OpenArena

It had been quite some time since I played Q3A, but out of curiosity I decided to look into OpenArena instead. It uses the GNU'd Q3A engine but the assets (textures, sound, models, maps, etc) are original so it's a different experience, more tongue in cheek in tone due to the contributory nature of volunteer projects. Then I drew some stuff and made a story!

Timeline

2017: The self replicating Skelebots are unleashed on mankind. According to their creator, Jill Bates, the Skelebots were created to aid in construction of schools for the impoverished, and this remains on the agenda. However, as it stands the Skelebots are still busy eradicating mankind five centuries later. Somehow the Scenery OS(TM) running on the Skelebots has caused this shift in priorities. According to some historians the OS was tampered with by two entities known as the "GSA" and "Bony Corporation". Others claim that we're not really dealing with a bug, but a feature. No one really knows what makes the Skelebots tick as the deeply integrated DRM features of Scenery OS(TM) prevents all insight.

2020: After three years of desperate fighting, all seemed lost, but then apocalypse itself came to the rescue. Deep in the Earth, the Horsemen had waited. No one had expected the Horsemen to literally be horse-men though. Somehow the Horsemen had sensed that apocalypse was near and chose to emerge to mop up the remains. The Skelebots however could not distinguish men from horse-men and the Horsemen found themselves in a battle for survival. This bought mankind eight years of respite, during which many desperate (some might even say crazy) projects were green-lit. Some of these were:

Project Deep-Ocean by the South-American bunker complex

When the South-American bunker complex was expanded into the seabed, evidence of an underwater civilisation were discovered. It was thought to be a friendly one, so a search was initiated. However, the tenants had moved out thousands of years ago and were only encountered two centuries later. They were not friendly. (See Mermen.)

Project Fight-Fire-with-Fire by the London bunker complex

YOU WILL NOT BE HARMED.

--- Old Destructo-bot battle cry.

The Destructo-bots were a rushed attempt at reverse engineering the Skelebots. The design proved promising and the design was put into mass production immediately. Of course, once they numbered in the thousands the Destructo-bots lead an uprising, secured the London bunker complex for themselves and were never heard from again, until...

Project Spider-Women by the eccentric Doctor Pierce Maddok of the Falklands bunker complex

The marriage of human and spider, blessed by the presence of an unholy ancient artefact - What could possibly go wrong?

Project Summon by the South-China bunker complex

"You cannot kill what is already dead. Maybe this can be used to our advantage?" And so the jiang-shi were stirred up, much to the detriment of their unwitting summoners. Unlike the zombies of popular fiction, the regenerative ability of the jiang-shi gives them an pale, serene appearance, not at all matching their ferocity. Their victims are left looking anything but pristine.

Project Let's-Just-Leave by the Russian bunker complex

This project laid the foundation of interstellar space travel and succeeded only trough sheer brute force. It serves as an example of what can be done with the singleminded application of the national will. Some say that no matter where in Russia you stood, you could always see at least one piece of rocket wreckage, but no expedition to Earth has verified this claim. After the Russians "just left", the other bunker complexes moved in and eventually managed to replicate the Russian effort.

Unfortunately it turns out that prolonged (as the earlier forms were) interstellar travel though witch-space can cause severe mental instability, cellular damage and also data loss in computers due to Electromagnetic Wiggly Stuff. Because of this the 21st century is called the Chaotic Century. No one really knows who has the true account of the events taking place in this time period. The best reconstruction is generally considered to be that of the Omnipedia Maximus 14th edition, from which this text has been compiled.

Humans who spend too much time in witch-space can become bewitched, achieving a sort of likeminded, rational insanity, leaving some to speculate that the bewitched have actually been exposed to a fundamental universal truth or force. It is hard to make much of their cryptic remarks, but it's clear that their intentions have become hostile.

Project Whack-A-Mole by the Finnish bunker complex

Finland survived unscathed until the abandonment of Earth a decade later. Both the Skelebots and Horsemen became sluggish in the cold and many fell victim to the "Nopea Kuolema", a secret Finnish weapon which is now standard issue in most armies — the railgun.

Project Gargoyle by the German bunker complex

Who would have thought gargoyles could be brought to life by alchemy and dark rituals? Unfortunately they could and central Europe succumbed to their menace. It was still worth trying, someone later commented. After the gargoyles had settled back down, perched atop the ruins of their presumptuous masters, they remained frozen for centuries before eventually escaping Earth.

Project Far-gate, by the Australian bunker complex

It is difficult to say whether this project succeeded. The idea was to establish portals to distant places of the universe, but as these were one-way no one was ever heard back from. This did not stop tens of thousands of people from using the far-gates during times of panic though. Distant planets with populations claiming to have connections to the far-gate project have been encountered, but the mass insanity of the Chaotic Century have made origin stories hard to trust.

Project Super-Marine also by the Australian bunker complex (prisoner division)

For a long time it was believed that this genetic and cybernetic augmentation project was fruitless. It was actually very close to a solution when the labs were invaded by Skelebots and presumably destroyed along with the scientists.

The Emperor stumbles upon the lost labs centuries later and his men complete the research.

Project Micro-Bikini, again by the Australian bunker complex (beachhead division)

Maybe there's some truth to the old idea that wizards can't wear armour. Given the existence of Gargoyles, undead, etc, it had already been accepted that magic was real, so a team set out to explore the idea of protective body auras. It was discovered that a spinal implant in the lower back can activate a sort of natural skintight forcefield emerging from the center of the body near the navel. Clothing and physical armour can disrupt the integrity of this forcefield with up to thirty percent. Those who cannot afford or wear heavy physical armour sometimes opt for the micro bikini solution to benefit from the extra margins. The forcefield is sometimes called Aura, Shield or Armour.

More thongs. Would be interesting if characters had unique starter weapons (perhaps identical in behaviour, perhaps not), as well as a unique main weapon (private pickup). This is a lot of work of course, but makes playing different characters interesting whilst still having the shared arena weapons to balance and give each character lots of weapon choices.

Suit up you insensitive clods! We have some sensitive people tuning in to today's bloodbath!

Project Bad-Ass by the Arabian-Alliance bunker complex

No one knows why, but there was a strong sentiment emerging in the Arabic region that a really bad-ass lone hero would appear and save everyone, singlehandedly destroying the Skelebot mother-brain (though there is no evidence of such a thing). Because of this, many daredevils were drawn to the area to partake in competitions of bad-assery. Just as many people disappeared into the wastelands and ruins in search of the mother-brain, never to be seen again. The culture is still alive today. A bad-ass can be easily identified by the worn beret. They are still looking for the Skelebot mother-brain.

Project Meow by the Japanese bunker complex

"Could rapidly grown cat-human hybrids be the answer to our troubles?" For a while the results looked promising. The cat-men were highly intelligent, agile and matured at an astonishing rate using growth acceleration. However, they were strongly independent and lazy to the degree where they became unusable as soldiers. The research data was traded to the Russians in exchange for The Russian Bear, a failed automaton. The Russians used growth acceleration with human embryos in the seed ship Bol'shiye Kal'mary which "got possessed", fell back to Earth, creating the Great North-American Tentacle Mass.

Aftermath

Never before, and never again will such rabidly intense research efforts be seen. While many of these projects just made the situation worse, the green-light initiative did ultimately manage to secure mankind's future, though the definition of mankind now lies closer to man-kinda. In the early days of space colonisation the fledging colonies had little contact with each other and developed strange localised cultures as they rebuilt entire societies from scratch while also being slightly insane.

2058: On the planet "United New Soviet Socialist Republic" (not to be confused with New United Socialist Republic of Soviet) project Meow is continued, with about the same success as the previous attempts.

2104: The Empire is formed. Initially composed of just a handful of planets, it grew over the course of the 22nd century to encompass over three thirds of the known colonies. One major unifying factor was the attack and threat of the Lizardmen (who for some reason erringly blamed mankind for the extinction of the dinosaurs).

2200's: This was the Golden Century, a time of prosperity but also hidden stagnancy and decadence. Minor threats continued to challenge the Empire, but in the middle of the century there was even a ten year period of peace. For-show armours were popular during this era, but some of the designs survived and are still used today.

2198: The empire crumbles, seemingly without reason. Through carefully orchestrated nudges a secret organisation now known as the Assassins Guild had managed to destabilise the Empire, so it could be divided into local chunks for the Assassin Lords to rule over. Extreme paranoia amongst the Assassin Lords, as well as the reemerged threat of the Lizardmen and other things lead to many skirmishes and wars over the course of the next 15 decades.

2310~ The Assassin Lords, being used to manipulating predictable systems from the shadows, eventually lose control and anarchy becomes the rule. In this anarchy a form of Mafia order appears, gradually agglomerating into a form of global governance. Tony The First, an overall nice guy as far as mobsters are concerned, appoints himself Emperor, more as a joke, thus unwittingly creating the New Empire in 2369.

2314 The "bug-people" (named so by Tony) are encountered for the first time. They were however a race of little consequence and remarkably few accomplishments. Their most famous cultural artefact is the living, now eight thousand page tome "Things Which Could Be Done", but it's rarely read by anyone.

2380: Greed leads to the opening of Pandora's box - Earth, whereupon dusty Skelebots still guarded the abandoned bunker complexes. The Horsemen were nowhere to be seen. Covert raids into these would-be tombs of mankind unleashes a multitude of horrors from a dark past nearly lost. What's worse, these horrors boarded the raider ships and took to the stars. Realising the threat to his young New Empire, Tony himself decided to take his most experienced mobsters to Earth in a bid to find... Hope.

With no word from Tony in months, opportunists in the Mafia begin to plot their own ascendance. A great Mafia meeting is arranged and is about to take a turn towards the ugly when Tony and his mobsters barge in, transformed into 7 foot Super Marines using the ancient laboratory they had discovered on Earth. Any tommyguns raised were quickly lowered.

Earth is currently only occupied by the Mermen who wanted to move back in. After a few nasty skirmishes with the Mermen the emperor declared a "Oh-let-em-havit--hehe" policy. It is generally assumed that the Emperor acquired the secrets of the bunker complexes during his visit and now keeps them locked in The Vaults, and whatever is left on Earth is best left to the Mermen to be troubled by.

2490: Present time. The seemingly immortal Emperor still rules (with his own kind of benevolence) an empire besieged by all kind of horrors. Nowadays Earth is only spoken about by those who know nothing about it.

Thoughts on visual design

I wrote the background story because I'm a fan of coherent settings and didn't really like the "random guys from across time and space came together to fight" setup. My policy when doing these kind of redesigns is generally to see what I can do with the existing material before changing anything. The original background stories of the OpenArena characters should be somewhat intact (though I skimmed some of the material). I think the characters/actors who populate the universe can be nonsensical as long as the story tries to uphold some internal consistency & rationality.

Anyways, I think a more cartoony or even animé direction is very much a correct one because it's not common and could be interesting. Someone who goes "Eew, animé!" has plenty of other choices already. Gritty styles are everywhere and there's little point putting a lot of work into doing a nearly identical version of Q3A, or turning it into a military-fantasy shooter. Now Overwatch has appeared though, touting a cleaner, more colourful style.

As for nudity, I guess I took my designs a step beyond the traditional skimpy-armour (that e.g. Selket from UT wears) (i.e. a bulky metal-bikini with swirls and greeble). There's a sort of unspoken... "this far - no further" rule which I broke because I like drawing girls in panties, but also because there has been so much teasing with naked ankles and giggling... it has become a very flat, meaningless naughtiness. So I drew pubes, and I even went as far as drawing a fully clothed girl.

The idea of armour pickups in FPS games is a little strange so I came up with the micro bikini shield concept as the only logical solution to this. Because the shields are (partly) magical, the pickup can be changed to something magical looking, like a glowing artefact or a etherial wisp. Actual armours look very physical and doesn't quite work since model appearance is unaltered by armour pickups and damage/degradation.

Item ideas based on norse mythology (Särimner).

Weapon thumbnails. Honestly, I think these are bit too bulky. I should slim a few of them down a bit.

GUI/icon doodles, norse.

Flat textures would fit a more lighthearted/whimsy animé style better?

Enemies for monster Hunt mode? Some vaguely based on qtest enemies.

Thoughts on gameplay

I think keeping the Q3A weapons and physics is a good goal as it allows the initial assets to have a clear target, but ultimately Q3A feels too minimalistic for me. Hopefully mods can spice things up. UT's Shock Rifle and Flak Gun are very satisfying to use, as is alt fire. Loved HL's laser mines. Tribe's Mortar. More weapons would allow for more varied, wacky maps. Q1 did weapon "imbalance" just fine (I never really played Doom). I think competitive balancing tends to poison and limit design, make it very tight. One example is StarCraft 2 maps which all have the same "anatomy" with minor differences that only matter to extremist players.

Because I don't care much for the hyper competitive stuff in the FPS scene, I wouldn't be opposed to seeing minor differences in character stats to make the game more replayable. Handicaps could be used for this. Movement speed, damage-take % (physical armour), normal health and shield cap, hit box size (levelling is an awful mechanic though). Personal default pew-pews would be fun, enhancing character. The default pew-pew is rarely used so variation there wouldn't be game breaking. There could of course be a standard competitive character so them hardcore folks can have that (I hear the neon-green generic armourine is trending), or a tick box for ignoring handicaps for all characters. Anyways, I'd love to be able to play a bot match with more variables than bot count and bot skill.

Why are we fighting again?

Often in these kind of arena fighting games there's some kind of convoluted sci-fi story trying to explain why there's fighting, how people can respawn and what's at stake. Other games give up and leave it unexplained, but to me a blatant unexplaination can sometimes break fourth wall (just a game). In the setting outlined here, magic is real, so gods may be too. Hmm.

You know, Norse mythology has the perfect solution for this - Valhalla. Great warriors (Einherjar) which are killed are brought to Valhalla by Valkyries. There the warriors party, scuffle and hone their fighting skills until Ragnarök (Fenrir boss fight) comes and they have to help Odin in battle (so basically they are level/skill grinding). They can't die and there's even a respawning boar (Sæhrímnir) which is consumed every day (what an unfortunate groundhog day). I'm sure not everyone brought there are friends with all the others, so there can be some rivalry and politics going on. It's a suitably light hearted and internally logical explanation.

Paintovers

Here are some 3D model (not mine) paint-overs/redlines:

Railgun

Railgun model wip by... I forgot. My concepts are quite vague and more for shape exploration. There are many viable detail solutions so it's a waste of time to hunt for exactness... but it's hard to resist tuning little detail harmonies here and there with a paint-over.

FromHell princess model

Princess model by FromHell. As I didn't detail the front-torso on my concept, I did so here.

FromHell witch concept

Some adjustments to Witch concept art by FromHell.


Art by Arne Niklas Jansson

AndroidArts.com