Oct 9, 2011
Eurogamer

There's a peculiar tension at the heart of Quake. Something's not quite right. For this reason it's a game that sits apart from id's other efforts while at the same time still being fundamental to the overall Brown Corridor heritage of the shooter genre.

It was a game that did so very much to evolve and define the FPS, and yet it does not fit so easily into the conventions that the Texan Doom-makers' other games wallow in. This tension is what makes it one of the developer's most interesting games.

Like all the shooting games whose existence has spilled from the number-fuelled mind of John Carmack, Quake's primary contribution to the history of games was technical. The 3D engine was a significant development atop what was prevalent at the time, and it introduced the minor revolution of "mouse-look" - that is free all-axes viewing using the mouse - to the majority of 1996's shooter players.

Up until that time gamers had been playing along flat axes, usually with "faked" height. But Quake made things truly three-dimensional, and this meant two things: levels which didn't have to shirk vertical complexity and, well, you could perform rocket jumps.

"It was the atmosphere and tone of the game that left its biggest impression on my imagination."

Rocket jumps were, of course, able to make Quake's tortuous, labyrinthine multiplayer maps faster to navigate, and were an unintended side-effect of the game's blast physics that became a defined skill within that multiplayer game and also with the bizarre phenomenon of speed runs.

It was the architecture of that multiplayer game that defined Quake's second contribution. Despite the richness of the world, the single-player was almost a prologue against the appeal and longevity of the multiplayer. In fact it was not Quake's 3D engine that really mattered to Quake, as powerful as it was. The technical project that had far-reaching consequences for multiplayer gaming was John Carmack's work on network code, which produced the kind of online deathmatch that still prevails today.

The Quakeworld update for the game, which introduced network code that would work feasibly over dial-up connections, was transformative: an action game that could, thanks to predicting where players were going to be, allow play at the high latencies that early modems had the contend with. Almost unimaginable now, in a world of ubiquitous broadband, but there was a time when a good chunk of gamers was unreachable in the evenings by their home phoneline, for reasons of Quaking.

Despite being shackled with tin-can communications tech, the sheer pace and intensity of Quake would daunt most modern players: the unrealistic physics and breakneck pace make Quake's multiplayer more like a twitchy kung-fu rocketry than the rather more pedestrian combat situations that shooters since Half-Life have delivered to us.

Enthusiasm for Quake's multiplayer game was ferocious, and id were quick to sponsor it - putting up Carmack's Ferrari as a prize in a 1997 tournament, won by the first notable FPS pro, Dennis "Thresh" Fong. The Quake scene surged across a nascent internet, and it was to define the pattern of FPS games for several years to follow.

The Quake template is one that is rarer now, due to its demands on player skill, but its influences are still felt in odd corners of modern game design, where the physics bounce players from the ground, and frictionless rocketry dominates the deathmatch.

Technology, however, is not wholly where Quake's value lies. Not to me, at least. It might have been the tech that rippled down the years, but it was the atmosphere and tone of the game that left its biggest impression on my imagination.








What I refuse to forget when looking back at Quake is how strange the flavour of the game, both mechanically and in its setting, really is. Quake was a game peculiar for almost refusing to tell a story, and setting itself in a world disconnected from standard fantasy, sci-fi, military, or post-apocalyptic templates that we see reused so routinely. Today, when every shooter imaginable is hammered across the contorted spine of some story or other, to be dropped in a bizarre world that served as little more than a container for violence and secrets is unusual indeed. Hell, it was unusual in 1996.

While the Dooms were sparse, they still told their tale of space marines versus the occult. Quake 2 and 4 focused on the rather more conventional "Strogg" story of space war between humans and their alien enemies. Quake itself stood apart, practically unexplained. The character was dropped into a byzantine world, and fought for his life, while checking every corner of the spiraling maps for secrets and hidden passageways.

The reason for this weirdness can be found in Quake's difficult and unlikely genesis. It was in fact a failed combat-based RPG. The id team's original plans for something more expansive after Doom quickly led back to a game that was even pacier and more focused on first-person close-quarters combat dynamics than Doom had been.

"It is a rumbling, speeding, frenzied dark masterpiece that deserves never to be forgotten."

But that had not been the original intention, because Quake had even once contained dragons and other trad fantasy standards. The id team's work took a darker turn as the RPG was eroded, but on close inspection you can see the echoes of the RPG-action game that, for a while, id thought it was making. As it turned out they ended up making a slick and minimalist FPS, but the ultra-gothic fantasy overtones remain. Quake is a shooter set not within a science fiction, or really within traditional fantasy, but in some kind of brutal, mechanistic pseudo-medieval realm in between.

This sense of rough-edged, grim fantasy design permeates the shooter, from its environments of clanking metal and rough stone, through to its monsters: savage sword-wielding skeletons, shambling giants that throw lightning-bolts, and Cthulhu-mythos boss characters that lurk in disturbing dungeon underworlds.

It is even reflected in the weapons: an axe, an archaic shotgun, a clonking gatling gun, a nail gun, a lightning gun like a giant magic wand. All this is set against a backdrop unlike normal fantasy Big Bad backstories, and quite unlike the other Quakes' galactic war, and even unlike the exposition-free Mars-demons of Doom.

Quake was set in a dimensional war of some kind, where raiders travelled through sinister "slipgates" to murder in other worlds. There was a whiff of beserk magic to the power ups, and the whole thing reeked of the dead remains of the game it might have been. Quake is a genre outlier in terms of setting and atmosphere, and as such one of my favourite games.

You can see why when people look at the other Quake and Doom games, they question whether a return to these evocative hybrid roots might not be a good idea.

Playing Rage this week has once again seen people raise the nature of id's "derivative" settings, as has happened numerous times in the past decade. Indeed, Rage does borrow heavily from post-apocalyptic cliche, lifted from Mad Max by countless driving and combat games, and most recently carved into our mainstream consciousness by Borderlands and Fallout 3. It seems to have almost no connection to Quake at all.

When contemplating the studio's colourful history of shooting games it's perhaps easy to glaze over the first Quake in the lineage. Not as infamous or as influential on mainstream perceptions as Doom, not perhaps as widely recognised as its first and second sequels, nor as notably disappointing as Doom 3, Quake is the game which is beginning to get fuzzy in our recollections.

It should not, because it is a rumbling, speeding, frenzied dark masterpiece that deserves never to be forgotten. And forget it I will not.

Eurogamer


Bethesda has confirmed the Oblivion 5th Anniversary for Europe. It will be released on 23rd September for £20 on PS3 and Xbox 360, £18 on PC.


European PR manager Alistair Hatch confirmed the date on Twitter.


Inside the Oblivion 5th Anniversary Edition is the Game of the Year Edition of Oblivion, which contains DLC add-ons Shivering Isles and Knights of the Nine.


Also in the box are a Making of Oblivion DVD and a colour map of game world Cyrodiil and the Shivering Isles.


A Skryim video is thrown in as well.


The Oblivion 5th Anniversary Edition doesn't come in Steelbook casing in Europe, but it does in the US.


Oblivion was the fourth Elder Scrolls game and is the predecessor to new game Skyrim. Eurogamer's Oblivion review awarded a modest 10/10.

Video: Shivering Isles.

Eurogamer


A new BBFC rating for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Game of the Year Edition has popped up online, suggesting UK gamers may soon see the launch of the 5th anniversary edition of the sprawling fantasy RPG.


The 5th anniversary edition launched in the US earlier this month.


The new BBFC rating, classified today, details the Game of the Year Edition of Oblivion, which includes the Shivering Isles expansion.


In the US the 5th anniversary edition includes a map, a making of DVD with a Skyrim trailer and a $10 Off Coupon for Skyrim.


This comes in a steelbook with slip cover.


Eurogamer has contacted Bethesda for comment.

Eurogamer


id Software wizard John Carmack has recounted the experience of creating Quake, the seminal first-person shooter that turns 15 today.


"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," Carmack, who is knee deep in Rage development, said on the Bethblog.


"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-centre when you started moving."


Carmack goes on to describe the game's online play as "almost an accident". He has kind words for its 3D graphics and modding, however.


"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."


At E3 Carmack outlined his vision of the next Quake game - what would perhaps be Quake V - in an interview with Eurogamer.


"Nothing is scheduled here, people are not building this," Carmack said. "We went from the Quake 2 and the Quake 4 Strogg universe. We are at least tossing around the possibilities of going back to the bizarre, mixed up Cthulhu-ish Quake 1 world and rebooting that direction.


"We think that would be a more interesting direction than doing more Strogg stuff after Quake 4.


"We certainly have strong factions internally that want to go do this.


"But we could do something pretty grand like that, that still tweaks the memory right in all of those ways, but is actually cohesive and plays with all of the strengths of the level we're at right now."

Video:

Eurogamer


id Software's John Carmack has outlined his vision for the next game in the Quake series.


While confirming that the next Quake is not in development, Carmack told Eurogamer there are "strong factions" within the US developer that want to create another game in the seminal first-person shooter series.


And discussions are pointing towards going back to the first game's quirky roots.


"Nothing is scheduled here, people are not building this," Carmack said.


"We went from the Quake 2 and the Quake 4 Strogg universe. We are at least tossing around the possibilities of going back to the bizarre, mixed up Cthulhu-ish Quake 1 world and rebooting that direction.


"We think that would be a more interesting direction than doing more Strogg stuff after Quake 4.


"We certainly have strong factions internally that want to go do this.


"But we could do something pretty grand like that, that still tweaks the memory right in all of those ways, but is actually cohesive and plays with all of the strengths of the level we're at right now."


Quake began life on PC in 1996. It involved a marine travelling through alternate dimensions to prevent an alien invasion. Quake 2 followed a year later, introducing the alien planet Stroggos. 2005's Quake 4 continued the story.


The first Quake is credited with pioneering online FPS gaming, but Carmack believes it benefits from rose-tinted nostalgia goggles.


"The way I think about some of those things, and I actually get into arguments with my wife about this, who loved the original Quake game, I looked at the original Quake as this random thing, because we really didn't have our act together very well.


"But because it was so seminal about the 3D world and the internet gaming, it's imprinted on so many people. It made such an impact in so many ways. Memory cuts us a lot of slack."


Adding his thoughts into the mix, id CEO Todd Hollenshead said: "People shouldn't worry that we're ever going to orphan or abandon Quake. We are huge fans of the game internally."


id Software's next game is Rage, due out on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 this October. Doom 4 follows. After that, who knows?

Video:

Eurogamer


Sprawling fantasy role-playing epic The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion looks set for a limited re-release in June.


Listings for a 5th anniversary edition have popped up on online shops, spotted by the wonderfully-named Nitro Beard.


It includes:

  • Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Game Of The Year Edition.
  • Collector's Edition Content (map, 'Making Of' DVD with an added Skyrim trailer).
  • A $10 Off Coupon (redeemable at any retailer, nationwide) for Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.


According to the site the innards come in a steelbook with slip cover. A June PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 release is planned.


Oblivion launched in 2006 to critical and commercial acclaim. Eurogamer's Oblivion review rolled a whopping 10/10.


Follow-up Skyrim is due out later this year.

Eurogamer


Gamers are still buying the Horse Armour add-on for sprawling fantasy role-playing game The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Bethesda has revealed.


The nearly five-year-old DLC, originally priced at 200 Microsoft Points (£1.70), angered gamers for being a bit on the expensive side – all it added was, yes, horse armour.

Eurogamer's report on its release spawned over a hundred comments.


But despite the DLC being ancient, people are still buying it today.


"In one respect everything we've done has done well, including the much maligned horse armour," vice-president Pete Hines told OXM.


"I swear to you I don't have the report in front of me, but multiple people bought horse armour yesterday! For some inexplicable reason. It happened, I promise."


Hines' comments came as part of a discussion on the success of Bethesda's downloadable content for all its games. The upshot: if it's worth the cash, the people will come.


"So that [Horse Armour] sold, and Shivering Isles sold, and everything we did for Fallout 3 sold, so it's clear to us that what matters most is value - and whether it's value at the 10 dollar or 10 pound price point, or five pounds, or whatever it is, so long as it's good value, people will like it and buy it."

Eurogamer


The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will hark back to Morrowind and the "wonder of discovery" - something Bethesda wittingly "sacrificed" for Oblivion.


"It should feel alien," creative director Todd Howard said of Morrowind to OXM, "kind of 'stranger in a strange' land - with familiar looking elements only rooting you early in the game.


"The whole tone ends up being one of 'I'm an outsider, I'm uncomfortable'.


"With Oblivion, we're dealing with the capital province, and we wanted to get back to the more classic Arena and Daggerfall feel of a fantasy world that felt more refined and welcoming, a place that you instantly understood.


"But in that," he added, "we sacrificed some of what made Morrowind special: the wonder of discovery. With Skyrim, we're trying to bring some of that back and walk the line between Morrowind and Oblivion. Where it's at first familiar looking, but has its own unique culture and spin on it."


The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, released 2002, looted 8/10 on Eurogamer. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - a simultaneous March 2006 release on PC, 360 (later PS3) - scored 10/10.


The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will release in November on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. Big things are expected. What we know so far? Skyrim has dual-wielding, perks, finishers, no classes, fancy menus and a brand new (evolved, really) Creation Engine.

Video: Skyrim.

Eurogamer


John Romero, legendary designer of seminal first-person shooters Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake, is turning his attention to a new type of gamer – Facebook gamers.


"We have satisfied hardcore gamers for decades," the id Software co-founder told Venture Beat.


"Now it's time for the rest of the world. Our opportunity is to teach the rest of the world how to play games."


Romero hopes to achieve his goal through the California-based developer Loot Drop. Its small team plan to publish games for multiple social game publishers.


Loot Drop has funding from social game publisher RockYou, which will publish Romero's first game soon.


But Romero's already tasted sweet success in the social game space with Facebook game Ravenwood Fair, which a whopping 10 million people play every month.


Romero's new role as the designer of the next big social experience is a far cry from the one that made his name.


Romero co-founded id Software with John Carmack, Adrian Carmack and Tom Hall, and designed some of the most influential games of all time.


Romero left to start Ion Storm and created the controversial Daikatana. In 1997 he appeared on an advert for the game that said: "John Romero's About To Make You His Bitch....Suck it down." That didn't go down well, and some 10 years later Romero apologised to fans for it.


After Ion Storm closed in 2001, Romero formed mobile game developer Monkeystone Games. After leaving that company, he joined Midway Games in 2003. He left two years later, starting MMO developer Slipgate Ironworks, which became the core studio of Gazillion. That didn't work out as planned, either.


Now the 43-year-old has a very different outlook on the creation of videogames, and believes in experiences fuelled by virtual item purchases. "The game industry is dropping down on top of social," Romero said. "We don't have a view of strip mining the players for cash. When a player gives you money, you want them to feel good about giving you that money."


Romero will launch four Loot Drop games this year, to be published and marketed by other companies.

Eurogamer


Bethesda Game Studios is hard at work on the fifth game in the Elder Scrolls series, according to a new report.


It's a direct sequel to 2006's stonking great fantasy role-playing game Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Eurogamer Denmark said.


We've asked the author of the story, Eurogamer Denmark Editor-in-chief Kristian West, to translate into English for us (apparently Google doesn't do it justice). Here's what he said:


"This source not only confirmed that the game is in current production, but also spoke briefly about the content - with fantasy-sounding phrases like Dragon Lord, something with The Blades - and that voice acting for the characters in the game is currently happening in the weeks to follow.


"The same source confirmed, with official game documents in hand, that this will be the chronological sequel to what happened in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, which is the latest game in the now 16-years-old Elder Scrolls saga and by itself one of the better RPGs for PC and consoles.


"The sequel to Oblivion is coming, we can hereby confirm without hesitation. It's been a while since 2006, hasn't it?"


Rumour of an Elder Scrolls sequel has been rife since Oblivion's launch.


In August Bethesda Game Studios told Eurogamer the majority of its 90 or so staff are beavering away on the new game - thought to be a new Elder Scrolls title - which has been in development for two years.


Executive producer Todd Howard said in an interview with Eurogamer at QuakeCon that the studio's current title will be announced soon, but he couldn't say exactly when. "I have a sense but we're not ready even to talk about [the timing of the announcement], because it might change. I don't want to disappoint people.


"One thing I can say is that from when you first hear about it to when it's out will be the shortest it's been for us. It's pretty far along. When we show it, we want to show a lot, because there's a lot of game there to play right now.


"You know, if [global VP of PR and marketing] Pete Hines came in and said, 'I want you to show it,' I'd be like, 'Okay, I'm ready to show it.' But we've just decided for now not to yet."


Howard wouldn't be drawn on many details about the game, but said the technology was derived from the engine that powered Fallout 3, albeit with significant modifications.


"Fallout 3 technically does a lot more than Oblivion. The new stuff is an even bigger jump from that," he said.


"I can say it is on the existing platforms, which we're really happy with. You almost feel like you have a new console when you see the game."

...

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