The weekend of November 10th - 12th saw the latest in the Multiplay i-series of LAN parties, with up to 1000 players assembling at Newbury Racecourse in wet and windy Berkshire. Having missed out on i4 and i5, both of which have been highly praised, I was not about to make it a third missed event in a row. So, with fellow Dark Republic clannies Comatosed and Xena crammed in the car, we braved the M25 tedium and headed for Newbury.
It was to be one hell of a weekend!
Power Out - Beer Time!
The trip to Newbury is a simple one, and finding the racecourse itself a doddle, but when you also have to drive up to Wolverhampton to drop the kids off at your parents, and then drive back down again it works out to be quite a tiring day! This is what I was faced with on Friday, and we didn't actually arrive back to Newbury until gone 9pm, by which time I had missed most of the initial network teething problems. Result!
First things first then - get in the beers, meet some people, and settle myself into some hard and fast Quakin'. Imagine my surprise when, standing waiting for my well earned beer, I see plumes of smoke coming from the back of the bar, billowing from a power line unfortunately situated in the Quake 3 Arena section. Bah! It was a good hour before power was finally restored to our section, with all other sections of the building unaffected. Still, it was a perfect chance to catch up with the rest of the already glazed eyed Quakers, and sink lots of beers. By the time our PCs were rebooting all the negativity had been well and truly drunk out of us! It was showtime, time to get on with the killing.
Setting yourself up on the i6 network was extremely easy and trouble free, simply making yourself part of their workgroup and getting the server to automatically assign you an IP address. Without wasting any time I headed straight for the Quake 3 icon, and browsed the servers available. It was good to see Rocket Arena 3 nicely catered for with two 16-player ports, along with the normal Tournament and Free-For-All servers you would expect. I would have liked to have seen a dedicated Classic CTF server thrown in for good measure, as this for me (and a lot of other CTF nutters) is the way Quake 3 CTF should be heading. I did spy a group of lads playing the mod, but it was a 3vs3 pre-arranged type deal, and I was rapidly becoming more involved in the tournaments which were going on at the time to have time to join in!
Along with Quake 3 1on1 and 4vs4 TeamDM, there were also Unreal Tournament 1on1 and 6vs6 CTF competitions to get the attention of this first person shooter fanatic! I only signed up for the Q3 1on1 initially, but ended up playing in all of the aforementioned tournaments. This would not have been so bad, but the admins experienced various difficulties of one reason or another and games got delayed, causing time clashes and much sweating of the brow!
Additionally there were Counter-Strike and Starsiege Tribes tournaments in operation, but I really don't know what went on with either of these. From what I gather from post i6 messageboard banter, it would appear that both were riddled with problems as far as organisation is concerned. I saw plenty of Red Alert 2 games going on though, and even caught sight of someone duelling in Hogs Of War!
The Quake 3 1on1 kicked off first, and after I secured a rather nice victory over SLH-Hazza, I then proceeded to get walked over by SLH-Swelter, and then was beaten again in the loser's bracket against SS-W4rh0g. It was business as usual then, as DNM takes an early bath in the 1on1 tournament... The presence of clan 4K provided an element of predictability in the outcome of both the 1on1 and 4vs4 games, and indeed 4K-Q50 took the 1on1 tournament, while 4K won the TeamDM.
Fortune had it that clan SS only had five players for UT CTF, so I offered my mercenary services. We lost our initial two games against DOA and KEA, both of whom were tipped to be overall winners. Picking ourselves up though, we went on to win our remaining five games, including a satisfying 5:0 win over clan tUT. This placed us in the top four of the league stage, and meant qualification to the semi-finals.
Drawn against DOA, we knew we had to conjure up some mad skillz and tactics. As it turns out we opted for the extremely simple all-out-attack method or, as we referred to it, the 'Warcow Frenzy'. This somewhat surprised DOA, and we sneaked in a capture. By this time DOA had been reduced to five men, and rather than risk our precious lead we adopted a 5-1 formation and sat on the lead, eventually winning the game 1:0. KEA beat HSC in the other semi-final, setting up a grudge match with us, as they had won the earlier meeting 5:1.
The final was played over two maps, with one map being chosen by each clan. We chose "Face", with KEA adopting for the attacking nightmare "Coret". First up was "Face", where we took an initial lead, only for KEA to quickly respond to make it 1:1. With around ten minutes to go we capped again, and were prepared to sit back accepting all that challenged. Challenge they did, and in a frenetic exchange they managed to grab the flag to draw level, with a couple of minutes to go.
Sudden death commenced, and the game just refused to die, with SS getting their flag into our base no less than three times before losing it. After about fifteen minutes of extra time things were getting a little tiring, and KEA piled in, stealing the flag with a three-man attack. I managed to chase them down, killing one flag carrier, only for one of the other guys to pick it up again, who I tagged as well. With just a few pixels between me and our flag though I got sniped, KEA picked the flag up again, and made the winning capture! A breathtaking match.
The second half of the game verged on being a farce, as it took nearly an hour for the game to get going due to certain problems where KEA players were not seeing weapons on spawning! Preparing yourself mentally for the fight, knowing you have to win by two clear captures, and having to keep restarting it is decidedly distracting to say the least.
Finally the game got underway, and it was evident from the start that both teams were settling in for a far more defensive approach to things. Life in defence was actually pretty boring, and in fact involved more talking with the people around me than looking at the screen. Very boring, and not exactly the thrilling climax to a competition it should have been. Again the game entered sudden death mode as the teams were tied at 0:0.
To make life more interesting for the people viewing the game on the big screen, we had already gone into 'Warcow Frenzy' mode about five minutes from the end of normal time, but to no avail. It was to be our undoing - with all of our players scattered randomly around "Coret", KEA managed to sneak the flag out totally unchallenged, making the cap to win 1:0, and the match overall 4:2 on aggregate. Terrific first game, totally dull second. Mustn't grumble though, it was my first ever LAN based final!
The UT 1on1 competition was disrupted quite severely by the earlier-than-scheduled CTF final, but eventually ran the course with the winner Execute, beating Jawl by 20:-1. Execute was also the guy I faced in the first round, making mincemeat out of me on 'Tempest', a silly map choice for a duel in my opinion.
Meanwhile the CS tournament, although it was riddled with problems, did reach a conclusion, with the final pitting clan D2C against clan KMA. The chosen map was De_Nuke, with KMA taking the first half 8:5 playing as the counter-terrorists, and D2C winning the second half 15:1 as the CTs, meaning D2C run away to far off lands as delighted winners to the tune of 16:9.
Unfortunately the UT CTF result is the only one I can be 100% certain on though, as we had to leave at around 4pm on the Sunday, with the tournaments running a little late.
I've not had this much fun at a LAN in a long time, and am already pencilling i7, 8 and 9 into my diary for next year. The venue was a perfect size, though there really could have been more effort made on the refreshments side of things, with the menu being more akin to school dinners than a hungry Quaker's paradise. There is only so much of Domino's pizza I can withstand!
Drinks were ludicrously expensive too, when really they don't need to be with so many people toing and froing from the bar - they would make a killing even if the prices were cut considerably. All in all though it was a splendid weekend, and with slightly tighter organisation it could be the perfect package.
Will you support Eurogamer?