June 19, 1999 Alfredo Lambour, 15, at his home in Inglewood, Calif., playing the "violence-oriented" computer video game Quake II.

June 19, 1999 Alfredo Lambour, 15, at his home in Inglewood, Calif., playing the "violence-oriented" computer video game Quake II.

Gerard Burkhart/The New York Times (file photo)

When Quake was released in 1996, Id Software (then based in Mesquite, now based in Richardson) had already revolutionized PC video games with Wolfenstein 3D and Doom

20 years of QuakeCon memories from the Id Software employee who's seen them all

Quake, though, took things even further. Not only did it play a huge role in standardizing first-person controls in which you use the mouse to look around, it became a blueprint for online multiplayer shooters in the years to come. 

Without Quake, you don't get to games like Team Fortress 2 or Overwatch, which are two of today's biggest multiplayer hits. In fact, versions of Quake's multiplayer are still being played today, sometimes for big money. At QuakeCon, Id Software's PC gaming convention that takes place in Dallas every year, tournaments are held to determine the best Quake players in the world.

Also, Quake featured music credited to Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails, which was kind of a crazy concept for video games back then.

Quake is also set to return to the modern competitive gaming scene with Quake Champions, which Id Software announced earlier this month at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. It's said to be a PC game designed for players of all skill levels which Id Software and their parent company Bethesda will be supporting with professional tournaments.

But before all of that, Quake was just the newest violent game from a group of scrappy developer kids in Mesquite. This is what we said about it back then, in the pages of The Dallas Morning News on June 26, 1996 from writer Todd Copilevitz.

Quake sends shock wave through cyberspace

For two years, computer game players have been waiting not so patiently for Quake, the follow-up to the best-selling game Doom.

Dozens of World Wide Web pages boasted the latest news on the development of id Software's new game. Thousands of messages in four Internet news groups debated the latest rumors. And magazines as diverse as Time, The Economist and Fortune have speculated on just how big a hit the game would be.

The game promised to deliver new technology that allows players to move faster, create monsters with more realistic movement, and join massive ongoing multiplayer games on computer networks, by phone or using the Internet.

This weekend, Quake hit and the shock waves are still being felt across cyberspace.

True to form, Mesquite-based id (www.idsoftware.com) let the Internet do its marketing. From its Web site, players can download a working portion of its game that players can use for free, called shareware.

In a month, players can order a full CD-ROM version of the game over the phone for $45. And in August, id will also offer the partial version of the game in stores on CD-ROM for $5. Customers will get the same shareware version of the game and a phone number to call to buy a code that unlocks the full game. The box ratings will reflect high violence content, similar to Doom, although the bloodshed is not as graphic as the current hit Duke Nukem3D from Apogee.

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It's a marketing approach id perfected with Doom: Generate excitement about a game by letting players try it for free, then charge them for the full game once they're hooked. It works so well that The Economist magazine dubbed it Doomonomics. Since the release of Doom in 1993, id has sold more than 3 million Doom titles (there are five in the series). The company estimates there are 15 million copies of its Doom shareware in circulation.

"When we released Doom, we didn't have a clue what to expect," says Jay Wilbur, id's chief executive. "This time we were ready, we learned our lesson."

Working with system administrators in California and London, the company set up sites around the world where people could get Quake. Late Friday night, one of the company's programmers logged into the quake IRC channel, which is similar to a chat room on AmericaOnline, to announce the game would be released on Saturday. There were 1,300 people using the channel at the time.

At 5 p.m., the game was put out on the Net. Within minutes more than 2,000 people were downloading the 8.5MB file, filling the capacity of id's system. (With a 28.8 modem, it takes about an hour to get the file.) By Monday, officials at id lost count, but estimated that several hundred thousand copies were already in circulation, with many being duplicated and passed along friend to friend.

"We track our servers and get reports from some of the other people offering the game, but there's really no way to calculate the numbers as this spreads like a spider's web," Mr. Wilbur says.

Computers set up on the Internet to let people play Quake against each other were overloaded almost immediately.

"They started logging in five minutes after the game went up," says John Fullington of Fullnet Inc., in Jasper, Ind. As he was talking, eight players were fighting each other in a game. He had no way of knowing where they were from, nor did he get paid anything for letting them use his company's computers, one of which is used exclusively for the game.

"It's something we do because this game is so incredible," he says. "These are games that are always going on, you just join in when you want to play."

On the four Usenet news groups already dedicated to Quake, more than 3,000 messages were posted over the weekend. And many of the more than 50 Web pages dedicated to the game were quickly updated to reflect its release. By comparison, only a dozen pages are devoted to the game Myst, according to the Yahoo! Internet index.

For their patience, players received a game very much in the mold of Doom, low priority on story-line, high priority on hunt-and-kill action.

The action takes place in a dark, post-apocalyptic industrial setting, with players battling 13 monsters such as sword-wielding knights, angry Rottweilers, flesh-flinging zombies and piranha-like Rotfish.

The game demands a Pentium-powered PC, with 16MB of memory in order to play the game with Windows 95. A Mac version of the game is still in development.

The extra computing muscle gives monsters a high degree of artificial intelligence, allowing them to set traps and evade players. Although they have a very boxy look to them, the monsters move much more fluidly than in Doom, and they look sharp even close-up. Players can choose from 15 resolution levels, trading speed for clarity.

The sound effects were created by Trent Reznor of the band Nine Inch Nails. (As a tribute to the band, ammo for a nail gun weapon is in boxes with the band's logo.) Running through halls, the sounds reverberate as they would in the real world. There's a heavy-metal accent to some of the larger beasts as they move.

The game allows players to use their own music CDs for the soundtrack, although the CD-ROM will come with music.

Players run, jump and swim through levels, armed with eight weapons ranging from an ax to lightning-bolt rifle. In single-player mode, there are seven levels to complete, one-fourth of the levels in the full version. But Quake is first and foremost a multiplayer game.

After two decades, QuakeCon is still going strong in Dallas

Players give themselves nicknames and pick a color for their shirt and pants. A multiplayer option in the main menu lets players pick what kind of game they'll join, by modem, network or Internet. On networks, such as those run by colleges and businesses, there's no limit to how many people can play. Over the Internet, most games are limited to 16 or fewer.

As players eliminate each other, the game keeps track with sarcastic messages across the top of the screen such as, "Dallasnews ate two rounds of Fragmaster's buckshot." As in Doom, the bodies of the fallen litter the floor.

Already Web sites are popping up with listings of Quake servers so players can find a quick game. The Aftershock (www.nuqneH.org/aftershock) even tests each site every few minutes for its current status.

"You're going to see servers going up everywhere," Mr. Fullington says. "But the game is going to be so popular you'll have a hard time getting in."

Over at id, the developers and programmers are watching all the furor and trying to catch their breath, Mr. Wilbur says. But there were no celebrations once the game was posted.

"You kidding? To celebrate we all went home to get some sleep," he says.

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