In recent years, I helped kill QuakeWorld. While I did lots of things to help players have better user experience with the game, in the same time I've taken my share in sucking an important part of life out of the game.
Lots of us think about the game, why it is so great and also how it could get improved, how it could attract new players and also be a great place for the existing players. In recent years we have focused on making the user experience good, on providing solid tournaments and overall making the game look like a solid "electronic sport".
I think, this was a great mistake.
I have come to realize this when reading Spirit's interview with American McGee on Quake
. Especially in this part:
What is Quake's main characteristic to you?
Fast, fun, and funny. The "funny" aspect is something I think a lot of people miss in current day shooters - the humor is gone from it; games since Quake often take themselves too seriously. Humor is an important aspect of any "violent" game - or the violence just gets to be too much.
"Funny" is an adjective I would not have expected, could you elaborate what you consider funny in Quake?
Well, that's one of the things I remember most about making games at id while Romero was still around - a lot of laughter. We didn't tune things to be realistic or gory for the sake of gore - but for laughter and enjoyment. "Gibs" weren't disgusting chunks of charred human flesh - they were the battlefield equivalent of "Spam", and the sound associated with them always resulted in laughter. Later, things got too serious. Grumpy space aliens wearing battle armor invaded the comical world of exploding Spam and screwed up the fun.
After reading this I remembered my first experience with Quake. It was a teamplay demo of e1m2 featuring Thresh, I guess it was this one
. All the sounds, and funny-looking frags and telefrags, the death screams, the swampy sounds, the funny-weird frag messages, moving platforms and doors, all that in what we call nowadays "vanilla" Quake. All that was so funny and weird at the same time I was immediately attracted and wanted to try it out.
Quake was weird and funny.
Today, QuakeWorld is not like that. Me and others have done so much to eliminate all the weird and funny stuff out of the game. The default configs do not contain background sounds nor gibs, those are filtered. We have removed the classical pain-face in the HUD and replaced it with some neutral graphics. Even today we are considering upgrading the default HUD to make it look more modern, and ofcourse - normal and standard. We are filtering the classical funny frag messages and replacing them with some purely-informative frag messages. And I'm sure I could find much more examples of how we try to pretend the game is a professional e-sports game.
The maps are not fun anymore. You can only squish people in dm2, and even that is pretty rare nowadays as everyone's movement got so fast and perfected, it makes it impossible to "catch" somebody and squish him. Also jumps over lava are now so perfected and have a great distance reserve that you rarely see anyone dying in lava. Dm2 platforms being perhaps the only exception. But even that is now quite rare. New maps do not cotain these traps at all, only with very little exceptions.
Other place that makes you realize Quake is not fun anymore is the web. Look at the page on which you read this blog. At its heading there's some profesionally looking QuakeWorld label with planet motive. The label could say "software solutions" and it would still look "ok", like it should be like this. Or check the main page of the main tournament of today - EQL. Very minimalistic design with no remarks of Quake - how this game feels and that it is actually a funny game. The stats page I have helped to develop does not contain anything funny, just pure numbers and typical awards. The page where I enter this blog allows me to pick out of 20 very serious Quake-related categories and then from about 5 non-Quake related, like Girls, Music or TV. It implies there is nothing non-serious in games. Only tournaments, clans, servers and clients.
I think it is the right time to realize Quake won't be an e-sport. In recent years we have supported the game spirit that forces one to get better and better, improve, watch demos, work on yourself, and so on. But why on earth would anyone want to do it in such an old game? Those who want to play an e-sport game, get better - or even become one of the best players - will surely choose something more current, like Starcraft, or Counter-strike.
If we try to make QuakeWorld look and feel like other FPS shooters, there will be no reason for anybody to choose to play Quake.
I am bored of all the attempts to squeeze the "best" out of QuakeWorld player's performance. All that drilling of the same maps over and over, because upper 5% of players say they still find it fun to improve there. All the pretending that Quake might soon get sponsors, advertisements and what not. It won't. Ever.
Maybe to attract new players in these harsh times it would be good to go "back to the roots" and make the game "weird and funny" again? Not so serious as it is now. Tons of other games are trying to be serious and look "standard". Being funny and weird is, in my opinion, what makes this game so unique. And unique games will always attract new people who will want to try them.