Shacknews is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Quake--and of Shacknews--by serializing Rocket Jump: Quake and the Golden Age of First-Person Shooters--our flagship long read exploring the making of id Software's Quake trilogy, the culture inside id during development of Quake 1, 2, and 3, and the impact id's games had on the FPS genre. Every week in June, we'll post another chapter offering unprecedented, behind-the-scenes access into one of the most influential games ever made. In today's chapter, the id team recovers from making 1994's Doom II and struggles to define its next project.
You can read Rocket Jump in its entirety in the Shacknews Long Read section of the site, where you'll find more deep dives into stories of how games are made and the people who make them.
-David L. Craddock - Shacknews long reads editor
ON A COOL night in 1995, Trent Reznor rode a tidal wave of sound from the stage where he and his band, Nine Inch Nails, had just performed. The show had gone well, but he was antsy. Music had been everything to Reznor since founding his industrial rock band in 1988. He was NIN's singer, songwriter, producer, and instrumentalist. His life was a whirlwind of recording albums, performing live in front of sold-out crowds, driving up and down the road on tours, fighting his record labels to maintain control of the band's sound and direction, and partying with groupies.
Earlier that night, they had performed tracks from The Downward Spiral, NIN's second album and one of its most influential. Right then, however, guitar riffs and vocals were the furthest things from Reznor's mind. He blew out of the backstage area and headed out to the band's tour bus. The door clicked shut behind him, muting the sounds of traffic and chatter from fans pouring out the doors and into the streets.
His bandmates would be along shortly. Good. He needed time to prepare.
Reznor went to the back of the bus, careful to avoid treading on cables that ran between the PC in the lounge area at the back to another spot up front. He entered the lounge and sat at a desk. Reaching down, he pressed the power button on his 486/66 megahertz processor-powered computer. White text flickered across a dark screen. A minute later he found himself at a blinking prompt. Reznor typed a line of esoteric text commands. The screen flashed. Music thundered through the van as his monitor filled with the sight of a marine clad in green armor fending off a horde of demons trying to drag him down to hell.
The door opened behind him. Chris Vrenna, his drummer, led the rest of NIN into the van. Reznor and Vrenna had been friends since high school. Tonight, they were mortal enemies, and only one of them would leave the tour bus alive. "There's a famous story out there about how we lost a month of work after the Downward Spiral [album] because we got hooked on playing Wolfenstein 3D, and later, Doom," said Vrenna. "We ran cables down through the bus so we could play against each other in deathmatch."
Many of id Software's developers were as enamored with NIN's work as the band was with their games. When id's fax machine chirped one afternoon in 1995, American McGee was elated to read a personal invitation from Nine Inch Nails to attend that night's show in Mesquite, Texas, just a few miles from the office.
McGee was joined by John Carmack. "We went to the show in Dallas, and then I ended up hanging out with Trent and the guys after the show," McGee remembered. "A friendship formed. I'd gone to visit them in New Orleans. At some point, it came up: 'Hey, why don't we collaborate on Quake?'"
"They were working on this new game, Quake, and were big fans of the band, and Trent was a big fan of everything id did," Vrenna added.
Reznor and Vrenna were two of a handful of NIN band members to visit id and learn more about what the developers had in mind for Quake's soundtrack. Gazing around the office—and the parking lot filled with sports cars gleaming in the Texas sun—Vrenna remembered thinking that Carmack, Romero, and the Doom developers were the real rock stars. "They're all driving around in these matching Testarossas, and one of them had just got a Viper. I forget which one, but he took me out for a drive in the Viper, and we were doing 100-and-whatever down the freeway, and I'm scared out of my gourd."
In a documentary on Doom 3 published in the early 2000s, Reznor explained why id's work appealed to him. Games like Super Mario Bros. were fun, but Wolfenstein 3D and Doom were more in line with the type of creativity that Nine Inch Nails channeled when they wrote records. They were fast, violent, and politically incorrect. The chance to work alongside id on their next ultra-violent shooter was too good to pass up.
"There was, I guess you could call it mutual fandom," Vrenna said. "The id guys were into crazy music. They were into the Ministry and all the crazy stuff back then. Trent was immediately like, 'I will do anything.'"
IN THE DECADES since Quake's release, rumors swirled that id Software had flipped the bit on Bobby Prince, composer for several games made by Apogee Software and id including Wolfenstein 3D and Doom.
The truth was much simpler. "There wasn't a major bit flip with Bobby other than that we wanted to do something really different with Quake, and Bobby was not something different," said Romero.
Nine Inch Nails struck a deal with id to record the game's soundtrack. American McGee would be id's man on the ground, traveling to NIN's studio in New Orleans to provide guidance where needed. He also got his hands on equipment to produce some sound effects himself. "I think one of the nice things about id in those days was you could be a Jack of all trades," McGee said. "I could be working on level design, scripting, implementing weapons, and doing sound effects for that weapon. For me, that was really interesting. It gave me an opportunity to put my fingers in a lot of different pies."
Reznor cleared the band's schedule to devote most of 1995 and the early months of 1996 to Quake. "It was one of those things where they needed so much music that we were all hands on deck," Vrenna recalled.
NIN's studio fit Quake's tone as well as it fit the band's collective personality. Reznor had purchased an old funeral home on Magazine Street, renovating its three viewing rooms into workspaces. The largest space held an assortment of keyboards, guitars, computers, and recording equipment. The upstairs hall was lined with offices.
At any hour, the band could be found scattered across the funeral-home-turned-studio. Charlie Clouser, keyboardist, primarily worked out of his office recording sound samples for Quake. Vrenna and Danny Lohner, who played keyboards, bass, and guitar for live shows as needed, hung out in one of the converted viewing rooms where they came up with effects and ambient sounds.
"I had a little room with my Pro Tools rig and some synths I owned. It allowed anybody to do anything at any moment. Trent was the spearhead of everything," said Vrenna.
Quake was NIN's first experience recording a soundtrack for a video game. The amount of work the job entailed left them floored. "You need a ton of music, of coverage," Vrenna explained. "If there are 10 levels, and you need a five-minute piece for each level, you need almost an hour's worth of music. So, there's this challenge of creating different-sounding [themes]."
McGee communicated id's vision for Quake's aural components. Unlike Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, which used more traditional background tracks, id wanted Quake to take a different slant. Quake's soundtrack should add an extra layer of atmosphere that fit with the game's assortment of keeps, castles, dungeons, and eldritch realms. Being an industrial rock band, NIN was suited to generate just the type of moody setting id was listening for. "It was meant to be really scary, and not entirely musical. It was meant to be made up of [ambient] noises," explained Vrenna. "Coming off of Doom and Doom 2, where every level had an incredibly memorable song, id wanted to do something different. They didn't want anything melodic."
"In the studio, they had already loaded up all their synths and their computers with a particular palette of sounds," McGee said. "A lot of that stuff is what you were hearing when you saw them on tour around that time. Essentially, the Quake soundtrack ended up being musically derivative of the palette of sounds loaded on their machines."
One approach was to match sound to environments. Quake was in a state of flux through all of 1995 and the early part of 1996, so id sent McGee over bearing screenshots, descriptions of settings, and concept art to illustrate Quake's myriad settings. Many effects were ripped straight out of the sound palette NIN had loaded in their synthesizers and computers. "If you listen to the Quad Damage sound, that's just one of the synths sound they had loaded up for their tour," said McGee. "It's just this big 'ROAR,' you know. During their concerts, one of them would lay on that key and it would play for 30 seconds while the crowd went crazy."
In certain cases, a sound from NIN's palette was close but not exactly what the id guys wanted. McGee or another developer would change sound files or splice them to create unique sounds, such as the upbeat chord that plays when players pick up the Mega Health, a rare item that boosts their health by 100. "There's the regular health sound and the [larger medkit] sound," recalled Romero. "I didn't want to make something in that same health. I wanted it to sound kick-ass, so that's why I used the cool guitar riff on it. I put those two things together and created the sound from them."
According to Vrenna, one technique NIN had to get the hang of was balancing diversity and duration. "If you hear an A part and a B part, melodically, and you're hearing A-B-A-B over and over, that [irritates] people," he explained. "Well, you could be in a deathmatch for 30 seconds or for 30 minutes. When you're playing the story, you may be in there for 10 minutes, I may be in there for 50 minutes. Who knows? And you have to hear the sound effects so you can hear the monster around the corner, or the guy with the gun so you don't get shot."
For each track, the band found or created sounds that could be strung together and looped in different combinations for 10 to 15 minutes each. Then they cut those tracks down to roughly five minutes apiece, moving parts around until they hit on just the right arrangement. "It became a process of coming up with [musical] drones, coming up with textures, samplings, sounds like banging on metal out in the garage," Vrenna said. "All sorts of different things like that in order to come up with raw materials to write with. Trent oversaw everything. He was involved with all of it. Lots of time Charlie would come out saying, 'Check it out! I made 50 new drones.' Trent would say, 'Awesome, let's see what we got.' With 10 of them, Trent would [score] the next level."
"As far as direction went, when I would go over there I had a list, like, 'We need a selection of 20 sounds that can be categorized as [firing] a rocket launcher' or 'We need 20 sounds that can categorized as [picking up] the Quad Damage power-up,'" McGee added, referring to the artifact that quadruples the player's damage and a mainstay throughout the Quake franchise.
"Things like, 'That piece of music is too X, Y, or Z. Can we make it more like this?' Or, 'This piece of music, when we put it into the game, didn't really fit as well as we thought it would. Is there anything we can do about that?'" Vrenna continued.
After a trip to New Orleans, McGee would return to id loaded down with CDs full of audio tracks, effects, and vocalizations. Very few went into the game as-is. Most had to be spliced, or reduced to fit a specific duration: Sound effects such as picking up the Quad Damage item needed to sound powerful, yet not stretch out for too long. "While I did that, I would also be inventing new events, like, 'Oh, I think we could use a sound here.' I'd write all that stuff down, and then the process would repeat," McGee said.
Many sounds were American McGee originals. "I would go up to the roof and I had a bunch of crap up there," he said. "I could break glass, I would blow up fireworks. I would go buy fireworks and then blow them up in the pipes, and then record the sound from the other end of the pipe. I would do all kinds of funky stuff like that."
For McGee, blowing up fireworks and smashing windows was secondary to hanging out with the band. On every flight, he felt like a giddy kid about to meet his heroes for the first time. There was a good reason for that. By his own admission, he was a kid: early 20s, working a dream job by day, partying with rock stars all night. "It was a little surreal," he admitted. "It was already surreal to be working at id, especially at that time in their history. It was one of the top developers you could be working for. And then the opportunity to hang out, make sound effects, and watch these guys make music for the game was thrown into the mix."
"I remember a couple of crazy nights out with him, as you do when you're in New Orleans," Vrenna said, laughing.
"If you could imagine lots of late nights out, running around the streets of New Orleans and doing all things sex, drugs, and, rock-and-roll," McGee added. "I think there were parts that spilled over into normal life, that might have been a bit of a distraction from work from time to time. But I don't regret it now. I can look back and see that if I hadn't had all that fun and taken some of the opportunities I did, I would have regretted that."
QUAKE'S COMBINATION OF medieval settings and unsettling score produced a unique look and sound. Dialing in the game's feel, the feedback of moving through levels and shooting Lovecraftian horrors, was just as important to the first-person shooter package.
By coincidence, McGee crafted Quake's first weapons. He'd been experimenting with QuakeC and brushes, and had hacked together prototype armaments such as a rocket launcher that fired homing missiles (technically entity brushes). McGee asked Romero to hop into a game and test his latest map, then fired rockets that chased Romero around the arena.
McGee's next invention was the nailgun, an automatic gun with two barrels that fired nails instead of bullets. The weapon underwent several iterations, including one that fired larger projectiles that players could fire into walls and use as stepping stones. "What if you could shoot nails into walls and then [climb nails] to get to areas?" McGee remembered wondering. "That didn't pan out because collision was too janky at that early time. We were trying to figure out, do we want nails to stick in the wall? Should they fall out of the wall and onto the ground? They have to disappear at some point, but what are they going to do in the meantime?"
The nailgun made the cut after McGee and the artists added boxes of nails branded with the NIN logo. Holding down the fire key sent out a stream of nails accompanied by a spliced sound effect that McGee had cobbled together: part helicopter turbine, part office equipment. "Then we made the super nailgun because we thought, well, if the nailgun is a better pistol, then we need a Gatling version of the nailgun," Romero added.
In retrospect, Romero found the nailgun and super nailgun redundant. "The super nailgun is much better," he asserted. "There aren't many enemies that you'd use a pistol-type weapon on, or the nailgun on, like you would in Doom. In Doom, it was useful to have a pistol and a chaingun, but in Quake it wasn't so useful to have the regular nailgun and then this really cool, super nailgun. You care more about that one."
The development team transplanted the concept of sharing ammo, used to great effect in Doom, into Quake. Nails were spread between the two nailguns, while the shotgun and super shotgun consumed shells, and the grenade and rocket launchers fired rockets. "It was another way of conserving the items you were picking up instead of having a million of them," Romero said.
The shotgun, a fan-favorite weapon in first-person shooters since Doom, played a different role in Quake: The player's starting gun. "All designers think about the shotgun in a game. It's being judged and they know it," Romero said. "Shotgun felt like a better starting point. We didn't want you to start out with a wimpy weapon. Use a weapon that feels cool, sounds cool, and is effective."
Doom's shotgun became renowned as the most balanced weapon in the game: powerful up close, decently accurate for sniping at enemies, and not too slow to reload. Players were especially taken by its reloading animation, showing their marine's hand cocking the weapon back and pumping the slide to ready the next shell.
Once again, Quake took another tack. Its shotgun fired at more than double the speed of Doom's and had only a slight kickback. "If we did that animation, we'd have felt like we were being [derivative]," said Romero. "Without that animation, we could have a lot more shots come out of it: boom-boom-boom."
The team's favorite sound, the heavy BONG-BONG of a grenade bouncing over walls and floors, came about courtesy of McGee dabbling in Foley audio, the art of producing sound effects using everyday items such as rapping on tin cans with pencils or dropping melons on pavement. "It was a firework from up on the roof. It was also combined with two other sounds. I think it was a sonar ping and a drum hit or something," McGee said.
"The grenade made the engine feel super solid," agreed Romero. "I don't think I've used a grenade in any other game that made me feel like I was in a real world. The way it bounced, and the way it sounded, made the game feel solid," agreed Romero.
Id tech 2's physics capabilities allowed players to get creative with the grenade launcher, like expert billiards players calculating the angle of a seemingly impossible shot. "Bouncing grenades off walls to kill monsters made shooting fun," Romero continued. "It made shooting more creative than just [aiming straight ahead]."
"Doom was super influential to our industry, but I actually believe, if you look at the games today, and back at what Quake did and the path it set us on, Quake was more influential to what we play today than even Doom." -Tim Willits
In place of Doom's BFG superweapon, Quake armed players with the Thunderbolt, or more simply, the lightning gun. The BFG had fired a giant ball of plasma that split into smaller projectiles upon striking an enemy or solid object, killing weaker monsters instantly and wounding tougher demons. Clearing a room of enemies with a single BFG shot had been supremely satisfying, but had introduced technical drawbacks. "The problem with Doom's BFG originally was that it was going to draw hundreds of sprites on the screen. It would fire a slew of balls and it caused the CPU to chug, because everything was CPU bound with Doom, and with Quake," Romero recalled.
Id's aim in designing the Thunderbolt was to make a powerful weapon that didn't bring hardware to its knees. Instead of firing one big blast that splits into smaller flares, the gun discharges a stream of lightning for as long as players hold down the fire button. Under the hood, the code replicates a single 3D model of a lightning bolt over and over. In the right circumstances—picking up an invulnerability artifact and discharging the Thunderbolt underwater—the gun has a BFG-like clearing effect, which Petersen and Romero employed in their deathmatch maps.
Although the lightning gun deals the most damage over a shorter period, its bolt streams straight ahead. Grenades—referred to as "pineapples" in the death taunt printed on-screen when one player kills another with the grenade launcher—and rockets inflict splash damage over a sizable area upon exploding, inviting expert players to aim near rather than directly at opponents.
In designing the rocket launcher, Romero again compared it to Doom's incarnation. Doom's launcher had hit hard, but its ammunition had also been memorably slow. A fan-favorite activity on large maps had been firing rockets and then sprinting alongside them. "In Quake, in thinking about how to make a rocket launcher cooler than Doom's, I thought, Make it faster than Doom's," he said. "There's no way you're going to get close to it. It's got to be really fast, but not too fast, and put a cool trail on it, and make it do great damage."
Not only was the rocket launcher a versatile weapon, it became Quake's most versatile tool. During playtesting, id's developers avoided aiming down and shooting the rocket at their feet because of the heavy splash damage it dealt. Why would anyone do that on purpose? Romero remembered thinking.
A few weeks after launch, some developers joined an Internet chat between Quake players and got their answer. "We didn't even think to test and find out, well, the drop-off in damage [from rockets] is pretty crazy when you jump up and then shoot," Romero explained. "The higher you are above the ground when you shoot, the less damage you take, but when you're on the ground you take way more damage. The drop off is almost exponential."
Several industrious players discovered that if they aimed down, jumped, and then fired a rocket, the explosion would send them hurtling into the air. Taking their discovery a step further, players realized they could reach higher ground faster by blasting themselves upward, a technique they dubbed rocket jumping, instead of following a level's paths. "Then we tried it and started practicing. We made ourselves invulnerable and did it over and over again, and said 'Oh my god, this is awesome,'" Romero said. "A really good player would time all the health and power-up [respawns] to do rocket jumps with 200 armor and health multiple times."
Combining the rocket launcher and Quad Damage makes the weapon absurdly powerful. "It felt so good. It's my favorite weapon in Quake," said Romero.
Looking back, Romero had misgivings about how Quake's weapons had been implemented. "I know the weapon balance wasn't as good as it should have been. It was just massive stress making that game," he admitted.
Lightning, he opined, was way too powerful, while the weapons below rockets and lightning—nailgun, super nailgun, shotgun, and super shotgun—weren't powerful enough. Players switched to the rocket launcher as soon as they found it, and swapped to lightning if the Thunderbolt was available. On the other hand, Quake's weapons lend themselves to combination attacks, a feature not possible in Doom. When players arm a weapon in Doom, an animation shows them lowering one weapon and raising the new selection. Combos are possible in Quake because there is no animation when players switch weapons. Expert players found out they could fire one weapon, such as the shotgun, then quickly tap another weapon key. As soon as the first weapon's firing animation ended, the other would appear in their hands. Enemies such as Grunts could be staggered with a shotgun blast, then gibbed by swapping to the super shotgun.
Shuffling through weapons in a heartbeat had applications in online play, too. "If you get the quad and you're close [to someone], you switch to another weapon, such as the super shotgun, and blast them in the face, and then switch back to rockets for long distance," Romero said.
Rocket jumps and other combat tricks would not have been possible without free aiming, an innovation introduced in id Tech 2. In Doom, players had only been able to aim and shoot straight ahead. Bullets connected as long as players and their targets were lined up, even if an enemy appeared to be above or below them, because of the 2.5D engine plotting all actors on the same axis. Quake introduced an option called "mouselook" that let players aim freely with mice or joysticks. Free-aiming was necessary. Thanks to Quake's six-degrees-of-freedom engine, monsters up on ledges or roaming in moats below the player, as well as airborne enemies such as the worm-like Scrag, could only be dispatched by aiming directly at them.
Technically, other first-person shooters implemented free aiming first. Dark Forces, developed by LucasArts and released in 1995, let players aim with a mouse. The catch was that, like Doom, Dark Forces was written on an engine that rendered levels on a single plane and used visual tricks to add depth and height. LucasArts applied a technique called shearing, rendering the player's view straight ahead in a taller aspect by stretching the image, so it appears they're looking up or down when they're still looking straight ahead.
Quake's third axis made it one of a select few FPS titles—the others being Descent and Terminator: Future Shock, both released in 1995—to support truly free aiming. "For people who had tons of skill, there was nothing [better]," Romero said. "There was nothing else that let them have absolutely full control of their character the way that Quake gave it to them. Mouselook is absolutely important."
The Dragon Atop Castle Id
ONE OF THE reasons id Software went its separate ways from Apogee after releasing Wolfenstein 3D was the team's mutual desire to be in control of their destiny.
"We had id Software as our development company, and we created a company called id Distribution that was handling all of our distribution stuff," Romero said. "We were thinking of starting id.net, which would have been a networking company. It would have been a spinoff to handle Quake as a curated service."
Plans for id.net never progressed beyond brainstorming. The idea was to offer a free online service through Quake that let players play and share levels on a central server. Like the game's Start map, a virtual environment would stand in for text-based menus. "That's your master server, which [the game] would automatically log in to," said Romero. "You would basically run around this castle and see all these other players, but you wouldn't be able to shoot anybody because it's not a deathmatch area. It's an area where you're choosing where you want to go and where you want to play."
Every so often, the castle's layout would change, adding and restructuring hallways and slipgates as players uploaded levels and created game sessions. In exchange for creators generating levels, effectively shouldering the burden of supporting Quake post-release, id would pay them a small sum—a business move that traced back to recruiting amateur developers to make levels for Final Doom and Doom 2's Master Levels expansion.
Similar services proved the appeal of the id.net concept. In late 1996, Blizzard North's Diablo shipped with Battle.net, a free multiplayer service where players could create and join game sessions and chat with others. Battle.net's popularity challenged similar services such as Kali that charged players subscriptions or one-time fees. Unfortunately, Quake's development had dragged on for too long to justify spending resources on a multiplayer network. "It was just something we talked about," Romero said. "We never did anything with it because we would have another company make it. We'd be in the middle of making the game, and we wouldn't want to take our focus away from making the game because that would need to be done before [a multiplayer service] existed. But the ideas behind it, I thought, would have been really cool for the community."
When they weren't shoring up single-player maps, Quake's level designers built a fifth episode, Deathmatch Arena, composed of six maps that could only be played in competitive multiplayer. In a way, Deathmatch Arena was Quake's most important episode. Thanks to the popularity of deathmatch in Doom, id made multiplayer the central pillar of Quake. The developers had been playing deathmatch since the most embryonic prototypes. "When we first made Quake, they made a level that was one giant cube with a weapon in one corner," recalled Petersen. "They played deathmatch on that thing for hours. It was just insane. I said, 'You guys are crazy. Players aren't going to like this.' They said players would like it, but I said, 'We've got to have more than this.' They slightly modified it."
"We would just spawn over and over, blowing each other up," McGee reminisced. "Finding that something so minimal and small could be really fun was interesting to me. That's when I started pushing toward smaller deathmatch maps."
Id's level designers approached designing maps specifically for multiplayer in their own ways. Petersen built arenas out of a sense of duty rather than eagerness. He preferred constructing elaborate maps filled with challenges for solo players. "Deathmatch levels need to be kind of even and symmetrical," he explained. "There's a lot of restriction involved in making a deathmatch level. In single-player, if you have a monster in a special area of the map, and you have to get through a series of extremely complicated doors or tricks, that's really cool. But no one will ever go there if that's a deathmatch map. To me, deathmatch levels were always super simplistic and easy."
McGee preferred smaller, tighter maps such as DM4: The Bad Place, one of his contributions to Deathmatch Arena. DM4 takes place in a central room with three floors. All of Quake's weapons can be found on one strata or another, and teleporters can zip players across the arena. He completed the level in a single day. "The moment there was a blob of geometry with some lighting and weapons, we were immediately in there playing deathmatch. Maybe one of the reasons why DM4 got finished in a day was I sat down and started working on it, and I didn't stop for us to test it until I was done. I was really excited about it, so I was running around with it and having a lot of fun with the compactness of it."
Willits, Romero, Petersen, and McGee had to double back to their campaign levels to ensure they were enjoyable in multiplayer as well. "All levels in Doom and in Quake, you could play in single-player or in deathmatch, so there were some things we had to do to ensure there were no dead-ends in multiplayer. There were a few walls we'd open up just to present more traps and areas," Willits said.
As proof of multiplayer's importance, id released a multiplayer-only demo called Qtest in late February 1996. Qtest included the first three DM maps from Deathmatch Arena. The studio's goal was to get feedback regarding how it felt to move in Quake and what some of the world's best Doom deathmatch players thought of the game. Feedback was positive, except for one minor sticking point: Movement speed was not as fast in Quake as in Doom, where players moved at nearly 60 miles an hour while sprinting.
Romero agreed with those who preferred Doom's high-octane speed. Carmack, however, reigned in the Quake avatar's momentum on purpose. Slower walking and running speeds meant players would spend more time in levels, making the campaign last longer than it would otherwise and bringing movement in line with the game's smaller-than-average levels. (Of course, that was before players figured out how to rocket-jump across maps.)
Qtest proved so popular that some players hacked its code and figured out how to add monsters. Within Qtest's files, players found references to Dracosaur, a dragon that was impossible to spawn in the completed game. The rumor mill went into overdrive when a screenshot of Dracosaur soaring through the sky surfaced online. That image came from John Romero, who created screenshots as a marketing tool. Months earlier he had entered a developer cheat code to rise into the sky, then typed in another code to generate Dracosaur among the clouds. Drifting down to the ground, he had aimed up, pressed a key to capture an image, and distributed it online.
"That was all the dragon ever did," he said. "It was something that spawned in the world and sat there. It had no AI; it never flew around or anything. But we hoped it would someday when we could get all our brain power [focused on] gameplay. That never happened."
Dracosaur was a leftover from Quake's fantasy-RPG direction. Id had considered using the dragon in a single-player level, but its massive size made it difficult to place. "The outdoor areas in Quake were very small, and a dragon should be huge and look like it's really far away, but we couldn't do that," Romero said.
One idea for multiplayer that never made it as far as being embedded in code concerned a spin on classic deathmatch. "Part of deathmatch would have been, when a player's head flies off, other players would have been able to pick up that head and find a sacrificial altar somewhere in the level to get a massive power-up, such as temporary invulnerability, or maybe it would have been random," Romero said.
Sacrificing severed heads would have gelled with id's mission statement to make Quake as violent and absurd as possible. "It was something that would have taken time just to put in, and more time to balance and make it feel good," Romero said. "We would have had to play deathmatch over and over to do that, whereas we needed to actually be making levels and testing those levels over and over because we had to finish this thing. We just had to get the game out because everyone was pretty much exploding."
You can read Rocket Jump in its entirety in the Shacknews Long Read section of the site, where you'll find another deep dives into stories of how games are made and the people who make them.
David Craddock posted a new article, The Making of Quake, Part 3: Coloring in the Map
I finally put this on my Kindle. Loving it so far.
Damn! This just made me realize I never read part two of stay a while and listen, and now I discover we’ve got multiple books about quake??!!
Going to buy this in paperback
Quake is the best!
Love what you do David, thank you!
Nice!!!!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-BkrwO_Dck :)
This is great.
So Dracosaurs jumped ship to Daikatana in the form of mosquitoes...