Since the 1996 PC release, id .’s groundbreaking shooter quake has been ported to everything from flip phones and smartphones to game consoles and web browsers. But even many serious fans of the series don’t know about it Quake Arcade Tournament Edition †earthquake ATE), an officially licensed version of the game that ran on custom arcade cabinets.
Even among those who know it, few got a chance to play it for the short time it was in arcades, and hardware-based DRM built into the case meant the game was not playable on home emulators. That state of affairs now seems to be changing thanks to the recent release of a Windows executable that can decrypt the data dumped from those outdated arcade hard drives to play on a modern home computer.
From PC to arcade
First released in May 1998, earthquake ATE featured a custom Quicksilver PC made by a little-known company called Quantum3D. That hardware—running Windows 95 on a blazing-fast 266MHz Pentium II with 32MB of RAM—was squeezed into an arcade cabinet with a 27-inch or 33-inch CRT monitor, seven control buttons, and a trackball, all connected to the PC via a special connector called the Quantum3D Game Control Interface. Clap on some AVI videos for the attraction mode (which warns players of the coming “ANIMATED VIOLENCE STRONG”) and some coin-drop detecting software, and suddenly your PC shooter is an arcade game.
As seen in the video above, the single player version of AT plays almost identically to the well-known PC release. The main difference is that enemies occasionally drop backpacks that give players in-game “coins” (and an announced howling “Instaprize!” when you pick them up). Those coins can cause the game to spit out prize redemption tickets through an optional printer.
The game also featured what porting company LBE Systems said was “the world’s first multi-player arcade game network, SparkyNET OS”. That system allowed multiple cabinets to be connected in one location on a LAN for deathmatch play, including: earthquake II‘s famous “The Edge” map for good measure.
A preserved rarity
In a statement issued when the game launched, id Software CEO Todd Hollenshead said: earthquake ATE “gives a large number quake players a chance to experience the thrill and excitement of playing multiplayer quake in the arcades. But that “great number” part turned out to be a stretch, as not many late 90s arcade owners were willing to offer a closet around a high-end PC. quake to their clients.
While furniture maker Lazer-Tron produced a limited run of custom-designed cabinets for the game, earthquake ATE was more commonly thought of as a conversion kit stuck in some much jankier looking setups. Even those conversions weren’t common, though; the International Arcade Museum ranks the game as one of the rarest in members’ collections, with only six extant copies to be found among the nearly 150,000 cabinets followed by nearly 9,000 collectors.
Although the 225MB of game data found on those Quantum3D hard drives had been dumped long ago, the game itself remained unplayable without a special decoding dongle that came with the actual arcade hardware. Last month, however, Github user mills5 solved that with a decoder that ensures that this historical curiosity is preserved and can even be played without a cabinet.
That earthquake ATE Finally freed from its arcade closet prison, we have to wonder what other never-emulated classics will soon be available to play at home.
Show image on internet archive