Robert Yang’s Quake Renaissance

The Internet’s JP tweeted about this fantastic series on RPS from Robert “radiator” Yang about Quake’s history, how to play it with mods today, and the wonderful history of the scene around it:

Quake modding symbolizes the opposite of work – it is life. And ultimately this is what the Quake Renaissance is about: when our communities control our own games – from the source code and tools, to the social hubs and archives – we can reinvent it as necessary, and through it, reinvent ourselves too.

I love this view on the state of the Quake game, engine, and tools, and it’s always been true about communities: Nothing is owned by the companies involved, they are owned by the communities around them. The harder companies try to lock down on games (or any work), the more they strangle community interest in the thing. The id software of today is only capable of producing locked-down experiences with the noose of capitalism around them.

There are some mods in the new 2021 re-release of Quake, and more coming which is excellent. Get those map-makers, artists, and developers, paid. But this re-release services as an excellent comparison to the wonderful communities that have formed around the original Quake. The 2021 release of Quake will never be the open platform that the full source of the original engines and tools and people produced and the executives above the developers of these ports will likely never understand why people continue to engage with the open-source tools and engines around id’s old games. The money people only engage in open source when it is profitable and exploitable, otherwise they will continue to release locked-down, useless versions of their new games that nobody forms a permanent community around. Is anyone modding Doom 2016 or Doom Eternal? (I mean this seriously, I do not believe they are, but it is possible people are doing their best with the tools available) The executives involved should still be embarrassed by the comparison between classic Doom modding and what isn’t possible with the latest games.

How-To Geek: “Why You Should Use Proton Instead of the Steam Linux Runtime”

You should really just go play Escape Goat 2

The situation with Windows “API Compatibility” or emulation, however you call it, came to an inflection point when Valve started pushing or reassuring developers that they don’t need to port their games to Linux for them to work well on the Steam Deck. Jordan Gloor at How-To Geek has this article titled “Why You Should Use Proton Instead of the Steam Linux Runtime”:

When you use Steam’s compatibility features to run games on a Linux PC, you may have the option to run it with one of two utilities: Proton and Steam Linux Runtime. Between the two, you should probably choose Proton. Here’s why.

Gloor goes through a few reasons that it might be preferable for Linux gamers to use Proton instead of a native Linux port. Gloor says that the smaller size of the Linux game-playing audience means that the game developer may have spent fewer resources on making the port function well versus the Windows version of their game.

I don’t think Gloor is a bad person, but this is bad advice for both game players and Linux as a whole. Articles like this are disappointing, but they are the natural consequence of what Valve is doing by pushing their Windows API compatibility emulation layer over native Linux ports. It would be interesting if game developers have the option to disable Proton for their games because, and I cannot stress this enough, Windows emulation or compatibility layers truly are a coincidence when they work. Especially with games from smaller developers who do not have fantastic commercial success, I would not expect Proton to be the correct choice or to be surprised when Proton doesn’t work. Valve will most likely not take the time to make sure that, for example, Escape Goat 2 works in Proton. Yes, Escape Goat 2 is a real and very good puzzle game with a native Linux port. There are tens of thousands of games on Steam, it is impossible that these games will all work well in Proton. Linux users should absolutely go with the native port first, when they have the option.

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.