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Quake 1’s Re-Release on Modern Platforms

At QuakeCon 2021, Bethesda and id software re-released Quake 1 for Windows, and put it out for the first time on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 & 5, Xbox One & Series S/X. The Windows version is free to anyone who already owned it on Bethesda’s launcher or Steam.

The re-release embeds the original game inside of Nightdive Studios’ KEX engine, which does make it a little different but there are some possible benefits to the update. Steam and Bethesda Launcher users can still choose to launch the original game.

One of the benefits of this re-release are slightly updated features to support things like achievements and modern widescreen graphics resolutions and play at them out of the box. Quake 1 also gets split-screen and cross-platform multiplayer but it requires a Bethesda login.

Currently the versions on the latest Sony and Microsoft consoles run via backwards compatibility, a native version is coming to those platforms “soon” according to a FAQ on Bethesda’s website.

That same FAQ notes that the original Nine Inch Nails soundtrack is included for Quake 1. The original expansion packs are also included, as well as a new pack from Machine Games who made the recent Wolfenstein games.

Quake 64 is also downloadable in-game, more free add-ons are promised to come later.

This re-release is interesting because it really cements how commercial releases of games are matched to the point in time they’re released in. There’s a few ways to think about it.

The first is the obvious business realities that have changed in the decades since Quake was released. id software was an independent company then, and now they’re a subsidiary of Bethesda and Microsoft.

Then there are the technical perspectives. With all of id’s updated versions of games in the past, they’ve released the source code. Quake 1‘s source code has been out for decades now. There is a healthy community of developers for it. Those developers will continue working on the open-source versions but the this new re-release of Quake 1 is not open-source and may not ever come to Linux or macOS or whatever platform you’d like to run Quake 1 on. That may not seem like much, but we’ve seen so many platform changes over the years that rendered the original releases of not just id’s games, but all games on computers obsolete and difficult to run.

Valve’s Proton does let you play this new re-release of Quake 1 on Linux through Windows emulation or “API Compatibility”, but that seems like a bad way to go about it when the original game has been ported to Linux both by id software and been maintained by the community for decades.

As a multiplayer game, there will be security issues for people playing Quake 1, though this version doesn’t support dedicated servers it does still communicate over the network.

The one good thing I can think about this Proton availability under Linux is that it may make it easier to download the files for Quake 1 and then use them in another version of the engine. That’s how it worked with the newly available Windows Store version of Quake 3.

It makes me wonder what the value is to the community for working on the open-source versions of these games. Providing free labor for a big company like Microsoft or Bethesda is exploitative and wrong, but it is even odder when the companies involved are just going to ignore all of the work the community does and put out another point-in-time release that will stop working in another few years.

From what I’ve played, there is nothing wrong with this version of Quake for the platforms it is on, it is just very clearly not from the id software that cared about open-source and almost nobody from that era is still with the subsidiary of a subsidiary. It is not at all surprising that this version of Quake was released without the code, it is just disappointing.

By Jack Slater

A Philadelphian living in Hawaii. If you enjoy my writing please consider supporting me on Patreon or Ko-Fi. You can follow or contact me on Twitter where I'm @MrNuclearMonster, via the contact page, or via e-mail to zjs@zacharyjackslater.com.

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One reply on “Quake 1’s Re-Release on Modern Platforms”

Jack,

Thanks for the article. I couldn’t agree more with your observations.

I played QUAKE back in 1996. Back then I was 16 or so. Now I’m in my 30s and I’m a software developer. I would have never been a software developer if it wasn’t for QUAKE (and the other id games like DOOM and Wolfenstein) being open source.

I ended up buying the rerelease for Switch, just because… well, I wanted to play it on the Switch. Also, I wanted to support the game. But really, I’ve been an active part of the QUAKE community since the beginning.

I guess it’s kind of like this. If the rerelease makes money, then it will be supported with more content, mods, maps, whatever… but it probably already existed because this game is old and so much content was already created for it. I feel it’s similar to the handling of the sale of Minecraft to Microsoft. The Java version still exists, with all the stuff that’s free and has been for a long time — but now you have the “bedrock”:edition where you have to pay for everything.. but everything is supported on multiple platforms by the publisher.

Also, in my opinion… QUAKE, not on the original engine, or some descendant, isn’t really QUAKE. Most of the source ports of QUAKE added a bunch of eye candy (Darkplaces for example) but it was all based on the original engine, so it felt like QUAKE. The rerelease just doesn’t to me.

Not to say it should be left to die, but I would’ve rather them not release it. I feel like it just artificially splits the community and comes across as an attempt to milk some IP.

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