Disclaimer : I’m not a writer, English is not my native language and these are my personal memoirs. If you don’t like them or like my writing style …well, “Suck it down!” (c) Romero
Let’s start with my introduction to gaming : Wolfenstein 3D. One of my neighborhood friend’s father was a teacher and toyed around with computers. I guess he probably was the only guy within 20 miles, little did we know. One good day we found some weird ass floppy drives with the mythical Wolfenstein 3D title written on it. There we were, 2 11 year olds figuring out how to install a game on this PC. Naturally our parents objected a lot against us gaming (go behave like normal kids! This is bad for your brain! You will wear glasses at age 13!) but it was too late, we were hooked for life. I also don’t wear glasses at age 34 so I would theorize genetics are more important here :p
So when the sun was shining we were doing normal outdoor activities such as building camps, soccer, cycling and -of course- be guilty of small mischief. But boy when the rain and the cold was upon us we locked ourselves away in that little study room and together we played wolfenstein 3D over and over again until ‘Mein Leben’ became the first thing we said when greeting each other. We also decided that to both enjoy the game at the same time we needed to play together on the same pc. Solution : let one guy control the firebutton and the other the movement buttons :-). Coop at it’s core boys and girls, share one keyboard with 2 guys and successfully shoot Hitler to bits and pieces ..
After that we moved on to Doom and needless to say that this game was -for us- the ultimate shit. Monsters, demons, 3D experience (kind of), shotguns, blood, gore, exploding bodies, dark & gloomy and hell in one game. All of that combined with superb smoothness and fluidity. Genius! Now, I really started true gaming on my own in 1994 when Doom 2 was released, my father-in-law was a businessman and his laptop served as my first introduction in gaming and IT in general. Well .. laptop .. the thing was as heavy as car, made the nostalgic rattling noise when the hard disk was working and the emitted heat could probably melt the polar caps but whatever, it ran Doom .. an introduction to the world of real FPS, created by the masters at id Software.
This is ultimately where I hit the point of no return, gaming would become a huge part of my life but who knew that this first introduction would also lead to my future career, my passion and my interests? At that time internet, laptops and computers in general were considered very exotic and only for professional usage, 12 year old kids were not supposed to even touch computers let alone play gory and dark games on it. Surely my brain would melt from all this carnage and I would become the next psychopath? Well, none of that, gaming made me very independent, self-aware and ‘internet social’ at an early age, strangely enough.
Needless to say I was instantly hooked and mesmerized by gaming, pc’s and IT in general. I wanted to know everything about this machine – how it worked, what is important, what is the future, etc.
I need to mention that back then internet was like the ultimate nerd dream. It was uncommon, expensive and required certain technical knowledge to get it up and running. Apart from the money part there was no help I could get from my family and quickly searching up things on google via my iphone was non existent. To be honest, I loved these time in retrospect, I was forced to figure out stuff on my own rather than this fast food knowledge solution that google serves us every day. Back then I learned things, today I read stuff and forget about it within the week. (or is it my age? Who knows).
A quick side note on my life before we move on : On early age (8) I was sent to boarding school due to my parents busy life, this was probably a good decision as I was forced to study properly and get good grades. but I also became very independent very early in my life which is one of the things that I cherish most. My grades were generally good but I’m the kind of guy that needs to be interested in something before I accelerate in it and unfortunately half of the stuff was plain boring. However, these old farts that we called parents were smart enough to understand my gaming passion and in a certain year they promised me my own PC if my grades went up significantly. Boy, did they understood how to fire my engine up :). The year I’m talking about was 1996
So, 1996. A year like another? Wrong! Early in this magnificent year id Software decided to release QTEST on their FTP server. The king of games was about to make huge impact on a lot of peoples life. In fact, it would pave the way for what we consider esports nowadays : tons of competitions, leagues and teams would emerge out of the creation of quake and lay the foundation for many years to come. In many ways gamers and FPS fans need to understand that one of their grandfathers would be quake …
Most viruses would be jealous on the rate that Qtest spread amongst gamers and it didn’t take too long before literally every gamer was drooling on the first real 3D fps experience out there. As time passed on and as Quake became officially available on the shelves reviews were popping up here and there. Unfortunately I did not have any internet and the only information I found was in this obscure gaming magazine called PC Gameplay (now Gameplay, the biggest magazine of the benelux. Good job guys!). I don’t remember all the details in the review but needless to say also these seasoned reviewers were raving about it, in fact it was kinda hard to find a person that was not ecstatic about quake.
I’ve read certain books twice and that is the maximum for me but I can tell you that I read that article probably 50 times. People needed a a cleaning crew to mob up the drool around me.It was also the longest year in my life. Every single day I was I looking forward to get my own PC to be able to play Quake. I was spending very little of my weekly allowance just to be able to chip in more if needed, and more importantly to buy this great carton box with Quake engraved on it. BTW, buying games was fun back then. Nice boxes, printed manuals, goodies, flyers, etc. The old fart in me understands that digital downloads are yet another fast food solution for the I-want-it-now generation but it was nice to go in small specialized gaming shops and their shelves filled with magical boxes. Fun note : for some reason the guys owning the shops always had long hair, liked metal music and were into magic the gathering 🙂
Let’s fast forward to me getting my own PC, installing Quake on it and booting it up for the very first time. I was shocked in awe, soul struck, mesmerized and totally excited.How excited one might ask? Well, you know this abdominal feeling when you are really really really excited about something? I had that multiplied with 100. Suddenly Doom 2 was an old game and completely left my area of interests. This new game was the future. I can look up and down? Real 3D? Innovative physics? Awesome weapons? Jaw dropping graphics? What is this evil sorcery!!
The game was one of a kind, no discussion possible. This lovecraftian, medieval blend of high tech and demonic environment (which was ultimately the result of a feud between Romero and Carmack) provided a gaming experience that it still not matched until this day. Was it a fluke? Who knows, judging the recent id games one might say that, but back then it ruled the shit out of anything else for years to come. It was also incredibly fast but yet felt very natural as Doom was already a fast game as well. Nowadays generation of gamers forgot their roots and went on with slow ass gaming experiences where hiding behind a impenetrable trashcan is considered a skill. Whatever, I don’t blame them. It’s evolution and people evolve with it. No way to stop it…
People were also starting to talk about multiplayer capabilities in Quake and how great it was, both gameplay and technically. What, multiplayer? Me playing quake versus actual persons? Competing in a virtual world against my friends, or even total strangers? Online competition?! The next wet dream just became reality. It wanted it and I wanted it fast. I annoyed my parents for weeks to come…
Luckily, around this time internet was also breaking through with the general public, it was still ridiculous expensive and the only options for me at that moment were modem based (22,8K/33.6k/56K) but it was becoming more and more real. Just like modern times things were evolving so fast it was hard to keep up, especially in these technology-wise primitive times. Everything was booming like crazy. My parents decided that it was time to opt-in for internet@home but were unsure on which provider to choose. Back then Planet internet and other companies were providing demo CD’s attached to computer magazines, meaning if you had a modem you could use the dial-in details in this magazine to trial their internet services for 30 days, 60 days, or something like that. All that was left was to buy a modem (US Robotics 22,8, yeah!), buy one of these magazines and get started. The first ISP ever in my home was planet internet. The trial service was perfect to understand how everything was going to work.
In the next couple of weeks a few magical moments occurred :
- The sound of a dial up modem connecting you to the internet. Seriously, you might as well call it a drug because that sound was a huge endorphin release, every fucking single time.
- Figuring out how to connect to a quake server. Bring out the pampers because I’m wetting my pants while the status is displaying ‘connecting to server …’
Sure it was all choppy, little did I know I had a ping of 600MS and was considered a HPB (High Ping Bastard). Keep in mind that this was Netquake, quakeworld with the optimized netcode came in a later stage. I continued to ‘glide’ around the maps for hours to come, managed to shoot some people but it’s fair to say I sucked hard. Couldn’t care less, I naturally felt I was suddenly part of an underground group of like-minded people and I also instinctively felt they were all equally on the road of complete addiction and respect for this game.
So, I’m going to repeat myself but needless to say every other minor activity was put on hold. I found a new ambition in life : become one of the best players in this game.
Dicking around with my ping of 600MS I was not able to get any better and it took until Quakeworld was released and more technical knowledge (figuring out what ping means) that I was really getting competitive in this game.
I actually felt I was gifted and talented in this game, an experience I would never find again in other games. Other games were extensive amount of hours/practice that led to good results but Quake 1 was pure passion and motivation that drove me. Now, I’m usually passionate about a lot of things but it fades away quickly, however, the quake passion would never fade out. Even after all these years I still think it’s the best game ever and I can vividly recall ambient sounds and details of the game.
Safe to say I was getting consumed by this game by early 1997. Quakeworld was yet another level of awesomeness on top of quake. Great netcode, gamemode features, customization with player skins and all kinds of other neat features. I learned that there was a big difference between LPB and HPB and that as HPB you were truly in a disadvantage. The next weeks I learned all tricks and trades of the game really.
One specific thing I really feel like mentioning is the skins. Most people don’t know this in recent games but back then player customization was a huge thing. You could model your own player skin and actually have it distributed to other players via the official servers. Skins were a huge part of the community and served as an icon for your clan. Every clan would create their own skins and seeing all this different skins in game led to a feeling of diversity. Of course people also later on figured out that you can create ‘brigh’skins for extra visibility and over time normal playerskins were only used by the newbs who didn’t have a clue anyway. Brightskins were even a development feature created for later games like painkiller etc..
Anyway, I was rapidly getting better in this game, ending up on top in FFA almost every game. If I was beaten then it was usually by a LPB player who had the technical advantage. Low ping bastards at that time were usually Dutch university students that had a T1 connection available. These guys were running around with pings of 30 to 50 while I was running around with 120-140 during daytime and 90 during nighttime. Yes, the time of day made a difference ….
Next part soon.
Quakeworld continued (the rise of the BE community, international scene, clan history, famous players, my clanwhoring adventures and much much more)