On Quake and Unreal
July 19, 1998
When id made the gaming community aware that they had completely revamped their strategy for their next title, again, I was surprised. The new project, Quake Arena, will be an entirely multiplayer experience. The game, from the ground up, will be designed for speedy, fluid, multiplayer gaming, likely at the expense of pure visual appeal. There may be a single player mode, but it will just consist of the player in a ladder against computer controlled bots.
Carmack, in his .plan file, noted that before Quake Arena id had to really make two products with every game released: a single and multiplayer game. The technical decisions made in favor of one were often at odds with the other; huge levels with large amounts of entities may add depth to a single player experience, but bog down a multiplayer game.
Personally, I don't do a lot of online multiplayer gaming anymore. There was a time I spent every waking hour getting my ass kicked on the Drow's Underdark QuakeWorld servers, but I've since given it up. Even with all the mods and multiplayer "community" out there, I just found it to get pretty monotonous after a while, and often with quite a nasty, testosterone-filled atmosphere. That, and that I was really bad, and had a lame 28.8 connection contributed to my quitting of online Quake playing. My true gaming passion has always been immersive single player worlds anyway.
While the gaming market may place increasing importance on a compelling multiplayer experience, I still feel the single player aspects of a game are more important. Which, somewhat paradoxically, is why I am so happy id has made this move.
This, hopefully, will further split the first person shooter gaming community into multiplayer and single player factions. The multiplayer Quake community, which seems to be the most vocal aspect of the community if not the largest. What they want in a game and in add-ons is completely at odds with what I, and what I think the often silent single player community, wants in a game. Hopefully, the very loud faction of online Quake-type people can have their speedy multiplayer gore fests, and let other people have well designed, compelling single player first-person experiences.
Unfortunately, I'm not sure if this will happen. Unreal.org, or The Org as it was affectionately known, shut down, due to the devolution of the Unreal community. While I by no means am a hardcore "there from the beginning" Unreal fan, I did occasionally check on Unreal's development in the past and was genuinely excited when it came out, and did check out the Org regularly. Unreal is one of the finest single player games ever, and
I appreciated that site's true enthusiasm and love of the game.
But Unreal is NOT Quake, or Quake 2, it is a substantially different game. In many respects it is vastly superior. The engine creates visuals that are substantially better than Quake 2's, the level design is more varied and interesting, and frankly the game is just a lot more fun to play. Except, of course, when it comes to multiplayer. Now, the Unreal and Quake communities are "merging," I guess, with all these Quake players pissed that the multiplayer sucks, and that there is no ctf, etc. At least that was the sense I got reading The Org's tombstone site. I'm not into IRC so for the most part I don't get what they're talking about; as far as The Org is concerned I'm probably one of the lamer bandwagoneer's who's ruined the "scene" or something. I don't know, but it doesn't concern me much.
What I am concerned about is what all of this means in terms of single player gaming. First, id has basically bowed out of the race. No more half-assed single player experiences from id. Really, no single player experiences from id.
Second, Unreal offers a great opportunity for a continued, great single player experience. The level editor was distributed with the game, and already quality levels are being produced. Epic has set quite a standard in quality level design for others to follow. Hopefully, quality conversions that expand the adventure begun in Unreal are only a matter of time. Id's decision to focus solely on multiplayer seems to mirror what its community wants. I am just very happy that Epic has delivered such a wonderful alternative to those that see the gaming world differently.
copyright 1998 adam mathes