Church Of The Unholy Quake mod - Author's Insights

How I designed my one-of-a-kind Quake mod...

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Download the masterpiece now!

Introduction

We essentially live in a lurkers' world. When you run a website it's actually pretty uncommon that people make the effort of dropping you a message to say something like "Good stuff, I love it! Please go on!".
So when several people told me that it would be interesting if I would talk about how I make my maps, it was really a sweet surprise and I thought maybe even more people might actually be interested without expressing it, who knows?
So here we are!
Well, my maps aren't so many, and probably not the best ones in any aspect. But at least I put a lot of myself in them and they have a very personal touch, so they have enough to talk about (and I'm used to talking LOTS!)... Also, mappers don't comment on their creations very often, which is sad because when they do it's often very interesting. So let's contribute with my own stuff...

Profession of faith

I discovered Quake in 1998 and was too accustomed to Doom and Raven's games' vibrant colors to enjoy what people ironically referred to as "a study in brown". Every map looked the same to me at the time. That's only a few months ago that I rediscovered the game and I simply fell in love. Now I was ready to understand its eerie appeal and amazing richness.
Because I missed 25 years of expansion packs and custom maps and mods and enhancements of all kinds, all my Quake culture basically revolves around the vintage 1990s. So I wanted to put all my love for that blessed era into Church Of The Unholy, by paying tribute to the game's vanilla aesthetics with an intentionally pretty rough brushwork including some nods to emblematic pieces, a catalog of the various atmospheres found throughout the original maps (except for the overused runic theme) and a strong emphasis on Sandy Petersen's Elder World, my absolute favorite. The tribute extends to the hilarious Dank & Scud webcomics of the same era, to ID's former franchises and indirectly to the Hexen series too.
I see this mod as a big big THANK YOU to all the guys having illuminated our lives during the blessed 1990s with an incredible magic which is still shining nowadays, more than ever.

How I started this project

Being primarily interested in Hexen II, it took a bunch of things happening around the same time to get me out of my usual pool.

First my appeal for lovecraftian stuff had hugely increased since 1996 and I was not anymore in the mood of spitting on "that damn boring uncouth brownish thing" (aka Quake) as I was before, at the time when Raven stuff got my absolute preference for its lavish and colorful environments. So I decided to give Quake a second chance in 2019 and I realized I was now just LOVING IT. Not for all the fights, still not my thing, but for the tremendous power of evocation of its disturbing oversized architecture, gloomy shadows, uncanny and creepy low poly monsters and sick places. The game really has a fascinating aesthetics. It plays with deeply rooted fears and makes you feel like a scared child lost in a disproportionate otherworldly land of nightmares. Without taking anything out of their merits, Raven games look so much more mainstream and harmless in comparison...

Now, Hexen II being technically a big Quake mod after all, what applies to Quake mapping is true for Hexen II mapping as well, so I joined the Quake Mapping discord in Summer 2020, initially to advertise for the newly released Episode I of my Wheel Of Karma Hexen II mod, but soon to ask tons of questions, learn a lot and improve my mapper skills. That made me bathe even more in the Quake mood.

It was also the occasion of getting in touch with a young guy nicknamed GroovyIntelligentReject who wanted to revive the more or less forgotten tradition of Quake machinima. I offered to lend him a hand, as WOK Episode II was precisely going in the same direction. I made this short unofficial inkyesque sequel to his Roth and Vern series' first episode 'Cool Dog', in order to showcase what kind of things were possible to add some action and movement to his very static work:


Roth and Vern, episode 1: Cool Dog
(aka the original material by Groovy - click here if you can't see it)


Its unofficial sequel by myself
(shot with my smartphone, hence the poor quality - click here if you can't see it)

It looks like Quake because of the models and textures but it's actually Hexen II stuff. I had lots of fun making this in the spirit of the Adventures of Dank and Scud and was really excited by using the blueish Azure Agony theme I love.

Last but not least, Spirit asked for help on Discord because a French newbie mapper was contacting him to have his first map uploaded on Quaddicted... and that map… well... was just a very naive and ugly blocky maze showcasing all the possible anti-patterns of mapping. Spirit was really embarrassed with finding the right words to decline the request and thought having a French mediator could help. So I willingly volunteered and took time to patiently explain all the flaws and ways to improve things. I ended up becoming a real mentor for the newbie guy (then an IRL friend!) and we spent hours together working on his maps to make them better.

This last Quake poke was the deciding one. After having helped someone else's maps, I was feeling the need to build my own stuff and enjoy playing with all those nice Quake textures!

Inspiration & homage

I have a deep respect and admiration for Sandy Petersen and his priceless contribution to the Doom & Quake franchises. His Episode 4 is no doubt my favorite: emotional creepy atmosphere, disturbing unfriendly architectures and grittiness, vicious traps and clever puzzles… That's all I love(craft!), and that's really a kind of "storytelling" I'm extremely sensitive to. It's not just random maps with random fights.
Church Of The Unholy wants to pay tribute to Sandy Petersen and his Episode 4 and tries to do so in many ways. Notably each Ep4 level is noded to by some place in my own map.
  • E4M2: The Tower of Despair is mainly evoked by the textures in the church and vaulted underground area (arches, brown brick walls), and also by the golden dagger button on the roof and numerous occurrences of beams and wooden baseboards. The safe starting room with a slipgate destination, crates and a round window to jump through also bears E4M2's influence.

  • E4M3: The Elder God Shrine's main reminiscence is probably the scenery below. Comparing the 2 screenshots side by side, doesn't Unholy even look more Quake than vanilla E4M3 itself?


    E4M3 starting room


    Unholy underhalls

  • E4M4: the Palace of Hate is all a matter of Terracotta red walls and impressive beams. The area below tries to remind it (even if the job is done far too poorly to be really satisfying).


    Stained glass, red walls & heavy beams (E4M4)


    Stained glass, red walls & heavy beams (Unholy)

  • E4M5: Hell's Atrium features memorable diamond shaped mineral flame supports. I love their very distinctive look and made sure to use them all over the place!


    From their origin map (E4M5)...


    ... to the sacristy...


    ... the well...


    ... the torture room's antechamber, etc.

  • E4M6: The Pain Maze has no such direct reference in Church Of The Unholy, but features ugly blocky pillars past the starting area (just like other maps by SP; think of E4M8's underground sanctuary). I put some variants underwater. At the time of writing these lines, I'm surprised to discover that E4M6's legacy is actually far more subtle and unconscious: think of how both levels start in a safe room, then go on with a jump down in an unsafe cellar-like place with next rooms prominently featuring water and beams, haunted by spawns. Granted it's a pretty rough comparison and Church Of The Unholy's spawns won't show if you don't shoot the Shub statues but still...


    Sandy style blocky pillars in E4M6...


    ... sort of alluded to in Unholy.

  • E4M7: Azure Agony is obviously one of my favorite maps and my starting room shows it enough. What I like about E4M7 is especially its very unique atmosphere and color palette, that's why three key rooms in Unholy adopt it: the starting room, the sacristy and the chalice room. Another characteristic of E4M7 is its maze-like structure and uneasy exploration. I wanted to reproduce that with the puzzling flooded part and its temporary dead end, or with the disconcerting vaulted underground whose multiple exits lead to a non-linear discovery.


    An unfriendly angled blue architecture ominously overhanged by a standing out blood-red glass canopy: that's E4M7.


    Similar characteristics yet different setting: that's Unholy's starting room.

    By the way, about the two screenshots above, please note how interestingly, with its high ceiling, Sandy's version makes you feel small and scared in a huge empty threatening place, whereas my own version conversely makes you feel trapped and oppressed in a narrow claustrophobic space whose brushwork sort of weigh you down: it's safe, nevertheless it feels like a trap, as the marines' report states.

    Another gimmick of Sandy's is the use of dramatic stairs lit from behind, especially in E4M7. I couldn't pass them in Unholy, of course.

    In Azure Agony

    In Unholy
  • E4M8: the Nameless City's spirit obviously infuses all the "yellow city" part of the map.
So eventually yes, every single Ep4 map by Sandy Petersen is more or less directly featured somehow in Church Of The Unholy.

A few other memorable Quake setpieces are honored too: the briefing map is obviously a base themed remix of the start map; the underwater room is a direct borrowing to E1M4: the Grisly Grotto…
And eventually, the final twist of the outro text completes the circle and strongly binds Church Of The Unholy to the entire Quake game, storywise.
A family likeness...

Previous franchises by ID are also honored through the doomesque hellish grand finale (was not Shub-Niggurath already behind the Spider Mastermind, after all?) and of course the remix of Doom II's MAP32: Grosse in the chalice room, itself referencing Commander Keen.

Doom II's MAP32: Grosse

Unholy remix

Being my main mapper's playground, Hexen II is also part of the party through some gameplay flavor like the very present storytelling, the use of written directions and atmospheric texts (notably the marines' reports very much reminding Tyranith's plaques), and of course a focus on exploration & puzzles. The bell on the roof is also totally a Hexen thing (Hexen & Hexen II as well by the way, Raven guys loved bells for some reason).
Even Heretic II does a cameo: all the fancy models in the torture room come from it, including the impressing and cool iron maiden!

All that said, I think it's not exaggerated to say Church Of The Unholy is a declaration of love to the golden era of ID & Raven, and to all the fantastic games they made during the blessed 90s.

This love extends to the Adventures of Dank and Scud, a hilarious online comic set in the world of Quake and Doom started by Michael Houston in 1996. I can't dissociate the era and the game from this comic which brought some storytelling to Quake (yes, also being a writer, storytelling is my thing!) in such an unexpected and funny way. Church Of The Unholy features several nods to this fan made masterpiece: the opening briefing cutscene of course, directly starring the two heroes with a special authorization of Michael Houston himself; later the plaque displaying an excerpt of what sounds like an obscure religious gibberish foretelling the Chamber Of Torments and Shub-Niggurath (with the Prophet's style of speech), and eventually the "Pretty Head Machine" recreated at the entrance of the Chamber Of Torments (also turning a marine into an ogre, just like in the comic!).


Dank and Scud discover the head machine in the 4th issue of their adventures...


Then it's the player's turn in Unholy.

Copy & paste

As Church Of The Unholy was my very first Quake project, I was in search of legitimacy. Coming from the Hexen II world, delivering a map that "feels Quake" was the big challenge. Especially hard considering how the Quake community is a demanding one, after 25 years of playing again and again the stock maps and thousands of wonderful custom stuff by generations of talented mappers and modders (some of them actually being professional game designers and artists!).
I'm not able to deliver any Tears Of The False God style of map and will never be, so sticking to vanilla vibes and to my blue-eyed Sandy boy's rough design style was the perfect option for me.
By chance, John Romero released the ID source maps in 2006. That's a fantastic opportunity not only for studying how things were made at the time but also to take samples from there, just as a musician would take samples from other artists to remix them in their own compositions.
If the borrowings are well done, that's a very efficient way to achieve a "Proust's Madeleine effect" and make the players "feel at home" thanks to a sweet feeling of déjà vu. About Unholy someone told me "Feels like it's straight out of 1996 or 97, very old school and quite good" and I could not hope for a more rewarding comment! It meant I had done a good job at remixing things and managed to get the essence of the original look & feel of Quake (even if I'm pretty sure it could be way better).
That said I still take such congratulations with humility since what I really did with all the stuff borrowed is that "I stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something" (oh yes, didn't I tell you? I'm all about quotes and references out of the 90s!).

Let's see in detail what I copypasted...

I already mentioned the remix of the original start map. To put it short, I made a big copy/paste of the brushwork and moved the floor upwards before starting to customize things. So it comes as no surprise that both places look very much the same. There is another more discreet thing I borrowed in the source room...

This brazier looks great...

... and its downsized version still does in Unholy.

The slipgate in the briefing map is the one leading to the vanilla Episode 1 augmented with skill strips. Its destination pad in the next map is taken from E1M1: the Slipgate Complex.

The original one

Its copy augmented with skill strips on sides

I had to draw the player's attention to the computers. Even if the flickering button was eventually the right choice to do that and also imply an interactive device instead of just a decoration, my first idea had been to use E1M1's iconic light poles. I kept this idea because they give the computers a very unique look, stand for an antenna-like structure (which is not out-of-place since the console is a means of communication) and are very easy to spot thanks to the fullbright pixels.

From a light fixture in E1M1...

... to an antenna in Unholy.

A simple way to make my yellow city even more reminiscent of the Nameless City was to reuse one of its typical pieces. Indeed, in the vanilla map this platform especially draws the player's attention since it's where the gold key taunts them (and incidentally also where an ogre launches grenades from). The even more iconic elevator platform in the center of a courtyard helped for the making of the hangman's platform, by the way.

A tantalizing gold key guarded by an ogre in E4M8

Tantalizing goodies guarded by an ogre in Unholy

Another familiar prop seen in Unholy is E4M7's exclusive underwater light fixture representing a glowing orb. My carbon copy also appears underwater, and reminders of the orb are found in a few other places.

Like those light poles? (E4M7)

Enjoy more of them! (Unholy)

Just like the mines, the green underhalls don't aim at being as evocative of Episode 4 as other parts of Unholy. They rather try to remind atmospheres found in the two first vanilla episodes instead. So here I copypasted an iconic underwater structure from E1M4: the Grisly Grotto.

Swimp up! (E1M4)

... but don't expect too much. (Unholy)

As a last example, let's just mention the homage cameo of this button exclusively featured by ID in the Dismal Oubliette, used in Unholy's most "oubliette" place, the Chamber Of Torments.

Let's unlock things in E2M6

Let's unlock FAR TOO MANY THINGS in Unholy

At the end of the day, I copypasted a lot of the original material into Unholy. Is that good? Is that bad? I let each judge. My point was making the most of ID's released material, promoting its reuse/remix as a deliberate mapping technique, and not doing so as a brainless lazy cheap trick but as an intellectualized strategy to directly connect with the player's unconscious and memories. If all the copypasting wasn't instantly blindingly obvious to you and the outcome successfully managed to give you vanilla thrills, then I did the job adroitly enough and it's great!

Orientation & differentiation

As a Sandy Petersen worshiper and Hexen series lover, I enjoy exploring complex maps and backtracking. But the boundary is often thin between an enjoyable elaborated and well connected map… and an exasperating chaotic and meaningless labyrinth. Finding the right balance is tricky, all the more that it's mainly a question of each player's subjectivity.

What I did to help with that is that I carefully divided Unholy into very distinctive areas, each having its own sub-theme and textures, but also a very specific color scheme.

The starting area is blue

The mine galleries are green

The city is yellow

This building is red

The church is all brown stone and wood

The Doom hell is a more colorful place
all about lava, blood & marble
It is supposed to not only give each area its own appeal, but also help the player to quickly figure out how everything is connected. It was especially important because Unholy requires a bit of backtracking by design, so it would quickly become a real nightmare if everything would basically look the same throughout the whole map!
I have seen maps falling into that design trap and even if Azure Agony is one of my favorite maps (mainly because of its unique color scheme I guess), I don't think it's really the model to follow too much.

Also please notice in the screenshots above how the brush shapes themselves also take part in the area differentiation, even if at a lesser degree:
  • Starting room low, wide and diamond shaped, sort of
  • Square city
  • Terracotta building featuring triangles (roof and beams)
  • Church full of curves and rounded things
  • Hell's brushwork evocative of the limitations of the older Doom engine (the sprites and saturated lighting too)
  • Etc.

Storytelling & layers

As a writer (I got a few prizes in short novel contests in France), I am especially sensitive to storytelling.

That's why Unholy naturally became a whole tale divided in chapters:
  1. Briefing - held in the briefing map
  2. The discovery - the exploration stage of the map until the gold key is found
  3. The church - interior, sacristy, silver key and eventually roof
  4. The mass - a great ceremony... then a great battle
  5. The Chamber Of Torments - the quest for the chalice in the creepiest part of the mod
  6. Hell - the final act and missed confrontation with Shub-Niggurath
  7. Conclusion - the end text concluding the adventure in a different and unexpected light.
This very page might even loosely be considered a kind of lengthy epilogue.

One of my writer's inclinations go towards multi-layered stories. I like it when things have different levels of reading, when subtle connections and symbols can be found behind the scenes and when everything magically ties together without even realizing. I think Unholy is packed with such material.

That also explains why my mod couldn't be mono-dimensional nor offer food for only one kind of expectation. There are fights. There are efforts on landmarks, architecture and lighting. There is a focus on rewarding exploration and secrets. There is some storytelling. There are many references. There is some humor. Some atmosphere too, hopefully. There are even embedded machinima cutscenes and an optional side quest (retrieving the lost soldiers). Thus more or less every kind of enjoyment you might expect in a Quake map is there, and probably more. So, with a bit of luck, no matter what kind of player you are there should be at least one or two things you like.

As a matter of fact, it's funny to notice how those remarks about multiple layers of interest also apply to me as a map author. My very initial plan was to release a simple Quake map, but very soon it felt "too simple" to me and I wanted to add layers and layers to the experience: map design and building, but also texture editing, but also skin editing, then custom models, and custom sprites, and custom code, and customized HUD, and custom everything at the end of the day! I love the richness of modding over mapping, it involves such a wide range of skills and challenges. That's exciting. And when coding becomes boring, then it's time to work on lighting... and the other way around.

General layout & design process

Unholy being a complex map, I felt the need of a diagram to keep track of how the various areas connect and interact. Here it is:


General structure of Church Of The Unholy
(Click on the picture to enlarge)

It was my roadmap, sort of. I had just to follow it carefully and it was like putting together a bookcase from Ikea. Very efficient to stop wondering constantly and build one's brushwork serenely.

This was my personal working document, which explains why the final map differs slightly and why some words are in French. "Souterrains" means "Underhalls" and refers to the green undergrounds filled with water where the silver key is. "Parvis" is a dedicated word for the forecourt of a church and in this very context refers to the whole valley where the building stands. "Well" actually refers to the whole green mine tunnels area.
  • Arrows indicate how the player can go from one area to the next. Some are two-ways, some are not (when you fall down in the silver key cage, unless you rocket jump there's no direct way back upstairs to the church, for example).
  • Some areas are colored, which means they can be accessed only by having previously picked up the item, pressed the button (symbolized by a square) or done the action with the matching color.
For example, to get to Hell you need the chalice (in red on the diagram) which is in the Chamber Of Torments (in blue) accessed by "saying the sacred word" at the Mass. The Mass appears as a specific location distinct from the church as it actually is a different place (see here for details).

I figured out this kind of representation because the popular bubble diagram people usually use was simply too basic to my taste. Only main areas need to be represented as they form the global structure of the map and are key for progression. No need here to talk about how in the Chamber Of Torments there is a button which opens a door which grants access to a pivoting wall which opens the way to the antechamber where there is a button which opens the doors to the torture room where blah blah blah. I had no idea of such details at the time of making the diagram, by the way. The details came along the way.

The final result is pretty faithful to this big picture. There are small differences, tho. Notably the city arena was initially composed of the upper arena (the one you initially discover) and the lower arena (where the fiends are, under the fake floor). The button opening the floor was supposed to hide in the underhalls, behind the giant guillotine. That place was ultimately turned into a mere secret and the button was moved in an "uppper upper arena" not featured here.

Just a few words about the process... In one of the paragraphs above, I said that details came along the way. As it suggests, except for the logical structure of the map depicted above, I made no sketch, no floor plan, nothing of that kind. I worked incrementally: one room after the other. It's only when I was fully satisfied with what I had that I made the next step. Having the whole map initiated and temporarily in draft mode with pending stuff and work in progress everywhere would have been a terrible mental load and a major source of demotivation. Having to come back over and over on the same places too. I can't work like that. I need to gradually discover my map as a mapper a bit like the player will discover it later. It's probably not the most popular way nor the most efficient but it's how I feel most comfortable. The major exception is the goodies/monsters placement and lighting, which make more sense once the map is otherwise mostly in its final state.

FTE: a blessing and a curse

For some reason FTE is the Quake engine I've heard about the most since I have started mapping in early 2019. Probably because of its reputation of being immune to most of the usual engine limitations, of course because of its versatility making it able to support a Hexen II game (the only non Hexen II engine capable of it that I know), and certainly because Spoike who maintains it is a very present and available household name of the community.

For those reasons I didn't really think about it and started mapping straight away using FTE, without suspecting problems would arise later.

I must say FTE didn't disappoint me in any way, far from it. It faithfully met all my expectations and supported all my crazy mapping/modding ideas. I was in total confidence and absolutely unsuspicious that the other engines would be another story entirely. When as an afterthought I had the idea of checking them a bit before release, it was like a cold shower.
I had spent three months on the mod already, thinking of it nights and days, and I was physically and morally exhausted. I had no energy anymore to enter a long and uncertain process of fixing compatibility issues, testing, rewriting the code, potentially facing regressions, etc. It was just over my capacity. So I just gave up and decided Unholy would be a FTE-only thing.

Which is how I eventually discovered that contrary to what I believed FTE was far from being popular. After I released the map, more than half of the feedback I got was in fact not about the map itself but just complains about FTE! It was a very bitter disenchantment and I owe a lot to the handful of people who did download the map, played it, enjoyed it and gave a warm feedback. You were my shining star in the night, guys. Thank you so much!

In that respect I owe a special tribute to dumptruck_ds who highly supported the map and dedicated a laudatory promotional video to it on his world famous YouTube channel:


dumptruck_ds says it: missing Unholy is a CRIME!
(click here if you can't see it)


Here is a quick scan of problematic things outside FTE:
  • More than one scrolling sky per map (initially violet then red for plot reasons)
  • Framed text for rangers' reports (it's actually a Hexen II feature and FTE supports Hexen II so...)
  • Cameras' behavior (for some reason they fall down on the ground with other engines and show close-ups of the floor or silly things like that)
  • Rotating brushes (they do rotate... but at snaaaaaail pace)
  • Skins with transparent parts (they show as pink, argh!)
  • Entities remaining stuck mid-air
  • Entities never showing up
  • Truncated messages
  • Instant crash at start (sigh)
  • etc.
Honestly how can people spit on FTE...?

Detailed tour of Church Of The Unholy

Now it's time to deep dive into each area of the map. If you read this far anyway, I suppose you won't mind getting even more and you're probably up to learn all the hows & whys of each place...
BRIEFING MAP
Although it's not mandatory for classic standalone maps, for such a pretty ambitious mod as Unholy it seems to me that allowing the player to select their skill before entering the actual thing without having to bother with command line arguments is a welcome courtesy. It's also more in the spirit of the vanilla game.

A trick involving info_playert_start2 does exist to prevent the absolute need for a distinct skill selection map. But I preferred having a separate map also due to significant Briefing vs Unholy maps differences:
  • Story: plot introduction vs action
  • Setting: human dimension vs Elder World
  • Mood: humor vs serious stuff (except for a few exceptions)
  • Lead role: Dank & Scud vs the player
And also, a mod introduced by its own skill selection map shows off better, of course!

The vanilla start map is really mythic and remixing it into something familiar yet new was a very interesting challenge, and the occasion of making (hopefully) a good first impression. What I did was basically reduce the ceiling height and swap the theme from Medieval to Base. I suppose something like that was already done within the 25 years elapsed since Quake was released, yet it doesn't seem so frequent, and I'm very happy with the result anyway.

Another idea I'm very happy with was reusing the HUD face to evoke the difficulty based on how severely injured the ranger appears. Turning a nontexture gfx into a button face texture is a trick I reused later in the yellow city, with the grenade shaft. I find this technique a nice way to bring something fresh while keeping faithful to the original material and visuals the players are used to… but in a new way.

HUD face become a skill button

Flattened grenade model as blinking instructions for use

The map is also an occasion to show off with the first occurrence of an in-game machinima sequence featuring animated + moving models, something not seen a lot in Quake maps as far as I know. Of course the main occurrence of such a scene comes later in the church and we'll discuss it in good time. On a side note, there was no careful timing setup to have the side doors open in front of the characters: it's actually them triggering the opening.

Strangely enough, I could observe that players seem to be disconcerted by the first alcove on the right being dark and passive unlike the three others lit and displaying a message. It corresponds to the normal skill which is selected by default, hence the difference. I'm not sure if many people noticed that I put the perfectionism to the point of having the sides of the slipgate dynamically adjusting to display the correct skill upon pressing a button.


Again reusing stock visuals in fresh ways...

STARTING ROOM
Azure Agony has always been such a standing out map to me for 25 years... I love its very special atmosphere and this evocation of it looks pretty good to me. While designing the place I thought it would be interesting to have the impressive emblematic stained glass texture treated like actual glass, not just like a mere decoration. That's why I made it partially broken and pass-through.

Aesthetically, what I had in mind was the striking scene below in Fantastic Planet, a 1973 experimental adult animated science fiction film. It's an unforgettable and seminal milestone in the history of western animation and an absolute must-see despite its age (a bit like Quake for the video game industry, huh?). It's a French-Czech production, and if you enjoy its very special eastern aesthetics, you may enjoy the beautiful recent Samorost 3 point & click Czech game which is visually highly reminiscent.

Original material

Allusion in Unholy
Despite actually depicting a peaceful meditation session for these four characters, the scene undoubtedly looks über-creepy from the outside, with those dark tentacled things coming out of the wall and this narrow oppressive room. I wanted to retrieve something of this menacing setting with the low ceiling and glass canopies.

Gameplay-wise, it's a classic safe starting room with a hole to jump through to enter the map itself, like examples can be found throughout vanilla Episode 4 (cf. E4M2 & E4M6). Unlike those two, a comeback is possible if the player pays attention. A first hint is given by the fact there is more ammo than the player can actually carry. A closer look to the floor texture below the hole also reveals concentric circles like if the ground was marked by an impact. A similar texture can be found a bit farther in the well leading to the surface. There a message instructs the player to jump. Here it's up to the player to make the connection by themselves and find this little uncredited "secret".

An official secret is also present behind the slipgate destination. I found it funny to put an easy secret right from the beginning just behind the info_player_start, to see if players would be curious enough to explore their spawning location or would go straight forward without caring.

Additional points of interest in the room are the computer with the mission report and the dead marine. They tie the map with the briefing story together, add some atmosphere, and introduce new gameplay elements: the computers a few occurrences of can be found later on, and the side quest for retrieving all the recon detachment members.

Each soldier is named after a more or less famous fictional soldier out of the 90s' pop culture, and his obituary is a humorous pun nodding to the original work his name comes from. Will you get all the references with no help from Google…?
THE VAULTS
Past the safe but somewhat oppressive starting room, the next room had to add a new layer of oppression, hence low ceilings again and a disturbing Hall Of Mirror feeling with all those identical arches.
I wanted the player to feel like the poor marines: unsafe and disoriented right from the beginning. Like "now it's for real", you see. The arches offer cover but also hide the enemies in ambush and really don't help to easily figure out the layout and ways out. Plus there are several possible paths, which makes the exploration non linear and adds to the impression of being trapped in an underground labyrinth. To be honest, while testing my own map, even knowing this room is actually a simple square with three exits and supposedly knowing where I put them, I was still looking for my way most of the time!!!

Aesthetically, I was under the influence of horror movies, especially of the Alien kind, where human protagonists explore a dark otherworldly place deceptively empty but actually full of scary monsters lurking in shadows.

All the identical arches were a nice occasion to make one slightly different and hide a secret.

Because of the low ceiling and numerous arches, putting a fiend there didn't sound like a good idea: it would try to jump and constantly bump into the world. But thanks to a hack by Preach, I made a new kind of brush that is solid to the player but non solid to monsters. Thus the fiend has a total freedom of movement despite the tight architecture and ends up working surprisingly well.

Eventually what is arguably the most tempting way out (the rusted doors) is precisely the one leading to the flooded underhalls where a temporary dead end awaits the player, having led them to face dangers… for nothing! That sounded like a nice vicious trap at first, but I sadly realized afterwards that players couldn't cope with the fact there was nothing more to do there and spent an incredible amount of time and efforts to try to get more of the place, of course in vain. Instead of giving up and going on exploring the rest of the map, some would give up the map itself and quit… Sob.
THE UNDERHALLS
At a lesser degree, the underhalls go on with the disorientation thanks to their convoluted grand staircase. As a funny aside, I think players are in fact far less disoriented by it than me as a mapper since in TrenchBroom I never really knew if the room was along the X or Y axis!

The main reason for this complex to exist is because I wanted a place even deeper underground with a crypt where the silver key would be exposed in a sealed cage, teasing it far ahead of time. While also being a common thing in Quake or even Doom, my source of inspiration here was Heretic, Raven's fantasy themed take on Doom. The fence texture for the cage also comes from it and fits especially well.

Green key behind a grate in E3M1: The Storehouse (Heretic)

Silver key behind a grate in Unholy

Exploring the map further down towards the groundwater table made it logical for water to appear, which was a nice way to offer a distinctive atmosphere to the place and some variety for the hazards.

The first room offers a possible first encounter with the Shub statues. They aren't counted as monsters and are meant as mere decorations, but they can be more than that if you carelessly shoot the ogres down there. And then… Bad surprise!

A few zombies are also there because the mood of the place was loosely similar to the one in E1M3: the Necropolis to me, but they don't appear anywhere else (except for crucified ones in the Chamber Of Torments).

Copy/pasted from Azure Agony, the light globes prove to look as good in a green underwater environment as in a blue one.

You may notice one of the big pillars is partially broken. Initially, the report left on the computer in the yellow arena instructed the player to look for a damaged pillar and shoot it to reveal a secret room (the one with the giant guillotine). Behind the blade was a button opening the arena's fake floor. An essential point of progression was therefore tied to an unlikely secret only found by carefully reading a text… which most players don't seem to really bother with actually. That plus the fact the connection between the two places didn't really make any sense led me to change that. The guillotine was cool and I left it, but it simply became the guardian of an armor bonus, and the damaged pillar was left as-is without any signification, and the room's opening mechanism was turned into a more easy-to-figure-out button nearby.

I had complaints by playtesters due to the map not being challenging enough on hard skill. The map was mostly complete at the time and I didn't want to break and rebuild large parts of it. That's why on a few occasions, like in the silver key room, I put grates closing behind the player's back to make them unable to retreat. I consider it a pretty cheap trick but it seems it was mostly appreciated. Easy players never see such grates and can scram back.

The small flooded room containing goodies offers another example of skill dependent brushwork. Easy players see arrows pointing up to hint them at something lying above the surface whereas hard players are left to their own devices to figure out. Such a hint doesn't make sense if the engine settings are so that the water surface is see-through anyway, but I like it the good old opaque way and designed this hint in case I'm not the only one.

Easy

Hard

The frustrating underwater dead end features a not-really-secret secret which is a shortcut to get back to the silver key room. Actually the real secret behind the secret is that the teleport destination is the shambler standing there. Thus the few players having chosen to escape its anger by diving will have the sweet and funny surprise of telefragging it upon return. The ones having killed the furry guy right away when entering (that is likely 99.99% of people) will just spawn on top of bloody remains.
Yes, I'm so much into levels of reading that even my secrets have secrets, just like Nick Fury...
THE MINE
This part is supposed to evoke the vanilla Episodes 1 & 2 thanks to its green rocks.

Its main highlight is the well leading upstairs by means of a two-way wind tunnel variant of mine which allows the player to jump upwards or fall downwards (in which case an air cushion at the bottom prevents any falling damage). If the players are observant enough, they will notice the specific texture pattern on the ground at the bottom: concentric circles like if the ground was marked by the impact of previous jumps or landings. Such a pattern can be found in two more occasions in the map, where the player can jump to get to normally unreachable high places as well.

The cave with spawns didn't exist initially: the rest of the mine setting was all at ground level, leading to the church place without any elevation change. The player's gaze was then guided to the church bottom. Now the slope guides it to the monumental top of the church instead. It's a more interesting view but also a vicious trap since, being distracted by the vista, the player might be slow at noticing the rushing over fiends! There again, hard players experience fast closing doors to prevent any retreat.

Unseen in vanilla Quake, the ladder is a Hexen II thing. Contrary to what one may expect, it's an extremely simple piece to set up. It requires no specific fancy trigger and is fully compatible with the original game. See the dedicated page about this technique in the mapping tricks section of my website. The same page also covers the use of clip brushes to save the player from constantly bumping into geometry (and suddenly I realize how the mine galleries section of Unholy is unwittingly reminiscent of Ice Lake, the second map of my Wheel Of Karma Hexen II mod).
THE CHURCH - EXTERIORS
The church exteriors offer a big space for running and shooting, and of course admiring the building sometimes misinterpreted as a castle. Its towers are supposed to represent a primitively stylized Shub-Niggurath (who will ever notice that?) since the church is dedicated to the evil goddess. The Shub statues and other accessories throughout the map serve the same purpose: the light fixtures in the red building (look carefully: they are mini Shubs!), the giant Quake sign at the very end of the map (an über-stylized Shub with vertical bleeding strips)...

The landscape around the church still evokes the vanilla Episodes 1 & 2 with its green rocks and violet cloudy sky.

The only part of the church the players can access to so far is the corridor leading to the sacristy, featuring one of those "secret wind tunnels" I was just talking about in the previous section: concentric circles on the ground, a broken stained glass at the ceiling… Clues are there.

Initially, the sacristy was not meant to be a distant place you teleport to thanks to a teleporter hidden in the wall. The wall was supposed to feature a real opening leading to an adjacent room. But I gave up the idea of extending the bushwork as I wanted the players to be able to easily go all around the church, like an illusionist wanting to convince their audience that there's nothing wrong with this perfectly normal church… just to amaze them all the more at the end of the adventure when the landscape around has changed completely!
THE CITY IN YELLOW
Coming from the mine, the first room is absolutely the least exciting one of the whole map. I hoped for charming light and shadow effects thanks to the round opening and cross beams but obviously it was a huge disappointment. I left this boring room as-is tho, because there were enough corridors around already and I needed a room to add some variation, but still a minor room in order to better emphasize the next ones.

The hangman place is small but very interesting. I think it convincingly evokes E4M8: the Nameless City. The hangman setting is really nice and advances the side quest for lost marines. The Shub statue glorifies the setting (and is of course dangerously located within range of enemy fire). Last, there are two pretty nice secrets hidden there, none of them requiring any rocket jump as one may wrongly suppose, just tricky jumps.

I owe an immense gratitude to Bal for having teached me how to have my hangman model entity lit despite lying above a dark ground, and thus avoid the well-known pitch black entities issue. I reused the trick everywhere afterwards, which so greatly helped the legibility.


The visible ground lying in shadows is a func_wall with _dirt set to "-1".
It hides a func_group underneath with _lightignore set to "1" and
_minlight set to the desired light level value for the entities above.


The grenade shaft was initially a static piece of brushwork intended to kick the ogre's ass in a safe and funny (for the player) unexpected way (for him). When I changed my mind about how the yellow arena's fake floor should open (see The underhalls above), I had to find another idea, preferably a mechanism close by. The shaft was a perfect place for it since in the meantime I had discovered that normal buttons are triggered not only by players touching them but also by nades/rockets. The shaft was now both a trap for the ogre and a nade-triggered mechanism to access the button opening the floor. I am very pleased with what I've come up with yet I must admit many players have a hard time noticing the shaft despite the arrow pointing upwards. They are probably more used to running than to calming down and looking carefully around, so obviously this part feels more Hexen II-ish and ties the progression to what may arguably be considered a "secret".
To prevent any softlock, the grenade launcher awaits below the shaft and nades will respawn close by as long as the player has no more of them in their inventory and the "nade button" has still not been pressed. A player getting to the upper city by means of a nade/rocket jump is then assured of an infinite source of ammo.

Changing my mind about how to open the fake floor late made me design the upper city just about three days before actually releasing the map! Yet I'm satisfied with the look of that last-minute addition. Curiously, I had to make the main building's rocky texture myself out of the arch background since the arch texture is weirdly used in the vanilla maps: the brushes are always tightly cut so that you only see the arch design, never its background. It's why there is no matching stone wall in the vanilla stock textures. I like the resulting building, it really stands out, feels vanilla and works well with the yellow surroundings and the wooden scaffolding inside.
My main failure concerning this area is that I counted on the players running like crazy under enemy fire, trying to reach the platform with the quad and pentacle to discard the monsters afterwards. But on every single playthrough video I saw, people needed no such help to clean the place. And once they got the rewards, there was no one left alive to play with (except for the fiends and the vore in the pit… but they have their own quad there).


Arch on a rocky background: a texture curiously never used
by the ID mappers the way the ID artists had designed it...
Unholy more vanilla than vanilla Quake!


The marines' death was subject to changes. Initially there was no cutscene involved. The marines and fiends stood in dormant state and a trigger_aim entity of mine launched the massacre as soon as the player looked at any of them, thus becoming the helpless witness of a tragedy. Yet in case the player might still interfere somehow with the action I eventually decided to make this storytelling moment a passive cutscene. It's also a way to foretell other cutscenes later in the church. As a side note, the "actors" here are actual monsters triggered to infight, which makes this sequence a regular cutscene unlike the briefing by Dank & Scud or the mass which are in-game machinimas featuring puppeteered 3D models.

A new example of skill dependent brushwork: the vore's closet in the pit contains only one button for easy players to open the doors upstairs whereas hard players have an additional button to release the teleporter to the quad (which is not initially accessible for them) and which button does what is randomly chosen on-the-fly, so that memories of a previous game is useless.

Still about the pit, I loved the idea of having the player tantalized by an unreachable quad escaping away as soon as they got close, then coming back to make them enraged even more. I found it so funny that I built the hollow elevator even before knowing how the player would ultimately be able to pick up the bonus! Alas, once again it ends up that people don't really need the quad and often get it once the arena has been cleaned already. It's definitely a recurring failure for me...

Another (better) recurring trait of my mapping style is my inclination towards transforming places: here an initially pretty simple boxy arena reveals an unsuspected depth thanks to a fake floor and extends upstairs and sideways. Later, the player will discover unsuspected paths downwards in the sides apses of the church, the main apse will unveil a totally changed landscape for the grand finale, and the torture room will double its volume. Such things are definitely not unusual in Hexen and even pretty common in Doom but it's maybe a bit less of an usual Quake thing, which may add to the map's interest.
THE CHURCH - INTERIOR
Now that the player has picked up the gold key in the red building, they can go to the church and unlock the main entrance or the door at the end of the corridor on the right side. Unlike E4M5: Hell's Atrium, choosing one door won't seal the other one forever. The not-chosen door will unlock as well at the same time (and become a regular door as far as the main entrance is concerned, which was tricky to set up by the way). Despite breaking the vanilla rules, it seems this specific behavior feels natural enough since nobody complained about it or ever noticed.

I first imagined a far more complex and detailed church interior but I had to conform to the Elder World overall theme. So I gave up any idea of fancy lancet windows and flying buttresses. Things had to stay simple and massive, so I switched my inspiration from Gothic Style to Romanesque architecture, and the church interior is pretty basic and empty. Yet I surprisingly got excellent feedback about it, people considering it the best church setting they had ever seen in a Quake map! Seems the vaulted apses and chandeliers are especially eye-catching. Is that because round shapes are not common in Quake maps and stand out all the more? Or because they have the reputation of being especially tricky to design? One thing is sure: I didn't expect such a success for what I consider… well… just plain static brushwork.

The access to the elevator is determined by a trigger_counter requiring several buttons to be pressed with the traditional "Only 3 more to go…", etc. messages. For some reason I have always liked such settings and found them satisfying; it's like a mini scavenger hunt within the map and it's definitely part of the Quake gimmicks. So it had to be present absolutely (not the only example in the map, by the way).

Not much to say about the upper floor… I liked the idea of going from one side to another thanks to a narrow ledge offering an interesting view over the church but also dangerously exposing the player in case of fight or uncareful running. It was always more elegant than a bridge breaking the perspective or a teleporter.

A funny thing is that due to my education I did visit lots of churches in my life so I had a pretty good idea about how they look inside, even if my own version is of course very abstract. But obviously not every player has the same background as me and words like "sacristy" didn't make any sense at all to some (it's the dedicated name of a side room used as a changing room for the priest before leading the mass, hence the shambler coming from the corridor later on). By chance, even despite that cryptic specialized piece of vocabulary, the directions were clear enough for most people to find the place.
THE CHURCH - SACRISTY
Despite being little more than a single room, I find the sacristy memorable thanks to its standing out Azure Agony theme and many points of interest. Obviously here again I tied the progression to what most people would refer to as a secret. Yes it is! So what? I'm a Hexen II mapper after all, it's in my DNA! On the other hand, once you have killed the shambler you find yourself in a small closed square room with nothing else to do than looking at the murals and quickly figure out what's next.

What's next is a nasty spike shooter firing from above and I'm pretty sure Sandy wouldn't disown it. I really didn't go crazy with traps on the map. It's not that I especially dislike them but it doesn't seem to be a main mapping trait of mine. So putting one of those big Quake classics here didn't hurt. Well it does but… You get the idea.

The narrow corridors lead to two small chambers. One features a button directly unlocking the next step (namely the crypt where the silver key awaits). The other one has a plaque whose text has four functions:
  • It contributes to the unholy atmosphere.
  • It acts as a nod to the Adventures of Dank & Scud by mentioning the Prophet and using his speech style.
  • It foretells the eventual appearance of Shub-Niggurath by mentioning "Her".
  • It gives clues for later in case the player is really lost by instructing them to say the sacred words to open the Chamber Of Torments.
The quote about the "sacred words" is supposed to lead the player to the pulpit to say the words in question, but what actually directs them there is more probably the flickering light over it and even more probably the fact that the piece simply stands out in the church and must be there for a reason, which is true. When I remember the initial written instructions in the yellow arena which had left most of the playtesters stumped, I'm pretty happy here because even if the instructions are far from clear (granted!), at least they are totally optional so never mind.
BACK TO UNDERHALLS
And now the silver key is accessible! Players are usually happy to pick it up as it eventually let them tie mentally the whole map layout together and answer the probably long lasting question of "how to get that f*** key???".
Maybe it was not a question for them after all if they never passed through the rusted doors in the vaults, to start with, which was indeed totally optional. In which case the shambler is still there to congratulate them for their optimized exploration.
The only possible exit is downwards in the water, thanks to a button. I didn't expect that after having pressed the button most if not all the players would go back to the now empty cage where the key was. It somewhat ruins the surprise of new friends having teleported in to wait for them at the well exit but well.
Of course players visiting the area for the first time will face more monsters than those having already cleared most of them at the occasion of their first visit. That's Life.
THE CHURCH - ROOF
About the church, one thing I'm especially proud of is the fact it's an actual building. If you take E1M5: Gloom Keep, for example, sure it does look like a building at first, but it's actually just a facade, and past this facade what you actually get is just a cool but normal indoor map. My church however is really a complete edifice you can go all around, enter, and ultimately climb on by means of stairs.

The idea of visiting several floors of the building comes from Simon O'Callahan's website where he discusses the making of his One Thousand Cuts map made famous if only by Ericw's webpage putting it in the spotlight (in every meaning of the word).

Being 100% Hexen II focused at the time of the reading, I didn't even play Simon's map but was still extremely interested in his thoughts and ideas. From what I read I imagined what his map should look like and it was very inspirational. My memories of that time came back when I designed the church. I wanted the player to step on the roof and I even put some cupolas, certainly another influence of my fantasized yet never actually played (yet at the time) One Thousand Cuts.

Now to tell the truth my roof is not such an interesting place. It feels pretty empty, just like the church itself if you want my opinion. However less is probably more: both places may have become inconvenient for fights if made too busy. So leaving things a bit empty was certainly the best choice.

The roof might have been slightly more interesting if I had allowed the player to jump down between the crenelations. The reason why I forbid it was because of the mass. It would have been a technical nightmare to deal with and I took the easy option. More details about that in the next section.

The roof's highlight is of course the bell and I must say I love it. It's a nice nod to the Hexen series, each installment of which features such a bell (the model actually comes from Hexen II). Seeing the bell go up slowly as the conic roof opens and being able to shoot it is very satisfying and really brings something fresh on the table. I had to specifically design a helper func_mover entity to make the bell point entity move hand in hand with the bell tower's roof bmodel.
THE CHURCH - MASS
The Mass is absolutely the key moment in the mod. It consists of three main parts.

First when entering the bell tower the player launches the flagship cutscene of the mod, with a slight delay not to seem too mechanical upon entering. As said before, it's more than just a cutscene, it's a real embedded short movie (or to be more precise a machinima) whose actors are not actual monsters but puppeteered 3D models, hence the func_puppet name I gave to the new entity created for them. Func_puppet is basically the blending of a misc_model (for its ability to load and animate a model) and a func_train (as it moves along path_corner entities). Each path_corner defines which animation sequence must be used by the puppet while going there.
The casting is made of 18 puppets taking part in the show, that is 16 ogres, 1 shambler and the scrag flying at the foreground during the procession. The other scrags (whose moves are less critical to the directing) are actual monsters patrolling around.
As you may expect, a lot of relays are involved in the making with careful timing of everything. But funnily enough, it's totally by chance that the various characters' moves take exactly the amount of time needed to reach the point at which the music suddenly stops as the shambler is about to speak!
The custom func_mover entity used to align the bell's move on the roof's move is also the one used to align the cameras' moves on invisible doors' moves, thus producing the nice tracking shots.


Party time!

Behind the scenes, the second main thing happening after the machinima is over is that while going down the stairs the player crosses an undetectable teleporter transporting them to a replica church.

And there comes the third component of the Mass: it actually takes place not in the previously visited church but in a carbon copy, where the puppets are discarded and replaced by the actual monsters they represented. The stealth teleportation is the big secret explaining why, when the apse eventually opens, the landscape outside has nothing in common anymore with the green rocky valley previously seen. Only one church from the player's point of view but two actual settings is why the roof had to be not jumpable from, and why "All exits are blocked once the ceremony has begun". To keep the illusion. It's also why some players may notice that the 2 secrets of the first church are not available anymore and that the items available may be slightly inconsistent with the situation they had left previously.

From the second church, players can still go to the sacristy due to its in & out teleporters having been accurately retargeted. There the obscure clue about the "sacred words" is still available to hint them at the pulpit, even if they usually don't need it.

As an aside, I am the voice actor for the shambler, ogres and player voices when it comes to saying the unholy incantations (with the help of tools to deform my natural voice, don't worry!) The words actually mean something in aklo, the fictional eerie language used by H.P. Lovecraft and his fellow writers in their novels belonging to the Cthulhu Mythos, and brilliantly put in the spotlight of Alan Moore's short comic The Courtyard. Being a perfectionist, I could just not throw in some random gibberish. I even edited the conchars.lmp file to include an "ä" character which is of course not included by default in the vanilla character set.

"Aklo's a language"
The Courtyard © (Alan Moore, Jacen Burrows)

The priest leading the mass for a crowd of monster attendees obviously needed to be a big daddy. The obligatory cast was of course a shambler. One may be surprised that shamblers talk, since they don't usually... But usually they have nothing to talk about with the players, do they? Here the priest talks in a monstrous language to monsters, which makes better sense. Yet it's not a first. There is already an occurrence of a talking shambler in the 1996 Ranger Gone Bad short movie by Unknown Soldier, featuring an enemy sergeant who reviews his troops through E1M5: Gloom Keep to prepare the arrival of the player. Despite the 25 years gap between this pioneer machinima and the mass and their different technologies (RGB is a recorded demo using the player's pov as a camera and in-game comments for dialogs whereas my cutscene is entirely scripted), Unholy absolutely follows Unknown Soldier's lead and pays tribute by resurrecting their idea of a talking shambler, discreetly tying the mod even more tightly to the golden era of Quake. You can read more about the history of the first Quake machinimas here.


Ranger Gone Bad by Unknown Soldier (1996)
Shambler talking at 3:48
(click here if you can't see it)

Some players will certainly complain about the Mass fight (pun!) involving ogres with a very disadvantaged placement far below the player. I chose ogres over any other kind of monster because they are obviously the perfect match for an audience of creepy degenerate cannibal fanatic freaks. They look like they come straight out of the Redneck Rampage game or even earlier from the survival horror cult movies of the 70s (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes…). Their animation sequences are just perfect when they slowly enter the church pulling their heavy chainsaw on the floor and even more when they brandish it over their head while acclaiming their eldritch goddess in a crazy trance moment.
So I didn't care about them not being ideal in terms of placement for the fight, all the more that since I'm not very fond of fights myself as a player, when I put my mapper's cap on I often design tricks to somewhat avoid the confrontation and creatively get rid of the opposition, a bit in the spirit of Sandy's legendary MAP08: Tricks and Traps Doom II map. Hence the presence of the grenade shaft to fool the ogre in the yellow city, the secret telefragging the shambler in the underhalls, the infight occurrences, etc. To me, seeing monsters slaughtered is just as satisfying as painfully discarding them myself (which I guess is a totally personal thing and is likely not shared by most of the players). So I like to occasionally offer several options: an easy way and a harder one. Then to each their own choice.
Since hard players are not on the easy lazy side of things and like to suffer, I somewhat mitigated the safety of the upper floor by throwing in a vore and scrags to drive them out. I also put a tempting quad at the other end of the platform. As soon as the player picks it up, the elevator instantly vanishes under their feet and it's a big fall down into the melee in an uneasy corner. So the situation may become dangerous at the end of the day. The elevator not existing anymore forbids any return to the safer heights and occasionally causes an error message because of the elevator's trigger not being able to find its target anymore.
CHAMBER OF TORMENTS
The Chamber Of Torments is like a short map inside the map. It has its own pet name, subplot (revolving about Dank & Scud's Pretty Head Machine), subtheme (torture), dedicated boss fight and reward. It's a delicious detour, like a treat before the final encounter. Those of you familiar with the French culture may understand if I compare it to the "Norman hole".

It prominently features stairs lit from behind, a very sandyesque gimmick I managed to recreate pretty well I think. Lighting-wise it's among my favorite places in the whole map.


Two Sandy stairs for the price of one!

The first highlight of the antechamber is of course the Pretty Head Machine carefully recreated after the corresponding webcomic issue of the Adventures of Dank and Scud. Players may likely fail to catch the reference if they were not brought up on a diet of 90s Quake culture and didn't notice the mentions made about the webcomic around the map. In which case it's simply a curiosity concealing a nasty but cool trap with a springing circular saw.
I mainly built Unholy in the progression order, so the Chamber Of Torments was one of the last places being born. At that time I had eventually figured out how to make rotative entities and put a good handful of them in the Chamber Of Torments: its fancy opening, the circular saw, the pivoting wall and the doors to the torture room. I tried to be subtle enough with interesting variations of the technique and I hope it was just enough to show off but not too much and making the players have their fill of that.

The second highlight is another nasty trap, namely the forever spawning spawns, probably every player's worst nightmare! They're only really dangerous if you try to actually enter a fight with them the classic way. But as soon as you figure out how to deal with them, they are no longer a threat. Of course the secret close by with forever respawning goodies may help, just in case.

The pivoting wall in the creepy castle is a big classic of pulp adventures movies. One can think of the Scooby-Doo franchise or Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, for example. The medieval hub in Hexen II also features one.
To accentuate the reference and the feeling of déjà-vu, there is a narrow window allowing a glimpse of the corridor beyond. Doesn't it make you feel the breath of a damp freezing wind giving you goosebumps? On a technical point of view, the wall rotation being masterized already, the hard part was the torch actually. It has to be pulled down to trigger the rotation, but having a moving 3D model carrying an animated flame moving accordingly was way harder to tweak than one may think.

The corridor contains no trap. It's here for the atmosphere and very successfully does the job in my opinion. It features grim scenes of tortured or badly killed beings and foretells the incoming decapited head, torture chamber and sacrificial victims.

The torture chamber is interesting in several manners. First it features a whole collection of nice Heretic II models. Heretic II being built on top of the Quake 2 engine, I imagined it would be a challenge to have them supported by the significantly older Quake technology. It was incredibly easy, to tell the truth, thanks to Quark, my definitely indispensable modding companion tool which is able to convert the models like a charm.
Once again, notice the use of my func_mover entity for the spiked platform moving down when you take the health: the model's move is controlled by the one of an invisible door which is the one actually crushing the player if they stay there too long.
The fact the torture chamber's ceiling raises is an impressive and appreciated surprise for the players but on a technical point of view it's relatively cheap (the walls and ceiling are basically just a door moving up and that's it).
The real tour de force is the central column and the careful (and painful!) tweaking of the shootable buttons, their move going hand in hand with the column's move and the fact I had to design everything as "Start open" in order to have the light calculation correctly done for when the room eventually heightens.
My idea about the column was that the players would easily find the first button at eye level then climb on the torture tables to be at the right elevation to shoot the next buttons. What playthrough videos teached me is that for some reason people prefer to shoot while jumping, which I think is very much awkward, illogical and often inefficient…


The Quake place referencing the Doom II place referencing Commander Keen inside the place referencing Wolfenstein : Inception!

The last room is a personal recreation of a most memorable set piece of Doom II, that is the final room of the super secret MAP32: Grosse. Even in Doom II the map was a nod to ID's previous franchises Wolfenstein 3D and Commander Keen (which itself predicted Quake, and we've come full circle!). The room looks like and works just like its model, except that in Doom II pressing the switch would simply end the level. People aware of that may potentially deduce it's the case here as well since both silver and gold keys where found, everything seems to have been explored and the Chamber Of Torments has all the characteristics of a final act, leading to that dead end room. Hence the bitter (but exciting) surprise of an unexpected and potentially challenging boss fight.

The chalice comes from Hexen II's official expansion pack Portal Of Praevus and is used as a replacement model for a rune, which is what the player collects in reality. Hence its appearance at the appropriate place on the HUD. For the rest, I adapted some triggers to detect the presence of the rune in the player's inventory and treated the chalice as what is called a "puzzle piece" in Hexen II. Despite being something new in terms of gameplay for a Quake player, playthrough videos showed that it seemingly felt intuitive to everybody and raised no question. Fine!
HELL
No, the Doom II room was not the last one, it was only a taste of things to come, that is even more Doom!

But even before it takes place, what happens is my Great Trick as an illusionist: the total cancellation of the landscape around the church and the awing and frightening grand reveal that you're now right in the middle of Hell, facing the Evil Mother Of All Abominations, the yet unnamed Shub-Niggurath herself!
Sounds grandiose? Because it really was to me! I was achieving something normally not possible, showing something that simply couldn't be! So I legitimately expected a storm of "WTF???!!!" yelled in every single playthrough video out there at the moment the church opens… and… well… no.
What an inconsolable disappointment it was! Did the players fail to notice the unlikeliness of being now in Hell? Is my trick the cheapest one ever, being so evident that it doesn't even deserve a mention? I have no answer to that…

At least the final act in the Doom setting is generally appreciated, that's still better than nothing! Using an intentionally simple doomesque brushwork, Doom textures and sounds for the doors: that's obviously not the tricky technical part here. The interesting piece is how I managed to turn the various goodies back to what their counterparts looked like as sprites in Doom. Basically I took classic Quake entities whose model was set to blank and paired each of them with a misc_model displaying the sprite. Picking up the goodie killtargets the misc_model, that's it.


Old school vibes

Storywise the Shub invocation resulted in her having brought the whole church into her own dimension, hence the dizzying void around and the familiar violet sky turned red. More than one sky style per map is something only FTE supports, as far as I know.


By the way, did anyone ever make the connection?
(first pic: Doom Episode 2's ending picture)

The area behind Shub has an abnormally high rate of secrets per square meter. One of them will most probably be overlooked by most people, especially those not familiar with Doom's visual language (that is to say the small candle suspiciously put in front of a wall). A door opens there revealing a thunderbolt, but the secret is more than that actually. A bit like the shambler telefragging secret is a multi layers secret, there is more to appreciate here.
If you pay attention to how exactly the secret door opens, you may notice it does so in a very unique way which is never seen in Quake maps... and almost never in Doom maps either, to tell the truth. The texture doesn't simply go up like any normal door would, it "vanishes up" instead.


A rare occurrence seen in Doom's E2M3: Refinery.
The opening is classic due to a normal texture setting on the front side,
yet the upper pegged texture on the back side makes the closing very unusual.
(click here if you can't see it)

This very specific Doom thing is related to what is called "texture pegging" in the Doom mapping world. It's a very technical subject tightly bound to how texture alignment works and is processed by the Doom engine. Trying to emulate an unlikely corner case of the Doom engine in Quake was really an exciting and unlikely challenge. I'm very happy to have taken up the gauntlet... and pretty sure the percentage of people noticing will be… Errr… 0%?

A probably similar percentage will find the super secret allowing to discard all the remaining monsters (except for Shub), as a nod to Doom II's MAP30: Icon of Sin's ending. The kill stats may be messed up tho, since a certain amount of monsters were spawned dynamically (the statue spawns for example), and the engine sometimes loses proper track of the count.

Speaking about gameplay, the hellish place is a concentrate of my gimmicks and mistakes. There are buttons targeting a trigger_counter. There is a wannabe clever and easier way of disposing of the shamblers, which is interposing the Shub statues between you and them so that they are the ones responsible for the idols' destruction, therefore the ones the spawns turn against (I think nobody even tried that). Also, a scared crazy run for survival was supposed to take place around the central structure, which eventually became "the player takes cover and easily dispatches the shamblers one by one safely then kicks the statues for dessert".

Shub-Niggurath teleporting away as you come close may disconcert some and is responsible for a 100% kills being especially designed to be impossible (it's 100% minus one at best). It makes perfect sense, tho, when you discover the ending text.
Church Of The Unholy was indeed not uniquely an occasion to bring back some memorable pieces of the previous franchises as nostalgia material: storywise it's like a missing link between them, as a Quake immediate prequel foretelling the invasion of the human dimension and the "Operation Counterstrike" evoked in the official Quake lore. The last act could even hint at Shub-Niggurath possibly being the actual mastermind behind the Doom & Doom II events. By the way, please kindly note that the floating platforms leading to her are defended by the very same door which defended the access to Doom's final boss at the time in E3M8: Dis. A possible clue...?

The door in question is overhanged by a giant Quake symbol. As explained before, in my vision it's not just a random Q-shaped logo but the ultimate stylization of Shub-Niggurath's body, therefore an abstract emblem praising her. Hence its appearance a bit everywhere in the map.
This interpretation is accentuated here with the reddish vertical strips symbolizing her bleeding… errr… gills?


Obvious analogy...

This giant sculpture is a reworked copy of the Quake logo found in the futuristic Escape The Base map (see original brushwork below). Its author Steviemic is the French newbie guy I got to mentor by early 2021 because his first tentative map had been a complete disaster and he needed a benevolent soul to help him make his first real steps in mapping (I told the story here). This experience was the deciding one which made me start Church Of The Unholy, my own very first Quake project, and I thought it would be a nice symbol to include a nod to his own first decent map in mine, as a discreet thank you, because I would have never made Unholy without him.