A Gentleman’s Response to Mr. McCarley’s Post about Gibs

Richard,

I found your post quite, quite interesting. See, I liked Quake. A lot. Like, Quake was amazing. First time I ever got the real thrill of shooting a rocket at someone’s face.

And, see, I liked your whole breakdown of what was done to make Quake. The visual art, the sound design, the set design, all of it was pretty immaculately done. But I wanna play devil’s advocate against myself and say that, y’know, all of those things were done before. I mean, Doom was the reason for Quake. And, honestly, Doom was probably more fun than the original Quake.

Did you know that researchers estimated (correctly) that, despite Microsoft’s million-dollar campaigns, Doom was installed on more computer than Windows?

For the people who didn’t realize that was possible, yeah, a video game was more popular than an operating system.

To follow up on what you’re saying about Quake, and video games in general, consider how Doom was so simple compared to Quake. Generally the same ideas were present, but Quake provided new weaponry and movement capabilities, and also introduced some new gameplay elements involving movement between levels and such.

Now I want to go from where you started and expand. See, Quake was made with the Quake engine (surprise, I know), which, in itself, was a derivative of id Tech 1, the Doom engine. Half-Life was made in the GoldSrc engine, a derivative of the Quake engine. The GoldSrc engine developed into Source, Valve’s premier engine that runs all of their games now, including Portal, Left 4 Dead, and Team Fortress 2. The Unreal Engine was developed by Quake’s competitors in an attempt to improve on certain elements. And, here’s the thing: all of these engines, in some form or another, have survived to the present day. Borderlands and Mass Effect both run on updated Unreal Engines, just like Portal and TF2 run on heavily modified engines born out of the Doom/Quake engines.

What I mean to say by all this is: clearly Quake was awesome. But if anyone made Quake today, they’d get laughed out of the business. Why?

Because we love the newness of the experience when playing a video game. Anyone can make a Doom-clone or a Quake-clone these days. Just make some levels, throw down some bad guys and give me a gun. No one’s gonna play it, though. You gotta have more these days.

So, while I agree that New Media is definitely awesome, and that Quake is an example of how awesome it is, it’s also an example of why New Media is still such a young idea. Quake is less than twenty years old. NO ONE PLAYS QUAKE ANYMORE. At least not the original. We play the updated versions, the re-textured, higher-polycount ones.

As video gamers, we’re constantly focusing on what’s new about the game, even if the only thing we really want is the same old thing. I’ve played more than 2k hours of Team Fortress 2. It’s just another FPS, and in fact it takes a ton of influence from Quake; rocket-jumping and air-strafing has evolved to an art-form in TF2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfwsD5csocQ

What I mean to say is, we’re still doing the same stuff we were doing in ’95. But we want the illusion that it’s new. We want the illusion that we’re doing something groundbreaking. We’re not. We’re shooting rockets and lasers and throwing grenades. And while, sure, there have been groundbreaking advancements in video games as a whole, the interface hasn’t changed, the forms haven’t evolved significantly. If you play an FPS, you know what your HUD will be. If you play an RPG, you know how your HUD and quest log will look. If you play a side-scroller, the game will be immediately familiar. Like every other form of media, we’ve figured out a formula and learned to perfect its nuances.

So I don’t really have anything to say, except that all the work that went into Quake goes into hundreds of games every year, the majority of which don’t ever garner anything close to the amount of attention Quake did. Because we’ve broken ground there already, and now we’re just figuring out how to keep that new ground fertile for development. I guess, if I had to give an adequate response to our ideas, it would be that, yes, Quake and video games in general are so awesome because of all the things you said that made you immediately aware of the potential of this new experience. 20 years later, we’re still trying to understand the potential of that new experience, and we’re still using the same techniques that id left us in Doom and Quake. New Media, for all its talk about newness of experience, which I believe to be totally valid (I mean, you never fragged someone in a book, right?), still finds itself in the same situation as every other form of media: innovation followed by imitation.

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