Required soundtrack for this Cortex article: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKD9WAOrfkM
Heaven at 10BASE-T
It was winter break, between Christmas and New Years 1996-1997. I'd been invited to spend a few days at my friend Chris's house, and I was instructed to bring my computer and monitor and haul it down into his basement. As I turned the corner at the bottom of the stairs, fifty pounds of leaded glass and electronics in my arms, I saw the bluish glow of half a dozen PCs set up around a ping pong table. The sounds were tantalizing - the rumble and bang of Quake, the crack of pop cans being opened, and the trash talk and laughter of my best and nerdiest friends. I was fifteen years old and this was my very first LAN party.
Our network was coaxial. Our computers were Pentiums. Our monitors were CRT. Our mice had balls. And our game was Quake. First up was deathmatch, where one of the guys destroyed all of us so thoroughly we had to ask him what his secret was - he said it was mouselook. And then he spent an hour inducting the rest of us into the Temple of Inverted Mouse Aiming. Then together we played through most of the campaign in co-op. Chris's mom made us all macaroni and cheese. Bliss.
Once we got rolling, we all stayed awake for 24 hours in a row. After that first big stretch, we slept on couches and under the pool table and woke up ready for something new. Chris had an idea - we could play this Quake mod he'd found that he knew we'd love. Chris went from computer to computer with a Zip drive and a serial cable, transferring the mod files to each of us. Ten megs of pure anarchic joy: KQP.
More Is More
KQP, also known as Killer Quake Pack was and maybe still is the Mother Of All Quake Weapon Mods. The dev, Howard Roy, collected nearly thirty weapon mods into one megapack. Then he went a step further, integrating them and balancing them for multiplayer in a way that made each one useful and powerful and interesting. For example, there's a short-range teleporter but it doesn't work if you have under 50 health. That way you can't flee combat if you're about to die. KQP had been polished to a lovely shine - something you couldn't say about other weapon compilation mods available at the time.
The weapons are the focus here, and I want to take the time to list each of them, direct from the mod's README:
Super axe Super damage, but will hurt yourself as well.
Vampire axe Suck up enemy's health, and give it back to you.
Morning Star Finally, the morning star you've all been waiting for.
Throwing Axe A throwing flaming axe. You'll like it in action.
Disc A bouncing disc that can lop someone's head off.
Auto-shotgun 5 continuous shots at a time.
Portal Gun It can open a portal on walls to let you get through.
Magnum Lite Scaled down version of Magnum, take less ammo.
Poisoned arrow A sniper arrow capable of poisoning others.
Air Fist You can repel other people or blow away items with it.
Chain Gun This gatling gun will kick some major butt!
Mini Cannon With this mini cannon, you can shoot THROUGH walls!
Akimbo shotgun Blow'em out with one super shotgun held on each hand.
Blaze Gun A new 'fireball' thrower type weapon. Can burn people.
RFL Rapid fireball launcher, like Blaze gun, but faster.
Laser! This weapon has a wide range of effectiveness.
Blood Drainer Ever wonder what it'll be like to drain someone dry?
Blazethrower Wanted to setup a wall of fire? Try this!
Radio tag bomb Tag to enemy and detonate it remotely.
Promixity mine Explode when anything get close. Fairly powerful.
Timed Nuke! Extremely powerful. Can gib anything in sight.
Freezethrower Wanted to freeze someone? Try this!
Nail bomb The a.k.a. Eraser bomb.
Guided missile Fly your missile around to hunt people down.
Auto-missile 3 continuous shots at a time.
Nuke Ultra powerful, can gib everyone in a room with 1 shot.
Flare Lights up the room.
Guided Nuke!! Guided version of Nuke, a bit more powerful.
BFG 9000 The BFG from DOOM is back!
Gibbed head Floating in the air, looking for people to ambush.
Self-Destruct Only allowed when health < 20. Kill everyone with it.
Gib-gun mode Same damage as grenade / RTB. Fun to watch it explodes.
Trapped backpack Now you'll never know which backpack is safe, which isn't.
Fake backpack Now you'll never know which backpack is real, which isn't.
Shield Good defensive device.
Orb Good defensive and offensive device.
Feign death Hope that people will think you're really dead.
Decoy Another device to deceive people
Air Strike Call for an air strike.
Radar A VERY useful living object detection device
Rain of fire Summon a rain of fire to burn like hell!
Beyond the new guns and weapons, KQP added the kind of details and polish that would later come for granted in late 90's and early 2000's shooters: decapitation, bleeding and twitching gibs that could float on water, shell casings, interactive props, akimbo weapons, projectiles that had some physics and would bounce off things, and much more. It had a built-in third-person camera system. You could even spawn a dog companion to fight for you, named Cujo, natch. Bots were built in, each with a custom skin and name so you could fight Captain Picard and The Mummy along with your friends. KQP really was a tremendous showcase of QuakeC programming.
There probably isn't a way to replicate the sheer joy and exploration of our first few hours playing KQP at that LAN party. New forms of gameplay emerged, and the combat meta evolved minute-by-minute as we each discovered new guns and their effects. For example the magnum shotgun could one-shot an unarmored opponent but required precise aim and some distance from your opponent. Meanwhile a cautious player could find a good hiding place and then simply send out deadly guided rockets from safety. Someone found out that the Blood Drainer would slowly kill an opponent after a single shot, leading to sneaky hit-and-run gameplay. We found hilarious ways to grief players, and discovered some maps could be dominated by overpowered or broken weapons. The air cannon was devastating on maps with lava, because you could just blast people off walkways to their doom. We ended up banning the morningstar because you could use it to escape the map and crash the server. I dug through the mod documentation and told someone that typing "impulse 230" would give you a portable nuke but instead it initiated thier self-destruct mechanism. The comedy and greifing had no end.
Later on, we built new game modes on the honor system. Things like freezegun and ax only. Or low-gravity with the Air Fist, which let you ping-pong around the map with blasts of air trying to bump someone into environmental hazards. It seemed like new game experiences were only limited by your imagination.
I recorded a deathmatch against a few bots in Triumph, a multiplayer map included with KQP. It gives more an idea of the frenetic pace of KQP in multiplayer, like trying to find the right weapon for the situation and dealing with the status effects like being poisoned, lit on fire, or having your arms cut off.
Coming back to play KQP with bots for this article reminded me how much I miss that in-person discovery of gameplay that LAN parties facilitated. While the Zeus bots are good at using all the wild weapons, they don't suggest doing an impromptu round-robin dueling tournament with the Xena Warrior Princess flying disc weapon. Even so, this mod really holds up. Each gun is so much fun, and I ended up playing a solid hour with bots on various maps and once again discovering the tricks and strategies that worked best for each map and combat space.
Honestly speaking, KQP makes me a little depressed at how same-ey shooters are these days. The weapon lineups haven't changed since Doom: pistol, shotgun, submachinegun, rifle, grenade launcher, sniper rifle, the one interesting gun, blah blah blah. Where's the shooter with fun and funny weapons? What games give you the joy of exploring new ways to blow up your friends? I've seen some interesting stuff in the indie space, like Duck Game, that has that spark. But I miss that feeling.
KQP provided some of the most fun Quake gaming moments of my life. While you may not be able to recreate the novelty of encountering it for the first time at a LAN party, it's still fun to stomp some bots or run through the single-player campaign of Quake with KQP loaded up.
- Name: Killer Quake Pack aka KQP
- Author: Howard "Solo" Roy
- Author homepage: Archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20190328035608/http://kqp.horoy.com/
- Release Date: 5 February 1997
- Download: https://www.moddb.com/mods/killer-quake-pack/downloads/killer-quake-pack-22z
- Stream: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBvfN0xOecI ← This video with soothing narration runs through the essentials of KQP and tries out each weapon.
- Multiplayer Stream: https://youtu.be/lVXlN7bcc6w ← My recording vs some bots is here, or embedded above.
- Trivia: There's an interesting contemporary interview with KQPs developer, Howard Roy, at the still-live insideqc.com http://www.insideqc.com/interviews/howard.shtml