By BlazeHedgehog 14 Comments
So Quake Arena Arcade finally came out on Xbox Live this week. If you weren't aware, Quake Arena Arcade is the XBLA port of Quake 3 Team Arena, and it was quietly announced in 2007. It's languished in development limbo since then, occasionally making playable appearances at locations like PAX. I believe at one point, John Carmack even admitted it had been flat out canceled. It's a serviceable port of Quake 3, with all the features you remember from the original release of Team Arena. The team that ported it, Pi Studios, went the extra mile, though. QAA features updated lighting, a new scoreboard system (that gives out awards for things like being "most dangerous", etc.), and a new scoring system similar to Pinball FX2's "Superscore" system (it adds up all of your lifetime stats in to one overall score for the friends leaderboard). But it was specifically the improved graphics - the addition of lightbloom and what looks to be (to my eyes) a more detailed shadowing system - really made me wonder why more companies who port their old shooters to XBLA don't make an effort to update their graphics.
With companies like id making their old engines open source after a while, often you'll find a group of crazy programmers out there who take it upon themselves to keep those games up to date. Not just functionally, but graphically, as well. Sometimes these packs don't always turn out the best, but when they do, it's actually pretty impressive what has been accomplished. Just look at Doom and Quake:
Whenever you see a company re-release one of their old shooters on a modern console, the primary thing that stops me from buying in to them is the fact that you get this kind of stuff on the PC. Dig out that old dusty copy of Duke Nukem 3D: Atomic Edition, and after transplanting it to an updated engine, it almost looks like a brand new game. Why can't developers do this kind of stuff officially? How amazing would it have been if 3D Realms had updated Duke3D to look this awesome? A lot of the work has already been done for them - throw some money at the community, do a little bit of polish work, and publish that. I would re-buy Duke3D for $30 if 3D Realms went through and polished up eDuke's "High-Res Pack" to match professional standards (some of the monster models look pretty funky and could definitely use it).
And the best part about all of these projects is that they're still technically running on top of the original game data. While this means some general benefits (the game controls exactly like you remember), it also means that for purists out there, there is the all important ability to simply turn the new effects off. Or even better: pick and choose which updated effects you want to apply, and which ones you want to ignore.
But no way am I going to spend even $10 on a basic port of a game I already own. Admittedly, Duke 3D did try and include something new - a weird "rewind" feature, and Doom 2 for XBLA has a completely brand-new episode, but I can't help but feel these companies are missing an opportunity by ignoring what the communities centered around their old games have already accomplished.
And so far, Quake Arena Arcade represents the only game to even attempt to update the original's graphics in any shape or form, even if it is just a little lightbloom.