Saturday, September 10, 2016

Soundtrack September: Quake

Game: Quake (1996)
Platforms: numerous
Composer: Trent Reznor

After dramatically impacting what would be the future of the first-person shooting genre with first Wolfenstein 3D and then Doom, id Software made what, by certain standards, could be considered their first truly 3D game, Quake. The 90s were a dark time for Mac gaming, and I was pleased as punch that Quake was available for Mac, let alone that my Power Mac G3 could run it.

Quake also has a special place in my memory because it was my first and last time to write a mod for a game. My mod was called SenSound, and it replaced a large portion of the game’s sound effects and added sounds where they had been absent (to the player’s footfalls, for example). After that, games promptly became too complicated for me to modify on a code level and my modding days were over.

The soundtrack to the game came from Trent Reznor who was then enjoying peak-level popularity afforded by the success of The Downward Spiral. Described by the composer as “not music,” the soundtrack uses some of the same dark soundscape elements and grimy digital distortion heard on that album (not to mention the familiar “screaming teenager” sample from The Downward Spiral’s title track). In adherence to Reznor’s description, the sounds heard in the game evolve gradually from an industrial grind to a more ambient set of mood pieces designed to reinforce the game’s bleak atmosphere.

I disagree with Trent. It decidedly is music, and it does its job very well.

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