Tagged: Quake

Ghosts I-IV for Quake: A different kind of soundtrack.

If there’s one thing I need to improve on in my life, it’s to write something in the moment. I’ve bought plenty of games, played a bevy of mods, grabbed other assorted things for potential blog fodder…

Then I do nothing with it. This has happened more often than not, but only because I get the problem of being an ideas person and rarely act upon them. I’ve been slowly improving on this front, at least more than I was years ago.

Which brings me to this post about a game mod. I played this on a whim back in 2018, and thought it was pretty neat. While I’m currently wrapped in a few other things right now, I thought I’d write something quick for this month.

A few years back, I wrote an article praising the wonders of Red Book CD audio. CD audio tracks that would play in certain games, from PC classics like Half-Life, to even Sega CD games like Sonic CD. Unfortunately, modern technology is not too kind to the concept, as it often struggles to work properly on modern devices. In some cases, digital re-releases of games like Starsiege: Tribes didn’t even come with the CD music, removing part of the ambience.

There have been solutions thanks to source ports and game updates. For instance, playing Half-Life on Steam has all its music files as MP3s, so if the game (or a related mod) calls for that CD track, it’ll play it without needing the CD.

Looks just as good as it did in ’96.

Which brings me to a classic in Red Book audio: Quake. One of the earliest PC games to use it, popping in the CD would fill your ears with weird ambient music by Trent Reznor and his band Nine Inch Nails. Modern source ports such as Quakespasm actually support playable CD tracks in MP3/OGG formats, which means one can rip the soundtrack from their copy of Quake – or just find it on the internet, I doubt id and Zenimax care these days – and play it easily, proper looping and all.

There’s a handful of Quake map packs that come with custom soundtracks tailor-made for the level pack, such as Travail. Others outright replace the Nine Inch Nails soundtrack with different ambient tracks, like EpiQuake or Quake Epsilon. But what if I told you someone replaced Nine Inch Nails music with Nine Inch Nails music?

Ha! Now I won’t be burned by hot slag. Take that!
(Oh wait, now I can’t get out…)

“Ghosts I-IV for Quake” is an interesting mod. Replacing the original 1996 soundtrack with the entirety of Ghosts I-IV, an album by Nine Inch Nails with nothing but ambient instrumentals seems like a good fit. In a sense, Ghosts I-IV is a spiritual successor to the original Quake soundtrack, even if there’s little similarities in style.

The album itself is interesting: Frustrated by their record label, Trent Reznor severs his contract with Interscope Records and decides to go independent – for a while anyway – and released this under a Creative Commons license. This license is how the mod exists without lawyers getting involved, as it’s a free mod for a commercial video game.

Shooting switches with the power of magic pellets!

There is one other feature of this mod: There’s no monsters or weapons. Now there’s mostly empty levels with switches, lifts and other assorted things, but nothing to shoot. With god mode turned on. In a sense, this changes the perspective of the game entirely. No longer a straight explosive romp, it’s strictly an exploration-based affair.

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Aftershock for Quake: The most terrible pun name ever?

“Direct from the Internet.” Kinda rude to take those without permission, you know?

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

This looks like something I’d see on some pick up artist’s vlog channel.

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.

The blood on the logo looks rather ominous.

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.

Wonder why they put both a knight and an ogre as if they’re equal threats? One has a grenade launcher, for chrissakes.

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.

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Better get that quick save key ready. I shudder to imagine trying to do this with keyboard only.

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.

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I dub this image “myfirstquakemap.map.”

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.

I’m sorry but what the hell is this

 

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…

This is rather cruel enemy placement for a key.

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.

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Now who the heck would want a pool full of hot slag?

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.

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Dare you walk down the ramps of death?

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.

Demon Gate cover courtesy of Mobygames. Aftershock for Quake cover courtesy of the Quake Wiki.

Updated 8/1/2020 for paragraph changes and some updates.

A Tribute to Red Book CD audio.

When it comes to video games, CDs were a god damn revelation back in the day. Before then, people were developing games on cartridges that barely held a few megabytes. CDs, on the other hand, held up to a much bigger size of 700MB, and as a result, developers found out they could use that extra size for things they couldn’t have before on cartridges. This had the side effect of giving us a lot of crappy full motion video games around the mid-’90s, but they also brought us something amazing: CD quality audio.

Courtesy of Wikipedia.

So shiny, but holds a lot of stuff.

No longer were developers constrained by the YM2612 and SPC700 sound chips — the sound chips for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive and the Super Nintendo, respectively. Musicians could now make the music as it was intended to be heard: with live instrumentation (or a close approximation).

A fair share of CD-based systems like the Sega CD, the Turbografx-CD, the PlayStation, and Sega Saturn had CD audio support. While playing these games, the rich CD audio played through your television, giving you music that you’d never heard before in video games. This was known as the Red Book CD audio standard. Introduced in 1980, it set the standard for audio in video games throughout most of the 1990s.

I remember the PC version of Sonic CD being one of the earliest examples of this. It was pretty neat to listen to most of the game’s music outside of the game.

Not only could you hear the awesome music in game, you could listen to it outside of the game. In most cases, you could put the game CD in a CD player and start listening to the music without having to play the game itself. To me, this is what made CD audio awesome: Being able to listen to the soundtrack outside of the game.

Previously, if you wanted to listen to the game music, you had to hope for a soundtrack CD, or in the case of PC gaming, dig through files and play them on media players that could support MIDI or MOD Tracker files. The Red Book audio standard changed that to something more simple: putting in the CD in a CD-ROM drive and pressing play. Be careful though, since Red Book audio CDs are mixed mode CDs, you need to tune to track 2 to hear the game music, unless you want to hear a lot of unlistenable static that could damage your speakers or the disc itself.

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Found: A 1997 Prototype of Half-Life!

Half-Life is one of my most favorite games of all time. It blended action, platforming and story perfectly to be one of the awesome shooters of 1998. But it wasn’t always that way.

Valve, back then a small development studio, made a press demo version of Half-Life that showed a drastically different version of the game: While the story and certain game elements was similar, almost all the levels and designs were different from what we got. In a sense, it felt a bit more like in line with Quake than the Half-Life we know and love.

I always liked Half-Life’s dithering effects in the software render. Can’t really explain why.

This version was originally slated for November 1997, but it missed the release date, causing Valve to delay the game and release it a year later with many significant changes to the final product, all for the better.

Getting a chance to play the Half-Life that never was is really a treat, which has many unfinished levels — some early versions of levels in the final game — as well as tech demos such as skeletal animation. You can shoot a robot and make it do that dancing baby animation that was popular in the late ’90s! Not only that, it has documentation about the game and Valve itself, a walkthrough of all the levels, even copies of Paint Shop Pro and WinZip for some reason…

Here’s me playing through one of the levels, The Security Complex. It’s one of the more complete levels of the game. I go through the stage area at least once, then show the solution as given in the walkthrough.

Thanks to reddit user jackaljayzer for uncovering this gem, who got it from a friend in Bellevue, Washington; and to Valve Time (now defunct) for revealing the leak. Further information about this prototype build can be found on The Cutting Room Floor, and it’s a nice amount of stuff there that compares this prototype to the final released game.

If somehow you are one of the few who have never played Half-Life, go buy the game on Steam already. There’s a reason I say it’s the best game of all time.

(Featured image courtesy of the Combine Overwiki.)

Mods and maps: A tactical Quake bonanza!

As much as I love the mod scene for old PC games, I realized I haven’t looked much at Quake‘s mod scene compared to others. The last mods I played for Quake was stuff like Quake Done Quick with a Vengeance, which was made more as a demo of the game rather than something actually playable.

So for today, we’re gonna tackle some Quake mods that tried their best to be a bit more tactical in their approach. Both of these were released around the same time, and share a few similarities but both have their own unique quirks.

Sadly, Michael Biehn and Charlie Sheen don’t appear in this.

First on our list is a mod called Navy Seals Quake. This mod features a bevvy of new weapons such as the Mark 23 SOCOM pistol, the MP5 (and its silenced variant), a Mossberg tactical shotgun, even an M16 assault rifle with grenade launcher. While those seem like fairly common things now, for when this came out in 1998, that was considered pretty impressive.

There are three unique levels made for Navy Seals Quake, though selecting New Game oddly takes you to the default Quake start level. The levels all feature you going in and killing everything while completing objectives like destroying a jet and disarming “RADEK” bombs. You can also play through regular Quake with these new weapons, giving you a different taste of the game, but only a handful of characters were replaced, leaving you with custom marine models mixed in with default Quake enemies like Ogres and Scrags.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOwPcmcOSNY&w=640&h=480]

In a unique twist, Navy Seals Quake features weapons that reload, realistic ammo management where partial-ammo reloads remove the bullets inside, the option to use flashbang grenades, even allowing you to headshot enemies and gib their heads. This was pretty advanced for its time, and it’s quite impressive.

Sometimes the only solution is to rip everything to shreds, Rambo style. It’s like they know me.

There is one interesting thing about Navy Seals Quake – it was made by a guy named Minh “Gooseman” Le. He would later go on to help make Action Quake II and a little fun multiplayer FPS you might’ve heard of called Counter-Strike. Le was one of the co-creators of Counter-Strike, who later worked with Valve up until Counter-Strike: Source. Le would later go on to make a CS successor called Tactical Intervention, which had some of the same features as Counter-Strike but with some new twists. While it wasn’t particularly outstanding, it did leave for some dumb moments.

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