It's hard to believe that Alien Arena has been in development for eight years now. The initial work began way back in December of 2003, as an offshoot of the CodeRED series of games that COR had released in 2002 and 2003. CodeRED actually began life even further back, in 1996, as a little Quake I mod that was roughly an idea based on something I had seen in MDK. By 1997, CodeRED had a final level with little "grey" aliens in it. We switched to the Quake 2 engine in 1997, and by 1998 the game changed completely, into a more traditional single player mod. Development stagnated however, when we shifted gears to develop Alteria, a single player RPG/FPS game based on the newly released id source code. When id released the Quake 2 sources, CodeRED development picked up again, and "Battle For Earth" was released in 2002, with "The Martian Chronicles" following it in 2003.
The concept for Alien Arena followed my ever growing interest in deathmatch gaming. While I had been playing for some years, I felt myself gravitating towards online play, and wanted to make a free deathmatch game. At this time, the only other game of that type was Cube. The original idea was to have characters based on a number of famous movie aliens/robots. I contacted the various parties who held copyrights, but was unable to secure permission, thus, the decision to base the game on the CodeRED universe was made. By the time the first version of Alien Arena was released in 2004, none of the CodeRED artwork remained - it had been all newly created just for Alien Arena, and by the summer of 2005, "CodeRED" was dropped from the name altogether.
Alien Arena has come a long way since those days. The game's artwork has been completely revamped, and the engine has received a constant amount of updates and modernization that make it barely recognizable to the original. From the meager days in 2003 of working on it alone, a number of people have joined to work on the game over the years, some came and went, some still remain. The rate of development has always been very high, and there appears to be no end in sight. We all love working on it, and have many things still on the plate for the future.
Alien Arena is powered by the CRX engine, which was initially based on the source code from Quake 2, and Quake 3. Most all of the renderer has been rewritten, so when people say to me "that's amazing for being idtech2", I have to kind of correct them, because the renderer really isn't idtech2 at all. One of the more impressive things that we are very proud of, is not only have we been making the game render more beautifully, we've made it much faster. For example, in version 7.50, we had been very excited that the game was rendering considerable faster than before. Framerates were at least 40% faster than they had been only a year or so before. In 7.51, we made a signifigant jump, and in 7.53 yet another. A test that ran at 90fps in 7.50, now runs at 160 fps in 7.53! Now that is progress!
One of the things that the CRX engine improved on over the years is the lighting. We started working on this in the summer of 2008, by 2009 we had full per-pixel lighting in the game, and by 2010, we had idtech4 style stencil volume shadows. Since then, we've really gone to town on it, adding soft shadows, shadowmapping, vegetation shadows, fading penumbras, etc. Below show some examples of what the engine is currently capable of rendering.
Per pixel lighting using glsl shaders on mesh surfaces, map, and liquids.
Spectacular lighting effects using shadowmapping.
In 2008 we began the use of GLSL to create our shader effects. This not only led to much faster, single pass renders, but really nice effects as well.
There is more to our engine then just nice lighting effects. We added things light light volumes, lens flares, and vegetation.
All of these now render very well on any reasonable gaming rig. We've spent just as much time looking for ways to optimize the code as much as new eyecandies. Now before anyone accuses of us not focusing on the game, let me just say that the next article will discuss just how false that myth is! We will discuss the ragdoll physics that were added last year, as well as the enormous amounts of changes made to the game code over the years.
Stay tuned - Part II will be coming in the next few days...