A complete newcomer to Quake modding - haven't played the game since childhood - I found this lots of fun!
Of what I've played through so far, I particularly enjoyed There's A Certain Slant Of Light, the way that map looks and the way it opens up as you explore. And Peculiar Investigation, which came as a surprise to me.
This pack was fantastic, and I'm glad to see a Quake project getting so much participation. There were so many that I loved, but in the interest of time, here's notes on just a few of them:
Mazu's map, as usual, had a ton of incredibly fun trick jumps - moving that fast with the jump gates was a rush - and exploring for secrets always feels like I'm inhaling a bag of cookies. The "gamified" visuals compliment the map well, too, and feature a lot of accented stripes and color-coding to help you navigate better. The map is huge, but I never got lost, because every area is visually distinct. Mazu's my favorite author for a reason - his mapping style is 100% consistent, yet always introduces something unique that keeps it fresh, and this map is no exception. Also, the start is hilarious, and I could not resist the smoosher.
Stickflip's map was gorgeous in so many ways, and bled atmosphere, and the addition of Markie and Aleks's audio brought it to another level, especially the screeching as all those oddly-angled pillars rose out of the void to act as stairs. The whole thing felt so otherworldly in the best possible way, feeling like an environment that had absolutely nothing to do with humanity, and is everything a remix should be, elevating the original with a unique concept. The graffiti easter egg and the credits room were nice touches, too.
Hrnek Bezucha's map had a really intriguing idea behind it. You don't see very many non-combat maps, and I love the idea of an investigation in Quake. Seeing unique concepts get implemented is always a treat, and I hope I get to play more things like this in the future.
Newhouse's map is one of the most artistic ones I've seen from him, and it really elevates things. His maps always have an otherworldly flare to them, but I haven't seen it quite to this degree before. It felt like navigating a city made by an alien who's never actually seen a city before, and it works fantastically. I love all the little touches like the windows leading into actual glowing rooms, too, and the lighting + fog make it feel like it's permanently night. It kind of reminded me of the Dark City movie, for whatever reason. Bizarre in the best possible way.
Grue/Dougm nyc's map was the visual highlight of the pack for me. It was surreal in a very nightmarish way that I haven't really seen since PalmliX's The Dead Room, and reminded me a lot of german expressionism. The static motif was excellent, and made for a lot of spooky moments, especially using it as a pseudo-liquid + the wobbly passage. Falling through the tunnel surrounded by staircases was a standout too. Basically an early halloween map.
Lastly, Makkon's start map was stunning, and I loved all the random spawns hidden everywhere + the playground. Chris even got his own office filled with uncomfortable furniture. Also, the credits room with ptoing's graffiti was incredibly wholesome.
With a whole 35 maps (and the largest file size of any Quake map pack ever as far as I can tell), it took me a while to at least sample everything this jam has to offer.
Aesthetically, this is an excellent jam for the most part - some experienced mappers providing beautiful maps, and even some of the first-time mappers producing really interesting content.
Gameplay-wise, as the person who plays on Easy, it's a bit more variable. Some of the maps are great (kudos to Mazu for a number of subtle changes throughout his incredibly huge map to support players on Easy, including "skips" for some advanced movement content), but some of them (unfortunately, including from some of the first time mappers) are super hard on Easy, and I just didn't finish.
Some great stand out maps regardless - and I should shout out HrnekBezucha for possibly the first "multiple choice ending" quake map, especially as a first product.
Firstly, I want to congratulate everyone who completed a map for this jam, the aesthetic of which is pitch perfect and one of the most evocative I've ever seen, and I would say this pack earns more of a 3.5/5, something like a B+. I sampled at least some of every map, finished more than a few, and found something engaging in all of them, which is to be commended. There's something about monolithic concrete pillars reaching into foreboding, heavenly skyboxes that works extremely well for Quake, blending easily with its industrial, gothic, cold, hard, and unyielding nature.
This jam serves as the perfect opportunity to think about the ongoing, internal struggle modern Quake maps so often suffer from: the push and pull between the excitement of impressive screenshots destined for engagement on social media and the much less hype need for new, engaging Quake gameplay. Though several of these maps do manage to marry aesthetics and gameplay together well, more often gameplay feels like an afterthought compared to the monumental, gray blocks so thoughtfully hand-crafted and laid out throughout so many maps with truly epic proportions. Like the brutalist constructions of the mid-to-late 20th century these maps seek to emulate, they're both impressive to behold and ambulate through yet mostly rote, self-serious, and business-like in their function.
And for a jam lasting a few weeks, who could possibly blame a mapper for choosing style over substance? Especially when the call of Makkon's immaculate textures is so much more alluring than populating yet another dark, abstract chamber with yet more knights, ogres, and enforcers. And for the purposes of furthering a mapper's career, focusing on aesthetics is clearly the superior choice for gaining immediate clout and recognition (though I'm sure professional opportunities for anyone are still few and far between). This jam even earned an article on a widely-read game journalism site, Rock Paper Shotgun, which is still a novelty in the modern Quake era and a testament to the strength of the jam's theming.
I would only suggest that, perhaps, we as mappers could take a page out of Valve's book and move more of these colossal, suggestive, stoic pieces of eye candy into the background and bring more unique Quake gameplay ideas into the foreground, even if they're messier, more awkward, and less exciting to work on at first. Food for thought, anyway, as we barrel straight ahead into the next jam and the next, full steam ahead. I continually wonder whether such an effective mapping tool as TrenchBroom wouldn't be better-served by a more mechanically-dense and script-driven game, but seeing as Quake is so accessible, fundamental, and essential, I think it's unlikely we'll have a better platform for simple, short-form level design experimentation any time soon. And in the end, if some of these maps end up more exciting for users and second-hand viewers to noclip through and gasp at high resolution PNGs of rather than play, like a group of wide-eyed students in a museum of curious and inspiring antiquities preserved behind glass, dim spotlights and all, who's to say that's a bad thing?
The brutalist setting was the best idea for a Quake jam and I was excited to see what the results would be. Now that I've gotten to play it, this was aboustely worth the wait. While I didn't like some maps, every map from this jam is wonderful and unique and all the mappers part of this jam should be proud of making something so beautiful.