Poll: Proposed Bigeye Continuation
July 6, 2023 at 7:48 PM (Updated on August 15, 2023 at 8:29 AM)
Three years ago, I began work on a gargantuan video project called Bigeye, which essentially aimed to document as much old computer hardware as possible in a neat, linear package, using Quake as a medium to illustrate the workings of said hardware. It managed to work out; I had enough hardware on hand to be able to do something like this, but it was all done on my own, with the exception of others who joined my QuakeWorld server for a match to be recorded.
Since then, I had thrown around the idea of a follow-up to the series with some other game, including the suggestion that it would be a collaborative effort where others could reserve some levels and submit clips of themselves running through them to continue a single playthrough. This idea ended up being forgotten about, as by the time I got started on some other projects, I envisioned a plan that would be devoid of any new videos - that is, until I decided to go full force into self-hosting my videos.
At least these days, I figure I should have enough of a justification to return to the idea of a multi-machine playthrough of a classic game, but I'm having a hard time deciding on which of two to go with.
I figure it goes without saying that Doom would be a great option for Bigeye II due to the insane variety of hardware it can run on. Doom has become well-known for being the game that "runs on everything" thanks to the tireless work of enthusiasts to port it to all kinds of devices. Not to mention it stands as the most iconic first person shooter of all, and it was personally a huge deal for me. Doom is what got me to develop respect for the genre when I first played it in 2011, after many years of looking down upon FPS games as nothing more than mindless violence for dumb old kids to rage over for no reason.
I don't know how possible this will be, but I'd be interested in covering the entire classic Doom series - not just the first four episodes from The Ultimate Doom, but also Doom II and its master levels, and Final Doom as well. I'd definitely reserve the first three original episodes for myself and a couple others, but covering this broad of a range could provide plenty more opportunities for anyone else to chip in and show off their SICK hardware. We'd have to see how it goes, though. I hear some of the map packs happen to be borefests, and I don't want to devote too much space to them.
That being said, there are plenty of other problems with trying to keep a multi-machine marathon of Doom interesting. For one, I'd want to demonstrate multiple kinds of Doom executables. Doom 95 is an especially important one, as it's an official build that was designed to make use of the emerging DirectX technology for Windows 95, so as to prove that DOS gaming no longer had any value. (Perhaps that didn't turn out to be the case in the long run?) From what I've tried of it, Doom 95 save files appear to be incompatible with the original DOS executable. How is one to continue a playthrough under these circumstances?
The solution is to not bother with a save file at all; rather, it would make more sense to pistol start every map (or if practical, perhaps start a normal playthrough up to the required map to build up a good aresnal and start recording upon reaching said map). This creates some new advantages like being able to knock down the maps out of order and not needing so much intense coordination to keep a single playthrough going, constantly relaying the latest save file from one to another. Knowing that pistol starts could be too difficult for some players to accomplish, more flexibility could be added to make them more approachable; submissions of any skill level being used should be accepted.
There is another problem with bringing Doom to the table, however. Doom is not a very resource-intensive game like Quake was, and really only gets into a hitch on 386 and early 486 systems. Combined with a 35 FPS cap on the original DOS executable, you really can't get that wide of a range of visible performance differences, hence the idea of throwing non-vanilla versions into the mix has been proposed. I've heard of a project which tried porting Doom to the 8088 and/or 286 CPUs, but don't recall what it was or what the state of it is. One other way to possibly shake things up is by trying different sound hardware for each computer, since MIDIs can sound really different depending on what's installed.
Doom has developed an enormous amount of flexibility over the years, but it's not such a heavyweight of a program, so very few computers would struggle with it so much. Even noting this, now could be an ideal time to cover the game, given its 30th anniversary is right around the corner.
Unlike Doom, Unreal is very heavy on old computers, much more than Quake. This brings back a much wider range of visible performance differences across various machines, although a marathon of Unreal would almost certainly require a high level of coordination in passing a save file around, as almost none of the maps in Unreal were designed around starting with nothing but the default equipment.
What Unreal has at its core is support for hardware 3D acceleration, which really makes all the difference in getting more interesting visual results from many different computers. I don't think the original release supported anything beyond software rendering and Glide (3dfx cards), so we'd have to stick to version 226 to be able to make use of 3D acceleration on a wider range of video cards (Direct3D would have to be used mostly).
Unreal is particularly enticing due to Epic Games having pulled it from official storefronts not too long ago, which is an action that further condemns it to obscurity. The game doesn't get enough credit for its innovations, which I've discussed in an article here:
Knowing this game's great potential to visualize the differences in various computer configurations more clearly, this is what I've been personally leaning towards for a while, but as Unreal never got a public source release to prompt far more aspiring programmers to bring it to more exotic platforms, it's possible we could squeeze a lot more potential out of hardware demos on Doom.
Things to Note
The original Bigeye intently focused on the use of a high quality VGA capture device, which allowed me to get some crispy direct recordings of many different video cards. Knowing that not everyone can acquire such a thing, it is important to be flexible in other ways, too. That's why this series should be more open to camera recordings. After all, it opens up the door to showing off a lot more CRT monitors, as well. And, you know... maybe bad screen recorders could be taken into consideration down the line too.
Emulation and virtualization is a no-go, unless some sort of creative exception can be made, which isn't likely to happen. PC emulation is still in a garbage state, and the only things I'd really consider so far would be historic hypervisors, the really old ones that can stand out.
I would really prefer for recordings to go by as reasonably fast as possible - not on speedrun levels, but not flat out wasting time for nothing, either. Bigeye isn't a YouTube series comprised of four chunky parts anymore. We have to consider certain limits. For this same reason, recordings should not be arbitrarily upscaled. They will get to enjoy their high frame rate at any resolution, because here on this site, frame rate is more valuable than resolution.
Last but not least, nothing has been solidified at this point. As cool as this would be, we do have other things to tend to, so there's no definitive answer on when anything like this will get done. Also, as I do not have a complete structure in place right now for how this would play out, I'm asking upfront on which game should take the spotlight for Bigeye II so I have a better idea on how to approach this project later on.
You can cast your vote in the poll form down below, which I may as well mention is powered by completely rewritten code now. The poll expires after August 13th, which should be plenty enough time for the lot to determine what to go with, as well as gauge how many people would be interested in seeing another project like this to begin with.
Bigeye II: Doom, or Unreal?
Poll expired on August 13, 2023 with 151 votes
The choice is yours... will humanity be condemned to eternal damnation, or put into servitude on a remote moon colony?
The Results Are In
The poll's expired, and I've been considering both ends. Doom came out on top here, although I know a few of you have been cheating. Regardless, the high turnout all around does justify the creation of a successor to Bigeye. I've heard compelling cases for both games, but all things considered, I'm ready to announce the verdict.
Eternal damnation! Bigeye II will use Doom as its medium for covering a new vast lineup of computer hardware. As mentioned earlier, this will be easier to manage with due to the pistol start rule set in place, but to really make it work, we're gonna have to get seriously creative. The original Bigeye did include a few camera recordings, but those existed only out of necessity. Here, we'll have to do a lot more to spice things up, taking all things into consideration - sound hardware, monitors, source ports, controllers, (mostly) non-butchering modifcations, and even very specific BIOS settings, to name a few. Otherwise, it will end up becoming indistinguishable from any other regular playthrough. I'm a professional. I'm pretty sure I can make this work.
For now, I'm only going to focus on the first three episodes of The Ultimate Doom with a few close friends of mine so we can lay the groundwork for this project, and then I'll start considering more contributors as we move to Thy Flesh Consumed and Doom II. Afterwards, I may consider doing, say, the Final Doom expansion packs, though the master levels for Doom II may not be favorable unless there is interest in them being covered more; no one I know really talks about those.
Once the essential Doom stuff is covered, I'd also be willing to consider a collaborative Unreal playthrough later on, depending on how things turn out. In any case, the production of this will start in an out of order fashion, and I envision I'll start releasing videos in... December, possibly? I know I expect to create the Bigeye II project hub much sooner than that, which should explain how this is going to work and display our progress in greater detail. I've just been preoccupied with a plentiful of other things lately.
See you over there.
Of course Doom! Because I like Doom, even soundtrack MIDI
unreal! unreal! unreal ftw!
I agree, even if Doom would require much less coordination than Unreal. There are only so many different ways to run Doom, and so very little computers (with unique CPUs at least) that would struggle with it. While it might be novel to see everyone come together to form a Doom playthrough, the interesting hardware configurations that were in bigeye (and the graphics too) were a pretty big factor for me. Although that might just be because GLQuake has a great atmosphere with that music alongside it.
Unreal. Doom would be super boring.
Context for the emote: Someone sent 2 comments with bad remarks and I basically went discontent with it.
>> PC emulation is still in a garbage state
As much as I would like to see more of Unreal (to get some inspirations for my game) ultimate I much prefer the FOSS nature of Doom...
Games based off the Doom engine is perhaps stretching the scope of this sequel, which includes Heretic, Hexen, Strife, and many others. The console ports would also not really fit in either as this primarily targets PC hardware and releases (+ source ports). That's also why one-offs such as Doom 64 likely won't be included.
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