Live coverage of the LAN Arena 3 party from Paris, France!
Mention France, and Quake isn't the first thing that springs to mind...
Unlike say Britain, America, or Scandinavia, France isn't exactly well known for its professional gamers.
But this weekend in Paris the French are hoping to change all that.
The venue is LAN Arena 3, a massive three day frag fest in the French capital. The event should play host to 400 gamers from around France and the rest of Europe, with Quake 2, Half-Life : CounterStrike, Quake 3 Test and Starcraft all on the menu.
The UK Team
A few weeks ago we received an invitation from the event's organisers to bring a team of Britain's best Quakers along to the party to go head to head with France's finest in a Quake 2 teamplay showdown.
How could we refuse?
Thanks to sponsorship from HEAT.net we were able to take a five man team to Paris with us to take part in the tourney. Around fifty players applied for the team, and competition was fierce during the trials last week.
It was hard to pick from amongst the top players, but in the end the following team was selected -
[UNR]Luke Long standing member of Clan Unreal, Luke was also the runner-up at both the EuroQuake 1on1 and UK LAN Party 5 1on1 competitions. He was the 1on1 winner at the UKCCL Xmas LAN Party, and UNR have won the UKCCL Quake2 league 4 times. [UNR]Blokey Also a member of Clan Unreal, Blokey has notched up victories in numerous individual competitions, including EuroQuake FFA, UK LAN Party 6 FFA and UK LAN Party 6 Duel. [EED]Billox Billox is the most famous member of our team, having won the Quakeadelica event on Wireplay and Also a member of the UKPCGC winning team. Other achievements include winning the 2on2 at a UK LAN Party event and winning the Unreal Tournament competition at Gameplay.com's recent party. Shigeru[CFH] Shiggy has been up with the best of the UK's Quake2 players for a long time now. This is his first major competition, although he has been a central part of Division 1 UKCCL clan CFH for quite a while! How will they fare against the French? Stay tuned to EuroGamer this weekend to find out!
With the trials over, the gruelling practice sessions completed, and the heated arguments over maps and rules all but a distant memory, it was with some excitement and trepidation that the UK Team boarded the Eurostar train last night.
After the disappointment of losing one of our team - Mist, a relative unknown from Wireplay who had put in some stunning trial sessions - we faced the prospect of facing a highly trained French team with only four of our kind. The player roster now looked like:
But the English fighting spirit wouldn't be crushed so easily, and the team were in good spirits for the journey. Our team coach, Mat "The Lurker" Bettinson, kept the cross-channel commuters embarrassed, playing Unreal Tournament .. on a laptop.
Mat was in fine voice, and the other passengers didn't quite know what to make of the cries of 'BITCH!!!' and 'REDEEMER!', seemingly directed at no-one (and that's just the printable trash talk).
The team remained focused though, deciding instead to spend the time re-watching the demos recorded from last week's team trial (see the UK Team site for more details).
Several 'Brewed-in-the-UK' cans of Stella Artois later, and we arrived at the Gare du Nord, Paris! A quick Metro journey would take us to the hotel. Unfortunately we were at the mercy of a system more illogical than the London Underground and ended up at the Rue d'Champs Elysees.
An ideal photo opportunity for the UK Team presented itself at the grand Arc d'Triomphe - "Just up the road", I told them. Twenty minutes of walking later we were close enough for a nice shot, although our 50-a-day man Billox was feeling the strain and made sure I knew about it.
One quick taxi later and we were hotel-bound. We had our hearts in our mouths after the fifteenth or so near miss with irate Parisiens, but eventually we arrived at our accommodation for the next few nights. And so to eat...
"I must have snails, what are they called .. lezcargoes?" said Billox, cosmopolitan as ever.
"L'escargots", I corrected.
"Yeah, twenty-four, vingt-quatre, snails, ess-carr-goes s'il vous plait, please".
It seemed to do the trick, because we got served the sieved out contents of a small garden plot a few minutes later, along with ball-breaking snail-related eating implements.
The team got stuck in heartily, Blokey managing a world-beating seven, but our international traveller extroadinaire Mat wouldn't touch the poor little garlic-infused delicacies. "I ate them once, I didn't like them, I moved on", he protested pathetically.
Steaks up next. No complaints there, but Billox was worried about the health implications of eating meat that bloody. We pointed out he would be dead of lung cancer way before that would become an issue.
And so we retired to our hotel to prepare our minds and bodies for the ordeals of the competition to come. We all relaxed in our own separate ways. For Shigeru and Blokey, bath and bed with a little light reading was their preferred choice.
Billox and Luke had different ideas. We weren't there, but a taxi ride to 'la bierre' was involved. We hope they maintained the standards of behaviour that the British are respected for...
And so we slept (eventually). An early start at 11am meant first stop McDonalds for breakfast before hot-stepping it on the tube.
The Big Day
While the UK Team were sampling the wonders of French cuisine, I was "larging it" back home in Leicester, where David Holmes was DJing at a local club.
The club finally closed just before 4am, leaving me an hour and a half to get home, shower, get dressed, pack my bags, load all the software I needed on to my laptop, and get back to the railway station ready for the 5.30am train to London. Doh!
Apart from suffering the vagaries of the Paris metro (which makes the London Underground look like a miracle of modern science), the journey went well and I made it to the venue by lunchtime. It was easy enough to find - a steady stream of geeks were carrying PCs into the hall, and massive power cables were stretched out across the car park to feed the vast amount of expensive hardware within.
The party is taking place in the Stade Francais, a massive sports hall. The entrance is on a balcony overlooking the hall, giving you an impressive view of the action. Normally the venue for basketball games, the hall is now filled with row upon row of PCs.
A speaker system pumps the sound of the Beastie Boys and France's own Daft Punk out across the assembled masses as the fragging begins. And despite the size, the event seems to be running smoothly so far - a real credit to the organisers.
The UK Team were provided with a group of PCs, with a fifth system set up for me to update EuroGamer from, complete with ISDN connection. The only real problem was that all the computers came with French keyboards!
If you've never seen a French keyboard before, check this out -
All the keys are wrong! Nooooo! Luckily all the UK Team players had brought their own keyboards, but I had to make do with the French one. After a brief struggle with Windows (which is even harder to understand in French!) the keyboard was acting as a standard English QWERTY keyboard .. more or less.
Assuming my toych tqping skimms stand up to the pressure, we'll be bringing you full coverage of the UK Team matches and other key games from here in Paris over the next two days. Stay tuned!
The UK vs France match was delayed, but in the meantime the UK Team has taken on Bn, one of France's top clans, in a twenty minute, four on four "friendly" on Q2DM1.
The first minutes were close, with the two teams matching each other frag for frag. Bn tried to dominate the megahealth, but the UK Team managed to evict them and Shigeru grabbed the bounty. After three minutes the Brits had racked up a healthy 17-7 lead.
Blokey grabbed the next megahealth as the UK continued to dominate. Meanwhile Billox was having a hard time of it - he got blown up at the top of the main lift by a rocket launcher wielding Frenchman, only to respawn on the ramp to the megahealth room, leading to a second rapid demise.
The UK Team was still holding on to a comfortable lead though, reaching 30-12 after just five minutes. Dominating the room with the megahealth and jacket armour in it was paying dividends for them, as the French seemed unable to respond. The lead extended as Billox recovered his precision railgunning skills, and a Bn player blew up one of his team mates in a messy friendly fire incident.
By half time the UK was in control, the score 67-24. The French weren't giving up though, and a pair of Bn players secured the top of the main lift for a short time. Meanwhile Billox was having problems again, this time trying (and repeatedly failing) to make the double jump on to the crates to get across to the megahealth.
Bn tried to mount a fight back, and camped the main lift again, but the UK lead 92-38 with five minutes left to go. They were fighting hard, but totally disorganised. The lead began to shrink in the dying minutes of the game, dropping to 98-46 with three minutes left, but Bn weren't able to pull back enough frags.
Blokey sealed their fate, going on a hand grenade rampage! The French had a picnic by the pool outside, but a strong finish from UK left the final score at 122-59.
Blokey had dominated the match, scoring 47 frags - almost twice as many as his team mates. Billox had a bad time, coming last on his team with just 24, but that was still more than any of the Bn players managed to muster... An impressive performance that led to calls for a rematch from Bn.
Things Get Ugly
One of the other competitors here in Paris just decided to make our lives more interesting by wiping the root directory of Billox's hard drive...
Billox had turned on file sharing to allow the other team members to get new drivers downloaded from the internet, and it seems that somebody accessed the hard drive over the network and wiped all the system files from the root directory! End result - the computer wouldn't reboot, and we're currently trying to repair the damage and get the system back up and running again.
We're obviously disappointed that one of the gamers here has chosen to take this action, and it certainly leaves a bitter taste in the mouth...
UK vs France - Round One (Q2DM1)
The UK vs France matches finally kicked off after 2am, with the first round taking place on Q2DM1 - The Edge.
The UK raced to an early lead, and a French collapse looked on the cards. Luke took out three French players with a supershotgun, and then knocked a fourth off a ledge causing him to crater. Score was already 5 to -1. Ouch.
The French took control of the central arena, but it did them little good as the British lead had soon stretched to 10 to -2! France finally managed to make it back into positive frags after about three minutes, with the score at 12 to 4.
The French seemed to be sticking together, looking for strength in numbers. Shigeru found himself ambushed by a pair of French players near the water, but still the French were losing ground. After five minutes the UK had amassed a handy little 30-14 lead, just as the French managed to grab the megahealth.
The UK fought back though, and regained the megahealth room, picking up the next bundle of goodness. Shigeru was once again receiving unwanted attentions from the French, but this time Billox came to the rescue, firing a rocket that streaked past Shig, narrowly missing him before striking his French attacker. Nice shot!
The lead continued to draw out comfortably for the Brits, as the French continued to hunt in packs, catching Luke unarmed and mauling him. Shigeru pulled back a couple of quick frags with some tight railing though, and at half time the scores stood at 62-38.
The French continued to concentrate on the central arena, and fighting there was vicious. Luke pulled out an impressive string of chaingun kills around the edge of the map, picking off all four French players one after the other before being taken down.
The French managed to stabilise their deficit for a while, but couldn't pull back enough frags to make a real difference, staying 20 to 30 behind the Brits right to the end. The final score was 121-95, somewhat closer than we had expected but still a reasonably comfortable victory.
UK vs France - Round Two (Q2DM3)
France took control of the rocket launcher at the beginning, while the UK took control of the railgun. Billox took a swim in the lava, and after a minute the scores were close at 3-2 to the UK.
Billox came back to grab the quad, but it didn't last long - the French took him down almost straight away. The UK soon began to pull out a crushing lead though, 20-5 after just three minutes.
The French took the railgun, but one of the British players went on a quad rampage, while the French dived lemming-like into the lava. Trauma and Deepos managed to collide in mid-air, dumping Trauma into the hot red stuff. The score reached 32-2 after just four minutes, and France appeared to be falling apart as the UK players dominated the map.
The next quad went to the French, but they couldn't make full advantage of it. Another minute passed, and the score was now 41-5. The French finally seemed to get their act together, railing Luke as he grabbed the rocket launcher, helping them pull back to 43-13. Luke sulked waiting for the quad to respawn.
The UK took the frag pipe room by force, but the French still managed to grab the next quad. By half time the score was 65-34. Then Shig grabbed the pentagram and Luke picked up the quad, and Billox took the next megahealth to make it a hat trick, going on a short railgun rampage before returning to "pitch his tent" on top of the frag pipe again.
The score reached 87-38 after 13 minutes. Blokey went on a hyperblaster run, but tripped and fell into the slime, meeting a sticky ending. Deepos was having a hard time as well, dying several times in quick succession as the UK passed the 100 frag mark and grabbed the pentagram again.
The French were still fighting though, and made a good job of spoiling UK quads by picking off the quad bearer almost as soon as he raised his head, limiting the damage they could do. But the UK was still pulling out their lead in the final minutes.
Waldar passed a railgun and ammo to another French player, but as he moved in to pick it up one of the Brits fragged the pair of them with a well placed rocket. Denpxc grabbed the megahealth, but there was little he could do with time running out and the UK team well ahead.
The final score was 138-58, a crushing defeat for the French.
UK vs France - Round Three (Q2DM1)
A great start for the UK team, who claimed both rocket launchers and the chaingun in the first few seconds of the game, thanks largely to lucky spawns. They soon had the megahealth as well, and within a minute they had secured a 7-2 lead.
The French were mostly in the central arena again, and as the UK locked down the room with the megahealth and jacket armour in it the French fell further behind despite controlling both rocket launchers.
Some nice rocket work from Shigeru took down a pair of Frenchmen in quick succession, helping build a 24-13 lead after four minutes. With control of the megahealth secure, the UK continued to stretch their lead. At one point the entire UK team was in the megahealth room, and all the French players were in the central arena.
Both teams camped their preferred areas, and the scores remained fairly close - at half time it was 57-35. A string of rail kills helped bring the French back into the game, and the UK's lead suddenly looked uncomfortably slim. With eight minutes to go it was 62-51.
Shigeru was having a bad time, and as he went for the chaingun he announced "I'm just going to hide under the stairs". A couple of rare friendly fire incidents from the UK team helped the French stay close. In fact the scores got as close as 68-61 before the UK started to recover.
Things got a little tight again in the final minutes, as the French finally took control of the megahealth room and the Brits found themselves without weapons, armour or the megahealth. With two minutes to go the score had reached 98-77, but in the dying moments of the game the British players went on a rampage, pulling off a comfortable sounding 112-84 victory.
The game was very close most of the way through though, and it was only at the very end that the UK team finally secured their third victory. As the tournament was to be the best of five, this made the UK the victors, but the last two maps were played through anyway.
Download demo - observer POV (642Kb) Download demo - observer #2 POV (1.0Mb) Download demo - Billox's POV (1.0Mb) Download demo - Blokey's POV (1.0Mb) Download demo - Luke's POV (1.0Mb) Download demo - Shigeru's POV (1.0Mb)
UK vs France - Round Four (Q2DM3)
The fourth match was back to Q2DM3 again, but by now it was 4.30am and the UK team was getting a little sloppy having taken the title already.
The French took the initiative with the first quad, with the scores neck and neck for the first minute or two. They actually took the lead for a few seconds after grabbing the second quad, but the UK got the next one and began to pull out a lead again.
Shigeru racked up several quick kills with some nifty railgun work, taking the score to 27-9. The UK got another quad, but this time its first victim was one of the quad bearer's team mates! DOH! Shigeru then compounded this by taking a lava bath.
But after five minutes the French were faring even worse, and the UK team was 37-14 ahead. The lead stretched from the sublime to the slightly ridiculous as the game continued, and by half time it was 68-33, with the French camping the pentagram looking for religious guidance...
Shigeru managed to shove Trauma into the lava, but Luke soon followed him on his way to the quad. The French picked up both that quad, and the pentagram, giving the UK something to worry about .. for a minute.
As the French scaled the ladder on to the roof of the frag pipe, Shigeru was waiting with a grenade in his hand, which he dropped neatly on to the other player's head. With five minutes to go the score was 104-52! Blokey picked up the pentagram, but couldn't find any French players until it was about to run out.
Meanwhile Billox was on a railgun rampage, and soon joined Luke camping the megahealth. Soon after letting Luke take the megahealth though, Billox was dead, respawning right next to Deepos. The French player panicked and blew himself up with a well placed rocket to a nearby wall... To complete the comedy, he went on to dive into the lava .. twice.
The score ended up as 140-67. Painful...
UK vs France - Round Five (Q2DM1)
The fifth and final match started with the UK firmly in control of the megahealth room, and once again the French took over the central arena. The stalemate continued for some time, but the Brits came out on top with an 18-4 lead after four minutes.
The French rushed the megahealth room, but it was soon safely back in British hands. Attacks continued, but the French appeared in dribs and drabs, and were easily repelled most of the time. After six minutes the UK team had a commanding 34-10 lead.
At this point Luke pulled out a railgun. "Shit, I didn't even know I had this!" Rauper replied, "Well bloody use it then!"
At half time their lead had stretched to 55-19, and the French seemed unable to make an impression. It took them another two minutes to finally break into the megahealth room and grab their first (?) megahealth of the game. But the UK were soon back in control again, locking down the room ruthlessly.
During a sortie into the French-held arena, Luke found himself on the main lift with one enemy above and one below, both armed with rocket launchers. The result was inevitable...
It didn't help the French much though, and towards the end of the game Luke was on a hyperblaster rampage, notching up several more kills. With just two minutes left the French were trailing 125-40!
A last ditch attack succeeded in wresting control of the megahealth room from the Brits again, but it was far too late by then. The final score was 139-50.
The UK team's matches went on until the earling hours of the morning, and we finally made it back to the hotel at about 7am, still on a caffeine high from the huge amounts of Coke we had all drunk.
After a few hours sleep we were woken by a loud buzzing noise. Thinking it was an alarm clock somebody had left on, I slapped it. It stopped. A few seconds later it started again, I hit it again, and it stopped again.
About the fourth or fifth time this happened I finally realised it was actually the phone ringing - doh! Reception wanted us out of the room, and I'd been slamming the receiver down on them over and over again...
By the time we finally stumbled out of the hotel into the cold it was already lunchtime, so we headed down to a local bar to grab some brunch - omelettes, hot dogs, burgers, and for that authentic French touch .. croque monsieur, France's answer to the cheese toasty... While most of us were trying to wake ourselves up with coffee, tea and coke, Billox was starting the day as he meant to go on by getting in an early pint of beer with his breakfast.
By the time we finished it was already 1pm, leaving us only a few hours before our train was due. In the end we decided it wasn't worth going back to the LAN party for such a short time. And besides, we were satisfied the French had been 0wned enough for one weekend.
La Tour Eiffel
Next stop was the Eiffel tower for a quick photo shoot of the UK team in front of Paris' most famous landmark. The funny red berets were Nick's idea, bought from a local souvenirs shop. Don't ask...
The original plan was to go up the tower, but Luke suffers from vertigo and most of the rest of us were either too lazy or thought the queue was too long, so in the end we just headed over to the Gare du Nord to find a bar near the station.
Billox soon decided the smoke filled bar we ended up at wasn't giving him enough carcinogens, and lit up a cigarette for that much needed just-woken-up nicotine hit while the rest of us got the drinks in. Nick (our resident "responsible adult") and the younger players stuck to Coke and Oranginas, while Mat, Billox, Luke and myself got started on the Mother Of All Piss Ups.
Three rounds later we paid the (by now rather hefty) bill and headed over to the station to pick up some champagne for the journey home. When the train arrived we found our seats were clustered around two of the four tables in a small compartment in the front coach .. right at the other end of the platform.
As the train pulled out of the station we cracked open the bubbly and toasted our victory, our hosts at LAN Arena 3, our opponents, and our sponsors at Heat.net Europe. Mat soon had his laptop set up with Quake 2 running, and we started watching the demos we had recorded of the UK vs France matches.
When the refreshments trolley arrived we stacked up on beers and got settled in for the journey...
As we came out of the Channel Tunnel and into southern England though, one of the American women at the next table came over to us .. to complain about our excessive use of "that word"!
"What word?" I asked innocently.
"The fucking word", she replied, going on to give us a right talking to for our excessive use of foul language and smack talk.
To be honest, we hadn't realised we were swearing so much. Luckily though the entire conversation was captured on tape, and we can now bring you this exclusive snippet here on EuroGamer. Listen, and judge for yourself...
We soon realised it was time to go .. probably when the second word to pass through Luke's lips after the woman sat down again was "fuck". Our four resident lager louts headed for the bar, letting Billox stop off in the train's sole smoking carriage along the way to have a quick nicotine fix.
Between us we polished off a third bottle of champagne, and let our Tourettes syndrome run wild as we discussed the games, the LAN party, the wonders of the Paris Metro, and our 0wning at the hands of the Americans.
It was only as the train pulled into Waterloo that we realised we had arrived home, and we had to make our way through half a dozen coaches to get back to the others. Everybody else was already standing up and getting out their luggage, and we had to fight our way through the crowded aisles back to the front of the train.
Eventually we made it, grabbed our bags, and piled out on to the platform to admire London. Our visit to Paris had made us appreciate the little things in life, like an underground system that (more or less) works, stations that don't smell of urine, and corridors that aren't a foot deep in rubbish...
Aller A La Beers
Rupert, Nick, Shigeru and Blokey all headed home, while the old folks continued on their celebratory binge. We all piled into a taxi outside the station, Billox shouting "Aller a la beers!" at the driver as we set off. We were all veeeery drunk at the time. Or at least, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.
After driving us round London in circles for a few hours to rack up the fare, the driver finally dropped us off outside the British Library (FACT - we only have one in the UK) and we headed for a nearby Firkin pub for vodka and red bulls all round, washed down by another pint.
By this time Billox was beginning to look a little the worse for wear, and Mat decided to drink his pint to stop him getting any more drunk than he already was. Unfortunately he knocked the glass over instead, and half a pint of Stella poured over the edge of the table and on to Billox's bag. Doh!
The night ended back at Mat's place, watching "John Carpenter's The Thing" on his DVD player, with his wife watching the film from the safety of behind the couch. Luke bailed out - I can't blame him, he had to be on a plane back to Scotland early the next morning! Meanwhile Billox had passed out on the couch.
The weekend was over. We all had a great time, thanks to our hosts at LAN Arena 3, our sponsors at Heat.net Europe, and of course the French team for being such gracious losers.
Paris '99 - We came, We saw, We 0wned.