I was on Kotaku reading about Tim Willits just straight up lying about inventing multiplayer only maps for 1996’s Quake. He has an amusing anecdote and everything! I’m fascinated when people lie about things that are easily provable. As Kotaku mentions, Tim’s claim is easily refuted by the existence of multiplayer only maps in Rise of the Triads, a game released in 94. Memories are like old websites. You can forget the address and when you stumble across them again they still work and you can follow the old links to all sorts of places you forgot existed.
Rise was a weird game. An insane, manic, over the top FPS at the very beginning of the era, when everyone else was busy being Nazi prisoners or grizzled marines. Rise just wanted to watch the world burn and instead of a match it used a rocket that split into 12 other heat-seeking rockets. I distinctly remember that specific weapon and I remember Rise’s version of god mode. While Doom made you an invulnerable death machine, Rise literally turned you into a god. The on-screen weapons were replaced by a hand that shot out glowing orbs. As the orbs flitted from enemy to enemy liquefying them your godly form let them know how little they mattered by yawning.
I was working in a computer store at the time. After work we’d stay and play on the networked machines. None of us liked zany games and most barely played FPSs. We all liked strategy and Command & Conquer was mind blowingly good. But before we’d start tank-spamming each other we’d load up just one match of Rise, for kicks. More often than not the Tiberium would go unmined. Whoops of glee and the game’s mortal combat like congrats of “Ludicrous gibs!” would startle the after-hours cleaning crew well into the night.
Matches were quick, ridiculously bloody and the crazy weapons and levels evened the playing field between good and poor players. During Rise’s release there was still debate over which control scheme was best – full keyboard or using early mouselook (with the vertical pane inverted like a plane sim if I remember correctly). In games like Doom the keyboard people usually got owned by circle strafing mouselookers. In Rise it didn’t matter very much. No one lived very long. That almost wasn’t the point. Raw competition gave way to the sheer fun of trying to kill each other in the most outlandish ways we could. The ridiculous weapons littered across the maps were our brushes and we wielded them with Pollock like abandon.
The memory of the multiplayer fun looms so large that I don’t even remember the single player version. I’m sure I finished it, I finished every game at that age, but I had to google to find out anything about it. Apparently there’s a plot involving a cult of magic users. The player are secret agents of HUNT, the High-Risk United Nations Task-force – an acronym saved from utter foolishness by the judicious usage of dashes. I didn’t remember that 4 characters had different attributes (speedy to tank) or that there were 8 modes other than deathmatch. All I can remember is whooping loudly when someone erupted in a geyser of blood from multiple converging missiles.
I don’t think I had that level of sheer fun with a multi-player FPS until Unreal Tournament many years later. That game was more serious but the low gravity modes and super high jumps always reminded me of Rise’s trampolines and vertical levels. I don’t remember what game Rise eventually lost to, if any. I may have moved shortly after. Losing the network ended that era of gaming until the internet matured and multiplayer games were available again.