These days, we take the distinction between single-player and multiplayer first-person shooter maps for granted, but it wasn’t always so. Back in the ancient ‘90s, somebody invented multiplayer-only maps. Today, in the soon-to-be ancient year of 2017, the question is who.
During last weekend’s QuakeCon show in Dallas, id Software creative director Tim Willits told PCGamesN that it was him.
“I designed the shareware episode of Quake,” he said. “Multiplayer maps—that was my idea. This is a funny story. I had finished all my work on the shareware episode [of Quake] and because we had no design direction, we had all these fragments of maps. I came into the office one day and talked to John Romero and John Carmack. I said ‘I’ve got this idea. I can take these map fragments and I can turn them into multiplayer-only maps, maps you only play in multiplayer.’”
He claimed that the dynamic John duo called it “the stupidest idea they’d ever heard,” but he soldiered on. Thus, multiplayer maps were born.
There’s just one problem with his story: Romero and Carmack refute it, as do id co-founder Tom Hall and former id developer American McGee. Romero did so with a detailed blog post in which he claimed that Willits’ whole story “never happened.”
“There had been hundreds of maps that the DOOM mapping community had made only for deathmatch by that time,” wrote Romero. “DWANGO was a multiplayer-only service that had many multiplayer-only maps that are legendary today. American McGee even released a multiplayer-only map in November 1994 named IDMAP01. The incredible DOOM community invented the idea of designing maps only for multiplayer mode, and they deserve the credit. The game owes so much to them.”
Speaking with Shacknews, Carmack said that he couldn’t remember the story Willits told ever having occurred, either. Meanwhile, Hall and McGee both concurred with Romero’s account on Twitter. McGee even went so far as to call Willits a “serial credit thief.” As for Hall, it’s worth noting that he moved on to Apogee Software, where he directed Rise of the Triad, which released in December 1994 with multiplayer-only maps and modes. Quake didn’t come out until 1996.
I reached out to Willits for comment on Romero, Carmack, Hall, and McGee’s claims, but as of writing, he had yet to reply.