Taking The Demon By The Horns
Will id Become the Microsoft of the Gaming Business?
by Mitchell S. Honnert
Why would a feature that would improve gameplay and is technologically feasible not be included in Quake 3: Arena?
The answer may be, ironically, when someone has already done it.
Being that the Holidays are right around the corner, most people are considering their gift wish list.
But as a Quake 2 fan, Iím more concerned with my Quake 3: Arena wish list.
Ever since I heard the announcement of a multiplayer-focused sequel to Quake 2, Iíve been thinking of
cool features that I would love to see. Some of the features that had made it on my list have since
been confirmed as being included, such as a personal frag indicator and automatic connection optimization.
But others are either definitely not going to make it in (positional damage), are only possibilities (voice
communication), or have not even been mentioned either way.
But as I tried to come up with a wish list for Q3A, I soon realized that many of the features were already
available for Quake 2 from third-party developers, either through modifications or utilities.
I wished that Q3A would include an easy, built-in way to connect to an Internet server .. much like
I wished for a graphical server front-end .. much like OnTheWay.
I wished for a graphical client front-end .. much like GameLaunch.
I wished for runes and a grapple .. much like Lithium and
This realization led to an interesting question: would id include these features in Q3A, knowing that they
had already been implemented by a third-party? In other words, would they deny me these integrated features
for fear of "stepping on the toes" of some third-party developer?
Open Up and Say "Mod"
So far, idís general strategy has been to create an open architecture and let third-party developers
implement their own enhancements. Using this paradigm (please excuse the buzzword), the user community
could create any feature imaginable, and the "market" would decide which one was worthy.
Using this technique, id wouldnít have to spend the extra time and effort implementing a feature that
gamers might not like anyway.
But Quake is mature enough now to identify the most popular mods and utilities. id no longer has to
take a risk on whether a particular feature change will be well received by the Quake community. For
example, all it takes is a quick review of a server list to see that a large percentage of gamers
prefer Lithium with its runes, multiplayer-friendly HUD, and off-hand grapple.
At his point in time, all id would have to do to determine which mods and utilities are "safe" enough
to include in Q3A would be to review the server lists and the download stats on the major Quake web
Itís in There
So, what is the value, you might ask, of duplicating a feature in Q3A that has already been created
by someone else? It is the same value that id saw in putting together the Extremities Internet Pack:
to increase public awareness of certain components of the game and to make them more standard.
Anyone reading this article is probably aware of most every Quake mod and utility in existence, but
to reach the average gamer, these features must be made to be the lowest common denominator. Itís not
much trouble to download a mod or utility, but it is some trouble. (If the rest of the
people at a LAN party have to wait for even a couple of players to download the proper files from the
server, the gaming experience is marred.)
In order for a feature to be universally used, it must be included, by default, in the game itself.
And no matter how many people use a particular mod, it will draw even more people if given the
implied "id stamp of approval" when included in an official add-on pack, a service patch, or in the
Resistance is Futile
Some readers may have already seen the parallel of id absorbing third-party modifications into Q3A
and Microsoft absorbing third-party utilities into Windows. In both cases, a company puts out a
major product, which inevitably has gaps in functionality. Third-party developers then come along
and write programs to fill these gaps.
In the case of Quake, these programs can be mods or server config utilities, whereas in the case of
Windows, these programs can be anti-virus programs or uninstallers. Tech news is flooded with stories
about the Department of Justice's case against Microsoft, which contends that it is merely "integrating"
features into the operating system. Iím sure id is already struggling with the same demon, albeit on a
I commend the spirit and talent of any developer who improves on an existing product, be it a game
or an OS. But should the existence of the add-on/mod/utility that delivers a new feature preclude
that feature from ever being integrated in the next version of the original product? Should the
multitude of people using the original product be made to suffer because the add-on/mod/utility
developer wants to remain independent? In my opinion, no.
This could lead into an entirely different article, discussing whether web-browsing is a feature
of the operating system or indeed a separate application, but letís stick with gaming and, in
Wouldnít it be better to include in the shrink-wrapped Q3A box all of the coolest features that the
Quake community has created, instead of leaving it to chance? Wouldnít it be nice to plan a LAN party
and to not have to worry if everyone has the correct files on their machine? In my opinion, yes.
There would surely be logistical and maybe even legal problems with incorporating third-party
programs into Q3A, but the precedent has been set with Threewave CTF
and the Extremities Internet Pack. Zoid was paid to incorporate Threewave CTF into Quake II and the creators of the
mods to be included in Extremities received not only credit for their efforts but monetary compensation in the form
While some developers would likely volunteer their ideas and/or actual code for inclusion in Q3A just
for the bragging rights or the possibility of being place on the id payroll, Iím sure no one would
refuse the offered royalties.
The developers of larger third-party tools, like GameSpy, would likely not be so easy. GameSpy is to
id what Netscape is to Microsoft because it blurs the line between "integrated feature" and "stand-alone
application". (The lawyers can handle that one.)
But even with all of the possible hassles, I think it would be well worth the cost. If they can pull
this type of thing off for Extremities and CTF, then they should be able to do it for Q3A.
I realize that working around the problems of incorporating third-party features into the next
version of Quake would be difficult and that some developers would lose some or all of their
independence. But I donít want to be deprived nor do I want the rest of the Quake community
to be deprived of the universality of very popular features because id doesnít want someone,
somewhere to compare them to Microsoft.
Idís mostly hands-off approach has worked in the past, but it is time for them to take the demon
by the horns (so to speak) and play a more active role in the standardization of third-party
-- Mitchell S. Honnert
The views in this editorial are not necessarily those of PlanetQuake, it's
staff, cheerleaders or the Department of Justice.
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