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.

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.

Quake Champions Closed Beta

Bethesda and id announced a Quake Champions closed beta test with this trailer. I’m real curious how this turns out, but I’m already kind of skeptical about the character-specific powers. We’ll see how it turns out when the beta starts.

Bethesda notably stopped sending out their games for review prior to the games being released, so you’ll probably want to hold off on buying the game until you’ve either had a chance to experience the beta yourself or until reviews are out.

Quake Champions & Prey Get Gameplay Trailers

Quake Champions and the new Prey were announced back at Bethesda’s E3 2016 Press Briefing. Both have new trailers out with gameplay footage during the annual Quakecon gathering. That has become Bethesda’s second conference of the year in addition to the traditional giant LAN party.

I was initially pretty psyched for a new multiplayer arena-shooter Quake from id even if the characters looked to be individualized with abilities specific to each.

The new Doom was a huge surprise, even though the multiplayer wasn’t that hot. Maybe they would do a better job with Quake Champions which appears to be solely focused on multiplayer? Well, it turns out to be a little less exciting because a third-party is developing the new Quake. Saber Interactive worked on 2014’s abysmally buggy Halo: The Master Chief Collection, though who is to say if that was an issue with Microsoft’s 343 or one of the four other studios that worked on the bundled collection.

id software had a great collaboration with a third-party when Machine Games made Wolfenstein: The New Order in addition to the standalone expansion, Wolfenstein: The Old Blood.

I don’t doubt that Saber could put a good game together if the right situation arose. Maybe they just need to work with the right collaborator in id software? If not, well, we’ve still got ioquake3.

Prey has fewer question marks, it’s clearly not related at all to the 2006 FPS from Human Head. Instead, Arkane is making it. Their Dishonored from 2012 was excellent as a first-person stabbing simulator.

Quake Champions will have some kind of closed-beta, presumably for people that preorder, in 2017. Don’t pre-order games. Prey is out in 2017.