#Challenge on ETG.
#Challenge on Quakenet.
The Thin Client
Friday, 20 October 2000 -
The main reason for Gamespot's scepticism could perhaps be summarised by their News Editor, Trey Walker, when he said: "[U]ntil a game comes around that is easily watched, understood, and respected by the nongaming public, professional gaming will remain within the confines of the core gaming community". In other words, the current audience for pro gaming consists largely of the gamers themselves, and without that wider audience pro gaming cannot escape the niche.
This prompted CPL president Angel Munoz to respond (in the comments):
If we fail, there will be no shame as everyone in the community knows that the CPL team gave it 150%, if we succeed I will personally send each of the GameSpot writers a "forget me not" bouquet with the following note:
Taking our game and making it something that is accessible to a huge Internet audience, perhaps even a TV audience via cable and satellite, is what I referred to in the article as the "holy grail". As Trent said, there are three critical components to achieving this.
So there we have it - solve those three challenges and you stand a better chance of pro gaming "making it". Now, of those three challenges I think it is the first which is the most difficult to overcome. We already know what we need to do to make Quake "understood", it's simply a matter of the production team having enough brains to go beyond showing a few segments of "action" accompanied by crappy techno music. When played at a high level, Q3A can be "respected", though of course I would argue the CPM provides more genuine "wow moments". That leaves how to make Q3A "easily watched" and this is indeed a very tough nut to crack.
What would be the best way to make Q3A "easily watched" by a massive Internet audience including non-gamers? There are several options I can think of - some sort of streaming video, TV, CDs, and what I call the "thin client".
If you transform a Q3A demo into a streaming video format, you might be able to reach the mass Internet audience. But at a cost - you'd get a crap resolution and a letter-box window to view it in. Hardly the sort of stuff that will make Q3A compelling viewing. If you tried adding commentary, music and other "production touches" you would probably end up restricting the audience to those who have oc-48 connections.
The second option is to repackage it for television. You could hop into a studio with a production team and make a half-hour program for cable or satellite tv. You might reach an audience that way, though it won't be a pure Internet audience (at least until the wide-spread use of Internet TV). It also won't have the screen resolution and quality of watching Quake on a computer with a GeForce card. And it won't be cheap either.
Next, you could perhaps make a better quality program using digital video and stick it on a CD. If you distributed it with a popular magazine you could reach a wider audience that way, but you would still be limited to the magazine circulation. It wouldn't be as effective as reaching the Internet audience directly.
Finally, there is another possibility which I call the "Thin Client". Could you take the Q3 engine and engineer a version like an MP3 player which is only suitable for spectating, both live streams and demos? Would it be possible to make it small enough that an Internet user might download it? If you could do this, the only limiting factor would be the fact that to enjoy a broadcast or demo you would have to have a computer with a decent graphics card, but this is actually quite common these days.
The best person to answer these questions would be John Carmack, so I asked him, and here is what he said:
It would be possible, but it would still take about 70% of the game's code to do a good job of it. A not-so-good job could be done with less code if you were willing to remove most of the configurability and options.
So the "thin client", if you made it, would not be so "thin", unless you made massive trade-offs in terms of quality. And with such trade-offs, would an average Internet user find the experience worth the trouble? What's more, for legal reasons you'd have to work with a total conversion. The "thin client" option is possible, but very, very difficult.
In summary, if making Q3A "easily watched" is crucial for the future growth of pro gaming beyond the niche market it is now, then we have a challenge on our hands. Without the "thin client" there seem to be only various approaches to republishing Quake games in other formats, using other distribution methods, and all of them currently have their downsides. The best client to use to view the game, in all it's 3D glory, is Q3A itself.