Quake’s 15th Anniversary

Today marks the 15th birthday of Quake, the game that gave birth to online multiplayer shooters and even won an Emmy. In fact, Quake’s legacy is far too reaching to sum up here, so rather than pontificate ourselves, we got the id guys to say a few words before we blew out the candles.

When asked to recall Quake, id Software president Todd Hollenshead offered this amusing anecdote: “One of my all time best game moments is still grabbing the rune at the end of the first episode and awakening the lava monster! I’m sure that level also inspired the USMC commercial with the Marine fighting the lava demon. Compare the screenie to the video. :)

Also check out the video above, taken during the QuakeWorld launch event in 1996. The footage illustrates what a monstrous event Quake was in gaming history, and features a short historical Q&A session with John Carmack.

And finally, to cap off our celebration, a note today from the desk of Carmack himself:

“I could write an awful lot about Quake, but since we are in the final crunch for Rage right now, I’ll have to settle for just a few random thoughts.

I have a bit more subdued memory of Quake than many of our other projects, because the development was so tough.  It was the first project where I really had to grapple with my personal limitations;  I had bitten off a little more than I could chew with all the big steps at once – full 3D world, 3D characters, light maps, PVS calculations, game scripting, client / server networking, etc.  No matter how hard I worked, things just weren’t getting done when we wanted them to.

My defining memory of the game was fairly early in development, when I no-clipped up into a ceiling corner and looked down as a Shambler walked through the world with its feet firmly planted on the ground.  This looked like nothing I had ever seen before; it really did seem like I had a window into another world.  Of course, as soon as he had to turn, the feet started to slide around because we didn’t have pivot points and individual joint modifications back then, but it was still pretty magical.

It seems silly now, but at the time we were very concerned that people wouldn’t be able to deal with free look mouse control, and we had lots of options to restrict pitch changes and auto-center when you started moving.

The internet gaming aspect was almost an accident.  I had moved from Doom’s peer-to-peer networking to client/server primarily to allow late game entry, and UDP was supported because I was still doing a lot of the development on NEXTSEP unix workstations.  The idea of playing over the internet was always there, but I didn’t think it would be practical for many people due to the long latencies and variable performance of typical connections.  When it turned out that people were doing it despite the low quality, it gave me the incentive to develop the alternative QuakeWorld executable with the various latency reduction mechanisms.

The other important alternative executable was glQuake, which played a significant role in the early days of 3D accelerators.  3DFX was the gold standard back then – Nvidia’s RIVA128 had poor subpixel precision and didn’t handle all the blend modes properly.  In fact, almost everyone was under the incorrect assumption that blending was only good for alpha transparency, even companies like 3DLabs that should have known better.

Competitive deathmatch had gotten started with Doom, but the Red Annihilation Quake tournament was a high point, where I gave my first turbo Ferrari away to Thresh for his dominating tournament win.

I look back at Quake as the golden age of game modding, before the standards rose so high that it required almost a full time commitment to do something relevant.  I am very proud that many of today’s industry greats trace their start back to working with Quake.

The most important thing about quake for me was that I met my wife when she organized the first all-female Quake tournament.  She still thinks Quake was the seminal achievement of Id, and she glowers at me whenever I bemoan how random the design was. :)

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Reader Comments

  1. Ahh.. remember sitting on some irc channel waiting for the qtest.exe to be released.. and when that glorious moment came… my dx4 100 cried, but such good memories of that era.

  2. Ha hah! i love the last sentence. So true, in lots of works of arts we, or the fans in general, have the work high in our minds as something almost perfect that was crafted carefully and designed perfectly without problems. The creators have another perspective as they know the development was perhaps troubled, they had to axe some stuff, the direction of the project changed midway, etc etc.

  3. Wow that blew me away. So many good memories from Quake, the times spent on our server with the clan and practicing for the next tournament or match. Fun times indeed.

  4. Great game, and I find it both impressive and depressing that phones today run the game better than what my quite decent computer did back then :P

    Which brings me to another point, id Software sure is awesome for releasing the source code for their older games!

  5. I’m sorry, with all due respect to Quake, it was DOOM that gave birth to multiplayer shooters. I have nothing but the fondest of memories of 4-player deathmatches with my roommates in college back in 1994…

    Damn, I’m old!

  6. What may have been to Mr.Carmack “grappling with his limitations” was to me an many of my peers the defining moment of inspiration to enter the video games industry. I remember being in awe of dynamic rocket lights. Mike Abrash’s account of the breakthroughs during Quake development was very much them moment I decided that’s what I wanted to do. Many thanks to all of id for the game, the community and releasing their code for us all to learn.

  7. i remember Quake felt like the future.

    games like Wolfenstein, DOOM, Marathon, SPECTRE, and Battlezone didn’t quite have the chops to be immersive. they felt like you were getting a taste of the future, but it was all still just smoke and mirrors.

    Quake had it all, though – a top-notch production. the world, the characters, the lighting, the music! that music was so amazingly important to the game. i remember the anxiety that the music alone caused, these sparse, grinding tracks that felt like rats gnawing on my brainstem. DOOM and Marathon had some good atmosphere, but Quake pushed the immersive aesthetic further than i’d ever seen before.

    i’d re-play Quake every now and again, and i would recommend it to people who wanted to get started playing first-person shooters, through almost a decade after Quake’s release.

  8. I am more of an Elder Scroll type these days but quake was a legend in its time. At Lan meets we would spend long weekends chasing a homer simpsons skin in quake 2. At one point on one level I held my rail gun up and said, if I took a shot right now at that spot up there and somebody came up the stairs at that very moment, I would get a direct hit without even knowing a target was on the way.

    And I took that shot and fragged a target, as if it was placed there for my by the great god of quake him self.

    I have had many happy moments in the quake series.

    Happy Birthday Quake.
    And thank you ID :)

  9. In 1996, second year of college, our clan NightBreed came in second place in the second Quake clan tournament ever. That year was the high point of my FPS prowess and focus, plus some map designing, Quake-C experiments, and excitement about all things 3D.

    After that year I had to buckle down and actually pay more attention to classwork. But that definitely made doing CS work more worth it, in a sense. And now I’m a competent coder at work, always imagining doing it all again… But better!

    The ideas, excitement, action and creativity it all spawned for me is what I think of when I think of Quake.

  10. Ah yeah, nothing like it. FAST and furious, unlimited framerate, turn off your brain, just your animal reflexes and animal cunning. Return to your ancestral hunter. @’The Bode’, I played a lot of Doom also, it was great, but it was Quake that brought me in and caused me to waste prolly a year (over a few years) of my life /blush.

  11. Just one additional point.

    In 1996 people where playing Quake on 56k modems with pings of around 250 and the game worked very well. Today if you tried playing a game with a ping of 250 you would see extremely bad lag. So something has changed with the way games work online since those days because they are far more sensitive to lag these days than they where back then.

    Having said that, there are more people online these days and 2gig connections only really make pings of 50 possible to local servers, typically we play at 100 ping these days on most servers in our region. So we go from a 4kb upload speed and a 250 ping to a 2gig upload speed or and a 100ping.

    I wonder what the lag would be lack these days if you dug out your old 56k and tried playing quake again.

  12. > The internet gaming aspect was almost an accident.

    I think it was pretty intentional. My memory is fuzzy about a lot of things that happened 15 years ago, but not this one. When John and I had dinner at Thai Chef when I was still at Microsoft, I knew he was going to ask me if I wanted to come work at id, and I knew I’d say no, because I was entrenched at Microsoft. But John spent the first two hours talking about persistent Internet servers. He talked about people building their own levels and running them on their own servers, and how it would be possible to connect them together so players could go from one to another, so cyberspace would kind of accrete over time. And when he finally did ask after talking for two hours about what he was going to do, I realized it was too exciting to miss. So playing on the Internet was a big part of John’s plan very early on.

  13. So many fond memories of Quake. Nothing more enjoyable than watching people trying to run through a watery area trying to frag each other, then blasting the water with your lightning gun and fragging em all.

    Quake Deathmatch was worth the time spent on MPlayer trying to find a server with low enough latency to connect to. Some servers were so bad that you’d be dead soon as you joined. Fonds memories of torturous dial-up gaming.

  14. DOOM may have introduced deathmatch, but the level of immersion in Quake was so far beyond DOOM I think you can’t compare the experiences. Being able to look up and down and panning with the mouse in Quake you felt like you were truly in another world.

  15. Following on Twitter; John and Mike are watching this thread right now (wow!). I just want to say: thank you both for the inspiration and for the incredible transparency during and after development. It’s amazing to think of the impact that this game has, and of the contribution to gaming and technology in general that your innovative work accomplished! Things have changed, but we can all look back and reminisce about this different time.

  16. I’ve been a huge fan of id Software since the days of Keen and I have to say that when I first bought and installed Quake on my then Pentium 166 – I was utterly and thoroughly blown away by it’s excellence and it remains to this day to be one of my all time favourite games.

    Happy Birthday Quake and thank you id for your continued brilliance.

  17. Amazing game, what about a release of the game with its official expansions for PS VITA just to celebrate its anniversary? :)

  18. Quake, best game of all time, i played it online from 96 to 2006. The joy that this game brought to me in my youth can hardly be put in words. i started out playing rq with awful ping and when qw came around it was amazing, back then having a ping below 200 was considered great. I remeber mipcaping and shrinking the screen to get better fps .The clans,tournaments, scripting for quickr and gl, locs, playing with fov. ,bunnyjumping, moving while pressed against the wall to go faster, the lans, just so many memorys.

    i remeber racking up a phonebill to 4000 dollars in 98 causing my parents to go insane and i had to work to pay them of but for the memorys and all the fun it was worth every penny. Still to this day i havent found a fps that appeals to me even remotley as quake did. Today is all about warshooter, having to wait to respawn, slowpaced action and getting killed instantly with a headshot, kids today dont now what they missed, sadly.

    Thanks ID Software i love you guys

  19. My very first online gaming experience, and all over dial-up …..
    Many, MANY happy memories of this, and it’s still great fun to play – check out some of the stuff developed since it went open source.

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY FOR YESTERDAY, QUAKE!!

  20. I recall going to Cardiff, UK to buy this game and getting a free Quake T-shirt. I had never seen a game as good as Quake. The sound generated an awesome atmosphere – good work, Trent.
    Being able to circle strafe enemies was amazing – it felt so much better than any previous game.

    Me and a mate used to play multiplayer 1vs 1 over null modem cable – awesome!

    The deathmatch maps were pure perfection – and getting hold of a quad power (signalled by one of the great sfx sounds) was awesome. Quad powered nailgun!!!

    You know, games have come on in terms of technology but Quake will always be a halcyon moment for me. Thanks to John Carmack and all ad id software who have given me great times through playing Quake!

    Cheers!

    Dai Bonehead.

  21. Quake was an amazing game. Probably the only game I played through more than five times. I was so into it that when pcgames magazine had a contest to write the back story to the game quake, I sat down and wrote it in about an hour. They chose five winners from who knows how many entries and I was one of them. The winners were supposed to receive an autographed copy of quake from ID, and I really wish they had been able to come through on that, instead we got a copy of quake and an autographed copy of Duke Nukem 3D from the guys over at 3DRealms. It was a decent substitute, and I still have the unopened autographed game, but would rather have the autographed copy of Quake…

    Long live Quake!!!

  22. Congrats John, Michael and all you who worked on Quake!

    @Michael Abrash: I’m happy to read you here. I still remember your great articles on advanced computer graphics (IIRC they were published on Dr.Dobb’s). Where are you working now? Are you still a graphics black art guru programmer?

  23. I can honestly say this game is part of who i am today.
    never going to forget being 15 and spending hours upon hours glued to the PC fragging away, laughing with friends and exchanging trash talk.

  24. Quake is my favourite game of all time, not because of what came in the box, but because of what it became.

    I am one of the many people that started my gaming industry career making Quake maps, and perhaps one of the few that still plays single-player and occasionally finds time to make another map.

    Before Quake was released, I had an old 486sx 4mb on which I played Doom regularly, but with no net connection I was restricted to single player and the only new content I got came on PC magazine coverdisks, and I couldn’t get my hands on an editor either, so was very jealous of all these people making levels that ended up being on the coverdisk of my favourite magazines. Back then I was just drawing level ideas on graph paper, but when Quake came out and I got a new PC (AMD K6 200, 32mb) and a level editor (Worldcraft, which was later bought by Valve and used to make Half-Life) I started to spend a massive amount of my time sitting in front of my computer making levels.

    Because of the mapping and modding aspect of Quake, and the scene around it, which I was later exposed to when I got online back in 1998, Quake is by FAR the game I have spent the most time playing and tinkering with. I’ve sunk probably thousands of hours into a game with a single player campaign that can be completed in less than 15 minutes (if you spend hundreds of hours learning how! :) )

    It really says something about the game when 15 years on it has a community of active mappers and modders still making new content and going out of their way to hold an anniversary. This community is no longer a horde of teenagers with plenty of free time, but professionals (many working in the games industry) that love Quake so much they can still find time for it.

    Interestingly, I think the fact that the aesthetic and design of Quake is not very strongly themed allowed mappers to create maps in very many different styles and this is one of the many reasons that we didn’t get bored of the game. Also, you can pretty much just put a fiend in a box room with the player and a super shotgun and the game is fun. Whatever the mapper does on top of that only adds to the game. Quake is probably more fun to design for than anything I have touched since.

    Instead of playing the latest Duke Nukem, for a real taste of nostalgia, try installing Quake (with a good engine, such as FitzQuake: http://www.celephais.net/fitzquake/) and playing some good custom maps. I have many recommendations, but just try entering some of my suggestions in the filter box on this site: http://www.quaddicted.com/reviews/
    czg07, marcher, gmsp3, marcher, apsp2, quoth, red777, dm3rmx, terra, rubicon, masque, damaul6, bbelief (very old, but also very much like the original game), ant.zip, egypt.zip, a3.zip
    If you need more, just sort the list by rating. There is hundreds of hours of entertainment here :)

    Thank you, John, and everyone who worked at id back then to bring such a wonderful, memorable game to us.

  25. Since Doom, my PC upgrades coincided with id releases, and Quake was no exception. I promptly charged $2000 for a pentium in ’94 to play doom, and then bought a pentium 200mhz to play quake when it was released in ’96. And I opted for the Canopus pure3d which had a whole 6mb texture memory instead of 4mb. I remember how blown away I was at glquake. And my brother and I dialing each other up playing quakeworld on dm6 are some fond memories indeed.

  26. Quake was surely the inspiration for many hardware and 3d gaming enthusiasts worldwide!

    Kudos, John and iD

  27. One of the creepiest evil unnatural (in a good way) games i have ever played. Even on my 486/DX66 computer it was..different. It ran at a slightly slower speed due to the cpu so all the voices and sounds had this slow motion sound to them though the movement and combat speed were still perfectly enjoyable. Errie indeed.

    Thank you Id Software and John Romero wherever you are.

  28. This game was the best what happened with me, and also ruined my life(8-12 hours a day, back in the old times with modem connection or even with omicron frog reaper bot offline).

    here are my memories :

    It was soo diferent when I first saw the shareware.It felt like nothing other when I first looked up penta at e1m1, than founding the biosuit…

    The other impression was when I saw d_mipcap-ed and d_mipscaled grafix @ a con ’97. With a friend we were so excited that we couldn’t sleep from Thursday to Monday.

    And when I started online, I still remember my first game on dm4 I got owned by shaft(only used rl :D ), aftert that I couldnt stop playing during the whole weekend..

    I’m pretty sure that this game has changed the life of us a lot.. And the addicton level was higher than heroin(for the ppl who srsly played online) or any heavy drug…

    But somehow it was better than any other games I played afterwards,somehow the community was nicer, not that much raging kids(I was a yungster(14) but not even think about yelling to others)..

    carmack if u r reading this it’s time to pay something somehow back to us quakers(maybe a ferrari huh?:D duel?).

    regards,
    Andrew from Hungary,
    [911] aka NinJaA

  29. Happy birthday Quake! I still remember playing it on my Sega Saturn and only after on my PC. The Saturn conversion was pretty good, actually :P