It was twenty years ago today, that Quake shook the world to its foundations. The new game from id Software hits with the force of an atomic bomb. In an era dominated by 2.5D worlds, optical illusions and sprites, Quake starts a revolution. John Carmack's Quake engine is able to achieve full 3D worlds. In addition, enemies are no longer sprites, but real models made up of polygons. Even the nails of the nailgun, the grenades of the grenade launcher and the rockets from the rocket launcher are 3D objects. It’s an experience that the world has never seen before. It’s a technological leap forward that will change the game industry forever.
Back then, the first video cards, called 3D accelerators, started to appear. The OpenGL version of Quake boosted sales of video cards like the 3Dfx Voodoo. But the game did more than just accelerate hardware innovation. Quake added client / server support for online play and QuakeWorld introduced the first server browser. Both techniques are still applied today. The game also made mouse-look become a standard in PC games. Team Fortress and Capture the Flag were born in Quake's mod scene. The same applies for competitive play, multiplayer clans and eSports. In the Red Annihilation Quake Tournament Dennis "Thresh" Fong won John Carmack’s Ferrari. Quake innovated in so many ways, that the game industry could never have advanced as quickly without it.
Quake's legacy is best seen in the games that used its technology. Half-Life was created using the Quake engine. Valve made a lot of changes to the engine and eventually renamed it to GoldSrc. It’s successor, simply called Source, still contains code that was used in Quake. That means that popular games like Counter Strike: Global Offensive and DOTA 2, have Quake in their DNA. The code is so well written that Jay Stelly from Valve said that it still "works fine" today. Id Software improved the engine up to Quake 3, so the influence of the original can be felt in classics like Hexen, Soldier of Fortune, Jedi Outcast, Medal of Honor and even the Call of Duty series.
It is hard to imagine that something this special was made in just seven months and without a design document. John Carmack bit off more than he could chew. The development of the engine took much longer than expected. Because technical aspects kept changing for an entire year, most of the work that was done, had to be discarded after each change. When the engine was finally completed, the team only had a couple of maps with some art ready. The original vision for Quake would take up too much time to fully develop. Therefore, id Software decided to throw everything together and make a game based on Doom. The final version of Quake was a mix of ideas and content. You could call it an "accident". This decision divided the team and led to the departure of John Romero.
Initially Quake would have been an RPG. The game was based on a Dungeons & Dragons campaign which the team played in their free time. The protagonist was called Quake and he had a powerful hammer as a weapon. The player was free to explore the world, which was strongly influenced by the stories of the American writer HP Lovecraft. Many of those ideas, never made it into the game. But this troubled development is what made Quake unique. You have sci-fi environments filled with dogs and soldiers using laser weapons. But you also face knights with swords. You fight with an axe or shotgun in huge castles filled with Lovecraft-like monsters while the ominous soundtrack by Nine Inch Nails slowly pulls you into this strange and dark world.
You would almost forget that Quake also had a lively multiplayer. You dialed in with your primitive 56.6K modem to end up on someone’s laggy server, while occupying your telephone for the entire duration. You were bunny hopping and rocket jumping through the first deathmatch levels. Together with your clan or alone in a hectic free-for-all session. Until your parents were fed up and pulled the plug out of the modem. Avid players did everything to be competitive. It was a time when WASD controls became standard. The earlier mentioned Dennis 'Tresh' Fong went on to become the first pro gamer, all thanks to Quake’s multiplayer.
Most modern games have a short lifespan. Publishers close the servers because players have moved on to something else. Developers more often than not, don’t support self-made content anymore. Games are consumed and quickly forgotten. Quake on the other hand, seems to live on forever. Not only in terms of influence, but the mod scene is still alive and kicking. There are countless Source Ports (modified versions of the original engine) offering new and modern features. The website Quaddicted has developed a tool called Quake Injector, which lets you quickly find, download and play additional maps and mods. Quake’s multiplayer has faded to the background due to the arrival of Quake 3 and Quake Live. But to this day, the Func_Msgboard community, still releases amazing singleplayer maps and mods on a regular basis.
However, the ultimate declaration of Quake love is the Arcane Dimensions mod. People tend to go for higher resolution texture packs or a Source Port that adds a lot of gimmicky features. Arcane Dimensions however, returns to the roots and keeps the essence of Quake. It adds a lot of new stuff, but none of it detracts from the original game. It’s the use of modern level design techniques that elevates the world of Quake to new heights. The result of this hard work, can be seen in the Arcane Dimensions images I’ve used for this article. It is hard to imagine that this visually impressive and immersive world is made with mostly twenty year old technology. But at the same time this underlines the strength of Quake. So you see, when a game is embraced by love it lives on forever.