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Quake: Fifteen Years of Influencing Video Game Design

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Posted June 22, 2011 - By Kevin Kelly


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Quake: Fifteen Years of Video Game Design Influence

Quake wasn't exactly born 15 years ago, but it was released in final form to the public on June 22, 1996. In id's first game Commander Keen, a preview advertised a game featuring a thunderbolt-wielding character named Quake who would appear in a game called The Fight For Justice. It was meant to be a side-scrolling action RPG, but never saw the light of day. However, after Doom II came out, information touting id's next game called Quake promised medieval action, dragons, and a hammer-wielding main character.

Prior to final release, id Software released the game as a tech demo entitled QTest in early 1996, and Quake servers began appearing everywhere. As the demo let people check out the code and mod systems, it wasn't long before people dropped hacked monsters and modded player skins into the game. By now the game was beginning to look more like the sci-fi realm of Doom and less like a D&D realm... at least in the beginning areas. Traveling through Slipgates, your character journeyed into gothic, Lovecraftian arenas. Later sequels embraced the sci-fi setting, but Carmack himself recently stated that they might reboot Quake to the Cthulu setting.

Regardless, a few short months later, Quake emerged fully-formed, and changed the landscape of the video game industry.

Birthed from the minds of John Carmack, Michael Abrash and John Cash with level design by American McGee, John Romero Tim Willits, and Sandy Petersen, Quake quickly became an extremely popular game, and spawned two direct sequels (Quake III Arena and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars are multiplayer-focused). Ironically, the original game wasn't meant to have a follow-up, but another project in development wasn't able to secure the rights to a property they were trying to adapt, so the name reverted to the project's nickname: Quake II.

But before that, Quake itself had two Mission Packs that continued the story, which was later picked up by Quake II (and an additional two Mission Packs) and Quake 4. Quake 4 hints that the story may continue, but so far it hasn't. Hopefully we'll see another Quake title before too long that picks up where 4 left off, or else Carmack's reboot could breathe life back into the series. Heck, we're still waiting for word on Doom 4, so just mash up the Quake and Doom worlds together in a megagame and be done with it.

But what did Quake bring to the table? As it turns out, game geeks have a lot to thank it for. Read on to find out why.

Quake: Fifteen Years of Influencing Video Game Design

Clans and LANs

Quake helped bring player clans into the limelight, and gave rise to LAN parties where people would network their systems together and play games all day and night. That in turn gave birth to QuakeCon just a couple of months after the game originally came out, and grows larger every year. Quake also helped push the limits of PC technology, and had people scrambling to update their graphic cards constantly. Actually, maybe that's not a great thing, because if you've ever updated your graphics card continually, you know what a pain it can be. (But also what a joy when you first do it).

Half-Life

Without Quake you wouldn't have Half-Life. At least, not as it exists today. Released two years after Quake, Half-Life used a version of the Quake engine licensed by Valve Software. If you consider how much influence Half-Life in turn had over the video game industry, then we owe a huge debt of gratitude to Quake. And to the fact that id made the engine available for licensing. If that hadn't happened, then who knows what Half-Life would have looked like. While subsequent Half-Life games were made using Valve's own engine, Quake started that ball rolling.

Machinima

Quake Movies or "QMovies" were popular video files captured inside the world of Quake using the engine, and this actually gave rise to an entire subset of films, some of which became wildly popular. Films like Ranger Gone Bad and Blahbalicious were edited versions of Quake demos, while The Devil's Covenant and the four-hour long The Seal of Nehahra were shot in-game. These films gave rise to "machinima" or machine cinema as it came to be known. Go on and see if you can make through all 34 parts (!) of Nehahra, staring with the opening above.

Online Deathmatch and Unreal Tournament

Quake spawned the online deathmatch mode of play, resulting in billion upon billion of drops of spilled virtual blood and fragged bodies. This pushed Epic to created Unreal Tournament, which worked hard to make people think "Quake Who?" While the game finished just behind behind Quake III Arena in sales, it did push the genre to further popularity, and turned Unreal into a very popular franchise. So without Quake, Unreal Tournament may not exist. Or maybe it would, but in a less awesome fashion.

Female Playable Characters In Multiplayer

Long before it became popular for titles like Gears and Halo to add playable female character in multiplayer, Quake II was doing it by allowing you to customize your character, including switching to a female marine. That even changed the sounds your character would make in the game to female, and brought gender equality to killing way back in 1997.

Capture the Flag

Although Capture the Flag was present in games like 1994's Rise of the Triad from Apogee games, which later became 3D Realms (and which is supposedly getting rebooted), a mod by Threewave brought it to Quake, and helped boost it tremendously in popularity. In fact, it's nearly considered insane today to release a game without Capture the Flag in it. Quake and the popularity of their online gameplay helped make it a must-have.

Rocket Jumping and Strafe Jumping

Hate it or love it, Quake's strafe jumping was actually a bug in the source code, but they decided to leave it in when it proved to be popular. It might make people hate you, but it'll keep you alive. Horizontal rocket jumping appeared in Doom, but later games like Rise of the Triad and Bungie's Marathon gave rise to vertical rocket jumping. Quake improved on this, and rocket jumping soon became extremely popular in online deathmatches. Just please don't try it in real life.

There are numerous other contributions from Quake to the game industry, and we'll have to be thankful to it for a very long time. What are some of your favorite Quake memories? Happy 15th, Quake! You're still just a teenager! 

Quake: Fifteen Years of Influencing Video Game Design
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