We’ve previously covered Quake mega-mod Arcane Dimensions, which has become a cornerstone of modern Quake mapping thanks to its slew of new gameplay features, enemy types and weapons going a long way to refresh the formula of Id’s cyber-gothic classic without diluting its breakneck pacing and drum-tight combat loops.
Xmas Jam: 1024^3 is the latest group project to come from the quietly industrious func_msgboard mapping community. Built using Arcane Dimensions’ bag of tricks, it offers 11 new levels from 11 different creators, all adhering to a single restriction: the level must fit (roughly) within a tiny space, 1024 Quake map units cubed, approximately three seconds travel time across.
While many of Arcane Dimensions’ maps are famed for their enormity (in the case of the final map, The Forgotten Sepulcher, a new engine build had to be released just to enable a map of that scale and complexity), the Xmas Jam boils it all down to its punchiest, most concentrated form. These maps may be tiny, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to be over in a flash, with enemy spawns and clever use of 3D space forcing you to loop around each playfield multiple times before the exit will present itself. While the nature of each map may differ wildly, it all feels like trench warfare. Up-close, messy and panicked.
Restricted micro-mapping like this is a popular choice among retro FPS modders in general, with the Doom community doing amazing things within similarly small spaces in the likes of rf_1024. It forces both clever use of the tools provided, but also makes both the player and the map author think about the roles each enemy plays, and how best to utilize them in a claustrophobic space. A single Quake Ogre is almost no threat in an open chamber, with their slow grenades landing miles from where you’re standing, but when you’re fighting for solid footing, every ricocheting grenade becomes a potential deathtrap.
In order to play Xmas Jam 1024^3, you’ll of course need Quake (literally £1 on Steam right now), the latest iteration of the Quakespasm engine (widely adopted by the modding scene now), and both Arcane Dimensions 1.5 and the upgrade to 1.6. It’s a bit of an uphill struggle if you’ve not got any of this stuff already installed, but it’s worth the effort.