Quake 1 “Epsilon” Build…

Quake 1 “Epsilon” Build after the break…

Quake 1 “Epsilon” Build…

Id software, the developers of the first-person shooter computer game, “Quake” (later to be known as “Quake 1”), performed a remarkable event many years ago – They released the engine for that game to the public. For free. “Free as in beer,” as they say nowadays. To be certain, the entire game was not free – The art assets, the monster models, the soundtrack and sound effects… Those are not free and will likely never be free (Technically, they will be free someday – Copyright only exists for so long but knowing how the government likes to perpetually push copyright protection further and further back to protect deep-pocketed interests… Well, who knows?).

Why did Id software give away the engine to one of the most successful games of all time… For free? What was in it for them? They certainly did not make any direct money off of giving the engine away for free. No one looked at their website one day, noticed that the engine was free and decided to write a check to Id software with a small note saying, “Thank you for giving me something for free – Take this money in exchange.”

Id software, though, took the long view in deciding to release the engine for their game for free. The long view is this – Computer games are not books. They are not movies. They are not music. Computer games have a very short shelf life, akin to leaving ice cream out of the freezer for too long. Books depend upon understanding a written language to read them; Learn the language and you can read the book. You can read the book on a train, a plane, in a car, in a house, on a bus… A book is versatile and the medium that it is rendered in, paper, is very sturdy. Kept properly, a book can last well over one century before you have to start being somewhat careful with it. Movies and music are a little more fragile but not because of the actual content themselves – Music is “universal” in the aspect that you do not even need to learn a language to appreciate instrumental music. A person in Japan can appreciate the same instrumental music as someone in Nigeria or Russia or England or America or Brazil. Movies and music are dependent, ultimately, on their medium – Older Americans can remember walking into a “record store” back when all you could buy were “records.” Yes, records are still sold in some music stores because it is considered edgy and exclusive but, back then, records were sold because that was it – Records and nothing else. In fact, movies and music have been sold in a myriad of mediums – Records, cylindrical records, 8-track tapes, cassettes, Betamax cassettes, VHS cassettes, Laserdisc, Compact Discs… Sheet music…

Computer games, compared to books, movies and music are especially fragile. Once a computer changes operating systems (the “language,” so to speak), there is no guarantee that the computer game which was programmed to work in an earlier operating system will work in the new system. It is like writing a book in 1790 America and then having someone in modern day 21st century America read it. The language is similar but not exact; Some letters no longer exist and some words have since changed meaning. Humans are smart – We do not need to have “perfect” information in order to understand a written statement. We can “guess” the meanings of words we do not know and decipher the context of written statements where verbal cues would make such context obvious. We don’t need to understand “everything” – We just need to understand it “enough.”

Computers are not as smart and nowhere near as tolerant. If a computer doesn’t understand something, it won’t “guess.” The computer will just stop what it is doing. Obviously, that is a simplification – Some computers have bee expertly programmed to execute contingencies and whatnot if something adverse occurs but, in simplistic terms, your computer is an “all or nothing” proposition when it comes to running a piece of software – Either it understand the program and runs it or it doesn’t understand it and stops running that program. There is no middle ground.

Id software understood this principle, the principle that “Quake 1” was not going to be understood very well by future operating systems and the computers that are run by those operating systems. Therefore, they released the engine for that program for free. Do with it as you will. And people did – They pried the program open and ripped it apart and then something interesting happened: People began releasing versions of that program that were better. They had better graphical capabilities and were able to run on all sorts of operating systems. Id software, in essence, allowed “Quake 1” to theoretically live forever. Have a computer that was built between 1996 and today? Then you can, in all likelihood, run “Quake 1” on your computer right now. As in “now” now. You can read practically any book that is twenty years old. How many modern-day computers can run a twenty-year old computer program? Not many of them.

The “Quake 1” Epsilon Build is the name of the Quake 1 computer game with every single graphical enhancement made for it. No one person *made* the “Epsilon” build – It is a compilation of several collaborators working separately. The novelty of the Epsilon build is that someone took the time to put all of these enhancements together – Sort of like the superhero team “The Avengers,” separately, they are each superheroes with their own franchise but, in this rare case, they have all teamed up together.

There is both a certain charm and a certain disgust when one plays the “Epsilon” build. First, the build *ought* to be played simply for the sheer novelty value of seeing such an antiquated engine completely revamped and modernized for modern-day computers. If you’ve ever wanted to play “Quake 1” but thought to yourself, “But the graphics are so primitive and simple…,” then you should think that no longer. There is water that you can see through… Colored lighting… High-resolution textures… High-resolution models… And all sorts of behind-the-scenes and in front of the camera changes made. Quite honestly, I doubt that Quake 1 will ever look this good ever again. See it while it lasts.

Yet there is also a certain disgust when playing the Epsilon build. Honestly… Part of the charm of Quake 1 in the modern era of gaming is to show the world how much could be done with less than 100 megs. Seriously, how many first-person shooters are released these days that are under 1 Gig in size, never mind 100 megs? Yes, there are amateur efforts aplenty these days but Quake 1 was a professional effort. The “Epsilon” build is sort of reminiscent of the joke for “George Washington’s Axe” – In the joke, a farmer tells a passerby that he owns an axe that was used by American president George Washington. The passerby is impressed that a local farmer owns such a prestigious artifact. The farmer then explains, “Sure, the handle and the head has been replaced a few times, but it’s still his axe!” The nature of the joke is clear – It is only George Washington’s axe in name only because the entire object has been replaced since George Washington actually used it.

The same could be said for the “Epsilon” build. At what point are we playing a game other then “Quake 1”? Is it still “Quake” if the level design is the same but everything else has changed? Is it still Quake if the weapons & enemies still have the same attributes but everything else has changed? If the music has been swapped out for higher-quality sounding music? Colored lighting? Clear water and lava? At what point are we playing something other then “Quake 1”? The Epsilon build takes the id Tech 1 engine as far as it can go before it can be considered something else.

The Epsilon build is worthy of praise. The effort to have all of these separate mods work together seamlessly is impressive. Everyone should play it simply for the sheer nostalgia and novelty value. Yet at 2+ Gigs in size, the Epsilon build defeats it’s own purpose – For all that flash, there isn’t a lot of additional substance beyond the original “Quake 1” game. The Epsilon build is great for a visit but for 2+ Gigs in hard drive space, I’m not going to live there.

5 Responses to “Quake 1 “Epsilon” Build…”

  1. Qracker Jack Quake Says:



    Epsilon is great… I was inspired bu this project to do something “similar” but it’s also a big video collection about Quake… ENJOY!!

    Q -Mark [0!0]

    = = =

    Quake video collection including a toy surprise… the free ready-to-go eyecandy Qrack_HD engine.

    So why resist the thrill of opening the toy surprise inside?



    88 videos (+/- 1 minute each)
    – Full HD image (1920×1080)
    – HD audio stereo (44khz)
    – 4.5 hours
    – 10 GB
    – 1/2 million pictures (1.0368e+12 pixels)

    1000 people
    – players (clans)
    – artists
    – composers
    – designers
    – developers
    – producers
    – programmers
    – coders

    66 groups / musicians (84 songs)

    31 map designers (52 maps)

    30 quake servers

    26 mods
    – airquake
    – airshot
    – capture the flag (ctf)
    – clan arena (ca)
    – cooperative (coop)
    – deathmatch (dm)
    – deathmatch plus (dmp)
    – easy / nightmare run
    – free for all (ffa)
    – freeze tag
    – future vs fantasy (fvf)
    – in the shadow (its)
    – instagib
    – king of the hill (koth)
    – open quartz
    – pain keep (pk)
    – practice
    – qball
    – quake done quickest
    – quakeworld (qw)
    – runes
    – rocket arena (ra)
    – speedball
    – team fortress (tf)
    – twisted christmas
    – undergate

    8 projects (each)
    – Baker (introduction)
    – R00k (e1)
    – Qrack (e7)
    – Special (e9)
    – Videos (conclusion)

    8 competitions / tournaments

    7 countries
    – Belgium
    – Brazil
    – Canada
    – England
    – France
    – Holland
    – USA

    5 engines
    – darkplaces (dp)
    – engine x
    – proquake (pq)
    – proquake playsation portable
    – qrack

    Bugs / Eggs / Tricks

    Full details (100 pages)



    S01 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlBYlgDrcSo&hd=1
    S02 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WW7zIxcDM9E&hd=1
    S03 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qDmzBVglho&hd=1
    S04 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EY_huRpsUVc&hd=1
    S05 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7Pp5CvWqb8&hd=1
    S06 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhxisBI-edY&hd=1
    S07 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXcXhVaJpd0&hd=1
    S08 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZ0xnEiMq8o&hd=1

    • Lutonaut Says:

      Hi Qracker Jack Quake and thank you for reading my blog.

      I apologize for not replying sooner.

      QUAKE 1 (and, indeed, all of the pre-Bethesda iD games) seems to have a really extended longevity thanks to iD’s very smart decision to know when it was time to commercially retire it’s source code. I think that open sourcing your source code continues to be a very smart decision for companies that want to extend the life of their product as well as keep in the good graces of their fan base. I certainly hope that, someday, iD continues with that smart decision making with their current slate of games although we will just have to wait and see.

      With so many different “flavors” of the QUAKE 1 engine, it can be daunting (if not impossible) to keep track of them all. I have no doubt that the maintainers of the Qrack engine pride themselves in coding the best possible engine that is possible.

      I have little doubt that, twenty years from now, QUAKE 1 will still be around on people’s computers thanks to the forward thinking of iD. Will the same be said of such contemporary games like “Call of Duty: Ghosts” and “Battlefield 4”? We shall see.

      Again, thank you for reading my blog.

      • Q - Mark [0!0] Says:


        Hello Lutonaut!

        I really like your comment (or reply) you are so right.

        The “toy surprise” I’ve included in my Quake Video Collection is the best I could do to make it simple (install/play) and flexible… hope we can bring back some oldschool people as well as totally new players.

        20 years later… well you could be surprised… it might also be THE occasion for Quake to make a real “come back”… I was just talking about that with some people 5 min ago 😉

        Q – Mark [0!0]

  2. Cobalt Says:

    “640K is more than anyone will ever need” – Bill Gates

    Good stuff you said about Q1 Lutonat. If you get a chance connect to my Darkplaces Quake mod based on CTF.

    My Quake videos are here :


    • Lutonaut Says:

      Hi Cobalt and thank you for reading my blog.

      The Quake 1 universe is so vast that, to explore it all, might require a lifetime all of it’s own. It is truly a pleasure to look at the wares in the form of levels, textures, models, sound effects, music and engine code that have been developed over the years. This is not to take away from the amazing contributions of other gaming communities: There are some truly dedicated game communities out there that have not had the advantage that the Quake 1 community enjoyed and they have also produced some amazing achievements.

      It’s been a great pleasure re-acquainting myself with the contributions of the Quake 1 community and, as I delve deeper, I will most certainly write more about it.

      Again, thank you for reading my blog.

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