Thursday, 17 July 2014

Quake - recap (Happy birthday to bloggie)

Enter... It awaits you. The blood is a nice touch.

If I had to look back on the all games I've played, reviewed and seen over the years, the one I'd say that was the biggest influence on everything, is Quake. While I have reviewed it before, I feel that for the 1 year anniversary, I'd revisit it.

Gibs, not quite ludicrous however, that belongs to Rise of the Triad.

One word, "Quake", most of which is summarised just by that titular word. From Id software comes one of the biggest and most influential titles ever to grace the gaming world. Looking at it today, it's a brown coloured, ugly looking polygonal shooter without the need for reloading or fancy things like regenerating health. It's fast paced, it's dirty, it's brutal, it's Quake. Yes I know you shouldn't use a word to describe itself but it's still Quake and it's Quake to do so.

If the cyberdemon didn't teach you to strafe, this guy will.

At the bare bones, it's a first person shooter that went almost fully polygonal and is a massive step up from games like Doom and Duke Nukem 3D where we're using actual 3D maps and worlds to be created rather than the 5D Space of some engines of the 2D shooters. Plot wise it's about as basic as it gets, ID wasn't really known for enthralling in that regard. Mankind invents teleporters, something else hacks into teleports, monsters arrive, shit goes down, you're all that's left and now you're going to fix it. Basically it's DOOM but the monsters aren't quite demons... Even if some of them are based on the HP Lovecraft mythos.

Ogres... Why the chainsaw and grenades though?

The game is split into 4 chapters branching off from a main hub, each chapter consisting of multiple levels with a particular battle at the end. Though the game cheats out of this one, as chapter one has a boss that requires a specific puzzle to be solved to defeat them, the other levels feature no such other bosses, but rather battles against slightly tougher enemies than one would normally encounter or a run through a gauntlet of lots of enemies with little chance to recover or recuperate items and weapons.

It begins... after one enemy and a secret.

Quake runs a fairly standard affair regarding weaponry. You have an axe for when you're out of ammo or don't want to spend any ammo killing something. A shotgun that has little spread and acts more like a pistol/sniper with minor damage. Double barrel shotgun carried over from Doom2s days which stops most minor enemies but gets shrugged off by larger ones. A nail gun that acts like a projectile based machinegun, quad nail gun for even more nails being fire faster, a grenade launcher for those that like their explosives to bounce off walls and pull off trick shots with grenades that either explode when they hit an enemy or a few seconds after being fired. A rocket launcher for those that like grenades to be a lot more direct and finally the Lightning Gun that fires a short range stream of electricity and butchers most enemies in seconds. Hint: Do NOT use it underwater, or even near water, you won't survive unless invincible.... but then neither will anything else.

There's some very interesting architecture in this game. AND Low gravity.

Monsters are a varied sort of melee and projectile based enemies. Some will fly and float, others will pounce and claw, some chainsaw and lob grenades (called ogres... go figure). Later monsters are magic wielding knights, huge behemothic monsters that throw lightning bolts and spidery creatures that hurl uncannily-homing projectiles that explode. While there's also blobs that blow up on death, laser toting marines, dogs and if it's not the enemies trying to kill you, it's the levels with a multitude of traps from spikes, pits, crushers, lava, acid or just trying to drown you like a sack of kittens. Minus the sack... and kittens.

And "psych" in 3... 2... 1...

The single player only goes so far though. Quake, while having a fast paced single-player mode, was made more famous by the multiplayer and with that, some of the most frantic, almost arcade-fast, death matches, team matches and co-op play for the time. Modems, networks and the internet soon after it was released brought about Quake as THE online death match game to play and thanks to additional software like Quake Spy and Quake World, online gaming caught like wildfire and the game ascended into fame.

He never stood a chance.

Death match works on the principle that every player gets a shotgun and some shells and they're shoved into a map for either a set amount of time or until someone gets X number of kills. Depending upon the map would depend upon the tactics, some had all the weapons, some featured tower-like layouts, some were huge sprawling areas for open combat and others were claustrophobic nightmares with traps for the unwary. Rocket jumping, grenade hopping (though coined earlier by games like Marathon) and learning maps by sound (i.e. hearing when and where items were picked up could indicate where another player was in the game, bringing about people not picking up every item to make others THINK they were elsewhere, then ambush those planning an ambush... We got rather sneaky!) were advances made for the more tactical player. Or it's a race for the rocket launcher and quad damage.

Remember, this was groundbreaking stuff in the post-doom era.

Quake however really took off when the game began to be modded by other players. While not a unique concept, mods had been created by many other games and in multiple ways ranging from changing all the enemies to look like cocks to the more advanced things like Total Conversions where only the original game engine was the same and even then the physics and style of the game was drastically different. For an example, think Doom and Aliens TC for an idea, or go further with Action Doom and such changes. Quake had itself an army of modifications that ranged from the bonus content of add-ons like Quake mission packs, the more high brow mods like Quess (Quake done as a chess game in the style almost of battle chess), Flight Sims with players fighting it out in planes and helicopters, Rally Quake for those that liked driving with guns, bonus models and skins, playing through quake as a monster rather than the usual human and the list really does keep on going.

Say it with me now, STRAFE!

It spawned a new wave of bedroom coders and modifiers that took to it like a duck to water and later development companies took the original engine and boosted it to the point that it became Half Life. Online communities sprang up around quake and around even individual modifications took on feverous fan bases that decried others and touted their own personal favourites as the best thing since, well.. Quake.

Dark, moody and atmospheric. Also very, very, brown.

But while it spawned mods and inspired generations of engines to be developed, it also fronted the art (and it's a fine art if you can do this unassisted) of Speed Running. Quake done Quick being one of the first, biggest and best examples of taking a game and trying to find the fastest route you'll possibly imagine (and many you won't until you see these videos) in setting personal targets of fastest times, killing everything, all secrets, in hardest modes and so on until you've so many different ways of doing a game quickly that it becomes about as complicated as judging scores in the para-olympics for handicap specification and setting. Take the fastest first level done on the hardest difficulty and you're looking at less time than most people take just picking their first difficulty setting. 25 seconds and it's getting faster and more chaotic from there onwards. A combination of grenade hops, rocket jumps (and descents to fall faster), strafe jumping and using enemies as a catapult when they strike, brings a game beaten from start to finish in less time than some people take to beat the first level.

Go ahead, enter...

In closing, bow down, thank it profusely and be glad that a game like this helped catapult forward and shape the gaming world as we know it today (before bullshit like regenerating health, slow pace-controlled levels and mad things like PLOT get involved) and remember that even now.

The Dopefish still lives.

P.S: From here on, I shall be posting to the blog only once a week so that I can continue work on a rather lovely website, 30+ Gamer where I have been posting mostly about arcade games and will continue to do so. So hopefully, I'll see you there for more Bod related articles, particularly ones on being disappointed but, as already said on the front page, it's fairly expected.