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The Quake III Arena Bus Tour Experience

John Carmack has stated publicly that the goal for Quake III Arena has been to create id's definitive first person shooter. With such lofty goals and the rapidly changing hardware industry I present an article on the current state of the game as played on the Quake III Bus Tour and future expectations. As you'll see my experience with the current showcasing of hardware leaves me anxious for what is only one month away.

About three weeks ago the Quake III Arena Bus Tour stopped in El Paso and I was lucky enough to go both days it was here. At the time few people knew of the impending release of the Savage 2000 and GeForce 256. Rumors of the forthcoming Quake III Arena Demo have also begun leaking. Perhaps the version I played on the bus will give more insight as we await the next round of video card benchmarks and the eventual release of the game.

The bus itself is a converted tour bus. It's impressive look is derived from the graphics on the sides. From a distance it would appear as though the graphics are a painted mural but on closer inspection I noted that they are several large stickers lined up to make one huge picture. Many id employees were on hand and served not only to inform but to tease with details of the game in its released form. I was informed that the systems on the bus we're equipped with two new levels and weapons not in the current Arena test. Athlon 550's are employed on the eight systems along with 17" monitors, Logitech mice, and multimedia speakers driven with A3d sound. These systems are equipped with Voodoo 3000's at the stock core and memory clock. I'm not sure what resolution the game was run at but it appeared to be 1280 x 1024. I also cannot comment on the memory configuration of these systems.

Without reigniting the 16-bit vs, 32-bit flame war it was apparent that the latest 3dfx drivers have matured to such a high degree that 32-bit graphics are hardly missed. How will these graphics compare to the Savage 2000 or GeForce 256 is yet to be seen but John Carmack has stated that there are in fact going to be T & L optimizations in the game. It's apparent that the final look of the game has yet to be enjoyed. 3dfx has chosen to offer full alpha blending and their forthcoming T-buffer technology as it is their belief that these technologies will offer a more satisfactory gaming experience. Hopefully before the game's release we will all know which graphics chip will offer the fastest and/or most visually attractive graphics.

Sound being one of the most important aspects of any game the sheer volume and quality of these A3d powered speakers was impressive. Those familiar to LAN gaming will envy this sound reproduction and perhaps even rethink their soundcard choice. That much incredible sound from multimedia speakers shows the great potential available from the A3d chipset. Imagine this sound coming from a true 4 speaker surround environment with a well placed subwoofer. Quite simply it is a thrill to know that you have fragged your opponent and to hear the thunderous splat arrive from somewhere else in the bus.

I don't know which brand of motherboard was utilitzed with the Athlon processors or if all 8 systems were utilizing the same motherboard. Quite possibly these were reference AMD motherboards provided to showcase their processor and chipset. My first impression of the Athlon was of a fearsome opponent for Intel. The raw power of the FPU and subsequent geometry calculations demonstrate that Intel's flagship will play second fiddle even in it's .18 micron version. Is Intel scared? I doubt so as AMD will face a battle to reach it's manufacturing goals and early Athlon boards have shown themselves to have problems with heat and manufacturers cutting corners. Add to that the handicap of being more expensive and AMD's image battle with the general public as being a "cheap" alternative processor. I saw no strange problems with these boards even though they had been played on for hours prior to my stab at them. This reinforces my belief that these were indeed reference boards and not the infamous boards being reported on the net. Keep in mind of course that the Athlon is beating the Pentium III handily in benchmarks including Intel's own optimized benchmarks.

A quick exam of the game shows that new characters abound. I call them characters and not mere skins as it appears that some individual characteristics are displayed by different characters. The female Athena character appeared faster than the other opponents I encountered. Was this due to her smaller size making her harder to hit? It may be so but the impression was of battling a more nimble foe.

With the recent release of the GeForce 256 and Savage 2000 and the ensuing 3dfx response the future looks fantastic for gamers. DirectX 7 has been promised to the public in the very near future. With T & L and Dx7 around the corner it comes to pass that 3dfx have chosen to rely on complete alpha blending and their inhouse t-buffer technology. At this point I am eagerly awaiting the winner of that battle. I have begun to wonder what other features and products will be announced in the near future in expectation of the Christmas shopping season.

As to the game certain informatin appears solid. It appers that Quake III Arena is indeed on target for the Christmas shopping season. Remember that Nov. 30 begins the official Christmas shopping season this year. id employees stated openly that Quake III will be easily modified with such mods as skins and levels. I also learned the game will ship with 30 + levels (arenas in id speak) for everyone to deathmatch in. Has id created the ultimate first person shooter? Time will tell but consider Quake II and it's reign as the benchmarking tool used by most to compare hardware performance. The true measure of Quake III's success may be if it survives the test of time as well as Quake II did.

Victor Oshiro
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