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The first official Quake engine is QUAKE.EXE, sometimes informally referred to as DOS Quake. It is found on the official Quake CD-ROM (for the PC) and in the official shareware distribution. If your computer was built after 1997, you probably have no need for QUAKE.EXE.

This engine is designed to only run from MS-DOS, because it expects to have direct access to your computer's hardware, which is something modern operating systems like Windows and Linux don't allow. So, to run the official engine, your computer must boot from the Quake CD, or you must boot into DOS or one of the DOS-based versions of Windows (Windows 95/98/Me) and then run QUAKE.EXE from the command line. The DOS-like command console in Windows NT/2000/XP/2003/Vista won't work for this, even in Win95 compatibility mode. QUAKE.EXE is able to run within DOSBox, the free DOS-like emulator which runs on pretty much any OS, but its performance there is much worse than running in actual DOS — so much worse that it may be unplayable at all but the lowest resolutions, even on relatively fast, modern systems. Reportedly the engine runs better using DOSBOX-X when both Quake's and DOSBOX-X's settings are properly configured.

QUAKE.EXE provides software-based graphics rendering only; the graphics hardware will not provide accelerated rendering (using its own CPU), or any texture or lighting features. It's all done in the software. It's still fast, but slows down noticeably at higher resolutions and when there's a lot of action.

This engine's multiplayer networking capabilities are limited to serial cable (direct), modem-to-modem (direct), or on a LAN via TCP/IP or IPX (Novell NetWare protocol). LAN play is highly affected by ping & latency between the clients and server. This was greatly improved in the QuakeWorld engine.

Official distributions:

  • v1.06 of QUAKE.EXE (Oct. 1996) is contained in a quake106.zip, which contains an installer that unpacks all the files from an lh5 LZH-encoded archive. This is the full shareware distribution of Quake, including documentation and all the Episode 1 files (ID1\pak0.pak), not just the engine.
  • v1.08 of QUAKE.EXE (Oct. 1997) fixes some minor bugs in 1.06, and is in quake108.zip. This zip contains the updated QUAKE.EXE engine only.