Itís really hard for me to imagine a world without video games. For me they consume most of my free time, I think itís much more than a hobby… I suppose this must be what professional wine tasters feel like.
You see people like us (that includes you dear reader), we come to appreciate the finer things of video games. Sometimes itís nice to step back and take a look at our roots, dip our toe into some old, mouldy and sometimes nasty waters.
Instead of giving a huge history of first person shooters, as many many, many publications have done before me — I really want to focus on one thing, the influences Quake (and the Quake modding scene) have had on Half-Life and, in relation, Half-Life 2.
Quake, as many of you know, was developed by iD Software and released in 1996; Half-Life was soon released two years later in 1998. This is where I always get things wrong, often I have caught myself saying that Half-Life was based on the Quake 2 engine, and as much as Half-Life looks like Quake 2 itís entirely incorrect. In fact, Half-Life was built, from the ground up, using code from Quake 1 (DOS Quake, Win Quake, GL Quake and Quake World). There is a little of Quake 2 in it, but mainly just bug fixes. Iíve been playing a lot of Quake recently and I am often taken back at the very fact that the Quake engine looks so dated compared to Half-Life and GldSrc. It really shows how much Valve changed during the development of Half-Life 1. Which begs the question… would Half-Life exist if John Carmack and his extremely talented team didnít first complete Quake?
Even further still, games like Rage (on the iD Tech 5 engine) and the Source engine are by products of the Quake engine. Itís amazing to fathom… modern day, considered to be incredible video game engines, being based on something so old and antiquated as Quake. It gives me shivers.
Disclaimer: I really hope I donít butcher this section with my ignorance.
Try to throw away everything you know about video games… itís hard I know, but give it a shot. Try to clear your mind of all ideas of how a video game presents itself. Now that your mind is clear and empty of all previous knowledge, I task you with figuring out how to build a video game engine… even conceptually. This is difficult, the very idea alone is extremely complex. As modern gamers we take so much for granted, we throw around words like brush based maps, model based maps, vertexes, faces, poly count, 2D, 3D, even compiling… when really none of this existed (in the video game world) until Quake, Doom and Wolfenstein.
Quake pre-rendered itís environment, something we have become accustomed to as gamers, any mapper (big or small) has had to wait for their maps to compile. Because the maps are pre-rendered they run much faster and smoother on early 90s machines. This is because not every face is rendered in the final bsp. The compiler will first determine what is the ďinsideĒ of the map and what is the ďoutsideĒ then cut out all bits facing the outside — this process is called Binary Space Partitioning (thatís where you get the BSP file name). Maybe some of you arenít as shocked as I am, but this is a crazy concept!! This allows mappers to keep an editable version of their map while still keeping the compiled version playable in game.
The early Half-Life build tools are almost identical to the original Quake build tools. In fact, in the early days, mappers who still werenít familiar with WorldCraft used programs such as GtkRadient, Quark, and Qoole to build maps in Half-Life. Hell, even I can remember loading up GtkRadient once or twice. Folks can even use WorldCraft to make Quake maps.
So I ask ďis the team at Valve talented enough to do all this on their own?Ē Would it be possible for Gabe Newell and his team to create something similar to the BSP technology if it didnít already exist?
The original Team Fortress was released the same year as Quake 1, 1996. Itís hard to believe that something so monumental was released less than one year after Quake 1. Team Fortress is widely considered to be one of the first major and successful modifications for any video game. It was even the first FPS title to introduce the concept of ďhead shotsĒ, something used in almost every FPS today.
The success of Team Fortress was also seen by the original founders of Valve, so soon after Half-Life was released, the creators of Team Fortress were cannibalized by Valve and out came Team Fortress classic. Team Fortress Classic came out one year after the release of Half-Life and popularized concepts such as Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag.
So once again we ask ourselves, would Half-Life be so popular if it wasnít for the amazing minds of Robin Walker and John Cook? Not much has changed between Team Fortress and Team Fortress Classic except visual updates of course.
Before I close up this article I want to mention one more connection between Quake and Half-life… his name… Neil Manke. Some readers may recognize his more popular Half-Life mods They Hunger and USS Darkstar. But Neil Manke didnít just create Half-Life mods. Yup, you guessed it, he started with Quake.
In his early days Neil created classic such as Alba, Starship, Soldier of Fortune, and slaughterhouse. They can still be found on the Black Widow Games website and those who look hard enough can find some downloads still kicking around on PlanetQuake.
Neil Manke wasnít the only one who contributed to the early days of Half-Life. In 1998 modders were ready for a change, they were experienced and ready for something new. Valve presented Half-Life as an updated version of Quake where modders could still feel comfortable with the tools Valve presented. As to be expected, modders migrated away from Quake and towards Half-Life.
So lastly, we ask ourselves, would Half-Life have such a huge cult following if it wasnít for the Quake modding scene and people like Neil Manke?
I presented you with a step back in time, but I also tricked you (sorry). The old adage applies ďWhy reinvent the wheel?Ē. Itís important to understand history in order to get a grasp on the present. There is no doubt that Valve created an excellent game — and continues to create an excellent series of games, but did they just take advantage of an already existing engine, feature set, and modding community? Even today Valve is notorious for cannibalism — some primary examples being DOTA2 and Portal.
So letís take a moment to remember Quake, because without it, this article, my podcast, and so much we take for granted, wouldnít even exist.
18th February 2012
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