"Quake makes Doom
look like a sad cartoon" - John Romero
Developer : Id Software
Format: PC (3rd party console ports followed)
Quake is remarkable for many reasons. It was the first FPS to have a genuine 3D playing environment*, at a time when the rest of the industry was content with extending the "2-and-1/2-D" system of Doom. It was designed to be easily modified and extended, using Quake C and a raft of editing tools. (Which led to the classic Threewave CTF and many other classic mods.) It had a modern network play scheme, allowing for more players and dynamically entering and exiting servers. And, of course, it had Id's trademark dark visuals and an exceptionally atmospheric ambient soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails. The multiplayer gameplay was highly addictive, frantic and favoured a large number of players.
The protracted development period saw many changes in the design of the game. Initially, Id had hoped to place the game in a traditional medieval setting and incorporate more RPG features. It became apparent that this was not practical if the game was ever to ship, so elements from Doom were recreated and the game became the shooter we know and love. The single player game is often criticised for being linear, repetitive and unfocussed. All of these criticisms are fairly valid, but at the time it must be remembered that people had lower expectations - a Half-Life style plot would have been out of the question.
Quake was originally a DOS game, with 3D acceleration and support for other OSes being developed after its release. GLQuake was probably responsible for shifting a large proportion of the original 3Dfx Voodoo cards. Interestingly, Id favoured the Rendition Verite 1000 (aka Creative Labs' 3D Blaster PCI), and helped develop a version of the game for it (VQuake) which had some features the GL version lacked (such as proper dynamic lighting, anti-aliasing and decent particles).
After Quake shipped, John Romero left Id to form Ion Storm. John Carmack eventually opened the source code (as with previous Id games). The Quake engine was used by Hexen II and Half-Life (yes, that's the Quake 1 - not 2 - engine with the addition of software coloured lighting, plus umpteen other enhancements).
*For pedants: Yes, OK, Descent was released first. But the 'P' in FPS stands for person, whereas in Descent you controlled a gravity defying spaceship thing. There were fully-3D games viewed in the first person going back for years, but Quake was the first to put all the pieces together.