It is worth mentioning before I share my observations that the amount
of effort and work that goes into pulling something like QuakeCon off is
immense. I got to see first-hand at M3
that those involved in making sure ample power is available, networks are
working, and tournaments are running well have to deal with a lot of work,
some stress, and very little sleep. Doubt it? Ask Polish and the gang from
QuakeCon how much actual Quake they
Large LAN parties are a strange and wondrous thing. You never really
know how they will turn out, and it isn't till you take a look back afterwards
that you can really see what worked, and what didn't. Of course, my opinions
about what worked and what didn't might differ from yours, but that didn't
stop me from writing this article.
Anyone who attended both QuakeCon and M3 will tell you that the two
events had very different feels to them. At both parties the official word
on computer speakers was that due to power constraints they weren't allowed.
The thing is, at M3 everyone made a respectful nod toward the official
word and blithely ignored it. While it aggravated the power problems to
some extent, overall this was a very good thing.
M3 was characterized by constant noise emanating from the main room.
As you approached the main room - sounds of killing, dying, and triumphant
shouting reaching your ears - you knew something exciting was going
on. Another nice thing about the speakers was there was music, players
were playing CD's on their CD-ROM's and one enterprising player went so
far as to bring along a large stereo system which was loud enough to provide
music for half the room. The constant din of deathmatching, music, and
players shouting to be heard gave M3 an energy that was exciting
just to be around.
The situation at QuakeCon didn't lend itself well to that. As it was
hosted in a hotel, we were required to be more quiet - and indeed, very
few speakers were used. Given what deathmatch is all about (fighting, killing,
being killed, and generally smacking the other player around), it was an
odd thing to walk into a room with hundreds of computers and have it be
fairly quiet. The rows upon rows of computers with players sitting quietly
playing with headphones on seemed at times more like a university computer
lab than a deathmatch arena. Unfortunately, there was little anybody could
do about it, the organizers had to keep the Holiday Inn happy.
"Shhh.... they're playing Quake!"
However, I think at times the efforts taken to keep things quiet were
a little extreme, particularly during the finals of the tournament. The
finals of the tournaments at M3 saw dozens of people standing around the
two contestants talking, yelling, ooohing and aaahing! The finals of the
tournament at QuakeCon were a lot like ... golf. It was deathly quiet,
and the audience clapped politely and murmured their appreciation when
a particularly well placed grenade shot happened to land on the green.
I know there was a lot riding on those final matches, but isn't deathmatch
supposed to be exciting?
The advent of LAN parties has spawned a new acronym: BYOC - bring your
own computer. For those who were able to bring computers to QuakeCon, it
was heaven. For those who didn't, let's just say it wasn't. At M3 the policy
was that if you left your computer on and in Quake, it was ok for other
people to use it while you were away. It was encouraging to see how many
people we're willing to share their workstations with others, and there
was only one (minor) report of a computer having been tampered with.
I'm not sure what happened at QuakeCon. Either the policy about using
other people's computers was not clearly communicated, or the policy was
"hands off!" Whatever the reason, it was not an uncommon site
to see people standing around wishing they had a computer to play on -
while fifty to a hundred computers sat idle or turned off. It was difficult
for people who had to fly in to bring their own computers, and I think
a little bit more effort could have been made to share.
Rooms: Parties, Sleep, Showers, and LANs?
One of the really nice things about QuakeCon was that everyone had beds
to sleep in, and showers to clean up in. M3 was more of a camp-out, and
by the last day the main room was fragrant. But for the love all things
hygienic, why was QuakeCon just as fragrant?! Put down your rocket launcher
and shower up!
The rooms also lent themselves rather well to the throwing of parties,
and taking breaks from the action in the main room. Many a good time was
had by attendees wandering the halls of the Holiday Inn, and just stopping
in on other room parties, meeting new friends, and having a good time!
Being comfortable partying with people you didn't know was great to see,
it really showed a sense of community - or was everyone just really drunk?
Several rooms also setup private 4 computer LANs for deathmatching.
This sounds kind of cool, but think about it. You flew or drove hundreds
of miles to come to biggest LAN party in Quake history (so far?), why on
earth would you limit yourself to 4 person deathmatch when there were many
16 player games being played downstairs? (BTW, 16 players on DM4 is a very
interesting thing to watch. When the players first entered the game there
was this rumble of telefragging that went on until the top player had 17
frags - without ever shooting a shell!)
Seminars & Demos
QuakeCon added a nice touch to the standard LAN party by holding seminars,
and showing demos of upcoming games (something that was missing from M3).
It was very cool to see Hexen
the H3D goggles, and Daikatana
(during the Centaur Interactive
party). Also, QuakeCon debuted a patch
by Razor that adds crouching to Quake, and makes it so you can see
what weapon your opponents are carrying. At the Ion Storm party there was
a preview showing of the much-touted, and as-yet unfinished Ranger
Gone Bad 3. There were also cool seminars led by the likes of John
Carmack, Paul Steed, Zanshin of the GLQuake
Dojo, and Zoid & Morbid talked about QuakeWorld,
as well as some others.
Until next time . . .
For the record, I really enjoyed both QuakeCon and M3. I just thought
the differences between the two events were interesting (hence this article).
Somewhere in between the two events lies Quake heaven. I guess we'll have
to commit ourselves to the onerous task of having another LAN party, and
another, and another . . . until we get it right - and even if we never
do we'll have a lot of fun trying!
Finances and time willing, I'll see you at the next LAN party.
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