PC Gamer: What inspired you to resurrect Quake III Arena as Quake Live?
John Carmack: At the very highest level, Quake Live - what we originally called Quake Zero - was one of my experiments about what we could do usefully on the PC platform. The consoles are very good machines for a lot of things, but there are some things the PC platform uniquely does better, such as anything having to do with a web browser and the superior mouse & keyboard interface. [Those things are] pretty darn good reasons to be playing on the PC, and we’re also trying out an innovative business strategy that could pave the way for the future.
Above: In-game advertising will bankroll Quake Live, but won’t warn your dumb ass about incoming fire
It’s completely free - there aren’t any micro-transactions. Quake Live is completely ad-supported on the web browser pages and [through] in-game advertising. Of course, this is speculative - we’re going to have to see how this works out. Early on, we were tossing around two different orders of magnitudes - anywhere from 50,000 to 5 million people playing. We have no idea where it is going to be in there. The fact that 70,000 people have signed up in a week means that we’re going to be looking at hundreds of thousands of players, if not millions. We hope that that can be a sustained critical mass of a community that can play this type of game, and be self-supporting.
Quake III Arena was always my personal favorite id Software game. It’s such a pure activity kind of game - more of a sport than a movie. And I’m excited to have this opportunity to bring back the pure type of gaming as opposed to the “everything and the kitchen sink” modern design. We have no pretensions about it being the best multiplayer game in all types of things, but for any player looking to test their [deathmatch] skill, I think Quake III Arena is the best there ever was.
PCG: Why this new direction?
JC: I would say that there is this sense of trying to figure out what to do with PC gaming. Historically, id Software has been a PC gaming company, with consoles a secondary business that happened later. And even though the PC doesn’t get the focus that it used to, in many ways our hearts are still there, and we’d like to do things where the PC is the appropriate platform. [We’d like to] do something that really speaks to the future of where the PC can be superior to consoles.
Above: The Quake III Arena touch-up for Quake Live includes new and refined character models
Obviously, we have examples like World of Warcraft that show how the PC can be viable and vibrant in its own way. But in terms of first-person shooters, if you look at something like Crysis and say that’s the height of what the PC market can manage, I don’t think that’s necessarily that exciting of a direction for the PC to be going in the future. With Quake Live, we hope that there’s an opportunity for people who’ve never played shooters to give this a try, and with that, the potential of actually growing the PC gaming market. I still have a lot of a faith in simple gameplay formulas - it might not be the game that everyone plays for three hours a day to be the best at, but it’s something that offices, dorms, and schools across America can have fun with.