SwanQuake: The User Manual

by Scott deLahunta, Editor
Liquid Press/i-DAT, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, Devon UK, 2007
128 pp. Paper, £18.00 Pounds UK
ISBN: 978-1-84102 172-0.

Reviewed by Michael R. (Mike) Mosher
Saginaw Valley State University, Michigan


SwanQuake is not really the name of a single project. It’s an ongoing work, whose memorable moniker conflates those of Tchaikovsky’s ballet “Swan Lake” and the shoot-’em-up computer game, Quake. The inventive blague-qua-trope sticks in the mind. In addition, the essays are useful, bearing information on several multiple creative processes that make up 3D environments.

The table of contents is both intro and prècis, but ventures into dangerous copyright territory when it calls itself a Quick Start Guide, like Peachpit Press’ proprietary third-party software documentation. Bruno Martelli walks the reader through a demo of a downloadable game engine used in creating the project’s 3D software.

A conversation on “Pushing Polygons” into environments and characters, held in London in June 2005 between Martelli, Alex Jevremovic and Scott deLahunta, is followed by deLahunta’s detailed article “Choreographing Cycling Animations”. Adam Nash discusses sound design in games and environments, and his article contains useful tips and illustrative photos.

“Art is DOOMed: the Spawning of Game Art” cites both DOOM and Spawn as paradigms in the development of this medium. Shirlee Saul and Helen Stuckey distinguish game data—the various levels, graphics, sound effects and music—as separate entities from the game engine. Yet the Doom Editing Utility allowed the evolution from static game art to user customization. Game art is now autonomous and continually grows out of huge fan communities in discrete steps. The first step examines formal elements. The second repositions traditional art activities into a new space, virtual worlds. The third step then generates new creative situations, tools, and contexts, from game technologies. The work of these creatives examines society and its social anxieties about games.

Uncanny Realism informs Quake n’ Space’s reconstruction of Duchamp’s last major work “Étant Donnés”, its spread-eagled erotic female displayed and holding the illuminating gas lamp, her labyrinthine architecture to be mounted like a hard disk peripheral on a lubricious desktop and navigated.

It seems that 10 to 15 years ago there were numerous valuable books exploring the possibilities of real-time three-dimensional environments, from Linda Jacobson’s Garage Virtual Reality (1994), through Bruce Damer’s Avatars! (1998), and Peter Anders’ Envisioning Cyberspace (1998). Now SwanQuake: the User Manual fits nicely among them.

Last Updated 1 January, 2009

Contact LDR: ldr@leonardo.org

Contact Leonardo:isast@leonardo.info

copyright © 2008 ISAST