Tuesday, June 15, 2010

GeoComp2: Minima, by Bengal

GeoComp2, put on by Nicolas "sparth" Bouvier: the purest manifestation of modernist architecture ever achieved in video games. No shaders, no normal maps, no photorealism. Just color, form and light -- sculpture. You want to understand how FPS levels work? Curious as to how artists achieved beauty without 100's of normal-mapped pipe models to clutter a level? Then look at these. Study them. Love them.

(PlanetQuake, or perhaps Gamespy, in a breathtaking display of stupidity, has deleted all its hosted sites -- including the original GeoComp2 pages. This is my attempt at ensuring these masterpieces aren't forgotten.)

Minima, by Bengal, was the overall winner of the GeoComp2 competition. (EDIT -- 3 May 2015: in the wake of FilePlanet's closure, I'm archiving a downloadable copy of the map .PK3 here / mirror2 )

I mean, the first thing I notice is the color: a rich chocolate brown. These days, we criticize all the brownish Gears of Honor 4 games that bathe everything in a brown color filter -- but in a level like this? Brown is rich. Brown is delicious. Brown consumes everything. The simplest but most effective skybox ever.

Unfortunately, the Quake 3 lighting engines / radiosity calculations weren't exactly up-to-snuff back then: the light maps are really low resolution and really make the shapes much muddier than they should be. But when it shines -- the subtle shadows from the cuts, the silhouettes of the floating columns -- wow.

When I first saw it so many years ago, I didn't even know levels could look like that. That intense feeling of awe still stands to this day -- there's something vaguely divine about all of this, monoliths floating in space -- it reminds me a lot of the Forerunner architecture / shapes in the Halo series, or how the new X-Com has made a floating block into the scariest fucking thing you can imagine.

Anyway. Beautiful. And stay tuned for more GeoComp2 posts like these.