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Reflection: Quake II: Authorized Guide Levels

Written on the 20th of January 2023


In early 1998, GW Press released Quake II: Authorized Strategy Guide by Michael Koch and John K. Waters. While we are not going to cover the guide itself, I'd like to document and commentate the 5 Exclusive Levels that are advertised with the book. They were commissioned by GT Interactive and feature the work of Travis Almand, Mike Daugherty, Steve Fukuda, Matthew Cope and Doug Frei.

Ammunition Depot (depot.bsp)

This is the only singleplayer level. Your mission? Get the BFG, at all costs. First of all, here is an outline of notable things that happen in the level:

You spawn on top of a beam, with enemies below you already aware of your presence. The only way down is by jumping onto the crates nearby, which shaves off some of your health.

It's a bit of an odd start up there, since you're forced to lose about 1/4 of your health for landing on the crates. So don't stick around too long up there in case the Grunts downstairs get a few hits at you.

You'll find the exit early on, however it'll remind you what brings you here in the first place.

Throughout the level, you will have to use buttons to toggle the various force fields that will let you progress. These also prevent enemies from nearby rooms from rushing to aid their friends, as the AI isn't smart enough to make use of them. That bit of interactivity is very welcome.

Glass prevents you from progressing here. The solution? Shoot it. It takes a few hits. They really should have had you blow more things up, but that's all you get here.

When you inevitably pick up the BFG: Save it for a boss, like this miniboss that shows up shortly after. What follows is a bunch of 'tougher' Strogg show up along the path you've already fought, backtracking your way to the beginning of the level, where the exit lies.

The exit looks like this, when you arrive back at the beginning. You jump on the button and are brought to the beginning of Quake II. That's all.

There's also 1 secret. It's very easy to discover, simply keep your head up, and pick up any item you can see.

There isn't a whole lot else to say about this level. It was constructued by Travis Almand in 'about ten days', which included figuring out the ropes of the Quake II toolchain. It was constructed using the BSP Editor, which is around to this day. He wrote this note in the text accompanying the level:

Travis: Experimented with several ideas that would have been impossible in quake, mostly to do with lighting issues. I ain't telling what though, you figure it out.

While I don't know for certain, my guess is that these fans provide the hint for it:

I am guessing that he wanted the fan to cast shadows for some more elaborate lighting effects - such as an updating shadow or something - as there's two of these fans in the map.

The author also worked on X-Men: Ravages of Apocalypse, which I thought was worth noting!

Crack of Doom (cdroom.bsp)

The author points out, that you should not associate this map with Cocaine.

Frag-Net says: Don't do drugs, kids. ;)

It was built in 'about 4 days' by Mike Daugherty using Worldcraft v1.5b which later became Valve Hammer Editor. He was using a Pentium 200 MMX running Windows 95 with 32 MB of RAM.

Noteworthy is the Quad-Damage that sits on top of a teleporter pad. It's mostly open areas, and we have access to most weapons. We even have a bit of eye-candy, some very industrial looking pipe exit.

There even is a BFG in here, simply shoot the button that's on the side of the HyperBlaster room that connects to the Quad-Teleporter-Room. Then a tiny opening will appear in which you can crouch through to grab it.

The Eviscerator (eviscera.bsp)

This level is by Steve Fukuda; who went on to work at 2015, Inc. on games such as Wages of Sin and Medal of Honor: Allied Assault! The 2015 team and, by extension, Steve Fukuda would later go on to form both Infinity Ward and Respawn Entertainment.

Steve Fukuda used QE-Radiant 1.0b (build 017) by Robert Duffy to create this map. That editor was a fork of id Software's QE4 which was used to create Quake II. Robert Duffy was an employee of Xatrix Entertainment, Inc. at the time and would later be hired by id Software during the development of Quake 3 Arena to work on Radiant in an official capacity.

It's a very appealing looking map, but the flow could be a lot better. It doesn't feel like a deathmatch level at first - perhaps it may even have started out as a singleplayer one. It was only ever tested in 1v1 play, but the author reckons it would play best with up to 6 players.

The only other gripe we have found is with the ladders, which blend in a bit too well with the environment. There's occasionally some creative usage of textures, but it doesn't stick out too far from the official deathmatch map offerings.

Solitary (solitary.bsp)

A very simple level by Matthey Cope. There isn't a whole lot to it. The layout doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but unlike other 'basic' levels, there's at least some verticality to it. There's some playfulness with water, but it's minor.

The little 'tunnel' has some trouble in regards to collision because of how rough it was sculpted. We don't know what editor was used to create it, but we are aware that the creator spent most of his free-time programming in QuakeC and not doing level design.

Wicked Destruction (wicked.bsp)

The last deathmatch map for this guide was created by Doug Frei in about ten days using Qoole 2.30 and its various beta versions on a Pentrium Pro 200 with 64 MB of RAM.

It's not a bad effort for an early deathmatch level, however it is plagued with some barren hallways and bunnyhoppers will dislike the doors that get in your way.

A highlight is the truck that is surrounded by some basic cliffs and a spinning fan. We do get a little bit of colored lighting too.

Let's wrap it all up

I'd say that these 5 levels are a decent bonus in addition to the book. There's fun to be had there with these early maps. Solitary feels a bit out of place due to its minimal design and being the least like a conventional Quake II level.

I am left wondering however what the idea was to ship 4 deathmatch levels and not exclusively singleplayer ones. The maps don't have any custom textures or sounds, meaning they can easily be downloaded off any server hosting them. To me that kind of defeats the point of this CD-ROM exclusivity.

It was an interesting look back at some early, 'sanctioned' levels for Quake II. The people behind them were definitely talented, although not all may have stuck around as level designers specifically.

Hope you enjoyed reading this reflection on the topic of level design! We want to cover more obscure official and semi-official bits of content like this. Stay tuned for more.

- Marco

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