Tim Willits has posted a response to the controversy via Instagram, which you can see below. In it is one of the map fragments he purportedly mentioned in the id Software meeting at the time, that became Quake Deathmatch maps, designed by Tim Willits. He says "this is not just a sketch", referencing John Romero's blog post featuring a sketch of Quake's DM3 map.
I usually ignore silly controversies, but this one I will respond to. Here is a video of a map call tim14.bsp from 1996 (running on a NextStep VM, thanks to the programmers here at id Software). This is a map “fragment” (I have a directory full of them), if you know Quake 1 DM maps, you will be able to recognize things in it, this is not just a sketch. I stand by what I said and I'm not wasting my time on this anymore. Now I am getting back to working on the newest Quake game. @shacknews
While there are many elements of Willits' statement that are still not backed up by this, it's clearly a reference to John Romero's response that they "did not have 'all these fragments of maps' that were used to make the multiplayer maps in Quake. All multiplayer-only maps that shipped with Quake were original maps made specifically for deathmatch.". It should be noted that, as Willits admitted in the interview with Warren Spector (in the previous update, below), none of these "fragments" were from maps actually made by him - they are all from maps made by the other members of the Quake team.
American McGee, who is busy pitching for a third Alice game and was a key level designer on Quake, also posted a statement on his Facebook page refuting Willits' Instagram post, following his earlier comment of Willits as a "serial credit thief" - although not going into detail about any other claims Willits has made.
"Once the story broke across several major game industry news outlets the guy not only stood by his nonsense claims but attempted to double-down by sharing video of what he claimed to be some of the map fragments he turned into DM-only maps for Quake... only one problem: He never contributed maps utilizing those textures to the final game. So his response has only increased people's scrutiny of the situation."
It's certainly difficult, as outsiders, to know the exact truth here, but it very much appears to be Tim Willits Vs The Entire 1996 Staff of id Software. We certainly have to bear in mind that these were events over 20 years ago. American McGee certainly has his own reasonable explanation for what's going on, pointing out that "human memory is notoriously terrible. It's been scientifically proven that whenever we "recall" a past event we actually re-simulate that event - and never with perfect fidelity. It's like your brain is playing a game of Chinese Whispers with itself. McGee admits that he's fallen into this trap himself, as I'm sure we all have, but that "it's always better to quickly admit your mistake, learn from it, and move on. Digging in your heels only makes it that much harder to get out from under the situation."
Regardless, Tim Willits certainly was not the father of multiplayer-only maps, even commercially as Rise of the Triad and Marathon got there first. As for just within Quake though? It's hard to decide.
More on this story as it develops.
It turns out that it's not the first time Tim Willits has told this story. In an interview with Warren Spector in 2007 Tim Willits tells pretty much the same story. In this version from ten years ago, Willits says specifically that John Romero told him in that meeting, after Willits suggested putting fragments of maps together to create Deathmatch maps, "that's the silliest thing I've ever heard. If you make a great single-player map and make it great for multiplayer you kill two birds with one stone. That's what being a map designer is."
According to Willits, he apparently convinced them by putting together some of these multiplayer-only Deathmatch maps using the single-player maps they had already created.
Most notably, in this version he does not claim to have made the entire first episode of Quake, admitting that the single-player maps he took fragments from were also designed from American McGee and John Romero. He still calls Quake "the first game with dedicated multiplayer maps", which he just took credit for, although admits that he "thought" Rise of the Triad did it too but dismisses it. He is "shocked" that Warren Spector wasn't aware of this fact, which seems to be because it's not true.
Thanks to Kai Holwerda on Twitter for pointing this out to us.
Original Story is as follows:
What started off a cute story about the making of the original Quake from 1996 has spiraled into accusations of lying and shown some real bad blood between the original '90s id Software team and Tim Willits, one of the last of the "classic" developers still at id Software.
Tim Willits, who is now creative director at id, claims that he invented the idea of multiplayer-only maps with the shareware version of Quake, which was one of his first games he worked on at the company alongside The Ultimate Doom expansion. Since then John Romero, John Carmack, Adrian Carmack, Tom Hall and American McGee, who also developed Quake but have since left id Software, have all denied Willits' claims. Ouch.
The offending claim appeared in an interview with Tim Willits over at PCGamesN, where Willits said the following:
""I designed the shareware episode of Quake. Multiplayer maps - that was my idea. I had finished all my work on the shareware episode "They both said that was the stupidest idea they'd ever heard. Why would you make a map you only play multiplayer when you can play multiplayer in single-player maps? So I said 'No, no, no, let me see what I can do.' And that's how multiplayer maps were started. True story."
"They both said that was the stupidest idea they'd ever heard. Why would you make a map you only play multiplayer when you can play multiplayer in single-player maps? So I said 'No, no, no, let me see what I can do.' And that's how multiplayer maps were started. True story."
Not so true as it turns out, even the part at the beginning about "designing the shareware episode" and the game having "no design direction", which have been thoroughly denounced by John Romero over on his blog. There Romero says that the meeting Willits mentions "never happened", that multiplayer-only maps were invented by the mod community for Doom, that American McGee was the first id Software member to release one (IDMAP01 for Doom), and commercially both Rise of the Triad and Bungie's Halo-precursor Marathon (in 1994) had multiplayer-only maps first. The first Quake multiplayer maps were designed by Romero and McGee, who also designed the shareware Quake episode with Willits.
"As a final note, I remain incredibly proud of our work at id Software and on Quake. It was a challenging project with challenging technology and this resulted in design changes, not uncommon in bleeding-edge game development. At no time was there “no design direction.” In discussing this article last night with Adrian, American, Shawn and others, and reviewing my own complete archive and design notes, Quake didn’t happen by accident. It happened by design."
Why would Tim Willits make such astonishing and easily-disprovable claims? I've met him previously and he's a lovely man, but why make such an audacious statement? And if American McGee's description of him as a "serial credit thief" is correct then he may have done this before.
We'll have more on this story if it develops further. For now, why not go and check out our gameplay video of us sucking at Quake Champion?