(Dec 24 1999, GUNFRENZY!-2-) : - There's always room for a little -glitter- at Christmas -

Everyone knows that that some activities are more fun with 2 players than 1 - for example, there's a perfectly good GS gun sitting there in its base, going to waste... but the only way to do a 2 player mode for GF2 was to have an automatic camera, arcade style.

I didn't want to do a standard arcade shooter though - in arcade lightgun shooters, everything is usually scripted and totally predictable.  This is fine for the arcade, where it gives you a chance to learn the game and get further every time you feed that money hungry coin guzzler, but it wears out pretty quickly when you have the chance to play the game over and over.

GF1 already used random monster placement to liven things up - the trick was to get the scripted camera to handle them intelligently.

I think you'll agree, it does a pretty good job...

(Oct 14 1999, GUNFRENZY!-1-) : -  Happiness is a lightgun  -

So, finally, the full release.  It's been a long stretch; my first full release, my first Installshield installer, my first ActiveX code, my first launcher... and so on.

GunFrenzy started out as a testbed for something I got obsessed with some months ago - lightguns.  I really wanted to use them for a project for several reasons.  First, they're fun.  Second (and this is the important one), anyone can use them.

I consider FPS games to be at the cutting edge of what will eventually become virtual reality.  Not because of the hardware involved (we obviously don't have HMDs etc. yet), but because of their real-time nature and the way they encourage you to take on a persona in a virtual world through a first-person perspective.  Games like Quake are making it happen now, at high frame rates (this is the crucial part).  Anyone who's ever played hour long sessions, night after night, meeting with the same people over and over in familiar on-line environments knows exactly what I'm talking about here.

Problem is, the way we control these games right now is highly abstract; if you have the talent for it, you're fine (we techno geeks seem to have no problem).  Then there is everyone else - your girl friend, your parents, and all the other people who don't know how to program their video ;)

I have time and again seen friends of mine who would never dream of playing a game with a mouse and 20 button presses to remember love GunFrenzy.  Most were reluctant to try - a minute later you couldn't get them off the machine.  Great moments...

This doesn't necessarily mean that lightgun games have to be unchallenging just to be accessible - it's all about how you use them.  Eventually I'm pushing for true VR, where if you see a gun, you pick it up and use it.  The game can be as complex as you wish - it's the interface to it that has to become more natural...

... so anyway, I'd been dabbling in Quake programming since Q1.  The most intense programming probably went into my (mostly unreleased) Q2 mod, the
Q2DEATHTRAP !  (a lot of Deathtrap stuff actually ended up in GunFrenzy).

The idea was to find some lightguns, and try a few things.  Quake2 was the obvious candidate for getting something up and running quickly (knowing it inside out), and it was always going to be really interesting to see how FPS games would work with lightguns instead of mice.

The die-hard quakers amongst you will never give up mice.  I understand that.  Simply bolting lightguns onto existing FPS gameplay also isn't the answer (that much became clear) - try standard Q2 mode to see what I mean... not bad, but not exactly exciting.

No, the trick is to write a game with the guns in mind from the start.  Arcade mode is one approach to the problem.  Well, actually, Arcade Mode is inspired by arcade lightgun shooters like House of the Dead - shoot anything that moves, as quickly as your trigger finger (and ever more tiring arm) will allow.  But it works extremely well.

Getting back to the background story, I started looking for PC lightguns - and couldn't find any.  There was a very old system that didn't exist anymore as far as I could tell.  Other than that, nothing.  I even mailed a few console lightgun manufacturers, trying to get info on whether it was possible to convert their guns for use with a PC.  They were less than helpful.  One reply (well, not exactly a reply).  So I wrote the whole thing off.

Bizarrely, about a month or so later, I catch a press release by ACT LABS on a news site, announcing their extremely cool looking GS system (and I'm not easily impressed).  I sent them a nice email on the spot, and was beta testing an early development kit within days ...

What started out as a simple testbed turned into an obsession.  Here is the result.


(c) gl.tter 1999 updated: 20 Feb 2008