PC Gamer Issue 034 (September 1996)(uk)


Taken from 20ab83b6737e4a11d1c6df2ae9e31950 PC Gamer [UK] Issue 034.pdf (thanks to KiwiArcader, http://www.oldgamemags.com/index.php?title=PC_Gamer_UK_Issue_034 ).

Two columns, shareware secrets guide, two page granny pie ad.


Diversions: The Spy

"Don't spoil Christmas," warned The Spy's grandmother. She was right… though, funnily enough, not a Quake fan.

"There's a joke a small boy who ran all excited to see his parents, three days before Christmas." Control shifted in his absurd, ultramodern, leather upholstered armchair, the polished black surfaces squeaking expensively. Control's jokes are never very funny and he has an awful habit of dragging them out. "He runs to his parents and tells them that he won't be needing a mountain bike for Christmas this year." The corner of his mouth creased as he built for the punchline. "Because he's already found one behind the wardrobe in their bedroom."

I stifled a laugh. Chuckling isn't very secret agent… and the gag wasn't so funny anyway. Had I been called back from my assignment in the Caribbean because my controller was looking for a career on the stage? No. He tapped a button and a painting slid out of its frame on the wall with a reassuring snick. The screen behind played back a tape. A game I was already familiar with. Sure, who in the world isn't familiar with Quake?

Except something wasn't quite right. The lighting effects were pokier than I was used to. The level maps were new. A couple of bad guys I'd only ever seen in id's screenshots were appearing here and there. What had been going on while I'd been living it up in Haiti? Control took up the story. "Three days ago a game, claiming to be the full version of Quake, was posted on the Internet. Our chaps managed to download the game before it disappeared off into the ether. We want you to find out what happened. The source of the leak. The limitations of the game that was posted on-line. The whole works."

My first stop was the testing room, where I got to understand just what control meant by his attempt at humour. Anyone downloading this version of the game - codenamed Beta 3 - was certain to be disappointed. This simply wasn't a finished game. You could understand the motivation for loading up and running this early version. Impatient gamers just couldn't wait to try the other three episodes, extra weapons and new bad guys. The result? A generation of gamers who'd wasted the thrill of playing the action game of the year.

Next up, a sniff around the Internet. All the best Quake sites were eerily quiet on the issue of the leaked beta. I couldn't find so much of a mention of it, let alone anywhere to download it from - turned out that the guys at id had managed a pretty comprehensive cover-up. It took a good deal of lurking around one ofthe newsgroups before anyone would explain to me what happened.

Apparently it was one of those social disease things. id's John Romero passed the game on to a play-tester. The play-tester passed a copy onto a pal. Who passed a copy on to another pal. Who passed a copy on to… and so on until it landed in the slippery, warty hands of a software pirate who thought nothing of posting the game on-line.

So, what had people been playing - thinking they were all smart and getting the game before anyone else? The beta version was in fact three months old - by now make that five months. On the enemies side, players got to see new monsters, but their artificial intelligence wasn't nearly as hot as expected in the finished version. A better lighting model is being implemented for the finished game, which will change the way the characters are illuminated.

Another major change expected in the final version is redbook audio - that's to say real CD music which streams from disc while playing._The shareware version does this already, but what you really want is some Nine Inch Nails to really get into the spirit, seeing as they're the band that designed the sound effects. id are still involved in legal wranglings with Nine Inch Nails to secure exclusive tracks for the game, so expect plenty of profane lyrics!

As for the story line, the shareware version's plot is likely to be abandoned. While the readme file mentioned a character called Quake, chances are you won't be seeing any such a chappie in the finished game. On the front end, expect a total revamp of the menus. The text-based console will stay, but there'll be a much more intuitive method for running network games. Also, there will be an easier system for choosing player colour - expect to be able to change vest and pants colour with a mere tap ofthe left and right arrows.

All this just left the question why? Why bother rushing Quake and turning it into the PC games player equivalent of premature ejaculation? Sure, people were excited, but it's like sneaking a peek at your presents before Christmas… kind of detracts from the big day! You'll only get the sheer excitement of fighting through the single-player game for the first time once, so why squander it on uncompleted code? I knew what I had to do. At 4am the following day I went against every rule in the book and broke into my own Department's offices. I initiated my very own scorched earth policy - wiping every hard drive of any remnants of Beta 3 and then searching out any writable CD-ROMs with the code on. Tonight there'd be a bonfire.