Hosted by the
good folks at
Quake Expo 2008 Articles by Tronyn (August 2008)
Day 2 Article: Top 10 Medieval Maps. 08/16/2008.
Quake's second episode, "The Realm of Black Magic," is my favorite episode - it's the "wizard" themed episode, that is,
arcane dark fantasy, a sort of D&D meets Edgar Allan Poe ambience. Its maps are all castles and crypts, as if the player is
journeying through a haunted, decaying medieval land (or a land where no buildings have been built since the late Middle Ages).
The architecture never becomes more functional than tombs and crates; so a certain abstract mystery remains, but generally
it's the closest to historical structures and conventional fantasy that Quake comes. I've always liked the idea of a land in
stasis, an alternate plane where the Black Plague destroyed the human race, leaving only medieval ruins and evil beasts behind.
I'm not including any of my own work on any of these lists, but I'd like to take a moment to pimp "The Masque of the Red Death"
as what I think is a good example of this theme, as well as the "Soul of Evil" finale map, "The Morbid Manse."
Anyway, on to the list.
10. Swamp & Towne
I am making an exception to selecting only one map per place for this entry, because both of these maps are fairly small,
they come packaged together, and one continues directly from the other. They are also thematically linked - while the first is
a sinister, dangerous gooey swamp (complete with glowing chunks of slime and flaming oil), the second is similarly morbid, damp
and spooky. The architecture in both is great - Swamp, particularly, features tons of intricate and detailed broken architecture
and natural terrain, all presented through the filter of very dark, moody lighting. Neither map is difficult by today's standards,
but both have an interesting focus on exploration and atmosphere that is very rare in Q1SP. The sense of place is great, even
exceeding the literal architecture available to be seen - you feel as if you are creeping through a whole large area at night.
The crypt sections and flickering light add greatly to the atmosphere. Anyone who enjoys these maps and hasn't played Fat Controller's
final masterpiece Otranto, which contains reworkings of some of the themes of these maps in the context of a full episode, owes it to
themselves to check it out.
Theme: Creepy wilderness and town
Similar To: Otranto, Dark Forest
9. Village of Dread
This classic map is the first of many "Medieval Village" maps in Quake, a style that id themselves never used, although Raven
picked up on it in the Quake-powered Hexen II, and had been using it throughout Hexen and Heretic. Steve Rescoe's few new textures
allowed him to introduce a new theme that fit in perfectly with the "traveling a haunted fantasy land" motif of "The Realm of Black
Magic." You begin in a dark canyon and soon progress to a large open village; medieval barrels (a great touch) are used throughout,
and make the gameplay interesting (they can be very helpful, or very deadly). The third section takes place in a series of wide open
but slimy medieval halls, leading to a house perched on a slab of rock in the middle of a lake. All in all, scenic fantasy stuff.
Theme: Medieval Village
Similar To: The Demon King
8. Fall Cleaning
This map was an unexpected gem that Scragbait created for a Halloween mapping contest some years ago. It is a very tightly built
haunted house, with several floors of intricate architecture and plenty of stylish windows. The outdoor yard contains sheds full
of supplies as well as many fights. The texturing is quite varied, giving the impression of different wallpaper or construction
material in every room (adding to the sense of the house as something historical, in that it was originally simple and small and
was later added on to). Each area has a strong theme, particularly the bloody low-ceilinged attic and the creepy furnace room
finale. There are plenty of fights, the use of shamblers and vores in such close quarters actually makes the map quite a challenge.
Scrags are also well-used throughout, and will often snipe at you from outside the windows. Overall, a haunted mansion is a great
theme for Q1SP, one that has hardly been done, and one that would have fit well into Episode 2 (The Wizard's Manse is arguably
already very similar to such a map). Scragbait's most recent maps, the first three maps in Travail, are similar in their use
of functional architecture, but aren't really "Wizard" theme. However, those maps are absolutely amazing - an entire three-map
constant setpiece of a river, dams, machinery and buildings - and anyone who hasn't played Travail needs to do so ASAP.
Theme: Haunted House
Similar To: The Wizard's Manse, Gloom Keep
7. Frostbite: Frostbite by Hrimfaxi
Yes, I'm actually including a 100 brush map on this list. In this map, Hrimfaxi does more with 100 brushes than most mappers do with
an unlimited brush count. Using Daikatana E3 textures with tons of snow and rock, the map presents a freezing and foreboding canyon,
with a series of medieval towers and buildings leading to a final massive domed tower. The vertical element is very well used, with
death always present if you fall off, and some good secrets that make use of the layout. You are perpetually climbing up the layout,
which adds a dramatic sense of progress, and ogres and scrags are well used throughout. The brushwork is very nice despite the limited
brush count, with plenty of complex rocks forming the canyon's outer edges, and some very nice curved architecture inside the final tower.
Texturing and lighting is likewise great.
Theme: Castle in a Canyon
Similar To: Daikatana E3
6. CDA: Castle of the Dark Ages by JPL
Castle of the Dark Ages may have the record for longest vistime of a Q1SP map (1200+ hours if I remember correctly). This is because
the map is basically wide open. There is something really awesome about a creative person saying "Alright reality, I realize what I
ought to do in terms of efficiency and making things easier for myself - but I'm just going to do whatever the hell I want anyway."
This is basically what JPL did with "Castle of the Dark Ages," creating a gigantic horizontal layout with many medieval buildings,
intersected by a river of lava. The whole map is strongly reminiscent of oldschool dark fantasy FPS games like Doom and Heretic. The
map starts out with a great use of zombies, plenty of graveyards and crypts and so forth, leading to churches complete with flying
buttresses, as well as large medieval structures with intricate multileveled layouts. You can even go on the roofs which is awesome.
Hordes of medieval monsters are present throughout, and the whole map is shrouded in a deep green fog. It can be a bit confusing at
times, but this is an amazing spectacle of a Q1SP map that really pushes the limits and is all the more enjoyable for it.
Theme: Whole Medieval Enclosure - Church, Castle, Bridge
Similar To: Heretic, Doom
5. Hip2m2: The Black Cathedral by Hipnotic
While I always felt that Scourge of Armagon sort of fell apart in the last of its three episodes, its first two were great.
Hipnotic E1 was a series of very cool base maps that were different from the id standards, and Hipnotic E2 was a medieval episode
not unlike id's E2, but of course with modifications to make it unique. Hip2m2, The Black Cathedral, is the highlight of that episode.
Using several new textures, it establishes a very strong theme immediately, with huge white stone blocks, red wood, blue metal banding
and floor tiles, multicolored stainglass panes and open windows to the trademark Quake purple sky. Thunder in the background adds to
the atmosphere considerably, in addition to detailed touches like a clock that actually keeps time, some unique traps, and some of the
coolest secrets I've seen in Quake. The map is full of medieval monsters who seem perfectly in their element, particularly scrags, as
well as Hipnotic's excellent Gremlin monster. There are plenty of setpieces, and every room is kept interesting by a good texturing and
lighting, as well as consistently well-judged ceiling detail and wall items like bookshelves, beams and windows. The arcane theme
suits Quake perfectly, and the two maps that follow, "The Catacombs" and "The Crypt" are a logical progression of the church theme,
so that you actually feel like you are travelling deeper and deeper into the vaults beneath the church.
Theme: Arcane Medieval/Church
Similar To: Hexen, e2mx
4. GMSP3: Day of the Lords by Glassman
Glassman's second (and final, alas) Q1SP map is an amazing dark fantasy castle. Using its own texture set of very grimy stone,
the map creates a consistently morbid feel of unwholesome decay, dirt and dry old bones. The large vaults beneath the castle
full of zombies are especially moody, and the watery areas with flying buttresses add a gothic-dungeon atmosphere. There are also
two central and interlinked outdoor castle setpieces, as well as numerous lofty open-air halls and towers. You have to get all
four runes in order to progress to the "final oubliette" an interesting quest which involves navigating the sometimes confusing
but highly interconnective layout. Plenty of going up and town spiral staircases in dark, moody towers, and plenty of fights
with medieval monsters. There are also some cool secrets. The architecture is very good throughout, as is the lighting, but the
best thing about the map is undoubtedly the textures. The map's starting section is a cool tribute to e2m2: The Ogre Citadel, and
the map as a whole is kind of like a bigger, darker, drearier version of that map. The sense of grime and age is amazing, very
Quakey. Highly recommended.
Theme: Dark Medieval
Similar To: e2m2, Painkiller, Quake3
3. FMB_BDG1: This Onion by Mike Woodham
This is hands down one of the best maps of recent years. Mike Woodham's massive underground castle map is excellent in every
possible way. Mike Woodham has become the master of terrain in Quake, and all of his new maps feature very smooth, curvy stone
faces that look great and leave many attempts at natural brushwork in the dust. It creates a sense of actual weight, the you
are actually wandering through tons of smoothly carven rock. His maps have always been great examples of cleverly interlinked
setpieces of various sizes, something he no doubt picked up in his unique process of building maps from the scraps of others in
the FMB series (see TeamShambler for reviews).
The combination of these two styles is at its best in this map, which is a massive
underground castle built around canals and lakes of lava, with a great layout and ominous gothic castle architecture. This is
by a considerable margin the best Q1SP map to ever use the DKT E3 (Medieval Norway) texture set, above and beyond "Castle and the
Dark Ages" and "Frostbite" on this list as well as my own "Rain Palisade" from "Rapture" (which I'm still rather fond of). The
gameplay is great, with moody music that changes with the setting, giving a strong feeling of action or atmosphere as appropriate,
and other cool extras including some Quoth extras (there are also some Quoth textures here and there, making the theme unique).
Twelves (!) secrets, some cool jumping areas, a logical pleasing layout and intense fighting make this a modern masterpiece.
Recently it has been hinted that the gigantic castle scene at the end may one day be released as another map. We can only hope.
Theme: Daikatana E3
Similar To: Hexen, Quake3
2. Moonlite: Moonlit Assault by Tyrann
These days, when many mappers (myself included) are guilty of massively overdoing it (setpieces, horde combat, outdoor areas,
texture diversity), Tyrann's huge but very restrained, subtle castle map is a breath of fresh air. The architecture is often
on a grand scale, but everything is orderly (never "busy") and very elegantly designed. The textures are mostly id medieval,
but with a few modifications and custom additions in the right places. Rarely have so few textures done so much - the overall
uniformity of this map's look is a great strength. Each area maintains visual interest not by being a different color or
presenting a different texture set, but by being very nicely designed, and being a distinct section. The map has, in addition
to its impressive castle-front setpiece, courtyards, atriums, fountains, gardens and stairwells among other things.
is very well textured in believable white stone, red wood, and brown metal. Details such as flags and stainglass are also
red, and the dark blue floors (inside) and dark green grass (outside) contribute to the thematic consistency. But the best
aspect of the map visually is its lighting. This is some of the nicest lighting in a Quake map - everything is beautifully
sourced, with all kinds of really excellent skylight filtered through metallic beams in different directions. It's incredibly
pretty. Gameplay is equally subtle, smooth and restrained, with grunts, knights, scrags, zombies, fiends and ogres, with
shalraths and shamblers used only for special occasions. I should also mention the excellent, highly interconnected, somewhat
non-linear layout. There's no question at all that this is a masterpiece. This map also spawned a couple of pretty decent
imitations by The Lieutenant back in the day also (see LTHSP series).
Theme: Moonlit Medieval
Similar To: e2mx maps
1. Shadow: The Shadow Over Innsmouth by Steve Rescoe
What can I say. Almost anyone who knows me probably saw this conclusion coming. "The Shadow Out of Innsmouth," the final map
by Steve Rescoe, is one of the greatest Quake maps of all time. It was created in 1998, and holds up ten (!) years later despite
all the advances that have been made in Q1SP design. This should give a good sense of just how far ahead of its time it was. It
is the cumulation of Rescoe's Q1SP career - the epic masterpiece he had been building toward all along. You can see his skill
increase from "Drakopf" through "The Demon King" (a great TC, to which he contributed a Castle map and a massive Forest map) to
"Village of Dread" which made this list.
He always tended to focus on fantasy-medieval stuff, with a good degree of functionality.
His custom textures and skins allowed him to create a slightly different medieval feel than the one that was found in the original
Quake, which did feature castles and seemingly historical buildings in some places, but never quite stepped into functionality,
preferring instead to keep things more abstract. However, Steve's themes were always suitable for Quake, and none more so than
"Shadow," where he combined his previous fantasy themes with a darker style and - a LOVECRAFT story! The result is a giant,
unique, dark, atmospheric, nonlinear orgasm of a Q1SP map, with a pronounced vertical element, wide open spaces, and good use
of teleporting monsters throughout.
Theme: Lovecraftian Medieval
Similar To: Village of Dread
1. The Shadow Over Innsmouth
2. Moonlit Assault
3. This Onion
4. Day of the Lords
5. The Black Cathedral
6. Castle of the Dark Ages
8. Fall Cleaning
9. Village of Dread
10. Swamp & Towne
UWF: Many Thanks to Tronyn for this excellent Top 10, check the Quake 1 articles page for all of Tronyn's Quake Expo 2008 Top 10s.