Not All Quakes Are Alike

Recently the gaming journalism scene appears to have gone into over drive to display their lack of professionalism. That is concerning unto itself, but I’m not going to post on those hot topics. I would rather prefer to focus on the simple things that they get wrong, things which do not provoke a sense of scandal, but when noticed call into question their position as those who bring us gaming news.

As I have brought up previously, often game journalists have the same comprehension level of games, ludology, and the technology as the average consumer which results in them being as qualified as any commenter on YouTube or reddit. This is more grave through the simplicity of it. You need to understand the difference between a franchise name, and a game title.

The new changes to Quake Live were announced recently. They were controversial, and logically a lot of people had a variety of emphatic responses. This was covered at Kotaku by Nathan Grayson, and by covered I mean there was some copy and paste, screenshots of comments, and filler. In the original article Nathan spoke of “classic Quake” and how Quake Live was based off of “Quake III Gold”. The problem is Quake Live is an adjusted and free version of Quake III Arena, and has no bearing on the original Quake other than franchise name. The article also incorrectly cites nostalgia when referring to an active and current community. Nostalgia does not apply to the present, nor the recent. This set me off a bit and I commented on this a fair bit on Twitter:

As you can see with that last post, many of the mistakes were corrected. Silently. No note on the article about their being made. Kotaku and Nathan saw a news item, copied and pasted/screenshotted other people’s writing, slapped on a sensationalist headline and called it a day. While revealing that they don’t know too much about one of the most significant franchises in gaming. They retained the fallacious use of “nostalgia” though.

Over on RockPaperShotgun, Nathan’s previous home, we have a post by Alice O’Connor which uses an awkward story about a game coming of age when it turns 18, and how it can go off and make changes. Quake is 18. Quake Live is not 18, it is 5. Quake 3 is not 18, it is 15. All of the original content in the post is predicated on confusing the first entry of the franchise with the latest. Now Alice does at least know what a .plan file is, and how to load a Doom mod without an installer, so I know she is a capable and knowledgeable gamer in some respects, but that makes such a confusion all the more egregious in many ways. The Quake games are different from one another.

Quake is the name of the original 1996 release, a game that started out with RPG intentions in a fantasy setting, that changed dramatically in development. Quake 2 is a new game and game world (despite the skull winged design and the Q transitioning), however they were not able to acquire the copyright for the name they wanted, so it was named after the technology. A succession of the Quake engine. At this point the name symbolized the pace of action and the groundbreaking engine technology. Quake 3 used the name as well, to communicate these ideas in yet another new game. Quake 4 was a sequel of Quake 2 by Raven using the Doom 3 technology, and Quake Live is a free to play release of Quake 3 with gameplay balance changes. A little confusing? Yes, but not impossibly opaque. Any degree of searching, or remembering if you were a gamer during any of this time, would clear things up.

Some may say “So what? They’re basically the same game anyways. Arena shooters.” To which I say, “Let me write lots of things, because I love Quake, and it is the foundation of much of what we take for granted today.”

This is Quake. A 1996 game where you fight your way through levels shooting monsters. Original sounding, eh? Well the game is episodic in nature, each episode can be completed in whatever order you choose, but all must be completed to unlock the final area. Levels are sequential, but internally boast a decently high convexivity. Focus is on gameplay and mood. Each episode starts you in a taken over human base, and then transitions into an otherworldly design: castles, ancient ruins, dungeons, metal labyrinths, bizarre woodwork. The monsters you fight are military at the beginning, and then medieval fantasy creatures meets Lovecraftian lore. Your armaments are crude devices progressing in potency, and you unleash death to the backing of dark ambient music. The presentation of story elements was sparse and simple. Your concern was survival, the gold key, and the silver key.

This is Quake 2. A 1997 game made by a somewhat different team. Many new people joined id, and John Romero and Sandy Petersen had departed, resulting in a rather different level design team. The setting is an alien planet, covered with industrial and military facilities, including gruesome live human processing plants. Weapons are comparatively balanced and refined polished devices, you have an inventory system to save up powerups for the right moment, and the music is hard rock/metal. The game is not episodic, the levels are clustered into hubs which you travel between making changes in different places. You are satisfying clearly stated military mission objectives, stealing power cores to make an area go dark, realigning satellites, calling in airstrikes, shutting down machines as you roam between 3-4 levels at a time. The entire game is futuristic, sci-fi, and explicit rather than implicit.

This is Quake 3. A 1999 game with no actual single player or serious storyline. It is composed of isolated arenas where you fight, die, and respawn. The person with the most kills wins, whether you are fighting humans or AI. The world is gothic hell, brimstone, futuristic bases, ancient stone work, and everything in between. Music is electronic industrial with dashes of hard rock/metal. The inventory system has been simplified to one off hand item, and weapons are balanced around competition. Multiplayer is not tacked on to Quake 3, it is Quake 3.

Quake Live is a return of Quake 3, and it looks rather similar. The game has been sanitized of gore, weapon balance has been adjusted, and it is free to play in a browser, and will be coming to Steam soon.

To maintain that these games are mentally interchangeable is laziness, incompetence, or a combination therein. If you weren’t there, I understand why you wouldn’t know these things, but you should learn more about gaming history. Nathan and Alice were there, and are in a profession that suggests knowledge, research, and competence. Once again, YouTube and reddit comments will leave you more informed than most of the sites dedicated to informing you.


UPDATE: Jehar noticed I left out a “3”, added. Thanks Jehar!

8 thoughts on “Not All Quakes Are Alike

  1. s

    Fantastic post. Had the exact same thoughts while reading some of this stuff about Quake Live.

    These people have no idea what they’re talking about.

    1. scar3crow Post author

      What is baffling is they still feel comfortable posting about it. I wouldn’t post much on JRPGs for example, because I don’t know them well enough. Yet these people are paid, and in prominent positions, but they never give pause to consider if their source is strong enough for the assertions, assumptions, and implications.

      Thank you for the compliment, and the comment!

  2. JohnNy_cz

    Thanks for this article. This is exactly how I felt when I read all the recent articles yelling “they are changing quake!”

    1. scar3crow Post author

      In this case, they are judging the community in particular. The bit about “nostalgia” particularly gets to me. These aren’t rose tinted glasses, they are gib soaked glasses, because we still play games.

  3. drunkentowel

    I agree with your article but find it somewhat ironic that you used screenshots of opengl quake, which isn’t exactly the original. The explosion looks modded as well, not sure though.

    1. scar3crow Post author

      Well spotted. Quake for me is scrags, vores, shamblers and bizarre crypts nestled in great canyons carved for the purpose of destroying those within. The screenshots are taken with the DarkPlaces engine. I do like playing things in a modern resolution and color depth (and shadowmaps are also nice). I love graphical advances, but I feel design has gone backwards in games. So things like DarkPlaces are a boon for me.

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