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Quake III Arena or Quake 3, abbreviated as Q3A or Q3, is a multi-player first-person shooter computer and video game released on December 2, 1999. The game was developed by id Software and featured music composed by Sonic Mayhem and Front Line Assembly. Quake III Arena is the third title in the Quake series and differs from the previous games in the Quake series in that it excludes the normal single-player element, instead focusing upon multiplayer action. The solo experience in Q3 is arena combat versus AI opponents, in a similar style to Unreal Tournament.

As with most multiplayer first-person shooters, the aim of Q3A is to move throughout the arena Fragging (killing) enemy players and scoring points based on the objective of the game mode. When a player's health points reach zero, the avatar of that player is fragged; soon after the player can then respawn and continue playing with health points restored, but without any weapons or power-ups previously gathered. The game ends when a player or team reaches a specified score, or when the time limit has been reached. The single player mode of the game consists of the same thing against computer controlled bots. The game modes are deathmatch, Team deathmatch, Capture the flag, and tournament, in which players test their skills against each other in one-on-one battles, and an elimination ladder.

An expansion pack named Quake III: Team Arena was released in December 2000 by id Software. It focused on introducing team gameplay through new game modes and also included new weapons, items, and player models. However, Team Arena was criticized because its additions were long overdue and had already been implemented by fan modifications. A few years later Quake III: Gold was released which included both the original Quake III Arena and the Quake III: Team Arena expansion pack bundled together.

On August 19, 2005, id Software released the complete source code for Quake III Arena under the GNU General Public License, as they have done for most of their earlier engines. This does not make the entire game GPL, however, as the textures and other data were not released. A project called OpenArena addresses this issue, creating open content and bundling it with the engine as a standalone Quake 3 clone.


During early March of 1999 ATI leaked the internal hardware vendor (IHV) copy of the game. This was a functional engine of the game and a level with various textures and working guns. The IHV contained all the weapons that would make it into the final game, however, most were not fully modeled. The chainsaw and grappling hook were in the IHV but did not make it in the final release. It also included many of the sounds that would make it into the final release.

After the IHV fiasco id Software released a beta of Quake III Arena called Q3Test on April 24, 1999. Q3Test started with version 1.05. It included three levels that would be included in the final release: dm7, dm17, and q3tourney2. They continued to update Q3Test up until 1.11.

Initially in Q3Test commands were not prefixed by a '/'. If a command was entered incorrectly as a typo or invalid command, it would display as chat text for everyone to see the error. This caused a problem if a server administrator was in a game and typing in the server password. If he messed up everyone could see the password and take control of the server. Adding a '/' before typing a command ensured the commands stayed private.

For a period of time in the final release of the game the gauntlet could be used to instantly kill someone by firing the gauntlet and pulling up the chat dialog box. If anyone touched you they died instantly.


Quake III Arena was released for the Dreamcast (ported by Raster Productions and released by Sega) in 2000 and featured 4 player online play versus Dreamcast and PC gamers. It is often considered one of the best PC to console ports of its time due to its smooth frame rate and online play. Before Activision could release the "official" Dreamcast Map Pack, a "hacked" copy of all the Dreamcast maps was released. This map pack included the maps specially created for Dreamcast split-screen play, which were never meant to be released. Once the "official" map pack was released, the other map pack became harder to find. PC Players were required to downgrade their installations to point release 1.16n to play alongside Dreamcast players, but the maps would work on the final 1.32 point release.

PlayStation 2[]

Quake III Revolution was released for the Sony PlayStation 2 (ported by Gremlin Interactive and released by Electronic Arts) in 2001 and featured several elements adopted from Team Arena, along with a more mission-based single-player mode. It was not as successful as its Dreamcast counterpart, as it lacked online play and it slowed down frequently during intense combat. Although many FPS games on the PS2 supported the mouse, Quake 3 was not one of them.

Xbox 360[]

Quake III: Team Arena was recently revealed in a ESRB listing for the Xbox 360. The title is being developed by Pi Studios.[1]

Quake 3 Arena for the 360 was officially announced by Id at QuakeCon 2007. The title will be released on Xbox Live Arcade and it will be developed by Id and Pi Studios.

Quake Zero[]

Quake Zero was announced at QuakeCon on August 3, 2007. The game will be an updated version of Quake 3 Arena that is launched from inside web browsers and will be available at no cost, supported by advertising.[2]

Quake Arena DS[]

Quake Arena DS was announced at QuakeCon on August 4, 2007. John Carmack announced the game and said that touch screen controls would not be implemented as much as in Metroid Prime Hunters, for example. He stated that he would like for all shooting in the game to be controlled with the D-pad instead of the Touch Screen.



Unlike most other games released at the time, Quake 3 requires an OpenGL-compliant graphics accelerator and does not include a software renderer.


The graphical technology of the game is based tightly around a "shader" system where the behavior of a surface is defined by a text file called a "shader script". Shaders are described and rendered as several layers, each containing one texture, one "blend mode" which determines how to superimpose it over the last one, and texture orientation modes such as environment mapping, scrolling, and rotating. These features can be readily seen within the game, with many bright and active surfaces in every map, and even on the character models. The shader system goes beyond just visual appearance, also defining the contents of volumes (e.g. a water volume is defined as such by applying a water shader to its surfaces), light emission, and which sound to play when a volume is trod upon.[3]

Curved Surfaces[]

Quake 3 also introduced spline-based curved surfaces in addition to planar volumes, which are responsible for many of the smooth surfaces present within the game.[4]

Model Animation[]

The original version of Quake 3 provided support for models animated using vertex animation with attachment tags, allowing models to maintain separate torso and leg animations and hold weapons. With the release of Quake 3: Team Arena, support for skeletal models was also added. Quake 3 is one of the first games where the third-person model is able to look up and down as well as around (due to the head, torso and legs being separate).

Video Format[]

The in-game videos all use a proprietary format called "RoQ", which originated in The 11th Hour. Graeme Devine, the designer of Quake 3, appears to have created the format for The 11th Hour, which also contains RoQ videos. Internally, RoQ uses vector quantization to encode video and DPCM to encode audio. While the format itself is proprietary, it was successfully reverse-engineered in 2001,[5] and the actual RoQ decoder is present in the Quake 3 source code release. RoQ has seen little use outside of games based on the Quake 3 or Doom 3 engines, but is supported by several video players (such as MPlayer) and a handful of third-party encoders exist.

Other visual features include volumetric fog, mirrors, portals, decals, and wave-like vertex distortion.


The sound system of Quake 3 outputs to 2 channels using a looping output buffer, mixed from 96 tracks with stereo spatialization and Doppler effect. All of the sound mixing is done within the engine, which can create problems for licensees hoping to implement EAX or surround sound support. Several popular effects such as echos are also absent.

One of the major flaws of the sound system is that the mixer isn't given its own thread, so if the game stalls for too long (particularly while navigating the menus or connecting to a server), the small output buffer will begin to loop, a very noticeable artifact. This problem was also present in the Doom 3, Quake, and Quake II engines.


Quake III Arena uses a "snapshot" system to relay information about game "frames" to the client over UDP. The server updates object interaction at a fixed rate independent of the rate clients update the server with their actions, and then attempts to send the state of all objects at that point in time (the current frame) to each client. The server attempts to omit as much information as possible about each frame, relaying only differences from the last frame the client confirmed as received. Almost all data packets are compressed using Huffman coding using static pre-calculated frequency data, to reduce bandwidth even further.[6]

Quake III Arena also integrated a relatively elaborate cheat-protection system called "pure server." Any client connecting to a pure server automatically has pure mode enabled, and while pure mode is enabled, only files within data packs can be accessed. Clients are also disconnected if their data packs fail one of several integrity checks. The cgame.qvm file, because of its high potential for cheat-related modification, is subject to additional integrity checks. The system can be a hindrance to developers, who must manually deactivate pure server to test maps or mods that aren't yet in data packs. Later versions supplemented pure server with PunkBuster support, although all the hooks to it are absent from the source code release, because PunkBuster is closed source software and including support for it in the source code release would be a violation of the GPL.[7]

Virtual machine[]

Quake III Arena also contains a virtual machine used for controlling object behavior on the server, effects and prediction on the client, and the user interface. This presented many advantages, as mod authors would not need to worry about crashing the entire game with bad code, clients could show much more advanced effects or game menus than what was possible with Quake II, and the user interface for mods was entirely customizable.

VM files are developed in ANSI C, using LCC to compile them to a 32-bit RISC pseudo-assembly format. They are then converted by a tool called q3asm to QVM files, which are multi-segmented files consisting of static data and instructions based on a reduced set of the input opcodes. Unless operations which require a specific endianness are used, a QVM file will run the same on any platform supported by Quake 3.

The VM also contained bytecode compilers for the x86 and PowerPC architectures, executing QVM instructions as native code instead of via an interpreter.



Quake III Arena comes with several classic gameplay modes.

  • Free for All (FFA) – deathmatch
  • Team Deathmatch
  • Tournament (1v1)
  • Capture the Flag


Unlike its predecessors, Quake III Arena does not have a plot-based single-player campaign. Instead, it simulates the multiplayer experience by using computer controlled players known as bots (see Bots below).

The story of the game is very thin; the greatest warriors of all time fight for the amusement of a race called the Vadrigar in the Arena Eternal.[8] Continuity with prior games in the Quake series and even Doom is maintained by the inclusion of player models related to those earlier games as well as some biographical information included on each character in the manual, a familiar mixture of gothic and technological map architecture, and specific equipment; for example, the Quad Damage power-up, the widely used rocket launcher, and the powerful BFG. The game may only be considered partially canon for all the other Quake and Doom games, as the game is based on another dimension, the Arena Eternal.

In Quake III Arena, there are a series of maps that consist of combat against different characters in the game. They build up from the lowest of difficulty (Crash, in Tier 0) to highest of difficulty (Xaero, in Tier 7) regardless of the choice of difficulty from the main menu. The map naming syntax is the name of the game, the map type, and then its number. For example, Q3DM5 is "Quake 3 Deathmatch Map 5", while Q3Tourney3 is "Quake 3 Tournament Map 3". While deathmatch maps are designed for about 16 players, tournament maps are designed for 'duels' between 2 players, and in the singleplayer game could be considered as 'boss battles'.

In Quake III Arena, the weapons are designed such that there is no longer a completely "dominant" weapon. The weapons balance was achieved by examining earlier games in the series; Quake and Quake II. For instance, the rocket launcher in Quake is so effective such that it dominated entire deathmatches and the rocket launcher in Quake II was toned down so much that it was passed over for other weapons. The rocket launcher in Quake III is effective to use but it isn't overpowered, allowing it to be countered in many situations.

Weapons start off as items. These spawn at regular intervals at specified places on the map, depending on the value for g_weaponrespawn. When the player picks up a weapon, their ammunition supply for the weapon is set to a fixed number. However, if the player has more than the fixed number, perhaps from already having picked up the weapon or enough ammunition packs, only one additional round is added. When a player dies, all weapons are removed from their inventory except for the gauntlet and machine gun. The player also leaves behind the weapon that they were using upon death, allowing other players to pick it up.


Quake III Arena was specifically designed for multiplayer. This means that the game allows players, whose computers are connected by a network or to the internet, to play against each other in real time. It uses a client-server architecture that requires all players' clients to connect to a single server. Q3A's focus on multiplayer gameplay spawned a vivid community similar to Quakeworld, that is still active to this day.


Like its predecessors, Quake and Quake II, Quake III Arena can be heavily modified, allowing the engine to be used for many different games. Fan made mods range from small gameplay adjustments like Rocket Arena 3 and Orange Smoothie Productions to totally different games like Smokin' Guns and DeFRaG. The source code's release has allowed total conversion mods that replace all of Quake's artwork to evolve into standalone free games. Tremulous, World of Padman and Urban Terror all have standalone versions. Meanwhile other mods like Weapons Factory Arena have moved to more modern commercial engines.


Quake III Arena featured an (for the time) advanced AI, with several difficulty levels. Each bot has its own 'personality' (often humorous), expressed through a number of scripted chat lines delivered based on several factors to simulate random player "chatting". The factors include each bot's percent chance of chatting at all, responses when fragging a player or bot with a certain weapon type or getting fragged with a certain weapon type, accidentally killing themselves or other bots or players accidentally killing themselves, striking, but not fragging a player or bot and or getting struck, commending or scorning an opponent when fragged by that opponent, making a kind or scorning comment after fragging an opponent, random responses based on key words that a player or bot may enter into chat, and random phrases and lines that may be entered into chat based on the bot's percent to chat as well as several other chat types. If the player types certain phrases, the bots may respond. For example, typing "You bore me" may get them to say something, like one of the bots which says "You should have been here 3 hours ago!"

Each bot's chat category has several lines that may be entered by the bot reducing the chance that any bot would repeat the same line over a long period of time thus making the "bot chat" seem more realistic, although the repeat lines still occur. These bots are good practice and can be difficult for a beginner to moderate and even somewhat experienced player, though most of the bots that come with the game are not advanced enough even on "Nightmare" skill level to provide a difficult challenge to a very experienced player.

The Gladiator bots from Quake II were ported to Quake III and incorporated into the game by its creator - Mr. Elusive.[9] The bot chat lines were written by R. A. Salvatore, Seven Swords and Steve Winter.[10] The gladiator bot Zero was renamed Xaero and made the hardest opponent of the Q3 game.

Competitive play[]

Quake III Arena's multiplayer-focused development lead to it developing a large community of competitive players and like its predecessors in the series it was used extensively in professional electronic sports tournaments.

In competitive Quake III Arena, there are two distinct disciplines, often referred to as "rulesets". The out-of-the-box Quake III Arena game is referred to as the vanilla Quake 3 (VQ3) ruleset. It is referred to as 'vanilla' in contrast with the CPM ruleset of the Challenge Pro Mode Arena mod.

On July 26, 2006, Challenge Pro Mode Arena with VQ3 gameplay was chosen by Cyberathlete Professional League as the mod of choice for their tournament, thus making it the unofficial competitive mod for Quake III Arena. Previously, Orange Smoothie Productions was the most widely used mod for tournaments.[11]

Competitions and leagues[]

  • Cyberathlete Amateur League
  • Cyberathlete Professional League
  • Electronic Sports World Cup
  • Quakecon
  • World Cyber Games
  • ClanBase

Note: Some of these events no longer support Quake II Arena.


The soundtrack features music by Front Line Assembly and Sonic Mayhem:

  • Intro (1:51) by Front Line Assembly
  • Deathmatch (3:17) by Front Line Assembly
  • Hell's Gate (2:21) by Front Line Assembly
  • Tier (2:14) by Front Line Assembly
  • Lost Souls (2:00) by Front Line Assembly
  • Old Castle (2:09) by Front Line Assembly
  • Quad Damage (3:05) by Sonic Mayhem
  • Sacrifice (2:22) by Sonic Mayhem
  • Fraggot (3:36) by Sonic Mayhem
  • Rocket Jump (3:16) by Sonic Mayhem
  • Xaero (3:30) by Sonic Mayhem
  • Battle Lost (0:51) by Front Line Assembly
  • Battle Won/Credits (1:36) by Front Line Assembly

See also[]

  • Quake (series)
  • id Tech 3
  • Johnathan "fatal1ty" Wendel – professional gamer, who successfully competed in Quake III Arena tournaments
  • OpenArena – free clone that uses the id Tech 3 engine
  • World of Padman – free comical game based on Quake III Arena


  1. ESRB leaks 'Quake III: Team Arena' for Xbox 360 (XBLA?). Joystiq (2007-04-09). Retrieved on 2007-05-16
  2. id Forms New Dev Team, Promises Free Quake 3
  3. Paul Jaquays, Brian Hook. Quake III Arena Shader Manual 1. Retrieved on 2006-10-01
  4. Paul Jaquays, Brian Hook. Quake III Arena Shader Manual 5. Retrieved on 2006-10-01
  5. Tim Ferguson (2001). Id Software's .RoQ Video File Format. Retrieved on 2006-10-01
  6. Book of Hook: The Quake3 Networking Model. Retrieved on 2006-10-01
  7. Ioquake3 Help Page. Retrieved on 2007-02-17
  8. Connors, William W.; Rivera, Mike; Orzel, Sylvia (HTML). Quake 3 Arena Manual. 
  10. Quake III Arena Credits. GameFAQs. Retrieved on 2007-05-16
  11. CPL Chooses CPMA Mod, VQ3 Ruleset (2006-07-06). Retrieved on 2007-05-16

External links[]