Scott Hanselman

Quake Live Review and Rant - Why is this interesting?

March 02, 2009 Comment on this post [34] Posted in Gaming
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So I installed and have been playing QuakeLive. Here's the Review part. It's fun. It's Quake. Fast, pretty, twitchy, fun. Quake. Good fun.

Here's the Rant part. I'm having trouble understanding is why this is interesting in any way?

Folks on the 'tubes are saying, "OMG, this is a Browser-based game?"

To say, browser-based game, to me, implies effortless installation. More importantly, it also implies a reason to be in the browser. See the screenshot below? That's the MSI installer I ran as Admin.


See this screenshot? That's IE requesting permission to run this plugin. There's a separate MSI if you want to run it in Firefox. I download and installed both installers separately.


Here's a sample error message:

** GLW_CreateWindow: could not register window class
Please report the the problem you encountered on the Quake Live forums.
You must reload the web page to make this display go away.

A web (or web-enabled) app that doesn't phone home with errors? Hm. Doesn't seem like a web app to me.

See this screenshot? That's my %appdata% folder with 266 MEGS downloaded. It gets downloaded in the background while you "train." Why do you think they train you for 10 minutes in a single level? It's because they are downloading the other 1/4 gig of content.


I'm sorry, but this is a re-imagining of Quake III Arena, compiled as a DLL and running inside my browser. It's the same PAK file concept and format that you (possibly) remember from ten years ago. Yes, 1999.

Yes, there's social aspects, background content delivery, easy multi-player matching, but why is this a DLL living inside the browser's memory space and not an EXE that jumps out of the browser? Do I want something that I think of as a browser plugin downloading 256megs+ of content for me? Why is no one pointing out that the emperor frag-fest has no clothes?

Apparently this is interesting to the young people today because the ones playing Quake Live because they weren't alive when Quake was released originally.

I would rather that a game company like ID spend more time really innovating in the gaming engine space (and I know they are), rather than repackaging the same game in different ways for a decade.*

Quake Live is NOT an interesting game. There are more interesting ways to distribute games that have been working nicely for me since 2003. GuildWars is another GREAT example. It was a <1meg EXE to bootstrap and streamed the levels you needed. There's no reason for QuakeLive to be shoe-horned into a browser plugin.

Now I'm off to delete 256 megs of Quake III from %AppData%\LocalLow\id Software\quakelive\home\baseq3.

End of rant. Move along.

*Quake and its four sequels, Quake II, Quake III Arena, Quake 4, and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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March 02, 2009 11:17
I'm glad you said this.
When I heard quake3 in a browser, I was thinking - what, flash? silverlight? plain old javascript?
All would be a truly impressive use of the technology, especially if it used javascript, perhaps with svg or ie's equivalent to do the rendering :)
Lead me to thinking _how_ did they do this technological marvel, get quality and speed?

However, no, you have to install it, its just another exe, it just happens to look like it's running in the browser. And no linux support, although I understand they're adding it.

Somewhat disappointing.
March 02, 2009 11:24
I think you're getting old Scott :P ( Slightly worrying because I'm 31 myself - not a lot younger)

This isn't supposed to be interesting from the perspective of a coder or compare with any web 2.0 app.

It's is as simple as QuakeIII in a browser... that's it....and that's all it needs to be. what makes you think it's supposed to be anything more. and while .Pak (renamed Zip file) is an old concept, it works.....and even Office uses it now so it can't be that bad. Right?

I think you've just slipped out of another demographic :(
March 02, 2009 11:40
In my opinion its a "religion" thing. I don't believe its a "browser based game" either; its "installed through the browser" (though you don't have to play in full screen). To me its the same. Are WPF/e (xbap) applications and "click once" deployed apps "browser apps"? Many, MANY people consider them so. I don't, since its not running in the "context" of the browser, it doesn't interact with the DOM. But to most people, if its launched/contained in an IE window frame, its browser based. The website is painful, but I expect it to get better. My friends and I have been looking for a good excuse to play q3ctf again, and this is it! I think opposition to it being called a "browser based game" is religion; perhaps "free game launched from a web browser" would be more palatable?
March 02, 2009 11:45
I remember an actual Shockwave ( not flash ) fun, quake-like fps several years ago.

There is really no reason why this plugin needs such a heavy installer or admin right though.


March 02, 2009 11:52
The reason I find it interesting is because the entire experience is online.

Leaderboards, game lobby, buddy management even chat are all in the browser.

All this stuff which usually required (back in the day, Gamespy Arcade) Xbox Live or a locally installed client application.

Sure, Quake Live requires you to download the actual client, but the whole ecosystem around it entirely webbased.

Imagine if they release an API!
March 02, 2009 12:25
Thank you, Scott. I had the same opinion. Was very thrilled at first how they might have done this. And then just installing the game via the browser is very boring. I took them quite long to pull that off since the first announcement of quake live. And with even clickonce around for quite some time there is really no innovation here at all.
And as for releasing an api: I don't think they will get anywhere with that. Silverlight will support 3D very soon, I think and flash as well probably. And so there is absolutely no need to install just another browser plugin just to play old looking games.
March 02, 2009 12:27
Carmack talks about the reasons for doing Quake Live and what they are hoping to do with the web site in this Gamasutra interview.
They will be opening up the API to let people build mashups and integrate with other sites.
March 02, 2009 13:15
Dude, seriously...
1) It's a beta... so, you can expect to see bugs there.
2) It's free, so don't expect the greatest gaming experience ever.
3) It's a 1999 FPS game, but still better than Flash games, so it's still innovation.
4) Anyone could do it, since the Quake 3 engine has been Open sourced... but they were the first.
So, my opinion is: it's fine.
March 02, 2009 13:22
I forgot to mention: please consider that an average youtube session looking at HD video can also download 250+ megabytes, an average application consumes more than 200+ mb of space, and average hard disks are huge. Even if you compress all that, and use procedural textures like those demoscene guys, at some point, you'll have to decompress that using a temp file or physical memory, making everything worse.
March 02, 2009 14:09
You expected something other than quake 3? And tell me what the difference is between pak files and how they do it now? Sure it's no longer zip files, but they still have the concept of Large ass file with all the levels/textures/etc packed into a single file.
March 02, 2009 14:45
A porting of an ID Software FPS made with Javascript? Impossib... oh wait, here it is:

That's one of the most impressive Javascript apps I've ever seen... in 5K of code.

NOTE: I think you need an older browser or OS to make it work, because of recent security restrictions
March 02, 2009 17:27
John Carmack: "For years, I've often thought about the fact that a lot of people spend vastly more time on websites and forums about the games that they're playing than they actually spend playing the games themselves. We hope to have some aspect of that here."

He is totally right on this. I played the original back in the days and Im back playing Quake Live just for the social part.

And although Guild Wars is a good example they are could be more like QL. For example, they dont store the builds online and everytime I reinstalled the game I had to go over hundreds of spells to redo my builds...

March 02, 2009 18:13
The comments go to show that browser chrome really does flip a bit in some people's heads. "These are not the native apps you're looking for. Move along."

Imagine MSFT releases a free beta browser plugin called MS-DOS Live. It runs all the old games, even Windows for Workgroups, and has some "social" and "mashup" aspects.

You would find apologists saying (paraphrased quotes from the comments) "It's as simple as DOS in browser, that's it, and that's all it needs to be. What makes you think it's supposed to be anything more." "The reason I find it interesting is because the entire experience is online." "All this stuff usually required back in the day a locally installed client OS." "Imagine if they release an API!" "Dude, seriously... it's beta. It's free. It's better than white-on-black text in a div, so it's still innovation. So, my opinion is: it's fine."

And maybe a BillG quote to top it off: "For years, I've often thought about the fact that a lot of people spend vastly more time on websites and forums about MS-DOS and DOS-based games than they actually spend using DOS itself. We hope to have some aspect of that here."

Maybe I'm getting old, but from my perspective it sure looks like browser chrome is being used to capitalize on Sheeple 2.0.
March 02, 2009 20:15
im 25 and i think its quite a stretch to call it a browser app..
i mean.. its not really.. the msi is the give-a-way :) calling anything 10 years old 'innovation' is.. well... yeah..
and "what else could they do?"
well, both epic (UT3) and id (tech5) (although epic did it first) stream in their rescources even though they are stored localy. they dont load up an entire pak file the way the ancient q3 engine does.. downloading all the conent localy is so 90:ies.. oh wait.. :P

however in the eyes of the general-flying-pigs-on-youtube-watching-public its -is- run "in the browser".. and it really doesnt matter :) we know better though ;)

March 02, 2009 21:09
It's not a web-app, that much is true. But if you think it's just Quake III in the browser, I think you're almost right, but not quite there. The thing is, playing Quake Live is the first time playing a Quake game where I have had an even match, and had fun playing against an equal, and not just getting my ass kicked. It's the player matching that determines whether this succeeds or fails. I haven't had a huge amount of time to test it, but at first blush it seems good.

But yes, I tend to think the whole 'in-a-browser' thing is stupid. They could just as easily release a desktop client with the community features, and I don't think it would make a significant difference.
March 02, 2009 22:47
It's FREE and more fun to play in the office than a crappy advertainment Flash game! Who cares if nuffnuffs on the 'tube think its a browser-based game...
March 03, 2009 1:08
Games are starting to put browsers inside them:

I think I'm more confused than ever, because what I really want to see is an in-game VMWare inside WoW running a Windows XP running IE with a Quake Live in it.
March 03, 2009 6:07
Please don't say "Quake Live is NOT an interesting game.". Quake Live is Quake 3 + it's free + it can be played from almost anywhere nowadays. When you say that it is not interesting it means that you have never "really" played Quake 3.
March 03, 2009 8:54

Who cares about playing Quake when you can watch Hansleman and Carmack fighting? I reckon what Carmack can't acheive with direct register access and advanced 3d math, he'll probably finish off with a blast from a rocket engine, but Hanselman should have some trendy modern weapons too - a viscous blow from a lambda followed by deep garbage collection could be pretty gruesome.

Blogs are the next enjoyable-violence genre - forget about this pansy FPS stuff.
March 03, 2009 8:55
I bet Carmack's blog would allow people to correct the typing mistakes in their previous posts, too....
March 03, 2009 15:38
Hi Scott,
This is off-topic, but I just thought you might help me on this.
I've just noticed that Paul Dilascia has passed away on 3rd of September 2008.
Do you have the details? What happened to him? It was quite sad to read this...

Keep up the good work,
March 03, 2009 19:21
Meh, if people think it's a browser based game after the download and install then they aren't quite getting it, but whatever. It's Quake that you can download and it sorta interacts with the browser.
March 04, 2009 13:04

From a technical perspective, quake live is not that interesting (on the client anyway).

I do think that its a compelling experience and, more importantly, an interesting experiment with a new business model.

Seems to me like Id are trying to find a new way to leverage existing assets (old games) by improving and streamlining the (massively) multi-player experience.

Technically impressive ? No. Inventive from other perspectives ? Absolutely.

March 04, 2009 13:06

BTW, OpenId logon seems to be broken with yahoo provider???

OpenId is a rubbish technology. Never works.
March 04, 2009 18:37
I've felt the exact same way about so many "browser-based" applications. Not everything needs to be in a web browser to take advantage of a permanent online internet connection. I think that's the point that many people miss. The arguments seem to range from "There's no installer to run" - errr...wrong, up to "You don't have to target multiple platforms" - errr...wrong. Instead of targetting Windows/Mac we now target IE/FF/Safari/Chrome/Opera. The argument that "you can automatically update the code and connect people online" - err....yeah, the browser really isn't necessary for that bit. You can still use the magic intertubes from a non-browser-based application. :)

Thanks for posting Scott. Two thumbs up in agreement.
March 04, 2009 21:30
From what I've gathered, this is not Q3A. It is a new game engine that exhibits alot of the physics Q3A had. Strafe jumping has been reduced as a side effect which required all maps to be retuned.

QuakeLive from a technical perspective is pretty neat. But the neat part is the web application, not the game application. Recently they came across a problem with web traffic and had to create an artificial queuing system to regulate people connecting. They recently solved this problem and removed the queue, but they did say they couldn't fix the problem with hardware. When you did make it through the queue (sometimes 30 minutes long!) the quake servers were empty. So, the issue was really the website traffic scaling to the demands of an open beta.

Quake3 has been ported to silverlight.. But I dont think they ever got the multiplayer working properly. I think the QuakeLive implementation was an inherit part of their design and not a failure. They NEED absolute control of the client to prevent people cheating. If this were a SilverLight app or Flash app there would be easier ways to exploit the game based on the technology.
March 04, 2009 22:25
Hi Scott,

This is completely off topic.

But, I chose this post because it is open for comment.

I originally landed on a post from 2007 about evaluating forum software.

Usually, it is a welcome event to find one of your posts when researching a subject.

This time, I must say that I object.

In particular I object to being urged to change my browser of choice.

Sure, IE7 is nice, but it is not available for Win2k. And Win2k only got installed because of a software conflict in NT4 a couple of months ago.

It would be far better for security if a campaign was launched to get rid of AJAX. It is, like XML, a solution looking for a problem.

March 06, 2009 22:02
But Scott! What if you already had installed that MSI months ago because it generic and multipurpose and used on some non-game related site that you were on, maybe to track your flight or watch a movie with. What if some skilled people happened to port Quake III to this generic in-browser platform and were now releasing it? What if that MSI was created by the company you work for, and actually distributes via Windows Update? What if future versions of that MSI supported hardware accelerated 3d?

Oh... could this be happening?? ;)
March 07, 2009 2:56
Sean - Agreed! But an engine like Flash or Silverlight at around 3-4 megs isn't the same as a game-specific engine. Wild Tangent does the same thing.
March 08, 2009 4:03
You are missing the whole point! And the whole point is that people are stupid, ignorant sheep and people WANT you to lie to them that the are using the modern shit and today this happens to be web based software. If people did not want you to lie to them that they were using web based instead of desktop software then flash would not be installed on 99% of the machines and Silverlight would not exist. Quake Live is not web app but neither are flash and Silverlight apps. Quake Live is fine because anything that makes people play Quake instead of CoD, Battlefield and the other free-for-all-but-in-team-so-we-have-friendly-fire-off-and-pretend-to-cooperate-strategically games is GOOD. If Carmack needs to lie to them so they can start playing Quake then GO, CARMACK, GO! I personally wish there was a stand alone desktop client but until one is available I'll just use a separate browser window to gather the crashes:)
March 09, 2009 16:20
I think they went with the Q3 mechanics because they are fairly uncomplicated. They probably went with the Q3 (or rather team arena) engine because it needs less processing power so will be available to a larger audience.

It was doubtful they would ever use Flash or Silverlight (which seemed to die before it was even released) as you wouldn't have the 3D processing power you needed. If you alt-enter to full screen you'll be surprised how quickly the applet adjusts.

The core app is a few Meg. Quake live has about 30 maps and they make up the 256MB or so that's store in your appdata folder. I'd be pretty annoyed if I had to repeatedly stream these every time I wanted to play a game.

The problem with modern games is that if they look ugly they will get criticized for it regardless of how well they play. And to QL's credit most of the newer levels (Asylum/Trinity) do look pretty lush. These textured take up quite a lot of space.

260MB in the modern age is quite small. Even the original Q3 was around 500MB installed and my Q4 installation has currently bloated to around 14GB. These days most games install to about 6-10GB anyway.

As you can guess I’m a bit of a Quake fanboy and I appreciate the effort ID has put into this game. To be honest I was a little suprised they didn't abandon the project given the current economic pressures.

Web-revenue based gaming may or may not work but QL will probably stand as a benchmark. I personally wish it a lot of success!

Catch you on QL

Quakelive ID: Krypto

March 10, 2009 10:11
Quake3 is all well and good, but Unreal Tournament in a browser, now that would rock!
C'mon Epic ...
March 11, 2009 12:58
I like the game, I think its a different way of doing things. Maybe the next time they could make the 266 MBs usable by all browsers (I downloaded the Firefox version only). And maybe download it gradually as the user needs, not all at once. But I dont think its an innovation.
March 18, 2009 17:01
Why the hell do you even care? It's a free game and you can tell your boss that it's a browser plugin.

Comments are closed.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.