Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

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Enemy Territory: Quake Wars will offer gamers the chance to give the Strogg a crash course on human kick-ass history and send them back to their home planet once and for all. The game also has a twist as players will also have a chance to see how the other half… fights.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is an online strategic shooter and if you are unclear as to what that means think class-based multiplayer or to make things more obvious, Battlefield 2 but with aliens. The game is a prequel to the Quake 2/Quake 4 games while it is set only 60 years into the future making most of the weapons and vehicles somewhat familiar. The secret weapon for any developer is including an alien race in the game as that provides the creative freedom to explore various weapon and vehicle designs and formats. Enemy Territory: Quake Wars will be a pure multiplayer game.

The guy with the binoculars is looking the wrong way…

A Brief History of… Strogg

The new Enemy Territory: Quake Wars game will pit the forces of the Global Defence Force against the forces of the alien invaders; the Strogg. A quick look at the description of the gameplay may remind readers of the popular Battlefield franchise but you have to view this game as a continuation of something that started a lot earlier. Splash Damage, the people behind ET:QW, were also responsible for the creation of Return to Castle Wolfenstein and its highly successful multiplayer add-on; Enemy Territory. The same team was also involved in some of the multiplayer work on Doom 3 so they do have a plan and it takes place in the Quake Universe.

To find out more about that plan, read on….

A lot has been heard about the technology behind ET:QW, even though the game will be built, to a great extent, on the Doom 3 engine. When the news was first heard, gamers were apprehensive as the Doom 3 engine came under a lot of criticism for its inability to handle large outdoor areas. In order to address the issue, iD Technical Director and owner John Carmack, has developed a proprietary texture mapping technology he named MegaTexture.

The main aim of MegaTexture is to avoid texture bugs and glitches but its development has introduced some exciting, additional features which should make ET:QW maps extremely exciting places to inhabit.
The main principle of MegaTexture is the painting of a single massive texture (approximately 32000x32000 pixels large, or 1024 Megapixel, or 1 Gigapixel), covering the entire polygon map. This will render maps without any fogging offering over 1 square mile of terrain with inch-level detail. The technology provides unique maps without any repeating textures. This MegaTexture will also be able to store information such as what type of sound should be played at certain areas of the map i.e. different sounds for walking on grass or on gravel etc. This technology will allow a detailed experience we have never encountered before while the real beauty of the system is that when compressed the MegaTexture will only need 8 Mb of video RAM (from an average size of 6 GB when uncompressed). According to Splash Damage Owner, Paul "Locki" Wedgewood, each one of ETQW's maps could be compared to four Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory maps in depth and complexity.

The great outdoors; the Strogg came for a picnic

As with the Doom 3 engine, lighting will also be very important to ET:QW. Each map will experience the lighting associated with a 24 hour cycle and the amount of light will have a definite impact on actual gameplay. Certain areas of the maps will offer better cover, or ambush potential during certain times of the day.

As is the case with any self-respecting next-generation game, ET:QW will feature a vastly improved physics engine. The important of physics will be most evident when using or observing vehicles. Strogg flying contraptions will use gravitational forces and will react differently to GDF planes and helicopter-like machines. Ground vehicles will have the surface react to their wheels so obstacles might be an issue for some forms of vehicle and not for others.

Technology is very important in most games but only if it serves gameplay in the best possible way, read on to see whether ET:QW achieves this balance…

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is a multiplayer only so it makes sense that a lot of its charm will lie in how the teams will be balanced. In many ways this new game veers away from its predecessor as the two teams are very different, one is a human force and the other a blood-thirsty alien race bent on world domination after all.

Although such a confrontation may be a good recipe for making movies and single-player games, it is not perfectly suited to multiplayer games. The way Splash Damage and iD have addressed any balancing concerns is to rely on classes. ET:QW is a class-based MP game and as such will feature similar classes for each team.
Splash Damage however, did not want to use the usual way of balancing teams, i.e. having very different weapons deliver similar levels of damage etc. What makes balancing gameplay even more challenging is that The Strogg and the GDF each will have unique military objectives, such as constructing a bridge or hacking a shield generator, opening up the game to a variety of player created strategies thus making balance a very important factor.

For all their technology the Strogg seem to have neglected the science of cosmetic enhancement

According to Splash Damage's Lead game Designer and Owner, Paul "Locki" Wedgewood, the answer lies in thousands of hours of play testing and in an approach which uses the action-reaction principle. The way ET:QW gameplay balance has been approached has evolved around the need for every team to be able to counteract the advantages of the other team. instead of comparing two units based on the comparative effect they have, we implement "counters" to each team's ability, tactic, or employable strategy. Each ability of one team needs a counter-ability for the opposing team, which in turn needs a counter-counter-ability for the original team: every great sniper location needs opposing concealment for attackers; each open vehicle route needs cover for defenders; every choke point needs fortification, says Locki.

As the game is now in beta testing it would seem that this approach has paid off for the game's creators and after having sampled the game this May we would tend to agree.

Both teams in ET:QW will feature similar classes which will all carry different weapons and tools. Each weapon and tool will feature unique advantages and disadvantages which will have to be used/exploited by the players. Each team will also have access to unique vehicles and aircraft again, each with its unique advantages and shortcomings. As the game will not release until 2007 bear in mind that details could change.

Global Defence Force

The Global Defence Force (GDF) is a paramilitary international rapid-reaction force formed from the various national armies and relief agencies in reaction to natural and terrorist disasters of the early 21st Century. It is the only military force with the equipment, command structure and mobility to defend Earth from the Strogg invasion. The GDF forces are humanity's brightest and best; they represent Earth's first and only line of defence against the pitiless Strogg raiders.

GDF Character Classes

This is the GDF's assault class. The Soldier can choose heavy weapons, such as the N93 General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) and N72 LAW Rocket Launcher. He also carries Fragmentation Grenades and the High Explosive Charge.

Field Ops
The GDF's Fire Support specialist, the Field Ops can deploy Fire Support guns in the field, and designate targets for them. His deployables include the Artillery Gun, Guided Rockets and Strategic Hammer Launcher. He can also call in Air-Strikes and dispenses ammunition to his squad mates. He carries the N80 Assault Rifle.

The Engineer is a support/defence class, constructing and repairing vehicles, deployables, and objectives (such as bridges and machinery). He also deploys and maintains defence turrets, such as the Anti-Personnel, Anti-Missile and Anti-Vehicle deployables. The Engineer carries the N22 Shotgun and multi-purpose mines.

Covert Ops
The GDF's Covert Operative specialises in stealthy infiltration, sniping, electronic sabotage and reconnaissance. Rangers can use their PDA's to hack and disable enemy deployables, and deploy 3rd Eye cameras to spy on the enemy and relay their locations to his squad mates. The Covert Ops carries the N38 Sniper Rifle and smoke grenades.

The GDF medical specialist provides a support and combat role. He heals and revives team mates by dispensing health packs and using his Defibrillator pads. The Medic can air-drop supply stations in the field, and carries the N80 Assault Rifle.
Strogg Character Classes

He must be their anal-probe expert

Stroyent Munchers

The Strogg are a barbaric race of telepathic alien cyborgs, bent on universal domination to satisfy their dependence on the food-fuel known as Stroyent. The Strogg cannot be reasoned with or dissuaded; they are committed to the annihilation of any form of life in their path. Strogg victims not mulched into Stroyent are forced to undergo Stroggification - a process of cybernetic augmentation and neurological hacking which removes their self-will and transforms them into ambulant weapons-drones, pliant to the will of the Supreme Strogg, the Makron.

Strogg Character Classes

The Strogg assault class can choose powerful heavy weapons such as the Hyperblaster fast-firing assault weapon and Obliterator Bosonic Orb weapon. He carries a large number of Shrap grenades and the explosive Plasma Charge.

The Strogg's fire support expert can call in artillery deployables such as the Plasma Mortar, Rail Howitzer and Orbital Laser, and can direct their fire against enemy targets. He also carries the rapid-firing Lacerator.

The Strogg engineering expert constructs and repairs dynamic objectives and deploys anti-personnel and anti-vehicle turrets. He can choose from one of two support weapons; the Nailgun, or a modified Lacerator with built-in Grenade Launcher. He carries a number of Proximity Mines and the Repair Drone, an AI-based automatic repair tool that will pursue damaged Strogg vehicles, repair them and then return to the Constructor (providing he's still in range).

The Infiltrator is a stealthy backstabber and saboteur. The Infiltrator can possess fallen GDF players, initially stunning them with his Bio-Electric Pinch Bomb, and then use their corpse as a disguise and infiltrate GDF bases. He can choose the Railgun, used for Long-Distance Sniping, or a modified Lacerator with increased accuracy. He also carries a remote Drone, which can be used to spy on the enemy.

The Technician keeps his team mates alive and shooting by replenishing their Stroyent supplies, giving them both health and ammunition in one fix. The Technician can deploy Forcefield emitters, providing cover for his team mates on the front line. He can also create Spawn hosts out of fallen GDF troops, allowing a Strogg reinforcement to spawn right at the battlefront. The Technician carries a standard Lacerator.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is an ambitious title that will attempt to marry the class-based team play of Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, the open multiplayer gameplay of the Battlefield franchise, the Sci-Fi storyline of the Quake Universe and the technical know-how of iD software. This makes for a formidable effort and considering the devoted following the franchise has garnered over the years we are certain that it is one of the most highly anticipated games of 2007.

There are claims that Splash Damage has taken the franchise down a well trodden path and that there will be little innovation brought to the multiplayer experience by the game but these claims are pointless as this is what this particular franchise is all about. The challenge facing developers was to retain the gameplay elements that made Enemy Territory such a success but to modernize them and add them to the Quake Universe. The technological leaps are such that we expect a very immersive multiplayer experience while the effort that has gone into balancing the gameplay should double the life span of ET:QW; playing as Strogg or GDF should be two very separate gaming experiences each offering players its own, unique appeal.

Deploy, Deploy, Deploy

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is another big budget title by iD and Splash Damage and it is unlikely that it will fail to deliver, especially as it has set the very modest goal, considering the standards, of being a multiplayer only game. This will undoubtedly be an enjoyable game which, if done right, should include a strong teamwork and strategy component. The only problem facing Activision is that the recent delay, game pushed back to a 2007 release, will allow Battlefield 2142 to launch (this fall) and gain momentum. 2007 will offer some interesting release conflicts for ET: QW as many impressive games are expected in the first couple of quarters.