All id Software Co-Founders Refute Tim Willits' Quake Map Anecdote (UPDATED)

Tim Willits claimed to invent deathmatch-only maps in FPS games, but Romero's detailed archives tell a different story.

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Update #2: 8/31, 1:37p ET

Tom Hall has also chimed in via Twitter to agree with John Romero's assertion that designers were building FPS maps specifically for multiplayer long before id shipped Quake in 1996. "@romero sets the record straight about the first multiplayer only maps! Thanks John," Hall wrote.

Hall is a veteran designer and co-founder of id Software along with John Romero, John Carmack, and Adrian Carmack (no relation to John). Hall left id Software early in Doom's development and went to Apogee Software (dba 3D Realms) to direct Rise of the Triad, an FPS that blended gore with dark comedy elements. "ROTT" shipped on December 21, 1994, and featured multiplayer-only levels as well as multiplayer-specific modes of play. That same day, Bungie launched Marathon, an FPS exclusive to Mac computers, which also included multiplayer-only maps (called "network maps") at launch.

Update #1: 8/30, 9:22pm ET

Shacknews reached out to id Software co-founder John Carmack for comment. Carmack said that he does not recall the conversation between Tim Willits, John Romero, and himself, and he trusts Romero's recollection of events, in line with the account detailed on Romero's blog. (Note: This section has been lightly edited to more accurately reflect Carmack's response.)

Original Story

In an interview with PCGamesN during this year's annual QuakeCon, id Software veteran and Quake Champions director Tim Willits claimed to create the concept of building FPS maps explicitly for deathmatch. Fellow id vet John Romero disputed Willits' recollection of events in a detailed blog post.

According to Willits, who also claimed to design the first episode of Quake—which was distributed as shareware—he got the idea to piece together map fragments into multiplayer-only arenas. "I came into the office one day and talked to John Romero and John Carmack," Willits said. "I said 'I've got this idea. I can take these map fragments and I can turn them into multiplayer-only maps, maps you only play in multiplayer.' "They both said that was the stupidest idea they'd ever heard. Why would you make a map you only play multiplayer when you can play multiplayer in single-player maps? So I said 'No, no, no, let me see what I can do.' And that's how multiplayer maps were started. True story."

Romero caught wind of the story and consulted with other Quake designers including American McGee, Adrian Carmack, and Shawn Green. After comparing their memories of Quake's development, which ramped up in earnest in late 1995, Romero feels confident in disputing Willits' version of events.

"The story told about how he came into the office and talked to me and Carmack about his idea, and we responded with how it was the stupidest idea we'd ever heard," Romero wrote in a blog. "This never happened. In fact, we had been playing multiplayer-only maps in DOOM for years already. There had been hundreds of maps that the DOOM mapping community had made only for deathmatch by that time. DWANGO was a multiplayer-only service that had many multiplayer-only maps that are legendary today. American McGee even released a multiplayer-only map in November 1994 named IDMAP01. The incredible DOOM community invented the idea of designing maps only for multiplayer mode, and they deserve the credit. The game owes so much to them."

Romero went on to point out that the first commercial FPS to ship with multiplayer-only maps was Rise of the Triad, directed by Tom Hall—another id alumnus—and released in 1994.

"We did not have 'all these fragments of maps' that were used to make the multiplayer maps in Quake," Romero continued. "All multiplayer-only maps that shipped with Quake were original maps made specifically for deathmatch."

Additionally, Romero pointed out that he, American McGee, and Tim Willits all contributed to the maps that comprised Quake's shareware episode.

"Revising revisionist history re: #quake #deathmatch #maps @romero gives a serial credit thief the what-for," American McGee wrote in a tweet that linked to Romero's blog.

Shacknews has reached out to Tim Willits for comment.

Long Reads Editor
From The Chatty
  • reply
    August 30, 2017 5:25 PM

    David Craddock posted a new article, Quake Map Anecdote Sparks Contrary Opinions Between Romero, McGee, and Willits

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      August 30, 2017 5:29 PM

      Gonna have to agree 10000% with Mr. Romero on this one without a moments hesitation.

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      August 30, 2017 5:35 PM

      I have to imagine it's just time skewing his recollection of events. Sad in a way to see former colleagues rebuke the claim so hard.

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        August 30, 2017 6:04 PM

        It's because Willits is so completely and absolutely wrong I'd bet even John Carmack would weigh in on Romero and McGee's side if he weren't studiously avoiding anything Id-related these days.

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          August 30, 2017 6:29 PM

          Willits was Carmack protégé, doubt he would throw him under the bus. When things went sour at id he thought that Willits could replace Romero and the creative force and at some point even made claims that the quality of his maps was better, Willits also never had the kind of weight or backbone to stand up to Carmack and straight up tell him to fuck off and fix the engine when something cool in a map broke the shit. Hall mentioned that this is the reason why Carmack had to develop the bsd format (basically Romero telling Carmack to screw himself and fix the engine) Petersen for example mentioned how Carmack would berate him (his words) about his maps stretching the capability of the engine, until Romero and McGee would do the same forcing him to change things.

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            August 30, 2017 6:40 PM

            All true, but Carmack has always struck me as the type of person who is really bothered by 'incorrect data' for lack of a better term. I absolutely agree with you that his relationship with Willits is another reason we probably won't hear from him re: this dispute any time soon. :)

    • reply
      August 30, 2017 5:41 PM

      Tim Trump?

    • reply
      August 30, 2017 5:42 PM

      Romero > Willits

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      August 30, 2017 5:49 PM

      I remember Willits telling guys the mbp map story years ago, i always found das it odd but to his credit I always assumed that he was talking about the decision of shipping the game with mp maps (the development was a cluster fuck if you remember the history of quake and if you look at quake 2 it came without any mp maps at release). The thing that stands out here is the claim to have designed the first episode of Quake, looking at the manual of the retail and the text documents, the shareware which was like 1/3 of the game was basically done by Romero alone and some of the most clever or visually striking maps were done by Petersen/mcgee so for Willits trying to take credit for it in an interview is kinda wtf, and explains the reaction in that tweet. I wonder if something was lost in translation in the interview...

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      August 30, 2017 6:03 PM

      anytime someone ends a statement with "true story" I just automatically assume it's bullshit

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      August 30, 2017 6:20 PM

      Could he just be misremembering? He's talking about the development of a game older than half the people going to QuakeCon this year. I can see memories getting cross wired.

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      August 30, 2017 6:39 PM

      I was really worried for a minute that this was my fault from the 'questions for the original Quake team' thread that you had a few months/weeks ago. I'm glad I'm in the clear!

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      August 30, 2017 6:42 PM

      Fucking Marathon 2 shipped with a whole selection of multiplayer only maps that weren't just hacked up single player maps....I don't know what Willits was thinking.

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        August 30, 2017 6:46 PM

        Actually, Marathon 1 shipped with dedicated multiplayer maps too, and actually shipped the same day as Rise of the Triad Romero credits with being the first to have purpose built multiplayer maps.

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          August 30, 2017 6:54 PM

          Here's a fun one, video tour of Marathon 1's multiplayer levels. So this is in a way a video of the first purpose built multiplayer levels ever released as it was released the exact same day as Rise of the Triad. No actual multiplayer going on and he seems to be playing them either on a port, or the open source version, so they look a fair bit crisper than the originals. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gefQjVwlAVY

          I will note that all Marathon's multiplayer levels randomly spawned AI enemies, which made deathmatch all that much more random and fun.

          • reply
            August 30, 2017 6:58 PM

            he seems to be playing them either on a port, or the open source version, so they look a fair bit crisper than the originals

            A fair bit? He's playing the M1A1 scenario port for Aleph One, with what has to be 512k textures at a minimum (might be 1024). And being an A1 game that means the lighting, fog, transparency and everything is way more modern than anything in the shipped game. About the only thing he didn't do is fix the hud and swap the high res weapon sprites.

            A1 gameplay is still 100% the same in A1 so I don't blame him, nobody wants to play on a postage-stamp sized framebuffer anymore.

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              August 30, 2017 7:19 PM

              Haha, well I wasn't going to go into that much detail about it, but yes, that's what it looks like to me too. I kinda miss the original look of Marathon 1, but I couldn't find a video of anyone playing it.....possibly because pretty much any way you could record it requires using Aleph One.

              Mars Needs Women was stupid good fun, even if you couldn't round up anyone to play, the endlessly spawning aliens made for an early horde mode if you set it to total carnage.

            • reply
              August 31, 2017 6:54 AM

              Marathon waa amazing. Got me started programming doing graphics mods for it too

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                August 31, 2017 10:30 AM

                It was pretty groundbreaking for the time, dual wielding, alternate triggers, first FPS with mouselook. Plus the story, although convoluted, was pretty deep and interesting and the gameplay was excellent. I replay Marathon 2 once in awhile, still fun.

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      August 30, 2017 6:45 PM

      Oof. I love that John Romero went and talked to the other designers who worked on Quake. Love those guys. :)

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        August 30, 2017 7:24 PM

        I think John got it bad from the community back in the .plan days because of his huge seemingly egotistical episode at Ion Storm. I still think at his core, that guy was just a huge gamer and nerd, and he had a significant influence on gameplay design with all the major id titles. They wouldn't have been anywhere near as fun without him.

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      August 30, 2017 6:55 PM

      Wtf is wrong with Tim Willits? Did he think the internet would forget about DOOM and Heretic and Duke3d and all of the FPS games that came before Quake?

      What an asshole

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        August 30, 2017 7:59 PM

        Seriously, wasn't the whole reason he got into game development because of DOOM multiplayer in the first place?

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        August 31, 2017 7:52 PM

        >What an asshole

        Pretty much.

    • reply
      August 30, 2017 7:00 PM

      for some I read Willits story in the voice of trump. Believe me.

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      August 30, 2017 7:05 PM

      Watching some of Quakecon this year, Willits seems like equal parts glory hog and tool. Plus, it's hard not to side with Romero considering how ridiculous the claim is.

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      August 30, 2017 7:16 PM

      Romero is totally reasonable in his response, and it's 100% accurate from what I recall. DM1-6 that shipped with Quake were all original maps. And probably the most memorable maps in any game for me.

      Hell,a quake demo of sCary playing DM4 is one of the things that got me to sign up to this site back in the 90s. And this demo on dm2 is what got me to try +mlook

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KEXwl6hmys

      • reply
        August 30, 2017 8:02 PM

        oh man kurtz was a real pal, wonder what he's up to

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        August 31, 2017 12:07 AM

        no crosshair?

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          August 31, 2017 3:49 AM

          I think the guy replaying the demo had a weird configuration.

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        August 31, 2017 5:32 AM

        In my limited interactions with Romero he has been incredibly friendly and down to earth, he seems like a genuinely good dude.

        Also that McGee response... yikes.

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        August 31, 2017 7:43 AM

        haha I've totally seen this. Man people sucked at quake back in the day.

    • reply
      August 30, 2017 7:50 PM

      SAD!

    • reply
      August 30, 2017 8:45 PM

      Nice, haha

    • reply
      August 30, 2017 9:19 PM

      All I know of Willits is he's the designer of q2dm1 the edge (he was behind Rage and touting its car combat)

      Maybe he's remembering wrong, and is thinking of Q2 instead? Q2 shipped without any deathmatch-specific maps (q2dm1-q2dm7 would come much later), and multiplayer was done in insanely huge single player maps. With the messy history behind the development of Q2 (what game it wanted to be, internal strife, etc), it could very well be possible that he was the one pushing for DM specific maps for the game.

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        August 30, 2017 9:40 PM

        No, he had mentioned this story a few times before. Watch the video I posted above. I also thought he might have been referring to shipping mp maps with the game (which q2 didn't) but claiming he made the first episode is what makes it odd, also the inconsistencies about cobbling map fragments together and pitching it to the double Johns to be shot down but prevailing. It's doubly odd because in the video he even mentions. Also the edge is shit compared to his q1 effort dm6 which kinda also pales to dm4 for duel and dm3 for tdm but it is a nice duel map for low level chumps like the majority of us. I think if we find the course and variations his story took over the years (I remember at least 2 occasions) we can maybe pierce together what went wrong but I'd Romero and McGee (look at that not holds barred tweet) went after him it casts a bad light on him.

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          August 31, 2017 5:47 AM

          Maybe it happened for Q2, and in his mind he extrapolated that to Q1... gah who knows.

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            August 31, 2017 6:09 AM

            Romero was gone by q2 and it did ship without mp maps. So the conversation and his vindication of being right couldn't have happened. This is some Brian Williams shit, dude probably started with an exaggerated version of "we definitely need to ship with mp maps guys! Can't cut corners on this! " for quake one to "it was me who made it happen!" to "i dodged rpg fire to make quake and invented mp gaming in the process". Tall tale bit him in the ass after getting away with it a few times. Randy pitchford for example also ran around telling people that he won the gearbox name from Gabe Newell in A poker match and hence forced Gabe to use valve instead. Completely batshit stuff.

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      August 30, 2017 9:29 PM

      Man, McGee didn't sugar coat that at all.

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      August 30, 2017 9:33 PM

      DWANGO was a multiplayer-only service... LMAO HOLY SHIT that brought back some memories.

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      August 30, 2017 9:38 PM

      i downloaded MP only maps from compuserve doom group and played them on DWANGO in Houson via dial up. I had no local internet so i had to long distance call to get internet. My phone bill was so high one month ATT or Bell South or whatever called and told me they were canceling my phone unless I pre-paid for my usage. It was $800 for one month.

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      August 30, 2017 9:46 PM

      damn he created dm6, can't knock him too hard thats a god map

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        August 31, 2017 12:19 AM

        meh tim willits is known as the dude who ruined id software.

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          August 31, 2017 10:40 AM

          Apparently level design skills don't necessarily transition to game design skills.

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          August 31, 2017 7:55 PM

          Difficult to argue with this assessment.

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      August 31, 2017 10:04 AM

      Should have consulted masters of doom

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      August 31, 2017 10:14 AM

      So I tweeted Romero about Marathon being tied with RotT for first FPS to ship with multiplayer maps, got a reply from him and he updated the article, I feel special!

    • reply
      August 31, 2017 1:33 PM

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

      <breathes>

      BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

      <catches breath>

      BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

      • reply
        September 11, 2017 2:39 AM

        holy shit. hey dude!

    • reply
      September 10, 2017 9:40 AM

      Obviously bullshit because that was already a thing in DOOM.