Each person has their own keyboard configuration that they use. I have used several different configurations and am always looking for a better keyboard layout.
The secret is to use a mouse or trackball with +mlook added to your autoexec.cfg. Mlook allows you to use your mouse to aim permanently. Configure your keyboard so that you strafe with two seperate keys instead of using one button and moving your mouse right or left to strafe. I chose a relaxed way to use my keyboard so I don't contort my fingers into some weird position.
Some people still prefer a keyboard over a mouse and insist that it is better. It's completely up to you. So try everything until you find something that works for you.
Get to know your configuration by playing in single player mode until you are comfortable with it.
The autoexec.cfg holds aliases and bindings. It is found in your ID1\ directory.
grapple "impulse 21"
Aliases the console command "impulse 21" to "grapple" so if you typed "grapple" in the console quake would execute "impulse 21"
+grapple "impulse 21;wait;+attack"
If you add a semicolon between console commands you can execute several commands sequentially using the alias. So if you typed +grapple in the console it would run "impulse 21" then "wait" then "+attack"
bind g +grapple
This binds they key "g" to the +grapple alias.
bind g +grapple
+grapple "impulse 21;wait;+attack"
If you typed "g" while playing the game it will run +grapple and when you let go it will run -grapple. This would be useful on a server that has a grappling hook that uses impulse 21.
This is similar to the autoexec.cfg except Quake manages it. You should never have to touch this but it is worth looking at.
If you know the levels you will know where the armor and health are. You can begin to survive. Part of it is single player training and part of it is multiplayer practice. It's up to you to learn the levels your own way. I learned a lot of them on servers but still went back to single player and played the episodes repeatedly. A good point to stop training on single player is when you know the levels enough that you can finish them fairly quickly on easy or medium difficulty.
Some might tell you to play quake by yourself for hours to memorize where everything is. It's good to do that up to a point. After which all you are doing is making yourself sick of Quake. You can try and try to memorize where all the goodies are on every level but that gets old and, if you are like me, you will not be completely successful. Once you get into Multiplayer you will sit there and think to yourself, "where was that Rocket Launcher again?" Meanwhile, someone will come up behind you and splatter your head.
I learned to play quake on a server with Random Weapon placement. It's tough to get good weapons and armor when they could be anywhere. What I learned to do was memorize where stuff appears and constantly run to each place getting anything I can. Eventually I started finding RL's everywhere I went. I've been accused of cheating before because I would find a good weapon and kill someone with it. Then I would die, respawn, and find the same weapon again. Within seconds I would put a rocket in their face. Meanwhile, they would be unable to find anything of use.
When I tried other servers without random weapons, I found that I could learn where everything was quickly. I knew where something was supposed to appear and went there. Soon I knew where good weapons and health were on all of the levels. I had benefited from playing with randomness.
The secret to knowing levels is in experience. Don't worry about memorizing where a certain weapon is. Instead, run around an pick things up until you realize that you know what's around the corner.
Another thing I learned early on was that going after somebody with your pea shooter (shotgun) right after you respawn was useless. You die right away. A lot of newbies just stand there and shoot right after they respawn. Experienced, well armed people know a quick score when they see one. So. I learned to dodge those nails and rockets by running like mad. Most people will chase you until they see someone else to frag; they are easily distracted. However, if you run don't let them keep shooting at your back. They will eat through your health extremely fast.
In the process of running away I learned escape routes for each level. Escape routes are places to go that involve an elevator or some kind of maze to get lost in. Your attacker will be right behind you until you go up an elevator which doesn't go back down for a few seconds. That elevator gives you enough time to lose yourself.
Another big secret to Quake is to run all of the time. Run when you are being attacked or when you are attacking. If you stand in one spot for too long you become an easy target. Configure Quake so that run is always turned on. Also, don't just run around one section of the map. Go everywhere. You will learn a lot more.
While you are learning how to run practice strafing. Strafing is a great way to avoid getting hit. I use two different methods. One is to just strafe and the other is to strafe while aiming the mouse and shooting. The second I will get into later on. Right now just learn how to dodge bullets. If you meet up with someone who shoots while standing in one place get right in front of them and strafe. If you're good they won't be able to touch you. I've done that until they ran out of bullets and came after me with their ax.
For right now, when you are being attacked practice strafing. One thing to try is to run backwards and strafe. You have to know what's behind you so you don't get stuck. If you come close to a wall run forward towards your opponent. Just as they pass you do a 180 degree turn and keep running backwards while strafing. Always face your opponent. To train with this go to a single player level with a fiend. Learn how to strafe away from the fiend as it jumps at you.
Use strafing anytime somebody is behind you shooting at your back. If you don't you will see your health disappear. Run around them until you figure a way out of the situation or kill them.
At this point don't worry about dying or even killing anyone. The first step is to learn how not to die. Don't worry about always coming in last. As you get good at defense you will start learning how to kill!
Start a game of single player quake. Go to e1m1 on normal difficulty and practice strafing on all of the grunts in the level. Get so that you don't get hit by any bullets by strafing left and right. It's not too hard. Now start running around a grunt while strafing--use the 180 degree turn technique on it. Finally try it against the dogs.
Go to e1m2 on normal difficulty (type map e1m2 to get their quick). and enter "god" and "impulse 9" in the console (unless you want to play the level). Go straight to the end. Let the fiend out by stepping on that button. Now turn god mode off by typing "god" in the console again. Play with that fiend until you can last a long time against it without shooting it.
Go to e2m2 on normal difficulty. Shoot the first knight you see. Now go running out of that cave into the open where two more knights are waiting for you. Run one direction parallel with the edge of the cliff strafe, do a 180 degree turn, keep running. The idea is to use strafing, running, and 180 degree turns so that they can't get you with their swords.
You can download demos of these exercises here
Now that you can defend yourself, or at least know how, you can work on fragging. If you are good at strafing backwards and forwards you are ready to learn circle strafing. Circle strafing is what happens when you aim with the mouse, strafe, and/or run all at the same time while keeping something in the middle aimed at. This action is confusing to someone who is not used to it--especially when you combine shooting. That is why you should get used to plain old strafing while aiming forward first.
A good exercise is to find an object that you can walk all around like a dumb grunt. Keep it in aim while strafing and shooting. Strafe left for a time and then right while keeping the target in aim as well as strafing all around it. If you add forward motion the distance between you and the object is smaller and seems faster. If you add backward motion you can run in a small circle while shooting outward at someone. They will have a hard time getting you as long as you keep the backward motion going.
I used to have my keys configured so that circle strafing was impossible. When I strafed and shot I would hit my target only when I was directly in front of it. When I reconfigured my keys I found that circle strafing was extremely good. I can now keep a target in aim while strafing and shooting with the Super Nailgun. If a player stands in one place while firing rockets at me I can quickly kill him with the Super Nailgun because the nails always hit him and his rockets always miss me.
The drawback of circle strafing is that it is confusing when the other player is good at dodging also. To counter this run around your opponent without strafing sometimes. Confuse them as much as possible while keeping tabs on them. Get so that you can keep your aim on them no matter how confusing you run.
Other things to try:
Go to e1m1 on normal skill. Find a grunt. Circle strafe around it and shoot. This will be a lot different on a 28.8 modem because when you fire your aim will be off. You have to compensate by aiming ahead of your target. See my examples of circle strafing.
Here is a demo of strafing in use. Look for circle strafing against the shambler at the end.
I used to call this my Rocket Launcher getter. I had a high success rate at killing someone who had the RL using grenades.
Ax wars can be fun if everyone co-operates.
The key to multiplayer is to play often and stay in a game for long periods of time. Don't get frustrated when you can't kill anyone. You're learning by dying. Pay attention to how you died so that you don't do it next time you get into a similar situation.
I still play in single player mode. As you learn multiplayer you pick up new techniques and can kick ass in single player mode. You can sometimes remember forgotten objects in levels when you go back and play the game alone.
Camping is the act of hiding somewhere near important objects, such as rocket launchers, or places that players respawn and fragging the player as soon as they are seen with a high power weapon. It is an unfair strategy. The player does not get a chance to live and does not get a chance to get the weapon. A fair strategy is one that gives the player a chance to gib you.
It's not my place to say whether or not you should do it. It can be an excellent gibbing technique but it also makes a lot of people angry. I used to camp. I was kicked off of a server for it once. I would usually stop if people started to complain about it because I did not want to be hated. I decided to get better at Quake so I quit camping and learned how to play. I have more fun now and feel I get more respect.
There is a thin line between sniping and camping. If you snipe you will be accused of camping by most people. Sniping is the act of hiding in some dark place possibly high above the ground and sniping people. The difference is that you do not do it where an important object is or where people are spawned. Sniping is more fair than camping because you are giving players a chance to play. There are sniper scripts that will let you zoom in like a camera to get a good aim at a player.
Personally, I find both techniques a waste of time since you are waiting for players to walk in front of you. I get more frags by going and finding players than any other way.
For the most part cheating is a myth. Server owners can create patches with QuakeC that will give them extra help but other than that it has never been proven to me that a Quake client can cheat. It is rumored to be possible but if it is done it is rare. Unless you have really good proof never accuse someone of cheating. It makes you look stupid.
Although it is not really cheating, it is possible to change the configuration of quake servers that use version 1.01. The problem has been fixed with later versions. If you want a hint on how to do it, a certain list of console commands has a command listed but not an explanation of what it does. If you use that command plus server commands you can change the configuration. If you are a server owner and want to know how to do it e-mail me and I will get you more info.
I found out about it after weeks of someone messing with my favorite server. The server was eventually put on a new machine with a newer version of Quake. The server has never been the same again. It is laggy and choppy. One day I was on the new server and someone told me how it was done. The reason I spit out this whole story is that if you run a server that uses this old version change it or your server will get messed with. It is extremely annoying to be playing when someone screws with a server.
Script writing is a useful tool. A lot of players use them as an aid to fighting. For instance, there are scripts to instantly turn around and shoot or to zoom in like a camera on your enemy. They are much more than just aliases, though; they automate actions.
bind r speed
alias speed speedon
alias speedon "echo run is on;+speed;alias speed speedoff"
alias speedoff "echo run is off;-speed;alias speed speedon"
It's a pointless script but it shows something clever. Notice the use of the "speed" alias. First it is set to "speedon" and then speedon sets "speed" to "speedoff." That way the first time you type "r" in the game you will run "speedon" the next time you hit "r" you will run "speedoff." This alone makes Quake a game that is a step beyond any other.
There are three things you can do with scripts so that they will always be there for you to run.
Located in your id1\ directory used to configure features of Quake.
Strafing while aiming at target. Causes player to make a circle around target. This is not usually done in a full circle but just enough to avoid getting hit.
Known paths that will get you out of harms way when out-matched by a player.
The act of killing a player. A point is usally added to your score.
Same as fragging
Low Ping Basterds. Users with high speed connections and pings less than 100.
You are spawned when you enter a level or server. You are respawned after you die. On most servers you have to push jump to respawn.
Move left or right without facing a different direction.
Quake is a trademark of Id Software