I spy something ... Quake!
Most games, you buy them, spend a few days or weeks playing them through, then stick them on a shelf next to Dostoyevsky never to be seen again. But with Quake II, once you tire of killing the computer-controlled aliens and monsters (or even before), you can log online and start killing your friends, relations and complete strangers.
If you're not familiar with Quake or Quake II, they are the latest incarnations of the first-person shoot 'em ups from id Software, following the popular Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Doom II. In these games, you control your character from within, looking out into the game through your player's eyes. The only parts of your player you see are forearms and weapons, and when you move your player, the room moves around you.
The first-person view was a novelty with Wolfenstein (based on an earlier game for the classic Apple II, Atari 800 and Commodore 64 computers called "Castle Wolfenstein," which was more traditional in that you viewed the players from the outside); what's kept the subsequent hits atop the best-sellers lists is the ability to play other people over the Internet.
Before you jump right in with your grenade launcher or chain gun, you'll need a legal copy of Quake II, plus the latest upgrade patch (to version 3.15 at last check). Other first-person games that support Internet game play include Duke Nuke'Em 3D, Hexen II and the brand-new Unreal, although multi-player on that is still kind of buggy.
To get the upgrade and learn how to play over the Internet there are several good Web sites. The best spot to start is the home site of Quake II, id Software. You can get all the latest news there, as well as links to other sites dedicated to Quake and Quake II.
Then there are the multitude of independent Quake II sites this whole thing is getting to be like Star Trek, with a zealous fan community starting to dictate to the company that actually owns the product. Among the better sites are PlanetQuake, which has links to game patches, new versions of multiplayer Quake II (like Capture the Flag, Rocket Arena and Powerball), and tips on playing better.
Also check out Quake2.com folks who create their own add-on mods often post early test or beta versions here, plus you can get add-on camouflage (skins). And if you use Linux instead of Windows, you can find support here as well. There is also an active message board with rumors, hints and news (like the ongoing controversy over the nuts who feel compelled to edit their version of Quake II to let them cheat).
So now you have everything you need to play the game, the latest upgrade, a whole closet of digital uniforms: where do you find a game? While some of the Quake sites have browser plugins or Java applets that will locate active servers for you, the best way to find a game is with a neat little $20 shareware program called GameSpy 3D. What GameSpy does is search the Internet for game servers Quake, Quake II, Hexen II and (soon) Unreal. You can sort the servers by game type (Capture the Flag, Rocket Arena, plain old DeathMatch), number of players, how many "hops" (servers) between you and that game, or ping rate (connect speed to that server, different from your modem speed). You can then build a "favorites" list of game servers you like.
If you play Quake II a lot on the 'Net, this is a pretty good investment.
Be warned, though this stuff is addictive. If you spend much time at this, you'll start to notice the same players night after night. You'll begin reading the message boards ... maybe even posting. You may design your own skins, or write a new mod. Heck, one guy even does a rather raunchy funny in a Howard Stern kind of way RealAudio talk show about Quake II.
It's probably not healthy, all this gore and killing (and no kid under 16 should be allowed anywhere near Quake or Hexen II, simply because of the violence), but it sure is a lot of fun.
© Copyright Jim Trageser
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