Last month, Doom rebooted a franchise that was over twenty years old and it was met with predominantly positive praise. I was personally happy to see how the game managed to retain the captivating and frantic gunplay of the original - which made me think of another id Software title that had an overwhelming influence on me as a teenager in the mid-nineties, Quake.
Quake was revolutionary to the first person genre. It was in no means the first 3d shooter, that honour goes to Magic Carpet, or perhaps Descent. And id Software’s previous title Doom, released in 1993, only featured 3d environments or maps. Every character was a flat 2d sprite that rotated on the spot. Quake gave us animated, fully 3d models - although the human models had no neck and wore incredibly rectangular pants.
Quake’s radiant lighting engine and model optimisation opened up a lot of doors to what could be achieved on everyday hardware. My first PC, a whopping 75 MHz Pentium, allowed me to play Quake with a glorious resolution of 320x240 pixels. As Quake evolved and improved its 3d capabilities, it was responsible for huge leaps in hardware progress as 3d graphics card manufacturers like nVidia competed against each other to be associated with id Software’s games.
Quake was also responsible for a lot of gaming conventions that we take for granted today, ideas like: client/server online play, the modding community, multiplayer clans, server browsers, eSports, and mouse-look as the PC control standard. It was also one of the first multiplayer games I ever played, using my trusty 36.6Kb modem complete with the eye-watering dial-up noises that only older readers will remember.
Quake continues to have an effect on today’s gaming world. There are bits of the original Quake code still around in games today - in fact, id Software and Epic's Unreal engine are behind most first-person shooters, including the Call of Duty Modern Warfare series. Many amateur coders and map builders in the modding community back in the 90s, inspired by games like Quake, have gone on to become professional game developers. To recognise just how much the game helped the gaming industry, id Software was honoured at the 59th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards for the pioneering work Quake represented in user modifiable games.
At the time, when I was a teenage mushroom sitting in front of my awesome Pentium, I had no idea just how industry changing Quake would be. Instead I was enthralled by a whole new world that was brought to blocky, pixelated life in front of my pubescent senses. The music alone appealed to my teenage angst - with the Quake soundtrack written and performed by Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails, just as they were finding early success with their album The Downward Spiral.
A lot of people didn’t realise either, that the CD that Quake came on, actually doubled as a proper music CD which could be played on any traditional sound system. With the right patch to allow you to not need the game CD in your PC while playing the game, you could then put any music CD in and the game would play that instead of the Nine Inch Nails soundtrack. I’m ashamed to say that I experienced the game a couple of times with Alanis Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill as the backing track. There’s nothing quite like running around with a nail gun listening to Ironic.
What I should have been listening to was the industrial-meets-electronic instrumental riffs from an early Trent Reznor that perfectly complimented the art direction of the game. Quake was dark and gothic with medieval architecture and H.P. Lovecraft themes. Doom creator John Romero, also pivotal in the development of Quake, had mastered the art of building dark, unearthly atmospheric settings - and the fully-realised 3d engine brought this nightmarish world to a whole new level.
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