The release of earthquake remaster in August 2021 sparked renewed interest in the classic FPS game, as well as its mods. earthquake has a long history of being modified, and one of the first mods to cause a stir was X-Men: Ravages Of Apocalypse.
A total conversion mod that puts the player in the role of a cyborg tasked by Magneto with saving the world from an army of X-Men clones, this mod was a labor of love turned into a business venture that saw an incredibly difficult development cycle and harsh reviews from critics. However, the mod was loved by fans and remains a piece of video game history that has a lot to say about the industry today.
7 Quake was the perfect game for modders
When id Software released its hit game Loss in December 1993, and Doom II a year later, the games were a moderator’s paradise. The ability to access the code allowed enthusiasts to change the game to their liking. There were still some limitations. When earthquake came out in 1996, it removed many of those limitations. Rather than being able to only modify existing characters, earthquake allowed modders to add new material to the game.
Additionally, the game’s 3D capabilities meant modders could spend less time animating frame-by-frame actions for each character and instead apply a 3D model and let the game do the work. With custom character models, custom levels, and modified game mechanics, an experienced modder could become earthquake in a brand new game.
6 Zero Gravity Entertainment: the brains behind the mod
In this modding atmosphere anything is possible, Jonny Gorden, an Australian illustrator, animator and video game superfan. Gorden was introduced to the art of pixel art design on his Atari in 1990, and he was working on creating assets for educational games when earthquake has been freed.
He had already had success in modding with Doom Bugs, a mod that replaced Doom characters with classic Looney Tunes like Taz the Tasmanian Devil and Daffy Duck.
5 Started as a character modeling test
After seeing Lara Croft’s iconic 3D model design in the 1996s Grave robber, Gorden wanted to test his own 3D modeling techniques within the low-poly restrictions demanded by games of the time. Be a big X Men fan, he decided to try his hand at modeling the mutant Storm. In an interview with Denis Murphy in 2017, Gorden said he learned two things.
“First, it wasn’t easy to make a character look good on such a limited polygon budget (less than 500 polys), and second, I loved the challenge.” He continued his conception of Storm by making a Wolverine model before realizing the behavior of the earthquake enemy the Fiend would be well mapped to Wolverine. These two characters were the first step in what would become Ravages of the Apocalypse.
4 A fan project is taken over by Marvel
Once he realized he wanted to refuel X Men mod for earthquake, Gorden began promoting the project to generate interest. He found it very quickly, with people all over the world inquiring about the project. One of the biggest questions was that of legality. There were other mods that used large IPs, but they were often forced to be removed by rights holders. But Gorden wasn’t worried, choosing instead to focus on development.
“It really wasn’t a problem until I was ready to release something,” he said in his interview with Murphy. But he didn’t have to wait long, because within a month he got a call from Kyle Bousquet, a licensing manager with contacts at Marvel. Marvel was in crisis in the mid-90s, after experiencing a massive decline in popularity. In an effort to combat this, they created Marvel Entertainment, a division tasked with seeking opportunities to expand the franchise to other media formats. They were impressed with Gorden’s work and decided to take Ravages of the Apocalypse as an official project.
3 Development time was nothing, and neither was the budget
Marvel wanted to release the game in time for Christmas 1997, which only gave Gorden and his small team three months to deliver it. With his original idea, it seemed doable even on the lower budget than Marvel gave. His original plan was to design a single level, X-Mansion, and use the earthquake levels for the rest. Add a few characters, and that would be an achievable goal. However, thanks to the easy nature of earthquake modding, id Software was receiving thousands of official license requests. To fight the tide, they only accepted projects that significantly changed the content of the existing game.
This meant that Gorden and his team had to add more levels to complete the project, eventually reaching a total of 12. To meet the growing demand, more and more people from all over the world were brought in, bringing in the final team. at around 26. With only a few months to go and nowhere near enough money to cover their expenses, the team worked tirelessly. Gorden remembers working 20 hours a day, 7 days a week for two months. This timeline echoes the crunch culture now plaguing development studios, with workers being asked to devote unhealthy time to delivering games on time.
2 Intentionally designed to capture every character within the limits of the engine
Despite the difficult conditions and minimal budget, Gorden and his team were pushing the earthquake engine to its limits to craft a game that played and felt distinctly X-Men. The player character is a shape-shifting cyborg built by Magneto and can transform his arm into a variety of weapons, each a custom re-texture of the classic earthquake arsenal. This allowed the player to have access to all of the weapons in the jump, rather than finding them as upgrades.
Gorden used this to his advantage by making each enemy weak and strong against different weapons. The player is forced to change strategy as he takes on the game’s various mutant clones. “It was really important to me that the characters were as authentic as possible,” he said in the interview, ” which made their balance difficult. ” In the end, twelve X-Men entered the game, plus Apocalypse and Mister Sinister as the boss.
1 Crisis and money issues led to negative reviews
After a beleaguered development cycle, Zero Gravity Games’ debut project finally gained public attention. Critics weren’t nice, berating the game for being overly difficult, too similar to normal earthquake, and all around a botched project. This is to be expected given the conditions that led to his release, and Gorden feels the same.
“I’m so proud of what we were able to accomplish … We had the best game possible under difficult circumstances, and that’s all I could have hoped for.” Ravages of the Apocalypse was not a saving grace for Marvel’s bottom line, nor a lucrative games career for Gorden, although he has continued to work in entertainment to this day. But this represents a chapter in the history of game development that has largely come to a close as business models are totally different today. Players who are ready to hunt can still play this game, and the release of the earthquake remaster has many wondering if Ravages of the Apocalypse could potentially emerge again.
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