Essentially, Quake Live is a free version of what many still consider to be the purest multiplayer experience on any gaming platform, slotted neatly into a browser window. Why? Because it turns the now muddled Quake 3 Arena into a streamlined, idiot-proof game.
"Imagine if somebody gave you a copy of the original Q3A," suggests id Software co-founder John Carmack, "and asked you to come play with them online. You'd have to install it, download the latest patch, figure out what mods people are playing, figure out how to find the servers - that whole long rigmarole that the game conventionally requires. The whole point of Quake Live is to bypass all of that."
If you haven't played Q3A, chances are that's why - but just 15 minutes after getting the keys to the Quake Live beta we were in a bloody battle. Between rounds, Carmack, and executive producer Marty Stratton, gave us their thoughts...
So is Quake Live the next step for PC gaming?
John Carmack: I don't think this is the future of PC gaming, though it's certainly an aspect of it. PC developers need to start considering the PC as a unique platform rather than a gaming machine that happens to be in your den rather than your living room.
The traditional big-budget, media-rich, single-player type games like we used to make at id Software through to Doom 3, all that really has to be done cross-platform on the consoles now, to basically cover the development expenses for something like that. But the PC still has huge success stories, with things like The Sims 2 and World of Warcraft, which have been bigger successes than any console game has ever been, or possibly ever could be in the near future. At the end of the day, you have to look at the PC as a platform with its own strengths and weaknesses.
So Quake Live plays to these strengths?
JC: While Quake Live isn't a big-budget extravaganza, it is consciously playing to what we consider to be the PC's strengths. The PC is still a better information platform in terms of browsing the web and showing a lot of statistics and information. That's still really painful to do on the consoles.
It's still got the mouse and keyboard interface which for a competitive first person shooter is still far and away the best way to play, versus playing on an analogue thumbstick or whatever. And I do think that the neat aspect of being able to jump on and play from any place where there's a PC is going to be interesting also.
Marty Stratton: I think there's some difference between Quake Live and Battlefield Heroes in terms of what we're trying to do. As far as I understand it they're going down a bit more of a microtransaction route, where you pay for additional skins or what have you. Our content is completely free, and we've got a ton of content. You can play with any of the original Quake 3 characters, plus we've got over 30 arenas now, which you'll be able to play in any of five game types. It's a broad range of content that will speak to everyone. For the casual player we've got some new maps and some redone maps that are a bit more of an even playing field, without a lot of verticality.
We've also created some new maps which we think will appeal to the more competitive players who approach the game from a duelling perspective.
Will Quake Live remain ad-supported?
JC: In the beginning Quake Live will be completely ad-supported, it's not out of the question that eventually we'll have some kind of a premium service. But we don't know what it's going to be yet, and we're certainly going out with the completely free-to-play model. As the community grows and we start seeing what people actually want to get out of it we may offer some other things there. We don't have any firm directions on that. A lot of it will be seeing how things go marketing wise, because this is very much an experiment.
There could be a huge possible range of successes that we could see on here, and if it does well we could end up keeping people on here indefinitely, growing the community, polishing things up, adding new content. As long as it can be supportable like that.