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Prydon   2 comments
I've been browsing some Quake related sites lately (i.e. even more then before) and I've come across a few interesting ones. I may or may not be putting up a few links here.
The first one at least will be this: Prydon Gate. It's an (still unfinished) mod, turning Quake into some sort of Ultima clone. Nicely done.

3 years of Challenge   2 comments

That's actually my second ever update right there (the date doesn't show correctly, it really should be 9 december 1999). The first one is too silly to mention. I never did get around to introducing the Belgian Quake scene, but it just became easier over the years: this is all that's left to know!

QW devellops (?)   52 comments
I usually am not expecting too much when installing some new software and games in particular, but yesterday I was really dissapointed nevertheless. In fact, the last time I was really dissapointed must have been with the first Q3 test release, after the game had been hyped as the next big thing for half a year or longer. Yesterday, that feeling met its match when I downloaded and tried MQW for the first time.

Of course, I didn't read the readme or any other documentation that might have been present, but who does anyway. Also, last time I checked any messageboard, MQW was supposed to enhance the QW experience big time and attract hordes of new players. Opening the readme thus shouldn't be strictly necessary I'ld expect.
Since none of my server binds would work, I hoped the server browser could get me in a game quickly. I couldn't get the server browser to work. So I tried to remember a server name and type con[TAB] in the console, which somehow doesn't work as it used to (and the way it does in any FPS I remember). There must be some neat new ways of using cursor or tab keys in the console, I guess, but I couldn't quite figure it out.
On the server, things seemed reasonably normal except for the weapon binds and skin setup, which are (obviously) different from the Qizmo setup. That would take a few hours to sort out; the controls menu hasn't been improved so it will require manual tweaking. Quake 3 or even CS allow to bind specific weapons through the menu, if I'm not mistaken.
Worst of all though; my PC locked when I quit the program. I think I have a GForce2; not the most recent hardware, but pretty decent; something a typical newbie/TFC/Q3 player would also have installed, I'ld wager.
In short, is MQW the great newbie-enabler for QW? I don't think so. Which is pretty bad, because that is the most used (typically only) argument for people insisting on its use in leagues.
Besides the supposedly new players issue, there are more reasons for dissapointent. The whole point of changing over to a different client would be that it would be an evolving project, with continuous tweaking. But it seems the source code was finally released when the programmer didn't have the time to continue work anyway.

Yeah I know; I'm not being fair, am I? I've always had a bit of bias against this particular client and how it was develloped, but that's not something I have been solely responsible for if at all.
I'm much more dissapointed in the way the QW players haven't been able to set up a decent, standardised client. Initially, I was pretty sure we could do better then those Q3 players, who never could agree on Promode. Apparently the QW players are just as bad at getting their act together. We've had access to the source code for something like 2 years now, and this is how far we've come?
It's also pretty sad how people have been using all the wrong arguments (unavailability of source code, newbie friendliness) to promote this particular project over others. Had they devoted some time elsewhere, we might be better of today.

I guess I too will now have to move to GL for the transparent teleporters with the fullbright skins and keep up with the wall bugs and whatnot. Basically I'll switch because I have too, not because I particularly like the new client, much like I had to change proxies a few times over the years to adapt to changing league rules mainly.

P.S.: I tried again, using -dibonly as a command line parameter. That seems to solve the black screen PC dead problem, but somehow my desktop now ends up with only the top left icons visible.

GOH 5 Year Anniversary Event   4 comments
The GOH today announced that it turned 5 last week. A LAN will be organised to celebrate this milestone in gaming history. So far, about 80% of the belgian QW players have registered. Thus, the competition format will be 2-2 single elimination, over and over and over again.

The GOH has not finallised its decission concerning the side tournament. Any game proposed by the highest bidder is under consideration for the betterment of professional gaming. (Except if it has lots of crates in it. Or silly melee weapons. Or slow rockets and BFGs.)
Also, if less then the critical mass of players (2) sign up for the side-tourney, the GOH reserves the right to change its mind a few times.

SD4 issues   14 comments
The past few days and weeks, I've been following a number of discussions about what Challenge Smackdown should or shouldn't do. I haven't commented very often, but some issues were brought up several times, so I'ld like to try and give my personal view on them here.

Andy brought up some problems with the rules in a messageboard post. Besides some suggestions for improvements for server settings, he thinks that, in general, the rules have to be corrected and are a "boring read" (his quotes). I don't agree with the need to be corrected bit (the rules were updated, although too late in the season), but I can sympathise with the boring part. When we set up the rules, we wanted to include as much as possible to avoid conflicts during the season between teams and/or admins. Over the seasons, we also stayed on the look-out for recurring problems and usually ended up tweaking or adding a rule. We thus have a fairly complete ruleset, covering most contingencies (check the 'During the game' section for an example). I still think such an extensive set of guidlines is a good thing and players can only benefit from actually reading and understanding them. Hoping to remove a few inconsistencies, I have rewritten a few portions of the text though.

A pretty important issue is the map selection and the system in which they are used. Several options are available for the map system. DeCL, Clanbase or NQR allow(ed) any map. If my memory serves me well, UKCL used to have map of the week system, where each week teams were forced to play a different map. The maps there included many non-id levels. Villains had the 3 map system, where all games were decided on DM2, DM3 and E1M2 (or 3 times the same map).
From the start, the Challenge Smackdown team liked the system used by Villains: each game was won or lost; no possibility of a draw. Yet, we also felt that having only 3 maps was pretty limiting. To maintain the Villains win or lose sytem, the only option we could come up with, was to have an odd number of equally valued maps. 7 maps or over seemed like a lot to throw at everyone from the start, so we compromised on 5 maps. We liked how it turned out most of the time, so that system stuck. Several people have reasoned that we should not only have the map selection itself but also the whole map system up for vote. I think in general, voting on league issues is not the great idea it seems at first. Afterall, admins do have to somewhat like the league they are setting up and if there'ld be a vote on everything in all leagues, wouldn't all leagues be pretty much identical?

An often heard suggestion is that Challenge Smackdown should only be for the 'top' teams. When we first started, it was quite impossible to pick the 'appropriate teams' since there hadn't been an online competition in quite a while (in Europe, Villains was already over a few months although the final was played later). Also, we never wanted to limit access to the league since we felt everyone playing QW should have a chance to participate. Having too many teams has only been an issue in the North European division and qualifiers worked pretty well there in SD3, so I don't see the need to change that.

Rather often I also read statements claiming this or that division would be better of alone. Obviously, I can only strongly disagree with this. The whole point of Challenge Smackdown was to have a worldwide league, where people played QW according to the same rules everywhere. I am also convinced that all divisions contributed considerably to the success of the others. For example, the level of coverage on news sites or interest in finals would never have been achieved by any one division on its own. I think the future of Challenge Smackdown is pretty much tied to the survival of our divisional system. In fact, similar voices have been around since the very start of Challenge Smackdown anyway.

I really hate to spend time on it again, but the client 'problem' seems to be pretty big for some. Since the beginning of Season 3, we have made it perfectly clear that Qizmo+QW 2.3 would remain the only valid combination for Challenge Smackdown for the time being. So why did people expect anything else? Beats me.
I personally have a very big problem with someone not obeying very simple and very clear rules and taking advantage of someone else generosity. I simply wouldn't want to be associated with an organisation that condones and/or encourages such behaviour. I also think QW can only lose by being associated to such devellopements. What kind of image do QW players want to project of themselves to the outside world?
It's very unfortunate that a few vocal players decided to give that particular project their support, turning it into the most popular 'alternative'. Afterall, it was pretty clear from the start that it could never be where the future of QuakeWorld lies.
For just one moment, allow me to indulge in a reverie. I imagine a LAN event with some substantial amount of cash one year from now. Several games are being played; RTCW, Quake4, Quake3. Afterall, id is sponsoring the event. I imagine a small QW competition being set up too. I imagine one client they won't be using.
Far fetched? Maybe. But I'ld like to keep it an option.

Contrary to popular believe, noone outside the main admin team had a direct influence on the decission. We didn't need players or teams to make up our minds for us, nor did any Challenge staff lean on us to try to avoid legal trouble (which I doubt there could be any).

Beyond this ethical problem, there are a few practical issues with having multiple clients. And having multiple would be unavoidable since none of them are generally accepted or are even acceptedby a large majority of the players.
For one, admins would have to master 2 types of checks. Preferably, they should also have a bit of experience with setting up all of the clients/proxies since, invariably, some of the players will not have them working properly. An admins job is hard enough having to care about servers, demos, screenshots, scores alone.
Most clients differ in a few gameplay related options. fullbrights have been brought to GL, more complex scripting is possible, etc. While it took us a few years to agree on acceptable use of QW options (unmodified PAKs, non-transparent water, ...) most of these features are still higly debated.
As a side note to that, I'ld like to add that many of these new features have been readily accepted by players using a particular client, but I wonder why exactly? Because it makes the game somehow easier for them? I always thought the complexity of QW and the extreme efforts required to master it were the main reason for the games longevity. When the next client in the line offers bright yellow triangles hovering over teammates heads, will it be embraced? Where does that lead us, I wonder.

As usual, this update has turned out much lengthier then I expected. I hope through it I have been able to convey my point of view on these issues somewhat though.

Thoughts on Challenge Smackdown 3   9 comments

As usual, the Challenge Smackdown season was filled with some positive and some not-so-positive results. Due to some 'real life' issues, I spent a lot less time following all proceedings, so the overview won't be very detailed, I'm afraid. On the bright side, that should keep this post pretty short (what is one without hope?).

Its important to realise that the third season got started in a hurry. In Australia for example, there was less then a month between the final of season 2 and the first games of season 3. While, together with the quick and massive registrations in NEU, it shows that teams were more eager then ever to participate, we were not able to really review the problems of season 2 and, e.g., didn't go through the rules to look for problems as thoroughly as we did before. This lead to a bit of trouble in the North European division with one team (Denial) not getting the ranking they expected and contributed to the fuss surounding the semi-final, but I've posted my thoughts on the latter before.
Some time ago I did take the time to take a fresh look at our ruleset and, although the principles underlying them all still seem very sound to me, I realised that their wording or organisation doesn't help clarity in many places. For example qualifiers and map selection are mentioned in two seperate sections instead of getting a thorough discussion in a single paragraph. And the number of typos is embarrasing. Most of that is easily remedied though (making it even worse that we didn't do it before, of course).

The rush into season 3 was caused by the possibility of having a LAN final in Europe. Apollyon got in touch with Griff of CPL-Europe (aka Griff of SK, brother of Kane) and discussed having the finals on a LAN in Paris. Unfortunately, as we know now, the Paris event got cancelled a few weeks after all practical issues were agreed upon. If anything, it shows LAN finals aren't all that far fetched (within Europe at least). We would still have to find a means to pay for travel of course, but then again, the QHLan showed QW players are mad enough to travel large distances on their own. I still think a few people seperate from the league admins would be needed to help out with finding sponsors though; Apo put in loads of time.

Our backoffice is now working pretty well. While the design of the website stayed identical (logo and all) to that of season 2, I still think its functional. Some more overviews of matches to come or a clearer way of presenting the ranking, especially in play-offs would be welcome, but aren't entierly essential (i.e. are low priority). The main problem was another move of the Challenge Network, putting us out of bussiness for a week or two and causing trouble with demo uploads. While we are getting the hang of it by now, I do hope this was the last move for a long time to come.

Coverage on the sites was pretty good; at least comparable to previous seasons. I've seen quite a few previews and predictions scattered among the news and columns of all divisions. Where we miserably failed was in getting the news out to other websites. While the numbers don't really matter, it's pretty impressive to be on a Qizmo watching a game live together with a few hundred others. To the players too, I believe it gives a nice form of recognition. I think we are to shy and should mail more announcements of our upcomming events around. In the second season we actually appointed a 'PR' person in each division, but even during that season, most of them apparently lost interest after sending out the announcement of the registrations. Somehow I think there must be a few people around who get a kick out of seeing their prose splattered across the major 'e-sports' sites on a weekly basis. We just haven't managed to find them yet.

To me, the most shocking event probably was the end of the South European division. The main reason for the demise of this division was the lack of admins and/or their unreliable connections. Apparently people can be forced ofline for weeks on end without any notice; reminiscent of situations we had here (more northerly) five years or longer ago.

While I wouldn't be any happier if any of the other divisions had collapsed instead (technically Brazil never got beyond season 2), I am especially disapointed that the SEU division was the victim.
First of all, this was the original Challenge Smackdown division; in fact it existed before Challenge Smackdown in any shape or form did. JP_teq and Gacel were the first people I talked to about setting up a QW league outside of some Challenge staff.
Furthermore, my team GOH played in the South European division during the first season. The players in the division were generally relaxed and friendly and put up with outrageous pings without any whining. Many others would do good to keep that in mind as an example.
Lastly, Gacel, instigator of Challenge Smackdown, SEU division admin for the first season, and who programmed our backoffice in very short notice (in about a week time) is a terrific guy and totally mad about QW. I hope he won't feel his efforts have been wasted now.

The CD we released with the Season 2 results and demos (and more) was a moderate succes. I think by now we actually sold some 20 pieces. While it was an interesting and fun experience to coordinate the efforts to get it done quickly (between Hoony and me), it took way too much time to produce. With the hosting of the Challenge Network now more secure, the need isn't as big anymore and I won't be releasing a CD for season 3. Incidentally, the money we gathered was well spent on a new harddisk for the server. Hoony and Dethkultur are still paying quite a few things out of their own pockets (e.g. our domain), so orders or contributions remain welcome.

That about sums up my thoughts on the last season of Challenge Smackdown at this moment (I'm sure I'll think of something else to add in 2 hours and again tomorrow and the day after). There is no decission about the future of the league, and there won't be for at least another month. In the meanwhile, I'll do some maintenance of the site (e.g. adding the archives) and improve our backoffice in a few areas. I'ld really like to get that 'Smackdown Client' project going again, and quite possibly I'll finally give that a decent try. This other online-gaming related thing I was talking about in my previous update will just have to wait. I'll probably end up just spelling out the idea and hope somebody else runs with it, although that hasn't worked for the client either.

I`m back.   7 comments
I've been away for a while and have now had a few days to get back in touch with the recent happenings in the Quake world.

In fact I must admit, I've taken a bit of extra time to consider the North European semi-final situation before venting my opinion. Had I been around, I could probably have helped clear a few things up, since some of the -moslty imaginary- problems were caused by the evolution of the backoffice in recent months. For example: remember when we reverted the procedure for map selection to a simpeler version? That's when I removed the decider map field from the game schedule page. (Incidentally we also made it perfectly clear that if trouble would occur, we would go back to the more involved procedure).
Appolyons decision might have been harsh, but it was within the rules and his authority and, as far as I understand, not uncalled for. That he was able to revise his decission later only confirms his selfless dedication to the league and the players. (Not that I needed any more evidence to be convinced of that in the first place though.) Instead of regurgitating IRC-logs and drafting immeasurable lengths of pointless prose, some peoples time would have been better spent reading (and, for a change, understandig) the competitions rules, or trying to properly word badly needed apologies.
Let's try to make the final turn out better, and with the efforts by the NEU admin team over the past few days I'm pretty confident it will. If we do have another season, I can only hope that those who have no basic trust in or respect for the leagues organisers will contemplate that fact and refrain from registering. At least that would save us the trouble of having to draw a conclusion for them.

The North American division has ended, with AG taking the title for the 3rd time. Sadly, the lack of stable teams in the division has again resulted in many matches left unplayed but that in fact highlights the perseverance ot the admins and remaining players to bring the season to a worthy conclusion.

While being the most 'noisy' division previous seasons (i.e. filled with trouble-making, profanity slinging, Qizmo-impaired players), this time around everything went exceptionally smooth in Australia. So smooth in fact, I hardly realised the division has had so many games played. From a quick glance I'ld say 3/4 of all scheduled matches got decide without default wins; most certainly a record in any division! Congratulations to Wart, his admins and all teamsfor that! With THDM taking the title, it was great to see a 'new' team make so much progress in the game. I must admit I chuckled when I first found out a bunch of Team Fortress (and hence, obviously, newbie) players had registered for season 2. So much for QuakeWorld deathmatch being past its peak and impossible to get into for less experienced players I'ld say.

November saw a flurry of activity on the QW client coding front, as evidenced by Besmellas news archive. Hoonys story on MVD caused quite a bit of excitement. While it's obviously great that talented people like Tonik, Highlander, Sturm or Strider continue to dedicate huge chunks of their spare time to enhance QuakeWorld, I still feel it would be much more efficient to coordinate the efforts. If we want to end up with a generally accepted next generation QW-client (and server), someone will have to eventually.

In short, a lot happened last month, but nothing really changed, did it? :)
In the meanwhile, I've been thinking about some rather unrelated project I'ld like to set up for online gaming. I'll try to do an update about that soon.

Bug costs Harlsom DM2 (?)   13 comments
When I saw the end of the (pretty boring) demo of the first game of Harlsom against Fatality on DM2, I immediately got the impression 'something' was wrong. Harlsoms comment at the games end seems to indicate he too thought something was strange. After looking at the demo again, I couldn't shake the feeling that Fatality should have died in the blast that lead to Harlsoms demise. Unfortunately Fatalitys point of view is not available.(full demo on CH-TV or just the last few seconds).
KTeam history log only says:

Added "Sudden death" overtime mode. If the time is over and results are tied, game won't end while frags are equal (that is, until one player dies).
But what happens in case both players should die at the same time, by the blast of the same grenade or rocket explosion or even in a lightning gun discharge? Shouldn't the overtime just continue until another frag occurs?
I just now tested a bit a with grenades (POV1, fires; POV2) and rockets in DM4 (POV1, 5 health; POV2, 1 health, fires and POV1, 1 health, fires; POV2, 5 health). In the grenade demo, the one firing the grenade dies, with the rockets, the opponent gets killed. I guess there is a logical explanation for this behaviour in the KTeam code, but I can't find a reasoning to go along with it.
It seems like the conditions for sudden death in KTeam at least need to be better defined. Anyway, as we know now, it didn't cost Harlsom anything in the end.

QW and CPL. Oh joy.   17 comments
This will be my most uninformed update ever. Simply because there isn't much information about the alleged CPL QuakeWorld event in June yet. There are a lot of exctatic reactions however, and I can't really figure out what about. So I'll just raise a few concerns I have here, while I'm still struggling to make up my own mind.

  • Whom is the target audience composed of? Who of the newer generation of players (that started playing 3D shooters with Q2, Q3, Tribes, Unreal) owns a copy of Quake? Or how many would go out and pay real money for an ancient piece of software to participate in a LAN or to simply watch demos comming out of it?
  • Is it going to be a 1-1 tournament? I must admit I haven't watched any duel demos in probably over a year, but I think QW 1-1 lost quite a bit of its appeal due to speedjumping? (If you can point me to a good recent duel demo, I may well change my mind.) Has anyone in CPL actually seen a recent QW demo?
  • On the other hand, should it turn out to be a team event, which mod will be used? One that allows strafejuming to its fullest or rather one that gives more classical gameplay? What about the influence of the NetQuake fraction that has always been pretty strong in the US?
  • How will competitors be selected? From online leagues (which there are quite a few of, if you can find them)? Or maybe from the ranks of current CPL top players? Or even by achievement in QuakeWorlds glorious past (i.e. before Q2 hit the pro-gaming scene)?
  • How does the QuakeWorld community benefit from this? What if some of the (very few) people who actually manage to make some sort of a living off of gaming start training 24/7 and beat the 'amateur' top QW players of this moment, only to switch back to CS or go to UT or Tribes 2 depending on what the next CPL event will revolve around? Wouldn't this further deteriorate the image of QW (which is only played by people who are unable to adapt to change and can't master any of the new games)?
  • Will players be allowed to tweak their setups for greatest visibility (and extremely ugly displays) or will CPL officials enforce some standard settings that look good on camera (they did before, if I remember well)? Can fullbrights be allowed?
  • Is it going to be a single map, single elimination system? QW requires quite different skills on different maps, and I don't think even top players are great in all of them (but of course, this should be discoverd at the event).
  • How can the current QW, with its -by todays standards- ghastly appearance, hope to attract the attention of newer players? Unless people are forced to watch a QW game, most of them won't realise how exciting the game is before they turn away after 17 seconds and say "Fuck, that looks outdated.". Or is any of the new QW clients reliable enough to take over?
  • Cheating has become a really marginal problem in todays QW, but won't this change when more people are attracted by prizes being offered? CPL isn't too concerned with online gaming, but could this cause problems in the online community? What about proxies anyway?
Let it be clear that I'm not criticising CPL for even considering a QW event. I rather feel that the reactions in the QuakeWorld community, based on very little information, have been overly europhic so far. Until there is some more news about the format of the competition, the maps to be played and how they are selected, the client and mod to be used, the rules and settings of the game I won't be able to decide on my feelings.
On the bright side, it seems CPL will be open to suggestions on any or all of these issues, so it might very well turn into something good. Rejoice after all?

Client TODO   4 comments
This is the list of features I would eventually like to see in a new QW client, for use in Challenge Smackdown or other leagues.
It's not original, others and I have posted at least parts before, but this would be my first attempt at stting up a complete TODO checklist based on my personal preferences.

Compatibility and Security

  • offer better security, possibly in a seperate mode or through a proxy (client side only)
  • compatible with 2.3x; at least servers must be able to accept 2.3 client connection in regular mode
  • maintain compatibility with existing QuakeC code such that MOD's don't need extra work to still run (the original programming/design team has disolved or stopped working on the project in most of the cases)
  • new functions can be added to the QuakeC library to allow new MOD-releases to take advantage of the new possibilities offered by the engine
  • optimise network-traffic
  • forwarding proxy available
  • allow use of either original (id) game data files or of a set of free replacements
Spectator features
  • delayed transmission
  • forwarding proxy
  • server side demo can be transmitted to a designated spectator
Admin/league Features
  • votable league settings (automatically retrieve game settings from a website)
  • IRC reporting
  • possibility to send screenshots to the server or match admins for additional cheat detection
Gameplay and Teamplay
  • teamplay communication with report formats and location name depending on the receiver, rather then on the sender (e.g. show locations in players native language)
  • team reports seperated from regular chat
  • in game map of the level with position of teammates indicated, maybe including color shading (green/red) of areas reported to be safe/unsafe
  • identifieable teamskins, e.g. adding the name of the player (or even just a number)
  • improved graphics, but all new features can be disabled for lower specced computer systems or hardcore players (e.g. coloured lighting, smoke trails, ...)
  • integrated voice communication
  • include new, freely distributable maps which take advantage of the improved engine capabilities
  • include a replacement free PAK file (sounds, models, ...)
  • more configurable HUD (e.g. larger size for higher screen resolutions)

All subject to change...

P.S. some older (ancient) updates of my column are still here.

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