I’ll try to avoid “uphill, both ways, barefoot, over a 14.4 modem” reminiscing.
My earliest 3D online gaming experiences were playing Quake and its variants. I started working for a dot com startup company in 1996, making hardware and software that connected your guitar to your computer. I was the tech support guy, and it was my entry into a technology career. It was the first time I had my own computer on my desk, and the freedom to install anything I wanted. Naturally, it didn’t take long for me to start installing game, usually at the request of the other guys working there, so they’d have more opponents in multiplayer games.
We started with Doom, but quickly moved to Quake when it was released. We tried some Quake mods and settled on Pain Keep for Quake 1. We spent hundreds of hours during work and after work deathmatching. We moved to Quake 2 when it came out, and Half-Life and Counterstrike. In 1999, though, Everquest was released, and I had a new addiction. FPS games were pretty much forgotten.
I think I played Quake III, but didn’t stick with it due to the need to get back to leveling some character in some MMO. I remember thinking Q3 was flashier than I liked, too fast, and my PC wasn’t up to running it very well. To see Quake 3 in a browser, not all that many years later, is pretty shocking. I’m looking forward to seeing how it performs with a full arena of players.
I’ve been talking here about gaming history, and preserving gaming history, and I wonder how many other titles might be converted to something you can play in a browser? A friend on The Well was saying that he thinks the future of PC gaming will be through browser-based games, and part of me thought that was incorrect, but after seeing Quake Live, I see his point. The Wii and the DS are wildly popular, and the graphics there are pretty limited, or at least nowhere near as complex as top-end PC gaming. After seeing what Quake Live looks like, I wonder if people who were previously resistant to PC gaming (either because the games required hardware they didn’t have, or they didn’t know how to install and access games on the PC) would be more willing to play if they could get to a game through a URL. The setup was very simple, and removed a lot of the traditional problems with PC gaming. If games were created that could play on mid-level computers, not requiring a ton of CPU or GPU horsepower, I wonder if the softcore Nintendo fans might be more tempted by PC gaming.
I don’t know enough about programming to understand the technical limitations of coding PC games for browsers. I can see how a game like Quake III could work (predictable number of people playing on a small map) where Everquest wouldn’t work (many, many more players, plus NPC’s, plus huge maps). But I wonder about other games from the early part of this decade, like the Baldur’s Gate series. If Quake Live can run well in a browser, I suspect RPG’s could also perform well. I might have actually finished the Baldur’s Gate games if I could have picked up my saved game from a bookmark in my browser. I occasionally get the urge to play them again (I just downloaded the original on Gametap last night, in fact), but I don’t have my saved games from the last time I played, which is likely a couple years ago.
If a service like Steam could remember save points from games I haven’t played in a couple years, and I could play the games through my browser, I think I might actually get through some of the longer games that require a gamer to either be single, in college, unemployed, or all three :) I’m trying to think what else might work in a browser from that era. Starcraft? Civilization III? Thief? Deus Ex? Diablo II? Are we going to see games like that made available through Firefox one day? Would you be willing to play games in a browser?