Where I get to rant and rave about this and that, and you get to tell me off!


Your comments, insults, and death-threats are welcome and I'll post any rational rebuttals here. E-mail me HERE

Updated 11/27/98


11/27/98 - Quake3 and Voodoo3


I've had a lot of people asking me about what kind of 3D card & computer to buy for Quake3 Arena. A lot of them are asking about the Voodoo3.

This is an edited version of a reply I've sent to the last two people who wrote me...

I think it's WAY too early to worry about Quake3 - it may not be released for another 8 months! By then a lot could happen: both Voodoo2 and TNT could be obsolete for one thing. Voodoo3 does not impress me - essentially V1, V2 and V3 all use the same core technology, and this technology is two years old now. I can't see how 3Dfx seriously expects to make any money off of it except as a pre-installed on-mobo 2D/3D solution (which does seem to be what they're pushing it for). V3 sounds like the card that Banshee should have been. V3's 3D section will basically be a V2 on steroids, but with all the same limitations: 256x256 texture size limit, separate frame and texture memory, and 16-bit
rendering. Blah! I think a V2 SLI will be just as good. If I'm going to spend money I want something substantially better than what I have, and V3 doesn't sound like it.

We have more than enough horsepower now, children - there's only so much triangle data that the CPU can send to the 3D card. The next major advances are going to have to be true 24 and 32 bit color rendering at realistic framerates (I'm sick of hearing about the fact that TNT can do 24-bit color - most people I know that have a TNT run their games in 16-bit color to get a decent framerate, so I'm not impressed). Right now, Half-Life and Unreal on a V2 SLI in 16-bit color gives me wood, so I'm in no rush. Other important things are going to be more on-board ram (the next generation of cards will likely have 24 or 32 Mb) and whatever special hardware functions the developers need to improve the eye-candy.

With present CPUs, we haven't yet hit the limit of what V2 SLI can do performance-wise, so putting a V3 in anything less than a P2-600+ will probably be a waste.

The only major concern is that Id has indicated that it will not support the V2 using a miniport as they did in Q2 (of course, this might change - Id has to realize that there's a HUGE installed base of Voodoo2 cards out there). Id
claims that Q3 will be OpenGL only and right now the performance of the full OpenGL beta Drivers for the V2 is piss-poor (and if they haven't gotten around to finishing the V2 OpenGL ICD, what makes you think we'll have one for the V3 when it's released?). However, there's still time for 3Dfx to get it's act together and finish the drivers (and we should all be e-mailing them to light a fire on their arses to get it done!). They've been lazy up until now because almost everything runs on either D3D or Glide, or the Quake OpenGL miniport. THAT WILL CHANGE! D3D and OpenGL will be the two dominant standards (until something new comes along) and right now V2 OpenGL performance is lame, and even D3D while good is not great.

With good drivers, Q3 should run fine on V2 SLI. I'm certain that by then there will be cards that run faster and have better image quality (the Matrox G200, for instance, looks so much prettier than either V2 or TNT that it'll give you a woody - but performance is so-so), but I think that V2 SLI will still run it like a champ. Otherwise, it's upgrade time... been there, done that before!

I just wouldn't commit to an upgrade now, not knowing when Q3 will be released, exactly what it's requirements are going to be, and not knowing what the state of V2's OpenGL driver will be by then. V2 SLI is the bad-boy for performance right now - no point in wasting money on something else yet if you already have it.

If you're shopping for a new system now it's a toss-up between a TNT and V2 SLI - both have their pros and cons.

Processor-wise, the ideal is to have a P2-450 right now, of course, but the price/performance factor of that CPU is frightening, unless you're independently wealthy. A P2-350 gives you nearly the same performance (certainly more than adequate for any game out today, and probably for anything coming out in the next 8 months) and costs damn near half as much. For the price, anything less than a P2-350 just isn't worth it right now - I include the Celeron in that too. When Celerons were substantially cheaper they were worth fiddling with, but I'd rather have a stable P2-350 than a Celeron overclocked to 450 any day of the week and the price difference is not that great anymore.

Personally, I'm happy with my P2-300 with V2 SLI and I'm not planning on doing anything until Q3 is released and then I'll see - I upgraded when Quake came out, I upgraded again when Q2 came out, and I'll wait until Q3 comes out to upgrade once again.

'nuff said...

6/17/98 - An e-mail to John Carmack Concerning His Announcment of Quake Arena


I rarely write to a developer because I know you guys are busy (likely you have your e-mail filtered by a secretary and may never see this, but at least you'll get a tally from your staff on yea and nay responses to you .plan), but I had to write concerning your Quake Arena announcement.

One word: OK!

Online multiplayer is where it's happening, and Quake and Quake 2 are the best online multiplayer games in existence. It'll be great to see the team that brought us these gems focus their full attention on a multiplayer-specific game. You're absolutely right in your .plan - coding a game for both solo and multiplayer just invites sacrifices in the quality of one for the other.

There were a few first-person action games that begged for replay: Doom, System Shock and Duke Nukem 3D are the only ones I can think of real quick. Today, most of us, go through the solo game once, and never play it again. Sometimes we never even finish if the deathmatch game is good enough to lure us away (and if it's working right!). I've yet to finish Quake, although I actually did finish Q2, and I'm in that boat now with Unreal. I'm playing solo Unreal just to bide my time until (hopefully) they get the Internet play working. Jedi Knight was a disappointment to me. The solo game was great, but the multiplayer aspect just doesn't work for me. Quake and Quake 2 have been MORE than worth their original purchase price considering the thousands of hours of multiplayer gaming I've gotten out of them.

It's a different world since Doom and Duke came out, when we played them over and over again looking for every little secret that we missed the first time around, and being happy enough with that. However, multiplayer is THE thing now - I play 2-3 hours a day. I personally know people that own computers ONLY for playing Quake online and don't use them for anything else.

We, as your happy consumers, would like nothing better than (for once!) to have a first-person shooter that works fabulously in multiplayer right out of the box. And hell yes, we DO want more than just deathmatch. CTF is very important to me and many others.

I know you're going to hear some grumbles from some quarters about your decision, but I think you're on the right track. I think the first-person shooter genre has now reached a stage where perhaps there SHOULD be two different products: one designed specifically for solo play, and one designed for multiplayer. There's enough of a market for it now. It's only appropriate that the company that has been at the forefront of taking radical approaches toward new gaming releases should be the one to break this new ground.


6/15/98 - Duke Forever on Unreal

I was so bummed to hear the announcement that Duke Nukem Forever will be converted over to the Unreal engine. I was getting a hard-on thinking about the idea of a Duke Nukem game running with the smoothness of Q2's Internet play. I loved Duke Nukem 3D. Bad as Internet play was on that game, I still really enjoyed the hell out of playing Duke on the TEN network. I've got a lot of good memories from those days. Nothing has ever matched the atmosphere of Duke deathmatch. Quake2 is great, but Duke had an attitude. The maps, the weapons, the sound effects, the Duke-isms... they were great.

I hope that 3DRealms isn't making a major mistake in switching engines. Granted, it seems like you can do a lot more cool effects with the Unreal engine, but from what I'd heard they were doing some damn cool shit with the Q2-based engine Duke was already running on.

Now I'm not a game programmer, although I am a programmer, and I can't see how they can make a statement that it "... won't set us back any time to convert everything over from the Q2 to the Unreal engine". Man, you know that's gotta be putting all the programmers over there into sphincter-factor 10. You can't tell me that the maps are that easily portable. I assume they have to be redone. How about the AI? I'm sure some textures can be salvaged, and certainly sound effects, but still it's going to be a major change of gears.

What does this tell us? What are we supposed to believe? Has work been going so slowly until now that they can change engines in mid-stride and not be set back much? Bullshit. From the video of the demo I saw, I don't entirely believe that. They've invested a huge amount of time learning the Quake and Quake 2 engines and how to do new effects with them, learning the ins and outs of Quake2 map design, etc. Am I supposed to believe that all that knowledge easily ports over to working with the Unreal engine? If true, then Id Software should maybe consider taking a close look at the Unreal engine code and checking for copyright infringement...

I dunno, this begins to sound like a marketing decision made by front-office dweebs. Like someone is afraid that Duke Forever will be a much more popular game than Unreal (which it likely will be - Duke has an immense fan base) and they're afraid of looking stupid because of it if it uses a competitor's engine instead of theirs.

My main concerns are as follows:

- Internet play is THE thing now - it makes or breaks a game. It's all I care about, and most other players now too. I finished Q2 solo after a few weeks and never fired up the solo game again. Ditto for Quake, Jedi Knight, Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior, Blood, and every other 3D action game I've ever played. Unreal will be the same - I'm half way through it now. Q2 is a proven Internet game engine (granted, after some initial fits). Unreal has a completely broken Internet play engine right now, and there's no guarantee it's fixable. It may join a very long line of other games that promised good Internet play and now sit on shelves collecting dust in the five dollar bin at Wal-Mart. I hope they can fix it, because it really looks promising. What I don't know is if it will ever feel as good as Q2 Internet play does. As I understand it, Unreal doesn't use player prediction. Id Software proved that the only way to get decent Internet play in an action game is to use player prediction.

- THE SHORTNESS THING: Am I the only one who's got a problem with the fact that it feels as if I'm only 3 feet tall when playing Unreal? Will this be addressed in Duke Forever, or is Duke also going to feel like a friggin' Munchkin? Kinda destroys the illusion of the buff Rambo-type mercenary, doesn't it?

- Duke Forever was supposed to have a lot of visual goodies in it that was going to tax an average computer system using the original Q2 based engine (moving vehicles, vehicle chases, etc). Unreal is already a bigger performance hog than Q2. How much more of a pig will it turn into when the Duke goodies get piled on top of it?

- Broussard stated in the press release: "As for machine specifications, Duke Nukem Forever is a 1999 game and we think that timeframe matches very well with what we have planned for the game." Wait a minute! When did DF become a 1999 game? At E3 the release target was for the 4th quarter of 1998 - this makes sense, as software publishers want to cash in on the Christmas season. Now it's a 1999 game, but no, the engine switch has nothing to do with it? Bull! If 3DRealms is planning on missing a Chrismas release, it implies to me this game will be late - and they know it.

- Subsequently Broussard stated, in response to concerns about system requirments, that a P-200 system will be the minimum for DF. I dunno. I'm playing Unreal on a very hot P-200, with a Voodoo2, 128 Mb of SDRam, and a fast Ultra-DMA drive. Solo play is acceptable with the sound quality and detail levels turned down. It's too soon to tell what deathmatch will be like, but generally it's harder on performance than solo play (if the example of other games is of any value) so I expect to be disappointed. DF is going to add a lot of eye candy, and I seriously doubt anything less than a P2 is going to satisfy - especially for deathmatch. Who's zooming who here?

Oh well. We'll just have to wait and see, kiddies. I hope the guys at 3D Realms don't throw away the Q2 engine code - the front office dweebs might change their minds again in a few months...

12/9/97 - Quake II and Piracy

I'm sure, by now, if you read the Quake news sites regularly, you've heard about the pirated versions of Quake II that were out days before the official U.S. release. Look, I've got lots of friends in low places, and I've already been offered a pirated copy of Quake II a couple of times - I've politely said no. I'm paying for my copy. For one thing, considering the innocuous crap from the 50's that's now considered collectors items, I figure if I hold on to my original Quake and Quake II CD's (along with the box and all original paperwork, of course, as any good collector knows), I figure they'll be worth a fortune in forty years. But besides that, I only spend my hard-earned money on things that I think are worth it, and Quake is DEFINITELY worth it.

Look, I won't bullshit you, and I'm not going to even imply I've never pirated software - anyone who's EVER owned a computer for more than a week has probably copied something from a friend, and that's piracy pure and simple. I've done it, I'm sure you all have.

What I'm going to rant about here is pirating Quake and Quake II specifically. The question has to be, WHY? Crap, if you love Quake (and if you don't, I have NO idea what the hell you're doing here), then you've probably been playing it four-plus hours a day online, since it came out a year ago, like I do. C'mon kids, that's a HELL OF A LOT of entertainment value for fifty bucks - pure and simple. Anyone who wants to argue about it is full of crap. Where are you going to get that kind of entertainment value today?

It's not as if the guys at Id are greedy bastards either. They write games like this because they love it - they're just fortunate enough that they can make money off of it too - more power to 'em, because we reap the benefits. They write games (unlike many other unmentionable software companies) that represent great achievements and that they want us to enjoy, not just to milk us out of a few bucks for some piece of crap they know sucks (gee, I don't want to mention names, but does anyone out there remember Outpost or Tekwars?). They want to write a great game, and they're not happy with it when it's done either. Look how many patches there were for Quake, not because they were necessary - the game was totally playable all the way through in version 1.01 - but because they WANTED to make it better. They actually LISTENED to our suggestions and improved the game based on them (Wow! What a novel concept: listening to the customers!). Then they gave us QuakeWorld and GLQuake FOR FREE when any other game company would have charged us another fifty bucks for each one (and you know damn well we would've paid for it too!). They made Quake-C public so anyone could modify the game, and look what that gave us: CTF, Team Fortress, and dozens of other great mods and conversions that are going to keep us all up late at night playing Quake long after Quake II comes out. Id Software made nothing, zip, nada off these extras. All you can possibly say the guys at Id are guilty of is milking us for those two Mission Packs, and they were both excellent products and well worth the little money they charged for them.

My point is: why do you want to steal from these guys? Unlike other game publishers, they represent you an me, and they care about us, how we play, and whether we enjoy the experience. They're kindred spirits. They've created an outstanding product that they enjoy playing as much as you and I do, and they're sharing it with us for a more than reasonable price, considering the incredible amount of time and money it takes to develop a game like this. Do you people think this shit just gets written over night? I've dabble a little bit with programming myself, having written a Quake and Hexen screen saver, and let me tell you kiddies, this shit ain't easy. I can't imagine how you'd even begin to write something like Quake.

Quake II is selling at Babbages for 40 dollars - FORTY FRIGGIN' DOLLARS! C'mon, I don't care what kind of hard-luck story you've got, anyone who can afford a computer can afford 40 bucks. DON'T GO OUT BAR-HOPPING FOR A WEEK! You want to pirate something from Microsoft, I won't shed a tear. Feel free to copy one of their absurdly over-priced, memory-hogging, buggy applications. I can't think of a company that deserves it more - maybe if they actually had some kind of customer support I'd change my mind ("Hello, Microsoft support, can you hold for four hours?"). But give people like the folks at Id their measly 40 bucks - they deserve it. If you haven't paid for a legit copy of Quake, for shame, go out and buy one now. Just think back to all those endless hours spent playing in rapt ecstasy and tell me, honestly, with no hesitation, that they don't deserve 40 bucks for it.

Bottom line is, kids, if these guys can't make money off their products, the assholes who run those other software companies that write nothing but CRAP IN PRETTY BOXES will come in and take over. You know what we've got then, don't ya? More crappy cookie-cutter games with three hours of full motion video and zero entertainment and replay value. We need to coddle and encourage people like the boys at Id so that they keep on cranking out quality games - you don't make it any easier for them by stealing their work.

'nuff said.

12/5/97 - LPB'S:

Just to get things straight, I'm an HPW. I'm fortunate, though, that I have a great Internet provider and can usually get pings between 200 and 250 to a couple of dozen QuakeWorld servers, and under 320 to a few dozen others. I have no desire to get a faster connection at this time as my netplay, most of the time, is almost as liquid smooth as playing on a LAN. Sure, it'll be nice when someday we all have ADSL connections to our homes, but for now I'm happy and life is good.

For those of you who don't know what an HPW is, it stands for "High-Ping Weenie" and is used to designate any Quake player with a ping above 200. Most players who use standard 28.8 to 56K modems generally have an average ping of 300 and are all considered HPWs. LPB, on the other hand, stands for "Low Ping Bastard" and is usually used to describe anyone with a ping below 150 (some would argue for 200). Players with pings between 90 and 150 are probably using ISDN modems, while anyone with a ping of less than 90 is almost certainly using a computer with a wide-bandwidth connection to the Internet, such as a company T1 line or frame relay. Players on these wide-band connections not only have low pings, but also are rarely plagued with the occasional Internet hiccups that modem players have to contend with.

The problem is that LPBs have an inherent advantage against HPWs in a netgame game because they can perform more actions in a given space of time than an HPW can. An HPW can still beat an LPB, it's just very difficult. You just can't beat him by going up to him with weapons blazing like Sylvester Stallone, not when he can out-shoot you and out maneuver you 3 to 1 (or better). You have to out-think an LPB, and it can be a really enjoyable challenge if you're lokking for one - but it can also be terribly frustrating for even the best of players if they stumble onto a server full of LPBs waiting for fresh meat.

A lot of people complain about LPBs, and a few of them really are bastards, but I think a lot more is being made of this than should be, and the problem is slowly resolving itself due to the natural progression of Net-Etiquette. The biggest problem is many people new to playing Quake over the Internet are unaware of these terms, and exactly what they mean.

More and more servers are being designated as LPB or HPW only. If you're an HPW and you see a server listed with the letters LPB in the name, then be aware that the majority of the players on that server will have low pings. You're still invited to join. Very good HPW players will often play on LPB servers for a challenge. Also, in some types of games, mixing LPBs and HPWs is not a problem. In CTF, Team Fortress, and other team games, the two classes can mix very well together, although LPBs should always take care to make sure they distribute themselves evenly between the two teams - it's no damn fun playing against an all LPB team, I'll tell ya.

Servers that are designated as HPW only (they might also say "High-Ping only" or "100+ Ping", or something similar) are intended SOLELY for HPW players and LPB's are not welcome. This is where the "bastard" designation comes in. Some LPBs ignore the sign on the door and come in anyway. Granted some just mistakenly blunder in and when they're politely told about it, they leave. Some, though, are vultures looking for easy pickings.

I can't really understand these guys, they must be the same ones who think that dynamiting fish and hunting rabbits with Uzi machine guns are good sport. What can you do about these ingrates? Again, you can politely ask him to leave. Be nice. Some of them are just there for the kick of pissing people off, and if you start flaming them, you're just playing into their hands. Who knows, if you ask nicely, they might just leave. If they don't, you've got two choices. Either continue to play or leave. Sorry, but the fact is that's all you can do. He might just be a lousy player, and gets his ass kicked all the time on LPB servers, in which case you can all deal with it, and have a great laugh at his expense ("You should be ashamed of the way you're playing with that ping!"), but if he's going around fragging everyone 20 to 1, then the best recourse is to just leave - if everyone leaves, he's not going to have anyone to play with and he'll move on. I'll leave and check back in ten minutes - he's usually gone, and there's plenty of other servers out there anyway.

The more annoying LPBs are the ones who mask their pings so as to appear as an HPW. Any experienced player can usually spot one of these easily enough. I personally have only played against one person who I'm convinced was doing this, and I don't think it's as big of a problem as some people make it out to be.


Hey, please don't be so hard on LPBs. I have a cable modem, and sometimes (although my ping is great) I constantly get disconnected. Besides that, I don't consider myself a bastard, and I consider myself pretty good (I used to use a 56K). The way you word your rant about LPBs is too harsh. I'm not a bastard, and its not my fault that I have an awesome connection--I also don't appreciate when people tell me to leave (after kicking their asses) and say I'm cheap just because I beat them. People often use it as an excuse just because they suck. E-mail me here with a response:

LPG (Low-Ping-Guy) 1/28/98


Hi SctLord,

Actually, I thought I wasn't being hard on LPBs at all - the point of my rant was that LPBs and HPWs need to play within the framework of game etiquette to keep things fair.

I've played on a 128K ISDN, and a T1, as well as what I normally play on - a 28.8 modem. There is absolutely no way you can honestly tell me - all other things being equal - that someone with half or one third your ping does not have a substantial tactical advantage over you in death match. If you have any doubts, try playing Rocket Arena as an HPW against LPBs - as a lesson in patience, it has few equals...

I'll grant you that can have a bad connection - on anything: a regular modem, cable modem, and my friend certainly gets them on his ISDN as well. You can even get one on a T1 or frame relay if you're going through a crappy router. This all evens out. However, you still have a major advantage over someone with twice, or more, your ping - you can out maneuver and out shoot him at least 2 to 1, or better.

A low ping does not a good player make, but a low ping can give a poor player a decisive advantage, especially if he learns to make particularly good use of some quirks in QuakeWorld's player prediction. LPB's playing QuakeWorld usually learn quickly that one easy way to throw off somebody who's chasing them is to do a quick 180 degree turn and get behind him. If the other guy is using a 28.8 connection, there's a very good chance that that you can perform this maneuver while catching the other player completely off guard - he may never even see you do it and you may just vanish and frag him (depending on how big the ping difference is). As you can imagine, if this happens to you often enough, you may begin to suspect that someone is cheating. You may be performing this maneuver in all innocence - it works for you most of the time so you use it, not realizing that half the time it looks to others like you're doing the impossible.

Now, in my opinion, I don't think this is cheating, any more than fragging people through the water surface if you have a 3D card is. Both are sound tactics if they work for you, and you have the hardware. I just think that people should have the choice of choosing the kind of competition they want since there's no difficulty setting in death match play. It's frustrating as hell for a beginner with a 2D card and a high ping to play on a server full of LPBs with 3D cards.

In the case of 3D cards, servers using VIS-patched water maps should be - and generally are - clearly marked that way in their server names. In the same way, I believe servers should indicate a preference for LPBs or HPWs, or no preference one way or the other. That way you, as a player, have a choice. If you don't mind playing against some LPBs, you can, if you don't want to, you shouldn't have to, if you have a 2D card and don't want to play against people with 3D cards who can see you through the water surface, you shouldn't have to either.

The problem is that it's easier to do in one case than the other. Either a server has or doesn't have water maps - and most sysops find it in their best interest to label them as such if they do have them. In the case of HPW only servers, there's no way of easily enforcing the rules - it depends entirely on the manners of LPBs. Most are polite enough to observe the rules - some are a-holes. There's also the case of border-line LPBs who get average pings that float around the vague defining line. They may feel they're out-matched on an LPB server, but they catch hell for playing on HPW servers. There's no easy answer to that one I'm afraid, except a little understanding on everyone's part.

People are always going to get on you for having a better ping. Don't feel bad, you're not alone. While I'm not an LPB, I am a very good player (well, most of the time, anyway). When I started to get real good, I started to occasionally have people accuse me of cheating. This really hurt and bothered me for some time. My stock response now, since I play on QuakeWorld, is to tell someone who accuses me of cheating to log back on as an observer and follow me around - I've got nothing to hide. Still, there's always going to be whiners. Some people DO cheat, and some people suck and love to blame someone else for it - that's life in the big city.

The Flying Penguin :-) 1/31/98

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