Thursday, December 31, 2009

EDuke32: I just couldn't wait...

After downloading the High Resolution Pack (HRP) installer, which includes EDuke32, high res versions of all the textures, and the Duke Plus mod that enables many more things than Duke Nukem 3D ever had in it, I just had to install it.

Then I just had to run it.

Then I just had to play for a while.

When you start it up, you'll get a window that looks similar to this one: (The HRP installer isn't updated quite as often as the core engine installer, so it comes with an older version of EDuke32 than the most current one available)

You won't really need to do much on this window other than hitting Start unless you want to enable Duke Plus, which is enabled in my screenshot.

Once you're in the game, you can (and should) thumb through the options. You can play around with the graphics and sound and everything and tweak it to your liking. Most notably, turn that resolution up.

The high resolution graphics are way better. They take a while to load at the beginning of each level, but I think the vastly improved visual experience is worth it. The old school 2D sprites of enemies are replaced with 3D models. Since I can easily turn the high res stuff off and back on again (there's a toggle in the options), here's a few side by side comparisons of good old E1M1, Hollywood Holocaust. I've customized the HUD and the crosshair a little but other than that these screenshots reflect EDuke32's default options. Both screenshots of each location were taken without moving between taking them.

The spawn point. The texture difference is huge, just look at the wood floor.

The theater, with the film turned on. The difference in the quality of the film is like night and day here. This screenshot also shows the much better overall colors in the high resolution graphics vs. the original graphics.

The bathroom. Screencapped through the mirror for fun. You can clearly see the difference between the 2D sprites and the 3D models here. They might be difficult to see, but the hand dryer and urinals are 3D models as well.

Just like other source ports of other popular old 3D games like Doom Legacy and D2X-XL, EDuke32 allows you to run the game in higher display resolutions than the original engine did. My only gripe regarding this is that it sets my refresh rate to 60Hz, which I can see refreshing. Fortunately, in eduke32.cfg there's an option called MaxRefreshFreq that you can change from 60 to 75.

EDuke32 packs a whole slew of new options. Mouselook is enabled by default and the mouse sensitivity is very configurable. Everything is configurable through its in-game menu, there's no need for the old setup.exe from the old one.

I guess I should talk about that. The installer (for the HRP at least, but I'd imagine that the regular installer does this too) asks at one point if you want to search for the original game's data file, duke3d.grp. If you hit Yes you can tell it where to look and it'll automatically copy it to the right place. Then when you run EDuke32 everything just works. This is in direct contrast with the setup for D2X-XL, where you have to manually move files around into their appropriate directories, and if you want high resolution textures you have to download and decompress like 5000 files separately.

I mentioned that the HRP installer includes a mod called Duke Plus that adds even more stuff. Duke Plus adds all sorts of effects like rain and snow, extra weapons like an SMG and a Gravity Gun (hi there Half-Life 2), movable objects, soda machines that vend health-replenishing soda, grabbable ledges (you can grab a ledge and then move on it to cross a pit, or use it to jump up to higher places), working ladders, and a ton more stuff. It's completely optional but it really does add a lot to the game. It has its own series of levels that show off what it can do, so just start it with Duke Plus selected in the custom game content dropdown (see the startup window above) and then hit up the Duke Plus Levels episode to try it out.

Something I noticed while taking the in-game screenshots: It saves them in .tga format. Photoshop handles them just fine, so it didn't really bother me when I was making the side by side comparison screenshots. I don't think there's an option to make it take .png screenshots instead, which kind of sucks. Luckily, there are free image manipulation programs available on the internet that you can use to convert your screenshots to a more usable format. If you want to travel the open source route, try The GIMP, and if you'd rather have something else try Paint.NET.

The verdict: Hail to the king baby! Duke Nukem 3D running natively on modern operating systems = instant win.

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