Netflyer Oxford University Role Playing Games Society
Netflyer 31

Back to the Main Page Back to Netflyer Back to Contents

Quake - The best CRPG around? First for some definitions:

CRPG - Computer Role-Playing Game.
Quake - Game where you go around killing a lot of things.

This should give you all the knowledge that you need to understand where this article might be going. I like Quake a lot and when I was forced to write an article I thought that I should be able to waffle on for ages so here we go.

To start off with I'm sure you can all appreciate that a CRPG is not really a proper role playing game. You don't play a role of any sort. In most of them if you try to give your character an interesting turn of speech then the other characters will say "I am sorry. I do not understand you". That is of course assuming you're not just choosing from set things for your character to say. So, what is the point of a CRPG? Well, if it isn't for the role-playing then it must be for the grand plot.

So let's look at some games and their grand plots. In role-playing games that I have played (proper ones, not computer ones) most of the attraction is that you can have a large effect on the plot. In some games (thinking of Tommy's Amber) the plot is made up after the players have given the GM some ideas (sorry if that's not accurate Tommy). So lets look at the plot of a CRPG. With all of them the programmers have a set plot, a path that the character has to follow. You have some choices but they are only minor sub-plot type choices. You don't get to choose where you face the big bad guy. You don't get to work out a method to kill him. You just meet him where the designers wanted you to and to kill him you discover the method that the designers thought up. Not much of an interactive plot. So what does this leave for you? The other things that RPGs have in them are fighting, exploration and puzzle solving.

Puzzle solving is something that CRPGs do well. Maybe even too well. Having to solve a new puzzle every two minutes can get a little tedious. A few puzzles here and there are all well and good but when you have them every five yards then they get a little boring . So puzzles are not a strong point of CRPGs. What does that leave?

Exploration. Being put somewhere that you don't know anything about and then finding out about it. You go into a dungeon and you explore. You don't know the area but you slowly become more accustomed to it. This is something that CRPGs have a lot of as well. However most of them don't give you a sense of interaction of any kind. You feel like you are looking down from above at a small piece of map on which you are slowly moving your perspective. However, Quake. Quake gives you a first person perspective view of all this. You see through the eyes of your character. I will become Private Venus exploring the enemy's territory to find out where they are and where the useful items are. There are also secret compartments and passageways to find which hide items that can be critical to the success of your mission. The exploratory aspect of Quake is excellent.

And the last feature of RPGs that I am going to consider? Combat. Every RPG will have a fight in at some point. Whether it is an earth shattering clashing of armies, or just a bar room brawl, or even a couple of people fighting in an alleyway. Whether the fight is a test of physical strength, a test of who has the best technology or perhaps even a test of magical power or tactical ability. Whatever it is, everybody likes the occasional (or even more regular) fight in an RPG. Let's see how CRPGs handle this. They usually have a very static approach to it. In some fighting is a case of "If you try to fight this person you win. If you try to fight that one you lose". In other cases it might be down to stats and random "dice rolls" by the computer, true to most RPG ways of doing things. However, Quake takes on more of the LARP way of doing things. It puts you in the driver's seat. It doesn't give you stats. It doesn't say you can beat this but you can't beat that. No. It instead gives you the weapons and says "Go see how you can do". The enemy is programmed with an "accuracy" with their weapons and a way to act. You are just put there to do what you want. You can try the subtle approach and sneak up on them or go in shooting rockets in all directions. The tactics are your choice - as is the weapon. You will start off with a measly shotgun but as you go exploring you will find better weapons and the ammunition needed to fire them. There are 7 or 10 different weapons depending on whether you are playing Quake 1 or 2, ranging from an axe through the shotgun, nail gun, rocket launcher up to the hyper blaster and the ultimate gun, the BFG (Big Fucking Gun) 2000. Some of these weapons will have ammunition more readily available. Some will have better fire rates. Some will do more damage. It is up to you as the Private thrust into the middle of the battle to rid Earth of the alien scum to decide which weapon is best.

This is not all though. Quake is one of the few CRPGs that allows more than one player into the game at a time. One of the most popular ways of playing Quake is multiplayer. In this the players are all put into the labyrinths to either work together against the enemy or as a training exercise in which they must kill the others to prove themselves to be the best. The players are able to send messages to each other and can develop good team tactics to defeat the enemy.

Quake requires thought. It requires tactics. It requires nerves of steel. It requires concentration. It requires determination. It requires a P90 with at least 16Mb of RAM. It requires late nights. It requires plenty of beers. It requires a trip to a kebab van afterwards. It requires commitment. It is simply the best.

Oh. And come and have a go if you think you're hard enough.
Chris Venus