I’m a long-time fan of Quake games, but paradoxically I’ve not played that much, because I’m not much of a PC gamer. There’s also the big problem that I suck at FPSes. I’ve fired up Quake games now and then just for some random fun. Quake III Arena remains my overall multiplayer favourite, though the original Quake was, in my mind, one of the most remarkable games ever. (And the original Team Fortress for Quake was my initial eye opener for the idea that multiplayer Internet games just might be the thing of the future.) I liked Urban Terror, but haven’t played that for a while either. These days, I mostly use Q3A to reset the Linux X11 display if some full-screen app crashes and leaves me with a weird resolution after locking up the key combos for changing resolution.

However, over the recent two years, I’ve been acquainting myself with FPSes again - this time through Halo series. Halo 3 and Halo: Reach have been very nice experiences to me, because nobody gives a damn if you suck and there’s a good chance that there’s always someone who sucks more than you do. I’ve usually bounced around the mid-scorelist; sometimes I’ve sucked, sometimes I’ve done much better. Everything is fine!

But Halo is “Quake for retards”, right? Surely you can’t learn anything about real gaming when playing Halo? This is strictly speaking not true; I had not played Quake series for ages, but when I checked in Quake Live after a long Halo streak, I noticed that my FPS skills had, in fact, gone a little bit up. Practice appears to be practice, no matter what the form it takes.

…and then Quake Live went out of beta, added advertisements, and made my not-exactly-ancient-but-perfectly-adequate-for-Quake-III-Arena computer time out of games. Wonderful. The days of Quaking were gone forever. Or were they?

Nope! id Software sure had priorities straight when they actually released an Xbox 360 version of Quake III Arena, nowadays titled Quake Arena Arcade. As soon as I heard this thing was actually released, I had to grab it.

I think it’s just appropriate that I list some of the Sunday Quake Gamer’s Initial Experiences on Reuniting With the Almighty Quake III Arena.

Day 1: Weird - there weren’t actually any multiplayer games going on when I started the thing up for the first time. Unbelievable. I mean, even Shadowrun had some games going and people popped in to play Perfect Dark Zero almost every day I tried it. (OK, it’s not so outlandish: I have had severe problems finding Gears of War 2 games too.)

I had to start up the single-player campaign. The first real thoughts about the game proper: HOLY SHIT, LOOK AT THE FRAMERATE.

After some time reminiscing about good ol’ times in Q3A/QAA’s not particularly impressive “campaign”, I managed to find some actual games. And coming almost straight off from Halo Reach, I had to say one thing: it’s not the speed that kills, it’s the speed difference. HOLY SHIT LOOK AT THE GAME TEMPO.

Speaking of Halo: Reach, one thing that people might notice immediately are the controls. Remapping was the way to go. Owing to the WASD-and-mouse roots, QAA’s controls weren’t as smooth and console-like as Reach’s, and there’s no auto-aiming but the thing is obviously balanced by the fact that every other player has the same problems.

Much to my surprise, I found myself replicating some of the techniques I had picked up while on planet Reach. My gut reaction, which I had learned from random Quake game sessions and which I had when I started playing the Halo series, was that the spawn weapons are always completely useless and melee is for chumps. The games quickly proved me wrong; I’ve actually learned to use Halo’s pistol in some situations. I had incredible fun running around and mowing people down with the Gauntlet. The machine gun is still pretty damn weak, though.

Day 2: Time for more games? Uh, yeah, I logged on, started looking for more games, and the only game that I found had a bunch of people sitting in the game lobby and having a civil, mature and orderly discussion about… something. Genetics and and what the hell. I didn’t really want to listen to it too long, because while I am glad that Xbox Live users can stand above the stereotype of being annoying loud-mouthed homophobic 13-year-olds, and that existence of timeless computer game classics like Quake III Arena on this newfangled platform can attract mature crowd to the game, this shit is not what the game lobbies are for. OK, maybe I shouldn’t complain. Guess I was just slightly peeved that that was the only QAA session running and they certainly weren’t, you know, playing the game. I’m not angry. The world can, and should, accommodate such flukes of emergent gameplay.

Dammit, who cares. MORE EXPLOSIONS!

Day 3: So, I can’t always find people. Can I host games myself? …nnnnno. Apparently, I can only host 2-player matches. I’ve seen this happen on Quake 4 on my rather “outdated” PC (look, if it says 3000+, or “3 GHz”, or whatever the hell, it bloody well runs Firefox and LibreOffice and that’s all that matters), but even that computer was able to host older Quake matches years ago. And, hell, I just played a custom Halo: Reach game with gobs of players, and it ran very much adequately, so I guess bandwidth and processing power isn’t an issue on Xbox 360 either. So how the hell does the game think that I need beefier connection for this? Is it trying to ping a server in US, or something?

Another few games. I had the opportunity to play one match on a server… with fraglimit set to 5. That’s not a lot of frags in modern games. That’s definitely not a lot of frags in caffeine-fueled spazfests like Q3A. The games may feel like they last forever, but they’re over in minutes. Wallclock time. Timelimits were helpfully set to 60 minutes… as if any of the games could last that long.

I also have this weird tendency to use female characters in a lot of games, but heck, in Xbox Live, I’ve still tended to pick male characters. Yet, in Quake Arena Arcade, I picked Hunter because I’ve always used Hunter in Q3A - it was part of a stupid in-joke misunderstanding thingy. (Basically, I picked Hunter originally because I like wolves and wolves hunt and the character appeared to have leet headgear. So, um. That was my story.) Now, I switched my character to Ranger. I have to say I had a very strange feeling of nostalgia, seeing a character from ages ago rendered in awesome HD quality, even using the same sounds I first heard in the first Quake. I had my first low-poly player guy running here in a modern-day game!

The most promising thing about the game so far is that I don’t entirely suck. I’m fairly often in the mid-range. This is pretty awesome.

Anyway, I guess I’ll play far more of Quake Arena Arcade in the future - especially if they somehow fix the weird bug with bandwidth detection so I can actually set up games myself.