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Quake Across The Ocean

A comparison of the UK and US Quake scenes, through the eyes of someone who has lived in both countries.

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Image credit: Eurogamer

In the last year or so the UK Quake scene has picked up significantly. Living in the US, it is not unusual to see more and more news on the bigger news sites coming from the UK.

I myself am American. I was born in America and grew up in America. However at the age of 17 I was given the opportunity to move to London, England, where I lived for two years. In the last couple of years I have lived and interacted with both the UK and US Quake scenes, and therefore have picked up a unique perspective on how they work.

Before I start I should say that this article is meant to be as general as possible - I am referring to the 'scene' as Quake, Quake II, and Q3Test. However I primarily play Quake II so my views may be a bit distorted. Anyway, when I use the term "Quake" it means all three ID games...

ETG and the American Scene

The American Quake scene is massive. It consists of 50 states and probably a couple of hundred thousand participants. There are clans, hundreds of them. Good clans, and of course bad clans.

The American Quake scene has celebrities. People like Thresh, immy, Maka, Reptile, etc etc. Basically, if you're one of these players, you are a virtual god. Masses of 13 year old kids sit all day long waiting for you to turn up to ask you how you are so good. Some even want to challenge you.

The majority of the scene is run on irc, like any other scene. The main network is If one was to connect and perform a '/list' you would sit there for nearly 10 minutes waiting for all the clan channels to add up. The server holds a couple of thousand users 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

However what makes this server unique is that for the amount of users on it, it remains the most idle network I have ever seen. Thousands of kids sit at their chairs for hours on end simply waiting.

What are they waiting for one might wonder? Well I'll show you….

   <place hero's name here> has joined #<place hero's clan name here>

Hundreds of kids spend all day long waiting in their hero's clan channel, simply waiting for him to show up. What are they going to do when he gets there? More than likely private message him forcing their hero to either leave or alias.

If you're ever sitting around one day bored off your arse, join #deathrow on the ETG server and look at the idleness. Now sit there long enough and wait for someone with a deathrow tag to join and watch as the place lights up with questions.


The one thing that the American scene does have a strong grasp on is events. Where do you live? Who cares, I'm sure there is an event at the most a two hour drive away.

America sets the stage for some of the biggest gaming events in the world. With events like the PGL, Ground Zero, Quakeathon and E3, there is always something to do. These events are covered by every person with a website in the country. Have a website? Sure, here's a free press pass.

I'm not trying to say however that these events are a bad thing. In fact it is the exact opposite. Thousands of people attend and thousands more wish they were attending. Large gaming companies give awesome prizes as donations. Big gaming sites cover the events with pictures and reviews.

Sometimes the games are even broadcast over the internet, with commentators including some of the more experienced players (for example, Maka at the PGL finals).

What do these events accomplish? Well put simply .. a lot. We get to meet new and exciting players as well as get a personal view of the gaming industry. It's basically a way for the players to interact with the industry folk.

So in conclusion, the American Quake scene is well organized and rather fun. However it is well organized by corporations, not by the players themselves. It is also massive, and lacks the intimacy that the UK scene has.

Barrysworld and the UK Scene

What the hell is Barrysworld? Well in fact it is probably the saviour of the UK Quake scene. Barrysworld is a network of game servers as well as a web host, all run by a group of extremely dedicated individuals throughout the UK.

They currently host numerous servers for Quake, Quake II, Tribes, Q3Test, and various other games and their mods. Hundreds of people play on Barrysworld servers everyday.

Barrysworld also provides dial-up access. At the time I was living there this was a huge advantage, because Barrysworld was one of the first free ISPs in Europe. Not only is it free, but you also get a fantastic ping to a Barrysworld server if you are on a Barrysworld dial-up.

This isn't as unique now though, as more and more free ISPs have started appearing in Europe.

British Telecom = the Devil

When I moved to London I knew the phone bills would be a bit more expensive, but I really had no idea to what degree.

You see in the UK local calls are not free. So even if you have an ISP with a local number, you still get charged for internet usage, and boy do you ever get charged.

The average phone bill of a typical Quake player in the UK is probably around £150 a month. I was running up bills near £500 - that's $811.00! Can you imagine paying $800 a month? Good God did that ever suck.

To be recognized in the UK Quake scene there are two things you need -

1. You have to be good. 2. You have to be DAMN rich. and

The one thing that the UK scene has that the American scene also has is a centralized Quake irc channel. Whether you play Quake or Quake II, you can always find a number of people on either channel.

What makes irc in the UK different from irc in America is that people actually speak in the UK! You can always find a conversation going on in irc, no matter what time of day it is. Granted the topic is usually not Quake, but something more important like who got with whose mom last night, but it is still conversation.

This, combined with BT's phone charges, is what makes the UK scene what it is today - small and intimate. Small because it's expensive, and intimate because it's small. Nearly all the players know each other or know of each other. The same thing goes for the clans.

The UK Quake scene is generally a rather fun place to hang out, even for a "damn Yankee" like myself. This isn't to say it doesn't have its problems however...

FFS (For Fucks Sake)

Corporations do not run the UK scene. Instead it is run by the players, which in return can make it a tad unorganized and a tad volatile. The leagues are run by players, the websites are run by players, the events are run by players, and unfortunately this usually causes problems.

The big issue in the UK is "What is cheating?" - aliasing and pak editing are all rampant, but is this cheating?

Another problem is that clans are usually well organized, but have a poor sense of loyalty. It's not at all unusual to see one player in four different clans - one for DM, one for CTF, one for Jailbreak, and one for Rocket Arena.

Does the UK have its heroes? Of course. However most of these heroes are entire clans rather than individual players. Everyone wants to be in a top clan like NME or UNR. Everyone wants to be a Division 1 UKCCL player, or a Division 1 Savage player.


The object of this article is not to show which scene is better - each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Neither is better. I simply wanted to share my perspective on both scenes.

I don't claim to be an avid member of either. I am a casual Quake II player who's done a little traveling.

Have a nice day.

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