Sequels are supposed to be extensions of their predecessors. The public expects that. But those who believe Quake II will be a sequel are in for a surprise. "The great thing about Quake II is that it has absolutely nothing to do with Quake I," says id's lead level designer Tim Willits. "All new monsters, all new graphics, all new levels - even all the colors are different. This is nothing like Quake."
Why such a departure from arguably the best first-person action shooter ever? "With Quake we had a lot of internal turmoil," says Barrett Alexander, id's business development director. That "turmoil" centered on the departure of id co-founder John Romero and several other employees shortly after was completed. While the facts surrounding the split are disputed, the result has been a new approach to game design.
Quake II promises to be everything Quake wasn't - cohesive, bigger, with a storyline and goal-oriented level design. "We've gone to great lengths to address and correct all the negative things people have said about Quake," says Alexander.
That means the color palette will be "breathtaking" with "vibrant, explosive colors" plus colored lights, color blending, and color reflections. Rotating brushes, more polygons, improved textures, and frame interpolations will make the monsters look realistic, giving them fluid motion and avoiding the stretched, distorted effect in Quake. In addition, there will be more open space and outdoor areas. The sky will be a seamless world and you'll be able to see to the horizon.
Enemy AI is much improved, and once the monsters hear or see you, they'll follow you relentlessly. Conversely, you can use stealth and shadows to slip quietly past unwary beasts. Plus, not only can you crouch, but the monsters can as well, making them harder to kill.
Rather than a random assortment of bad guys, Quake II's monsters - organic/mechanical cyborgs actually - will all look like they are from the same alien race. That's not to say there won't be some truly bad-ass dudes - the Tank is a metal-plated behemoth who sports three weapons and pounds the ground with his fist to get your attention, and the Gunner is an armor-plated humanoid with a machine gun hermetically sealed to his wrist. Plans call for the inclusion of two female characters: a female enemy - which artist Paul Steed has described as an "indulgence of my sex-starved, degenerate tendencies" - and a playable female character loosely modeled on Vasquez from the film Aliens.
While most of the weapons will be reminiscent of other id games, they'll all look new and be much more detailed, down to animations of twitching fingers gripping the trigger. The new stuff will include a basic laser gun that never runs out of ammo but does lose some power with continual use, a chaingun with an accelerating firing rate, a honkin' huge shotgun, an electromagnetic rail gun that acts like an instant attack rocket launcher, a yet-to-be-created weapon of mass destruction, and a disintegrator that "doesn't hurt the monsters...just hit them a couple times and they evaporate," says Willits.
The 30 or so levels will be organized into units. You'll need to move back and forth among several levels, a la Hexen, to complete a single task. For instance, in the nuclear reactor unit, you'll need to expose the core, drain the emergency coolant, go through three levels to reverse the waste system pumps, then escape before the whole thing blows up. You'll also have numerous routes to success available. In the detention unit you can enter through the front door and blast anything that moves or sneak through a sewer, thereby encountering fewer monsters - or take a much more difficult cave/underwater route, avoiding all monsters before blasting open a main door.
While Quake was set in medieval dungeons, Quake II is in outer space, with an alien race bent on Earth's destruction. The aliens' home base is armed with a huge weapon that destroys all attacking spacecraft, making invasion nearly impossible. The solution: Send in hundreds of Marines in individual pods and hope that a few slip past that gun. You and a few others do and your goal is to destroy that weapon, allowing Earth's forces to attack. But, surprise, that will not signal the end of the game.
On the technical side, Quake II will run in Win95/NT (DOS is history) and will be only Open GL, not Direct 3D. That means it will run fine in SVGA but only those PCs with Open GL 3D cards will see all the special effects. id programmer Brian Hook recommends a 3Dfx Voodoo-based board for best results. The minimum platform will probably be a Pentium 90, with a P-133 recommended. There will be some deathmatch-oriented levels and Quake II will support 32-player games running in Quake World, but "we're focusing 95 percent of our efforts on single-player levels," says Willits.
The Quake II team is down to a lean, hungry, hardworking team of nine people: three level designers, three artists, and three programmers. "Everyone here is critical and everyone critical is working," says Willits. "We don't play deathmatches. We work." Carmack concurs: "We have a totally kick-ass team here. We are on schedule. We are doing a great product. Everybody watch out!"
In a departure from the usual id "it'll ship when it's done" release info, Quake II will ship in time for Christmas. Carmack is on cloud nine with anticipation. "I doubt I can convey just how well things are going here...I have been breaking into spontaneous smiles lately just thinking about how cool things are. Nobody is going to eclipse Quake II this Christmas."