Willits Responds to Quake Map Controversy, Fails to Address Lineage of Multiplayer-Only Maps

Willits shared a video of a partially finished Quake map in response to John Romero's recent blog outlining the history of multiplayer-only maps in shooters.


During QuakeCon 2017, Quake Champions director Tim Willits gave an interview to PCGamesN in which he claimed to invent the concept of multiplayer-only maps by creating deathmatch levels for Quake. Fellow id Software alumnus John Romero replied with a lengthy blog post that included a timeline showing commercial FPS titles that shipped before Quake and packed in multiplayer-specific maps and game modes.   

I wrote the story covering Willits' interview and Romero's response, and invited Tim Willits to share his side. Willits responded indirectly via an Instagram post, showing a fragment from one of his Quake maps running in a NeXTSTEP Virtual Machine—the game's editor, QuakeEd, was written for the NeXTSTEP operating system—and tagging Shacknews and messaging us on Facebook to bring it to our attention.

I usually ignore silly controversies, but this one I will respond to. Here is a video of a map call tim14.bsp from 1996 (running on a NextStep VM, thanks to the programmers here at id Software). This is a map “fragment” (I have a directory full of them), if you know Quake 1 DM maps, you will be able to recognize things in it, this is not just a sketch. I stand by what I said and I'm not wasting my time on this anymore. Now I am getting back to working on the newest Quake game. @shacknews

A post shared by Tim Willits (@timwillits) on

Willits' video does little to clarify his position or firm up his assertions. In his interview with PCGamesN, Willits said, "Multiplayer maps - that was my idea. This is a funny story. I had finished all my work on the shareware episode [of Quake] and because we had no design direction, we had all these fragments of maps. I came into the office one day and talked to John Romero and John Carmack. 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 wrote a blog post taking umbrage with several of Willits' claims. "We did not have 'all these fragments of maps' that were used to make the multiplayer maps in Quake," Romero wrote. "All multiplayer-only maps that shipped with Quake were original maps made specifically for deathmatch."

Although the video posted by Willits does show a map in a partially finished state, he doesn't mention what map or map fragment he's working with, nor the date it was created or last modified. He says the map was called "tim14.bsp," the file extension used by Quake maps, but does not show a working or finished title for the map, instead making the cryptic remark that "[...] if you know Quake 1 DM maps, you will be able to recognize things in it, this is not just a sketch." The sketch comment appears to be a direct retort to Romero including a dated sketch of a layout for a deathmatch map in his blog.

Following Willits' logic, the level theme in the video is "Base," modeled after futuristic military bases. Of the six maps that make up Quake's Deathmatch Arena multiplayer episode, Willits is credited with three: DM1: Place of Two Deaths, DM5: The Cistern, and DM6: The Dark Zone. All three maps credited to Willits employ medieval textures and themes. Only the map credited to Romero, DM3: The Abandoned Base, uses the "Base" theme. The remaining maps, DM2: Claustrophobopolis and DM4: The Bad Place, are credited to American McGee, who favored the "Runic" theme's lava and metallic textures in both his single-player and multiplayer maps.

The only other Base-themed map credited to Willits is E4M1: The Sewage System, a single-player map rather than a level created expressly for multiplayer.

Setting aside analysis of Willits' video, id Software's studio director failed to address his statement that he came up with the idea to create multiplayer-only levels in first-person shooters—a statement he has made in other interviews over the years, but one that doesn't line up with the publishing history of FPS titles. Assuming that Willits meant he coined the idea for commercially distributed multiplayer-only maps, Apogee Software's Rise of the Triad and Bungie, Inc.'s Marathon both shipped on December 21, 1994, approximately 18 months before Quake, and included maps and modes designed for deathmatch.

Outside of commercial games, Doom's burgeoning community of level authors was building and trading deathmatch maps. DWANGO (short for Dial Up Wide Area Network Games Operation) was a multiplayer server written by Bob Huntley and Kee Kimbrell for Doom, Doom 2, and Raven Software's Heretic fantasy-themed shooter. Early in his career at id, American McGee released a deathmatch-only map for Doom 2 in November 1994. "We do not play single player here [at the studio] much," McGee explained in his notes for the level, "so most of my DOOM ][ maps were DeathMatch orientated... but again could not be total deathmatch levels. Well, here is my attempt at a DeathMatch only level." While his map was not distributed commercially, it was a map made for the purpose of multiplayer.

Shacknews would like to once again extend the opportunity for Tim Willits to contact us directly to discuss his statements.

Long Reads Editor

David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Stay Awhile and Listen series, and the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults. Outside of writing, he enjoys playing Mario, Zelda, and Dark Souls games, and will be happy to discuss at length the myriad reasons why Dark Souls 2 is the best in the series. Follow him online at davidlcraddock.com and @davidlcraddock.

From The Chatty
    • reply
      September 1, 2017 8:10 PM

      Pathetic. Own up when you make an ass out of yourself. The facts are not on his side and there's no changing history.

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      September 1, 2017 8:16 PM


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      September 1, 2017 8:21 PM

      Nothing like doubling down on your bullshit. That always turns out well.

      This dude always seemed off to me, not sure how to describe it. Maybe it's confirmation bias, but I don't feel particularly misguided in my assumption anymore.

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        September 1, 2017 9:43 PM

        The QuakeCon where he laid into PC gamers for piracy was my "What the fuck is wrong with you?" moment with Willits. You can talk about that anywhere, but at an event with a massive LAN party attached to it? That's not a wise choice.

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      September 1, 2017 8:24 PM

      That map chunk looks more like an unused piece of E2M1 than any Id DM map I can recall.

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        September 1, 2017 11:15 PM

        That actually caters to Tim's initial assertion

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      September 1, 2017 8:26 PM

      lulz Tim

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      September 1, 2017 8:28 PM


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      September 1, 2017 8:43 PM

      This has become embarrassing. He really is trying to reinforce the idea that he invented multiplayer specific maps before anyone else? I think someone is over inflating their importance..

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      September 1, 2017 8:43 PM

      Yes, please get back to work on the next Quake game.

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        September 2, 2017 4:56 AM

        ? More like STOP, let someone else work on Quake. Fuck F2P, no dedicated severs, no mods etc.

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      September 1, 2017 8:53 PM

      Yes have some

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      September 1, 2017 9:34 PM

      Man just take the L and stop making crazy statements from now on

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        September 1, 2017 10:55 PM

        This is great advice!

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          September 1, 2017 11:33 PM

          I just don't know how he even bothers to keep going. If it was a lot of conflicting stories and nothing else that's one thing, but to say you invented something that was shipped in full retail games made by other studios BEFORE you even "invented it" let alone the probably thousands of people who did it at home releasing custom maps for Doom....I just don't see where he thinks he has any leverage.

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      September 1, 2017 10:17 PM

      tim willits chokes on the breadcrumbs of john romero's creativity

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        September 1, 2017 11:18 PM

        That was probably the tag line of q3.

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      September 1, 2017 10:52 PM

      Now something I tweeted to Romero and added to his article shows up on Shacknews front page. I'm like 300% more famous than before! Although I was already pretty fucking stoked Romero liked and replied to my tweet.

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        September 1, 2017 11:13 PM

        EDIT: It was the stuff about Bungie and Marathon.

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      September 1, 2017 10:56 PM

      Willits is a hack.

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      September 1, 2017 11:07 PM

      American McGee responds: Cognitive dissonance at its finest. Hey, Tim, we all step in it from time to time. My advice: Don't double-down on BS. Own it and improve.


      LMAO: https://twitter.com/scar3crowdotcom/status/903835544198799360

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        September 1, 2017 11:22 PM

        This is one of the stories i would be curious about gerstman and Co to discuss for comedic value alone (given that they are all old school) rudds also has a thing for quake 2 if I recall correctly.

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        September 2, 2017 6:57 AM

        It's pretty clear Willits is not feeling any anxiety or mental discomfort over this. Will American McGee "own it and improve" over his mistaken use of cognitive dissonance?

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      September 1, 2017 11:12 PM

      That was pathetic, aside from doubling down on the stupid claim, ignoring all evidence against it, sidestepping basically everything relevant and the general state of passive aggressive bullshit along the line of supposedly being above discussing this and rather working on the new quake game (he is referring to Quake champions?) the saddest aspect of his reply is that he didn't have the balls to talk directly to shacknews (who I assume would have at least tried to throw him a life line). Instead he did the equivalent of a salty post-it note on the refrigerator. Any amount of goodwill
      people might have held on to went out of the window. It's amazing how someone around as long as he has been, is delusional enough that he thinks he can get away with that reply.

      Doesn't idsoftware have some public relations office or something. Can't be all just lawyers like bethesda/zenimax.

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      September 1, 2017 11:14 PM

      Well, next quake con is gonna be awkward.

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      September 1, 2017 11:16 PM

      Idunno Tim Willits led the team that made Doom 2016. I'm pretty sure he kicks fucking ass and there is validity to his story. It's awesome he posted that video and it's possible he simply only led the movement to do multiplayer only maps in Quake even though the community and Rise of the mother fucking Triad did so prior. I can't remember 1996 that well tbh I don't really care that Tim may or may not either. The guy is a legend but with far less fame than those around him despite now being....the longest id software employee of all? Is that correct? I don't really know, but it has to be close. Can't wait to see what him and that team do next.

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        September 1, 2017 11:58 PM

        Doom 2016's director was Marty Stratton.

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        September 2, 2017 12:03 AM

        Tim was the studio director.. but arguably far from having "led" the team. He's more prominent on Quake Champions.

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          September 2, 2017 4:59 AM

          Champions pisses on the best parts of Quake, is DRMax Quake. Q3A still high water mark for Quake.

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        September 2, 2017 12:21 AM

        He got sidelined after rage, the reason he doesn't get the same kind of adoration is that he is not a great designer by his own merit, every thing he has ever done was derived from other people's design. Unlike Sandy Petersen he didn't have the influence to be a unsung hero. He didn't go on to make crazy shit like Alice etc
        And he didn't design wolf/doom/quake like Romero. He was brought on as a guy with a knack for mapping, that's what he did, help out making maps and after Romero left he failed upwards. His best game was quake 3 which is largely, returning to Quake worlds design only dumbed down and he even claimed that it was his biggest regret because it was not casual enough. Him being around as long as he has just points out that he never was relevant enough for anyone to be perceived as a threat.

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          September 2, 2017 1:17 AM

          The sad part of that is that Rage really isn't a bad game. It's biggest flaw is that it always changes gears just as soon as you start to get engaged with something and get some mastery of the mechanics involved. Once you get into the car combat, the car combat is over. Once you get into the races, the races are over. Once you finally get into the narrative, the narrative is over. Once you get into an FPS section, the FPS section is over.

          It's such a well polished title, but a little less of one aspect and a little more of everything else would have made it a better game. A little more steak instead of 12 plates of appetizers.

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            September 2, 2017 1:34 AM

            Rage like every id game had great gunplay but it was not a great game to show in terms of vision or design (some really shitty invisible walls, balls high rubble for to restrict areas etc), it had promise it never really delivered on just like you said. It was the first game of Id software that tried to do some experiments (though as Willits admits himself on a panel not very original or innovative, they applied things others had done before to their own formula and tried to make it fun). It also feed I to the narrative of him being a rather derivative designer though I wish that rage had been more successful just to see if they could actually improve.

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        September 2, 2017 10:02 PM

        Tim was only "Studio Director" for Doom 2016. The people worthy of credit are Marty Stratton (Game Director, Executive Producer), Hugo Martin (Creative Director) and Robert Duffy (Technical Director). The reason why this latest Doom didn't suck is because he had no creative imput (thank goodness!).

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      September 1, 2017 11:39 PM

      He should hurry up and get a software patent before someone else steals such an idea.

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      September 2, 2017 12:05 AM

      woah. hold up. Theres a new Quake game coming? Anyone have any info?

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        September 2, 2017 12:23 AM

        It free to play.

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          September 2, 2017 12:25 AM

          wow dude, way to kill the hype there....

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            September 2, 2017 12:35 AM

            You mean you are not enthused by the prospect of a free quake!? I am shocked! Truly devastated by this display of jaded animosity of entitled gamers today. Rumors that it's dead on arrival only because even with quakecon on going it had less players than quake live I deem vastly overstated. There is still some money In that dead horse!

        • ArB legacy 10 years
          September 2, 2017 1:47 AM

          You mean shareware, right? :(

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        September 2, 2017 12:24 AM

        In case your not joking. http://store.steampowered.com/app/611500/Quake_Champions/

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      September 2, 2017 2:48 AM


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      September 2, 2017 5:06 AM


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      September 2, 2017 6:43 AM

      WTF? I was making DM only maps for Doom 2 in 1995. No, Tim, you did not invent MP only map making.

      Ahh EdMap, I dont miss you at all.

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        September 2, 2017 11:09 AM

        Yeah, that was the point Romero made in his response: the fan community was making dedicated multiplayer Doom maps years before Quake shipped. And other commercial games, like Marathon, did it earlier, too. Probably Willits had a lesser idea like using the generic left over map segments to do what others had already been doing - make dedicated multiplayer maps - and that was it.

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          September 2, 2017 1:09 PM

          Descent had a big map scene as well, also before Q1.

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      September 2, 2017 11:37 AM

      This guy probably voted for Trump.

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      September 2, 2017 1:24 PM

      I love the claim that two of the more creative men at id would respond with, "that's the stupidest idea i've ever heard" in response to something entirely reasonable.

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      September 2, 2017 1:47 PM

      C-Level executive doesn't have his facts straight and has a distorted recollection of historical events that favors his image.

      News at eleven.

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      September 2, 2017 4:32 PM

      Tim is a flaming ass and needs to STFU. It is his word against the original founders of id, and who better to know the TRUE facts.

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      September 6, 2017 9:04 AM

      Tim sure does love tasty word salads.

      All filler. No substance.

      But rest assure, he stands by what he said, and he's not wasting my time on this anymore. Now he is getting back to working on the newest Quake game.

      So there !

      Sociopathic or what ?


    • reply
      September 10, 2017 10:26 AM

      Tim look a moment to respond to my comments here in case you may want to update a bit on the story https://www.instagram.com/p/BYqXZSxl1vA/

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