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id Software Looks Back on QTest

| 25 Feb 2010 17:01
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Yesterday was the 14th anniversary of the release of QTest and to mark the occasion, John Carmack, Tim Willits and a few others shared a few memories about what it was like to unleash one of the most revolutionary games of all time.

When someone mentioned to me that it was the 14th anniversary of QTest, my first reaction was, "What's QTest?" It was an embarrassing memory lapse for someone who's sunk as much time into the Quake series as I have, but it more understandably may not ring a bell with non-FPS fans or, more likely, gamers who may not be much older than QTest itself.

A refresher, then: QTest was a multiplayer tech demo for Quake, released by id Software on February 24, 1996. No single-player component was included and some elements were changed for the final release, but QTest servers started going online immediately following its release and it was the first step in what would ultimately become one of the most significant transformations in the history of the industry.

"When the first person got it, there was a great clamor for reports about what it looked like. Unfortunately, one of the first things reported was, 'There is a turtle in the corner of the screen'," id co-founder John Carmack explained. "I had a check in the code to draw that icon as a sign that you were running at 10 frames a second or less, so you should reduce quality settings to get a more playable experience. Quake was one of the first PC apps where floating point performance was a critical factor, which meant that Intel's Pentium processor had a huge lead over the competing AMD and Cyrix processors of the time, which had FPUs that were more similar to the 486. A lot of systems weren't really up to it."

Tim Willits, id's creative director, claimed that he doesn't have any good stories about the release of QTest because he was too nervous about it to enjoy the moment. "I did like kicking everyone's ass online in Quake," he added, "before I was quickly bypassed in skill by any self-respecting Quake player."

For some of the newer additions to the id team, QTest was the inspiration that drew them into the industry. Pat Duffy, id's lead artist, described how a college friend introduced him to the game by talking about the network code and other technology behind the game. But he was interested in something else. "I just couldn't believe how big a visual leap had been made from Doom (and everything else out there). While [his friend] began to dig deeper into what id was doing I kept looking at the game, walking around, shooting the walls, and being amazed by the lighting, art, and 3d rendering," he said. "I knew right then that this is what I needed to do with my life."

Sadly, I didn't have much experience with QTest. As a small-town boy trapped in a dial-up world, my play options would have been severely restricted even if I had managed to score a copy somewhere and I was still pretty busy with Doom at that point anyway. Yeah, my story sucks. Got a better one? Let's reminisce about the good old days!

Source: Bethesda Blog

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