Quake Live on Steam – Thoughts

So Quake Live is now on Steam. For whatever reason, some people insist on calling it Quake which is just silly. I won’t be doing that, but I will be abbreviating it to QL.

A lot of mechanic changes seem to be operating under the auspices of making the game more welcoming, an understandable goal for a Free To Play title. But friendly mechanics can only work if the user can appreciate them, and that involvesĀ a useful UI. I’m not a UI expert, but if I’m going for a quick game and choose Team, don’t put me in a full game. I didn’t click Play to Watch.

The real crux is in all of the fairly random game design changes. QL is a modified form of Q3A. Q3A was very friendly to new players. Weapons respawned quickly and set the ammo for that weapon to either a minimum, or current + 1, making camping weapons or timing them a low return effort. This solution unto itself had the potency of Weapon Stay without the visual incongruity. Pair this with the mentality that QL is “too hardcore” or something of the sort. This is inane. QL has a high skill ceiling, but five seconds with any gun and playing two rounds on a map is going to teach you the nuts and bolts. The only not quite observable mechanic is in the finer nuances of bunnyhopping. Rocket jumping and plasma climbing are things you can observe. Item timing is a case of noting the time when you see an item picked up, and noting it again when it reappears. The rest is the mental juggling you would want to do, on par with the precision you would want to practice to improve your aim.

quakelive_steam 2014-09-30 19-49-55-95QL did not need to be made “more casual”, as there was nothing preventing it from being such, especially if you bring back the Q3A weapon logic. QL can be very competitive, and surprise, you find that when you enter into the competitions. You seek that out. The need to make QL “easier” is ridiculous, this is change for the sake of change, an illusion of activity.

What is the value of increasing run speed while the gauntlet is out? Sure CS and BlOps2 players are familiar with such an action – but those games are oriented around teams spawning in fixed areas and pushing toward a middle area. Those games use a lot of hitscans, and have locational damage so reaching a particular line of sight first is distinctly advantageous. More so, they also have limited inventories and settings to act as a proxy realistic experience. QL does not. There is no location damage, the setting isn’t realistic, nor is there any notion of “weight” to your given weapon. It is a different type of FPS. So why the change? Change.quakelive_steam 2014-09-30 19-39-25-95

What is the value of spawn loadouts? Being shot at from spawn is a major disadvantage regardless of weapon, as any CoD player could have told you, because you are a fresh spawn, you don’t know what is around, how things are going, and you have no literal momentum in your movement. Seldom did I spawn into being attacked by a player who was so much worse than me, that my quickly having a weapon on par with theirs overcame the advantage of awareness, first shots fired, and momentum. When I did, that same player could usually be bested by a good gauntlet pummeling.quakelive_steam 2014-09-30 19-49-30-95

In order to understand the implication of spawn loadouts, you need to also be made aware of Ammo Packs. Ammo pickups as understood have been replaced with generic Ammo Packs which give ammo for your current weapons. You no longer need to shift up your weapon so long as you can find any ammo item. Now look at spawn loadouts, you spawn with two of your favorite weapons (with combination restrictions and no BFG). Every ammo pickup provides ammo for that. There is no encouragement to find other weapons, to learn them. This sounds bad enough, but in practice everyone has a rocket launcher. Rockets everywhere. You don’t learn to play QL when you have a splash weapon at all times, and everyone is dinging everyone for splash damage. Sure when everyone is using rockets you can often easily beat them with rails, lightning, or plasma – but it is boring to fight against.quakelive_steam 2014-09-30 19-45-15-95

This might sound minor, but it is an obnoxious experience. Now as I’ve played more, I am encountering players who don’t do such, but that is possibly a case of me progressing while other players are left behind, never getting deeper into the game. This doesn’t build a community.

Quake Live could have done a lot to build a rich player base by joining Steam. But that was all they did, they joined Steam. And made changes which will handicap players in the future.