*It would be difficult to be accurate to define the beginning of this era, but I'd say it was roughly post-COD4 and Facebook. Some elements that define this era of games, particularly in terms of multiplayer FPS games, came up gradually and last till today:
- In-game progression (XP points etc.)
- Matchmaking with a few clicks
- Separation of massive franchises from other releases
- Social gaming
- Early access
- Reduced modding
- Incredible focus on marketing/hype generation
- Games as a service
- Streaming and followings of such personalities
For the sake of focus, I will primarily be speaking in regards to Quake and ID Software. I will not consider offshoot indie minnows (eg. Warsow, Reflex) not only because they couldn't have had a chance for a wider audience, but they simply focused on niche gameplay attributes making them a niche within a niche even for veterans.
If we track the outline of Quake releases after CPL dropped Q3 and Arena FPS dropping out of favor of the mass market, it is easy to see why this community is bitter. In most cases this is rightfully so.
Quake 4 was the first game in the series to be developed by a studio that wasn't ID, Raven Software. On release it did invigorate the scene for a short while, but the issues it came with cannot be left in the background. The game had a single-player story and was technically first-rate (graphics etc.) and this adds to the appeal for the general gamer public. It also changed/added some multiplayer mechanics, discourse on those is subjective.
The game was just too broken on release, and that means everything as the reception from online communities who are not devoted to the brand will establish the overall reputation of the game for a long time after release. The majority will probably not bother revising their opinions after updates, and the word of mouth from that point on cements how a game is remembered. Even the devoted fanbases are often perpetrators.
The patches and changes came but it was already a case of too little too late. By the time the game was fixed enough for a second deep look, it wasn't relevant anymore.
Quake Live came next, and it was barely anything more than Quake 3 in a browser, with a business model around advertisements; just another experiment for John Carmack and co. before he left the company.
It reinvigorated the scene, but it had faults regarding bad execution, bad updates, and a bad ending. This is not to say that the game did not have positive updates over time, but yet again things were too slow and it felt like every time the game would take a step forward, it would also take a step back. Quake Live, being free-to-play, needed a more creative post-launch period with a push towards retaining the new players it was attracting, but the necessary features never came. Instead, very late in the game's life came a bunch of subpar ideas in an update catered towards new players' accessibility. The game was also rehashed for a final Steam release which looked like it had potential to help settle the mess a bit, but ID Software's plans were to release the game to the community and drop support - and now behind a price tag, for a free-to-play re-release of a game.
In the era I spoke of above, which carries on till today, we have never had a true quality release which was made diligently enough to be seen as a successor to the legacy set by the first 3 Quake games. The combination of the core formula, technically updated for fidelity for modern audiences, and sensible integrations of the features of the era could have led to an honest chance of a Quake game making its place in the current market, even if it didn't match up to the game's heyday.
Quake Champions cannot be used to argue against this. It is the first major release in the series since Quake 4, also developed outside of ID's studio by Saber Interactive. Although it's touted as the new big Quake game, it might as well have been a spin-off like ETQW. The game is enough of a departure from the core formula and feel, and also came with all the issues the releases before it had; broken on launch, long standing gameplay and technical problems, underwhelming first impressions, questionable attempts at attracting/retaining new players. Not to mention it came too early to Early Access, and was also immaturely pushed into the marketing engine that esports is today. it doesn't even use the idTech engine, an element that played a role in their success with the latest Doom game. Saber Interactive's troubles with game engines and glitches can be traced to their involvements in Halo CE Anniversary and Halo MCC, both of which had similar issues that lingered for a long time after launch.
Standing behind the guise of Early Access is not enough of an excuse for this mess of a game that should have been the AAA release that was needed but is instead an outsourced side project for the team that still calls themselves ID Software. After the success of the new Doom, ID Software must have decided to devote resources to its follow up, and work with Avalanche on Rage 2, and probably find other ways to reboot the franchises they still hang on to. All the while the franchise with the most potential, looking at the track records so far, is being squandered. Thank Gaben for Steam refunds.
There is always potential that ID will get their act together with QC and the game will be worthwhile close to or after its full release, as Rainbow Six Siege has shown. But for anyone following the game so far, it is difficult to not be bitter and cynical. The Quake community, the reason why the Quake games even are what they are, the community that sustained itself with minimal involvement from ID by building maps, mods, tools, an ecosystem that the devs never bothered with, has been let down time and again. The constant disappointments seem to have wiped any jaded hope there might have been. At the same time I can't help but feel that the community is generally labeled as negative and whiny, as being too hardcore and resistant to change, which is somewhat ignorant if the notions mentioned in this column are not looked into.
It doesn't help that the industry in general focuses on exhaustively churning out only what's already been selling for almost a decade, and no other organization with the resources has attempted to fill the gap that Quake could by building something worthwhile for everyone and just healthy enough to be sustainable; doesn't matter if it doesn't become a premier title in the genre.
There is a possibility that Diabotical could do this, but that name is hard to keep any expectations with anymore. By the time Diabotical releases, I might be a completely different person than who I was when I pitched in the Kickstarter campaign. And this probably holds for many others as well.
Edited by azxx at 09:14 CDT, 21 July 2018 - 1710 Hits