Read in about 4 min · (699 Words)

I’ve mentioned this before on my blog, but there was a time when I used to spend ages reading game previews, and would wait with bated breath for a single game to come out and play it as soon as it was available. These days, that rarely happens - I have so little time for playing games that I’m finding I’m picking up 2 or 3 year old games from Internet bargin bins more often than not, and I’m quite enjoying it. The advantage is that on my hardware, which is very respectable but not cutting edge, I can crank up absolutely everything and these 2 year old games play like a dream. Plus, they’re cheap. 😀

Case in point, I bought Doom3 this week. I never bought it before, because Half Life 2 came out around a similar time and I didn’t have time to play both. And, I liked the look of HL2 better. I bought it now mostly out of curiosity, more to study and ponder over than play. Nevertheless, I played it for an hourish last night and quite enjoyed it. It definitely feels like Doom, even down to the ‘drop me into a dark, dangerous room when I first get the shotgun’ moment which was almost a direct copy from the original, and it certainly makes you jump. There are plenty of ultra-cliché moments, but some quite nice ones too. It’s very, very on rails, even more so than HL2 because of the constricted environment, but it’s fun in the same way a roller coaster is (if you aren’t badly affected by motion sickness like I am).

And the visuals, well. Whilst very fast and fitting for a ‘dark is scary’ game, all that effort on normal maps and textures is often totally wasted because everything is far too dark. Even playing it with the lights off, and with the gamma turned up, it’s hard to see things a lot of the time. The complete lack of anything but direct light (i.e. light doesn’t bounce from surface to surface, so unless a light is shining directly on something, it’s 100% black) is actually pretty unconvincing, even if it is atmospheric. Personally, aesthetically I much prefer the Half Life 2 look - much softer, lots of precomputed interreflection etc. Sure, you can’t do as many dynamic effects like Doom3 does, but most of the time you don’t need them. In fact, the dynamic lighting can become very distracting and disorienting simply because it’s so harsh, and the human eye is used to seeing some interreflection to give the scene more continuity even when a light is swinging about madly.

Anyway - production values very high, technically very impressive, entertaining in relatively short bursts, but the lighting is overrated. It’s rather nice as a demostration of technical features in action, but the end result doesn’t have enough artistry or warmth IMO.

On to the second subject of this blog entry - corpses. Not in Doom3, in my house. To be more specific, corpses of small animals. Since I returned from the USA our 2 cats have suddenly gone all chainsaw-massacre on the local wildlife and have seen fit to bring us one or more morsels almost every day. None before I left, none whilst I was away, and now suddenly we’re up to 7 mice and two birds so far. Worse, today we discovered (thanks to a foul odour in the utility room) that one had escaped, and had crawled away to die under our boiler, which is easily the worst place in the house for it to go, being as it is bolted to the solid floor and sitting on a web of metal struts. It took almost 2 hours to strip it, locate the corpse, and extract it, with a combination of wooden rods, a hand mirror, a torch and some Blu-Tac. It was like a cross between Blue Peter and the Addams Family. It’s not the first time we’ve had to locate a corpse like this, nor are we newcomers to catching live mice that the cats have brought in and deposited squeaking and bounding in the living room. Thanks, furry mates. 😕