I was 10 years old when I played an id Software game for the first time. It was the time when my oldest brother and his friends would skip school to come home and play Doom. I would sit next to them and watch, possibly even more excited than they were. The game was so fresh, beautiful and scaring at the same time. And I was there, feeling as cool as a kid could ever feel, as I was sharing those precious moments with my 18 years old brother and his friends. At the age of 12 I created my first WAD using the Doom Construction Kit. I spent hours making horrible levels with invisible poison in the center of the rooms and where one would have to hit every single shot in order to kill all the monsters. At the time I was a regular kid, going to the secondary school, but I would know by hearth all multiples of 8 up to 384, as I would not realize there were automatic tools to create stairs. I was 13 when during the Christmas vacation, with the snow outside and a warm fireplace as main source of heat for our old house, we got a second computer at home. The real deal was that, we could hook the two PC up with a direct link cable enabling Doom deathmatch and coop modes. That was the most awesome gaming experience I could think of. I would quickly learn that, despite being the youngest of all my brothers, in that game I could beat them all.
Coming to Quakecon 2012, I realized how much of my life has been influenced by id Software's games. If doom has definitely branded me with fire as a child, Quake has more and more become a central part of my life today. The list of memories that have rose to the surface these past few days could go on forever. And it's not just my memories, but the one of all who came to this event, some of them for the x-th time, people who grew up playing id's games, modding them, discussing and sharing experience about them.
What is Quakecon?
The first thing I learned about Quakecon is that this is not an id Software's event. I've been to some events, like the IEM ones, where the brand behind the event is clearly pushing the organization to get a certain visibility and standards to promote itself. If you come to Quakecon, the only thing you see promoted is Quakecon itself, plus a number of minor things. Of course, id Software is a big guest and sponsor, its characters playing key roles throughout the event. However, Quakecon is conceived, made, and run by a group of people that volunteer because they want to be part of Quakecon. This has a number of implications.
First, for many of these people Quakecon has become the chance to see a special group of friends. Working hard with someone - some of these people work really
hard - and reaching a common goal is one of the best way to bind with somebody. If you approached the volunteers, talked with them, and listened as they spoke with each other, this observation comes very natural. People travel together, work together, hang out together. Today, after the event would close, I saw so many friends saying each other goodbye, and that's something that cannot leave one's heart untouched.
Second, as it always happens with volunteers run events, competence is welcome, but dedication and passion are the true essence of the staff. In a purely pragmatic view, this is suboptimal and may create inconveniences. If you think in terms of business, an employer usually tries to find the best employees possible, and may fire an employee if certain professional standards are not met. In a volunteer setting, however, replacing somebody is harder. On the one hand, it is less granted that someone else who is better at that job can be found, and on the other hand, one has to deal with the problem of telling to someone who did his or her best (asking nothing in return) to move on as the performance is not good enough.
The result is that instead of a perfectly oiled mechanism of cold steel, a group of volunteers forms a colorful tribe where the value is not just in the work that gets done, but also in the people who do it.
(Photo by Owen "O1kenobi" Long)
While I won't iterate over the extensively discussed stream issues (I think this thread
is a good summary of people feeling about the event as it was perceived from home), a topic that is worth exploring is what the priorities of Quakecon are, and as a consequence how much we - as ESR home viewer - count for such an event.
I can fairly say that the primary goal of Quakecon is to care about the people who show up to the event. The players are part of them. If you were to come here and check, you would see that the tournaments are run pretty smoothly, and the admins are very accommodating, even when players show up late and so on. Care is taken of the general public as well. While throwing t-shirts and gadgets and asking people to swing bananas onto oranges may not exactly be the highest expression of human intelligence, it works at entertaining the general public. Giving out a 60k car to a lucky winner goes along the lines. Online, the general audience comes also first. That is why, given the presence of a single stream, a keynote is preferred over some tournament matches.
For all these points, there are problems associated that hit us directly in the face. And of course, there are possible solutions. Dreamhack's admins have often done an impeccable job, with tournaments that would run smoothly both for the players and the viewers. Using multiple streams would allow to avoid conflicts, and with some careful planning, one could create a stream for the hardcore guys where Quake and only Quake is shown, and a general one for all the rest, where if one wants to see swinging bananas, a technical keynote, and a tournament final, he or she is welcome to stay tuned.
The real question is how can this happen. And the answer is simple: it's all about the people stepping up. Whining brings nothing, as in the eyes of the volunteers who spend a lot of energy into Quakecon, we count zero. A catch phrase could be "Quakecon owes us nothing". What can be done however is for the NA scene to step up and say "next Quakecon I will be there as volunteer and will try to do things right". Of course one will have to work with the people who are already in, and possibly convince them of the importance of certain things, but my experience is that dedication and initiative - although not coming for free - can open many doors.
The path of Sam
This event was special for me personally because for the first time I planned to practice seriously and try my best in the open cup. This exposed me to all sorts of new experiences. I realized how hard this actually is. While indeed I played more than I usually do, this was far from the "full immersion" I was hoping for. I learned that - at least with my job - one cannot really take vacation without actually going away from home. I learned that finding opponents is not necessarily easy depending on what maps you want to play. I realized how little stamina I have to keep practicing for multiple hours, and how important it is to just play when your mind is fresh and rested. In the end I probably put together a couple of days of intense practice, out of the three weeks I was home, finishing my thesis and supposedly train to become the next pony-tailed hero, after Guybrush Threepwood and Noctis.
Here I want to be totally honest with you, even if I am far from proud of what happened. The thing is, you may have a laugh, or even benefit from my failure.
I've played many times in LAN, and it has always been awesome. The game is just a much better game in LAN. For the first time though, I arrived at the event, I set up my stuff, and found out I was playing horribly. Originally I thought it was because of the 60hz monitors in the open tournament, but retrospectively, I think it all came down to my nerves. I played a first practice game and lost without being able to time a single item, running around an hitting 20 percent shaft, and missing all my rails. I felt I was the most horrible Quaker on the planet.
The opportunity of playing the master came out (they needed a replacement) and I grabbed it as a life vest in the middle of the ocean. I wanted the 120hz monitors, I wanted to sit with the people I knew, but most of all, I wanted to get my peace of mind back. And I knew that playing in the master, with no chance to do anything, would give me that. While it worked - I could finally execute things right in game - I think this was my first LAN failure. The tournament itself counts to some degree, but what I was really interested was to see how well I could handle my emotions. And well, trying to go serious (as silly as it sounds, considering it was an amateur tournament) crushed me.
LANs are just better when team modes are involved. A wider spectrum of players is present, creating quite some variety in the otherwise static hierarchy of duelers. The nature of playing in team brings emotions out from the start, as one has to communicate to play effectively and is keen to share the joy of a victory after the match. This helps breaking the ice with the rest of the participants and improves the overall atmosphere. As spectator, I found myself enjoying CTF quite a lot, probably more than I would have with TDM. The flags just give that clear top-level perspective to base the story of the game, with powerups, weapons, and roles as interesting elements added to the equation, highlighted every now and then.
Duel remains incredible for the emotional connection to the two players. Despite the little European attendance, I really enjoyed the tournament. The highlights have definitely been the semi-finals on Thursday and the Grand Final on Saturday.
The semis were played late in the evening, after the rest of the area was closed and silent. It totally reminded me of the Rapha-Cooller group match at IEM4 in Hannover. There is just something magical in watching such games. The dim lights, the total silence, a small dedicated crowd gathered around the players PCs, all eyes looking at the monitors.
The finals on stage were quite a surprise. At previous events I would always have the feeling that most people in the crowd were there not just for other games, but for totally different types of games. Their appreciation for a fast FPS like quake would then be quite limited. The impression here was that people would have actually played FPS at some point of their life, and in quite some cases that would be Quake. The result was something I've never seen before. This is what Quake finals should always be.
There are a few take home message from this trip.
The first is that Quake is freaking hard. I was watching the duel open finals, and thinking to myself "these guys play better than I do - I know as I lost a few practice games against them - and yet I see so many mistakes". This was quite interesting because I'm mostly used to watch the pros, who not only do very few mistakes, but have such an awareness in game that the advantage of being an omniscient spectator is sometimes negligible.This however is positive. It means that - at lower skill levels - the path to improve is right there to be seen, if someone is willing to take it.
The second is that what matters in the end is the people. On paper this trip would be a bad deal. It did cost me quite some money, I was annihilated in the master tournament, and I did not reach the goals I set to myself before going. Yet, the people I met, the time I spent with them, and the things I learned, made this one of the best events I've been to.
Going forward, a big question is what is going to happen next. I'm not so much worried about QL online - at least in EU - as I think that organizing weekly cups with some highlights every couple of months is not outside the reach of our community. I'm very curious about the Adroits LAN, to understand if that type of LAN is viable, and whether we can move toward having more events like that.
As for big events, with enough money to get the pros flying oversea, the engine has definitely slowed down. Quake however has shown many times that the game has an unbreakable nature. Many years have past since Zero4 and czm were at their peak, and yet they were both here at this Quakecon and competed in the master. Who knows what will happen when the next burst of esport is injected in our beloved game.