C:\QUAKE - Part 1: Introduction and The Fly

Hidden gems and curiosities from a 20-year old time-capsule of my Quake-obsessed past.

Enkidu

C:\Quake - My Obsession, The Backup

Even before I got my first home PC, I was obsessed with Quake. I saw the shareware demo at a friend's house and I knew there was something special to the true 3D graphics and compelling art design. By late 1996, my interest moved to Quake mods and custom maps downloaded over dial-up internet - with mods the fun never ended and it didn't cost anything extra! It was my Quake-mania that lead me to Shacknews (then called Quakeholio) in the first place.

A few years of deep Quake passion later, and I'd moved on to Quake II and UT and other games. Running out of space on my hard drive sometime in the year 2000, I archived my C:\Quake folder in its entirety onto a single DVD-R which I put onto a spindle of other backup files and then promptly forgot about.

Until two decades later.

The backup
C:\Quake - the backup of my late 90's Quake mod obsession!

 

I had made it a goal in 2020 to eliminate all my physical storage, and pulled out all my old recordable media and hard drives to restore one last time. Among the old photos and warez and pirated movies was my C:\Quake backup. By a stroke of luck, the DVD was completely undamaged, and I was able to restore all 1.4 gigabytes of treasured 20 year-old memories. As I paged through the files, I realized I now had access to a time capsule of gaming history. The concepts that were explored in that golden era of Quake mods illuminate the gaming landscape we now inhabit. 

In each article of the C:\Quake series, I will explore one map or mod. I'll explain what makes it interesting, odd, or foundational and try to give some context that will help place it in history. For the first one, we'll be talking about and single-player map with a delightful twist: The Fly

The Art of Being First: The Fly

Early Quake SPQ maps fought with many limitations - limited texture sets, poor dev tools, patches from ID that would break scripting and graphics, and limited polygon counts. It's not that the Quake engine couldn't run complex levels, it was that people were running the game on like, Pentium 1 machines with a few megabytes of RAM and no graphics accelerators. Mappers with visions of complex architecture would have to wait until PC specs to improve, and for source ports to break the limits of Quake starting in 1999.

One Quake mapper wasn't going to wait on technology to blow our minds. In September of 1997, Markus Klar released a single player Quake (SPQ) map titled "The Fly". It's a little hard to impress on modern-day readers how jaw-dropping this single level was at the time. Think of it this way: when you listen to early rock-and-roll music you may notice that the recording quality is poor and sometimes the musicians make mistakes and the songs are short and repetitive and even simple. Even so, those old rock-and-roll tunes are foundational and inspiring and make you want to dance anyways. That's The Fly.

Moody, tech-filled hallways
The Fly features tech-filled hallways, evoking moody atmosphere with a limited polygon count

 

It's a short, moody base-style level. There's some interesting architectual brushwork, like angular scattered crates and pipes along the ceiling, some of which have collapsed into the claustrophobic hallways blocking progress. Lighting is dim and throbbing, and occasionally pitch-black which makes for annoying if pulse-pounding fights with unseen enemies. Health is low, weapons and ammo are limited, and a cautious approach is warranted until you're familiar with the layout.

And then there's the reveal - the moment of genius that melted my 13 year-old mind when I saw it for the first time. An elevator takes you up a dark shaft into the light of a wide-open cavern to reveal an impossible vertical walkway. Mere moments later, you find yourself walking on this impossible surface like a fly on the wall, looking down on the elevator shaft at a mind-twisting angle.

The Fly is you!
An unexpected reveal, a dizzying viewpoint.

 

The illusion of walking on the wall in The Fly pre-dates the first game I could find with wall-walking - the 2006 Prey - by nine years. Other games I know of that would later implement something like this are Rebellion's AvP (1999) and Dark Legion Development's Tremulous (2006). Playing it again for this Cortex article, I was struck by how much the transition into the illusion felt just like Portal - you'll have to play it to understand what I mean. For the most part all those other games do it better than The Fly, mostly becuase wall-walking is functionally impossible to do in the unmodified Quake engine. But Markus Klar did it first by years, and the implementation was still effective and dizzying. 

As a pure gameplay experience, The Fly isn't a great level. Its short, has unexciting combat, isn't particularly beautiful, and depends too much on monster-closet ambushes. Other Quake mappers have mastered the techniques of great SPQ maps, a topic we'll explore in another Cortex article later. 

The level's simple goal is to hit some switches and then escape
The level's simple goal is to hit some switches and then escape. At least you get some Quad Damage to help!

 

Nevertheless, true art isn't about executing your craft better than any other artist. Art is sometimes about being first - first to imagine something, first to bring to life something genuinely new. The Fly is art.

 

Short and very sweet
A short and very sweet custom Quake map.
  • Name: The Fly, thefly.bsp
  • Author: Markus Klar aka Leveldevil
  • Release Date: 01-Sep-1997
  • Download: The Fly is freely available and requires only a basic Quake install. https://www.quaddicted.com/reviews/thefly.html
  • Trivia: For the author to compile The Fly took over 8 and a half hours, using a Pentium 90 with 32MB of RAM.
  • Stream: A complete run-through of the map can be streamed here: https://youtu.be/NCj_HRJjDoY
From The Chatty
  • reply
    February 14, 2021 2:09 PM

    A new series of articles about my Quake mod obsession in the late 90's

    Read more: C:\QUAKE - Part 1: Introduction and The Fly

    • reply
      February 14, 2021 2:13 PM

      Hey, now this is a slick idea for Cortex articles. I will hammer that Follow button

    • reply
      February 14, 2021 2:13 PM

      Is there a youtube playthrough of The Fly (thefly.bsp)?

      • reply
        February 14, 2021 2:17 PM

        Not that I could find. If there's enough interest, I could record my own and post it here.

        Future articles all have YouTube links or GIF animations.

        • reply
          February 14, 2021 3:30 PM

          You should record your own. For some reason I can't download the BSP in the link you provided.

        • reply
          February 14, 2021 3:44 PM

          I'd be interested, I was just looking for it and nada

      • reply
        February 14, 2021 7:37 PM

        Hey I did a quick run-through of The Fly and uploaded it to Youtube: https://youtu.be/NCj_HRJjDoY

    • reply
      February 14, 2021 2:17 PM

      Love this so much. I wish anything felt as good as Quake1 anymore

    • reply
      February 14, 2021 2:20 PM

      great idea

    • reply
      February 14, 2021 2:22 PM

      I absolutely love the Win 3.x File Manager in the article.

    • reply
      February 14, 2021 2:35 PM

      Oh this is a cool fucking idea for a Cortex series. Shacknews should give you some storage to serve as a mirror for this shit — or see if it’s up on archive.org or not.

      • reply
        February 14, 2021 2:40 PM

        All of the maps and mods in this series of articles will include a working download link.

        Maybe I should write an appendix article about how to get these maps and mods running on modern PCs...?

        • reply
          February 14, 2021 3:33 PM

          I don’t just mean a working download link for TODAY, but what about in the future? If I was going through all the work to do this, I’d upload the files to a place I control, or trust them to someone to leave them up.

          • reply
            February 14, 2021 3:39 PM

            In that case, I have all the files on my own machine so I can share them out from Google Drive or like you suggested to Shacknews itself.

            • reply
              February 14, 2021 3:45 PM

              I think you should reach out to them and see if there’s any interest.

        • reply
          February 14, 2021 5:16 PM

          I think you should

    • reply
      February 14, 2021 2:54 PM

      this is great! already looking forward to the next one.

    • reply
      February 14, 2021 3:44 PM

      i lead a group of like 5 or 6 level devs and created "Quake BSP Expansion Project" back in the day. I can't find it online anymore. I think it's gone forever. It was a level pack with like 5 or 6 pvp maps. the only mention i can find is on blues news:

      Deathmatch BSP
      Thanks to Joost Schuur (Slipgate Central) for the word that the Quake BSP Expansion Project have released their first deathmatch compilation (and they are already rolling on their second project). It's available at Cdrom.com (4.1 MB) or right here (the new high speed connection is going to make it so much easier to make files available locally from now on).

      • reply
        February 14, 2021 4:21 PM

        I will try to track this down. In my research for other Cortex articles in this series I have a million tabs with BSP archives and deep web forums where it might appear.

        My own attempts at mapping and modding are even more lost to the ravages of time, sadly.

    • reply
      February 14, 2021 3:48 PM

      awesome article. Totally missed this map growing up, but then again I didn't really get into mods until Quake 2 when, like you mention, I started having a decent rig and setup that could handle the rendering.

    • reply
      February 14, 2021 5:54 PM

      Future vs Fantasy!!!

    • reply
      February 14, 2021 7:39 PM

      Note: I've fixed the download link so you can try this map. Link is in the Cortex, at the bottom.

      https://www.quaddicted.com/reviews/thefly.html

      There's also now a video of my run-through Dognose style (easy mode, godmode on) so you can see the cool reveal. The best bits are at 3:00 and 7:50 in the video.
      https://youtu.be/NCj_HRJjDoY

    • reply
      February 14, 2021 8:02 PM

      I loved your article. That file manager screenshot takes me right back to the 90s, unpacking those mod .zip files and screwing with the configs to get them working.

    • reply
      February 14, 2021 8:04 PM

      Another sort of mod that was really groundbreaking and new art was Rocket Arena. Back in the early days when crt was developing it, it was just a single map with no automation whatsoever. People stood on the roof of the map looking through the glass ceiling at the fight below.

      • reply
        February 14, 2021 8:17 PM

        I have another mod article on deck which has maps with balconies and hangout areas for spectators! Unfortunately its nearly impossible for me to test or screenshot this kind of thing because I'd need a dozen living people to join multiplayer for a two decade-old mod that wasn't very popular anyway. Bots don't play well in Quake mods, in my experience...

        I can't do Rocket Arena for this series, as it wasn't in my archive from the late Nineties. But once the series is complete, I may go back and review some crowd favorites.

        • reply
          February 14, 2021 9:58 PM

          Oh yeah, I hear ya! Man, you mention bots in Quake and I instantly get transported back to playing against the Reaper bot mod from back in the QW days. I was a severely high HPB with an unreliable ISP on my 33.6 modem that would give me best case pings of 8-900ms during peak, but a passable 280-300 at night, so I spent quite a few hours playing those bots offline on DM6. I remember those bots being pretty realistic back then, but that was probably due to the fact that there was no bot available at all to simulate multiplayer DM, so I was just grateful no matter what.

        • reply
          February 15, 2021 6:11 AM

          I'm pretty sure there are a bunch of us here that would love playing some classic Quake MP again. I know I would.

      • reply
        February 14, 2021 9:39 PM

        How to dominate RA:
        - Be a LPB
        - Buy a Voodoo 1
        - vispatch your maps for transparent water

        • reply
          February 14, 2021 10:02 PM

          I got so owned by my dad because we upgraded our video card around 1997 and instead of a Voodoo, which would have needed a 2D card upgrade as well, he got an ATI Mach64. It was a Direct3D accelerator back when the best games were all OpenGL. I could play Virtual Pool in stunning 3D (oooooohhhh boy), but Quake was still brutal software rendering.

    • reply
      February 14, 2021 9:45 PM

      I like it

    • reply
      February 14, 2021 9:51 PM

      great read, thank you!!

    • reply
      February 14, 2021 10:15 PM

      More please. I was this same way but with Doom, and then Quake. The leap from one to the other felt massive.

      • Ziz legacy 10 years legacy 20 years
        reply
        February 15, 2021 5:45 AM

        Yeah I was big in making Doom maps, though I don't think I was really good at it

    • reply
      February 15, 2021 5:30 AM

      This is awesome!

    • reply
      February 15, 2021 5:57 AM

      Amazing read. Thanks for taking the time.

      I wish I could find my backups of doom. :( I made lots of levels for it and would love to try them 20-25 years later.

Hello, Meet Lola