Archived Architectures

In an idle couple of hours earlier today I found myself reading the peerless architecture and urban speculation blog, BldgBlog. It’s the kind of writing project that makes me sick with envy, and I can’t wait to see Manaugh turn his ideas into book form in 2008. Anyway, one of Manaugh’s recent posts was headed up by an image of the Chartres cathedral map from Quake 3. It’s a map that’s as old as the (virtual) hills, and not even that interesting a build, given what many others did with Quake 3 mapping. Nevertheless it sparked a recollection of the hours I used to spend downloading and playing around in Quake III maps, when I should have been editing the online section of PC Gamer.

Digging out my old Quake III installation (which I found buried in a spare hard disc filled with old games that I don’t want to part with just yet), I decided to have a root around in the virtual architectures of yesterday and see what I could unearth.

Initially I was looking for a particular map. It was one of a pair of ludicrously ornate designs, neither of them suitable for play due their complex geometries, huge size, and bizarre structure. They were a pair of wide-open palaces, filled with sculptures, and dominated by ostentatious architecture. One of these structures was a vast eyeball that fired rockets from its pupil, under a skybox that contained a giant eyeball looking down on the arena… You can see why I was trying dig them up. Just as I was about to give up I found them online.

That’s the one: Omnipresent Eye. Boy, they don’t make ’em like that. Ever.

That map was by a chap called Lloyd Morris, and he also made a spectacular map called Ancient Archipelago. I believe the work got him a job in the games industry at some point, so he’s probably out there bolting together Hitman levels or something. Good work Morris, by the way. I had dreams about your maps.

In the course of my search for Morris’ stuff I booted up a bunch of old maps, including ‘Coriolis Storm‘ , which was the first map I can remember that made genuine atmospheric use of fogging, with the bottom player being dust-bound in orange fog, while the upper deck was clear. I seem to remember even playing a few serious games on this one.

Then I dug up this old relic: the NowTV map. I believe this was made by the team that went on to make up the core of Splash Damage, developers of Enemy territory and Quake Wars. I played competitively on these maps with my team and I think I won a Boomslang Razer, or something.

Then there was just a whole bunch of obscurities, the Googling of which tends to bring up dead or long-ago abandoned websites; like Nunuk’s Platypus. This weird, hard geometry was a map made for a kind of “geometry competition” intended to show off mapper’s skills at creating weird, high density, high-concept arena environments. Those boys did pretty well at that, too.

Finally, as if to demonstrate the stupendous range that a game as old as Quake 3 remains capable of, I ended up bouncing around this cell-shaded anime-styled map. A beautiful piece of clean, electronic architecture. This is how videogames should look.

And, damn, Quake 3 really is still the best arena FPS. It’s just so solid. Utter minimalism, hard edges. Brilliant. If Id had done nothing else they would still be one of the greatest design teams of all time. Shame about what followed, eh?

I can’t help feeling a little melancholy rooting around in this game. Sadness for the incredible time I had running a Quake 3 clan, and loss for the hundreds of hours of creativity that people sunk into countless maps: thousands of arches, walkways, uplit cathedrals and industrial complexes, all disappearing into the recesses of the internet, to be gradually deleted and lost from memory. I boot up the map that one of my own team made as we tried to work out the best way to create a capture the flag arena. I ponder for a bit, strafe jump. And then, out.


  1. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    Ironically I always preferred UT, because of the architecture. But I never really got into Q3 so never tried any of these custom maps. I think the standard maps in UT as varied as Morpheus, Facing Worlds, that-one-with-the-
    pressure-chamber, that-monastery-one, lava giant, overlord, etc. really made it stand out for me. I never tried any custom ones for that either, mind, just the ones in the box. I think the standard set of Quake levels were a bit too boring for me. I did like the odd weird-black-space ones though.

  2. Allen Varney says:

    Crap, I wrote an Escapist article, “London in Oblivion,” all about using game engines for architectural visualization, and I never stumbled upon that Chartes map. That was too large a subject for a 2,000-word article….

  3. malkav11 says:

    I really didn’t care for any of the Quake games, but III in particular did nothing for me. I always preferred UT’s more interesting weapon selection and more, um… cplorful palette.

    But as John P says, I never bothered with custom content other than singleplayer mods for later UT games.

  4. Radiant says:

    Q3 maps are awesome:

    link to

    Take a gander at Urban Terror.
    It’s a q3 mod [well you don’t need q3 any more as it goes] that is absolutely gorgeous.

    It also plays really really well.

    It’s a beautiful game where they’ve basically refined the gameplay of shooters over 7 years of consistent development.
    And it’s still being refined there’s an update out this saturday.

    I really can’t recommend it enough.

  5. Muzman says:

    I used to love doing that as well. Long after I’d given up online DM and so forth I used to check out every new map that came along, particularly if the review stressed its original content of textures and design. I never really had the net connection to do it properly back in the day though. I should again (although I still find wandering around DM maps by myself looking at the scenery almost too existentialist. Probably says more about me than anything else).
    As was said, looking this stuff up is almost depressing in itself; old links 404, file sharing sites seem to have cleared out their old databases before 2003 etc etc. Then you find places like this are still around (if only just)!
    link to
    link to

  6. Zeh says:


    Also, someone *cough*RPS*cought* has to make an interview with id Software, focusing the questions on Quake Zero, the online/browser/free Quake 3 they’re doing.

  7. DigitalSignalX says:

    I used to play consistently (read: 40+ hours a week) on one of the first custom maps Counter Strike servers. This was all pre-Steam, pre-league fuss, and we’d spend countless hours on forums arguing the merits of which maps should be added to the server queue. Balance and size was always debated first when it came to order of concerns. Aesthetics were usually a distant third among the “1337 bunny hopping tard” players, but us older players could (almost always) tell a great map by how much attention to detail had gone into it. Great looking maps were almost always created by folks who inherently understood balance and space issues. At that point it was merely a matter of how easily they plugged into team tactics. UT/Q3 (at that time) tended to cater to mostly “run and gun” scenarios which meant the tactical elements of play *were* the maps, period.

  8. SeriousKriss says:

    I still play Quake 3 to this day with friends and colleagues. It just feels right, and the incredible amount of user created maps & mods have made this game “immortal” to me.
    Thanks for the links!

  9. T-B0N3 says:

    If you still like quake 3, have you already heard about quake zero? Which should be a giant quake 3 gameplay revival for free :)

  10. wviperw says:

    Ahh yes, Chartres is a classic. Good to see pictures of it again.

    As for Lloyd M., he’s actually a designer at Splash Damage (ETQW) last time I checked.

  11. Lunaran says:

    so some people do still have coriolis storm on their hard drives.

    I feel warm. :)

  12. Garth says:

    Urban Terror took many weeks from me until they changed the A.R.I.E.S. system, and then it was.. less taking, more forgotten.

  13. tom says:

    Pimping my gradually petrifying blog
    link to
    Acid Arena Turbo! and various FLR reconstructions, Osama Bin Ladens house, Padman etc etc
    link to
    with a tenuous link to
    Game Architecture Preservationist Mario Gerosa. Who would probably take your old hard drive Jim and put it in a nice vitrine with some appropriate labels..

    Oh and the maps from the q3 tricking it 2 vid are really nice in a tron styleee. (the vid being quite awesome too)

  14. Mr. Softpants says:

    I “still” play Quake 3 till this day. The only other game to take hours, weeks, months, even years worth of my time from me next to TF, TFC and TF2.

    I’ve always loved Quake’s FPS feel. I played the original UT for a while and Q3 won me back when Epic made their franchise a giant firework spamfest. Nothing moves or feels like Quake in terms of competitive FPS gaming. Unless you play that horrible Quake 4 title.

    RA3 for life.

  15. Mr. Softpants says:

    For more Quake 3 goodness. Check out…
    link to

    I rewatch the “AnnihilatioN” a lot when I want to get pumped for some Q3 killing.


  16. Radiant says:

    They fixed the aries hit detection system!
    It was broken before it is spot on now.

    It was an offshoot of the Soldier of Fortune 2 system and was hacked into urban terror [or the other way around] the guy who did it worked on Soldier of Fortune 2 on that games legendary multi-player system.

    Now it’s a complete rewrite for 4.0 and improved in 4.1

  17. Thelps says:

    I too still sit in the Q3 > UT camp. Quake just reeked of balance. The levels appeared under-developed and rather minimalist next to the Unreal series, until you take into consideration how intensely well thought-out they were in relation to the game. Every pixel, every meter-per-second of projectile velocity, every jump and every footstep had clearly been refined to a razor edge. It sort of says something that even this far on Quake 3 is still regularly mentioned azll over the place, while the Unreal franchise has largely been treading water since 2k4. To my mind, Q3 deathmatch has never been redone by ID (Quake 4 was a 3rd party developer… Raven, I believe) simply because it’s near impossible to top. Unlike any other FPS, I just failed entirely to fault any aspect of the control scheme, scenery-snagability, or quality of the weapons.

    Playing Quake 3 just feels natural, while involving wholly unnatural actions such as sailing over someone’s head and planting a rocket smack onto them, mid-arc. Says it all really.

  18. Mr. Softpants says:

    Carmack said he plans or wants to go back to create a new Quake title at some point. I sort of want to see this happen and I also sort of don’t. Mainly because Id has been out of the game for such a while.

    But i’m also curious to see them return to it.

    I also hope they also ditch the whole lame cyborg aesthetic found in Quake 2. Give em gothic, satanic, and Lovecraftian :)

  19. Greg J. Smith says:

    Love that cell-shaded image! I’ve been doing a bit of thinking and writing about game architecture of late.. not so much excavating instances of great maps from within specific games but discussing games that brings something new to the table in terms of thinking about space. Regardless, it was great to some of these images again, it has been a while. Thanks! :)

  20. Duoae says:

    Yeah, i too had this nostalgia a while back. I’d made a whole load of maps myself and wanted to go back and have a look around… alas it appears that although i have incomplete versions, the final compiled maps with all relevant textures present are lost. Sad, really.

    ALso, i’m in the camp that thinks that Q3 is better than the UT bunch…. but i also think that UT multiplayer was better than the 2k stuff that was after it. Loved the days when i was in a clan but they ended when my internet connection became unstable – myself and a housemate were unable to compete properly so we called it a day.
    I’ve tried to get back into it by playing CTFS using the superb 3wave mod but having only 2/3 servers to play on (that i can find) in the EU and all of them throwing up punkbuster errrors since the latest patch (the servers are running an old version) means that i’m unable to play.

    Bah :(