|Blood review, 3dfrontiers.com on 1997|
|Things Monolith Did Right
Great level design. Really creative levels, each well-developed around a theme, and very little texture reuse. Special points of interest: A train that runs people down on the track and a fair where you can actually play the midway games! Great job, 'Lith!
Publicity. Monolith's example of how to keep people tuned in to an upcoming game should be a model for other companies, now and forever, amen. Real development news, weekly updates that actually got put up weekly (unlike 3D Realms these days), and a weekly screenshot held our attention, but didn't bore us. Way to go, guys.
Feedback and post-release response. As mentioned above, Monolith has responded very strongly and personally to the comments of the people playing their games. Their dedication to satisfying the public is remarkable and should be used as a model for other companies. (As a side-note, I haven't received so much as a whisper from Romero, Carmack, Cash, or the Gamespot or Stomped crews concerning my site... grumble grumble...)
Great voiceovers. Honestly, I thought the voiceover in Duke3D was juvenile and annoying after a while, because you were usually too busy battling the baddies to pay attention to what Duke was saying! But the voiceovers here are really well done; they impressed me and show how they can add a lot to the character of your protagonist.
No delays! They kept saying "Coming Soon!" until they gave us an exact date. Then they released it on that date. Is this so hard? Why can't other game companies do this?!
Rapid debugging response. The developers hung around on #blood all weekend taking comments and bug reports. Their interest in what other people think of their game is refreshing.
Interactive atmosphere. You can do something with just about everything in the environment. Gash up the walls with your pitchfork (wall damage - finally!!) Break stuff all over the place. Boot the heads around. Gib dead bodies. We love it!
Things Monolith Screwed Up
Monster AI. My original review kind of ripped Monolith for excessive pauses (on the order of eight or nine seconds) when lots of creatures simultaneously wake up or gib. I have new info that this problem, strangely enough, is common to all P133s (as well as my P100 for some reason) and they're rapidly trying to track it down. Stay tuned.
Too little ammo. The Monolith people have responded that they intended to gear Blood toward a more experienced crowd, and the smaller amount of ammo is intended to force us to aim better and use less effective weapons when we run out of ammo. Given this, it's not much of a setback, but you should be warned: Blood is not for the weak. Specifically, always use the most effective
weapons you can, and always use the fork when possible. (Note: It works really well on gargoyles!)
Messed up web page countdown. This is one of my personal gripes. They had a counter on their webpage counting down until the game was released, but unfortunately it didn't take timezones into account. So I'm hanging out, waiting for the counter to hit zero... it hits zero... nothing happens! No releases anywhere! I theoretically had another three hours to wait until it was released (due to my east coast location and their west coast base.) But I brought it to their attention and they immediately made it available for me, which I thought was mighty good of them.
(QSound flopped!) Ignore this. Originally, Monolith was considering 3D sound, but Apogee wasn't thrilled about using this in a Build engine, so they took it out. And apparently QStudios has nothing to do with QSound - sorry 'bout that...
Poor sound mixing. The sound mixing isn't very good. Occasionally you can't tell what the great voiceovers are actually saying. The developers report this was both a time concern - they wanted to get Blood out there and fix this later (which they plan to do in the future) - and a size concern - Blood is already big at 17MB zipped, as we all know, and 22kHz sound samples would have swelled the game enormously. Bottom line: Better mixing is on the way.
The !@^#% rats. The Blood developers were all pretty defensive of their rats "They're not giant, they're RABID!" Just don't take them lightly, like you would the Quake Dobermans. And they say you can step on 'em, apparently. Lastly, their behavior has changed with the patch - they're distracted by gibs! It's pretty cool and makes them easier to kill.
Really poor aiming algorithms. The patch improves this. My problem was NOT with bad adjustment; it's that shots hit walls more often than they should. Try picking off a guy around a corner and you'll see what I mean. The Blood developers say this is an inherent Build engine error and they're working to correct it.
Not even voxel items?! It's been brought to my attention that "volumetric pixel sprites" (Novalogic has a copyright on the term "voxel") are actually applied to many things, including tombstones, etc. Bump your detail level down one and you'll notice the difference. They aren't fully implemented to everything because they cause a big frame rate drop - a wise decision on their part, IMHO.
No firing sprites. They're fixing this. It's not really an issue until net/modem play is stable enough for regular play, anyway, and by this time firing sprites will be included.