Quake 1’s Re-Release on Modern Platforms

At QuakeCon 2021, Bethesda and id software re-released Quake 1 for Windows, and put it out for the first time on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 & 5, Xbox One & Series S/X. The Windows version is free to anyone who already owned it on Bethesda’s launcher or Steam.

The re-release embeds the original game inside of Nightdive Studios’ KEX engine, which does make it a little different but there are some possible benefits to the update. Steam and Bethesda Launcher users can still choose to launch the original game.

One of the benefits of this re-release are slightly updated features to support things like achievements and modern widescreen graphics resolutions and play at them out of the box. Quake 1 also gets split-screen and cross-platform multiplayer but it requires a Bethesda login.

Currently the versions on the latest Sony and Microsoft consoles run via backwards compatibility, a native version is coming to those platforms “soon” according to a FAQ on Bethesda’s website.

That same FAQ notes that the original Nine Inch Nails soundtrack is included for Quake 1. The original expansion packs are also included, as well as a new pack from Machine Games who made the recent Wolfenstein games.

Quake 64 is also downloadable in-game, more free add-ons are promised to come later.

This re-release is interesting because it really cements how commercial releases of games are matched to the point in time they’re released in. There’s a few ways to think about it.

The first is the obvious business realities that have changed in the decades since Quake was released. id software was an independent company then, and now they’re a subsidiary of Bethesda and Microsoft.

Then there are the technical perspectives. With all of id’s updated versions of games in the past, they’ve released the source code. Quake 1‘s source code has been out for decades now. There is a healthy community of developers for it. Those developers will continue working on the open-source versions but the this new re-release of Quake 1 is not open-source and may not ever come to Linux or macOS or whatever platform you’d like to run Quake 1 on. That may not seem like much, but we’ve seen so many platform changes over the years that rendered the original releases of not just id’s games, but all games on computers obsolete and difficult to run.

Valve’s Proton does let you play this new re-release of Quake 1 on Linux through Windows emulation or “API Compatibility”, but that seems like a bad way to go about it when the original game has been ported to Linux both by id software and been maintained by the community for decades.

As a multiplayer game, there will be security issues for people playing Quake 1, though this version doesn’t support dedicated servers it does still communicate over the network.

The one good thing I can think about this Proton availability under Linux is that it may make it easier to download the files for Quake 1 and then use them in another version of the engine. That’s how it worked with the newly available Windows Store version of Quake 3.

It makes me wonder what the value is to the community for working on the open-source versions of these games. Providing free labor for a big company like Microsoft or Bethesda is exploitative and wrong, but it is even odder when the companies involved are just going to ignore all of the work the community does and put out another point-in-time release that will stop working in another few years.

From what I’ve played, there is nothing wrong with this version of Quake for the platforms it is on, it is just very clearly not from the id software that cared about open-source and almost nobody from that era is still with the subsidiary of a subsidiary. It is not at all surprising that this version of Quake was released without the code, it is just disappointing.

Ars Notices The Forza Delisting Process

No Forza Motorsports on the Horizon

Sam Machkovech with an article for Ars Technica titled “How one game’s delisting pokes a hole in the Xbox Game Pass promise”:

Microsoft has long boasted about the backward compatibility of its Xbox consoles, letting you play hundreds of past-gen games on newer systems like the Series X/S. But the game publisher and console maker is quieter about taking older games down from its digital storefronts—and this week’s latest casualty, in the form of a popular first-party game, presents problems for Xbox’s recent sales pitches.

On paper, the basic announcement may look humdrum to savvy modern-gaming fans. Starting September 15, 2021, the sim racing game Forza Motorsport 7 will no longer be available on Xbox’s digital download shops. That date marks roughly four years past the game’s 2017 launch on Xbox One consoles, and “four years” is key. Since the Xbox Live download store has been in operation, other Forza games, both in the Motorsport and Horizon camps, have been delisted at a nearly identical cadence. This suggests that the game’s car licenses factor into the cutoff dates.

I’ve been pointing this out for a few years, and I’m glad that others are noticing. it’s not just Microsoft’s Game Pass that’s broken, it’s the whole backward compatibility and “love of preservation” that Microsoft pretends to care about. As Machkovech goes on to note, this particular delisting is even odder because there isn’t a newer Forza Motorsport game on the horizon. Although, there is a new Forza Horizon game on the way. Of course the versions on disc will continue to function, but it is exceptionally odd that beloved games like the Forza series can just up and disappear from Microsoft’s digital store. It is kind of nice that Microsoft heavily discounts these games before they’re delisted, the “ultimate” version of Forza Motorsport 7 is only $20 right now, but it’d be better if they didn’t get delisted. If Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, and Valve, and all the other companies selling games digitally want us to buy games from them digitally, they should make sure someone who loved an earlier version of the game and wants to go back is able to.

Notably, when Microsoft returned to Steam with their games, Forza Motorsport 7 wasn’t on that list. Only the Forza Horizon games are on Steam.

I love the Forza Horizon series and the first Forza Motorsport was the last game I worked on at Microsoft, it makes me sad that these games aren’t better preserved for anyone who wants to play them and watch them evolve over time. The last few versions of the Horizon games have been particularly interesting with their different open worlds to play in, they’re not just replicating famous race tracks, they even have tie-ins to various fun toy lines like Hot Wheels and Lego.

Frozenbyte Developer Says Proton Better Than Older Linux Ports, Native Ports Not Worth Doing Yet

In a few threads on the Steam forums for an upcoming game called Starbase from Frozenbyte, the developer have spelled out that they believe Valve’s Proton Windows emulation compatibility layer is better than the older ports their games (Trine, Shadowgrounds) had:

Currently it’s probably a better idea to play the Windows versions of our old games via Proton, than trying to get the native versions running.

The majority of Frozenbyte’s games were brought to Linux, but they say it’s unlikely for Starbase unless the Linux audience increases in size:

If Linux gaming takes off (for example, because Steam Deck becomes a huge success), then we’ll have a reason to consider not-so-low-on-resources port, which may (and probably does) change the picture somewhat.

…and they say that another reason to do the port might be if people who play Starbase using Proton report issues:

I recommend using Proton, because it usually just works. If a user reports that Proton no longer works, we would pay attention, but can’t promise anything is done very fast.

These are just comments from an engine developer (Jukka Larja) at Frozenbyte on their game’s forums, so I wouldn’t consider them to be the final word in what gets done, but it seems likely that the statements are accurate and Frozenbyte won’t support Linux in the future if Proton is effective at running their games.

Feral Cites Proton for Cancelling Linux Ports

Feral Interactive has a long history of bringing games to Linux and macOS, ironically Feral often (if not always?) use an abstraction layer to bring the games over, basically plugging some level of Windows emulation into the finished product. Yesterday, Feral announced ports for A Total War Saga: TROY and MYTHOS DLC for macOS and then confirmed these wouldn’t come to Linux due to Valve’s Proton Windows emulation compatibility layer:

I don’t think this should be surprising, but it’s sad to see Valve destroy native Linux gaming.

Panic’s Playdate Pre-Orders Go Up Tomorrow (29th)

A date to play

When we last saw the Playdate we got a list of games, an announcement that twice as many games would be in the first season that comes bundled with the handheld, the announcement of a stereo dock with a pen holder, a Poolsuite app, and a promise of pre-orders in July for the cranky yellow handheld. Tomorrow the promised pre-orders go live for $180 at 10AM Pacific, on the Playdate website. The proposed ship date is “late 2021” for the first group of about 20 thousand Playdates. Any ordered beyond that first allotment will ship later on in 2022. Shipping to the US will be a little under $14. More information on countries that can order the Playdate tomorrow are on this page. Panic says that the pre-orders will be paid up front, that the people ordering can cancel any time, and that orders are limited to two Playdates per-person.

Panic timed the pre-order announcement to coincide with an embargo for other journalists, so there are also impressions of a pre-release Playdate up on Ars Technica, The Verge, GameSpot, IGN, Wired, and Polygon.

I think the Playdate looks like a nifty video game toy, I’m very curious if the homebrew scene for it takes off.