Recently, Quake Live Premium Pack 12 was released. As the rumors anticipated, this was going to be big update, possibly the biggest since the beginning of the premium packs. A number of features have been added, expanding the QL horizon in terms of modes and functionalities, and possibly bringing a change in the way the community will play in the future.
Overall, the community response was a mild appreciation with spikes of enthusiasm and satisfaction. As usual, many questions arose, especially regarding the premium model, the lack of anti-cheat, and the non-inclusion of community maps.
I believe there are a number of points that deserve discussion.
The new content
The update brings a massive amount of changes. Full change log is available here. I touch here some of the points I think are interesting.
A small but notable change is the hotbox fix. The way it is phrased in the change log makes it sound a marginal change, but the consequences in game may be important. Rail should no longer pass through, possibly providing a more consistent experience. Unconfirmed rumors say the update had influences also on rockets, making them more powerful, and lg making it harder to hit. Whether this is related to the hitbox change, or if it's just placebo, I cannot say. Shoult it be confirmed, the main question would be the consequences this new weapon balance may have.
Another change is the addition of features that may change the way the community spawns servers in the future. Two things contribute to that. First, the new server spawning interface, Start a Match 2.0, allows to configure the game with quite some detail. It may still not be 100% configurable, but there is really a lot of stuff. Settings can be exported and shared, replicating whatever becomes popular, and allowing defining new standards. Eventually, we want standards to become default, but being able to test things on our own is a really welcome change. Second, they removed the necessity for the server owner to be in the server for others to join. In conjunction these two things offer the ability to provide support any mode within the range of what can be configured. Extensions to the configurations should be possible, based on the demand. I’m happy about this because, traditionally, I’ve seen the community make amazing stuff even if given little to work with, so I'm curious to see what will come up here.
The most highlighted change is definitely the introduction of five new game modes. They are all derivations of existing modes, with Domination (Dom) clearly coming from CA, Red Rover (RR) being a mix of CA and FFA, and 1 Flag Capture The Flag (1FCTF), Attack & Defend (A&D) and Harvester (Har) Coming from CTF.
Dom has received some positive feedback. The nice thing about it is that it solves two of the major CA drawbacks (waiting time, and lack of incentive to move), while keeping the spirit of the game mode, i.e. for fun, possibly with music on, enjoying the weapons, physics, and chaotic rushing. RR is also pretty neat as it solves one further problem, the team composition, allowing uneven numbers and skill levels to successfully play together, its FFA individualistic nature being a proper match for public play. I believe both modes are a big improvement over public CA, and could easily become – in terms of gameplay – the backbone of the non-competitive playing experience.
I have a less clear opinion regarding the other modes, which - I admit - I haven't played much so far. From some discussion it appears they generated mixed feeling. The proposed gameplay seem solid but the community response might have been a bit cold so far.
I have little to say regarding the rest of the update content, except it is welcome. Glancing at the list the impression is quite good. Most of them are little things, but we had updates in the past with a comparable number of such fixes, but much less juicy stuff, so it’s quite hard to have a negative reaction today.
Where do we go from here?
Let me start by saying that, as I wrote countless time, we can only control how elaborated and well thought our wishes are. I believe this is positive for the community, as it builds up knowledge and filters the rants, and to the devs - should they be listening - it presents a clear message.
I think I can speak for many people saying that the major point going forward is the content access, i.e. the Premium Content model. Our community is small. Modes and maps are separated by a thin line marking the part of the content played by a critical mass, enough to sustain playability, and the rest which is there but cannot be played as one never finds other people to play with. Freezetag is probably a good example of what happens to valuable content that fell onto the wrong side.
It is therefore legitimate to question the future of the new game modes. One observation is that after the golden age of TDM and CTF, CA had progressively larger pieces of the cake. One could then argue that Dom or RR - as evolution of CA - may have better chances than Freezetag. (With the same argument, given the current popularity of CTF, the future of A&D, 1-CTF and Har should be quite dark). On the other hand, even with CA being popular, the number of premium CA players may simply not be enough, and we could witness what happen to Freezetag all over again. How can it be avoided?
If you look at the problem in terms of making a profit (), you see that there are options, but they imply compromises which will necessarily cause a certain amount of whine.
The major drawback of the current model is how static it is. Content gets assigned a category, and it stays like that forever. This is bad for a number of reasons. As it takes one a bit of time to start appreciating a map or a game mode, and invitations can only do so much, static content access prevents people to get “teased the proper way” with premium content. Additionally, it somewhat works against the friend invitation concept, as by creating a clear cut between paying and non-paying customers, your friends in QL are likely to have the same account you have.
There are a few things that could be done to improve the situation:
- One idea is to release prior premium content as free. Depending on the timing of it, this may or may not become a “try in advance” feature for paying customers. The main disadvantage of this is that it puts more pressure in releasing premium content, and given the low man power id currently can afford, this is probably not a good idea, at least for fast cycles.
- A better idea, which is also my favorite, could be content rotation. With the recent “free to play” week, we just had a glimpse of what QL could be when the whole community access most of the content. Content rotation could include a mix of modes and maps that are free for a short period of time. Free user would then get to actually appreciate the content by trying it out for a bit of time. This could have benefits in terms of mixing the community, giving more space to less played maps, and bringing more people to appreciate premium content.
- Promotional weeks or weekends should happen more often. One could even think of the community unlocking promotions. It could work like: “If we reach X many new accounts by the end of the month, we all get a free content weekend”, suggesting players to let friends know about the game. I haven’t thought thoroughly about the options, but I feel there could be some room to get non-paying community more cooperating.
- There have been even more aggressive proposals, suggesting that server features should be used as part of the premium content, making free server less appealing to everyone (removing votes, forcing advertisement to all connected players, etc.). This is definitely on the unpopular side, where you take away instead of giving, but there is definitely some logic to it, even if evil.
My take home message, after this update, is that there is the potential for new game modes to become part of Quake. In the past, we have seen the core physics and weapons being tweaked in various ways, but attempts to bring new game modes often failed due to lack of promotion and the separation into different mods. As bad as some may picture it, QL brought a unified platform which distributes content and allows for promotion. Servers are easy to configure, and can be spawned with three clicks. To me this calls for evolution.
What I think must be addressed is the Content Access. As it is right now, the risk of having good content remain untouched is quite high. Freezetag burdens as failure, and that is not a bad game mode in any way. The new game modes are good as well. Are we really willing to see them dry?
In terms of the relation with id Software, a lot of things have been said in the past. Having a bit of personal experience with companies and management, I cannot feel angry at the individuals working there, as it happens to be willing to do the right things but just not being allowed to. My message to the devs is: let your managers know that content access is a serious issue. Show them how LoL is doing it (content rotation). Convince them this is for the good. The stuff you added is valuable. Don’t let it go wasted.
To conclude, the sinking boat did not sink after all. It may not be as titanical as some had hoped, but it’s still sailing the seas, carried by a gentle breeze. Many people love Quake and support it. There are things, simple things actually, that could help developing some of the potential. Lazy people whine on the part that is out of our hands, usually without structure or purpose. Identifying the problems is valuable, but it’s only half of the cake. The other part is to sit down and look at the big picture, try identifying new tools, and use them at our advantage. We’ve done much since 2009, and we just have to keep chewing rocket-gums while getting our ass where we should go.
Edited by Memento_Mori at 13:12 CDT, 7 May 2012 - 17319 Hits