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From Doom To Dunia — the History of 3D Engines

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the looking-forward-to-tech-5 dept.

First Person Shooters (Games) 117

notthatwillsmith writes "It's difficult to think of a single category of application that's driven the pace of desktop hardware development further and faster than first-person shooters. Maximum PC examined the evolution of FPS engines, looking back at the key technologies that brought games from the early sprite-based days of Doom to the fully 3D-rendered African Savannah as rendered by Far Cry 2's Dunia engine. It's truly amazing how far the state of the art has moved in the last 16 years."

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fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28863977)

First 3D Engine!

For the love of... (1)

dword (735428) | more than 5 years ago | (#28863987)

Why would anybody use an auto-print link for the only link in TFS ?!??1

Re:For the love of... (5, Informative)

Misanthrope (49269) | more than 5 years ago | (#28863995)

To avoid having the reader click through the quite annoying normal article split across a million pages.

Re:For the love of... (2, Funny)

Kratisto (1080113) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864045)

It's probably an edgy statement about the longevity of dead tree media.

Re:For the love of... (1)

coolsnowmen (695297) | more than 5 years ago | (#28870913)

l-o-l funny, where are my mod points!

Oh great, another fucking history lesson... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28864459)

Who the fuck cares about the history of ? Just like the history sections of Linux HowTos: who fucking cares? I'll be surprised if this shitty post breaks 100 comments.

P.S. - Global warming is the new religion of the 1st world urban elites: []

Re:Oh great, another fucking history lesson... (0, Offtopic)

jerep (794296) | more than 5 years ago | (#28867229)

Oh great, another ignorant person against history. History is where we can learn from the mistakes of others so we dont repeat them. Why do you think most successful people know most of the history within their domain? History also allows us to put things into perspective and respect what has come before us, as well as thinking about whats coming next.

P.S. Global warming is a fraud, there is no such thing. It would happen with or without human action, the whole solar system is heating up, our magnetic shield is weakening as if getting ready for a pole shift. This whole global warming propaganda is just a way to keep people in line while having them think they're doing the good thing so they dont question it and reject those who do.

Re:For the love of... (5, Interesting)

iVasto (829426) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864811)

I for one applaud the editor for using the print link. It saves me from having to click through probably 5-10 pages. I wish all editors would follow suit.

Print dialog box. (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 5 years ago | (#28867753)

But the print dialog box pop-up was annoying! Should posted both links (regular and print).

Wolfenstein 3D? (3, Insightful)

sprins (717461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864073)

I miss Wolfenstein 3D (the original game) in the list. AFAIK that was the 1st 3D FPS some time before DOOM. I understand that "From DOOM to Dunia" alliterates better, but to disregard Wolfenstein 3D alltogether?

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28864143)

Do you know the diference between game Engine and game?

Doom Dunia Wolfenstein3D ... one of them isnt a game Engine. Which one?

Yes mod me down for AC should i care?

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (3, Insightful)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864279) []

With 9 games to it's credit, it's probably more worthy than some others that were mentioned.

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28864655)

the article is about 3D engines.

just because it says 3D in the name, doesn't mean it's actually 3D. hell, the Doom engine probably shouldn't be in it either.

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (1)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864949)

In which case, it's also wrong to miss out all the actual 3D engines that were around before Doom - there were plenty of polygon based 3D engines without texture mapping in the 80s and early 90s.

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (1)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | more than 5 years ago | (#28866061)

2.5D . It looks 3d, but the internals of the engine treat the maps as 2d. Ah, the wonders of ray casting. Although I should point out that, while the graphics aren't, uhm, modern, those engines themselves weren't too bad when it comes to running with little memory and processing power.

Although what qualifies for being a 3d engine? Having the full out homogeneous transformations for every model? Or creating a world where the graphics can be perpendicular to your plane of movement? It's a bit fuzzy, but I would include Doom et al, since they laid the foundation for 3d games, and the final product on the screen did have a depth, width, and height. Even ray casters have a primitive perspective divide. Per ray, not per vertex, but a division by distance is still a division by distance.

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (5, Informative)

revoldub (1425465) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864147)

Title of Article: Doom to Dunia: A Visual History of 3D Game Engines
FTA: "Now, we know what you're thinking, and we're well aware that game engines existed prior to Doom's release in 1993; we're even going to cover some. But it was id Software's now legendary first-person shooter that pushed reusable 3D game engines as a viable programming model, and videogame development has never been the same since then."

Does it need an explanation?

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28866649)

Only that this isn't actually true. Wolfenstein 3D's engine *WAS* reusable - there were 3 episodes of Spear of Destiny, a total of over 60 levels, from id alone -, and Wolfenstein 3D also wasn't alone in the market, so the "viable programming model" was apparently also there.

Sure, Wolfie's competitors (Blake Stone, Corridor 7 etc.) were forgettable, and that's why hardly anyone will remember them - but the same is true for DOOM as well, right? (Unless you were a fan of 3D games back then, chances are you won't know things like Rise of the Triads, Descent etc. anymore.)

Of course, there's no doubt that DOOM *was* a revolution - and, in the end, a bigger and more important milestone than Wolfie. So saying that "videogame development has never been the same since then" is true, too, but still, I think they could've included Wolfie as well.

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (3, Funny)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864153)

"From Nazi's to Namibia" would work

although, I'm not sure where Far Cry 2 is set, Namibia certainly looks the part

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (1)

Aliotroph (1297659) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864187)

Yeah, I found that a bit odd. Wolfenstein 3D was the game that made EVERYBODY want 3D games It wasn't the first by far (even from id) but it was ridiculously fast, did 256 colours, and easy to play. I tried playing Catacombs 3D, which they released the year before, and it was just no fun. I've never tried Hovertank 3D.

Wolfenstein's engine also got used in a lot of places and extended in sometimes-interesting ways. ROTT was a good example.

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (2, Interesting)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864293)

Was Wolfenstein based on a reusable 3D engine - which is the theme of TFA - though?

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (2, Informative)

Chaos Incarnate (772793) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864419)

Yes, it was. []

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (1)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 5 years ago | (#28865209)

Who could forget this Gem [] based on the W3D engine

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (1)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864353)

Wolfenstein 3D wasn't really 3D; there was no relevant vertical axis. It was 2d gameplay with a somewhat 3d view.

You couldn't tilt the viewpoint, aim higher, and they used sprites for stuff placed in the rooms.

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (3, Insightful)

Chaos Incarnate (772793) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864429)

Then by that logic, neither was Doom.

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28864581)

But you could move in all 3 dimensions in Doom due to steps and lifts. In Wolf3D it was forward/backwards and left/right only.

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (1)

silent_artichoke (973182) | more than 5 years ago | (#28865311)

It's still just a 2D representation on a flat screen. Let me know when the REAL 3D engines come. And no funny colored glasses allowed!

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28866827)

Well the real 3D engines (not counting stuff like Doom and Wolf3D, so stuff like Quake engine and beyond, Descent, etc.) are internally represented in memory in three dimensions, so that's not the issue. If you want 3D projections from the game world to the display unit, you're probably going to have to wait another 20 years or so for volumetric displays [] to become affordable and more widespread.

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 5 years ago | (#28865795)

That was an illusion. There's a reason there are bridges/underpasses in Doom - the engine couldn't support it. The Build engine was the first "2.5D" engine I'm aware of that somehow cheated this and added the ability to have rooms over rooms.

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28868279)

Ultima Underworld had 3D, bridges, and up/down viewing. It was released March 1992.

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (1)

uncledrax (112438) | more than 5 years ago | (#28870133)

True, but Doom didn't allow any actual Z overlap in the maps.. it you look at the levels from a top-down perspective, they laid out flat.

IIRC, the mouse was still coming into acceptance as an input mechanism on DOS desktops around the time Doom came out, so it wasn't that big a deal. This could have been a contributing factor to while Wolf3D wasn't pushed harder on the input side, ie: you could completely play the game on a keyboard.

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 5 years ago | (#28867177)

You obviously didn't play doom to its fullest. There were many verticle points in Doom, and you COULD look up or down.

Now, I specifically can't REMEMBER any staircases in Wolfienstien. But I'm not going to say they don't exist. But the Parent is right in saying that Doom was more 3D then Wolfienstein.

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (1)

Chaos Incarnate (772793) | more than 5 years ago | (#28867405)

There are vertical points in Doom, but they're faked. You can't actually look up/down (in the original; some source ports added this feature). The game engine ignores the fake z axis when determining collision (so to hit the imps towards the end of E1M1, you're actually aiming at the wall below them, but they're magically hit anyways).

Doom may have looked more 3D than Wolfenstein, but the gameplay was pure 2D still.

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (5, Interesting)

Lproven (6030) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864381)

Not only Wolfenstein - which arguably was the origin of the engine of Doom - but other significant milestones are missing.

Firstly, Jez San's "Starglider", marketed by Rainbird. Possibly the first 3D game for home computers. ("Battlezone" ran on dedicated vector-graphics hardware.) []

David Braben's "Lander" and later the full game "Zarch" for Acorn's Archimedes were AFAIK the first /solid/ rendered 3D graphics on home computers: []

Of course, Braben's Elite was the first computer game to use any 3D at all - Starglider was /all/ in 3D. []

These seem to me to be worthy of a mention, at least an opening paragraph. So, probably, is Maze War (1973!) - just limited box-drawing, but a display of 3D and a widely-used technique. []

It doubtless inspired 3D Monster Maze from 1981 on the ZX81, a machine which didn't even have graphics as such: []

3D Ant Attack from 1983, which also provided the engine for Zombie Zombie. []

This is about ENGINES, not games (1)

coder111 (912060) | more than 5 years ago | (#28865199)

Enough said in the subject.

I wonder what engines were used in Operation Flashpoint and Armed Assault games. They seem to be missing from the list.


Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (1)

rilister (316428) | more than 5 years ago | (#28866479)

The Freescape engine from 1987 was the first time I came across the explicit concept of a 3D game engine: []
They even advertised it on the packaging!

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28867325)

Geoff Crammond's [] Aviator (a 3D flight sim) predates Elite. I bought Aviator at the same time as my BBC Micro and Elite when it was released, about a year later in 1984.

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (1)

asynchronous13 (615600) | more than 5 years ago | (#28867551)

I remember playing Stellar 7 [] before Starglider (doesn't mean that's the order they were released, of course).

Marathon [] by Bungie Software is another one that is often forgotten -- probably because it was only available for Apple Macintosh initially (1994). Frankly, it blew Doom out of the water with better storyline, graphics, and 8 person multi-player deathmatch -- appletalk network, no tcp/ip support.

Not sure if Marathon would qualify as a 'game engine' for this list, though the game engine for Marathon 2 was open sourced eventually, now called 'Aleph One' [] .

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (1)

Arakun (1444095) | more than 5 years ago | (#28870733)

There were three other games that used the Marathon 2 engine: Damage Incorporated, Prime Target and ZPC.

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (2, Informative)

tangent3 (449222) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864407)

Ultima Underworld was released a couple of months earlier than Wolfenstein 3D, and was technically superior to Wolfenstein's engine (in some ways surpassing Doom's engine too). The frame rate isn't too impressive though...

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (2, Informative)

eulernet (1132389) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864557)

As it's mentioned in another reply, Wolfenstein is not in 3D, but in pseudo 3D []

The real 3D games ancestors are:

  - Elite (1984, first 3D) []
  - Rescue on Fractalus (1984, first voxel) []

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28864641)

The ZX81 had 3d monster maze considerably earlier. Granted, the frame rate wasn't up to much, but then Wolfenstein 3D is also a piece of crap when you look back.

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28864923)

Yes, and I also missed Elite, which may actually be one of the first games that included 3D graphics. They start with Space Rogue which is basically an Elite clone released five years after the fact.

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (1)

FreonTrip (694097) | more than 5 years ago | (#28865691)

Even Wolf3D wasn't the very first - id published a game under Softdisk called [] >Catacomb 3-D with EGA graphics and Adlib sound in 1991. That was probably the first textbook example of a first-person shooter as it's currently understood. That said, yes, it's stupid and criminal that Wolfenstein's engine didn't make the cut.

Re:Wolfenstein 3D? (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#28867505)

The first 3d game was Maze War [] , AFAIK, way back in 1974. Even allowing for the site name, MaximumPC has a strange interest in ignoring history before the PC.

Errors in the article (5, Informative)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864165)

They list an engine called Voxel, which isn't an engine but a technology. And they list a bunch of games which use the same engine as NovaLogic's Comanche, but it's complete bullshit. Tiberian Sun and Red Alert 2 (for example) didn't use that engine at all, the just used the voxel technology.

Then they list StoneKeep, but StoneKeep didn't even use a 3D engine.

They call Outcast "A popular voxel engine", the engine was used only once. And showed it severe limitations. How can something used only once be popular.

And for some reason they decided to split up some engines into multiple generations (like UnrealEngine) and keep others as a single entry (like LithTech, GameBryo)

And for an history article they surely didn't bother to put everything in chronological order. And for a visual article they sure didn't bother to find the best screenshots to show of the engine.

Re:Errors in the article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28864369)

For Doom, they talked about "a standard VGA videocard capable of rendering texture-mapped environments". What are they smoking? Those cards did no such things, and texture-mapping was done in software.

Technical inaccuracies (2, Informative)

Dan East (318230) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864699)

There are a number of technical inaccuracies too.

All that was needed to run Doom was a 386 level PC (in low-detail mode) with a standard VGA videocard capable of rendering texture-mapped environments.

All texture mapping was done in software, which was even true of the Quake 1 and Quake 2 software renderers. So I'm not sure why they're attributing texture-mapping to the VGA hardware.

Other features of the Quake II engine, now known as id Tech 2, included colored lighting effects, and a new game model whereby game code was written in C and loaded from a DLL (Dynamic Link Library) rather than the original QuakeC scripting language. In layman's terms, this allowed for both software and OpenGL renders rather than one or the other, so if you didn't own a Voodoo videocard, you weren't necessarily out of luck.

Here the article is stating that by using native DLLs for game logic in Quake 2 instead of the Quake C used in Quake, Quake 2 could support both hardware and software rendering. The game logic has nothing whatsoever to do with the rendering.

The GoldSRC engine used by HalfLife was described as a "tweaked Quake engine". Tweaked? That's an incredibly massive understatement. Elsewhere I've read that id Software provided the Quake 2 sources to Vavle as part of the licensing, but they had modified the Quake 1 engine so heavily, and improved it so much, that use of Quake 2 source was unnecessary and probably nearly impossible due to so many changes to the Quake 1 architecture.

Otherwise it is an interesting, albeit lightweight, article.

Re:Technical inaccuracies (1)

7 digits (986730) | more than 5 years ago | (#28868523)

Almost every part of the article is filled with inaccuracies.

Quake BSP pre-processing "would identify empty space inside and outside of the border. This highly effective technique reduced the amount of polygons usually by half and sometimes by much more." That is not what binary space partitioning is about.

It is extremely obvious that the guy writing the article have zero clues about how a 3d engine work. For instance, he states that, with Renderware "a developer could, [..] change the color of a character's clothing without altering the underlying code and rendering the scene all over again". As if the scene isn't rendered each frame anyway...

There is some seriously severe misunderstanding in there...

What about NFS? (1)

junglee_iitk (651040) | more than 5 years ago | (#28866931)

Do you know what are the engines driving Need For Speed games? The main three I am interested in are 5,6 and 7 (Porsche Unleashed, High Stakes and Underground).

Forgotten game: Descent (5, Insightful)

SurfMan (969573) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864175)

It's a shame the article doesn't mention Descent. It featured epic 6 degrees of freedom. Enjoyed that game very much *sigh*

Re:Forgotten game: Descent (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28864529)

Should have also meantioned Carrier Command. Its 3d engine was exceptional for 1988

Re:Forgotten game: Descent (3, Interesting)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864765)

6 degrees of freedom, 7 degrees of hurl.

I also remember that game being very difficult. It would be interesting to play it now to see if it's as hard as I remember. I think dretching in tremulous has helped significantly for me to be able to think in 3d which would help, although automatically being normal to the surface in that game probably helps significantly.

Forgotten game: Marathon (1)

Snoggle (1231448) | more than 5 years ago | (#28867711)

Just because it was on the Mac doesn't mean it wasn't a great series of games. []
Lots of innovations made there by the Bungie folks before they were bought up my Microsoft and ported Halo from the Mac to XBox. []
Halo was introduced at MacWorld expo in 1999 []

Corporation - 1990 - Pre Wolf3D (2, Interesting)

yossarianuk (1402187) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864197)

One major 3D game not mentioned is - 1990 - Amiga - Corporation

It was released years before Wolfenstein 3D, you could even send a photo of your self to the company and they would digitise it and send you it back to play in the game...

It was incredibly hard but had great atmosphere - the main issue was the controls were impossible to use - It took the PC until about 1994 to get anywhere near the graphics of this game..

Robocop 3 (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28864315)

Robocop 3 (1992) On the amiga:

The missions where varied, some chase bad guy x and run them off the road, others where more 1st person shooting inside buildings.

There was also hunter (1991), not so much a 1st person shooter:

Re:Robocop 3 (2, Interesting)

yossarianuk (1402187) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864399)

hunter was truly awesome. I mentioned corporation as it was the 1st 3D game i played (excluding Dungeon Master / Bloodwych which are not really 3D)

Re:Robocop 3 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28870239)

Yeah they've missed out basically all the DID games - Epic was also off the Robocop 3 engine right there. Missed out pretty much every single flight sim ever made too, which back in the day were the titles that mainly pushed 3D tech forward. Falcon, F-15 Strike Eagle, EF2000, MS Flight Simulator etc. etc. Midwinter 1&2 - the list goes on and on. The article was an interesting trip back down memory lane but some of the "technological insights" were beyond laughable, all in all a C-.

Quake 1-3 (3, Interesting)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864243)

People like the FTEQuake folks have integrated Quake1-3 together, which allows you to play any map from Quake 1 through 3, or to incorporate things like shaders into the Quake 1 experience. It's actually kind of neat. Take a look at the screenshots at [] - it's all I use nowadays when I play FPSes. I'll play some Gears cooperatively with my friends, but nothing yet has beaten the original quake experience for FPS fun.

The euphoria engine looks pretty interesting. I've been doing some work with motion analysis, and so the work they've done on it really impresses me - apparently you can code animations using it without keyframes or motion capture, which is pretty neat (if it works). The tech demo video is here - []

Re:Quake 1-3 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28864343)

FTE is an awesome engine. I have nothing but respect for Spike and his crew (sorry, I can't recall any other programmers on the team). I had always been messing around with QuakeC type mods for Quake and Quakeworld, and I had some various ideas that the modding engine couldn't do alone, so after asking Spike what he thought about a little idea of mine, he added it into the engine. Took a good bit of tweaking, but with pm_walljump 1, you can bounce off of walls. It's pretty amusing, but rather difficult (intentionally) to control unless you have a solid understanding of the air physics in the game.

I suspect that it only works in quakeworld netcode, but give it a shot. Also, pm_walljump 2 is 'pinball' mode where you automatically bounce off of walls when you hit them. :P

Re:Quake 1-3 (1)

Zebedeu (739988) | more than 5 years ago | (#28866441)

Wasn't the euphoria engine used in GTA IV?
From the (impressive) tech demo I seemed to recognise the same kind of reaction from the actors.
I remember being completely blown away in GTA when I inadvertently pushed a guy near some stairs and he fumbled trying to keep his balance for a while before finally falling down the stairs. I don't think it could've been more realistic if it were keyframed.

Incredible technology.

No Freescape??? (1)

onealone (996027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864327)

Surely this article should have started with Freescape. []

Re:No Freescape??? (1)

Yuioup (452151) | more than 5 years ago | (#28865121)

Yeah. I still have Castle Master somewhere on a floppy.

They obviously don't like Liththech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28864345)

FEAR is reduced to an small mention in the "poor man's engine" section while we have every version of IDTech explained.
I have disagree, FEAR had the best engine between HL2/Doom3 4 and Crysis.
It's the same with the CryEngine, they should have split the entry in two, as the CryEngine 2 is still the best available.

Re:They obviously don't like Liththech (1)

Steauengeglase (512315) | more than 5 years ago | (#28865125)

Lithtech has always been on the short end of the popularity stick. You grandmother can name Doom, your mom can mention Counter-Strike and your little brother can mention FarCry. Now ask the same group if they know about Shogo or NOLF.

not 3d shooters... (3, Interesting)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864405)

IIRC, it was never 3d first-person games that drove hardware development, but space-flight shoot-em ups. Titles like Wing Commander really drove the need for better and better graphics hardware, in fact, Wing Commander was the one that made the 386 chip a necessity and apparently made people upgrade to play it.

Re:not 3d shooters... (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864637)

They drove sales, at least. With each game running like crap on last years card gamers spend a fortune each year to keep to the bleeding edge.

Problem is, other than the greater hardware requirements is there *really* that much difference between quake 3 and the latest games? Higher resolution, some explosion effects.. I played left4dead to see what was supposed to be so great and really couldn't see anything that couldn't be done in the quake engine.. except it needed more powerful hardware.

Re:not 3d shooters... (1)

Turiko (1259966) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864737)

left 4 dead is a really bad example - not much special happens in there, and especially not physics. But look at a game like crysis, and look at the cryengine 2. Can you implement such a physics system into the quake engine?

Re:not 3d shooters... (2, Insightful)

Admiral_Grinder (830562) | more than 5 years ago | (#28865275)

Much difference gameplay wise? Probably not. Realize that part of the FPS experience is it being a visual experience. Most of the time when new game and/or engine comes out they brag about how many objects it can handle. It is possible that one model from L4D contains the same amount of polygons that all of Quake 1 (as in the number of polygons you encounter throughout the whole game).

Re:not 3d shooters... (1)

Turiko (1259966) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864653)

have you seen a lot of space shooters since 2000? There where some, but they definetely weren't the ones pushing. FPS games have been pushing for quite a while.

Re:not 3d shooters... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28865463)

If you want to see a modern "Space Shooter" (also trader) game pushing graphics, look at "X3: Terran Conflict"

Re:not 3d shooters... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28865355)

I actually used to play Wing Commander just fine on my 286. The limitation was the necessary extended memory boards, and the need for a video card that supported VGA graphics. The computer I played on has a not uncommon video card, but required an upgraded ROM chip for VGA.

Stunts ( 4D Sports Driving) (2, Interesting)

Krneki (1192201) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864507)

What about Stunts?

I played this game for years.

I know, I'm old. :(

Re:Stunts ( 4D Sports Driving) (1)

joelmax (1445613) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864567)

Ahh... what a great game stunts was...

Re:Stunts ( 4D Sports Driving) (1)

Bromskloss (750445) | more than 5 years ago | (#28865509)

What about Stunts?

Not on the list because it was 4D, rather than 3D.

Re:Stunts ( 4D Sports Driving) (1)

Reapy (688651) | more than 5 years ago | (#28866469)

Holy crap, best game ever. I think I spent more time in the track edit mode then actually driving the insane creations I put together. Great game.

Re:Stunts ( 4D Sports Driving) (1)

Hodapp (1175021) | more than 5 years ago | (#28867153)

Stunts is one of my favorite games too. I remember seeing my brother play it first on our 386, and then I finally found it something like a decade later from an abandonware site. The track editor makes for a lot of replay value. Sure, it's still grid-based and sometimes it's picky, but it is still remarkably versatile.

For being able to run on something that slow, the engine was quite respectable - it was true 3D, wasn't it? Even if everything was very low polygon count...

The physics in Stunts also has some amusing issues. If you hit a building just right, your car flies straight up in the air to a ridiculous height before falling down again. I think it's also possible to make your car spontaneously explode if you enter a long tube and turn suddenly so your car moves in a circle.

The Dark Engine (3, Insightful)

sapphire wyvern (1153271) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864595)

Shame they didn't mention the Dark Engine, which was used for Thief, Thief II, and System Shock II, and basically drove the creation of the 3d stealth game as it now exists. Since Thief II and System Shock II are frequent visitors to "Best PC Game Ever" listings, the engine behind them seems notable. The switch to Unreal II for Thief III killed the ability to have large maps, which is one of the major shortfalls of that installment compared to the earlier games in the series. The same applies for the legendarily disappointing Deus Ex II.

Re:The Dark Engine (2, Insightful)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 5 years ago | (#28865171)

I'm not sure what you mean. Deus Ex always used the Unreal Engine.

Re:The Dark Engine (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28868245)

The PC Deus Ex used the Unreal engine and had large maps. To port it to consoles they had to chop up several of the maps by (for example) adding walls across levels. Some said this felt contrived and ruined the level design. The PC Deus Ex was known for large, well designed levels that felt like real places rather than "levels". How many FPS feature buildings where there is only one route from one end of the building to the other - as if that would get past a fire inspection! Deus Ex may have featured unusual locations but they always felt workable as real ships/warehouses/evil lairs.

Deus Ex II used Unreal II but had smaller maps on both PC and console. This could make some of the levels feel artificial because all of the puzzles / alternate routes to achieving goals had to be packed very close together. Along with the console-friendly HUD/controls, it was one of the ways that fans criticized the sequel as "dumbed down".

Re:The Dark Engine (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 5 years ago | (#28869603)

Ah ok, I never played either one on a console.

Glaring omission, Unity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28864709)

It was the first FPS to be browser based, Since a lot of engines are moving in that direction it's definitely an important engine and very user friendly.

Midwinter for Amiga (4, Interesting)

Dan East (318230) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864851)

The first real-time 3D engine I ever played or saw was Midwinter for the Amiga. It was released in 1989, 4 years before Doom, and featured flat-shaded polygon rendering in a true 3D environment. I just remember the environment being incredibly huge and immersive, and I spent many hours walking and skiing around desolate white landscapes.

Wikipedia article (which mentions nothing whatsoever about the game's technical aspects); []

Screenshot of the 3D environment (Atari ST version):,362797/ []

Gamespot seems to be one of the few that actually recognize how groundbreaking this game was: []

Re:Midwinter for Amiga (1)

ChienAndalu (1293930) | more than 5 years ago | (#28869335)

That reminds me of Stunts 4D [] from 1990. Boy did I have fun with this game as a kid.

Chronicles of Riddick's Engine (1)

Gulthek (12570) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864891)

It's a shame they didn't talk about the engine used for the Chronicles of Riddick games.

What about... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28864919)

Rescue on Fractalus?

How stupid you can be to call DOOM 2D (1)

mestar (121800) | more than 5 years ago | (#28864941)

I'm sick of people saying that Doom was a 2d game. It was a 3d game.

It had limitations, but still every object had 3 coordinates.

"Illusion of 3D" my ass. Every 3d game is "an illusion of 3d".

Re:How stupid you can be to call DOOM 2D (1)

Phibz (254992) | more than 5 years ago | (#28865471)

It had limitations, but still every object had 3 coordinates.

"Illusion of 3D" my ass. Every 3d game is "an illusion of 3d".

Not quite. The reason it's not a true 3d engine is because of how the map is represented. The map is composed of 2 dimensional planes each with a specific height. This might sound like 3d, but it's not. For example, no two planes can overlap in the x, y dimension--no bridges or tunnels with floors above them. So it's like flat 2d map but subdivided in to pieces (sectors in doom speak) that each have a height projected up from them.

Not so stupid... Re:How stupid you can be (1)

bukuman (1129741) | more than 5 years ago | (#28865497)

Ever notice how there was never one part of the map overlapping another? At any point there was always only ever the floor and the ceiling - at various levels, and able to raise/lower (lifts/doors anyone?). In that important sense it was 2D; a 2D map 'extruded' as a special case into 3D - not an arbitrary collection of 3D geometry. Oh and the sprites, they were bill-boarded 2D also.

Not so stupid, depending one what you mean.

Graphics don't matter (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28864967)

Where's the fun? In the 90s I enjoyed Doom, Quake series, DN3D, Unreal, and so on, but the *quality* of the gameplay diminished. Many single player FPS these days are just a series of corridors and rooms bolted on to each other with a terribly linear path as compared to even Doom, where many levels were almost puzzle-like in construction. Many people bemoan Doom's gameplay as "find-the-key", but at least that's a real *goal* and encourages exploration, unlike the linear gameplay of many modern FPS. That or ones that appear "open" yet are just a series of radar checkpoints ("go this direction, do X, now go this direction, do Y") which is just as bad.

I still play Doom on a very regular basis; the amount of quality fanmade maps keep it fresh and even the originals are interesting and challenging enough to replay over and over. Modern games like Crysis and Far Cry, and even games like Half-Life 2 (hell, even the original Half-Life was pretty dull) just bore me to tears in comparison.

Plus we just have a glut of FPS these days. A new one comes out every week or two -- seriously, isn't it time to slow down and make original, fresh, interesting games? Oh no, we can't do that, that'd be *risky!* Life is risk, game companies. Take some. In other words, stop concentrating on making an FPS that looks 5+% more shiny than the last one and do something interesting.

AC because every single modern gamer that has been raised to believe that the horrible state of gaming today is not only acceptable but actually PREFERRED will mod me down.

Re:Graphics don't matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28865319)

This kind of comment has become the biggest cliche on Slashdot. Some people find FPS to be a very fun genre of video game.

Re:Graphics don't matter (2, Insightful)

amn108 (1231606) | more than 5 years ago | (#28865877)

I believe the blame lies in the, umm how should I best call it, a sort of like "geologically active" field of science - I mean everybody is trying to create a perfect 3D renderer and perfect all they have, before they can settle in and start writing good stories. I truly believe this is one of the show-stoppers for developing good games. Look at it - just about every developer starts by actually REINVENTING the wheel here - make their own engine, and THEN build some game on top of it, while the engine actually gets more exposure. This is in our nature - we are divided between being storytellers and fantasts and on the other side being pragmatic scientists and mathematicians. In the old days the resources were so limited and the possibilities so inviting, many people created wonderful stories that captivated the gamers with their imaginary worlds, although executed on a much moderate plane of presentation. Today, it is like peeping through the keyhole into a world of ACTUAL possibilities - the hardware is so powerful, it just tickles all gaming studios to try and top the previous level of enslaving the machine - BEFORE they actually start thinking about storytelling. Think about it - you said it yourself - the hardware some years back, especially the hardware renderers - allowed for quite little innovation - it was all textures and polygons, and not many at that - few could break free of that prison, and even fewer tried, so almost every game looked the same. Of course I am generalizing, it is always possible to be creative using whatever resources at disposition, but let us consider the majority here - and they did not innovate much because everyone just saw those same polygons and that same DirectX. Nobody did voxels anymore for one - because we were past that "era" and the new era was all about hardware pipelines, but those were immature. When we finally be getting freedom that true and mature raytracers will give us, along with good particle simulators and what not - maybe the creative potential will be inspired forth again. Until then, the new platform of creativity today may well be Adobe Flash platform - the 90s repeat themselves all over - not enough power to simulate reality but enough power to captivate gamers with good stories with useful execution.

Where is descent 1 / descent 2 they where true 3d (2, Insightful)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 5 years ago | (#28865137)

Where is descent 1 / descent 2 they where true 3d and you could fly upside down, side to side have rooms on top rooms and more.

Where's Descent? (1)

Wooky_linuxer (685371) | more than 5 years ago | (#28865421)

IIRC, Descent was one of the first real 3D games - although not an FPS. I didn't see it in the article, does anyone knows which engine it used?

Re:Where's Descent? (3, Informative)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#28866011)

Descent was a First Person Shooter. The perspective was first person, and you shot things.

Re:Where's Descent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28868697)

Two things forgotten:
(1) Descent was developed after Doom, and was released over a year after Doom.
(2) The portal rendering engine used by Descent has been rumored to be a simple extension of the Doom engine (e.g., built on top of it as it was the same technology but with the addition of 3D Polymesheses for the objects instead of sprites, and the addition of a simple static lighting scheme). The six degrees of freedom for movement is definitely an innovation over Doom, 'tho.

unique renderers (2, Insightful)

Bobtree (105901) | more than 5 years ago | (#28865441)

The one thing I missed most from all the old software rendered games is how distinctive their visuals are. When everything shifted to hardware the look of 3d games became very uniform, only to slowly differentiate with improving art and tech as time went on. The new programmable hardware again allows more freedom in rendering approaches, and now the top end engines are effectively all specialized shader pipelines. After 5-10 years of very homogenous looking games it's a most welcome change.

Missing engines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28865751)

They forgot to mention the Torque Game Engine update, and that Torque was also used for the MMORPG Minions of Mirth. (The developer is now working on Torque engine 2 or whatever they call it.)

They also forgot the Bioware engine used for NWN, and then in very hacked up forms for NWN2 & The Witcher.

Also Sirs Not Mentioned are the various open source games engines, the engines used in games Like the XBTF/X2/X3 series, DS1, etc.

It would seem that the article was narrowly focused on shooter/action game engines with a couple of adventure & rpg games tossed in that were popular.

Where is Cube engine? (1)

hotfireball (948064) | more than 5 years ago | (#28865911)

The article does not says about Cube and Cube-2 engines: an open source engine, on which Sauerbraten is based: [] Engine itself is really great and extremely simple. Check it out and go play some games.

A ton of stuff as been overlooked. (1)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 5 years ago | (#28866171)

All the games people are mentioning which haven't been described in the article are reminding me of a couple of others.

There's Flight Simulator, for one. I had the very first version back on the PCjr. Sierra Online even published a 3D helicopter simulator at some point.

I'd say racing games are an important subset of 3D gaming which have been completely overlooked. There are a good number of driving games which have been completely overlooked. Stunts, Stunt Driver, Test Drive 3, the Need for Speed series. I'm sure there are others, but I'd say these were the more popular. There was that game Viper Racing game which featured vehicle damage, one of the first I recall doing so. If I remember correctly the developers originally had the intention offering a wide variety of cars, but because of limitations on time or budget the game ended up featuring only the Dodge Viper. Some people have actually kept the game alive, improving graphics and adding new cars. I notice the article has a photo of what seems to be WipEout but doesn't mention it at all.

Then there were a number of games which seem to have been inspired by early notions of virtual reality. There was this one game which involved making this triangular shaped object jump from platform to platform, climbing up these towering structures. If I remember correctly it might have even predated Wolfenstein and the rest, but I can't recall much else about the game.

I mean, if we're going to talk about the history of 3D PC gaming I would expect the list to be more extensive. This article reads like something a 22 year old wrote, working from what he's read about online and quick Wikipedia consultations. So much for thorough research and editing.

19 Years. 1990 to now (1)

physburn (1095481) | more than 5 years ago | (#28866259)

Since it starts with 1990 games and only PC games at that, it misses out on some very early games, and its entirely 1st person centered, not a must read, but covers a lot of nostalgia for me. Plenty of games I never played. Just have to list my fav games. Unreal was just so amazingly beutiful compared with any i'd played before. Return to Castle Wolfstein wasn't even listed but was a great game. Then Half Life of course.


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