id Software Lives Dangerously, Decides To Change Classic Quake

Quake Live is a free-to-play variant of Quake III Arena, a legendary arena shooter released more than a decade ago. Fans, then, were furious when they found out major gameplay changes would be coming in a new update. They demanded answers. Now id has given them.

The biggest changes—made as part of a newly released update in advance of an upcoming Steam launch—include the ability to pick primary and secondary weapons to spawn with, HUD-based timers for item respawns, and an automated form of (previously very skill-based) strafe jumping.

It may not sound like much if you've never played the game, but id's tampered with a formula forged by years and years and years of play. No, Quake Live isn't Quake III (it has evolved over time, a little), but there's skill-based arena shooter legacy here. And among all the holy grails of large men shooting other large men, that might be the most fervently revered. Hallowed are its halls and perfectly sculpted space corridors. The short version? Nostalgia's a hell of a drug.

Long-time players are so mad that they've mashed their keyboards into a soup of shattered keys and their own blood. id, however, insists that this is for the greater good—that it will vastly improve the experience for newcomers while making the game more "modern." Here's their explanation for each individual element:

Weapon picking

"We tested several ideas including granting players better starting weapons and compared that to the lessons learned in Clan Arena where players get to try out various weapons and see their effectiveness each round. We found that providing the player one single 'primary' weapon of their choice in addition to letting them have a bit more freedom as to which 'secondary' they spawn with allows players to try out various weapons and become more effective on spawn which has been the key complaint of newcomers."

"Meanwhile we still want to highly encourage picking up weapons throughout the arena, so we have minimized the amount of ammo granted on spawn so that players will continue to roam and gather both weapons and ammo. Allowing the new behavior of choosing some starting weapons greatly improved the experience in modes such as FFA and TDM and helped make some of the more chaotic modes like Domination quite enjoyable. Hence, Domination will now be ran publicly for all to play."

Item timers

"We wanted to find a way to teach players a few core bits of information concerning item timing. We have introduced item timers, present transparently in the world (not on your HUD), that all relay item respawn information under the following design guidelines: Each item timer has a radial display divided into slices. Elapsed time is drawn as solid slices. Each slice represents 5 seconds. Active regions are represented by blinking slices that blink once per second. The timers should adequately teach players when an item is about to respawn or when it is better to move along even without this knowledge."

"And as players continue to play, they will begin to understand exactly how much time elapses per slice and can begin utilizing the timer indicator in coordination with their match timer to know when items will become available. To both minimize visual noise that the timers could incur and to prevent an unnecessary flood of information throughout the world, item timers are only visible while in close proximity, gently fading in as you approach."

Automated strafe jumping

"We wanted to preserve strafe jumping as is, as both its intentional use and its subtle influences as you traverse the map are what make Quake feel incredibly smooth and responsive. For many of us, learning strafe jumping came naturally or for long time players was simply the foundation of our FPS experience. But we wanted to assist players and provide them with a simpler means of movement to allow them to keep up the pace as they overtime learn to more fully benefit from strafing."

"A basic 'bunny' and auto-hop mechanic has been introduced that allows players to simply hold forward and jump to build up some speed. However, because the new bunnyjumping only provides a limited amount of acceleration gain, and is only effective on straightaways, players will still need to learn strafe jumping over time – we hope that this new mechanic will allow both general movement and gameplay to become more accessible encouraging them to continue to play so that they may over time become more accustom to the finer side of Quake."

So that's... a lot of stuff. However, while this is the new default, it's important to note that there's also a "classic" rule set that (subscribing) players can select when creating matches. Anyone can also freely join id's set of Standard Classic servers. So old-school Quake isn't gone; it's just kinda in the back—no, no, to the left of the broom closet—now.

That hasn't stopped people from getting pretty darn upset, even in light of (and in some cases because of) id's explanations.

id Software Lives Dangerously, Decides To Change Classic Quake

id Software Lives Dangerously, Decides To Change Classic Quake

id Software Lives Dangerously, Decides To Change Classic Quake

Others are taking issue with the fact that id decided to fix what, in their eyes, wasn't broken instead of addressing more pressing issues:

id Software Lives Dangerously, Decides To Change Classic Quake

Quite a few others, however, are finding themselves pleasantly surprised by the update. It's different, they say, but not necessarily the end of everything about Quake they held so dear:

id Software Lives Dangerously, Decides To Change Classic Quake

id Software Lives Dangerously, Decides To Change Classic Quake

id Software Lives Dangerously, Decides To Change Classic Quake

So mixed reactions, but it's not all bad. Times change, and it seems to be the destiny of online games to change with them—even when they're based on legendary classics, apparently. I'm glad id is at least offering classic options, because it's kinda sad to realize that I'll never be able to play certain games the way I did when they first came out ever again. I hope more developers do that sort of thing.

What do you think, though? And have you played the new Quake Live update? Do you like it?