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'Quake': Looking Back At The Legacy Of Id Software's First Online Shooter

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Trying to follow up on Doom must have been a nightmare.

The team over at id Software had changed gaming forever. Doom cemented the first-person shooter as a staple of the gaming industry while simultaneously popularizing the PC as a full-blown gaming platform. Simply put, Doom changed video games forever — and its influence is still felt to this day, even decades after its release.

Doom II hit store shelves, and was also labeled a massive success ... even if it was generally regarded as more of the same. Shortly thereafter, id Software decided that it was time to craft something new, something removed from the classical science fiction of its other games. To do this, id Software tapped into an idea from the days of Commander Keen's development — something about a character named "Quake."

From there, the game that would eventually be known as Quake began to take shape. A number of changes in the industry would affect the game's development, as would changes within id Software itself. It wasn't easy making a follow-up to one of the greatest games ever created — but somehow, id Software would find a way to fundamentally change the first-person shooter genre a second time.

... of course, it wouldn't be easy.

In many ways, creating Quake was a nightmare. The game's development cycle was anything but smooth, and though Doom had undergone a number of changes throughout its development (including a possible licensing deal with the Alien franchise), they were nothing compared with what Quake and its developers would have to deal.

Right off the bat, id Software had envisioned a game with more of a focus on melee combat and magical spells. Quake was to be a drastic departure from Doom's satanic take on science fiction, but as development continued, the magic and melee combo would be replaced with shooting akin to id Software's prior successes. Gameplay wasn't the only thing that changed, either: everything, from the weapons to the characters to the environments themselves, would either change or end up on the cutting-room floor.

In the end, Quake's single-player campaign would fall short. The game's similarities to Doom didn't do it any favors, and the combination of less-powerful weaponry and an overall slower pace ended up making the campaign feel like a slog. It wasn't terrible — far from it — but the fact that Quake II ditched the first game's story and setting is telling.

Over the years, gamers have largely forgotten about Quake's single-player mode ... but it's hard to ignore the effects of the game's engine.

Dubbed the Quake Engine, the shift to true 3D would be a landmark development for the industry. 3D-acceleration was quickly becoming a prominent part of PC gaming development, and a huge selling point when compared with the limited 3D capabilities of home consoles at the time. John Carmack, one of the core designers of the original Doom, wrote most of the engine's code himself — and it would take a full year's worth of programming before work on the game itself could begin.

The work was worth it. Quake quickly became the poster child for fully-3D graphics: the expanded level design introduced new gameplay mechanics such as jumping (which was a big deal back then), and the graphics annihilated anything that Nintendo or Sega's hardware could produce. As time went on, the Quake Engine and its successor would come to power dozens of different games — and a modified version of the engine known as "GoldSource" even helped a small developer known as Valve Corporation get off the ground.

Needless to say, Quake's shift to fully-3D graphics changed the course of the industry — but that was only the beginning.

It is impossible to understate Quake's influence on modern multiplayer gaming.

The term "arena shooter" owes its origin's to id Software, and Quake kick-started an era of high-speed, high-damage multiplayer that wouldn't subside until the original Halo: Combat Evolved launched on home consoles. Any sense of realism was thrown out the window, and it was glorious: matches played out at 120 mph, with rockets and lasers firing in every direction. Precision was key, and kills weren't always easy to come by — but landing that perfectly-timed rocket is a thrill that few other games could replicate at the time.

Quake's contributions to multiplayer gameplay were definitely important — but had id Software not programmed the game's engine with network play in mind, there's a chance that services like Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network wouldn't exist. Quake may not have been the first game to feature online Deathmatches, but it certainly popularized them. Back in 1996, games were still testing the waters of full 3D graphics — meanwhile, Quake was not only pushing the graphical envelope, but it brought its 3D engine online in a world of dial-up connections.

As a result, one of gaming's first modern communities began to emerge. Forums dedicated to strategies and player gatherings surfaced online, as well as hubs built around speedrunning and custom content. These sorts of features are typically taken for granted nowadays, but back in 1996, something like Quake's burgeoning community was almost unheard of and nonexistent.

Again, were it not for id Software and the Quake Engine's built-in network capabilities, online gaming may not have taken off. Considering how much of modern gaming is done with a high-speed internet connection, just about every kind of gamer owes Quake some gratitude — regardless of what types of games they play.

To be honest, Quake doesn't hold up quite as well as the other titles in id Software's library. The game's single-player campaign isn't nearly as interesting as Doom's, and the multiplayer suite can't really compare with that of modern multiplayer shooters.

That being said, Quake remains one of the most influential titles in gaming history. Without its advances in online gaming, the industry would be vastly different from the one we know today.

If you'd like to take a tour of gaming history, Quake and its sequels are available on Steam — otherwise, Quake Champions is scheduled for release sometime early next year.

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