Quake gets Rifted! Back Through the Slipgate with the Oculus Rift (video)

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Gamers of a certain age rejoice! The first ‘true’ 3D First Person Shooter that spawned a generation of FPS nuts, Quake (id Software, 1996), has been given the Oculus Rift treatment. We take a quick look back at the Quake legend and it’s future, in VR.

Rose Tinted…

My first PC was a budget affair at the dawn of the Pentium generation. A screamingly fast P60, a 2MB(!) graphics card and a ‘Soundblaster compatible‘ card made up my ‘rig’ (before any idiot thought up the name). It was bought by my long-suffering parents, in the hope that this would finally lead to a career of some sort. It did eventually pay off, but that’s beside the point …

The point was the games. Before any of that pesky learning, it was the games I was (predictably) far more interested in. Doom, specifically. The wonder of those cutting edge 3D visuals for me, having  just stepped up from a Megadrive, were frankly out of this world. Skipping over what a pain in the arse Windows 3.11 on DOS was to configure or run (I still have lines from my autoexec.cfg and config.sys burned into my retina), when things worked they were almost magical.

id and John Carmack ruled the gaming universe and every new release brought with it a tsunami of anticipation, not to mention crippling system requirements. Quake didn’t disappoint. It blasted onto the PC bringing with a new world of textured polygons and cutting edge pre-baked lightmaps! I had to overclock my meagre processor just to run it. But when I finally managed to achieve a frame rate higher than a slideshow, playing Quake was epoch making stuff. The ability to look with the mouse in 3D space was a revolution (Doom was handled as a flat plane where any vertical spaces were merely illusions). More than that, the grotesque pseudo gothic production design meant it was dripping in atmosphere. But, it didn’t just look ‘the business’, it sported the finest gameplay in an FPS yet and was fiendishly addictive.

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Rifting with a Nailgun

As you can see I have fond memories of Quake, so when I found that some clever boffin had managed to get it working with the Oculus Rift, complete with pre-warped, stereoscopic 3D visuals I was understandably excited. Although, in truth I was expecting two things:

1) For the port to be shoddy and unfinished and

2) for my rose-tinted memories of Quake to be washed away in a sea of pixels and brown.

Thankfully I was wrong.

Quake’s source code was released an age ago by id and has been ported to just about every platform going. But I’d not come across the strain that’s been used for this VR version. Dubbed ‘Quakespasm‘ it’s a 3D Accelerated port of the the original with mod support. This Oculus Rift mod plugs into Quakespasm and is enabled by loading up the game, selecting the appropriate 16:10 resolution (1280×800 or 1920×1200) and then bringing down the in-game console by pressing the tilde key and typing:

r_oculusrift 1

..and presto,  you’re in VR mode!

What’s it Like?

In short, it’s surprisingly effective. The pre-warping is spot-on and, as you’d expect, it runs beautifully. The world surrounds you but the stereoscopy seems slightly flat, with depth definitely present but muted. But it really works and being thrown back into the world I’d played so long ago, this time in VR,  it helps recapture the awe I felt back then. Furthermore, ignoring the ludicrously primitive looking models, the laughable texture resolution and the lightmaps and the game is still incredibly playable. One thing id got right in it’s shooters was the ‘feel’ of the weaponry – and it still offers a satisfying blast even now. Classic weapons like the Nailgun still have the capacity to make you grin, regardless of how retro they may look.

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Right now, weapons are tied rigidly to your in-game chin – meaning that you aim where you look. This works better than you might imagine and only occasionally causes gameplay confusion. Of course, it would be preferable to separate body from head movement as you can in more recent VR adaptations, but the immediacy you get of snapping your view to shoot something actually works well.

Something I can foresee VR and the Oculus Rift being particularly good at is unlocking the opportunity to re-experience your favourite titles. Drivers like vorpX and Vireio and mods like QuakeSpasm give gamers a doorway to their gaming past and perhaps re-introduce classic titles to a younger generation who may never had a chance to play them.

You can read more on this mod and download it here.

Note: OK, it’s spot the ‘deliberate mistake’ in the video time. First one to spot the 2 issues in the video (apart from it being too dark) and post it in the comments gets to feel smug and clever. :)

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Based in the UK, Paul has been immersed in interactive entertainment for the best part of 27 years and has followed advances in gaming with a passionate fervour. His obsession with graphical fidelity over the years has had him branded a ‘graphics whore’ (which he views as the highest compliment) more than once and he holds a particular candle for the dream of the ultimate immersive gaming experience. Having followed and been disappointed by the original VR explosion of the 90s, he then founded RiftVR.com to follow the new and exciting prospect of the rebirth of VR in products like the Oculus Rift. Paul joined forces with Ben to help build the new Road to VR in preparation for what he sees as VR’s coming of age over the next few years.
  • Patrick Hogenboom

    Well, that was a very cool trip down memory lane.
    Although feels like you’re running around with a rocket launcher strapped to your nose,
    the sights and grunts of Q1 took me way back :)
    Its definitely a good VR experience, nausea took way longer to kick in than when I play HL2.

    Don’t forget :
    +mlook
    r_oculusrift 1