Quake Live runs on an updated version of the id Tech 3 engine, granting a few graphical improvements like bloom. In addition to usability changes, Quake Live has a new, more streamlined HUD. The game is also censored to remove blood, gore, and satanic references that were found in Quake III Arena and is the only game in the series that was developed by id Software itself to be rated T by the ESRB.
Quake Live registration of a user account is available on the Quake Live website and free to anyone wishing to play. Currently supported platforms include Internet Explorer 7+, Mozilla Firefox 2+, and Safari 3+ web browsers running on Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Mac OS X 10.4+ (Intel processor only), and Linux. During the registration process the game and required browser plug-in is automatically downloaded. Updates to the game are continually released and automatically installed as the user logs in.
The browser plug-in does not make use of Flash to play the game. The software is a modified version of Quake III Gold executed natively as compiled code on the user's machine.
The gameplay of Quake Live consists of players attempting to frag more of their opponents than any other player or team in a given match. This is achieved by navigating a 3D environment and shooting other players with a variety of weapons, while collecting health, armor, weapons, ammo and various power-ups.
Quake Live was released as a free version of Quake III: Gold (Quake III and its expansion pack, Team Arena) available only through a web browser. Quake Live is backed financially by in-game advertising from IGA Worldwide. Skill-based matchmaking is powered by a "metagame engine" developed by GaimTheory. Development of the match-making system was taken on by id Software after GaimTheory's collapse.
Various game modes from Q3A return:
- Duel: Player versus player (1-on-1) combat. Whoever gets the most frags before the time is up wins.
- Free For All (FFA): Players engage in a match, where everyone fights for themselves. Whoever hits the frag limit first wins and ends the game. When the time limit expires, player with the most frags is the winner.
- Instagib: Free for All mode where players start with only a Railgun, which always delivers one-hit kills. There are no powerups around the map (ie. health, ammo, weapons). Instagib servers are unranked.
- Team Deathmatch (TDM): Same rules as Free for All but in this mode, two teams fight each other.
- Pro Team Deathmatch: a variation on Team Deathmatch for higher skilled players where some of the server settings are changed, such as the respawn time of weapons increased from 12 seconds to 30 seconds.
- Capture the Flag (CTF): Each team has a base, holding a flag. To earn points and win the game, a player must take the opposing team's flag and return it to their own base, while his team's flag is secure at his own base.
- InstaCTF: Similar to Instagib (i.e. one-hit kill railgun, lack of powerups, etc.) but in a CTF format. Instagib CTF servers are also unranked.
- Clan Arena (CA): Teambased gameplay where everyone starts fully equipped with full armor and weapons. When fragged, the player must wait for the next round to begin. Players can rocket jump & plasma climb with no health penalty.
- Freeze Tag (FT): (subscription only) A team based game mode combining elements of Clan Arena and Team Deathmatch. Rather than spectating when one is fragged, one is instead "frozen", and cannot respawn until a player on their team "thaws" them by standing adjacent to them for several seconds. When all players on one team are frozen, the other team wins the round.
During the QuakeCon 2008 keynote speech, John Carmack stated that Quake Live has no plans to allow user-made modifications, but they have hired successful Quake III mod authors to help them with their project. The majority of the maps are based heavily on originals from Quake III Arena, Team Arena and popular user-made maps.
On August 3, 2007, at QuakeCon 2007, id Software publicly announced their plans to release a free browser based Quake 3 game titled Quake Zero. In early 2008, the title was officially renamed to Quake Live due to a domain squatting issue.
During late 2008 and early 2009, Quake Live was in an invitation-only closed beta. A handful of players were selected to begin the testing of the beta and were later allowed to invite a limited number of friends, whom, in turn, were permitted to send out invitations of their own. On February 24, 2009, the game progressed from closed beta to open beta, which caused an increased amount of traffic on the web server. Queues were organized to limit the stress and prevent the overloading of the servers. Within the first six hours after launch over 113,000 user accounts were created. The queues were removed after several days, and the servers were then upgraded to handle the larger volume of traffic.
Once Quake Live exited its closed beta stage, it was to be funded partially by in-game and website-based advertisements. IGA Worldwide were contracted by id Software to handle this aspect of the game's marketing. Problems with this model surfaced almost immediately with the announcement by the advertising agency that they were struggling as a result of the financial crisis of 2007–2010. In March 2009, the agency admitted that sale was a possibility if further investments were not forthcoming. With the acquisition of id Software by ZeniMax Media, the in-game and web-based advertisements for Quake Live changed noticeably, and presently only in-house or Bethesda Softworks products are visible.
At QuakeCon 2009, John Carmack stated publicly that their financial scheme for the game had so far failed to provide sufficient income to keep the project in the black. As a result, he announced that a premium subscription service was being planned. ShackNews reports him as saying that:
"The in-game advertising stuff has not been big business. That's not going to be able to carry the project."
"Quake Live is gonna [sic] be Quake Live for the foreseeable future." "It's only just now that we're going to be able to put it to the test."
Marty Stratton, id Software's Executive Producer, has commented that:
"The plan is to completely integrate the ability to start and manage private games directly through QUAKE LIVE, utilizing all of the friends, awareness and notification features we have available through the site. This ability will be the cornerstone of a QUAKE LIVE Premium Service that will be offered for a small monthly fee (likely less than $5 per month)."
On August 6, 2010, the game left its public beta period, and "premium" and "pro" subscription options were announced.
- Welcome to QUAKELIVE. Quakelive.com. Retrieved on 2009-08-19
- 7 August 2007 - Quake Zero not actually in web-browser on Eurogamer accessed at May 5, 2009
- Ali, Mahmood (2007-08-22). QuakeCon 2007: John Carmack keynote video. GGL Wire. Retrieved on 2009-01-22
- Grant, Christopher (2008-02-20). GDC08: Quake Zero becomes Quake Live. Joystiq. Retrieved on 2009-01-22
- id Software. GaimTheory. Retrieved on 2009-01-22
- id's Carmack & Stratton QuakeLive Interview. QuakeUnity.com. Retrieved on 2009-02-24
- Welcome to QUAKELIVE. Quakelive.com. Retrieved on 2009-01-22
- id Forms New Dev Team, Promises Free Quake 3. Retrieved on 2010-08-12
- Quake Zero Name Changed Due to Domain Squatter. Retrieved on 2010-08-12
- Quake Live Enters Open Beta Feb. 24th. Wired. Retrieved on 2009-02-21
- Quake Live Twitter. Retrieved on 2009-02-25
- IDA to handle Quake Live ads. EuroGamer.net. Retrieved on 2009-12-18
- Quake Live Ad Agency Faces Sale. GamesBeat. Retrieved on 2009-12-18
- Quake Live Premium Service Planned. ShackNews.com. Retrieved on 2009-12-18
- Quake Live Dev Blog. QuakeLive.com. Retrieved on 2009-12-18
- id introduces two QUAKE LIVE subscription packages Bethesda Blog. August 6th, 2010.