For a community such as ESR, SyncError is an easy target. His motivations blur the line between financial and personal interest, which to the critical reader offers very obvious flaws to pick at, but they are flaws that are ultimately necessary for the evolution of the ideas spurring the continued development of QuakeLive. His personal investment in QuakeLive is necessary for his faith in his position, and his dedication to the game creates a distinct rift between the fierce criticism that can be generated by even the subtlest of changes to the game and his own pride in the team he works with. SyncError is surprisingly resilient to the critical nature of ESR users, but as I've grown and experienced more of the productive side of adulthood, I've come to realize that most of the world is, they simply just aren't so vocal as those who aren't. That's not to say that conflicts between the community and SyncError and the development team aren't justified, but that id and SyncError are much more aware of the nature of sites such as ESR than users may realize, and that point is really only evident with the attachment of a personal identity to the random words on the internet we have no inclination to ascribe a personality or feelings to. Time spent today with Steve and SyncError was excessively humbling.
ESR users were particularly interested in the potential for a Steam style free play weekend for regular QuakeLive users, and Steve made the point that pro accounts can actually invite up to 3 guests to games on premium content, but that ideas like that do come up in discussions. As I had previously alluded to, Steve and the QuakeLive team seem to be leaps and bounds ahead of both myself and the community in general in terms of ideas and questions, but in an extremely positive way.
Questions asked by users today are questions addressed by the development team weeks and months ago, but QuakeLive isn't so simple as a game engine or gametype. There is an extensive backend and frontend acting as the modern game menu to take into consideration, and there is the intricate management of team resources and time in order to address pressing issues and the addition of features. QuakeLive is, much like the old web site adage, always under construction. Couple this in-production mentality with the team's awareness of community desires and the statistics generated from data gathered through actual gameplay, sprinkle in a bit of faith in the id philosophy, and you have a very unique recipe for success in game development.
The team juggles the desires of greater than a million users. To give everybody some perspective of just how complicated a task it is to orchestrate such a massive undertaking, imagine keeping a room full of one hundred 5-year-olds entertained for 8 hours without pause. Each child needs to visit the bathroom, each child has a different level of intelligence, each child requires a different approach for engagement. 15 minutes into this thought experiment I am standing in ten inches of preschooler blood.
To attempt some level of forward thinking, I must say that QuakeLive is a pioneering force in the games design. The bridge in the gap between team and community is something of a hybrid of the modification scenes enabled by previous id games and the professional teams and pioneering technologies that served to provide platforms for the manifestation of such scenes. The dynamic capacity for addressing issues and adjusting the platform grants QuakeLive a unique personality amongst its limited number of loosely related peers.
One aspect of the competitive side of QuakeLive that Steve seemed eager to discuss was the current capacity for independent competitions to be conducted. At this moment, an id employee must be available and on-call 24 hours of the day to flip various magical switches that grant organizers the various privileges and freedoms required to stage an enjoyable competition. The development team has been focusing on solving the problem of streamlining this process so that QuakeLive as a competitive platform is that much more appealing. How much more is that much? It depends on how the community responds, and one of the many things I've learned about id and other development teams during QuakeCon is that they are listening very carefully. This, to me, is good incentive to voice clear and concise arguments for or against any features of the game I may feel strongly about. It is good incentive to change the way the community can handle feedback in order to better relay constructive criticism and support to development teams whose goals are to satisfy the communities they observe.
I cannot assuage the irrational fears of community members seeking negative outlets for suppressed emotions embedded in their psychological makeups by years of neglect and ignorance, but what I can do is state simply that Steve Nix and SyncError are on top of their jobs. I walked into the interview fearing a robotic question and answer session, and instead experienced a conversation that piqued my curiosity and that I wish could have extended beyond the short time I had to spend with both Steve and SyncError.
My original intent with the article was to simply be a presence, to take the opportunity of being at QuakeCon and produce something influenced by the experience. I walked out of the press room after shaking two hands wanting to flag wave for id, not because I have some special interest in any particular aspect of QuakeLive that was satisfied by the conversation, but because their approach to game design granted some needed reinforcement to my waning recognition of human potential. They may be working on a platform for entertainment, but they are working on it with the fervor and desire that represents what I consider to be the best aspect of human productivity and progress.
As I sat there quickly jotting notes with my cheap pen on my cheap pad, I couldn't help but wonder if I couldn't be doing something more to better myself and the world around me, and it was then I realized that I could at least try, and so here I am. Trying.