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TEAMShambler Quake Level Reviews

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Style, info, and philosophy behind the site.

Site plan:
The purpose of this site was to review, promote and support Quake single player levels, as follows:
Providing the most accurate, balanced and informative reviews of all good new Q1 SP levels.
Providing recommendations of older levels via the List, and further promotion of the best levels for PQ's LOTW.
Having strict quality criteria to ensure all reviewed levels are worth playing.
Reporting on Q1 SP mapping news and developments within the Q1 SP scene.
Posting further articles, ideas, information and demos related to Q1 SP custom maps.

Playing these levels:
All of the levels recommended have been played and completed, without cheating, and with a serious attempt both to get through the map first time, and to kill all monsters and find all secrets. All levels are played on Hard skill, where applicable. All levels are played in GLQuake with the Idgamma patch, using the +mlook, gl_flashblend 0, r_shadows 1 and r_wateralpha 0.7 settings. For reference, levels were played on the following machines:
November 1998 - March 1999: PII266, 64 meg ram, 4 meg Voodoo1
March 1999 - December 1999: PII266, 96 meg ram, 12 meg Voodoo2
December 1999 - April 2001: PIII600, 256 meg ram, 16 meg Voodoo3.
April 2001 - November 2001: PIII600, 256 meg ram, 32 meg Geforce2 GTS.

Review criteria:
These are the general criteria that I consider while reviewing levels - where applicable they are used strictly to ensure the high standard of levels that I recommend. Out of these criteria, the Gameplay/Balance and Architecture/Theme are by far the most important, and I consider meeting these four criteria essential for any level. In general the standard level authors should aim for is at least the standard of Id's best in-game maps - not copying Id's designs, but releasing levels that are at least as well themed, attractive, playable and well finished as their best levels. The following quote is worth considering, especially when making a level and wondering about it's quality:

"A level should be judged not on how well designed the best areas are, but on how well designed the worst areas are."

How attractive, impressive, spectacular, playable and consistent the architecture and texturing is, using eye-catching structures and designs, highlighted with appropriate textures and interesting details.
How appropriately and consistently the map is themed, without visual clashes or disparity, and with any different styles well blended in to produce a strong theme that gives the map a sense of being a coherent place.
How interesting and aesthetically pleasing the layout is, how good the design is to fight in and to explore around, and how much the layout and goal/mission inspires progression through the map.
How much the map encourages exploration, by it's layout, non-linearity, and use of interesting secret areas.
How fair, challenging, interesting, exciting and unfrustrating the actual fighting and overall progress through the map is. and how well the monsters and combat situations are used to provide good gameplay.
How reasonable, playable and realistic the balance of monsters/fights/weapons/ammo/armour/health is and how well the the gameplay progression and escalation from start to finish is done.
How survivable, entertaining and effective traps are, and how well used they are to shock the player but not kill them outright. Instant death traps are almost always detrimental to a map, so are rarely tolerable.
How imaginative the map is, how many original ideas have been incorporated sucessfully, how much the author's creativity benefits the map and still works coherently with Daikatana's theme.
How much the map provides a unique and convincing atmosphere, through use of design, lighting, sounds, gameplay etc, that gives a sense of place, inspires emotions, and accentuates other aspects of the map.
How well the map fits into the spirit of Quake and it's design capabilities, through use of a consistent goal and theme, without the map conflicting with what the game, it's styles, and engine are capable of.
How free the map is of technical flaws, with well aligned textures, no gameplay affecting bugs and reasonable running speeds.

Some information about the screenshots used:
1. I don't use shots of the very best architecture, for this reason: I don't want people to be disappointed when they play the level and they have seen all the best architecture before, and all they see for the first time is minor, duller areas. I use images that are typical of the map, but will leave plenty of impressive surprises for people who play the maps - so download with confidence =).
2. Screenshots are not linked to bigger shots as they are chosen for clarity and informativeness at the smaller size, and I'm assuming people don't want to wait for a larger image to load.
3. The brightness and colour may be altered in shots, so they show darker areas of the level more clearly. They may look too bright or mis-coloured on other computers, since I can't check that - if you have any comments, email me.

PlanetQuake's Level of the Week:
A year ago I (re)started PlanetQuake's Level Of The Week, initially with Lowtax and just Q1 SP, as response to some levels getting promotion while other, better, levels weren't (see article at TSFPSDD for further background). Since then other people have done LOTWs for other game genres, while I have continued Q1 SP without exception, and use it to promote the best new and old levels. If someone makes a great level that stands above the rest, and in particular has strong defining features that distinguish it from other levels (strong atmosphere, original theme, unique designs, well crafted gameplay, etc etc), then it will have got LOTW. However there are a few exceptions: levels which are the required standard for LOTW, but have already been promoted heavily elsewhere and so don't require LOTW promotion. These levels so far include BBelief, Nehahra, PG2, and RDE, and are only omitted due to their promotion elsewhere - their quality is LOTW standard.