Peek’s Essential Gaming Goodness: Mapping History

Mapping History

.Mapping History.
| 8-4-99 |

Well folks, you’re about to embark upon one whacked out adventure. I’m your guide and the name is Ranger “Peek.” I can’t claim I’ll be able to explain everything as it happened, but nonetheless, get ready, ’cause where going waaaay back!

All right then, with this little editorial I’m going to try and layout the history of custom mapping, as far as quake is concerned, from my viewpoint. I don’t know everything, I’m going to leave things out, but I’ll try my best, so bear with me.

When Quake 1 came out I was impressed. To say the least. I still remember a few of my friends despising it, resulting in even more doom/doom2 death-matching madness. Okay . . . I suppose some people don’t care to change what they like, but I honestly knew Quake would herald in a new generation of games. And it definitely did, obviously. The engine was new and totally revolutionary, the graphics where good (back then before GL Quake and so forth), and gameplay rocked. The online environment exploded. Initially there was a news site known as Aftershock, which some will still remember. Then there was stomped and the plethora of other sites. Yet what quake shared with its predecessors was open architecture. Pretty much anything in the game could be modified, graphics, sounds, interface, code, and of course levels.

Before I forget, I just made an interesting connection/observation. The custom level scene with Doom was huge. I really mean that too. Considering when Doom was going, and the smaller size of the Internet in general, the sites covering custom doom maps was just as big, if not bigger than those covering quake. Why? Well, in those days people who played custom DM maps for doom usually knew each other. There was not TCP/IP server business in those days. Modem to modem was the extent of it. Or the lucky bastards who had LAN access. As a result, playing a custom map was only a matter of the two to four ‘aquatinted’ people to give the other members the map. With quake, finding and having the right map is an issue when leaping online to play. Most blokes want to “play now!” and have no interest in finding the right maps. Blah! I’ve done it. Now onward . . .

As I was saying, it was inevitable to people to start making custom maps like SOBs. It was kind of a shock for those ‘in the know’ to go from the awesome maps that were available for Doom2 to these crappy, ugly, dull, poorly playing piles of sh*t that started coming out. I’m willing to guess that people where only getting a hang of the tools, as full blown 3D editing is more complex than Dooms linear editing. Nonetheless, it took some time for the ball to get rolling. And when it did, the progress that was made from then until now is incredible. I actually find it slightly humorous, that, upon looking back at all these “old school” maps and then the new breed, quake1 seems like the engine itself has evolved. The difference is astonishing! So here we go . . .

Some of the first Quake maps were the almighty remakes of existing maps. People used to playing and mapping for Doom didn’t grasp the whole ‘vertical’ element for awhile. Sure, some people grasped the concept, but for the most part levels like KYSENTY3, a Quake version of Doom2’s Map01, were the norm. Quite interesting. Another big difference was that people tended to shoot for ‘theme’ maps rather straight up deathmatch arenas like all the maps today are. I suppose it was the Dapak influence at work, since those demonstrated you didn’t need some funky theme to make a good looking and good playing map. Just now it seems we are starting to get out of that root, and going back towards more original ideas. Pingu and Mr. Fribbles latest works are really pushing in that direction with funky new outside looks and varied interiors.

September ’96: After the initial onslaught of horribly ugly maps, people starting buckling down and creating what at the time were ground-breaking maps. I think the three biggest one’s to stand out in my mind are Chillers, Loaded, and 5Days. All these had a similar style and feel, but really demonstrated the ‘kind’ of maps that were being released for a while. Most of them are fairly complex and ‘tight.’ People really got creative with the lighting and this era of maps also saw some incredibly spooky environments. Loaded featured a variety of architecture ‘extras’ like a winding staircase, bridges, water areas and so forth. As a result, the r_speeds are shot to hell in a hand basket. To further add insult to injury, the computing hardware stunk at the time, so it was an even bigger drain of resources. Needless to say, it was a fun map. Chillers suffered from the same cons, but the gameplay was actually a little better. It had a more open inside design, but still didn’t offer ‘good’ gameplay. Similar with 5Days. Although that was my personal favorite.

Moving on. Surprisingly enough, during this time there was one map that was an inspiration for almost every good map that followed during the next three months. That was Kndybase by the well known and revered Kndyman. This is an interesting map in that it actually played ‘very’ well, looked damn good, and basically had a ‘professional’ feeling to it. Kndybase is still one of my personal favorite maps. Sure, current maps blow it horribly out of the water, but there is a very classic feeling to this one. Kndyman released Kndycity afterwards, a kick ass map in it’s own right, along with Kndyforge, which was showing signs of a change in direction.

Pushing into November, we see the emergence of a new breed of map authors. KillMe, began mapping away, making a trilogy of DM maps that will kill you as fast as your opponents rockets. They were littered with traps, and while some complained about that, everyone agreed they were very professional looking maps. You might also know KillMe from organizing the Zerstoerer TC, which carried over that evil feeling.

Following up into December and January we come across a few other highly influential authors. First up is Dario Casali, who was one of the first author to have their own page to display their work. I still remember the day he closed shop, leaving a note saying he was off to design a game with a little company named Valve. Indeed, his 3rd map, DcDm3, a classic in most books, became Half-Life’s Snark Pit level. His other great level, Dcdm5a was another amazing map, and had a very innovated play style. Both of those were classics. The final heavy hitter was Dan “Danimal” Proeitti. He began his claim to fame with a map named Cmania, which not to many people knew about. Personally, I loved it, and enjoyed his follow up Cmaina2 (March) even more. These three authors continued mapping in form or another and are still around today. Each of them demonstrated one powerful thing in their maps; you can make them clean, have a theme and be professional looking. They are all simple, don’t try and do anything that machine’s can’t handle; yet they look good. There was a balance between artistic design and technical design that was slowly emerging, and this of course leads us to where we are today. As a final note, a little map called Satyr1a, released early January ’97, was a map that outright claimed it was designed with r_speeds in mind. Whow. That was first time I think that had been done. Wasn’t the greatest level, but it played damn smooth.

By the middle of ’97 it’s safe to say the mapping scene had really started taking shape in the quake community. CopyCat’s Ukcool project was underway, and included some of the best maps of the time. Ukooldm2 is a classic, along with ukooldm6, one of Headshot’s most prominent releases. CopyCat’s map Punish was released, and blew quite a few people away. It was a huge map by the current standards, and a lot of fun to play if you could fill it up. Authors at this time also spent more time with textures, creating new one’s, or new combinations at the least. In April, Headshot’s FSDM1a started the ‘formula’ or Dapak trend to one extent or another. While people didn’t clone this style then, after Dapak was released, we were hit ‘very’ hard by an onslaught of “Dapak Tributes” (aka Dapak rip-offs). Even so, this was the biggest evolutionary period for maps. Other noteworthy releases include “Mancer’s Little Drug” a map by the Doom2 mapping legend Mancer. That one fell right in line with maps of the time. Adriano “Escher” Lorenzini released UltraViolence during this time as well; a map still heralded as the best-playing Quake map to date. Well, by some anyway. And while none of his other work quite equaled ultraV, it still made “Escher” a known and respected figure.

By the tenth month of ’97, we say the release of Dapak. Headshot and Danimal, the two most recently acclaimed and prolific authors joined forces and created one hell of a map pack. Dapak is almost like the icon of custom mapping. It was the revolutionary pinnacle. And while it blew everything away, it didn’t come out of thin air. Headshot had been going nonstop since April, mapping away, and Danimal even longer, both borrowing bits and pieces, ideas from here and there, off previous maps. What was remarkable about Dapak was that it really made it into the mainstream and drew many prospective authors into the scene. It intrigued people and told the community “Hey, here are two guys who can make more enjoyable maps than anything id can muster up! Give us a try!” And people did. After than, the history is relatively simple . . .

Preacher and ztn emerged quickly onto the scene, and Gandhi followed up shortly afterwards. Both Gandhi and ztn were half-members of the Dapak team, and continued mapping with the ‘dapak’ style in mind. After this point, and continuing from ’98 until the present, the scene exploded. Ramshackle, which had been going for quite sometime really strengthened the community by pushing authors to spend more time improving their maps. Ramshackle really held things together. I’m not going to go into the details of the end of ’97 till the present, because not much has really changed since the inception of Dapak. Basically, the maps posted on this site cover that era . . . so go browsing.

If you want to see what I was reviewing a few years ago, follow this link for a blast from the past.

Here are some other maps that I remeber from way back then . . .


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