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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.>
Quake has seen plenty of mods adding oodles of wacky weapons but the one that most caught my eye was Chaos Deathmatch [official site] for Quake II. If you weren’t poisoned and being chased by smiley-faced homing proximity mines while juggling another player with an air blaster, you were missing out.
‘Played’ isn’t quite the right word for Hardly Workin’ [archived official site]. You may need Quake II for it but Hardly Workin’ is machinima – a movie made in a video game, before that term was yoinked by a site which became a #contentnetwork. What made Hardly Workin’ stand out to me was that you could hardly see it was Quake II. While most early machinima drafted existing in-game characters and assets for action figure pantomimes (and heck, Red vs. Blue still does this – no disrespect), Hardly Workin’ is built from scratch for a silly cartoon tale about two lumberjacks getting jobs in a diner.
Not that I’m saying Quake is not suitable for 21st century play – quite the opposite. It’s just that enormous and beautiful mod campaign Arcane Dimensions applies some of the design values we are accustomed to from later, flashier games to the ancient Quake structure. From flow to geometry to sheer size, it’s taking Quake to places id possibly could not have imagined when they first made it, and wrestling the engine into brand new shapes without actually losing its essential Quakeiness.
Because that’s the thing: playing Arcane Dimensions makes Quake once again feel like it felt when I first played it.
WASD feels inevitable today. Once mouselook became standard in 3D games, it made little sense (at least for right-handed players) to hold your left arm across your chest to reach the arrow keys. The WASD keys were more comfortable, and offered easy access to Shift and Space. But even though WASD seems like the obvious choice now, far fewer players used it 20 years ago.
Our favorite four letter word was never a foregone conclusion, and didn't become standard through some gaseous enlightening that spread to every PC gamer simultaneously. The new movement scheme took several years to catch on, and while we can t know whose fingers found their way to WASD first, we do have a good idea of who popularized the style: the greatest Quake player in the universe, Dennis Thresh Fong.
Fong made history when he took home John Carmack's Ferrari 328 after winning the first-ever nationwide Quake tournament in 1997. And when he won that tournament, defeating Tom "Entropy" Kimzey on Castle of the Damned, his right hand was on a mouse, and his left hand was perched over the four keys we now consider synonymous with PC gaming. But even then, not everyone played that way.
In the early days of first-person shooters, Fong says the keymappings were all over the place, and even the great Thresh had only just started to play with a mouse at all. Imagine him just a few years before, sometime around 1993, as a teenager losing a match of Doom against his brother Lyle. Like many Doom players, Fong used only the keyboard. Without the need to look up or down, it was a natural choice so much that using a mouse was even considered weird. His brother, however, was playing with a keyboard and trackball, and he was winning. It wasn t every game both were excellent players but Lyle won enough that one summer Fong decided he had to learn to play with a mouse. After that, he was unbeatable.
Right after I made that switch, my skill improved exponentially, says Fong. Pretty much, from then on, I never lost.
It took some experimentation including a strange attempt to move with WADX but Fong settled on WASD and has been using it since Doom. Did he invent the scheme? No, probably not. Others were also gravitating to the left side of the keyboard for Doom at the same time. But without Fong's influence, the default could have ended up different. It might have been EDSF, or stranger configurations like ZXC to strafe and move backwards, and the right mouse button to move forwards. Some early shooters bound movement to the arrow keys. In 1994, System Shock used ASDX, while Descent used AZ for forward/reverse and QE for banking (if you didn't happen to have a joystick).
Fong tells us he even knew a player who used ZXCV to move.
I m certainly not going to take credit for the creation of [WASD], says Fong. I stumbled across it. I m sure other people started using it as well just based on what was comfortable for them. I definitely think I helped popularize it with a certain set of gamers, particularly the ones that played first person shooters."
It s likely that he did. The very concept of a professional gamer was new at the time, and Fong was well-known on the west coast as the best player around. As Fong s celebrity grew, the one question everyone asked him was: What s your config? His answer could be most readily found in , which describes the WASD formation as an inverted T. And his guide carried weight. Even before his success as a Quake player, Fong was a Doom champion, and so people imitated him, just as the kids at the basketball court by my house spend far too much time trying to hit Steph Curry s 30-foot shots.
The evidence can be found on old bulletin board systems. In , a poster recommends using Q and E to strafe and A and D to turn. Another suggests using the keypad for movement, and someone else says they use A, Shift, Z, X. It wasn't the case that everyone simply gravitated to the 'obvious' choice of WASD or ESDF, and in , we see how Thresh's performance in the Quake tournament spread his style. His play was so impressive, the poster looking for his config speculates that it was impossible for him to turn so fast with a mouse.
Another legend, Quake programmer John Carmack, took note. Even when I was hanging out with Carmack, wherever, at E3, random people would come up and he would hear them asking me what my configuration was, says Fong. So he ended up building a Thresh stock config into Quake 2.
It was a relief. Not only could Fong sit down at any computer with Quake 2 and instantly load his configuration, every time he got the question, all he had to say was type exec thresh.cfg.
Convenient as it was, Fong doesn t think the inclusion of his config was the main factor in the rise of WASD, and I d agree. By the time Quake 2 was out, WASD was starting to feel like common knowledge. I used it, and I don t remember hearing Thresh s name associated with it at the time, though it s possible his configuration entered my consciousness two or three people removed.
And yet games, strangely, took a while to catch up. Carmack may have bundled Thresh s config with Quake 2, but when it released in 1997 the default controls were still arrow keys. A year later, though, that changed. If Thresh's Quake tournament win was WASD's first watershed moment, the second came in 1998 with the release of Half-Life. The Quake and Doom players at Valve perhaps influenced directly or indirectly by Carmack, Thresh, and other top Doom and Quake players included WASD in Half-Life s default keyboard and mouse config, which helped solidify it as the first-person shooter standard.
Valve engineer Yahn Bernier checked Half-Life's original config file for us and confirmed it included WASD. "I remember finalizing this file (maybe with Steve Bond) during the lead up to shipping HL1 but don t recall specifics about when WASD was settled on or really why. We probably carried it forward from Quake1 " he wrote in an email.
The same year, and less than a month after Half-Life, Starsiege Tribes also made WASD default. Quake 3 followed suit in 1999, and WASD's popularity grew even more. It was also the default binding in 2000's Daikatana, but Half-Life, Tribes, and Quake 3 probably had a bit more to do with its popularity.
There were still plenty of heretical control schemes in 1999 like System Shock 2's, which defaulted to WADX (and S for crouch). But WASD had momentum. If it wasn t already ubiquitous by 2004, World of Warcraft defaulting to WASD codified it for millions of PC gamers. Now it s in RPGs and MOBAs and even strategy games, controlling camera movement over maps.
Interestingly, Valve boss Gabe Newell doesn t use WASD. I personally don't like WASD as it takes your hand away from your typing home keys, he wrote in an email to PC Gamer. I always rebind to ESDF. Newell's not alone there. Do a little Googling and you'll find plenty of people arguing that ESDF is the more natural configuration.
More surprisingly, another Half-Life developer, level designer Dario Casali, also rejects WASD. Instead, he prefers ASXC. It feels natural to me, where WASD feels odd, wrote Casali. But lots of people scoff at my config.
What would PC gaming be like had EDSF or ASXC been Half-Life s default? No offense intended to Newell or Casali, but I shudder to think of it. ASXC just sounds bonkers to me. Newell's fairly commonplace ESDF is more palatable, but as Thresh echoes, it feels harder to hit Shift and Control while easier to mispress one of the surrounding keys. For me, Thresh, and millions of PC gamers, it s WASD for life.
You can read more about the history of Quake celebrating Quake's 20th anniversary. We're also celebrating by , and Thresh himself will be playing on our US-West server today, Friday, from 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm Pacific time.
Wes Fenlon also contributed to this article.
The great and mighty Quake turned 20 earlier this week, a moment in gaming history we marked (and continue to mark) by putting up our very own PC Gamer Quake servers for the week. We've also got a really good Quake retrospective I'd encourage you to dig into here. Wolfenstein: The New Order developer MachineGames is getting in on the fun too: It's created an all-new Quake episode, and released it for free.
Happy 20th to Quake @idsoftware! As a gift to the fans, we created a new episode of the game https://t.co/BTgju8tLuI pic.twitter.com/gHlxBgjcBUJune 24, 2016
Installing the episode is easy: Just extract the archive to its own subdirectory inside your Quake directory, then run the Dopa batch file. It works perfectly well with the GOG version of Quake and presumably others as well (GOG's release is the one I tried it on), and you can trust me, it's perfectly safe and won't set your PC on fire.
I haven't finished it yet, but I'm midway through the second level and so far it's really good. The level designs have been really clever so far, with lots of secrets to find, and yes, there is a hidden (but not too-hidden) teleporter to Nightmare difficulty, if that's your thing. Enjoy!
Depending on to what extent you accept ‘Bethesda’ as official, of course. This isn’t id’s work, and it’s definitely not Quake-era id’s work, but it is the work of neo-id’s stablemates Machine Games – they of the improbably good Wolfenstein: The New Order. (And who, according to its credits, pitched in to some extent with this year’s even more improbably good DOOM). They’ve just unexpectedly release a new Quake episode in honour of the dear old man’n’monster-shooter’s 20th birthday. It’s pretty good, too. … [visit site to read more]
Resolution. Anti-aliasing. Crisp text. “Image quality.” The bugbears of virtual reality in 2016.
All of this matters not in Quake. Perfect square pixels, no shading or soft shadows. Almost wordless. It is ideally-suited to VR, in theory. In practice? Best VR time ever, so far.
Twenty years ago, id Software released Quake. You ve probably heard of it. What s less known is that Quake was an idea that had been gestating since id s early days, back in the era when it was best known for the side-scrolling Commander Keen series. The first Keen promised that coming soon as The Fight For Justice, an epic RPG starring Quake the strongest, most dangerous person on the continent, who would explore an epic RPG world armed with a hammer in what id was already calling The finest PC game yet. Instead, it would take half a decade before Quake s adventure came out, breaking both technical limits and id Software itself.
When Quake arrived, it was a true 3D action game everything built in polygons. Until then, most games had just faked it. Wolfenstein 3D took place on entirely flat maps. Doom offered different heights, but everything was still drawn in 2D. It wasn t possible to have rooms under rooms and the like. Duke Nukem 3D and other Build engine games, particularly Shadow Warrior, used advanced cheats to fake the effect. When you jumped into water for instance, you were actually invisibly teleported into another zone elsewhere on the map. Quake was truly 3D, doing things like spiral staircases and lava pits for real, and being as twisty and turny as it liked.
There had been full 3D games of course, like Descent, or the Freescape games that powered the likes of Castle Master even as far back as the ZX Spectrum. To do this, though, they typically had to choose between simple and slow. Quake didn t. It was a technical showpiece and it moved like a greased-up ferret on a decent PC. No excuses. No compromises.
Or at least, no technical compromises. Of Quake s three great achievements, the single-player game is easily the weakest. It s not a terrible game or anything, but where Doom still stands up as a great campaign full of detail and wonderful design despite its simplicity, Quake is a largely bland and joyless experience whose memorable moments were almost entirely restricted to the first shareware episode. They were pretty cool, though. A main menu in the form of a 3D level, with each chapter s area themed around the aesthetic to follow, forcing you to jump a lava pit to select hard mode and seek out the Nightmare mode in the small level beyond. Big baddie Chthon, hurling fire in his lava lair. The first time having your face eaten off by a Fiend. The low-gravity physics of the secret level, Ziggaurat Vertigo. They re effective, as was the experience of being in a fast-paced 3D world full of action.
Players hoping for a constant stream of such innovation were disappointed. Despite the Lovecraftian influences, there was little to fear or any sense of anything great going on. There were no more giant, dramatic bosses, with the final one, Shub-Niggerauth, just being a static blob defeated with a cheap telefrag rather than a weapon. There was little sense of place. The levels were murky shooting galleries, where even Doom had tried to make its locations feel like real locations to whatever degree of real you can get from starbases slowly being taken over by biotechnology. Certainly players just coming in from Duke Nukem 3D and its real-world settings and constant variety couldn t help but be disappointed, even if Quake has honestly aged much better. It s still dull, but at least unlike Duke it s not writing cheques its engine long stopped being able to cash, and much easier to take as a simple shooter rather than a bigger Experience.
The main problem was that after years of promises and expectation, to have a game that was basically Doom again only set in a castle was something of a letdown both internally and externally. All the RPG features, most planned new gameplay concepts, even the idea of a main character wielding a hammer, had been sucked out, mostly to get the thing out of the door. This led to a major schism within id. John Romero packed his bags to go start Ion Storm and create the more narrative/detail driven game that he wanted to make. (In a case of history repeating, his co-founder Tom Hall had done much the same over the original Doom, which he d also envisioned as being much more of a story-driven experience than the shooter it ended up being.)
Luckily, multiplayer was a whole other matter. Here, the stripped down simplicity and full 3D allowed for fantastic arena design in genuinely atmospheric levels full of cubby-holes to camp and launch assaults from, and even the occasional gimmick, like hitting a button to slide back a level s floor and drop unwary players into a pool of lava. It felt great. The weapons had real kick. Gibbing other players was a pleasure.
Outside the game, it helped that by 1996 online play was finally becoming viable for PC gamers across the world. While Doom had spawned a huge scene in its day, getting online in 1993 was a pipe dream for most players outside of universities. At home, gamers were lucky to have a null-modem cable to connect two PCs together, never mind enjoy the fun of epic LAN parties. Of course those who could got to enjoy a truly wonderful experience.
And so, people played Quake, and saw that Quake was good. The rocket jump alone took Quake to a whole new level. This wasn t an id invention, but a discovery by fans, so of course the maps hadn t been designed to handle it. The result? One of the net s first famous speed-runs , in which the whole game was obliterated in under twenty minutes with tricks like bunny-hopping to raise incredible speed, and rockets to hop through what were meant to be tantalising doors only intended to be accessed after collecting a key or going all around the houses.
Playing fairly or not, the raw sense of place and weight that 3D offered soon made the fakery of 2.5D untenable. It became impossible to ignore that sprites were just two-dimensional, and that when killed, their collapse was a totally canned animation rather than reacting properly to physics (though it wouldn t be until Half-Life that games took the next step and made it standard to give characters skeletons instead of keyframed animation, ushering in the still ongoing ragdoll comedy era).
What all of Quake s technology really empowered though was its community. It was the first game-as-platform, made possible by not just by the 3D engine, but Carmack including an interpreted language called QuakeC that allowed modders to do more than simply create their own levels and make the monsters look like Bart Simpson. They could completely bend the engine to their wishes.
And the modding community ran with this. When you bought Quake, you were buying into a whole universe of content online. Initially this was limited to simple-but-cool additions, like giving the player a grappling hook to scale and swing around levels in ways that had been impossible with previous 2D engines. Experiments gave way to full total conversions like , which swapped the players out for vehicles and turned deathmatch into a 3D vehicle combat game. Others proved that the sky wasn t close to being the limit. A little game called Team Fortress, for example, began as a Quake mod, launching with the Scout, Sniper, Soldier, Demoman and Medic classes and building from there.
The ability to create stages, have polygonal characters, and have multiple people control them in scenes also spawned machinima filmmaking. Quake s early examples of machinima may be the of the genre by modern standards, with celebrated stuff like and now looking somewhat yeah... in the era of Red vs. Blue and Source Filmmaker and whatever the hell people are doing to the Overwatch girls today. At the time though, they were often very impressive, especially when run live in-engine, and did pave the way for something new.
Much as the Doom mapping community still puts out new levels, Quake still has a modding scene. This month sees the release of . Last month, joined the fray. Also, Carmack open sourced Quake s code in 1999, coders have been able to completely overhaul the old engine and bring it much more in line with modern standards. offers real-time rendering of light and shadow, and likely Quake as you remember it looking if you haven t played it for a while, while others, like focus more on accuracy.
One of many flowcharts mapping the history of Carmack's code, via Wikipedia. Click for full size.
No game since has managed to replicate Quake s spectacular level of success as a canvas for modding. Others have impressive modding communities, for sure, but not the same scale. With Quake, anything seemed possible as long as it didn t take too many polygons. Games like Second Life tried to replicate the phenomenon online, and of course, now would-be programmers can get their hands on the likes of Source and Unity and Game Maker for free or almost free, rendering modding less important at least for making total conversions or a wholly new game out of the bones of the old.
However long it lasted, the Quake era was important kickstarting many an industry career, as well as providing the kind of playtime that most games can only dream of supplying. Some mods even got a commercial release, though not necessarily fondly remembered ones. , anybody? The answer, in case you re wondering, is hell no .
Finally, the Quake story became weird. After two official expansions (Scourge of Armagon, aka The One Without The Dragon In It , and Dissolution of Eternity, aka The One WITH The Dragon In It ), id disappeared for a while and released Quake 2 as a single-player focused SF shooter in which you played a space marine fighting the unfortunately named Strogg. It was not very good. At all. Its main contribution to the world was, along with Unreal, teaming up with 3D accelerators to splash coloured lightning around the world whether it liked it or not. Then Quake 3 ditched all of that for a futuristic arena shooter starring characters like a giant cyborg eye before Raven s Quake 4 went back to the Strogg nonsense for another single-player focused game.
With the newly announced , it seems clear a new Quake game is no guarantee of a particular story or style, but rather a way for id to make use of owning the name. Despite that, close your eyes and picture Quake . What comes to mind isn t just another game to be ticked off as completed, nor a technical achievement to be respected, but that rare game that blew past its limits. Quake lives on to some extent in just about every shooter that followed it, and made gaming a better, more advanced, and endlessly more exciting place for its existence.
Twenty years ago today, id Software released Quake. Following a multiplayer test that gave the world a first glimpse of the studio s new, cutting edge 3d engine, the full game arrived on June 22, 1996. Its bizarre mash-up of medieval architecture and crunchy, industrial weaponry didn t run through the sequels, which have focused on both singleplayer and multiplayer combat, and there hasn’t been anything else quite like it in the two decades since release.
Arena-based Quake is set for a revival with the recently announced Quake Champions, but here, we remember the original. Happy twentieth, Quake.>
Happy anniversary, Quake! 20 years ago, you brought 3D gaming and online deathmatch to the masses and built on Doom's modding legacy. PC gaming would never be the same, though we didn't quite know what ramifications Quake would have at the time. Two decades ago, it was just the next hotly anticipated game from the masters of Doom. To relive those simpler times, we've pulled together some old articles about Quake's development, written between 1995 and 1997.
Below we've embedded a few magazine articles pulled from the archives of PC Gamer US and UK. The first offers a glimpse at Quake before it was truly Quake a behind-the-scenes cover story that spends a little time talking about Quake's medieval setting and its total lack of a story. Says id's Jay Wilbur, story is "the last thing we do during the development process." More time is spent going ga-ga over John Carmack's new 3D engine and talking about network play and modding.
The second is a similar on-location feature from just days before Quake launched, written by former editor-in-chief Gary Whitta. We didn't have this issue on-hand for a scan, but some archivists took it upon themselves to put this article online themselves.
The last article is actually about Quake 2, but it's still a great read on the anniversary of Quake's release. It touches on the disappointment of Quake's singleplayer, and has some juicy quotes from Carmack about Romero's departure from id to form Ion Storm in the wake of Quake. Said the young Carmack:
"Quake was a really hard time for id Software as a company. It was such a design abortion: we went through a lot of different bad designs and directions. Really quite early on in Quake's development, I came to the decision to place everything in Romero's hands because I wanted one point of responsibility there. It's okay for someone who's a millionaire not to work if he doesn't want to, but it's not okay for the rest of the people in the company to have someone like that there. We had used him specifically as a figurehead for the press, and that all worked out well, but, you know, it does get to a point where it's a case of believing your own press."