The source code of the early 3d first-person shooter Quake has been released. There’s already at least one art project (QQQ) that subverts the game aesthetics, Jeremy Douglass writes (Fortunately for people like me who want a quick shot, there are movie files available from QQQ, so you don’t have to actually play it), and he wonders further what a textual version of Quake might be like:

TextQuake would be an environment for 3d reading rather than combat, using the large virtual architectures to create narrative ìgardens of forking pathsî which go beyond the Pac-Man grid of CYOA narratives and into a kind of writing that would function like a 3d version of the Minotaur maze from Mark Z. Danielewskiís novel ìHouse of Leaves.î

I don’t know that TextQuake would necessarily make a very good platform for electronic literature, but it would certainly make an interesting conceptual exercise to think about what kind of a work TextQuake might be. Would you tell a story? Stories? Poems? I think I’d go for something akin to Kafka’s Trial.

8 thoughts on “TextQuake

  1. Lars

    Hm. I would suggest dramatic texts. Quake 3 is, after all, mainly a multiplayer game. Imagine a deathmatch mode for TextQuake. Opponents would have to negotiate the textual playing ground (the context, so to speak) while employing various game objects and mechanics to bring about the demise of other players and ensure their own survival. Around every corner you could stumble upon someone wielding a îdark secret from the pastî or îsudden appearance of an unexpected guestî, while from a nearby tower of intricate backstory a sniper might be homing in on you with his îvengeful betrayed loverî. Time to fire up your îdeus ex machinaeî if youíve got it, or else make a run for cover behind the conveniently placed barrel of comic relief while firing off a volley of mistaken identities to cover your tracks and using a longeur to win time and catch your breath. If you get hit, you could always use a pack of good one-liners to get back in the action. Good fun, no? Now imagine a multiplayer deathmatch on the absurdist or surrealist levels…

  2. nick

    First, a pedantic Quake note: It’s the Quake 3 Arena source that was just released. The Quake source code has been available for several years.

    As I mentioned on WRT, there are two textual Quake projects, different than the one Jeremy envisions, that were done a while ago: Textmode Quake (can be played in a console window, without graphics) and IF Quake (an interactive fiction “implementation” of Quake). Textmode Quake screenshotsIF Quake screenshots.

    A textual Quake 3 Arena could make for a fun and provocative art project, but as far as literature on the computer is concerned, I think there’s still a lot of work to be done in the standard 2D planar arrangement of words. Besides, after all that work, most people would just watch the movie files or look at the screenshots.

  3. Jamie

    It sounds interesting, but the AVI files don’t show any text, and the geographical locations are barely recognizable as locations. Jill, did you have any problems viewing the movies?

  4. Jill

    Oh, Lars, that’s wonderful! Nick, thanks for the info. Jamie, sorry for the badly constructed paragraph, it looked as though the movies files were of TextQuake, but TextQuake is in fact merely Jeremy’s idea, not an actual game. The videos are of an art game built with the Quake engine. I fixed the paragraph a little bit to make that more clear.

  5. […] Still on the literary side, but very much at the cutting edge, Jill/txt is musing on the possibilities unleashed by the release of the source code of the early 3d first-person shooter Quake. The idea, as I understand it in my largely “old literature” mind, is to turn it into a three-dimensional narrative. I’m interested in this because it seems to me there must someday pretty soon be a real breakthrough in the nature of popular fiction into a new form exploiting all of the possibilities of the web. But it doesn’t seem to have happened yet. […]

  6. Jeremy Douglass

    I’m having a rhizomatic blogging moment – I was just looking for more work
    by Jeremy Bushnell, and stumbled upon my own mistaken identity.

    I’m actually the Jeremy who blogged about TextQuake – after these posts we met at DAC2005. Jeremy Bushnell is the author of the serialized web narrative Imaginary Year.

    Funny, as a J. Douglass in interactive narrative, I normally worry more about getting confused with J. Yellowlees Douglas. Namespaces do strange things….

  7. Jill

    Oh god. I hate getting names wrong – I’m so sorry, Jeremy! Fixed it. Thanks!

  8. Jeremy Bushnell

    Oddly, years later, I would write about Jeremy Douglass in a critical paper, without ever knowing that he had known who I was.

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