TenebraeQuake, an Enhanced Quake Front End

Quake spawned a new era of first person shooters. I take a look at the TenebraeQuake front end for Mac OS X, which also enhances the graphics.


The early ‘90s saw id Software take the first person shooter genre by storm with the Doom series, but it wasn’t until they released Quake that we saw true 3D graphics and rendering.

While the Doom engine was 2D cleverly rendered to appear 3D, the Quake engine featured true 3D rendering along with superior graphics and lighting. The speed and quality of gameplay was superb for 1996 when it was released, especially considering the hardware. It would run on a Pentium PC and was later ported to the Mac and several consoles. Sequels followed, and the Quake line was established as one of the biggest series of first person shooters.


The introduction of 3Dfx and OpenGL rendering gave gaming on a computer a massive advantage over consoles. The difference in graphics was amazing. I remember seeing Turok Dinosaur Hunter and Need For Speed 3 for the first time rendered on a Pentium PC which had an Orchid Righteous 3Dfx add-on card in, and it blew me away.

Compared to earlier first person shooters, Quake looked so modern, but adding 3D acceleration with GLQuake made the experience out of this world. The maps were rendered with smooth walls, detailed extras, and fantastically rendered enemies. Lighting and blood splatter looked realistic. All these added further to an immersive game experience that set the way for games after this.

Fast forward to 2015 and I still love playing those old games – and with hardware so advanced these days it makes the experience even better. Older games can be tricky to play on a modern Mac, as most of them were designed for PowerPC with only a few of them being Universal Binary or having Intel front ends.

Luckily there are number of people who build new Intel front ends that can enable a game designed to run on early Power Mac and PowerBook G3 machines running around the 250 MHz mark to play on modern Macs running at 2 GHz and the likes.

I have tested it in OS X 10.11 El Capitan, and it works perfectly.


I have tried a few front ends for Quake and have found TenebraeQuake to be the best. You have options to customise your settings, such as resolution and whether to run full screen or not. You can also select whether to play a music CD or a folder of MP3 as your background music, which is a nice touch.

tenebraequake-screen-1 tenebraequake-screen-2tenebraequake-screen-3

I am running TenebraeQuake on a 1.7 GHz i5 11” MacBook Air with 8 GB RAM. As you can imagine, it has no problems playing it, and at 1366×768 full screen it looks absolutely beautiful.

Rendered in super high resolution and playing as smooth as butter, this game – which is nearly 20 years old – looks phenomenal. I even ran the timedemo: it racked up 59.2 fps, moving at an incredible speed.

However, it doesn’t stop there. TenebraeQuake is more than just a modern front end. It adds extra detail to Quake, such as advanced shadowing, bump-mapping, and lighting. Explosions look amazing, fire and smoke are rendered superbly, and there is smoke too.

Here are comparable scenes. On the left is a standard rendered version using GLQuake, on the right is the TenebraeQuake version.

OpenGL version 1-ten

OpenGL version TenebraeQuake version

You can see the difference, and it certainly is impressive.

It isn’t 100% perfect. I have noticed a few graphical issues. Some of the water/lava can appear a bit bright, and some items in water, such as zombies or floating keys, can render slightly odd. But on the whole it is an amazing job.

It can be played using the retail or shareware version of Quake. Simply follow the instructions, which requires switching a few folders around, and you are good to go.

While TenebraeQuake and its extras are a bit heavier than the standard GLQuake, it still runs on moderate hardware and runs a dream.

Check out some of the screen grabs from the TenebraeQuake below to see how well it looks.

tenebraequake-1 tenebraequake-3

tenebraequake-4 tenebraequake-5

tenebraequake-6 tenebraequake-7

tenebraequake-8  tenebraequake-9

I’m off to continue playing one of the best first person shooters ever created.

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