was launched at The Playing Fields last night, and of course the EuroGamer team were there. No doubt lured by the promise of free booze and the chance to play Q3Test over TPF's network...
HEAT.net has been around in the US for a while now, and claims to be one of the biggest gaming networks in the world with hundreds of thousands of users. But for those of us on the "wrong" side of the Atlantic it's just been an annoyance until now - I've lost count of how many games have tried to install the HEAT.net software on to my hard drive...
Yesterday saw HEAT.net being launched in the UK though, and the plan is to expand it out across half of Europe over the next few months. Games already being supported include Baldur's Gate, Age of Empires, Grand Theft Auto, Quake and Quake II, and new games should be added to the service within five days of them showing up on HEAT.net in the USA. Best of all, it's free!
Europe.HEAT.net has joined the free internet bandwagon as well, offering a free dial-up account which gives you local call rate internet access from anywhere in the UK. It's also designed to give you the best connection to their gaming system. The only limitation seems to be that you have to access their gaming service through a Europe.HEAT.net dial up account after 30 days.
The Ego Has Landed
The good news is that EGO Maniacs.net, who are running Europe.HEAT.net, are no strangers to multiplayer gaming services - their Managing Director Tom How used to run the Thrustworld service back in the day.
The real test though will be how the service compares to normal internet play, not to mention other gaming services like the UK's Barrysworld, who also run their own game servers and offer free dial-up accounts.
We'll be putting Europe.HEAT.net through its paces over the next few weeks to see how it performs in reality. In the meantime, if you just can't wait you can always head over to their website and sign up for an account of your own.
The launch party was also the venue for a Q3Test tourney, with seperate categories for journalists and gamers, and the winner to carry away a Sega Dreamcast .. or a voucher entitling them to one when it's available here in the UK anyway.
The tournament was run entirely on Q3Tourney, which is a tight little map with only three weapons - the rocket launcher, lightning gun, and supershotgun. It also has some serious design problems, as we were to see demonstrated spectacularly in the finals.
There didn't seem to be many journalists there on the night (either that or they were all hiding to avoid embarrassing themselves), so Rupert "Rauper" Loman and myself found ourselves in a group of just four for the qualifier. The other players in our match were Geoff "ThePope" Richards of Pete's Hardware and "Killer_Deus".
By the end of the warm-up it was already obvious that I was way out of my depth - I've only played Q3Test a few times before, and after playing hours of Unreal Tournament just over a week ago I was really feeling Quake III's lack of a decent sniper weapon. Even pumping my FOV way up to 150 (which is how I play QuakeWorld) didn't help too much, though it did make me feel more at home.
It wasn't any great surprise then to see Rauper and Killer_Deus quickly pull out a lead, leaving me trailing behind with a handful of frags. The weapons all seemed to lack punch, and gave me no real feedback - the annoying pinging noise was the only real evidence that I was actually hitting anything. Not that that seemed to stop the others...
Towards the end of the match I started to get the hang of it though, and a flurry of frags with the rocket launcher catapulted me ahead of ThePope and into third place in the final minutes, maintaining EuroGamer's dignity. Meanwhile Rauper had pulled out a small lead over Killer_Deus, earning himself a place in the finals.
There might not have been many journalists around, but there were plenty of gamers. After four qualifiers, Puppetmaster, Steve Gait, Stiney and Smirnoff had all earned their places in the grand final.
The action for the first minute of the final was pretty close, with none of the players able to pull out a significant lead. But then Rauper found his way to the lightning gun, and the game was over. Shamelessly camping, Rauper ran backwards and forwards collecting the super shotgun, health, armour and lightning gun that are all close to each other in the underpass.
The other players kept charging in to try and grab the lightning gun or take Rauper down with their rocket launcher, but it was hopeless. The game soon turned into a massacre, with Rauper picking up more than 20 frags before anyone managed to take him down.
It wasn't that the other players were particularly bad, just that the map's design allows it to be controlled far too easily. Facing a skilled opponent with full health, yellow armour, and the lightning gun proved to be near suicidal.
Even after being removed from the lightning gun room a couple of times, Rauper managed to hold on to his lead and ended the match with a dominant 48 frags . Another mighty victory for EuroGamer!
This section was not written by EuroGamer - it's shamelessly lifted verbatim from the information sheet that EGO Maniacs.net gave us at the event. We'll hopefully be bringing you a full report on how well the service really works within the next few weeks.
Until then, here's the PR fluff - HEAT.NET
Description: Online games service that seeks to promote the building of online communities
Ownership: EGO Maniacs.net, a wholly owneed subsidiary of Affinity Internet Holdings plc
This is an exclusive contract between Segasoft networks inc of the USA and Ego Maniacs.net ltd, for the games service based in USA called HEAT to be distributed across Europe.
Europe.heat.net has begun its rollout across Europe, starting with the UK last week. The service will cover the UK, Switzerland, Holland, Germany and France, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Spain by the end of February 2000. Description...
EUROPE.HEAT.NET is an online games service that seeks to promote the building of a tight-knit and fun online community. The service is entirely free, the user paying only for the cost of their local-rate telephone call. The Games
The user must own a retail copy of the game to be played. Games cannot be downloaded from the Internet but can be purchased over the Internet. The function of EUROPE.HEAT.NET simply allows these games to be played over the Internet in such a way that users play against human - not computer - opponents. The games in question feature the most popular multi-player titles such as Quake II, Kingpin and Star Wars : Racer. How it works
The user signs up to the service via either a conventional or a VIP branded dial-up account. The former is valid only for thirty days after which time the VIP branded connection must be used. The advantage to the user of connecting via VIP connection is that it allows the speed at which the games can be played to be optimised.
Once connected, the user logs on to a portal on the World Wide Web (www.europe.heat.net). From here, one can search for other players, chat to them, page them or challenge them to a game. Provided the users both have the appropriate game and have installed the Heat software, the game will then be synchronised by the Heat server and the online game can begin, games such as Quake2 can allow up to 64 people playing at the same time in the same arena. The software and its functions are extremely user-friendly and have been tried and tested on the Stateside HEAT.NET service over the last 2-3 years. Why it's fun
Whether it be a leisurely round of golf, a deep-space shoot-out or a race around the streets of Chicago competing against a friend has to be better than playing against pre-defined, unintelligent computer-generated opponents. Humans are inconsistent and as such the variations on standard situations within a particular game are infinite.
The focus is on establishing a fun community within which competition and friendly rivalry can develop; leagues and tournaments are played on a more or less daily basis and there are prizes and credits to be won. Above all, a sense of humour is essential!
Wednesday 15th September 1999...
EUROPE.HEAT.NET, the multi-player gaming network, has arrived on the web with the express intention of catapulting European on-line gaming into the next Millenium.
Launched by EGO Maniacs.net, EUROPE.HEAT.NET brings the nerve-jangling high-speed gameplay of its market-leading stateside neighbour to Europe with an unprecedented array of games in which to engage enemies from Land's End to London to Lyon. The high-speed game play will only be available through the EUROPE.HEAT.NET exclusive dial-up connection provided by Affinity which will provide free internet access from the site for users.
Free immediate access to titles such as Quake II, Kingpin and GrandTheftAuto (with GTA London option) allows EUROPE.HEAT.NET to offer games an up-to-the-minute range of games unmatched by any UK on-line games provider. With MechWarrior 3, SEGA Rally 2 and Quake 3 among the titles arriving shortly, the opportunity to maximise these games' potential is truly massive.
The same version of the EUROPE.HEAT.NET service is planned throughout Europe, a network of top-class gaming is promised. EGO Maniacs will be launching in Switzerland, Holland, Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Spain by February 2000.
Tom How, AKA the Opsman, Managing Director of EGO.Maniacs.net, expects to finally answer the prayers of on line gamers.
"EUROPE.HEAT.NET expects to capture the cream of on-line gaming talent by promising AND delivering the fastest real-time gaming possible - something all other UK or European gaming networks have not fully achieved to date. EUROPE.HEAT.NET is targeted at those players who demand high-speed gaming and top-quality opposition," he said.
EGO Maniacs.net is the online games and entertainment arm of Affinity Internet Holdings plc, the AIM-listed Internet and telecoms company. The Affinity Group has entered into an agreement with SegaSoft Networks Inc for the provision of its HEAT.NET online games service throughout Europe. HEAT.NET is currently one of the largest online game playing facilities in the US and Canada, with over 500,000 users per month spending an average of 86 minutes per session playing games online.
EGO.Maniacs.net...Stop playing with yourself......Start playing online
Will you support Eurogamer?