"Hey, John, this 2.5D thing we've got going on for Doom is great and all, but we can do better, right?"
"Totally, John, we can add another 0.5D, I reckon."
"You mean we can get an actual 3D game going if we put the work in?"
"You bet, and it'd look great as another first-person shooter."
"That's a damn good idea there, John."
"Certainly is, John."
And that was how id Software got started on Quake...
When I got this PC of mine a few years back, I obviously had to test some of the standout games to see what this rig could even do. Not knowing a whole lot about PC gaming, I played it somewhat safe and started by chucking a load of Skyrim mods together, and that seemed to run pretty darn well. Convinced I had made the right choice, I fired up some old-school games which were, after all, going to be the majority of games I play on here. Quake was one of those titles to get a quick blast.
I have no history with Quake beyond that. I'd never played it before then, nor its sequels and spinoffs. The closest I got to playing Quake was playing Unreal Tournament on a PlayStation 2, and we all know how close that is to playing Quake (not very).
I knew of it, as a great many players probably do know of it, but I had simply not been around PCs when Quake unleashed itself upon gaming history, and given how monumental it was to that history, that needs to be rectified.
Let's ready our shotguns and prepare to enter the Slipgate.
It's hard to talk about Quake without going into the obviousness that is three whole complete dimensions of travel. Not a kind of 3D, but a full 3D. The limitations of the technology were well hidden in the Doom titles, as well as the likes of the Marathon trilogy, but the freedom now available to developers could be called a seismic shift.
Bridges. Tunnels. Rooms with simple elevation changes that can be used to shoot down upon foes as well as to hide beneath them. They sound so simple these days, don't they? But it's not just the fact that the worlds that players could traverse were more fleshed out and complex that makes Quake so good. There were key introductions elsewhere that would also come to utterly dominate PC gaming.
'+mlook' might sound like gobbledygook to people, but it is the console command that turned the mouse into the most useful pointing device in the Universe. Mouselook, or moving the mouse in order to move your viewpoint around the world, is everywhere these days, but there was a time when it was nowhere, and Quake marks the time where gamers and developers are seriously considering its usefulness.
I say considering because it's not yet a default control, nor is the longstanding practice of using WASD for movement, but again Quake gives the control customization options to players to make what they want of them, and with the right hand on the mouse to control the looking and shooting, the left hand would need to do something for movement.
Could it be next to the mouse, on the number pad? Would it be more natural where it can usually be found, hovering over the left side of the keyboard, around the SDF keys? Everyone had their own ideas and preferences, but when Dennis "Thresh" Fong beat the competition in a Quake deathmatch tournament for John Carmack's Ferrari (no, really) using a WASD-based control scheme, people started to really pick up on it.
What is Quake though? It's a first-person shooter set in a kind of Gothic, kind of Sci-Fi world full of knights, monsters, teleportation, rockets and smooth, fast-paced action. Want to bunny hop? You got it. Want to rocket jump? You got that too. Gotta go fast and hate to go slow? You can certainly do that too. Quake gives you so much over four episodes of action-heavy levels, complete with some light puzzles and plenty of secrets to find.
Get your settings down to your liking, in both mouse sensitivity and control setup, and you can be blasting your way through the enemy as though you were born with a keyboard and mouse. It's seriously responsive.
You know how some games just have it nailed down? Where everything feels so good? That's Quake. Quake feels right. Jumping feels right. Sprinting feels right. Shooting feels so, so right. It's satisfying. It's really quite satisfying.
But there is something that stands out even above the quality oozing from Quake.
Ooh, it's brown. Oh so very brown. We joke about how brown Call of Duty may be in places (which, incidentally, can trace some of its engine history back to Quake), but Quake is so skewed towards these earthly hues that you'll wonder how anybody saw past them in order to play the game in the first place.
Couple the look with a plot that is... pointless... and you really start to wonder if Quake is all that. Its episodic structure does nothing too new, nor does the vast array of weaponry on offer. Enemies come in familiar flavours and the game is, at its very core, point, shoot and move.
The game initially had a much larger scope, even heading towards more of a fantasy RPG, before the stresses of working on so much at once, coupled with creative differences, meant that Quake was essentially just shipped out the door in whatever state was manageable, with that state being a stripped down, 'average' first-person shooter.
If that were all we were judging Quake on, and we were particularly harsh towards it in general, then Quake could well be just 'the next logical step, but nothing to write home about'.
Thankfully, history sees it very differently.
With a number of difficulty levels to choose from and four episodes of content to dive into, Quake packs a punch before you even begin to think about multiplayer, both co-op and competitive (which is yet another milestone in gaming history that Quake can stake a key claim for).
Having no Quake doesn't mean we'd still be stuck in a time of faux-3D shooters, it just means we'd be living in a duller world. A browner one, if you will. Ironic, that. It'd also mean no Team Fortress, which started as a Quake mod, and even the Source engine that powers Valve games can be traced back to Quake, so it's pretty important, really, and should be celebrated by us all.
Novices can feel like Gods, and Gods can achieve things in Quake that the developers probably didn't envision anybody doing themselves. Speed running any game can be an art form, but strafe jumping your way through Quake can be insane.
If you're not a fan of first-person shooters, convincing you to try Quake is going to be tricky, especially if your first impressions are of shades of brown, but you simply owe it to yourselves to dive right in. Get it set up, stick mouselook on and have a blast. Have a shotgun equipped, giblet spilling blast with an absolute cornerstone of gaming.
Ammunition for the Nailgun is decorated with the logo for Nine Inch Nails, whose lead singer Trent Reznor voiced the main character and contributed to the soundtrack/ambient atmospheric backing of Quake, simply for being such a fan of Doom.
Quake, developed by id Software, first released in 1996.
Version played: MS-DOS, 1996, 2007, via emulation.