PC gaming in the ’90s was a real wild west affair. When games like Doom took off, everybody started making shovelware compilations of anywhere from hundreds to thousands of levels. Most of them were downloaded off BBSes without crediting people, which is pretty scummy in itself. But if you had no internet connection, this was a way to get levels with ease.
After a few years of this, companies like WizardWorks started making their own unofficial expansions for games like Quake, Descent and Warcraft II. While this was an improvement – level designers could actually license their stuff for commercial use – the internet was really starting to bloom in the late ’90s, making these unofficial “expansions” obsolete.
Today, I’m gonna look at one of these unofficial expansions for a little game called Quake…
Forgiving the groan-worthy punny title, Aftershock for Quake is one of several expansions made to capitalize on Quake‘s success. Published by Head Games, this featured “advanced levels”, adding three episodes and a bevy of deathmatch maps.
Unlike the official expansions – Scourge of Armagon and Dissolution of Eternity – these have no new monsters, powerups or weapons. These are vanilla Quake levels, designed to run with a registered copy of the original Quake. The episodes are drastically shorter than vanilla Quake, only having five levels for each episode.
Unsurprisingly, I couldn’t get the installer to work on my PC running Windows 7 64-bit since it’s a 16-bit application. Thankfully, all I had to do was to copy the /AS/ folder from the CD into my Quake folder and I was off to the races.
There isn’t much of a story to these maps. Considering Quake‘s story was already bare-bones to begin with, this is relatively par for the course. With the exception of episode three, there aren’t any credits to who made this. It’s unfortunate, because I was hoping to see someone who would go on to later claims to fame in game development, as a “before they were stars” moment. Kinda like how Viktor Antonov worked on the infamous Redneck Rampage as an art designer before crafting out the styles of Half-Life 2 and Dishonored.
By the way, there’s no new music in this. All of it is recycled from Quake, with the exception of one level having no music whatsoever. It would’ve been nice for them to go all out, but I’m glad they even bothered to even assign music tracks. Makes me want to put in a music CD to get a different feel to it, like when I wrote about Red Book CD Audio a couple years back.
Episode 1 has some interesting design. E1M1 starts you with an ogre, a knight, and a pool with armor in it as a secret. A later level has you hit a hard to see switch to move a boat across to grab the gold key, otherwise you die in hot slag.
A lot of the level design for Aftershock feels very amateur. Lots of precarious platforming over death pits, unclear instructions, and rather plain-looking level design. A lot of the levels are simple, poorly lit, boxy, and have no sense of balance. One level starts you near a rocket launcher, but then drops you into a trap room with two shamblers, a few fiends, and a couple of pentagrams and megahealth to aid your fight. A lot of these levels have several “kill all the enemies to progress” rooms, and it’s a bit frustrating.
Granted, this was around 1996-97, and people were still trying to figure out this fancy new 3D engine, but if you’re selling this level set for money, you gotta make sure it can hang with the big boys of the official product and its expansions. And the first episode gives a rather less-than-stellar impression.
On the bright side, the makers of the mod didn’t seem to know how to strip the player of their weapons upon completing an episode, so if you’re playing the episodes in order, the later episodes can be a breeze because of a full arsenal.
Out of all three episodes, episode 3 is the one that feels more fleshed out. With more custom textures, and even proper credits — the whole episode’s made by one Greg MacMartin, who’s still in the biz today working on Consortium and the Homeworld games — this is the best of the stuff on display. Though he did have a fascination with putting the gold key in death trap areas…
While I didn’t have any strange bugs while playing, I did experience a rare game crash. When I finished E3M5, Quakespasm, the source port I use, crashed with an unusual pushwall error. I was worried that this was an issue with the source port, but surprisingly I could not recreate the error after that. If there’s anyone reading who’s Quake-savvy who could explain what a pushwall error means, let me know in the comments.
That’s about it on the single player front. Aftershock for Quake also comes with about 13 deathmatch levels also made for the expansion, but most of them are simple box levels or have gimmicks, such as the two LAVABOX levels.
Since Quake multiplayer was in its infancy, a lot of these were likely made for 1v1 skirmishes. None of these maps are anywhere near levels of DM3, but when you just wanted to frag your buddies, you were happy to get whatever maps you could get your hands on.
You think that’s it, right? There’s enough there to give you something to play around with. Remember when I said that these were made when shovelware compilations were extremely common? Hidden on the disc is a level creator, called Thred, and a bunch of levels that come with it separate from the main Aftershock campaign. Though, the back of the box calls it the “Aftershock 3D Level Editor,” which sounds like a fake program I’d hear on a TV show.
There isn’t anything outstanding in this collection – no Iikka Kiranen levels or anything cool like that – and some of these levels are merely tutorials for how to do things in the Quake engine. Most of these levels are freely available online through places like Quaddicted, but you’re probably not missing out.
Aftershock for Quake is not an amazing expansion. Episode 3 and the various DM levels are the only reason to check this out, the rest of it is shovelware fodder that was prevalent during this time. I only spent a few bucks on this, so I don’t feel cheated out of this, but I got at least an hour or so of fun playing what Quake‘s community maps were like in 1996, so there’s that.
As far as I know, this is abandonware. Head Games no longer exists, and there’s probably no penalty for pirating an unofficial Quake expansion over twenty years after its original release. While not as outstanding as some of the other expansions, it’s a cool curiosity from years past. These kind of shovelware expansions should be documented more, there’s probably some interesting stuff about them we’re missing out on.
Updated 8/1/2020 for paragraph changes and some updates.