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  • Success can be its own burden.

  • Id had struck a home run and became the champions of PC gaming.

  • With nothing to play for - and everything to lose: it was time for their next game to

  • step up to the plate.

  • And, in spite of all the pressure - they still came out swinging.

  • Quake eclipsed the competition - and was the final nail in the coffin for the so-called

  • 'Doom clones'.

  • No longer were such games mere imitators - but instead an entirely new genre.

  • The first person shooter was born.

  • So: how did rapidly changing technology - and the stresses of high expectations - affect

  • Quake's development?

  • What made its well-honed combat and intuitive level design perfect for competitive play?

  • And which of its achievements for PC gaming define its legacy?

  • Doom was a runaway success - and the start of a golden era of PC gaming.

  • Id had outdone themselves.

  • However, such a massive accomplishment casts a shadow - and now they had a new mountain

  • to climb.

  • PC hardware was evolving rapidly: every year machines had faster processors, bigger hard

  • drives and more RAM.

  • CD-ROM drives became the standard, and games were no longer constrained by the paltry storage

  • floppy disks afforded.

  • Another game-changing development was the advent of 3D acceleration: with dedicated

  • GPU assistance, polygonal graphics could finally shed their clunky reputation.

  • In order to take full advantage of these developments - and to remain ahead of the competition - Id

  • needed a new engine.

  • This time, everything would be 3D: polygons in place of sprites; fewer restrictions on

  • level architecture;

  • Fast enough to work on the most basic Pentium; sufficiently future-proof to excel with a

  • new wave of GPUs.

  • It wasn't going to be easy - but if anyone could do it, John Carmack could.

  • While the new tech was underway, the remainder of the Id team were left hamstrung.

  • Without a solid foundation to build on, all that remained were nebulous ideas.

  • Quake's concept pre-dates Doom, even Wolfenstein - it was originally teased in Commander Keen

  • as 'Quake: The Fight for Justice'.

  • Keen to keep the gameplay innovative, they hoped to shed Doom's straightforward shooting

  • action for a different blend of magic and melee.

  • 'Quake' was supposed to be the name of the main character, a hammer-wielding hero taken

  • directly from Id's Dungeons and Dragons sessions.

  • Inspired by Thor, and drawn from Nordic legend: hammers, runes and tales of mighty mythological

  • heroes.

  • However - like Doom, Quake would be composed of a melange of themes.

  • With an increased focus on character and storytelling, Quake and his ground-shaking hammer were intended

  • to embark on a trans-dimensional RPG set across a variety of fantasy worlds.

  • Some elements would be retained from Doom: science fiction, fantasy, and satanic imagery

  • - but new, darker and grittier elements would be added into the mix.

  • Disparate themes married together with slipgates - teleporters that traverse space and time.

  • A convenient handwave that links levels without the need for explanation or interstitial narrative.

  • The injection of new blood at Id brought fresh ideas, and some relief from the stressful

  • pace of work.

  • Two key hires joined late during Doom development: American McGee, a young level designer filling

  • the role of a largely absent John Romero; and industry veteran Sandy Petersen.

  • Petersen's influence on Quake would be quite profound: as a massive fan of H.P. Lovecraft,

  • he was the driving force behind the most resonant theme of the game.

  • Lovecraft's work is romantic: penned in flowery, ornate prose - but the subjects of his affection

  • stand in stark juxtaposition.

  • Knowledge not supposed to be known:

  • Sights better left unseen.

  • The Cthulu mythos inspires a daunting sense of cosmic horror: an instinctual fear of something

  • lurking in grand darkness; an incomprehensible being from another existential plane.

  • Altogether, the perfect basis for horror.

  • These themes of foreboding are the glue which held Quake's story together: a journey across

  • dimensions in search of magical runes to banish an ancient evil.

  • Unlike Lovecraft, there are no spiralling words to tell this story: in typical Id fashion,

  • the gameplay and environment whisper the lore quietly.

  • The vaulted ceilings and twisted corridors of Quake are like dreams of a bygone time:

  • fantasy castles merged with dark factories, saturated with dread.

  • The level geometry is unfettered compared to Doom's two-and-a-half dimensional rooms

  • - with suspended elements and ornate filigree - but strict polygon limits give Quake's world

  • an abstract feel: a strange primitive dimension of wrought iron, wood and stone.

  • If Doom was Thrash Metal, Quake was somewhere between Grunge and Post-Industrial: gritty,

  • dark and dripping with atmosphere.

  • Nine Inch Nails' front-man Trent Reznor was a big fan of Doom, and he, along with his

  • band, were brought on to assist with the creation of sound assets.

  • Originally, there was no music planned: instead a reliance on environmental sound to set the

  • ambiance.

  • However, Trent insisted - resulting in Quake's distinctive soundtrack: brooding ambient sounds

  • overlaid with digitally distorted guitars, screams and amelodic noise.

  • A collaboration celebrated with the inclusion of a Nine Inch Nails logo on ammo pickups.

  • The aesthetic imparted by sound is mirrored by vision: Quake's levels are dismal places.

  • The textures are worn, corroded, dirty: unfriendly places that set the player ill at ease.

  • While they might draw from a wide range of themes: metallic sci-fi plates, gothic grotesques

  • and ancient stone, they mesh together with a common grit: helped by the unfiltered low-resolution

  • textures and relatively narrow range of colours.

  • Quake's palette is designed with its tone in mind: a range of dark shades in naturalistic

  • hues: muddy greens, blues, coppers - and brown.

  • While these shades were selected to make the most of a limited 256 colour palette, muted

  • 'realistic' tones were a major trend in later FPS - even once colour depth restrictions

  • were no longer a factor.

  • Often a deliberate design decision, the careful use of colour can make for a more closely

  • composited scene: and can impart a unique feeling to a game's atmosphere.

  • Although often cited as the muddy origin of gaming's brown monotony, Quake's levels are

  • more diverse than they're given credit for.

  • A blend of old and new: like its music, the visual themes of Quake are equal parts harmony

  • and discord.

  • The same could be said for Id software themselves: while there's no doubt that Romero and Carmack

  • were capable of great things together, the cracks were beginning to show.

  • Design work wasted as technical goalposts shifted: an entire set of Aztec textures thrown

  • out - ironically enough for being too brown - and compromises began to creep in.

  • With time running out, the innovative take on magic and melee was starting to veer towards

  • the safe harbour of Doom's shooting action - much to Romero's chagrin.

  • With every year that passed, Doom's imitators were starting to innovate.

  • A technology demo for Quake emerged in February, 1996 - QTest, the first glimpse of the new

  • game - and a sample of its frantic multiplayer action.

  • Mere months left until release - a frantic rush to piece together a finished game: the

  • final push of a painful gestation.

  • The wolves were at the door: the prize? Id's crown.

  • Quake had better be good.

  • The opening chamber offers as warm a welcome as you should expect from Quake: its oppressive

  • walls split into three pathways, offering the player a simple choice:

  • How hard do you want it?

  • Sadly, the creatively-named difficulties of Doom are gone in favour of Easy; Normal and

  • Hard - although there is a secret entrance to the rather fiendish Nightmare difficulty.

  • In a similar fashion to Doom and Wolfenstein, Quake is split into four separate episodes:

  • sets of several levels thematically linked and culminating in the collection of a rune.

  • The magic of all four are required to face the final evil: but you are free to tackle

  • each in whatever order you choose.

  • The Dimension of the Doomed is intended as an introductory experience, containing a mixed

  • bag of levels and is the portion allotted for the shareware release of the game.

  • Things get more medieval in The Realm of Black Magic, as its sci-fi opener gives way to ancient

  • castles and waterlogged wizardly realms.

  • Darker still is The Netherworld, an abutment to Hell abundant with lava: its metal walls

  • warm to the touch, but the reception much cooler.

  • The Elder World is where Lovecraft's influence shines brightest: twisted palaces of pain,

  • punishing with their wicked traps and sprawling maze-like layout.

  • A deck of four suits stacked with misery - the way you deal with them is up to you.

  • The gameplay itself should be instantly familiar to anybody who's played Doom before: you spawn

  • gun in-hand, with a level chock full of bad guys before you:

  • Kill 'em all and get out alive. A simple plan, really.

  • They had perfected a formula - one that is repeated often today.

  • While Quake's failure to meet all its design goals is disappointing, the chance to build

  • on what made Doom great helped to refine the genre: providing a firm foundation for future

  • FPS.

  • Id were caught in the wake of their own creation - they didn't want to repeat the same beats

  • as Doom, but given its success - and the hype for a follow-up - defying expectations would

  • have been a dangerous move.

  • A fan favourite that saw a return from Doom was the shotgun, alongside the double-barreled

  • variant.

  • While an odd fit for medieval combat, Doom's former totems of power would be sorely missed

  • if absent - and so it transpires: a twin-barreled transplant across space and time.

  • The shotgun replaces the erstwhile pistol as the player's default weapon, and the double-barreled

  • variant provides more firepower once discovered.

  • Like with Doom, they are the workhorses of the game's combat - effective at close range,

  • with abundant ammunition - and relatively forgiving when it comes to aim.

  • One key difference is their power: Doom's shotgun - and particularly the super shotgun

  • - could tear through groups with ease, but the pace of combat in Quake is a little slower.

  • Enemies are tougher, with even common types able to weather a few shots: and as a result,

  • the shotguns aren't nearly as satisfying to use as their former incarnation.

  • Part of the reason for this is the shift from sprite-based enemies to fully polygonal ones:

  • while the jump to 3D was important from a technical perspective, it did impose some

  • harsher entity limits.

  • Doom often had you facing off against hordes of ten or more opponents - in Quake, it's

  • rare to see more than five.

  • With enemies taking more damage, the combat dynamic shifts: instead of focussing on dodging

  • projectiles while quickly eliminating close enemies, instead you must prioritise targets

  • and draw them into a favourable position: kiting the fastest, most dangerous enemies

  • away from others in order to safely eliminate them.

  • Controlling your distance from your opponent is the key to success - and failure to do

  • so properly leads to rapid punishment.

  • Most enemies are capable of powerful melee attacks, meaning that getting too close is

  • dangerous: getting trapped in a corner can mean being torn to shreds.

  • Whether it's a sword, chainsaw or sharpened claws: there is always a very strong incentive

  • to keep out of arm's reach.

  • The player's melee option is rather weak by comparison: the legendary earth-shaking hammer

  • from the design documents transformed into a gun-butt melee attack in early versions,