Walk into the main hall at QuakeCon 2017 and the first thing you’ll see is the neon orange of the imposing Champions tournament stage. Turn 180 degrees, though, and you’ll notice a modest cosplay stand. On it sits a furry mask, unmistakably the fearsome face of the Shambler: all teeth, Covered in yeti-like hair, and splattered with blood.
It’s a quiet reminder that Quake was once a single-player game as well as a competitive shooter - a gothic, medieval, and occasionally Lovecraftian journey across several dimensions that benefitted from the twisty, maze-like inclinations of John Romero and a crack team of fellow level designers.
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But the series eventually dropped single-player for practical reasons. As the id biography Masters of Doom tells it, the team had independently developed a mish-mash of art assets, engine wizardry, and weapons - multiplayer maps were simply the best way to cobble them together. Which is why Quake III Arena’s plot can be covered in a single sentence: “The greatest warriors of all time fight for the amusement of a race called the Vadrigar in the Arena Eternal.” Vague, pithy, and pliant.