Explode Your Face: Strafe Demo Released

The headline refers to the trailer for procedurally generated Quake-a-Like Strafe [Kickstarter page], which is entering its final hours on Kickstarter. At the time of writing, “the fastest, bloodiest, deadliest, most adjective-abusing, action-packed first-person shooter of 1996” has $35,000 to raise with less than three days left on the clock. To win over the masses, developers Pixel Titans have released a Speed Run Zone to the world. Playable on PC or Mac, it was previously available exclusively to streamers. Now you can play it even if the world isn’t watching.

Set your phasers to ludicrous gibs and your expectations low. Hopefully it’ll be good times, but this Speed Run Zone isn’t particularly representative of the game as a whole. Pixel Titans explain their reasoning behind releasing now at length. Shouty, capitalised length. It’s faux-shouting though, like the faux-blood in the trailer. Probably.

YOU ASKED NICELY TO PLAY STRAFE®.

WE SAID HAHA NOT A CHANCE IN HELL.

YOU DEMANDED TO PLAY STRAFE®, OR ELSE.

WE SAID REALLY, IT’S NOT READY.

YOU KIDNAPPED OUR LEAD PROGRAMMER AND HELD HIM AT GUNPOINT UNTIL HE RELEASED A BROKEN STRAFE® BUILD.

WE PULLED OUT A RAILGUN AND EXPLODED YOUR SKULL IN SELF DEFENSE.

AND THEN RELEASED A BROKEN STRAFE® BUILD AFTER JUST TO SPITE YOU.

So here it is, world. A small sign of things to come for STRAFE®. The SPEED RUN with high score tracking!

That means it’s pre-Alpha, BROKEN and not representative of the final game. It was custom built in days to get into the hands of streamers. The overwhelming positive response encouraged us to release it to the public. BUT this is A TINY FRACTION and modified version of STRAFE® that lacks most final features likes:

Custom options (inverted mouse, FOV/visor/gun sliders, etc)
Procedural level generation
Finished enemy AI and pathfinding
Secrets
A ton of things, you get the idea

We love what we’ve seen. But unfortunately it might not run on your particular computer right now. It might have major bugs, like enemies literally dancing for death. It might begin WWIII after your computer is mistaken on radar for a nuclear warhead. And if you don’t remember Doom’s elevator lifts, you might get stuck and not know how to move forward. Press E toward the ground, damn it.

I haven’t been able to play it yet because I can’t cope with the lack of inverted mouse controls. Or I’m far too busy writing about grand strategy games and playing TOTAL WAR: HUNFEST.

27 Comments

  1. padger says:

    Heh, it’s amazing how much less funny this gets on repeated viewing.

  2. LionsPhil says:

    Still unconvinced that “procedural generation” is what a proper DOOM-era FPS map needs. A lot of those games (especially Duke3D) were notable for map design (amongst speed, fluidity, and weapons).

    • Zulthar says:

      Agreed. I really don’t understand how anyone is excited for procedural generation anymore, in most games it basically means the devs have created a script that copy-pastes maps for them. Give me a hand-crafted level over that random garbage any day.

      • April March says:

        Hey, don’t go kicking on procedural generation. Its point is that it forces you to git gud at the game; you can’t memorize how the map goes and the exact position of every enemy and power-up. But likewise, the creator has to design the game in such a way that its mechanics are easily comprehended (see: Spelunky) exactly because you can’t memorize the map. It’s just not one-size-fits-all: you can’t stick procedural generation in a game not built with it in mind and expect it to work.

        (That said, I haven’t played the game, since ‘very unstable pre-alpha’ doesn’t exactly make me start to drool, but the features list suggests procedural generation isn’t in yet, so maybe it’s a tad premature to judge whether that works.)

        • nanophage says:

          That’s fine and all for games like Minecrate and Terraria, but the strategy involved in doom’esq/quakeish games is VERY dependent on item placement and level flow. Watch some Pro quake 2 matches. Even items hand-placed have to have the locations tweaked by inches to insure an even playing field. The layout of powerups and their type creates a flow of it’s own that the most skilled players know how to exploit to the most benefit. Some players even know to leave powerups if they don’t absolutly need them because it can tell the player that someone has been there if it gets picked up.

          Procedural placement won’t be able to duplicate that because there will be too much RNG involved. The game will not be based on skill alone but to a large degree based on random luck. Which is fine if that’s what you want but I think is counter to what Quake-like games are.

          But then I don’t think Strafe is trying to be Quake so, this is all largely irrelevant. In single player proceduralism will probably turn out fine.

          • nanophage says:

            BTW I misunderstood the intent of what the designers are trying to accomplish here so most of the above is irrelevant. However I still stand by the idea that proceduralism will not be able to mimic the craft involved in level design and flow will suffer as a consequence, as of right now anyway. That’s not to say that someday it may not be possible but I don’t think we’re there yet. Someone has to advance the idea to get to that point anyway so why not Strafe?

      • MadTinkerer says:

        “I really don’t understand how anyone is excited for procedural generation anymore”

        For one thing, the game that is the best selling game of all time other than system pack-in titles (that is, the best selling game of all time is one that came with it’s console, but if you disregard the titles that came with their consoles…) uses procedural level creation. For another thing, it’s used by artists all the time for AAA titles, but you don’t notice because the results of the procedural generation are saved as individual textures or tweaked by hand and then saved.

        The downside of procedural generation is that the computer can only do what you explain it how to do. So if you don’t know how to explain something, or you don’t explain it well, you end up with mediocre content. The upside of procedural generation is that computers are billions of times better than humans at it. E.G. rendering a Mandelbrot set by hand with graph paper vs. just giving the algorithm to the computer.

        Computers can’t intuitively know what we want, so they can only do what we’ve explained to them. But the limits of what can be explained to a computer are equal to the limits of what can be quantified by human intellect and then expressed in a programming language. We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what computers are capable of doing. That’s why procedural generation is exciting.

    • Niko says:

      Speaking of weapons, Strafe needs to work on them. Railgun (I assume it’s a railgun) doesn’t feel powerful at the moment.

    • wcq says:

      But making good levels is tooo harrrrdd

    • Baines says:

      After a while, people want different things.

      And while procedurally generated maps are almost guaranteed to be worse than well-crafted handcrafted maps, they aren’t necessarily worse than randomly downloaded maps. Because there are some really bad user-created maps for various games.

      As for how well it works with Doom-type games, you could always download OBLIGE. It makes random levels for Doom, Hexen, and the like.

    • tangoliber says:

      Strafe just scrambles pre-designed rooms, (and probably randomizes their inhabitants/ monster closets.) The difference between it and Ziggurat or Tower of Guns is that the rooms connect more fluidly, and the monsters can move between them.

      You will recognize the rooms, but your overall experience will be different each time you play.

      • bill says:

        Ahh. So it’s like Halo 1 singleplayer? the same 3 rooms and corridors repeated over and over again, but with slightly different contents and layouts?

  3. Liandri_Angel says:

    Even though the trailer hits that sweet spot of creepy and cheesy, I’m supporting this more on virtue of it not being TOXIKK’s obnoxious “COD ate my grandmother” advertising.

  4. JustAchaP says:

    Had a go at it and it felt pretty… meh

  5. poop V says:

    incredibly disappointing. none of the actually appealing parts of the games strafe tributes are present in strafe. everything from the level design to the weapons feels subtly off and shitty. it claims to be a classic fps throwback but it feels like theyve never played anything other than brutal doom. the problems aren’t unfixable but it feels like the developers don’t even know what those problems are.

    • tangoliber says:

      Gameplay is not as good as Doom/Heretic, but I’d say it is better than Brutal Doom for sure.

    • Flappybat says:

      Right. For all the claims they make to retro shooters the only real resemblance is the aesthetic of the levels. Weapons, movement, monster distribution, level design seem to have little in common with the material they want to source. Procedural levels are a large black mark against it as set pieces, traps and puzzles were a key part of early 90s FPS.

      Nothing wrong with making a procedural shooter with some roguelikelike elements but to peddle it as being so 90s feels disingenuous to me. It’s clearly working from all the media hype.

  6. Barberetti says:

    “I haven’t been able to play it yet because I can’t cope with the lack of inverted mouse controls”

    Thanks for saving me some time Adam!

    • Pantalaimon says:

      I’m sure there’s an Autohotkey script you can use to invert your mouse controls for you.

  7. Jakkar says:

    Please bear in mind they only released this to try to get some more coverage and get over the finish line of their kickstarter, after a surprisingly lukewarm response and a paucity of shares (possibly the ultraviolence of the trailer had something to do with it, though I thought it would have the opposite effect)…

    They didn’t intend or wish to share the game with the public in this state. They say pre-alpha, they mean pre-alpha.

  8. vorador says:

    Umm while i really like the over-the-top pitch trailer, the game itself feels average. There are way too many roguelikes these days, enough is enough.

    • jgthespy says:

      There aren’t enough roguelikelikes these days. There’s always plenty of room for low time investment games with fun and clever gameplay. Go play something else if you don’t like them.

    • tangoliber says:

      There are too many savescum games these days. They should be a niche genre. Procedural Death Games should just be called “Games”

  9. binkbenc says:

    I was all ready to say there was already a rubbish FPS called Strafe, but then remembered it was actually called Strife. Still, it was definitely a rubbish FPS.

  10. Nixitur says:

    Well, I’m glad that the Kickstarter succeeded, but I didn’t back it myself. The trailer absolutely repulsed me and made me feel a little sick, so I honestly didn’t care to find out any more about this game.