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'Quake Live': Productivity-destroying Web game

In an effort to bridge the gap between "casual" and "serious" gaming, Id Software is readying a browser-based revamp of the classic "Quake III" experience.

iD Software

Set the wayback machine for 1999/2000, and you'll find a lot of Gen-X office workers doing the same thing I was back then--wasting hour upon hour of company time playing "Quake III" (or "Unreal Tournament II") with my office mates. (At least in my case, there were extenuating circumstances: I was covering the video game beat at pop-culture Web site at the time).

In the years since then, first-person shooters have come to require the kind of dedicated hardware that virtually no office workers have, effectively eliminating the daily fragfest that was so common during the original dot-com boom. Instead, browser-based casual games such as "Puzzle Quest" and "Peggle" have taken over as workplace time killers (and have built a huge new market in the process).

In an effort to bridge the gap between "casual" and "serious" gaming, the company behind "Quake" (and "Doom" before that), Id Software, is readying a revamp of the classic "Quake III" experience, called "Quake Live." Id just completed an invite-only closed beta round test for "Quake Live" and is set to open its servers to a broader public beta test for the game, starting Tuesday.

In the intervening years, PCs have gotten fast enough, and broadband connections common enough, that the game can be cast as a browser-based experience, played by visiting and signing up for a free account. With its forgiving hardware requirements and pick-up-and-play style, it seems made for laptops and low-power office PCs.

Id Software

Having played several rounds of the beta version of "Quake Live," we can say the ad-supported game is a fairly faithful adaptation of "Quake III," at least as far as our decade-old memories serve, and has all the classic maps from the game, including our favorite, The Longest Yard (set on a series of floating platforms).

The feel is definitely retro, with none of the strategic elements, such as cover fire or stealth, that have defined the last few generations of shooters. Instead the action is fast-paced and kinetic, with players running around at breakneck speeds, bunny-hopping along the way to avoid getting shot.