The Quake Xmas Jam 2020 is a slay ride across 19 new levels

Quake Xmas Jam 2020
(Image credit: Quake Xmas Jam)

Is there anything more festive than blasting an array of thematically-disconnected videogame bad guys in the face while Winter Wonderland gently drifts through the background like a December snowfall? If your answer to this obviously-loaded question is "yes," then allow me to direct your attention to the Quake Xmas Jam 2020, a collection of 19 new maps from 19 creators that's just in time for the holidays.

The maps were developed for a month-long "mapping jam" using the big Arcane Dimensions mod that began on November 12 and ran until December 13. Themes were dealer's choice, but gameplay boundaries had to be confined to 1024x1024x1024, meaning the maps themselves are relatively small. They're accessible via a holiday-themed start map that, in standard Quake style (but with a bit more horsing around) enables you to select your difficulty level (including Nightmare) before riding an elevator to the map selection area.

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The Quake Xmas Jam 2020 requires Quakespasm, "a modern, cross-platform (Windows, Linux, macOS) Quake 1 OpenGL engine" that supports 64-bit CPUs, ultra-wide displays, and a range of other modernizations and fixes—necessary because, in case you'd forgotten, Quake is 24 years old, my god. You'll also need a legit copy of Quake, from Steam, GOG, or Bethesda, and of course, the Quake Xmas Jam archive itself.

Getting it all together can be a challenge if it's been awhile since the last time you install a custom Quake game, but luckily for anyone in that position, you can get a detailed breakdown of what's what from The crash-course version is: Extract Quakespasm into its own directory, then copy the "id1" folder from your Quake directory into the Quakespasm directory. Create a shortcut to "quakespasm-sdl12.exe" and edit its properties; add "-game ad" (without the quotes) to the text in the "Target" field, so you end up with something that looks like C:\Users\[Username]\Downloads\quakespasm\quakespasm-sdl12.exe -game ad. Save it, run it, and go ham for Santa!

I've only played a few of the levels so far, and they've all felt compact and quick, but very well-polished. One was like climbing a dark staircase, except the stairs move and guys with guns are waiting around most corners, and if you fall off the wrong spot you end up lost forever in the eternal void; another required me to find a magical axe and use it to complete some kind of ritual sacrifice sacrifice (full disclosure: this is Quake and I wasn't paying super-close attention to the narrative details), which I did—and then immediately got my ass kicked by four wizards flinging exploding skulls.

There's lots more that I haven't seen but I'm willing to bet that it's good stuff all around, and the setup is actually quite simple. And it's free, the greatest gift of all.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.