Name: Nestor Den Vlaemscher
Part 1 here
In the next few months I kept getting better and better but something far more interesting was lurking around the corner. The first true definition of an online gaming community was forming. The same people would appear on the same servers and it didn't take long before your mind started to wrap an idea around the concept of a virtual family. Sure, just like a real family you had some really obnoxious uncles running around on your party. Didn't really matter, family is family we thought and secretly you cherished the diversity of characters. I mean, what a boring place it would be if we all act, feel and speak the same way, right?
With that sense of community there was a sudden boom of clans. The early clans at that time were quite simply nothing more than a bunch of people & friends that wanted to play together, or at least simulate the very idea of sticking together and improving each other along the way. Of course competing and kicking other clans asses had a nice ring to it as well so challenges were thrown around quite often. You could say in a way online rivalry and competition was born in 1996 and matured rapidly in 1997 thanks to Quake. Clans to me sounded very exotic but oh so appealing. Side note : I still think using the word 'Clan' was a genius decision. It just sounded way more cooler than 'team' and for some reason it fitted the cyberworld perfectly. We were online warriors in a clan. A brotherhood of elite gamers . A blood pact signed between the hardcore to play quake, together, forever. Not just pc gaming kids in a group ... I mean how lame sounding is that??
So this clan thing sure did sound interesting to me and while I enjoyed quake tremendously I admit there was little bit that feeling of isolation. Fragging as the bad ass lone wolf has a nice catch to it but ultimately wolves are pack animals and so was I. Little did I know it would become very hard for me the find a pack I'd love.
I'm really a social guy, or rather I like to hang out with people so a clan sounded like the best thing out there. Building up virtual social relationship with fellow quakers, what is not to like about it? A logical dilemma appeared : how does one go about that? Do I join one or do I create one? Creating one sure sounded like great fun but I didn't have the slightest idea of team tactics or team experience so naturally I felt this was not going to end well, as a result I was set on finding a clan and joining one. At the age of 13-14 the only thing that was important for me is really simple : it needed to have an awesome and cool sounding name! Whatever, judge me all you want but building simplicity in my way of decision making appeared to be a great skill later in life, for example, at age 16 the simplicity just changed to 'blonde and big boobs' and I was all set, or maybe not because I ended up with a brunette, initially ...
There was a small problem though, I was constantly playing on the same Dutch servers and I was not even aware of a Belgian community silently forming without me knowing about it. Back then people kinda sticked to 'their' server but there was also a good reason for that as typically it was the server which granted you the best connection and provided the best map pool. For that specific reason I also sticked to the same Dutch servers and thanks to my skill I ended up joining a few dutch clans over the next few weeks/months. I mean most of these clans were FFA clans and the only purpose was to dominate the servers with a bunch of people and end on top of the playerlist - or at least try to. Most of these clans disbanded quickly or didn't really play any teamwars. It was all ok for me, just like this entire thing was new for me it was also new for them. It was a learning curve for all of us. PS. Just a note here : teamspeak and other voice tools did not even exist back then so communication was done via the serverchat and in a later stage via IRC.
Before we continue on describing the first pillar of a gaming community I would like to highlight another important aspect of quake here. While quakeworld was rapidly developing and replacing netquake in EU some other nice things were happening. The guys at id Software already decided earlier on with Doom that ultimately your game shines or dies with the community so providing the possibility to have your game modded and 'hacked' was stimulated by id Software. Result? A shitload of awesome mods were released to the gaming community. Essentially you had two kinds of mods : The total conversions and the normal mods altering something in the original quake. The total conversions were really changing everything in quake : The guns, the scenery, enemy models, etc. For example : I still remember me playing Star Wars quake (there was even a map with an AT-T, you needed the grappling hook for that), Paintball Quake, etc. One might ask - Great dude but why do you mention this? Well, how do you think CTF, Rocket arena, and Team Fortress exist in nowadays landscape? ;) Feel free to add it to the list of accomplishments that your grandfather was responsible for.
So back to this blonde and big boobs, errr clan thing. If remember correctly I played my first ever war with a clan -which I don't recall the exact name of anymore- were one of the members was called like a certain Roman emperor : Caligula. If I really need to venture a guess here I think the clan tag was 'ICE'. Caligula, ff you would ever read this : back then you owned the shit out of me! Now while I managed to be in a clan and started to build up some first virtual relationships I was still not aware on how this quake community was truly spreading all over the globe. I just kept fragging around on FFA servers and did so for a few months, I was happy as a camper (pun intended) and it's safe to say the first signs of gaming addiction were on the horizon. Keep in mind I was on boarding school but from Friday to Sunday I played ridiculously long, don't even get me started on holidays. How was that possible? Well, I was one of these kids with a PC in his own room in 1997. I was spoiled, nowadays it's common but back then I was really an exception among my friends. Yeah, I was one of the coolest nerds on the playground..
But what was the first real sign? Well, I'd say my mother receiving a telephone bill worth a nice month salary cascading down to her cutting the 'telephony cable' in full rage mode with a scissor is a good start. End result? Me crying like the 5 year old Unholy that just received a slap on the face for spoiling chocolate milk on a brand new white carpet. (sadly also a memory) Once they figured out that this is not normal usage for a scissor some new rules were established. I was now limited to X amount of game time per day and if my grades dropped they would even stop coughing up the dough for the internet. You couldn't tell from my behavior but at least my parents were responsible buggers. Ironically it made me even better as I was more focused during my game time. Didn't help for the overall addiction though, most of my free time I was drawing out map layouts on paper, thinking of my next moves and theorizing on how I should improve. I was playing, living and dreaming Quake during these days.
Quakeworld BE Community
As months were passing by I learned about some Belgian servers but I had this very weird plan in my mind. I want to join these Belgian servers only to come out on top and I wanted everyone to think 'who the fuck is this guy and where does he come from' so I kept playing Dutch servers to polish my skills until one afternoon I joined a Belgian server for the very first time. The map was DM4 (sweet memories) and I kicked total ass, I pulverized the competition and surely thought I was the best Belgian quaker out there. Of course I was an ignorant little kid, little did I know that a clan scene already formed in Belgium and that some of them were even organizing LANS. The server that I was playing on was nothing more than another pub with average players. Still, a next mission was conjured and cooked : who/what is the Belgian gaming community and how do I join one of it's clans. I felt it was time to settle for something real and make name in the scene, I wanted to beat the top Belgian players.
So over time I explored the Belgian gaming community and I figured out -to my surprise- that were actually a lot of clans and -even bigger surprise- they had quite good players. Some of them even much better than me!
During this awesome period I learned of clans such as Linkwars (Uberfrag, Darkhold,Loeke, Thorn, ..), Frenzy (Venom and co), Dimension X (quite possible one of the oldest BE clans out there, still exists today - well done guys!), Batida Swing, Vendetta (Seti), Dominion (Matrix, Chainsaw, ..) Gods of Hellfire and many many others. A sad personal record for me is that I joined/left most of them, some because they lacked the skill I was looking for, others because I guess I had a hard time finding a true home. Even sadder is that it probably made me the first official clanwhore of Belgium, but more on that later on.
Also across EU a lot of great and even legendary clans were up to the challenge during 1997. In the Netherlands we had Allied Campus Quakers [ACQ], a bunch of university quakers leeching of the campus T1 with the evil Zandaa-Ji (more on him later) and Dutch Deathmatch Alliance (DDA). These two were on top of the game but generally the Dutch had a lot of skilled clans : Firing Squad, Foot Soldiers, SUX and many others. In Germany you had Schroet Kommando (SK), Ocrana (OCR) and Braindead (BD) owning up the place. In the UK you had Demonic Core and the Lords kicking ass. But truly a special scene is and was always the Nordics, the amount of top players and clans that this region generated was just staggering (what the hell is in the air there?). Clan 9 was just mythical and there wasn't a single clan out there who didn't put them on a pedestal.
Slipgate back to Belgium : So Linkwars was considered the best clan of that era and naturally I wanted to be a part of that group. Happy to report that I succeeded in this. Linkwars was quite possible the only team I really really liked and it was also the first clan ever that I accompanied to a LAN. : Global Wars. So by the time I got a lot better and was a member of Linkwars I picked up a lot skills, experience and knowledge of the game. I mean, the BE community was my new home and family but we all knew that the true 'pro' scene existed in central and northern Europe (Germany, Uk, Scandinavia) and demos of top level players were flooding the internet. Keep in mind, we're still talking modem days so downloading a demo was sometimes a days adventure adding up to the telephone bills again (trauma of scissors imminent).
Anyway, next to watching team demos I learned about the duel mode and I was mesmerized and enchanted by players who ultimately would become my quake heroes. Quake gods such as Lakerman, Kane, Sniket, Sectopod, Sujoy and many many more were dominating the scene. Not only did they dominate, they played the maps in such a way that I didn't even thought of in the first place. Truly talented guys. Of course all these bastards had the advantage of a great connection and a far bigger and skilled player base. Curve wise they went up the curve much quicker than we did but still, we were tiny compared to these guys. Watching 1n1 demo's created this idea for me that I wanted to do that as well. The thrill of beating another player in direct combat just sounds appealing, if I would let anyone down it would only be myself and not an entire team. Less responsibilities to worry about provided me clearer gameplay and I started to excel in this mode.
See - I do enjoy teamplay a lot but I was never the best teamplayer (nor dueller, but ok these are my memoirs. I have the right to picture myself better here) as I always had some trouble to focus on all the shit that was going on. I mean Quake was already a very fast and hectic game but now you needed to watch out for not instagibbing teammembers, there was a need of protecting certain areas instead of wandering around, you had the constant flood of teammessages and on LAN people were constantly shouting around to each other. It messed up my focus level and most often I had a hard time getting truly into the zone. I did reasonably well though but I knew duels were going to be a more rewarding experience.
Global Wars was the first lan I ever visited, it was in a relatively small location in -if I recall correctly- Aarschot. For some reason Aarschot was the birthplace of a lot of good and dedicated Belgian quake players but god only knows why. Fun fact : if you would translate Aarschot in English and with some imagination you'll end up with 'Assbang'. You could say I visited an Assbanging LAN that weekend - however you want to interpret that one...
This was a complete new experience for me. Picture a skinny 14 year old hauling his PC (OK) and heavy monitor (less OK) to a table, setting it up and plugging in the network cables with sweaty hands and you get it. This was already quite the adventure but man, these low pings of 15 MS were fucking awesome. Technically, I actually needed to adjust my rate setting to enjoy it the most and as HPB I really needed to adjust one hour to these low pings. Remember, in 1997 when playing online with 120MS you build in a certain compensation for your latency, you learn to play and coop with that and anticipation is an import asset. With the lower pings I needed to adjust that compensation and get used to it. Another complete new thing was to socialize with all these strangers that I called my clanmates. Shit, talking to them in cyberspace seemed easy but I just realized these guys are complete strangers to me. Did I also mention that all other linkwars members were on average 4 to 5 years older than me? So as most youngster do on their first LAN, they keep quiet and learn as much as possible. At 14 you lack the necessary social experience and skills to build up a friendly relationship with 19 year olds and I didn't want to come over as 'that' kid.
That LAN I also pulled my first all nighter and by the end of the weekend I was sleeping on my keyboard. Back on the way home everything was a blur and once I finally reached my bed it felt like a majestic golden palace of fluff. During the LAN I played a lot of semi-official duels and if I'm not mistaken I actually won from some 'established' names like Venom, Uberfrag, Fragtykoen etc so in a way I established myself as one of the best in Belgium. I was particular good in DM6, a map that was highly build around prediction and enemy awareness - two things that served a HPB good on the internet and an LPB even better on the LAN. Later on I would also become good on DM4 when practicing with Despo aka Desperado. One of the guys that I would form an own clan with later in time.
I went to multiple LANS during that time but another one really stands out, while I forgot the name I remember that the famous Dutch clan ACQ was also attending. By this time I was quite known in the BE scene and people respected my skills. It's even safe to say I was one of the better duellers at the time so a chance to compete against these Dutch guys on a LAN sounded awesome. All went well as I continued to beat a lot of players but I learned a valuable lesson when I lost from ACQ.Zandaa-Ji. I ended up losing on DM6 and at one point I was yelling not so nice things across the room. While I don't remember the exact words it was something like 'stop running away you f*!@$ coward', see Zandaa-Ji was one of the first players I encountered that was not afraid of +backing and running away when leading with 3 frags. I was totaly unprepared for this and my tactics for this type of gameplay were non existing. After that game I was a bit devastated that people even dared to do that in quake! Quake is full-on fragging and facing eachother in the heat of the batlle, right? Wrong, I think anno 2016 it's proven that tactics -no matter if frowned upon- can equally win you games as aim can.
Anyways, fuck you Zandaa-ji, you Dutch +back pussy! :P. But also thank you, because I must did something really good as I was actually invited to join ACQ. A feat that was a big thing back then, a Belgian young kid joining the almighty Allied Campus Quakers? Amazing ... for a month, because that's how long it lasted. Truth is I never liked it in a Dutch team. Their mentality and way of interacting was just too far off from my mentality. I immediately felt a little bit 'homesick' and ended up going back to one of the BE clans. Nothing against the Dutch however, as I grew older and more socially capable that problem went away and I started to appreciate them much more.
In any case, around this time a few bad personal mentality problems slowly surfaced the horizon ..
Before we move over to my mental instability (overreacting, keep your pants on) a few other quake facts. In 1997 the ultimate Quake hero stood up, his name? Thresh. This guy managed to beat the competition in an event that won him John Carmacks turbocharged Ferrari, not bad for a payout in 1997 eeh? Needless to say he was instantly famous, this kid was playing PC games and won a ferrari? Other people work their entire life and end up with a small French car, and we all know these are the worst. In quake history Thresh would become one of the pioneers in progaming and dominated the NA Q1 scene and later on the Q2 scene. Now I specifically said the NA scene because for some idiotic reason the NA scene sticked to Netquake instead of Quakeworld, meanwhile the Europeans were rapidly evolving and learning new tricks and tips in QW. Stuff that the Americans lacked in Netquake. Thresh was part of the famous clan Deathrow and at certain point their clan was invited to Sweden to battle that other famous EU clan : Clan 9. Quake biggest showdown in history led to Clan 9 beating the living shit out Deathrow. Games were played in Netquake and Quakeworld for fairness but Clan 9 was even winning the majority of netquake games. This was not only due to aim but due to Clan 9 knowing the game mechanics inside out, they bunnyhopped circles around everyone & exploited game bugs while Deathrow appeared dated, out of shape and out of luck.
Community wise a lot of things were also happening. You had the natural evolution of newly formed clans while other got disbanded. Players moved from one clan to the other but in general I can say most Belgians sticked to their group and it was a quite stable community. With a community you also need a good online medium so multiple initiatives grew amongst the years. From Linkwars to Shrimpwars, Fragland and various other BE community sites to clansites and individuals sharing their information. Internationally there were a lot of famous leagues and cups started, some of these still lasted well into 2005 onwards. Gaming wise people continued to frag away.
Unfortunately some very evil spirits were lurking behind the corner and tried to cut down our precious playerbase...
Edited by Unho at 11:03 CST, 7 March 2016 - 3432 Hits