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Continued from Part 12: In Tremendous Pain
It is rare for Linux to see support from both sides of an industry battle, but that is exactly where we were with the release of Quake III Arena and Unreal Tournament. With both games aiming to package the full breadth of the online multiplayer shooter experience into a standalone title, the competition between the two was fierce. I myself have always favoured the solid craftsmanship of Quake III Arena, but the greater variety in Unreal Tournament has to be admired.
Some versions ship with a Linux installer already on the disc, but with the Game of the Year Edition you need to download the ut-install-436-goty.run setup script which grants all of the official patches. This proved a smooth process even when swapping between CD-ROMs, but the installer can be too opaque, not telling you outside of the terminal output that it is busy decompressing maps. This can take some time, making it easy to assume that the setup has stalled.
Unreal Tournament only came alive when I set the XFree86 server to 32 bit colour depth, not just improving the visuals and clearing up the numerous Z Buffer artifacts, but also helping to level out the game performance. From there I tweaked the UnrealTournament.ini file, setting "NoDynamicLighting" to "True" and "UseGammaExtension" to "1", with "Coronas" and "VolumetricLighting" set to "False". Like this the game was playable and still looked better than on first launch.
Even with those changes I never felt that it reached a comfortable level of performance, despite my hardware matching the requirements listed on the box. To catch up to what I achieved with Quake III Arena I had to escalate to the point of turning off all lighting entirely, leaving every map looking grey and uninteresting for just a marginal speed increase. With OpenGL on Linux at least, Unreal Tournament does scream for the power of a Radeon or a GeForce graphics card.
One of the benefits of Glide was its lower CPU overhead, so it is also possible a more powerful processor may have helped. Regardless, I am under no doubt that the game would still run smoother paired with a Voodoo card under Glide, as all of the contemporary coverage implies. In general my Rage 128 Pro has been great under Windows 98, but I have been feeling far more of a pull back towards the old 3dfx world order on Linux.
Unreal Tournament benefited from running at 32 bit colours with Direct3D as well, with Windows 98 giving a better showing than Linux did. In the City Intro timedemo Windows 98 managed an average of 40 FPS as opposed to just 30 FPS on Linux with a lot of churn when using my optimized settings. For the sake of argument I also tried the community made UTGLR 3.6 enhanced OpenGL renderer, but it proved heavier than the default SDL implementation on period hardware.
While I have played my fair share of deathmatches, I had never actually played through the single player campaign before. Someone spent a great deal of time writing the flavour text, leaving it a shame that it has next to no relevance to the actual gameplay. The bots in Quake III Arena show more individual personality through their dialogue and character designs than the bots in Unreal Tournament do, even with that one character blurb which is a dig at economists.
The few exceptions are the Skaarj Hybrids and those found in the Challenge ladder, who do exert more of a presence on the battlefield. I will admit to missing out by not trying Domination or Assault before, as it is here with team and objective based games that Unreal Tournament does excel over its competition. I also appreciate the tutorials made for each mode, although they neglect to inform you how to issue orders to your team until the final Assault tutorial.
I did encounter some bugs, such as sound effects interrupting one another and a few hardlocks. Like with Quake II these were sporadic but tend to cluster on certain maps, with the worst offender being "AS-Overlord". I came within 26 seconds of winning before the game crashed, and it kept freezing. My solution was the same as with the "Water Treatment Plant" level in the first Quake II mission pack, namely playing through the map in software rendering instead.
Even without a source code release, community support for Unreal Tournament has been stellar, with the OldUnreal project under the blessing of Epic Games being the current torchbearer. Thanks to them the game still runs great on modern Linux distributions, being easier to setup than even Unreal Tournament 2003 and Unreal Tournament 2004 now are, the latter two seeing Linux ports thanks to Ryan Gordon. The community even managed to bring over what came before it.
Carrying on in Part 14: Return to Na Pali
Return to Part 1: Dumpster Diving