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TextQuake: A Quake Art Concept at WRT: Writer Response Theory



TextQuake: A Quake Art Concept


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Quake III Logo

The recent public release of the source code to the Quake III game engine has me thinking about modding - specifically, a setup in which 3d game levels are used as environments for reading text written on the walls. This is the seed of the idea for a project called TextQuake.

But before this lazyweb thought experiment, an example of a currently existing art project done with modified Quake source code.

QQQ by nullpointer is a code art project in which modifications of Quake game engines are used to create a chaotic interactive landscape.

Screenshot from QQQ

The display, a “continuous stream of glitched images and abstracted video sequences” results is an experience that hovers somewhere between sculpture and painting, with an aesthetic of visual artifacts that most resembles the cubist deconstruction of form in works like “Nude Descending a Staircase.” As a practice, QQQ presents itself as part of the ongoing history of game hacking and modding.
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Ever since the first home computers played host to primitive games there has been a culture of modification. In many cases the aim of this manipulation is cheating (the infamous POKE commands of the 8bit era), but for some people the ability to modify or hack a game meant the opportunity to expand it’s horizons, to allow greater and more abstract possibilities into the code.

…Using a combination of code rewrites and resource edits, the user of a game can become its programmer, rebuilding the game in their own image. With the current obsession of VJ culture it is suprising that little game-engine software is used outside of the sphere of PC gaming. Similarly much of contemporary design practice draws from video game culture and hack/glitch aesthetics.

House of Leaves, pg. 139

TextQuake would be an environment for 3d reading rather than combat, using the large virtual architectures to create narrative “gardens of forking paths” which go beyond the Pac-Man grid of CYOA narratives and into a kind of writing that would function like a 3d version of the Minotaur maze from Mark Z. Danielewski’s novel “House of Leaves.”

Not having time to familiarize myself with all the source code libraries and tools available, I’m not sure what forms TextQuake might take as a 3d environment for digital text art.

Quake code is optimized for a particular genre of game play, and as such 3d interaction is significantly more limited than for example the Cave environment used in Noah Wardrip-Fruin’s Screen. On the other hand, Quake is a traversable environment rather than just a locality, which creates many interesting possibilities for the metaphor of motion.

At the simplest, this might be accomplished by creating a semi-automated method of creating static graphics for each wall panel in a predefined level. The input text would be parsed across those graphics, the level file would be recompiled, and the game would appear with new text on the walls - new garden, same forking paths. The possibilities depend on the possibilities of the source. Automation might be more ambitious than generating pre-rendered images for mapping - and the display might be more ambitious as well, involving text with timed changes, with interactivity, with animated motion, text that floated transluscently in space, text object in the place of game items (ammunition, health packs), text rendered by the game engine and changeable mid-play - or even game mechanics based on the collection and dissemination of textons, a new kind of ‘text adventure game’….

[QQQ via costik.com, Q3 Source via boing boing]



3 Responses to “TextQuake: A Quake Art Concept”

  1. 1 nick

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    There are two existing textual Quake projects worth mentioning, too: Textmode Quake (can be played in a console window, without graphics; screenshots) and IF Quake (an interactive fiction “implementation” of Quake; screenshots).

  2. 2 Jeremy Douglass

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    Good point, Nick - and I wasn’t aware of either, although I had seen their forbears - the AA Project ascii art libraries that are used to run Textmode Quake, Foom (1996), the Doom adaptation which seems to be the predecessor to IF Quake (2002).

    More generally, bringing these in raises an interesting distinction between:

    - Text Quake as (interactive) ASCII art renditions of the Quake 3D engine [Textmode Quake]
    - Text Quake as (interactive) Descriptive prose of Quake gameplay [IF Quake]
    - Text Quake as (interactive) Other prose delivered via the Quake 3D engine [proposed TextQuake]

    The first approach uses Quake as a source of texture (like QQQ) - the second emphasize Quake as a narrative - and the third uses it as a 3D reading device or environment… I suppose the best comparison would be to the Croquet Project.

  3. 3 Christy Dena

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    I really like the idea of the text being loaded real-time from the Net too. So you could be moving through text, comments, stories as they are submitted.

    Perhaps this could be modified to be a form of torture for CEOs: where they are locked into a chair, with a head-mounted display moving them through all the complaints being received by the miss-treated front-line staff and via emails?

    Also, I’ve added Foom and TextMode Quake to the spoof post.

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