Optimizing Older id Software games

id spells Fun... well, not literally... oh never mind.
id spells Fun… well, not literally… oh never mind.

As a guy in his early thirties that grew up on PC games, id Software will forever have a soft spot in my heart. Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake, are all games that are enshrined in my heart under the banner “Why Can’t Games Be Like This Anymore?” Yes, I realize how old that makes me sound.

The problem is, computers and games in general kept advancing, and eventually id Software’s official patching and updates stopped for older games. Typically this means that games will sometimes run, sometimes not. It is often left up to the community to pick up the slack and do the modernizing that the developers no longer have the interest or ability to do. What that leaves us with is an occasionally endless search for updates, downloads from shady websites, accidental spyware installations, and so on. Gross.

I figured that since I’ve done the dance already with some of id Software’s games, and could really use an excuse to look into the other ones, that I would post my findings here: how best to get your old id software games running on modern hardware, and in modern Windows. (This means, for this article, Windows 8.1 and a 1920 x 1080 screen)


Before you get started:

In case it needs to be said: you should really buy these games on Steam. If you already have the disks or CDs, look at this as a “never need to use the disk again” payment. If you want to pick up a few games at once, there are packs of games available as well for a discount (think “all the Doom games” or “all the Quake games”). Buying games through Steam will save you a lot of headache, as it sets up and configures the oldest of games to run inside a DOS emulator, so you don’t have to worry about it. Basically you just double click the game and it goes.

The problem with that, however, is that old games don’t support modern features, like anti-aliasing, higher screen resolutions, hi-res textures, proper mouse support, etc. That’s where this article comes in. Let’s get started!


Wolfenstein 3D

The Mod


What It Does

Wolfenstein 1080p id Software
Man it’s weird to see 1920×1080 in that old font!

ECWolf uses the source code for Wolfenstein 3D and updates it dramatically. The in-game graphics and sound remain untouched (aside from benefiting from higher resolutions), but the overall UI gets a nice overhaul. In the options menu, you can find resolution options that go all the way up to 1920×1080, control customization options, and so on. Best of all, it works with Wolf3D and Wolf3D: Spear of Destiny, no extra work required!

How To Use It

Download the mod from the link above, extract it to wherever you’d like. Assuming you have Wolfenstein 3D (the original, Spear of Destiny, or both) downloaded from Steam, you’re basically done. Just run the ecwolf executable, it will ask which game you want to launch, then you’re off and running! If you would like to launch this mod directly from Steam, open up Steam, Click on the Games menu, and select “Add a Non-Steam Game To My Library” and follow the steps.

Note: If you’d like to support development, you can legally purchase the data file for Super Noah’s Ark 3D (a unlicensed Super Nintendo game made by Wisdom Tree, and running on the Wolfenstein engine) from ECWolf’s site, linked above.









The Mod

ZDoom or the Doomsday Engine

What It Does

ZDoom is the mod that ECWolf (above) is based off of. Basically you get a fairly vanilla Doom experience (with support for Ultimate Doom, Doom 2, etc) with a bunch of new options for things like 1920×1080 resolution, full mouse support, jumping (heresy!), etc.

Doomsday Engine, on the other hand allows for extra add-on support, which, while a little bit more complicated, can really make Doom look brand new again (relatively speaking). This is the mod that I’ll be focusing on here.

How To Use It

 ZDoom: Scroll up and read the Wolfenstein 3D section. Installation and setup is functionally identical. Enjoy!

Doomsday: Here’s where things get interesting. Download the Doomsday Engine from the link above, and run through the setup. When it asks you where your Doom data files are (called *.wad files), if you purchased Doom and Doom 2 through Steam, you can find them in these directories:

Doom: C:Program Files (x86)SteamSteamAppscommonUltimate Doombase
Doom 2: C:Program Files (x86)SteamSteamAppscommonDoom 2base
Final Doom (Plutonia Exp & TNT Evilution): C:Program Files (x86)SteamSteamAppscommonFinal Doombase

2015-04-13 20_24_31-Ultimate DOOM - Doomsday Engine 1.14.5
Go into the Renderer option and change Appearance to Amplified

You can now run Doom with resolution options and so on. (Read the tooltips that come up when you first launch a game. Those are important, and are how you do things like change resolutions. Shift+Esc is your friend!) That’s the baby steps. Let’s dig a bit further. Under the add-ons section of the Doomsday Engine page, grab the following:
– DOOM Classic Music
– DOOM High-Quality Sound Pack
– DOOM High-Resolution User interface Pack
– DOOM2 Classic Music

You will need a torrent client, like qbittorrent to get those add-ons. You will also want the DOOM High-Resolution Texture Project, but the link from Doomsday’s site is dead. See what I mean? This is why this article exists. Click here and get your hi-res on (you want the one labeled Doomsday Engine).

Once you’ve downloaded all those files, extracted zip files, etc, dump all of the *.pk3 files into the following directory (this will be different if you changed the default installation directory of Doomsday):

C:Program Files (x86)Doomsdaysnowberryaddons

Ultimate DOOM - Doomsday Engine
I could probably navigate this level blindfolded.

Then, launch the Doomsday Engine again, click on Shared Settings on the left, then Addons tab, then hit Refresh at the bottom. You should see the five addons appear on the right. Right-click anywhere on that list and choose “Select All.” Now you’re done. Go check out your new, prettier Doom.

There is also a 3D Models addon at the Doomsday site, but personally I think the 3d models of the enemies look completely ridiculous, so I ignored it. Feel free to check it out though!





The Mod

Ultimate Quake Patch

What It Does

The Steam version of Quake has quite a few issues. First and foremost, for me at least, is the missing soundtrack. I loved that soundtrack to pieces, but even back on the CD version, you had to have the disc in the drive to get the soundtrack. Aside from that are the standard older game problems: grainy visuals, limited mouse support, missing resolution options, etc.


How To Use It

Enter the Ultimate Quake Patch. Assuming you own this on Steam, simply download and install the patch, which is basically done by just clicking “next” a few times, then launch the game like normal. Congratulations, your game now has more options than you know what to do with. Oh, and the soundtrack is back!


Quake 2

The Mod

Ultimate Quake 2 Patch

What It Does

More or less the same as the Quake 1 Patch above. Updates the visuals, resolution, and adds a hilariously baffling 3rd person camera option.

How To Use It

Once again, if you have it on Steam, simply download the Ultimate Quake 2 Patch, install it, and then launch the game like normal!


Quake 3

The Mod

Quake Live, or if you’re being pedantic, Chili Quake XXL

What It Does

Quake Live: You should just get Quake Live. It’s Quake 3, but updated (new announcer, a new gun, etc) and a really good price point: FREE. Plus, it’s newer, so you’re more likely to find people playing it.

Chili Quake XXL: This mod stopped development back in 2006, and is still kind of in a state of disarray. There’s a download, and then a hotfix, and you’re sort of left to your own devices in a lot of unfortunate ways.

Quake Live Main Menu
For real, just get Quake Live.

How To Use It

Quake Live: Just download it and play it. Seriously, just do this. Only do the next one if you really want to play the single player.

Chili Quake XXL: Basically, you install it, then you copy pak0.pk3 from your Quake 3 Arena baseq3 folder into Chili’s baseq3 folder, then you can run it from there. It doesn’t create a shortcut, and half of the stuff is in a different language, also no newer resolution options. The mod looks pretty nice though! I’m being intentionally vague about this because really REALLY, you should be playing Quake Live instead. It’s so good.




Newer Stuff

In my preliminary searches, Doom 3 has a cool mod called Absolute HD, and Quake 4 has one called sikkmod-lite. Both of them install easily and then you activate them from the “Mods” menu from inside the respective games. I’ve messed with each a fair bit, and they look great, so check them out if you’re so inclined! This article was going to stop after Quake 3, but I wanted to at least note this stuff too.


Modding old id Software games to look and run great on modern hardware is surprisingly easy, and will alleviate a lot of headaches and head scratching (okay, some may cause some head scratching, but that’s part of the fun)! If you’ve never played these older id Software titles, you really owe it to yourself to give them a shot; the fact that you can do so at modern resolutions will undoubtedly assist if you can’t simply overdose on nostalgia like me.

So what are you waiting for? Go forth and mod!

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