Thursday, July 18, 2013

Classic Mac Games - Quake by id Software

This is the first in a new series of posts that I will be focusing on gaming on the Mac platform, which has been largely ignored by a number of gaming blogs and publications.

And this is surprising, considering the ease of setup that a Mac affords, against the heaps of loops that one has to go through to setup a PC rig just for gaming. And I would like to kick off this series with one of the most influential games of all time.

Back in 1996, 3D games were still very much in its infancy, and id Software was largely behind the 3D revolution when they first launched Wolfenstein 3D in 1992, and then Doom in 1994.

Still, up to that point, there was no single game that had complete 3D movement and rendering, and despite the advances made by id's games, they still used sprites for characters and objects. At the same time, Nintendo was about to launch the N64, and with it, their launch title Super Mario 64.

1996 will stand as one of the most signifcant years in videogaming history, largely due to Quake and Super Mario 64. For they were both not only launched at around the same time, they were more importantly, the first two games to be fully totally rendered in 3D, from environments to characters and objects.

Beyond that, they were also the first two commercially successful games to utilize a totally immersive 360 degree movement feature in both games. The N64 accomplished that by having an analog joystick in its controller, and Quake accomplished the same by making use of the mouse with its "mouselook" feature.

Total 3D

Quake would stand out more by pioneering a number of influential features and aspects that still resonate till this day. While the gameplay was simply a rehash of Doom and Wolf3D, ie. shoot everything that moves, get to the exit and on to the next level etc., the fundamentals of FPS laid out by Doom and Wolf3D would finally mature here and set a standard template for future FPS games after Quake.

The combination of keyboard and mouse for movement and look respectively, meant that for the first time, a FPS was not restricted to a single plane of vision, but you could look up and around and have levels with various degrees of height and depth. This was a true revelation in more ways than one.

Designers could now place enemies and monsters above and below the protagonist, making it even more dramatic and exciting as you move through a level. And the levels themselves were far more elaborate in their construction and architecture than ever before.

Fully Fleshed 3D Characters

Speaking of architecture, Quake was a surreal mix of fantasy and sci-fi, where the thinly veiled plot consisted of the hero going through slipgates to alien environments to defeat monsters and such. It was a beautiful mix of medieval styled architecture that had Gothic and Lovecraft combined.

And what made this so effective was the lighting and lightmaps that were way ahead of any game at that time. It allowed the level designers to build maps that allowed enemies to hide in darkened corners and just gave everything in Quake a tension that still terrifies players till this day.

And the enemies themselves were a really creative mix of grunts and ogres, and new and exciting monsters like the Fiend and the Shambler which have now become lore in videogaming.

As for the gameplay itself, Quake was and still isl, one of the best designed FPS games out there. Each level in the 4 episodes was perfectly crafted, where it felt neither too huge or too constraint. Every enemy is well placed and the pacing of the game has been tuned to ultimate perfection. If only more games today are as well designed as this.

Kudos to John Romero, American Mcgee, Sandy Peterson and Tim Wilits for their wonderful work, and to Adrian Carmack and Kevin Cloud for the incredible graphic design. Everything came together and unfortunately, this would be the last time this amazing team would work together. Romero and Tom Hall would leave id after the release of Quake to form their own gaming company, Ion Storm, and things would never reach the same level after this.

Beautiful Level Design and Lighting

The single player campaign had nearly 30 levels, including several secret levels. The final level itself was a really original climax, and I will not spoil it by revealing how it ends, only to say you have to play it to enjoy the ending. Truly satisfying in a different way.

The other aspect that was even more influential was its multiplayer feature. Deathmatch had existed in Doom, but was mainly restricted to LAN (Local Area Network) playing, but Quake was released at a time when the Internet was about to take off, and it took full advantage of that.

Quake incorporated the ability to play with anyone over TCP/IP, which meant you could frag anyone in the world, as long as you have the IP address. This meant that players around the world could come together and have a fragfest.

The gameplay in multiplayer was, and still is a blast. It is fast, furious and incredibly fun. Even modern FPS shooters lack that push rush of adrenalin that you get from playing Quake online. It is simply that good.

The other important element that applies to both the single and multiplayer games is that Quake has that perfect balance of weapons loadout. Weapons range from shotguns to nailguns to electric shocks to rocket launchers. Each of this has its own strengths and weakness, and mastering them was essential to being good at deathmatches.

Contract Revoked - A User Created Mod

Another factor that made Quake so lasting is the user mod community. id's John Carmack allowed players and users to make their own maps and texture packs for the game, effectively allowing the new missions of Quake to be built by the players themselves.

Quake was the first game to ignite a social element in videogaming, and this was way before Facebook and Zynga got into the fray. And with the aid of the web, users could freely distribute their mission packs or maps easily and quickly to an eager base of fans.

In fact, Quake's source code that was developed by John Carmack is still used in underlying engines that power modern FPS today, including the Call of Duty series. Sometimes, I wished Carmack would work for Microsoft to sort out the coding mess that is Windows. He is truly, a legendary coder and programmer.

As a testament to the lasting quality of Quake, today, 17 years after the release of the game, there are still websites and communities dedicated to publishing and distributing new mods of Quake, and some of them are as good as commercially released ones.

In fact, it was due to this mod community that a number of game designers got their start from, and many have actually found actual jobs in the videogaming industry.

Typical Quake Action and Mayhem

As for Quake today, it is still available via Steam for digital download, and is playable across multiple platforms today, including Mac, PC and Linux. There is even a browser based version of the game somewhere.

For Mac users, there are really a ton of options to play Quake. You will need to get a retail copy of the original Quake files, and if you own the original CD, that will suffice. If you do not, you can get a copy of Quake through steam using its original client and that will work fine.

If you want to enjoy Quake to its fullest, I highly recommend you download one of the more recent Quake engines to run it as a front end as they will give you modern effects and shaders that will make Quake look even better than it original release.

A Fiend Taking on a Zombie

I see it as similar to a DVD/Blu-Ray restoration kind of work when you play with one of these modern engines. The graphics look super sharp and graphical glitches are fixed and will look super crisp on modern displays at HD resolutions.

My favorite engine is Quakespasm as it gets the graphics looking sharp but still retains the faithful look and feel of the original Quake. There are others like Fitzquake and Darkplaces that will do the job just as well. All these have Mac compatibility so Mac users will no issue playing Quake today.

Quake was one of my favorite games in the 90s, and playing it today, I can see why this was so. It is still one of my favorites of all time, and as a game, the impact and legacy Quake has over the entire gaming industry can never be denied.

Quake was released with a lot of expectations and hype during its time. Nearly two decades later, it has more than lived up to all those expectations. And then some.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)