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Feature: Quake Live Open Beta Impressions

It's one thing to play an online only game with just a few thousand people playing at one time in a closed beta test. It's quite another thing, however, to play such a game on the first week of its open beta phase where everyone and his mother is trying to sign on at the same time. A couple of months ago we posted up some hands-on impressions of id Software's newest game project Quake Live while it was still in closed beta. But the experience of playing the game this week was something a little different.

We knew that there would be a great deal of interest in playing a browser based free version of id's 1999 multiplayer shooter Quake III Arena, However it appears that id wasn't expecting the sheer number of users trying to sign in at one time. On Thursday morning we logged into the site and were put into a virtual queue of over 20,000 other players. We waited for over an hour before we were actually able to begin playing.
Of course the only solution to such an issue is ultimately time; time for the initial surge of players to die down to a more reasonable level and time for id to get more servers online. Indeed this morning we signed on and there was a queue line of "only" 5,000 or so players ahead of us. Our wait time was around 20 minutes or so. That's still way to long to sit around and do nothing but we think id will cut that wait time down even more once they get a handle on how much traffic to expect.

Once you get into playing the game it's a terrific experience. The first thing you have to do is go though a bot match in order for the game to determine your skill level. Once that's done you start playing on one of the online public servers and the game's back end gives you some recommendations based on your skill level. The Flash interface for the server displays is highly detailed, giving you tons of info about the server and the game before you click on the "Play" icon.

Once that's done you start playing within the web browser (although you can play full screen if you want). In terms of gameplay it's pretty much the same game that id released as Quake III Arena over 9 years ago. There have been a few graphical touch-up but otherwise it's the same game that millions of people have grown to know and love. For all you parents out there, we will note that Quake Live, while based on the "M" rated Quake III Arena, is not rated by the ESRB. id has removed the blood and gore when you take out an opponent; they now just disappear in a few light particles)

That's not a bad thing by any means. Quake III Arena was designed specifically for online multiplayer matches in the first place (one of the first FPS game titles to really emphasize multiplayer over single player) and id has had a long time to really perfect this kind of simple but fast and furious style of game. There are four Q3A gameplay modes in Quake Live (Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, CTF and Duel) and a new mode called Clan Arena which is basically a team-based version of Last Man Standing. id is also generous in the amount of levels in Quake Live. There are 40 maps to choose from including five that are exclusive to Quake Live.

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