For Rock Paper Shotgun, I recently wrote a three-part series "Quake Renaissance".
Part 1 is an industry history of Quake's cursed development at id Software, Part 2 is a primer to 25 years of Quake community modding, and lastly Part 3 is a how-to guide for getting into Quake and enjoying its mods.
This series had some goals:
- Address a complex disparate audience. I had to somehow appease hardcore Quake nerds AND interest a general gamer readership who thinks Quake is boring. Ideally, try to convince the latter that Quake is worth thinking about.
- Push against typical game industry histories ("the great men of id Software") by showing how deeply flawed all these famous developers were + highlight a community history approach. Hell has no gods.
- Write the type of history that the average academic, fan, or developer wouldn't be able to write alone, by combining all their approaches. I tried to respect the deep engagement of a fan, use the technical knowledge of a dev, and maintain the critical distance of an academic.
- Revise my earlier writing about mod communities. The retro modders of the 2010s are very different from the teen modders of the 1990s, with contrasting motivations and resources. People (and the world) change a lot in 20 years.
- Show how Quake community is surprisingly anarchist / radical -- they have complete control over themselves, from their social hubs to their source code to their dev tools. They basically own their own game -- a warning for today's modern game communities that have very little ownership or control, and thus will watch their culture die off quickly, assuming they ever even thought of themselves as a community in the first place.
- Interview current community members and synthesize their perspectives to try to capture the current zeitgeist. While I appreciate "oral history" approaches at Polygon like with their Morrowind roundtable, this type of format is, less charitably, just a
lazyloosely organized transcript with minimal analysis.
- Write the Quake guide I needed myself a few years ago. There are plenty of "how to install Quake" guides, but I think the real barrier is actually the culture. What are people playing and talking about? How do you read and understand each mod? Newbies need more help with curation and interpretation, rather than technical know-how.
EDIT: for anyone's curiosity, I've pasted below my raw working "Quake community timeline" from my writing notes. Sadly I had to simplify a lot and cut a lot for the final article:
Early Period, 1996-2001: pan-Quake unification, shared community and assetsZerstorer: Testament of the DestroyerIKSPQ, "ikblue" styleBeyond Belief https://www.quaddicted.com/reviews/bbelief.htmlTeam Fortress, Threewave CTFFantasy QuakeThe Shadow Over InnsmouthThe Nehahra ProjectInsomnia https://www.quaddicted.com/reviews/czg07.htmlPlanetQuake begins (1997)Quake 2 (1997)QBoard (1998-2001?)Quake 3 Arena (1999)QMap (2000-2002)Speedmaps begin (2001)Transitional Period, 2002-2004: relating Quake to larger game industry context, source port graphics enhancementsThe Castle of KoohooSoul of EvilThe Marcher Fortress https://www.quaddicted.com/reviews/kinn_marcher.htmlContract Revoked / KnaveGeoComp2 (2002) -- Quake 3 Arena / bsp level design at high modernist apexFunc_msgboard founded (2002)Fitzquake (2002-2009)DarkPlaces (2002-2014)Doom 3 (2004)Pre-Modern, 2005-2009: Quake 1 soul-searching, facing end of history, re-commit to retroQuake 4 (2005) disappoints everyoneQuoth: the first major framework mod, "platform mod"?Quaddicted founded (2005)Warpspasm (2007) https://www.quaddicted.com/reviews/warpspasm.htmlTravail (2007) https://www.quaddicted.com/reviews/travail.htmlPlanetQuake closes (2009), commercial community hubs can't be trusted to preserve?Early Renaissance, 2010-2016: new faith and preservation, formal end of DarkPlacesTronyn's history (2010)... the community is old enough to look back on itselfQuakespasm (2010)Rubicon 2 (2011)Honey (2012)Something Wicked This Way Comes (2012) https://www.quaddicted.com/reviews/something_wicked.htmlbsp2 file format (2012+)J.A.C.K editor released, becomes main editor of choice (2013)func_mapjams begin (2014)Retrojams begin (2014-2017)DarkPlaces last update (2014); irrelevant vs Unity / UDK / UE4Sock's maps (2013+) "The Horde of Zendar", Arcane Dimensions (2015-2021); contemporary echo of Nehahra? Quake 2 / Quake 3 people returning to Quake 1?Renaissance, 2017+: flood of new blood, tools, interestAD: "The Forgotten Sepulcher" (2017)AD: "Tears of the False God" (2020)Trenchbroom v2 released, becomes main editor of choice (2017)Quake Mapping Discord (2018) as strongly-moderated place for newcomersbig revival of Speedmapping (2018)Copper (2019) as direct critique of vanilla QuakeMakkon texture set (2020), AAA workflow that's still "faithful"Dwell (2020), Alkaline (2021)End of the Renaissance: when? it'll happen, don't panic, might already be here