Computer and console gaming has become one of the modern phenomena presenting a form of leisure, which is full of interactivity and other features of entertainment. Moreover, contemporary game developers take the aspect of game design seriously and responsibly discussing the aspects influencing on the success of the game in the sphere of competitive and casual gaming. This leads to the fact that there are various approaches to game design depending on the type of the game and its constituents. Similarly, there are two distinct categories of games, online and offline, which results in the difference of gaming experience and the aspects of game development. Nevertheless, game space design is of critical importance for any kind of a game because it creates a virtual space for players intensifying their ingame experiences. This paper analyzes the aspects of game space design of several popular locations in Quake Live as a typical representative of arena-type first person shooter. Moreover, it analyzes the aspects of utilization of the concepts of virtual space creation in order to intensify a particular dynamics of the game. This material is useful for game designers and individuals working with virtual space creation revealing the ways of the most successful utilization of game dynamics via game space properties.
The Dynamics of Online First Person Shooter of Arena Type
Online first person shooters (FPS) form a group of games, which have a focus on multiplayer interaction with the aim of combating the opponents in groups-to-group or person-to-person interactions. The initial idea of a FPS is rendered by John Carmack, one of the founders of the genre, “You ran around, you shot things at monsters, you picked up health and bonus items, you got to the end of the level and went to the next one with a different layout”. Moreover, the emergence of the Internet allowed multiple players being present within a similar virtual space and interacting with each other. Furthermore, Quake series gradually shifted the aspect of FPS being a single-player game into multiplayer interaction of arena type. The latter means that the players have to interact within a similar virtual space, which is not an open-world but an arena, defeating the opponents for becoming the top scorer. As a result, game designers met specific difficulties, which are the absence of narrative and the constant presence of similar virtual surrounding. Thus, when describing the conflict between interactivity and narration in virtual surrounding, arena-type online FPS almost totally rejects the narrative giving the preference to action and real-time choices of the player. In this sense, Quake Live totally justifies the words of Henry Jenkins that “not all games tell stories” and “the experience of playing games can never be simply reduced to the experience of a story”. However, the game has massive popularity in the world, which is approved by the fact that it has become one of cybersports disciplines with its own QuakeCon annual championship in Dallas, TX. As a result, one can talk about the principles, which allow the game revealing its better qualities by means of utilization of game dynamics and its virtual space.
Characterizing the aspects of game dynamics, there is a need for saying that Quake Live belongs to FPSs, which demand incredibly high speed reaction, timing and movement control. This is the cause of the fact that along with traditional walking or running movements, the game has a unique “strafing” feature. It is possible to move by means strafing combining running, jumping and mouse movements, which significantly increase the speed of the player. Moreover, there is an option of doing a “rocket jump”, which is propelling oneself by means of shooting at the walls or the floor together with jumping. This feature allows accelerating when running, climbing to areas with difficult access on foot or reducing the time of movement to a particular location. Similarly, the game spacing has specific means of transportation of the player, which are jump pads and teleporters. The latter allow the player jumping to high levels of the location thus changing one’s positioning within seconds. Lastly, the amount of weapons, their impact, health restore and armor items allow players dealing massive damage as well as rapid recovering their lost “health” points and defensive capabilities. Therefore, the above mentioned features lead to the fact that Quake Live as a representative of arena shooters is demanding to the aspects of space and level design, which should provide tensed competitive interaction throughout a long period of time. Indeed, there are fan created servers in Quake Live and its predecessor, Quake 3 Arena, which have similar maps, have been having similar locations for decades. Moreover, the competitiveness of the maps is still high for the oldschool players of the game revealing the success of the unique aspects of level design.
Characterizing the Game Space in Quake Live
The game space in competitive online shooters should be designed in order to provide excellent gaming experience and utilize gaming features in the best possible way. Thus, scholars argue that “videogames are a spacial language: the gameworld has to be designed to reflect the virtual conflict, obstacles, rules and goals of the game”. Arena-type shooters have one basic rule, which is kill or be killed, imposing it over the concept of level design. As a result, arena locations in these FPSs require the space for different strategic and tactical maneuvers making the achievement of the initial goal both entertaining and not boring wit time. One of the most successful locations in this sense is the map “DM6 Campgrounds” in Quake 3 Arena and later Quake Live. Originally designed in 1999, it is still the most played map throughout the period of 15 years in such modes as duels, team deatmatch, clan arena and other. Using the lexicon of the scholars, this map has become one of the most convenient gaming habitats or multiplayer online environments. The reason for this is the combination of its visual and spacial properties along with the location of items used by the players.
The success of “Campgrounds” is the result of thorough analysis of the factors, which contribute to such aspects as design, entertainment, competition, difficulty, and convenience of movement and interaction. The map has a sci-fi design of an enclosed arena of concrete and metal with partially opened roof depicting the sky.
However, some players may turn the settings in a specific way, which deletes all textures leaving only geometry of the map. Thus, the geometrical design of this map is one of its strongest aspects. For instance, it consists of three stores, each of which filled with specific weapons, armors, bullet packs or health restoring items. In order to get one of the items, the player often has to sacrifice something to his or her rival, which makes the game balanced in terms of damage deal and health restoration. Moreover, each weapon or item disappears after it has been taken and appears again throughout a specific period of time. As a consequence, the game dynamics and the victory of the player greatly depend on aiming, movement and timing skills.
Furthermore, one of the most important aspects of the design of this level is the presence of curved lines, which can be used by players for increasing the speed of their movement. Therefore, by means of combining the sequences of strafe jumps and rocket jumps the players are capable of rapid accessing to any location of the map imposing the control of the gaming space and pressuring the opponent.
What is more, each particular store on the map has different doorframes allowing accessing other shared rooms and moving across the map both in vertical and horizontal dimensions. The movement is enhanced with three jump pads allowing accessing areas with vital items by means of propelling the player onto the top of constructions.
As a result, the geometric design of the virtual space on DM6 Campgrounds allows utilizing the full potential of dynamic possibilities of movement given to the players. One may even compare such gameplay with chess because of the need for tactical thinking, opponent prediction, the presence of a similar gaming area and the need for reaction. Indeed, the variety of strategic and tactical maneuvers implemented in action increases in multiple times because each player has freedom of movement used for attacking and escaping. Therefore, the players obtain complete “freedom, power and self-expression associated with interactivity”practicing in their intellectual power, practical skills and having entertaining experience. No wonder that Quake Live has become a discipline practiced in international gaming contests and championships. As demonstrated by the analysis of DM6 Campgrounds, its level designers have done a tremendous work in blending level design with utilization of the aspects of gameplay. Therefore, one the example of the maps from Quake Live, which is an online FPS of arena type, level designers of modern multiplayer shooters can learn the basics of rational utilization of dynamic potential of the game. This knowledge is useful for creating unique virtual worlds providing entertainment and profound gaming experience in games, which reject narrative as the core element of their design.
Summarizing the presented information, the paper concludes that modern online first person shooters may borrow the concepts of level design of arena shooters of the 20th century in order to better utilize game dynamics via cyberspace. One of the best examples of this correlation is the map Dm6 Campgrounds created for Quake 3 Arena, the ancestor of Quake Live. This virtual location of arena type rejects the need for narrative focusing on providing unique entertaining and competitive experience. The level designers of this map achieved it by means of introducing a geometry, which allows fully utilizing the movement potential of the game. Consequently, playing similar maps for decades the players of Quake 3 Arena and Quake Live still have unique experience based on the need for strategic and tactical thinking. Moreover, the map raises demands of the game in terms of timing, opponent prediction and aiming bringing online multiplayer action to the level compared with such intellectual game as chess. Consequently, DM6 Campgrounds is still popular even after its 15 years old release. The revealed aspects allow stating that modern level designers should analyze the maps of Quake series in the case they want to learn the mastery of utilization of gaming dynamics via its spacial properties.