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Old News: Strafe-Jumping's Near Death In Quake 3

No, run then jump and hol- no, look, you're just standing there.

I learned to strafe-jump the hard way back when games were games, my keyboard made of broken glass, and my mouse an actual mouse biting my fingers as I clicked. I still welcome Quake Live adding an automated slower substitute. Everyone should get the experience the joys of zipping around like a rubber ball. Though exploiting wacky movement physics bugs is central to Quake in my heart, some have been less keen on it.

Even John Carmack, the chap who inadvertently created all those glitches, once tried removing strafe-jumping from Quake 3. “I hate having players bouncing around all the time,” he said.

Strafe-jumping, if you don’t remember the minutiae of id Software engines from the mid-to-late ’90s for one of many acceptable reasons, is a movement physics exploit which lets players bounce around maps at superspeed by carefully jumping while strafing (watch a tutorial, or read the mathematical explanation). It looks daft and sounds it too, with all that grunting. It also helps add a whole extra dimension of skill for players to master. Combine it with other tricks and quirks and you could move around like this:

Carmack was not a fan. On June 3, 1999, working on Quake 3 before release, he announced in his .plan file (a dev blog sorta thing) that he’d blocked strafe-jumping by forcing a quarter-second delay between jumps. Thankfully, his ‘fix’ turned out to have knock-on effects he disliked so he undid the change a few hours later. He added that the Internet “convinced me that a single immediate jump after landing may be important to gameplay”, but still didn’t like it:

Strafe jumping is an exploitable bug. Just because people have practiced hard to allow themselves to take advantage of it does not justify its existence. When I tried fixing the code so that it just didn’t work, I thought it changed the normal running movement in an unfortunate way.

In the absence of powerups or level features (wind tunnels, jump pads, etc), the game characters are supposed to be badasses with big guns. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sigourney Weaver don’t get down a hallway by hopping like a bunny rabbit.

This is personal preference, but when I play online, I enjoy it more when people are running around dodging, rather than hopping.

My personal preference just counts a lot. :-)

I’m always fascinated when developers note people are ‘playing their game wrong’ then try to fix it, and interested in the grey area between ‘exploit’ and ‘feature’. Who decides–devs, players, the system, or some silent negotiation between them all? These weird movement bugs were a big part of what made Quake games Quake to many, especially in the burgeoning digital sports scene.

(Aside: if you want to get technical, each Quake has different movement, though with similar and often-related speedy physics exploits. Quake 2 had my favourite wonky physics; slope-sliding, ladder-jumping, double-jumping, and the rest are seared into my muscle memory.)

Valve have tried to stop similar ‘bunnyhopping’ across the Counter-Strike series, which of course traces its lineage to Quake 1. (CS’s stunning ‘surfing’ uses physics wonkiness beautifully, though it relies on tweaked server settings.) The Tribes series, in contrast, embraced its ‘skiing’. This physics exploit lets players boost their speed by gliding down terrain (see in this random old match), and became an official documented and supported feature from Tribes 2 onwards. Free arena FPS Warsow, which is based on the Quake 2 engine, also has an autojump like Quake Live’s.

What Quake Live has added isn’t automated strafe-jumping, to be clear. It’s a far simpler thing. Holding forward and jump will let players bounce forward in a line faster than running but slower than strafe-jumping. They’ll still need to learn that if they want to dance delicately around levels.

I don’t know whether Quake Live’s newbie-friendly overhaul and Steam launch will bring the new players it wants, but if it does we’ll certainly see them “bouncing around all the time.”

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Alice O'Connor

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When not writing news, Alice may be found in the sea.

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