Modder Than Hell: The Q4Max vs. Xbattle Wars
It's been said before and it bears repeating: enough with the Xbattle vs. Q4Max "debate."
Both mods have come a long way since last October, and have been one-upping each other release after release, only to mirror each other's features again and again. If Q4Max gets some features first, Xbattle follows a day after. Both mod teams vehemently deny accusations of copycatting, but it seems pretty clear to me that the two are in a dead heat.
About the only differences between the two mods focus on their philosophies: Q4Max is focusing on global XML-based stats (with some of the code provided by GGL's own Jared 'cha0ticz' Cugno), while Xbattle continues to push the envelope with competitive features such as distinct enemy sounds. Q4Max developers have stated again and again that they will not change Quake 4's physics, while Xbattle has, in the past, experimented with doing so.
There is a minor difference in usability--Q4Max has a better GUI, which keeps it in competitive events such as the CPL that don't allow the use of the in-game console. It's worth noting that GGL has not explicitly banned the use of the console in its own events. For competitors, there really is no difference. If a LAN event uses Q4Max, players will set up their configs on the spot. If it uses Xbattle, they'll bring their configs with them to the event. Online, everyone uses the console to tweak their game.
So there you have it, folks. There are only minor and sometimes superficial differences between Q4Max and Xbattle. Why, then, is there such a difference between leagues such as EuroCup and AmeriCup between the mods they choose? Why does any discussion about the two degenerate into a flamewar par excellence
Gamers and competition admins have loyalties to one or another mod, regardless of the quality of either product. There's no use in denying it; it's well-known that Clanbase admins guaranteed ^CHAMPi^, the lead developer of Xbattle, that they would use his mod for the entirety of EuroCup's past season. A couple of key events played out after this:
1) Most notable Q4 duelers threatened to quit the league because they wanted the same platform that CPL uses (Q4Max). Admins agreed with the duelers, and duelers were allowed to play their matches on Q4Max servers.
2) We have only one demo of the entire EuroCup XII Q4 TDM season, because Xbattle's demos were not working at the time. The only demo available is from an iCE cLIMBERS match played on a Q4Max server. For their part, iCE cLIMBERS were severely reprimanded for playing a match on an unsanctioned server.
These events illustrate perfectly why any league's choice of competitive mod must hinge on the quality of the product and not any shady back-room deals between admins and mod-makers.
The loyalties that divide EuroCup and AmeriCup also extend to server admins. Any league that does not have its own servers is at the mercy of community admins, who may or may not use the best mod available for the job. EuroCup doesn't have its own servers, therefore teams participating in it must use whatever is available. For one or another reason, there are far more Xbattle servers than there are Q4Max servers in Europe, so teams are forced to play the more popular mod, even though it may not be better at the time. These differing loyalties can and do hurt the overall focus of leagues: quality competitive play.
For those of you out there who think I'm here to dump on Xbattle, I'm not. There was a prolonged period of drought for Q4Max releases before .73 came out during which Xbattle's feature set grew by leaps and bounds. Xbattle demos were fixed, many new features that competitors requested were added, and lots of bugs were taken care of. During this time, Q4Max languished in relative mediocrity, and any request for GGL's AmeriCup to allow matches on Xbattle servers was flatly denied. GGL, by the way, runs its own servers (and won't change mid-season), which can be seen as an endorsement of one or another mod.
It seemed obvious to everyone at the time that Q4Max was a sinking ship, that arQon (the lead developer of Q4Max) was unavailable, and that Xbattle's features had certainly put it on top. The next release of Q4Max included XML-based statistics, which were nice, but didn't really matter to people in the trenches.
By this time, GGL's TransAtlantic Showdown had ended, and the furor over mod usage was dying down. Still, it was clear Xbattle was the better product, but all requests to switch over for future leagues were shot down.
STANDING AT THE CROSSROADS
Now, almost two full months later, we stand at another crossroads. Subsequent releases of Q4Max have added most of the features that Xbattle got to first. To me, both mods are functionally identical. What will admins (community and competitive) use for future competitions?
It's my sincere hope that leagues simply use whatever mod is better at the time, even if that change occurs during the middle of a league season. Forget politics. Forget loyalties to one or another mod, and I really don't want to hear about the difficulty of changing servers over.
You see when you have a small community and big gaming leagues and mod-makers start taking sides, it doesn't matter who wins.
It's the players that lose.