Id Software Lives Dangerously, Decides To Change Classic Quake

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 have 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 behaviour 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 utilising 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.

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:

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:

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 realise 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?


  • Once upon a time I believed I was good at fps and then I tried Quake Live and got a kdr of 0-19. The end.

    • There’s an odd thing, the more complicated they make FPS games, the less it becomes about skill. The more it becomes about being a fucking nerd and studying the game.

      It’s more about, knowing the recoil, picking the right guns, the right attachments, knowing the corners and all sorts of other shit. I just want to play!

      • You can still have a skill based game when you’re making more complicated systems. and complications can vary from person to person.

      • Counterstrike ruined the competitive FPS genre in my mind.

        Slower, less skilled movement, automatic weapon picking, bullet spray adding an element of randomess…. TEAMS!

        The fast moving, straight shooting, level running battles of games like Quake basically died out as companies rushed to build the dude-bro’s a military simulator.

        Sure, you get people that are very good at playing Battlefield, but they’ve got nothing on the skill sets of the guys who were dominating the 1-on1 scene in Quake 1,2 and 3 all those years back.

        The guys who are best at Battlefield are the guys who’ve mastered 2-3 particular skills down to a fine art (IMO that’s crouching and aiming), the Quake guys were performing insane trick jumps, expertly managing the level and item spawns and firing predictive shots. A 1-on-1 Quake match was as much a running chess match as a battle to see who had the fastest reflexes (and connection).

        In summary Quake 3 was the pinnacle of competitive FPS and f*cking with it is the worst kind of blasphemy.
        It’s like if instead of making Diablo III and spitting in the faces of the Diablo hardcore Blizzard just went back and ruined Diablo I and II with patches.

        Edit: It’s also got a LOT to do with people realising that FPS were feasible on a console and that they could be a HUGE market.
        You can’t play a highly skilled FPS on a console so people don’t design them that way.

        Walk crouch shoot, walk crouch shoot is MUCH easier to adapt to a controller than strafe jumping down a hallway…. Don’t even start on trying to hit a rocket jump at full speed.

        • As an old school Quaker lamenting the dearth of decent FPS games in recent times, I really enjoyed this comment, thanks. =)

          I have to say, I enjoyed Counter Strike until they took out all the things that made it fun. Wall-hugging, bunny-hopping, and gun-running.

          Take me back to The Abandoned Base or Claustrophobopolis any day. =)

        • Amen to people learning particular sets of skills. Often in BF you see someone owning with a sniper, or a jet and you look at their profile and see they have hundreds of hours in that one class, or that one vehicle and nothing basically no time with anything else.

          That doesn’t make for a competitive shooter.

          One thing I notice with counter strike is people get really obsessed about their rank, not de-ranking and all sorts of stuff. It goes beyond the element of playing for fun. They get incredibly verbally abusive when someone makes a ‘mistake’ or doesn’t do some other non sense. They just take it too seriously.

          There is something that was more fun and seemed more even when everyone had a similar set of weapons and skills and all competed on that playing field.

          Although COD ruined FPS more than Counterstrike. As COD has gone on, it’s more about the k/d and so they implemented a million perks that automated getting you kills and so it encouraged camping.

        • I don’t understand how CS ruined competitive fps. It pioneered it. And it’s more than just about aiming.

          CS 1.6 had a complex movement system which was arguably never mastered. KZ maps are a good example of pushing movement to the limit. Even the first few jumps of a map are impossible without exploiting the engine.

          Compared to modern fps, where movement essentially consists of sprinting and basic leaping over obstacles… CS certainly didn’t pioneer that trend.

          CS movement was originally similar to Quake, then dialled down to suit a different style of gameplay. Just because it’s possible to run around at 200 kmph, doesn’t we should.

          Purchasing a weapon in CS isn’t as easy as you’d think. There’s the incredibly important economy metagame. You need to buy as a team and save as a team. You need to know what your opponents are capable of buying, and adjust your plays accordingly. It’s not that simple.

          Bullet spray is not random, each gun has a unique spray pattern that you can learn, and counter. You can’t just point at someone and click to win. It’s a very complex system that can be mastered. It encourages shorts bursts at a distance, but allows for sprays up close.

          And then we have teams. With so many flourished competitive sports in the world being team based, I can’t imagine why this would be a detriment to competitive shooters. Watching a professional Counter Strike team work together and pull off amazing plays is quite incredible.

          It’s so much more than just shooting people. You need to have a plan; scout for intel; make adjustments to the plan; throw strategic smoke grenades and flashbangs to separate and disorientate your opponents; then push together.

          Sounds like you’ve just played a pub game or two. That isn’t what Counter Strike is. No more than going to the park to kick a soccer ball around is considered a professional match.

          Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with going to the park, but it’s not quite the real thing, is it?

  • How many people would still be playing this?

    Anyways, one thing I’ve always wonder is why spawn timers were never a thing from the start. Never really wanted to memorize spawns that vary from map to map.

    • I don’t think many people play this at all, because i have seen a fair few Q3 arena players in servers and they all seemed to hate it.

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