This post spoils what happens in my Quake map. If you care about that, play it first.
I made another Quake map -- this one was for a map jam called Retro Jam 7, where we all spent 2 weeks making level design homages to the greatest hits.
The theme here was "Koohoo" or "The Castle of Koohoo" (2001) by Vondur. The theming felt very fresh for Quake at the time, taking notes (and maybe a few textures) from Unreal. The novel use of greens and blues, as well as the outdoor hub layout, contrasted a lot with the browns and reds of Quake 3 Arena inspired aesthetics popular at the time.
Of course, I figured everyone else in the jam was going to lean on those dark greens and blues, so instead I opted for a rosy morning brown type of mood.
I feel the Koohoo textures have similar weaknesses to the retro cr8 set I used in my previous map: the textures are very dark, and would likely fail the midtones histogram test that forms the basis of modern approaches to diffuse textures today. I had to compensate with powerful lights to get the sunny light bouncing effect I wanted and it was a bit annoying. Why are these textures like this?!
The texture theme is also a bit of an in-joke within the mapping community. Back in 1996, id Software designer American McGee notoriously rejected an Aztec-like visual theme for his Quake maps. There was gossip about whether McGee was being inflexible, or whether these Aztec textures really were so bad. So if you make a mod that does manage to make this theme work within the confines of Quake, you can easily interpret it as a commentary -- don't be such a baby, McGee! The textures are fine! Go map!
Within broader game design culture, the theme also invokes an awkward aspect of cultural appropriation and reduction. Many games with lost temples in the jungle end up carelessly mixing Aztec / Mayan / Incan cultures together -- at worst, these games lazily recast indigenous people as mindless monsters to defeat so you can rightfully steal their treasures. It echoes colonizer arguments about "savages" who "need" to be conquered. For some reason, Amazon even thought their colonialism-themed MMO "The New World" could portray colonialism apolitically.
On the other hand, why shouldn't our fantasy settings involve Mesoamerican and Andean influences? How do we do this right? If I were making a big project with funding, I'd seek out experts and collaborators to do these cultures justice... Unfortunately this isn't a big project with funding. Instead I'm making a small level for a 25 year old game that no one plays.
So, at least, I can set some cultural design constraints to reduce harm:
- no zombies; the Spanish introduced smallpox to the Aztecs, killing millions and conquering the survivors; zombies in a Mesoamerican temple would serve as a clear allusion to this, and without context, would justify colonialist beliefs about Aztecs somehow deserving the disease because of God or whatever
- somehow I doubt that Quake has the design tools to unpack this deep trauma
- I don't even like how Quake zombies work anyway
- show the temple being invaded and settled by an outside force
- (sci-fi army enemies have settled the main courtyard)
- a non-triumphant ending because the player is also basically a colonizer
- (you're sealed in the temple and die there)
- do more exploration bits
- use more shadowy darkness
- set more ambushes (I've been playing Elden Ring)
- let players ambush enemies (I've been playing Elden Ring)
|"Forgotten Temple" by Jonas Ellermann|