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Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

Exclusive: Splash Damage's lead designer Paul Wedgwood reveals all on the epic Quake-inspired humans versus Strogg online blaster

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Paul Wedgwood: The first and most important thing is that Enemy Territory: Quake Wars has a focus on teamplay and pursuing specific military objectives. Each map is unique with unique objectives, a unique theme - like temperate or Arctic or arid environment - and a plot that drives you through these objectives, re-telling a story from the Strogg invasion. Unlike sports or arena-style games where you're Deathmatching or you're capturing flags, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars has a lot of focus on a specific frontline that progresses through the map. Players always know where the majority of combat is taking place, they always know what the next objective is that they're pursuing and as a result we believe that there's a greater level of satisfaction and enjoyment that comes about as a result of co-ordinating with other people and achieving these objectives.

What influence has Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory had on Quake Wars, both in terms of the experience you gained from that and the gameplay itself?

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Paul Wedgwood: We learned a lot of lessons developing Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. Obviously, because Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory was based on Return to Castle Wolfenstein, we started with a really big catalogue of assets and a pre-existing game to build upon. With Quake Wars it's a brand new title so it doesn't share any assets or technology with Quake 4 for example, we really just started with the basic Doom 3 engine and then started developing the additional technology in tandem with id. But the real advancement has been in gameplay. Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory was a really strong teamplay-focused game - we wanted to evolve that into larger, open areas. So in a sense it's not really a direct sequel but it is a spiritual successor to that kind of game design philosophy of a focus on teamplay and pure multiplayer combat.

You mentioned the MegaTexture technology there and how it's being used with the Doom 3 engine. Could you give us a few more details on that?

Paul Wedgwood: During the early part of the project we realised we wanted to be able to render these huge outdoor areas and John Carmack is undoubtedly the best graphics programmer on the planet. He proposed, and then devised, the idea for the MegaTexture, which is a single unique texture that covers the entire landscape.

It's 32,000 pixels by 32,000 pixels, it creates a six gigabyte source file which we then have to compress to ensure good disk space usage but actually only ends up using 8Mb of video memory on a video card. We took this basic implementation of the technology and then started developing it further so we had it working on a 3D mesh, we introduced a single parallel light source for lighting, the ability to put other models and things on the landscape, foliage, tools like mega-gen which generates the texture, geometric texture distribution, the road tool that lets you just plop roads down along a route.

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As a piece of technology, it's really good because it generates really good visuals, and that helps with player immersion. But almost more importantly, it's great for gameplay because you're finally unlocked from polygons. You derive all of your properties - vehicle traction, particles, audio effects - from the MegaTexture, even things like the stuff distribution of debris, foliage placement. All of these things can be derived from texture masks and so you no longer have to have a strip of polygons that separate the road texture from the grass texture. So it also helps with performance because we can have huge terrains that use less polygons and this disconnection between the polygons and the MegaTexture means we have more effects and more efficient texture usage as well.

Can you tell us about the class system in Quake Wars and about problems of balancing the Strogg and the Global Defence Force?

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