Dude, Where's My Shambler?
After a little digging, I discovered a few interesting things about Q1. These are repeated in one of my comments, but I thought it relevant for the article itself.
After Commander Keen, the id team wanted to make a relaxed fantasy RPG starring a hero named Quake. Quake was John Romero's D&D character. He was to carry a thunderhammer and a soul cube and fight dragons. Below is a very early screenshot.
I also dug up some gossip regarding Romero's separation from id:
Basically, he was faced with the decision to either leave, or be fired on the spot.
This is due in no small part to his complete lack of direction for Quake, leading his team in circles, hence game delays, and of course a design that was nowhere close to the road to success. (wow, what a run-on sentence)
To add to that, instead of doing his job with Quake (right up until crunch-time) he was out producing titles like Heretic and Hexen.
This was pulled directly from an ancient thread on the still-functioning Doomworld.com. Just gossip, but it makes sense. He was very into the fantasy RPG aspects of gaming, if Hexen and Heretic are evidence enough. It seems like it may well have been Romero's influence that brought the fantasy elements to Quake in the first place. Presumably the rest of the id team was not into it and thus opted for a more futuristic theme. Still. I think they messed up what would have been an amazing legacy.
I don't typically see blogging as a platform for ranting. I don't like to rant. It's childish and ineffective. And really, I'll try to avoid it here. But what I'm about to say has been bothering me for twenty years, so consider yourself warned if I do get ranty. But I just feel like id Software owes us something.
The Doom treatment
First, let me say I love the Doom franchise, and I think id has treated it very well, focusing on great single-player experiences. The first PC game I ever played was Doom. It changed my life. Let me make a sidebar about it:
How I met Doom: a love story
So get this:
We were at Wal-Mart, shopping. Being a bored nerd in a smallish town, I had little time for groceries. I preferred instead to hang out in the electronics section, playing whatever games were being demoed or looking for alternative rock cassettes in little cardboard sleeves. Remember that?
Back then, newfangled Windows 3.1 computers and electric typewriters were sold side by side. They were on display, plugged in, turned on and loaded with gems like Minesweeper and Chip's Challenge to awe browsers with their amazing technology.
Imagine the joy I felt when I discovered that some feisty Wal-Mart employee had taken the liberty of installing Doom on one of the machines.
I'd never seen anything like it. It was completely unexpected. The amazing graphics and the first-person, 3d perspective created an unprecedented VR experience that transported me away from dingy Wal-Mart to the very shores of Hell. It was something different. Something bloody and frightening!
And so I was hooked. Still am.
I got Doom 64 for the Nintendo 64, but it didn't feel right. (Over 20 years later, I still won't play FPSs with a controller.) It wasn't until - what? 1995? When my dad finally got a family computer.
The first game I bought was the (extremely hackable) Quake shareware disc. (Anybody remember that? It had id's complete works and could be easily hacked to unlock all of it. Not that I ever did. 😉
And then I played Quake! Oh how I played!
For me, Quake One is the pinnacle of shooters. Perhaps the pinnacle of PC gaming. Since the moment I booted up the game and heard Trent Reznor's intense soundtrack, since the moment I encountered my first ogre and emptied a nail gun into his back, from the moment I realized I couldn't fire a lighting gun in the water, every gaming moment has been a mindless chase to recapture that first exhilaration.
No game before and no game since has quite got the formula right.
Quake offers the perfect balance of weaponry, monsters, ambiance and map design. The grenade launcher set the precedent for bouncing weaponry in shooters! id, in their prime, invented the rocket jump. What else? I'm so sure many modern shooter staples have their roots in the original Quake.
So I could say I'm a fan, but that would be a gross understatement. There's no other game that I've enjoyed for over twenty years like Quake. Even Super Mario 3 has gotten old and gross. Quake, with its seemingly ustoppable mod community, continues to offer new stuff. Quaddicted.com is my current favorite website. So much to offer!
Quake II = sad face 🙁
Quake II was another milestone in my life. It was the first game I bought, as soon as it was released, with money I earned from an actual job (waiting tables at IHOP if you must know.) I got it at Best Buy, brought the oversized box home (why were the boxes so big?), unwrapped it with quaking hands and installed it. My excitement was palpable. I thought I might poop myself.
I was prepared to revisit the haunting and unique, Lovecraftian realms of Quake. What would the new game offer? Super Shamblers? Mega Fiends? How much more eviscerated could I get?
There were no f****** Shamblers in Quake II, super or otherwise.
No fiends, no scrags. No vores. None of those little bouncing blue things that explode (hate them so much).
What happened? Where's my Quake?
Instead of otherworldy elder beasts and eldritch beings, there were cyborgs. F****** cyborgs!?
How do you go from the unique and haunting Elder Realms, to cyborgs?
Okay, okay so I'm ranting. Sorry.
Look, after Quake came out, it was THE game to beat.
Some clones were produced, but none of them seemed to bother with the kind of eldritch theme or brooding ambiance. I remember seeing a two-page ad in PC Gamer for the newest "Quake-Killler," a game called Unreal. And of all the games that came anywhere near Quake's greatness, Unreal was the best.
Unreal captured the same kind of desolate darkness we enjoyed in Quake. It was a very different (and excellent) game experience from Quake, but it managed to create a similar dark and wistful ambiance.
And you know what else? Unreal never got a proper sequel either! And don't get me wrong, Unreal Tournament is an incredible franchise, but Unreal 2 was a disappointment to us all.
I digress. The deal is, id set the bar for FPS games, and they were the only ones who could have out-Quaked Quake. But they didn't. They made some other game.
Quake spawned countless mods and expansions. It still does, 20 years later. It was that good! It sold brilliantly! It is still a god among games. People love shamblers.
So why the hell won't id give us what we want? Why do they leave single player experiences to Doom and keep Quake strictly multiplayer? And why does the iconic Shambler not get another chance to destroy me? Do you think the paying public would be disappointed with a return to the original theme? Hell naw! Would you? Do you really prefer Strogg to shamblers? Feel free to comment.
I need to wrap this up.
When the 2016 Doom came out, we all sort of knew Quake would be next. Quake Champions is still a bit mystery, but the name sounds very much like an arena shooter.
And yet, I dare to dream.
Might id create a fun and engrossing single-player experience? Please? Lovecraft is hot right now! Nerds love it. There's no better time to bring back those original, eldritch beasts from nether realms. id! You owe it to us!
Quake is still being played and modded, 20 years later. Does anyone still play Quake 4? Hell no! Cyborgs are stupid!
I demand justice. I demand Shamblers. Nay! I demand ... Super Shamblers!