With Quake Champions coming out, Reflex already out, and Diabotical on the way OUT, we're seeing an interest in Arena FPS games once again. Perhaps another glimmer of hope to kick-start our community and finally end up with a game as popularity as Overwatch, Rocket League, League of Legends, CS:GO etc... Or as a Quaker would say, we’ll finally get the game we deserve. I have family now, and didn’t touch games for 7 years, but I missed it too much so now I'm back and playing, or at least as much as time allows for it. I've decided to write a post on this, because I sometimes feels the discussions on other mediums (e.g. chat), doesn’t allow for a longer elaboration of your perspective.

The different threads of discussions are already flowing for this game within the community: “It needs to be spectator friendly to be popular”, “Duels are boring, focus on team-play instead”, "It can’t work without classes,” and so on. To me all these statements seem void, and we will tackle them below.

Spectator Friendliness

If you didn’t play DOTA2 and you try to watch it you have no clue what’s going on. I’ve watched it, I’ve even played it for a few hours, and I still have no clue whats going on. it is not spectator friendliness that make a game popular. The same is true for League of Legends, and don’t tell me that COD or Battlefield is easier to follow than Quake.

Duels Are Boring

Duels are boring” is rather subjective but I bet if you watched QuakeCon, you thought it was exciting. I bet you a lot of people feel the same way. Also take this statement shamelessly copied from Reddit:

Hello everyone, I'm an avid TF2 player with almost 3k hours, and I've just started to play Reflex. So far I've been having a blast!

A guy comes from a game based on team-play, and had a blast playing 1v1. He will most likely bring friends, t and hese friends will look for team-play modes soon enough but may also find duel appealing. Reflex ultimately ended up being boring, and the gameplay in my opinion has issues with balance. Ultimately to me the game is just not fun, yet someone coming from TF2 (and I can assure you there are many like him) think this game is super fun and entertaining. My point is that there are so MANY players out there who do not find duels boring at all. It is not for everyone but it will sure as hell have it’s place in gaming and it can be super interesting. After all, not everyone likes tennis either, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its place in sports.

Popularity & Classes

Saying that a game can’t be popular if it doesn’t have classes or that it's even important to the game is also a strange conclusion. To me sports with classes are just not interesting, and I say sports here in the context of competitive games. Except for the Goalkeeper in a football match, there are no difference between the players. They all have to abide the same rules, and they have to make up the best strategy for the given rule-set. A football team is as good as the 11 selected players, no less. There is no meta forced by the game itself because of classes, and everything is up to the players and the coaches. You can say a football team is free in the sense that they can do anything. Some great strategy can work (see Mourinho's Inter team). The diversity in football comes from culture and players, for example, some Goalkeepers have really good technique(s) and work both as an extra defender and in some cases as an attacker (do or die situations!). To me that same thing should also apply to Quake.

I hope you all remember when SK played TDM in VQ3! They played a super defensive style but it was refreshing at the time and really exciting to me. Or do you remember how the Icelandic teams participated in Lans and had developed their own very different playing styles in CTF compared to the rest of the world? Stuff like that to me is where the game starts to live organically. Once the game, not the players, designate roles you destroy these mechanisms. I think the prime example was Pharah vs. Junkrat in Overwatch, no matter what a decent Junkrat will do against a similar skilled Pharah, he will not be able to get a frag. The characters make it so it’s impossible. The game dictates the play-style in that it forces you to pick specific characters and combine them in a very specific way to compete. If you don't adhere to this strict meta then you will lose. You may see great players in Overwatch of course, but you’ll never see someone like Lionel Messi. The difference in players and their play-styles are widely dictated by the game.

What makes Quake, Quake?
  • No classes. How good you are depends entirely on your practice and talent. You are put in a box in so many aspects of your life, people telling you what you can do and not do, why would you play a game that doesn’t allow the same freedom?
  • Diversity comes from maps and objectives.
  • Deep and complicated game-play, that is easy to learn but hard to master.
  • Total freedom. You can play the game exactly the way you want and still win. Strong aim, strong movement (in some games), strong timing skills, learning patterns, skills like these wins you games. Some are more reliant on some things than others. The best Quake in my opinion, emphasizes and balances these different skills.
  • No! Random! Bullshit! The random stuff that happens comes entirely from the physical world. You don’t point the mouse at a given point shoot 5 times and miss any shots, it’s not random, it’s pure.

Why Has the Popularity Not Exploded Already?

When it comes to popularity we need to look at why people play games in the first place. My guess is that most people who play games do it to relax and/or as a form of entertainment. Sit down, play for a few hours tops, then go on with the daily life, a.k.a The Casual.

Then you have the enthusiast. This is probably where I’m at. The enthusiasts play games to be better than other people. We want to kick our friend’s butts and generally play to win, to improve, build up skill, use our brains, concentrate hard and harvest the fruits of hard practice. Some enthusiasts end up in the top group, people that turn pro. These are people that are talented, ambitious, and want to make a living off gaming. In a game like Quake if you are new and you join a server, chances are you will lose your game, BIG. Not like losing with 3 rounds in a CS:GO match, where it’s not even certain that you were the worst player, at least it doesn’t show. Same thing with Overwatch, it can be hard to see who’s to blame for a loss.

Playing Quake on the other hand, we’re talking getting rekt, and feeling like you're the worst player in history. This game has no mercy. I was so put off by playing duels when I started in Quake 3 that I gave up after a month and I don’t think I won a single game. Of course I didn't realise at the time that you could stumble into a server against very good players. My first game was on q3tourney4 and I lost 37 to (-)7 against some guy named "Bobob." I remember thinking that losing to someone with such a silly nickname must mean that I'm the worst player ever. I think it is at this hurdle where most casuals and potential enthusiasts are lost. Due to the massive skill disparity, they will never think it's possible for them to catch up, and as a result end up leaving the game. What you will see after is that the servers will slowly die out one by one in a knock-on effect. It’s not fun getting bashed, over, and over again, but for many new players this is the only experience they will ever have if they try Quake. It’s not much better in Reflex as the community is so small that the remaining players are either enthusiasts/pros, masochists, or have friends to play with of a similar level. When it's one or more friend(s), they usually just want to move on to the next game anyway, cycling through Steam.

The other big reason why Quake is not widely popular is the fact that we never had a polished game:
  • Quake 1 was supposed to be medieval but ended up being quite different, most people know that story.
  • Quake 2 took a completely different path but was mainly a single player experience (just like Quake 1 really, had it no been for QuakeWorld).
  • Quake 3 tried having focus on eSports and was a success, but wouldn’t have had half the success if it hadn’t been for the mod teams to fix up the game and making it competition ready (big shout out to Rhea and arQon).
  • Quake Live. I heard that they made some good changes. At first it was just poorly implemented, and releasing something half-assed kills a lot of interest but who could have known!
My point is, none of these games had any sorts of proper matchmaking, tracking of progress player stats, skills etc... out of the box. On the other hand, you could look at Blizzard's Starcraft which had ladders, even Warcraft 2 had ladder IIRC. Diablo had online hardcore mode, you could prove how much better you were than them, and all these options were available for 1v1, 2v2, etc... They had seasons, you’d see advertising, you could qualify for championships, prizes, and so on.

In Quake, competitions except Quakecon was largely up to the players themselves to organize. Nothing was “esports ready”, and they community did all the work.

Some players of course, myself included, don't need all these things to enjoy the game, but I will say that it would have been a lot easier to handle being silver rank playing other silver ranks back in the day, rather than getting owned in most games you play. Playing 4v4 against similar skilled players, and being able to see your opponents rank would let you feel less bad about yourself when you lose a game. These in-game features would have changed a lot of people’s experiences. I think many people never played anything remotely like a ranked game of 4v4 TDM or CTF except the few players that joins discord/irc. Compare that to Overwatch.

A polished game with built-in competitive mechanics, in-game ladder, proper achievements, matchmaking etc. would have changed our history.

The final reason I think Quake is not widely popular is the lack of emphasis on fun. I remember playing midair in QuakeWorld and having a blast. It’s weird how fun game modes like that never seemed to be part of the games officially, maybe due to the modding, but ai really think it would have been wise to include some of these in the official game/updates. Many people find great appeal in stuff like defragging, but it was never really a core part of any games (it is part of Reflex though, and I think it will be part of Diabotical ), and as a result the community was split. Personally I had a lot of fun with Freeze Tag, especially on voice comms. The lack of voice communitations is another glaring hole missing thing from the most recent iterations of the Quake series. The lack of creativity in game-modes generally speak is just sad, and gave limited options to any casual who didn’t like TDM or CTF.

Next, lol?

I still have hopes for Quake Champions, and should it fail, at least we will have seen a lot of experimental stuff tried out. I believe that it may have a big market, and could appeal to TF2, CS:GO, Overwatch, COD and Battlefield players, and you know... even if your favourite is something else... maybe some of these new players will venture into the classics we all love. While you wait for the beta, I highly encourage you to put in around 50-100 hours in each of these games: Reflex, CPMA, Quake Live, and even QuakeWorld. See what it’s like to be a new player, learn some new mechanics, try it with an open mind and ask questions. Personally my favourite is CPMA and it took around 50 hours to start appreciating how good that game is. The same is true for Reflex, Quake Live and QuakeWorld too. And I promise you, the hours are not wasted, if anything you'll improve as a player, and hey you may even have a lot of what's lacking in a hardcore community: Fun.