This interview was conducted in haphazard order over the course of many sessions
and has been ordered as neatly as possible to have a semblance of flow. Other than that,
no sentences were rearranged afterward and no answers were censored. The things said
in this interview are in no way doctored or mangled.
The original Quake preview, circa 1990
Why Quake? I've heard rumor of a game following Commander
Keen where you played a character named Quake, which got scrapped to make room
for Wolfenstein, and I have also heard tale of Quake originally being more
centered around the Mjolnir and having a more traditional fantasy
After we finished our original Commander Keen series (1-3)
in 1990 we made mention of a game called "Quake: The Fight For Justice" that we
were going to make. We did some prototyping and decided that it just wasn't
time to make that game - tech needed to advance. So we spent the next year
working on Softdisk games (1991) and Keen 4-6. Then in 1992 we started Wolf3D.
Is there any relation beyond that of the name to what we
know as Quake today? And if so, how was the tech holding it back?
The tech we had was only 2D scrolling tiles. We wanted
Quake in a full 3D world. So we waited.
Full 3D to the extent of a true z-axis or more akin to what
was accomplished with the Doom engine?
Quake as it turned out is not what Quake was supposed to be
in either that original prototype (TFFJ) or in the original concept of what
Quake1 was going to be. The idea completely changed and the only reason we
didn't change the name of the game is because everyone in the world already knew
what we were working on.
So would you call Quake an almagamation of ideas from
different projects compressed into one title unduly brought about by the press
and general community knowledge?
Nope. Quake was one original idea that got changed 7 months
before shipping to something totally different and the name remained because the
world already knew what the game was called.
Only 7 months? Would you mind shedding some light on how it
was changed so quickly? I know many people, including myself, had the
impression that it went through varous stylistic changes, and believed that the
texture set was evidence of such. Put that on top of the rumors one hears of it
beginning as an RPG, to a hack and slash, up into a first person shooter, and
one can construe many ideas as to what the designs were originally like.
Originally the game was going to be much more like an
adventure or experience - you traveled through a full 3D world with your massive
hammer which increased in power as you defeated enemies, much like Link's sword
in the Zelda series. That was the idea but there was never any game code to
prove out the idea. So we reached a boiling point where some of the dev team
was very worried that we wouldn't be able to release the game within a year
after our first year of development and they started to freak out. We held a
vote and the vote was to just slap in DOOM-style weapons and polish it off and
get it out the door. So i rewrote the design, defined the weapons, level-order,
etc and we just plowed through it and released it on June 22, 1996.
We did have another texture set created for Aztec-style architecture but one of
our level designers couldn't get any ideas or inspiration from it so we had to
drop the entire texture set...
Dissolution of Eternity
Was that texture set reincarnated in Dissolution of
Eternity by Rogue or was that their own creation? And on that topic, how happy
were you and the rest of the Quake team with Rogue and Hipnotic/Ritual's
I don't think so - I believe Rogue created all their assets
themselves. I was very happy with Ritual's "Scourge of Armagon" - I was the guy
who decided to help them start their company and give them their first deal. I
knew they were crazy-talented and the other id guys agreed so we got them
started up. I wasn't excited about Rogue working on a Quake pack because of the
way the Strife project was developed (although I must say that Strife, the game,
was *excellent*! It was very unique, had amazing twists and turns in the story,
and had clearly delineated fighting and non-fighting areas.)
Speaking of the missionpacks, many people preferred them,
music-wise over Quake itself. I myself am split on the issue, Jeehung Hwang did
an excellent job creating some cool music with both, whereas (in Quake) Trent Reznor crafted
textures that had me convinced early on that the CD soundtrack was actually just
the in-game ambient sounds. Both were instrumental (pun intended) in building up
the products involved. How did the Quake soundtrack affect the creation of the
levels and the monsters? Was Reznor involved before the vote to make the game
more akin to Doom?
Yes, I'm sure actual music was better than what Quake had.
Trent didn't spend much time on it and the only real standout track was the
title song. If we had played the music as MP3's instead of CD Audio i believe
people would have really identified with it more - 99% of people who play Quake
don't play it with the CD in the drive. During Quake's development we were
playing MP3s in the game that were created by a friend of Trent's that were
really really great - I wish we would have kept those songs and played them as
I guess that is where I personally do differ, I have the
soundtrack as oggs in the id1 folder which the DarkPlaces engine loads and plays
as specified by worldspawn. What style was the music that you spoke of that was
present during development? Was it more akin to other game music such as what
you would hear in Doom, Duke3D or Blood?
The MP3s we played during development were all ambient but
had a much different feeling.
Would it be possible to describe that feeling? Because I've
always gotten a rather rich sensation from the Quake score myself, and always
identified the game's artwork and architecture heavily with that. In fact two of
my first real impacting memories of the registered version is hearing the
opening tones of the intermission song after finishing the Crypt of Decay and
staring at that blue tower looming over the water. And also the first time
getting lost in the Ebon Fortress, turning everytime I heard a sudden sound, as
the soundtrack blended with the game's ambience.
Well, the sound of those songs isn't what was going through
our head while we were developing the game - it was only during our testing
phases. And Quake's CD Audio was *never* played during development because it
was the last thing created and put in the game. So the real musical influences
were different per designer. The music that I listened to while making levels
was a lot of Queensryche (The Warning, Rage For Order), Alice in Chains (Dirt,
Sap), and Black Sabbath (mostly Tony Martin era).
So it would be safe to say then that Trent was influenced
more by the final incarnation of Quake than Quake was by anything he had
crafted. Interesting, one must wonder if he was influenced by his friends music
that had been paired with the game earlier and the impression that lent itself
to the world.
Yes, I'd say he saw the game and knew where to go musically.
And yes, he could have been inspired by his friend's music because we told him we
What was the logic behind the megahealth health rot? This
created a unique gameplay pace division between Quake and Doom, as the rot
negated any concept of health bonuses as seen in Doom, but also made the powerup
more time-oriented a la Quad rather than a general benefit to the player (unless
they were particularly low on health on pickup).
The simple logic behind the megahealth rot was to have a
timer like the other powerups and try to keep the health down to a fair level.
The monsters in Quake have been a focal point of discussion
quite a bit lately, particularly of their design and features which are often
not quite clear due to the games overall resolution, and thus leave a lot of
room for the imagination. For example, there is debate as to whether Shamblers
and Fiends have eyes, as well as Vores, and whether a shambler has fur, a shaggy
coat, or pale skin. It is a rather trivial issue, but it has shown the myriad of
perceptions each player has of the games universe. I myself get a small gleam of
enjoyment out of assuming that all of the games upper level enemies are at
least, as far as skins are concerned, blind, it brings about a sense of
barbarity and an alien nature to them. Could you perhaps define some of these,
or lend your own opinion on what the creatures are designed as ?
You're right about the eyes - most of the monsters don't
have them. The world of Quake is dark, wet and scary and they didn't really
need em. The Shambler is supposed to have a shaggy coat.
The Quake Ogre, circa August 1995
Now whose idea was it to give an ogre a chainsaw AND a gun?
And is there a connection between him and that old screenshot of what looks like
a greenish ogre wielding the player's bloody axe?
The chainsaw idea was there from the inital concept and the
axe was the first weapon we modeled into his hand. The only problem was that
both his weapons required close combat attacks and i wanted a distance attack -
so we put the grenade launcher in his hand instead. One thing I wanted to have
the Ogre do is laugh and piss on your corpse after he killed you. We ran out of
Another creature that was rather odd and not quite common
was the Spawn, an enemy that it itself was the weapon. Why was he so rare in the
We came up with him later on and he was so tough that we
couldn't use him too much.
In QTest one can find a model for a dragon, and also a
creature called the Vomitus, along with a dragon.qc. What was the Vomitus going
to be like, as it has a very curious name, and is the Dissolution of Eternity
dragon similar at all to what was planned for Quake's dragon?
I can't remember the DoE dragon, sorry. Our dragon was
going to be a massive fly-by that traveled along a path outside the level,
dropping in for some firebreathing every now and then. Mostly it was gonna be
for a cool, huge character event. The Vomitus was going to be something
disgusting that vomited small versions of itself that attacked you.
One thing that seems unique to Quake as opposed to other id
games (excluding Commander Keen), one cannot help but notice that the dead seem
to outweigh the living, for example the slaughterhouse in level 27 of Doom2, yet
in Quake we encounter little in the form of such morbid decorations. Short of
the textures used in the shotgun room in Place of Two Deaths and the stretched
skin of faces over flames and crucified zombies, the Quake universe seems oddly
devoid of recent death beyond the havoc you bring upon it. Was this a, excuse
the pun, casualty of the change of workflow due to time?
It was definitely a case of "not enough time" to put a lot
of polish on the game.
Only in a line of work such as yours, can the crafting and
placement of mutilated corpses be categorized under polish ;)
Wicked sick polish :)
Quake is not exactly renowned for its AI, but was there
anything planned before time became a big concern?
Well, Quake's gameplay was coded pretty quickly so that
"feature" just slipped through the cracks. :)
Doom and Quake are both episodic games, however in Doom we
experienced bosses - the barons of hell, who though a common enemy later on,
were a huge step above the typical undead-fauna of Knee Deep in the Dead, and
the Cyberdemon and Spider Mastermind were basically exclusive to their levels
and were unique entities unto themselves. Quake on the other hand has only 2
direct bosses, Chthon and Shub Niggurath, both of which involve environmental
triggers to defeat, the latter not even taking a direct offense against the
player. Is this another casualty of the time scale? Was Shub planned to do more
or were other bosses planned?
Yes, the boss situation was due to time constraints.
Although you might notice that I placed the Shalrath creatures in the end room
of E2M6 as a sort of boss - it's the first time you meet them and we reuse them
later on (a la Baron of Hell). I designed Shub to do exactly what he does - it
was a really quick and easy boss to implement and an analog to DOOM II's final
Icon of Sin boss.
I had taken notice of the use of the Vores at the end of
Dismal Oubliette, though I would say they werent quite as tough as the Baron
encounter (sure you might have 10+ rockets for the barons, but the blast damage
is likely to kill you, whereas you have room to retreat with the vores). Why did
the monster name switch from Shalrath to Vore? How about the Scrag being referred
to as a Wizard in the code?
In development you always have other names that originally
were used but before release are changed to something more appropriate. The
name Shalrath was one from, I believe, John C.'s D&D; campaign. Likewise, the
Scrag was originally called a Wizard. At the end it didn't do many wizardly
things so we changed the name. If the creature *did* do some interesting magic
the name would have been great to keep as it would have been one of the most
unsettling wizards that anyone could have imagined.
How do you feel about the fact that many speak of
Painkiller as Quake's spiritual sequel?
Though Painkiller is a great game I wouldn't call it
Quake's spiritual sequel - maybe DOOM's. Anything that's going to be a true
Quake 1 sequel would have fantastical, dark, raw and unsettling environments
with twisted and grotesque creatures - something that belongs in an H.P.
How do you feel about the fact that the Quake community has
expanded into engine mods, to the point of it being used to create new games
(Zymotic, Nexuiz, Darsana amongst others, as well as Transfusion, a recreation
of Blood in the Quake engine, an irony since once upon a time Blood was supposed
to be 3D Realm's answer to Quake)?
I think it's just great that the community is alive and
doing well modding like crazy. Ten years later it's still going strong and it's
good to see.
Did you try many of the mods over the years? If so, any
particular favorites or ones that you did not expect to see?
No, I actually don't spend much time downloading and
installing mods - there's too much out there for me to play on all platforms
that I don't deal with mods myself.
I must say then, you are missing out. Straight DM is still
a wondrous event, but I have many memories of Zerstorer and Team Fortress that
still bring a gib eating grin to my face.
Is there any relation between your new company's name and
the demise of many military bases? Are you employing rottweilers?
Haha no, the name Slipgate Ironworks is supposed to invoke
visions of a factory where slipgates are being built. It's not the real, final
name of the company though - that will be announced next year.
Continue to Part 2 for the second half
of this revealing interview, where we cover such topics as QuakeC, deathmatch,
speedrunning, and the Quake weapons...