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Michael Abrash's Graphics Programming Black Book ( includes a good sized chunk written about Quake as it was being developed. Even though the book is now about fifteen years old I still count it among my favorite programming books because it is the only one I've found that decently narrates the mindset of optimization, of turning a problem on its head in order to find a better solution.

Because the book is essentially a series of collected magazine articles the section on Quake development will have one chapter that reads "hey, this is what we're going to do!" followed by "well, that didn't work, but this does!". One important aspect of post-mortems and development journals that I find is frequently missing is a detailed look at what didn't work technically and why, which it has in spades.

edit: The book is also available as a free download:

fireteller · 2009-04-06 · Original thread
I actually still have my Black Book. The definitive tome of hard core graphics programming. I'd still recommend it to anyone looking to dig deeper into high performance programming (graphics or otherwise).

Too bad it's out of print, and they didn't do any subsequent editions.

jmagar · 2009-01-04 · Original thread
Carmack or Michael Abrash? Read Graphics Programming Black Book ( )

Abrash did amazing things with assembly to get Quake to run on the 486.

I don't know if Carmack, Abrash, or someone at SGI (it's in OpenGL source code too) came up with it; but it seems like witch craft to me.

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