Sunday School 2: Learn, Play, Win

Welcome to Sunday School. My name is Dr. Breckon, and I'll be your administrator. Play nice, do your homework, and score high on your exams. That way we won't have to call your parents.

Quiz Results: Know Your Crate
The first week's quiz results are in, bringing with them a mix of good and bad news.

The Shacknews class of 2008 consists of roughly 250 registered schoolmates so far, an impressive number of brave individuals. However, judging from the grades, a lot of you have a long way to go before you pass this class.

For those interested in finding out just how miserably they've failed, the first week's scores have been posted here. Read 'em and weep. You can also check out the answers to the crate quiz.

As for the winner of the randomized raffle, I'm pleased to announce that megarust32 will be receiving a brand-new copy of Gears of War PC. While individual scores have no bearing on each weeks' raffle, megarust actually aced the quiz, making his winnings all the more fitting.

While I suspect a few of you 5/5 champions cheated your way to a decent grade, this week's quiz will be significantly more difficult in that regard. I salute everyone who answers truthfully. Someone who scored 1/5 may indeed be more of a true gamer than the cleverest of straight-A weasels.

Note: Extra credit will be awarded to ZiptheChim, for inventing the game "Crate Tycoon II: The Cratening"; comiekazi, for "porkchop sandwiches"; and cakenapp, for "bobs shot'em upper." Points deducted from Steven Gibson, for "Jewish Slave Raffle." Got a problem with your grades? Bring it up in the comments.

Quiz of the Week: Know Your RPG Town Music
So you think you know your gaming stuff, huh? Let's find out. Each week in Sunday School you'll be tasked with completing a quiz, the contents of which will vary in both form and topic. Your quiz score will be recorded and graded accordingly, and instead of a lame gold star or red check-mark, you'll have the chance to win awesome gaming paraphernalia.

Some of these quizzes will be difficult, and some will be a cinch. Anyone who participates will be eligible for the weekly prize drawing. However, those with the highest grades at the end of the semester will have more of a chance to win the secret grand prize. Keep your grades up, and you might win a fabulous reward.

Only registered Shacknews users will be able to participate, so go create an account if you haven't already done so. Due to the nature of the contest, we ask that you refrain from discussing answers in the comments.

Hanging in the balance for this week's quiz is a copy of BioWare's Xbox 360 RPG Mass Effect. Ready to go? Get quizin'.

Homework Assignment:
Next week's reward will be a copy of Epic's Unreal Tournament 3 for the PC.

My recommendation for quizzical success? Play some online shooters, and start with Starsiege: TRIBES.

Dynamix's seminal achievement is available for free now. You may need to look around for a master server to link up with, but if you can get a game going, you'll be treated to one of the finest multiplayer experiences ever created.

Tribes 2 is also available as freeware these days, though you'll have to hunt down a working CD key to make use of it.

If all that's too much of a hassle, you can just wait around for GarageGames' upcoming Tribes spiritual sequel, Fallen Empires: Legion.

Turn the page for today's lesson, and show and tell. _PAGE_BREAK_

Today's Mini-lesson: The Fall of Finger
Before the days of community managers, sanctioned developer diaries, and corporate blogs, there was Finger.

The Name/Finger protocol is nearly as old as the internet itself. Created in 1971, the program was written by Les Earnest, executive officer at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab.

"Finger was named for the act of pointing," recalled Earnest in an email. "Sometime after it became popular I received a message from a system administrator who thought that it should be renamed so that users would not have to use a 'dirty' word. I gave his request all the consideration that it deserved."

The Finger program was intended as a way of keeping track of the personnel working on the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), a world wide web precursor developed by the United States Department of Defense. Inventing what would become the internet was challenging work, and researchers worked long hours, coming and going at unpredictable hours of the day.

"Some people asked for the Plan file feature so that they could explain their absence or how they could be reached at odd times, so I added it," explained Earnest. "I found it interesting that this feature evolved into a forum for social commentary and amusing observations."

Decades later, the internet fully established and ARPANET a thing of the past, video game developers were using .plan files for just those purposes. Websites like Planet Quake, Shugashack, and Blue's News kept track of the various posts by employees from companies such as id, Epic, 3D Realms, and more, serving as a direct link between gaming aficionados and the visionaries behind the scenes.

id Software co-founder and programming wizard John Carmack became one of the most prolific .planners, maintaining his file all the way up to 2004 before moving over to a blog. Carmack on the impending release of Q3test, April 1999:

We are finally closing in on the first release of Q3test.

As you have probably heard by now, the first release in going to be the mac version, probably followed by the linux version, and only then the windows version.

Some of you are busy getting all bent out of shape about this.

Don't be spiteful. This is just the beginning of the testing and release process..

..One conspiracy theory suggests that Apple is somehow getting us to do this.

What we have "gotten" from Apple is a few development machines. No cash payoff. No bundling deal. No marketing contract..

..I am looking at this long term. I want to see OS X become a top notch platform for graphics development.

Gaming is not a reason to buy a mac, but Apple is taking steps so that it may not be a reason to avoid a mac if you have other reasons for wanting one.

MacOS still sucks. Read more..

John Carmack again, this time on his presentation at the Macworld Expo in 2001, where he demonstrated the Doom 3 engine for the first time:
I just got back from Tokyo, where I demonstrated our new engine running under MacOS-X with a GeForce 3 card. We had quite a bit of discussion about whether we should be showing anything at all, considering how far away we are from having a title on the shelves, so we probably aren't going to be showing it anywhere else for quite a while.

Here is a dump on the GeForce 3 that I have been seriously working with for a few weeks now:

The short answer is that the GeForce 3 is fantastic. I haven't had such an impression of raising the performance bar since the Voodoo 2 came out, and there are a ton of new features for programmers to play with.

Graphics programmers should run out and get one at the earliest possible time. For consumers, it will be a tougher call. Read more..

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

Others used their .plan file as a soapbox for sounding off on the day's hot topics. Around the time the Columbine shootings were being blamed on violent video games and Marilyn Manson's makeup in April of 1999, Ritual Entertainment's Murphy Michaels wrote this gem:
..my little 7 year old, bless her heart, is really competitive. well, as it was told to me by the teacher on playground duty, she got a little worked up in a game of tetherball. so, after losing she proceeding to loop the ball a couple of times around her opponents neck, picked her up and sent her into orbit around the pole. well, of course they call me down there from work and i tried to be understanding to the situation but after hearing all sides to the story they had to agree with me that it wasn't my daughters fault at all- or mine as a parent - it was marilyn mansons' fault. and you know, my kids are learning too. when i walked into the kitchen the other day to find my oldest daughter (really sweet girl, loves horses and the color violet) pouring bar-b-que sauce over her baby sister who was tied down in a da vinci pose to the kitchen island, i said, "what in gods name are you doing?!" she just lowered her head and said, "it was marilyn dad.....he did this." and what could i do but understand? it's all his fault.....everything. Read more..
Of course, much of the discussion was dominated by gaming anecdotes. id Software's Christian Antkow on the morality of shooting typers in Quake 3, April 1999:
Quake 3 Rant

Ok, when someone is facing a wall, isn't moving, and has a talk bubble over their head...


It means they;

a) Hit T to talk and are typing in something to say
b) Are in the console doing something

...and they can't defend themselves. People who consistently kill people with talk bubbles (and I don't mean the type of people who hit you once out of reflex, and politely say "Sorry" either) over their heads (heretofore known as "Typer Killers") are sub-amoeba lifeforms IMO.

id Software's Dave "Zoid" Kirsch, on playing Half-Life for the first time, December 1998:
Half Life has been a real joy to play as well. The single game experience is completely different than a game such as Q2 or SIN, but in a really positive way. The immersion is very effective in HL. HL's visuals are extremely well done, but they are beautiful in their accuracy as opposed to their 'gee-wizz-bang' graphics you see in most FPS games. HL's visuals look real and everything is there because that's they way it would be. A big round of applause for the Valve crew for putting out a great game.Read more..
3D Realms' Charlie Widerhold, on EA's plan to shrink computer game packaging with Medal of Honor: Allied Assault in early 2001:
"Oh look at us... we are EA and instead of simply adopting a packaging format which all our consumers are already familiar with, have plenty of facilities that are more than equipped to produce them extremely cheaply due to massive demand/bulk/etc... instead we will require a whole new design and come close but not *quite* to DVD case packaging because we are a unique and special snowflake. Let's pat ourselves on the back for being yet another small brick in the roadblock that stands in the way of getting our industry up to date!"
Read more..
3D Realms' Scott Miller, on his company's big showing at E3 2001, and his estimation of Microsoft's Xbox:
Most of the company is leaving for E3 tomorrow. Really looking forward to a fun show. Will finally get to see the Gamecube and Xbox, though I'm not expecting much from the Xbox and still hold on to my prediction from a year ago (in this spot) that it will be the number three console behind the PS2 and Gamecube.

The DNF and Max videos will be available on the Internet May 17th, the first day of the E3 show, so for those fans not at the show, we didn't want to leave you out of the fun. Also, CNN requested and received a copy of both videos, so they might appear (in part) on TV, too. (CNN usually has decent coverage of E3.)Read more..

id Software's outspoken Christian Antkow, on Anarchy Online frustrations, September 2001:
Dear Funcom,

Please fix your broken game, Anarchy Online.

Thank you,

-A paying customer

In some cases, developers actually solicited users for advice. Raven Software lead programmer Rick Johnson, on Soldier of Fortune mod support, January 2000:
With the demo being extremely close to being released, followed by the full game, I'm looking for feedback in this area. Currently, you need to have a copy of 3DS MAX 2.0 in order to create GHOUL models. This may be of inconvience to some people, so I've left in support for Quake2 models. This code hasn't been used in well over a 16 months, and may not even work with all of our networking changes.

Should I leave in Quake2 model support? Is that worth-while for MOD makers? Or should I remove it and go on with life? Or if someone has done a Quake3 model viewer for the Quake1 source code, should that be placed in? (given the author gives me permission, as I just can't plop in Q3A source code into our project). Send me an email with your thoughts.

.plan files also offered developers a chance to become personalities. Cliff "Cliffy B" Bleszinski, Epic designer, on his infamous Cat-Scan.com website:
Those of you in the San Fran Bay Area on the 21st can go see some Cat Scans on display in an exhibit called "Emotionally Annoyed." Which I suppose that makes me, now, by association. Grrrrrr.

>>Jeeez, textures are becoming more popular than Penis pumps at homosexual blanket parties.

Why does Billy Wilson know these things?

Show and Tell: Developer Stalking
Plan files declined in the early years of the 21st Century, but where Finger has failed, blogs and messageboards have prevailed, becoming the dominant forms of developer communication.

So what are your favorite points of contact with gaming developers? Is it Tim Schafer's Double Fine page? The old-school-but-still-kickin' Apogee site? Are you a Major Nelson fan, or have you bought into the PlayStation blog?

Who knows who (or what) is kicking around on NeoGAF and SomethingAwful Games? And what about our very own Shack chatty celebrities?

Has anything replaced the nature of .plan, or are we living in a new world of corporate information control?

Show, tell, and come back next week. Absence will not be tolerated. And you didn't forget to take the quiz, did you? That would be bad.