A while before the actual release of the game Quake -- I don't remember exactly how long, it could have been anywhere from a week to several months -- id software released a shareware version of Quake. One form they released it in was a $10 CD (that's US dollars) that you could find in the various stores that sold video games.

This seems unremarkable, perhaps even a ripoff. And, if not for one little thing about this CD, it would have faded into history as a mere demo of a now-old game.

Quake was a first in so many ways that listing them would take a node all to itself. Many of these were technical firsts, and many of these were direct consequences of those technical firsts. The Quake shareware CD boasted several firsts all on its own.

The most important of these was the fact that id software had included a copy of every game it had ever made from Wolfenstein 3D to the yet-to-be-released full version of Quake on this CD, in encrypted form. This includes the following: Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Doom II, Final Doom, Heretic, Hexen, a Doom II level pack, a Hexen level pack, and, of course, Quake. No other game company I'm aware of had done anything like this before, and no other company has done it since, for reasons I'm getting around to revealing.

Unlocking a game involved calling a 1-800 number, giving them a credit card number, generating a pseudo-random number with the unlocking program on the CD, and listening to them read another number back to you, which you entered into the unlocking program. Press "OK" and Bing!, you've got a big self-extracting ZIP file sitting on your hard drive, ready to be installed.

This must have seemed a great idea to id's marketing department. Sell these games to people from the comfort of their own home, without having to bother with pesky shipping. Unfortunately, this seemed to be a case of the right hand not knowing what the left is doing.

Let me explain: Quake was a first. Sure, Doom had shown the world the power of Deathmatch years before, but the Quake multiplayer options were almost infinitly better than those offered by Doom. You know that massive Gamespy thing we've got today? It started as Qspy back in the day.

The point I'm getting at is that id's marketing department didn't take into account this newfangled Internet thing that was just then coming into the public view, really; and which was a very big influence behind the development of the game itself.

So this great new idea of encrypting games onto a CD to sell via the phone. Wonderful! But the Internet... ah, the Internet, look at it. Just now becoming a viable source for, say, information on games. Any information you could think of.

Cracks, for instance. Cracks that could, say, crack the piddly encryption scheme that uses a key short enough to read over the phone to impatient gamers. Which of course someone wrote and made available.

This CD is a wonderful collection of id's classic FPS's. Its only fault is a slightly difficult installer which requires the seemingly useless need to run a second program and enter a series of numbers into both. However, since most modern games require a CD-key as well, the distraction is minimal by comparison.