Quake III took a different route to the previous Quakes – in this one it was all about deathmatching and player versus player arenas. Gone was the single-player, story-driven, puzzle/action side of the game, and in came finely-tuned deathmatch arenas. It’s not called Quake III Arena for nothing…
Personally, this kind of game interests me less than something with a single-player experience, but that’s just down to my own tastes. Many people prefer deathmatching, and Quake III Arena really delivered on that front. In fact: it still does to this day, because online deathmatching with Quake III is still popular (at the time of writing; August 2021). Which is pretty amazing considering that Quake III is currently 22 years old.
At the time of its initial release – in 1999 – Quake III set the gaming world alight with its superfast graphics and first-person shooter gameplay.
The single-player game is played against progressively more difficult computer-controlled bots, in a succession of deathmatch ‘tiers’. Some are one-on-one deathmatches; in others you fight against multiple bots, and the aim is to be the first to reach the frag limit, which is the target number of kills per map, or to have the highest number of frags within a set time limit. When you’ve completed four maps in one tier, you move on the the next – until you’ve unlocked all seven tiers. The bot AI features five difficulty levels and each bot has its own ‘personality’, expressed as scripted lines that are triggered to simulate real player chat.
The multiplayer side of Quake III Arena, though, is really where the game’s strength lies, and where most of the interest resides. Playing against human players. Quake III made deathmatching easy with a simple ‘lobby’ showing available online or local multiplayer games/servers, and what type of game it is. To join a game you simply click on a server and then the join button. If you want to create your own server you can easily do that too.
A mission pack, called Team Arena, came out in 2000 that focused on team-based gameplay through new game modes. It also added three new weapons (the Chaingun, Nailgun, and Prox Launcher), and also new items and player models.
In 2005 id Software released the complete source code for the Quake III Arena engine, which allowed third parties to modify it and create their own versions of the game. That in turn led to complete re-builds of the engine, like “ioQuake3“, which allowed it to run on modern computers at previously unheard of framerates. The screenshots on this page were taken using ioQuake3, and the high res texture pack, which not only looks amazing, but also runs at 125 frames per second on my (ten year-old) desktop PC. The online community for Quake III deathmatching is still thriving to this day, thanks to the efforts of hobbyist programmers and players.