What’s the Deal with Names in Quake II?
By Ryan Lowe
Author of the Online Quake Name Maker
** Note: I will no longer use the term “fun names”. “Fun names” implies the use of animation and I want to stay away from that. From now on, the use of characters in a name other that those available on the keyboard in a Quake II name will be referred to as an “extended name”.
I will refer to Quake and Quake II separately. I’m not going to call Quake ‘Quake1’ or ‘The Original Quake’. Along the same lines, when I say Quake, I didn’t screw up and I actually meant Quake II. If I mean Quake II, I’ll say Quake II.
Also, this document assumes you know basic concepts, like ASCII, the Quake console and other stuff. If you don’t, you may get a bit lost in the tech jargon.
All tech jargony stuff will appear in blue. This will be an optional elaboration of points which may seem a bit fuzzy because they had to be explained in simpler terms.
To make this page more readable, I’m making everything in brackets appear in grey (this way you can easily pick out or skip over clarifications – like this one)
Psst – you can read my Quake name help page at:
..it explains these basic concepts (like ASCII, the console, etc) in moderate detail.
Some people are wondering why id has decided to change the way ASCII is used in Quake II. I was a bit confused also at first, and I hope to clarify a lot of the problems and points surrounding the name issue. I have an understanding of extended name structure which will assist me in explaining some points in detail if necessary. If I screw up, or you think a point could be expanded on, [that includes you guys at id, too] I will gladly add to it.
I’m not going to express any points as to why id should implement Quake II extended names or why they shouldn’t. That is their decision, and we, as a Community, should except their decisions as they know a truckload more about game design than the average Quaker. If you see me taking sides and being unfairly biased, please point out the comment [or paragraphs] =) to me and I will quickly and gladly change them. All I hope to accomplish with this document is a little closure on this issue, if possible.
Extended Names in Quake
I think it’s important to go over how ASCII characters are used in Quake to get a feel as to how things have changed with extended Quake characters and why people want them back in Quake II. Everything in the following couple of paragraphs describes Quake names, NOT Quake II names.
The 256 characters in the ASCII set each have a “Quake character” that is displayed when they are used in Quake. Normally, only letters, numbers and punctuation avaliable on the keyboard (which are all grey Quake characters) can be used to make a player name directly from the console or in the menu. This makes use of only about 100 of the 256 available Quake characters, which is why name makers were made. All 256 Quake characters are in one file called CONCHARS (which stands for CONsole CHARacterS).
Actually, each character in the 256 ASCII set has an equivalent 8×8 (pixel) graphic of a Quake character. These pictures are arranged in a 128×128 graphic (16×16 chars) of all of the available Quake characters, named CONCHARS.LMP. This LMP file can then be converted to a PCX file to be viewed [or even changed] in a graphic editor such as Paint Shop Pro.
If you read the CONCHARS file from top to bottom, left to right, you’ll go through the ASCII set in order, from 0 to 255.
Some of the Quake characters were used to make things in the console more readable [such as the ones that look like brown logs] and others were used in the game status bar to show remaining ammo, etc. [the top set of gold numbers] but ANY character in the CONCHARS file was fair game for an extended name. That is a VERY important thing to remember about Quake names.
A Short History of Name Makers and Animators
Knowing a little about some of the name makers of past and present could give you a pretty good idea of where some terminology and ideology has come from. This list is nowhere near complete. If you would like your name maker here or your favorite name maker is not listed, e-mail me!
Unaware extended names were possible in Quake, I was literally dumbfounded when a guy showed up in a game I was in with one. I bugged and bugged him until he told me he made it using a ‘utility’ called NAMEFUN and that it was on CDROM.COM. I quickly went to CDROM.COM to pick it up, and alas, my name maker was born.
NAMEFUN ~ Author ~ Demonstar
This is where it all started for extended name makers. It is also sometimes the name given to extended, and even animated names even though NAMEFUN didn’t had very little information about animated names. Go figure.
NAMEFUN was a script file that displayed all of the Quake characters and their ASCII numbers. The script file came with a readme file and a couple of examples. The ASCII numbers could then be used in combination with the ALT key in a dos editor to make an extended name. Many found this tedious and time consuming, but HECK, it still worked, and you had a kickass name to show for it.
Later, another guy made the graphic (GIF) I was talking about before and named it namefun2 (although, this version was not authorized by Demonstar). Here are links to both of them:
The Quake Name Editor ~ Author ~ Josh Straub
The next in line was the Quake Name Editor, a name maker I found on SLIPGATECENTRAL.COM about a year ago. I was very disappointed that [in earlier versions] I was left with the suffix QNE at the end of my name because I was using the shareware version. It was still a good proggy, nonetheless.
Check out the Quake Name Editor
The Online Quake Name Maker ~ Author ~ Ryan Lowe
The Quake Name Maker ~ Author ~ Tony Browneller
Originally named the ‘Quake Script Maker’. I was so impressed with the amount of work Tony put into his name maker I gave him the name he uses today (and switched mine). Unfortunately, since the name change was almost unnoticed by the Quake Community, I still get e-mails about how his program works. =)
Tony was the first to introduce ‘name exporting’, where a name could be saved as a bitmap and then used on web pages and other stuff. Dandy idea, if I do say so myself.
Check out the Quake Name Maker
Anyone missing? E-mail me!
So, What Happened in Quake II?
Quake II has brought upon a new way of using the CONCHARS file. If you take a look at the file (it’s used in PCX form by Quake II) below you’ll notice that the top half of the file is grey characters while the bottom half is green.
The other Quake II characters that look like blocks and arrows have unknown functions in Quake II. The brown log-like characters are still used in the console as dividers but the rest of the extended characters remain seemingly unused in Quake II.
Quake II uses these different colours in a whole new way. In the console, everything you type appears in grey text. Map names and messagemode lines (using the SAY command) are in green and so are the dogtags in the scorelist. If you use the SAY command in the console, you’ll notice that what you type is in grey but what is outputted to the screen for all to see is in green. Quake did the same thing with its red characters. But the main difference is if you use extended characters in the SAY command in Quake II, they will be deleted and will not appear in the output. Quake did not do this.
The NAME command (used to change the player’s name) is strikingly similar to the SAY command. It also converts all of the letters to high ASCII (green) and then takes away any offending extended characters. What remains is displayed in the scorelist on your dogtag: your name in green characters.
How Did They Do It?
Ok, let’s say you have machine that you pop an extended name into and a green-text-only name pops out the other end. What happens in the machine? Here’s a simplified (keep this in mind, programmers out there) explaination:
ASCII characters also have number values for each character. These values range from 0 to 255 with ‘high ASCII’ starting at 128. To convert all of the letters to green (high ASCII), the machine just checks the ASCII number of each letter, and if it’s less than 128, it adds 128 to it. Notice that the a Quake II letter is grey at a certain number (let’s call it NUM) and the same letter is green at NUM plus 128. This makes converting to all green letters quite easy.
Still, another problem exists. What about the extended characters? Well, the machine checks each character’s ASCII number in the name against a list of offending numbers. If the character’s number is on that list, the machine deletes the character.
The ‘machine’ mentioned in the anology is probably a function that the name is sent to before being displayed in the dogtags. I may get a copy of the source code of this function in the near future. If I do, you’ll find it here.
Hopefully, the machine analogy wasn’t too complicated. The point here is that while this conversion may seem simple, this was obviously a part of Quake II that was designed from the beginning. Changing this design could mean changing a sizable part of the Quake II game architecture, and large headaches for our friends at id. Anyways, id probably doesn’t have the spare resources to ‘fix’ something that already works, right? So why kick the bull [with a red T-shirt on, no less] if he’s already charging at someone else?
Why Did They Do It?
The best answer I’ve heard is that it increases readability. While this is true for the console and for the status updates that appear during the game (essentially just a reiteration of the console), does this apply to the Quake II names that appear on the dog tags? Many people disagree, saying they make names difficult to tell apart from each other because every name is green. This is the reason why the ‘fun names’ petition was started.
Other Name Phenomena
The NAME and SAY commands also have another similarity. People used them repeatedly to create effects in Quake. This effect with the NAME command was called a ‘name animation’, while the same effect with the SAY command was sometimes called a ‘block’. While the ability to output ‘block’s has been removed from Quake II, the ability to animate names has not.
Name animation during a game over the internet can sometimes increase lag for modem users. The reason for this is because each time you change your name, the server updates your name with all of the players. Now, if there are 24 players on a server and you have 8 frames in your animation (you change your name eight times) then you can imagine why this causes some extra traffic (though I’m not sure of the exact bandwidth implications) on the Quake server.
For ‘block’ statements, it’s the same issue. Although they are limited to four lines, they can be as wide as the screen. Four lines of screen-wide SAY comments may not do much in a deathmatch to speed (again, I’m not a bandwidth expert), but if they were disabled because of that, why not animations? Why name animations have not been removed from Quake II just like the ‘block’s were, remains a mystery to this day. They are one of the main reasons why the Quake style of extended names were ditched for Quake II.
I hope that though this document you come to an understanding of the issue. I do not wish to stir up more controversy over the name issue and I hope I’ve covered all of the main points. As a concerned and somewhat knowledgable person in the Quake Community on the subject of extended names, I am hoping to shed some light on the truth behind extended names in Quake II by writing this. I am welcome to anyone’s comments or suggestions to make this document better (including expansions on issues you think were too vague). Thank you for your time,
Author of the Online Quake Name Maker
Feedback is welcome!