PlanetQuake: CTF ! = The Grappling Hook, by Essobie

PlanetQuake: CTF ! = The Grappling Hook, by Essobie

CTF != The Grappling Hook
– By Essobie

(This editorial comes to us from Essobie, Webmaster of Rocket Arena 2: Inside and Out, and is in response to the recent controversy regarding id Software’s decision to exclude the standard Grapple Hook from its upcoming title, Quake3 Arena)

Recently the news hit the Internet that right along side Unreal Tournament, id Software was going to strip the out of the box CTF of the now standard Grappling Hook in their newest title Quake 3: Arena. It’s caused quite a ripple in the gaming community, and surprising to the current crop of CTF players out there, non-CTF players like myself are getting into the discussion. This editorial looks into the phenomenon of the “Save the Grapple” campaigns and why there is really no need for them.

Here’s a little history, just to put things into perspective. If one was going to play, say Quake 1 multiplayer out of the box perhaps, they’d expect to play something that had them spawn with 100 health, no armor, and a cheesy shotgun. They’d instantly be in search of bigger weapons and more armor so they could more effectively slaughter any other players they came across. This is all fine and dandy until it gets old and boring (which it did rather quickly to quite a few players).

Then came the “mods” modifications of the original set of rules to add some new spice to the game. It’s basically the only reason Quake 1 stayed popular for so long. One of the most popular mods was Capture the Flag. A number of versions of this mod existed, but one of the first, and undeniably the most popular was Zoid’s Threewave CTF.

The premise was simple: red versus blue, each team has to protect their flag from the opposition, while trying to steal the flag of their opponent. Teams score captures by carrying the enemy flag to their flag while it is still in its original place and touching the flags together.

Okay lets hold the description right there. What’s missing from that concept? Well if you’ve been playing CTF since the days of Threewave CTF for QuakeWorld, then you’ll immediately say “runes and the hook.” But if you are like me, you’ll say, “nothing at all.”

In fact, if you are like me, you may well say, “why have a hook and runes I just want to play Capture the Flag with the original physical properties and weapons from regular multiplayer Quake 1.” This, unfortunately, what not what players got. Instead, we got CTF with a grappling hook and runes.

After the success of Threewave CTF, Zoid got the gig of making Q2CTF and help with work on the point release for Quake 2. Unfortunately the massive success of QWCTF meant that to deliver the goods the second time around, Zoid was compelled to go with the recipe that worked: 2 flags, 4 techs (the “futuristic” version of runes) and grappling hooks for everyone.

When it first came out, there was lots of excitement but there was also a lot of outrage. You see, Quake 2 had slow weapon switching (as opposed to Quake 1’s instant weapons switching which allowed weapon switching from weapon to weapon and from weapon to hook and back with a few lines of scripting code). What this did to the hook was make it only useful for movement throughout the map in Quake 2, instead of the seamless flying/shooting combination that was available to the Quake 1 CTF players.

Consequently, Zoid caught a lot of flak for not “making CTF right”, mostly from the “QWCTF Community” who had been playing CTF in clans since the early days of Threewave. Cries of “it slows the game down” and “I want it to be more like QuakeWorld CTF” rang out across the IRC channels.

A number of modifications were made to Zoid’s original Q2CTF to “fix” these problems, the most popular being L-Fire CTF, which added a number of clan mode options, sudden death overtime, and most importantly, instant weapons switching.

Quake 3: Arena is upon us, and Zoid and the rest of id have announced that the id CTF maps were designed to be perfect without needing a grappling hook. As one standing on the outside of this phenomenon, it doesn’t really come as a shock that the same people that cried out when Q2CTF didn’t live up to the “standards” of the QWCTF are now crying out that Q3CTF isn’t going to live up to the “standards” of the previous two games.

Fortunately, they are dead right. Q3CTF is NOT going to live up to the standards of the past games. Instead, it is going to try to set a new standard. Capture the Flag as a pure form of “goal oriented team deathmatch” will be the next incarnation of the “CTF” name, and many of those original “hardcores” don’t think it’s a good idea for one reason or another.

Already the “web petitions” have been started, IRC channels with the name #savethegrapple are on popular game IRC server organizations, and they all rally to the cause of getting id to put the grappling hook back in “their” mod. I’ve had conversations with a number of them in various IRC chats, and their personalities range from intelligent argument “pro-hook” theorists to the extreme, hate-filled, hook fanatics that will defend their way of life to the bitter end (some of the latter coming from channel admins themselves).

Their arguments are nice and organized on the petition that they have and in an editorial that was compiled by a few #savethegrapple channel regulars (who apparently like to quote people out of context). For the most part, all of their arguments are either based completely on personal taste, or they are based on the false assumption that CTF has been perfected before, and anything different from the original can’t be good for gameplay.

The #1 argument for the hook is, of course, that it is just plain fun! I can’t really argue with anyone about the hook’s “funness”. The only thing that I can say is, I think CTF would be more fun without it for a number of reasons. Mostly, I feel that the hook removes the necessity for team organization (which is what id Software seems to be striving for).

Other arguments argue for the need for a “third dimension” of movement, speed, and mobility in CTF. All of the above tend to make the individual player a very powerful force all by his/her lonesome, which lessens the need for coordinated teamwork. It is possible in Q2CTF for example, for a single offensive unit to get powered up and make at least a fairly successful attempt at stealing the enemy flag returning to base without even firing a weapon (not counting the grappling hook itself). Certainly with a few extremely accurate players with Railguns can take what is known as a “grapple monkey” down with a few well placed shots, but the fact that such a runner feels confident enough to even TRY at the flag by only using his/her hook is what makes the hook so powerful.

This is something that I think id Software doesn’t want possible any longer. They want all attacks on the flag to be a team effort the most successful of which will be extremely coordinated attacks by skilled players that can cover each other and be able to get the flag out with as few loses as possible. What it seems they want for Quake 3: Arena CTF is exactly what I’ve been wanting in CTF since someone said to me “hey, Essobie there’s a Capture the Flag mod for Quake check it out!” and pointed me to a website to download it. Unfortunately it has taken until now in its third incarnation for CTF to be something that looked appealing to me.

A very annoying point that many have made against my personal involvement in the issue is that many feel that I have no right to even voice an opinion on the matter of what CTF turns into specifically because I’m not a “hardcore CTFer” like they are today. I’ve helped make a couple of Quake 2 movies and the webmaster for a Rocket Arena website, right? What business do I have trying to change their mod if I don’t like it in the first place?

I’m guessing that whoever reading this right now that considers themselves a “hardcore CTFer” is probably asking that same question, even though the answer is self evident: I’m welcoming the change of the mod because I was dissatisfied with Quake CTFs in the past specifically BECAUSE of the grappling hook and the runes/techs. Without them, I might very well end up having a really great mod that will certainly suck away large amounts of my free time available to me when Q3A ships. If it is as good as I envision it to be, I could very well be as devoted to Q3CTF as many of this current crop of “hardcores” are about THEIR past CTF games.

I’m strongly opposed to the grappling hook in any mod it just so happens that the most popular grappling hook game of the past is now going to be dropping this ill-fated game feature that I loathe. It will finally be changing to a game I want to play. Luckily I’m not alone in this opinion. Statistically Q2CTF places fifth in the CLQ’s list of most popular multiplayer games on the Internet (that are teamplay only), and all four games ahead of it in popularity do not have a grappling hook in the arsenal of weapons. I think it would be a safe bet to say that all those people playing non-hook games and mods would like to at least give this new CTF a try when Q3CTF comes out.

Besides Zoid has stated on numerous occasions that the code for the grappling hook is in the game already it’s just disabled by default on the id CTF maps that will be released upon retail release. It will probably take the likes of any JoeBlowModAuthor a good thirty minutes to hack up an exact duplicate of the new Q3CTF that INCLUDES the grappling hook for all the “hardcores” to play.

Who knows? Perhaps it is time for CTF to be appealing to more players. Perhaps Zoid and the rest of id Software will do CTF up so right no one will WANT a hook. Personally I can’t wait to find out. I do know that the “hardcores” that will inevitably be playing their CTF with a hook won’t need to worry about me dropping into any hook servers. ;)

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