Out of all the games to get patched today, the last thing I was expecting to see was a 1GB patch for Quake Live.
As it turns out, I wasn't the only one. But what nobody saw coming was the fact that the game is no longer free-to-play -- and that's not the only disturbing change that's been unleashed on Quake fans this morning.
Without warning or provocation, Quake Live -- originally the browser-based free-to-play conversion of the iD multiplayer classic before its re-release, and eventual exclusivity on Steam last year -- has become a US$10 game on Steam.
The reaction from the Quake community has been instant and palpable. "You have to be kidding me. You killed Quake," one thread reads. "I Want my MONEY BACK," screams another. Another suggests players move over to the Melbourne-made arena shooter Reflex.
But apart from suddenly adding a US$10 entry price for a game that has been free-to-play for years -- something it arguably needs, considering the extreme skill ceiling of high movement, high intensity shooters targeting only PC players -- the most grating aspect about this morning's update was the way it has wiped players' friends lists, statistics, and even settings in some instances.
"So my old user name is gone, my clans are gone, the match browser is absolutely useless, everything looks all ****** up," one user complains. "You absolutely 100%, undeniably just destroyed THE greatest FPS ever created. It is completely ruined. You WILL be giving me my 10 dollars back. I guarantee you you will be giving me that money back. And I will be going back to Quake 3 now."
"There's no possible way I can thank person or a team who purged, truncated, nullified the entire statistics, awards and progress we've earned during past 5 years," another seething fan posted. "What the actual hell were you thinking? Oh, let's start from scratch - 5 years is nothing. Old nicknames and clans? Screw it, we'll give them steam achievements!
At the time of writing there's no stickied threads on the Steam forums outlining any changes or information, and the link for the forums on the Quake Live site is returning a "file not found" error.
For a community that must rank up there in terms of sheer devotion, this seems to have come completely out of the blue. Perhaps the only positive out of all of this is that those who added Quake Live to their Steam account when it was free won't have to pay for the game twice -- although if you lost all your preferences, clans and stats that might not be much of a saving grace, particularly if you forked out money for a premium or pro account.
Update: The developers have since posted an update on the Steam forums announcing the "Quake Live Steamworks Launch", a post which leads with the note that iD has "retired our old launcher and services in favour of integrating a robust array of Steamworks alternatives", while old subscriptions have also been shut down.
"Steam accounts are now used for all player interactions. Players may now use their Steam display name and profile avatar in-game, and still uniquely identify players by SteamId and Profile pages," the post reads. "Steam Statistics will track your progress in-game, and you will instantly be awarded achievements as you earn them, rather than as matches are completed. Improve your teamplay communication by chatting with players using our new Voice Chat. As you play online you can use the player admin menu to select players and send them Friend Invites, and right click on your friends in the Friend List to view their Statistics and Achievements progress."
The post goes on to say that "all players now have the same benefits and features in-game" and that any users with "an active Pro subscription" can contact customer support for assistance if Quake Live was not added to their Steam account.
It doesn't answer any of the users complaints though: while there are immeasurable benefits porting over to the Steamworks API, it also means that people who have stuck with the game through the browser conversion and the upheaval involved have now had all their history and hard work wiped clean.
It also means those playing on Linux or GNU are still lacking support -- and while that's inevitably a very small percentage of any game's player base, it's another group of Quake fans who are increasingly feeling left out of something they love.