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. Absolutely the best PC game ever made. Probably my favorite game ever. I still play it to this day. No games after it came close to the perfect control and gameplay. I’ve always found something wrong with other games, even from id. Rockets too slow, netplay too jumpy, etc. I’m amazed that the essence of this game has not been reproduced or bettered in another title even now. Nothing compares.

  2. Interesting to see that some people had already started using WASD controls back then, Quake used arrow keys by default (mouse look had to be enabled through the console), and it didn’t become the standard FPS control setup until Half-life or System Shock 2 I think.