"I will be concentrating on making Quake the most disquieting and upsetting game on the planet."
- Excerpt from a December 1st, 1994 post on AOL by John Romero about id's Quake, which was then in development.
20 years ago today id Software released Quake, the seminal 3D first-person shooter that succeeded Doom and went on to spawn a franchise of its own (the latest of which, Quake Champions, is currently in development.)
While Doom popularized first-person shooters at large and had its own passionate multiplayer community, Quake's beefier multiplayer design (it was one of the first games to come to online multiplayer game services in the '90s) gave rise to a plethora of concepts modern game designers take for granted, including everything from cooperative play in an FPS campaign to rocket jumping to the original Team Fortress mod.
To mark the game's 20th birthday, id cofounder John Romero published a blog post today that rounds up a few choice bits of ephemera released during Quake's development. It's an intriguing collection for game developers to peruse, as it sheds light on id's culture of game development in the '90s and serves as a reminder that the game you set out to make isn't always the game you wind up shipping.
"You can see the original design thinking behind Quake while we were making it," writes Romero, referring to an old "Quaketalk 95" FAQ, originally published by id in October of '95 to keep fans apprised of Quake's development, that he reposted today. "It bears little resemblance to the designs discussed here but it lets you see how volatile game design processes can be."
And sure enough, you can read through some of the '90s press coverage of Quake collated in that old FAQ and get a glimpse of a much different game than the techno-gothic FPS id wound up shipping.
"The current setting (notice i didn't say the evil s-word, 'story') is a fantasy world where the player becomes Thor-like being wielding a giant hammer, which he can throw at or bludgeon anything that moves," reads a story on Quake excerpted from the July '94 issue of Computer Gaming World. "As Romero was describing the multiplayer Quake of his imagination, he was literally hopping out of his seat and pantomiming the violent drama between two warrior gods, punctuating the action with sound effects."
The final game, of course, would end up losing the giant hammer but retaining the violent drama. You can find more choice quotes from the Quaketalk 95 FAQ, as well as some of the very first Quake screenshots Romero ever released, in Romero's full blog post.