The QuakeWorld Chronicles
Part Three: The Coming Of Age, OR, If We Had It To Do All Over Again
by Stephen Blue" Heaslip
The Rough Road to Smooth Gameplay
The early days of QuakeWorld were the rocky experimental days. This was not an official supported release, and the rough edges showed. There were problems creating new accounts with the first versions of QSpy that contained the QuakeWorld front-end. Once this was cleared up, there were problems creating new accounts because no one anticipated the effect the mad rush to get online in QuakeWorld, and the Masters kept blowing up. In fact the only person who didn't seem to have any difficulty making QuakeWorld accounts wasn't a person at all:
The Ballad of Hecktor the Iguana
An interesting setback in the early days of QuakeWorld, was the morning that Disruptor's pet iguana, Hecktor (who lived in Dis' office), greeted him by jumping onto the keyboard of Dis' computer, which was the RevCo Master Server. Apparently Hecktor was not just sitting around all that time Dis was working, because he deftly executed the command to create 30,000 some odd user accounts. Though it was claimed that this was an accident, no one has adequately explained why, until the extra user accounts were cleaned out, the #1 ranked player on the RevCo Master was a player named Hecktor.RevCo...
Once the bugs, and lizards were worked out, we found the initial version of QuakeWorld filled the promise of smoother games. But there were downsides. For a variety of reasons, the game became less physically realistic. One of the techniques used to promote smoother gameplay is called client-side prediction. Because the client was no longer strictly waiting for updates on the game's state from the server before proceeding, it was allowed to make presumptions about the rest of the game. This caused occasional moments of disorientation as the item you were about to pick up disappeared from view because your client was updated with the information that it wasn't really there. Another disconcerting effect was the way you had a tendency to run through your opponents as if they where ghosts. To rouund out the funny physics, you could walk up even the steepest slopes (areas you formerly considered vertical walls). A new tool at the player's disposal to compensate for lag, a parameter called pushlatency, contributed further to the feeling of surreally. Pushlatency, a factor the player entered to compensate for the lag, (like a built in "lead"), allowed you to hit your targets better, but also further exaggerated QuakeWorld's tendency to make the projectiles coming from your weapon seem like they were coming from off to the side of you. If playing Quake was being in a virtual world, QuakeWorld was a little like being in a virtual world on virtual drugs.
So why bother, right? Wrong. For many players QuakeWorld was the best thing since sliced bread. Modem players who had never had a fun deathmatch on the Internet became QuakeWorld addicts. The gameplay especially for a 28.8 user on a fairly reliable ISP was much smoother, and the disastrous hopping fits that often result in a modem players lava bath were more or less eliminated. There were the problems problems described above, but there was no denying that this added a strong degree of playability that had never existed. Unfortunately, the planned revenge of all the modem players never materialized, because the low pingers for the most part stuck with Quake, where their faster connections made for smooth gameplay without the odd physics. So more than a place that put the high pingers on an even footing with the low pingers, QuakeWorld was a place where high pingers had better games with each other. There were still LPB's to be found, just like there were high pingers that stuck with regular Quake, but that was the trend.
Back to the Future
Of course, the soon the anticipation began anew. A new version, incompatible with the old one was promised, which would provide some new elements: A masterless design that allows play to occur even when the Masters are down; support for up to 32 players in a game, some new physics (or rather old ones, apparently restored from the original Quake design) where explosions are capable of propelling a player across the room; QPlug, a browser plug-in to allow one to view information on a QuakeWorld game from a web page, and join the game at the click of a mouse; and an all new ranking system.
Welcome to QuakeWorld
Which brings us to today. We're hot on the heals of the new client (version 1.50) and new server (version 1.51) release. All the promised new features are here, except the new ranking system, which is still in the works. It's early but the new version seems like a raging success. There have been growing pains, but it looks like QuakeWorld has finally come of age.