PC Gamer Issue 040 (February 1997)(uk)


Taken from PC Gamer [UK] Issue 040.pdf (thanks to KiwiArcader, http://www.oldgamemags.com/index.php?title=PC_Gamer_UK_Issue_040 )


Quaking with pleasure

Internet gaming too a new twist recently, and the prayers of thousands of hardened Quake-heads were answered, when the long-awaited QuakeWorld finally appeared for download from the Net. For those of you who have been lying in a ditch for the past few months, permit us to explain. QuakeWorld is a Quake add-on for Windows 95 that greatly enhances the game's Internet play capabilities, making deathmatching across the Net one whole load easier and faster than it has been up until now. Although the Internet code was in place at the time of Quake's original release, making a Net deathmatch reasonably straightforward, anyone who has tried it will have soon discovered that unless you were very lucky (and by that we mean you had a fast modem hooked up to a fast Internet provider, and then managed to find a server that was running at a reasonable pace) the best sort of game you could hope for was one with a lag time of under a couple of seconds (i.e. when you fired your gun, it actually fired on screen within a couple of seconds of your doing it).

The trouble with Quake, from an internet standpoint, was that the Internet code wasn't optimised for the average player. Rather, the Id guys, and John Carmack in particular, based the Net code on their own network, which meant that you'd be okay if you had a network connection yourself, but for playing over anything less you'd end up sacrificing an awful lot in terms of playability. Id quickly realised their mistake, went back to work on the Internet code and at the same time brought in some of the more popular features of deathmatches, such as changeable skins and Capture The Flag (a more noble variant of teamplay where you have to grab the opposing team's flag and return it to your own base, adopted a popular server-finding program called Qspy to act as a Windows 95 front end, and finally in mid-December launched QuakeWorld as an unsupported product. It's free, but if you run into problems, don't go crying to Id.

If you've played Internet Quake before, then you'll find QuakeWorld improves the game no end. Its optimised code reduces latency (the inevitable delays you encounter when attempting anything over the Internet), and even then if things are still too slow for you, you'll find a handy command called PUSHLATENCY, which acts as a Quake equivalent of Mystic Meg, taking into account your lag time and compensating for it by predicting where all the other players should be. It's by no means perfect (sudden unexpected movements on the part of the other players mean that they'll appear to teleport from one place to another as your PC puts them back on the right track), but it's a clever way of getting round an otherwise unavoidable problem. And rather than having to spend ages hunting for a decent server, with QuakeWorld you simply connect to a Master server, which stores your user number and calculates player ratings for those all-important league tables of QuakeMeisters, and then link to your chosen server from there.

Unfortunately, QuakeWorld's popularity has almost proved its undoing. Just after it was released, Id's Master server was registering four logins every second, and within a few hours it died under the straing and has so far not been resuscitated. New Master servers quickly sprang up, the best being operated by Clan RevCo, but even at the time of writing there are still teething troubles as bugs are ironed out. Thankfully the demand for a non-American Master has been answered, with the setting up of a UK server, but because you need to register separately with every Master and keep track of a string of user numbers, we'll be happy when Id finally get their act together and being their own server back to life.

These initial difficulties aside, when you finally get everything sorted out and delve into the QuakeWorld, you find that it's definitely been worth waiting for. The combat is faster and smoother with less likelihood of getting shot to pieces as you struggle to keep control over an unhealthy lag time, and it's a lot prettier thanks to player skins being supported as standard. No, it's still not as good as playing over a dedicated network, but if all you have to hand is a modem, then it's certainly the next best thing.

We've included QuakeWorld on this month's PC GAMER.