Quake traces its origins back to a promotion in the first Commander Keen trilogy, where it was titled Quake: The Fight For Justice. The player was named Quake (taken from a Dungeons & Dragons character in Carmack’s world ), the strongest and most dangerous person on the continent. He would have a weapon called the Hammer of Thunderbolts, a Ring of Regeneration, and a trans-dimensional artifiact. Quake would fight for Justice, a secret organization devoted to vanquishing evil from the land. The game would contain fully animated backgrounds. All of the people one would meet would have their own lives, personalities, and objectives. There would have been interesting puzzles and decisions that wouldn’t be simply yes or no, but complex correlations of people and events. They commenced working on it in 1991; id Software did some prototyping and they decided that it was not yet time to fabricate that game since technology needed to advance more. 
Sometime after id Software finished Doom II, they worked on a new, fully three dimensional game engine. The engine was not prepared to make a game for a year, and during that year, id Software always thought that it was going to happen at some point. John Romero wrote QuakeEd, and simultaneously exploring Quake level design wondering what it would appear as and what rules they should be following. There were nine people working on Quake, but only Adrian Carmack, John Carmack, John Romero, and Kevin Cloud had been with a game during its entire development, whereas both Sandy Petersen and Dave Taylor arrived halfway through the Quake’s development. It was very difficult for the team because they had to continuously dispose of concepts that they worked on. For example, American McGee was working on various levels for John Carmack’s engine, only to have to delete them constantly. They also had to dispose of code in the scripting language because they just recreated the scripting language.
While often assumed to be a role-playing title due to the earlier blurb and due to the fictional setting, id Software employees were very vocal in the game prioritizing action above all. Similar to Doom, the mindset of Quake was that of a game involving a lot of blood and gore. While this resulted in censorship in various locations, especially Germany, id Software felt this would only promote their game more as a "forbidden fruit". Other companies were better at making slow paced roleplaying titles, Quake would have the id trademark of being "evil" and "brutal". American McGee was somewhat contradictory on this point, stating that he spent a lot of research on MUDs and other multiplayer RPG titles, and thought of Quake as a graphical MUD. All individuals could agree that story would be the one part to be developed last.
Quake was originally going to have a VR tie-in with a ‘major’ manufacturer, producing the game with a specific headset in mind, in addition to its multiplayer link-up. Sound was to be a major integral part of the game’s design, with the player possessing a headset or a microphone unit which they would also vend (manufactured by Koss), and players would speak to each other exclusively over a local area network, but not as a headset communication. One would be ‘speaking into’ the game world, so the closer one was to somebody else, the louder one’s voice would be. The monsters would also be capable of hearing this.
That year without any game design was quite hard on everybody at id Software. At one point, Adrian Carmack had prepared a set of Aztec textures because the designers thought that they would have an Aztec section, but American McGee was unexcited about them, so they had to be deleted. (Nonetheless, Mesoamerican textures were later reintroduced in Dissolution of Eternity.) They had to conceive a theme from which McGee could be inspired.
John Carmack had no desire to enlarge the company, so nobody else was hired at the time.
The engine was eventually prepared, but everybody else was mentally exhausted. In November, id Software held a meeting to discuss the game, but the designers were so exhausted that they couldn’t think of any new game design, and they desired to just finish Quake. American McGee proposed that the game have weaponry in the style of Doom, and his proposal gained overwhelming support. This disappointed Romero, because he really desired to make a new game design. Early on, Quake was supposed to be merely a fantasy world with swords, balls with chains, &c., but they decided to make the game more like Doom. Romero worked on the game for seven more months, and it was ‘insane’ and arduous to make it. McGee was mysteriously absent, and the crew could not get a hold of him, so Romero had Tim Willits finish McGee’s works. Romero had to do a lot of sound work on it.
Quake was likely to be released on every playable computer and console except for those made by Nintendo due to id Software’s ‘righteous indignation’ over the censorship of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System version of their game, Wolfenstein 3D. id Software claimed that while they may have good technology, they did not understand design, and they simply didn’t know what it would require in order to create an interesting video game. Having moved on to their next project, they were not concerned at all. Nonetheless, Quake would later receive a Nintendo 64 port by Midway Games in 1998.
According to id Software, Quake, like id Software’s other releases, was to be the first of its kind and nothing else was be even approximately similar to it.
On February 24, 1996, Qtest was released. It was available on fourteen mirror sites all activated simultaneously. The server software was one of the major tests of that release. The size would be approxmiately four point five megabytes. Approximately two weeks before the game’s official release, a beta called Beta3 was leaked.
The project was originally referred to as Timequake because the Slipgates took the player to a different time and place. Later, when id Software attempted to use the name "Quake", they found that a German company had taken every variation on the word. This German company started insisting that id Software buy the rights to the name. The lawyers for id Software eventually convinced the German company to give, instead of sell, the word to them.
Romero was alone at work on the product’s final day. He had to find a new program to compress and extract content, because the material that they had before would not do a subdirectory, then he inserted it into the Internet.
Many of the aforementioned details below showcase older thoughts for Quake. Note many of them were promises id Software could not fulfill, either due to rushing the game at the last moment or because of the absolute chaotic nature of id Software design, whereby they would build half the game only to remove it. American McGee, as well as Jay Wilbur and Sandy Petersen, would often tell interviewers that what they said could be a complete lie. John Romero was, however, most infamous for his embellishments. Also note that due to the chaotic nature of development and general disputes at the time, many development points would differ from person to person within the company.
- The Hammer of Thunderbolts was intended to constitute the only usable arm in the original game, but with alternative modes of fire. Some people were critical about this concept. The Hammer would also be throwable. (A similar usable arm called the Mjolnir would appear in Scourge of Armagon, however.)
- According to Sandy Petersen, one of the arms that id Software discussed a hammer that the protagonist would hit the ground with, and it would cause a literal quake (explaining the game’s title), which would extend away from the hammer along the ground with dust puffs, and would heavily damage or knock monsters back, and possibly even damage walls (or at least go through doors). Aerial monsters would not be affected by it.
- Sandy Petersen also said that the combat in Quake would be oriented more towards melee, feeling that the Chainsaw/Fists were rarely used, thus making this a new experience for id Software. There would be ranged attacks in the form of spells, plus the player would be able to throw the Hammer. Hitting the ground would result in a crack snaking along the ground before it hit their opponent, resulting in a massive disaster. There would also be lightning and fire attacks. The most powerful attack would be one that would require a lot of energy, an attack that when hit on the ground would result in the entire level trembling and all opponents stumbling.
- Fire and fire based attacks were not included because the development team could not get a good look for fire. Small entities like torches would be fine, but sprites on a larger scale would go against the desire to make the game as close to 100% polygon as possible.
- This hammer was still existent in July of 1995, where Dave Taylor stated that he disapproved of the design choice and was trying to quietly destroy it. Unlike an Axe or Sword, a hammer is blunt and brutal, which is symbolic of Quake itself.
- American McGee started adding more weapons as the development went along. Early developed weapons include a fireball that could be guided by the player and a weapon that would shoot spikes, the latter possibly being the precursor for the Nailgun. This latter weapon, referred to as the "Spike Shower", would fire four spikes that would go after different targets.
- Likewise, one of the early arms was a ball on a chain that the player would spin around on its chain over the head, and as it orbited, it would contact monsters and pop them. But the player had to time when the ball would arrive. (A similar arm called the Star would have appeared in Dissolution of Eternity, which was also cut from the final product.)
- The protagonist would become a Thor-like being wielding a giant Hammer.
- Kevin Cloud created a ∼200 polygon model of a person, which had no animations and was textured with the art from the Cyberdemon from Doom. At the time, he was the only ‘thing’ in Quake. id Software had thought that they would require more polygons per model in order to create the amount of detail that they desired.
- The Hellgate cube would have been a companion that would help the player by sucking souls. It might have had the ability to change loyalty. It would fly over "Quake"'s head.
- Petersen said that the monsters were originally going to be more fantastic, but combined with technology. However, the only remnant of this idea is the Ogre.
- The Knight was one of the earliest opponents still existent in the final release, being made due to the connection to the medieval theme before the game went more Lovecraftian.
- As John Romero was describing his personal conception of the multiplayer, he was hopping out of his seat and pantomiming the ‘violent drama’ between two bellicose deities, punctuating the action with sound effects.
- Romero intended for the game to be based primarily on the server software, meaning that entirely different games could be hosted on the same software. id Software would make money through selling client versions, while the host computer would be entirely free, each computer the users wished to connect to would need to be bought. It wouldn't be licensed, it would be a one-time purchase. As Romero stated "we're going to give away the ultimate game engine for free and let people create what they want." He felt that people would be focused on making games on the best possible engine, id Software could in turn release more advanced engines to cause the entire industry to gain reliance on id Software. This idea was eventually dropped since it would have required an entirely separate company to manage, taking away time from designing games.
- Romero also talked about possibly having experience points, but it only existing for players killing each other. This in turn is likely the basis for frag points.
- According to Petersen, id Software was also discussing rocket packs or jump packs.
- Trent Reznor was on the team from the very beginning, he loved playing games and wished to work on one. id Software was listening to Nine Inch Nails around the time of Doom and Doom II, meaning they were excited to have Trent Reznor working on Quake. Similar to the team at id Software, some of Reznor's sound effects had to be deleted when the genre shifted from a strict medieval theme to a more futuristic orientation. id Software originally wished for the game to have no music, feeling that the ambiance was strong enough that music was not needed. Trent Reznor was bothered by the lack of music, so he ended up discussing the issue with the team near the end of the development process. id Software accepted the concept of music in the game as long as Reznor would help on the design of the songs.
- The Nailgun was created before id Software knew that they would be working with Nine Inch Nails, but it soon came to be considered a way of tying the band into the game. As a joke, id created the Nails with a Nine Inch Nails logo, "NIN". As Trent Reznor liked this addition to the game, id decided to keep the logo in the game.
- When the time came to focus on publicity, id Software was told to not include stickers on the CDs that would promote Trent Reznor's involvement with the game. The team understood and accepted this request.
- At the time that id Software was still working on players gaining experience, American McGee claimed that the game would have a kill counter.
- The world would have had real physics so that character would tumble when they fall from heights, and they would be knocked flat on their backs. A heavy protagonist could fall off of an edge and tumble, and the view would tumble with the protagonist. It would be quite rapid, but the world would react accordingly.
- John Romero felt that the combat of Quake would be more direct. He felt that the combat of Doom, while good, was still distant due to holding a Weapon. In comparison to holding down a trigger until something died, Romero talked about beating "the living shit out of the thing until it is dead". Opponents could be pounded to paste with the giant hammer in a more interactive manner than just pointing and clicking.
- Blood could even be traced according to Sandy Petersen, a trail would be left by the bleeding opponent. This was primarily intended for Deathmatch.
- Monsters would not cooperate together, but they could flee to healing areas, thus making them somewhat smarter than the ones found in Doom. AI was not one of the biggest priorities of Carmack, who stated that such were overrated and that more time could be placed in other areas.
- One of the first models put into the game was a bat. This was later removed, it is unknown if any AI was actually written for it.
- Item permutations would also be possible; one could meet somebody low on health yet with a desirable weapon. If the man was not trusted by the player, one could bring along a friend and tell him to hide out somewhere with a bead on the other man’s head. One would meet somewhere in a field to face off. One would ‘drop’ one’s health while he dropped his weapon, and they would both strafe over to the desired objects. One could back away and decide that one would hit the man before he gets the opportunity to utilize that health. One would move towards him and draw back with the Hammer. He would notice this and commences ducking, but it would be too tardy: he would be smashed in the head by the player, and one could watch him fly down to the ground, landing on his side. One would smash his still body a few more times and cause him to explode. The protagonist and his friend would acquire all of the items left on the ground by the dead character. As one would walk off, one would obtain his severed head and insert it into a bag. It would be futile because one would require something to sacrifice to a demon.
- The Slipgates were conceived in order to make the levels feel less disjointed. They originally would have been product placement for Cray supercomputers.
- Tweet by John Romero where he stated, ‘we started making Quake in 1991 but stopped because tech was not advanced enough. Quake was a D&D char from Carmack’s world.’
- ‘After we finished our original Commander Keen series (1-3) in 1990 we made mention of a game called "Quake: The Fight For Justice" that we were going to make. We did some prototyping and decided that it just wasn't time to make that game - tech needed to advance. So we spent the next year working on Softdisk games (1991) and Keen 4-6. Then in 1992 we started Wolf3D.’
- <Romero> THERE WILL BE 14 MIRROR SITES ALL TURNED ON AT THE SAME TIME!!!!!
- <Romero> YES -- SERVER SOFTWARE IS ONE OF THE MAJOR TESTS OF THIS RELESAE [sic].
- <Romero> THE SIZE WILL BE ~4.5MB
- Tweet by John Romero where he stated, ‘because the slipgates took you to a different time and place.’