My The FRAG Diary
Thanks to A Shagadellic Journey for permission to use Jilted's photos
November 7, 1997
Traveling was pretty smooth on the way to Dallas. On the ride from the Dallas-Fort Worth airport my cab driver told me that my hotel was quite close to where they shot JFK. Luckily we weren't in a convertible.
I had to search for The FRAG after checking into my hotel, having left any form of directions in New York. I succeeded pretty quickly, as the building pictured on the left had a FRAG sign out front. Oh yeah the InfoMart, now I remember. Figuring the Quake crowd was not the usual scene around here I said to the woman at the InfoDesk "I bet I don't even have tell you where it is I want to go." She smiled saying, "I bet you're here for that FRAG thing" and pointed. I made my way through the lobby
The InfoMart is some sort of high tech steel and glass office space. The vast seven story lobby features a working marble fountain. By the time I reached the back of the registration line, I was quite aware that this was quite a far cry from QuakeCon '97's Holiday Inn, or any other such event for that matter.
After registering, I made my way into the room: a monster at some 12,000 square feet, set up with hundreds of computers. The space was large enough to handle everything comfortably, with ample power with no visible generators. The only drawback was the bright lights, which had to stay on for insurance reasons, which were quite harsh for computer gaming. Immediately noticeable was a new wrinkle: the perimeter of the room was sprinkled with logo-emblazoned booths from most of the sponsors, like those found at trade shows (more on that later). There were already a lot of people here, the games had already begun.
It wasn't long before the first giveaway took place: Scott and morbid from 3Dfx brought along a pair of Obsidian Voodoo cards which morbid had promised in his .plan to give to "Whoever can wear a costume depicting 3Dfx the best" (it was, after all, Halloween). It turns out it may have been better described as a contest for whoever could wear a costume exciting 3Dfx the best, as KillCreek wore her CrackWhore outfit (right), and won herself an Obsidian on the spot by strutting through the room, standing on a chair and declaring her love for 3Dfx. No more calls, please... we have ourselves a winner.
Boo! Did I scare you?
There were many attendees in costume, and some, like Embrionic Pete (with his trademark green hair), who could pass for being costumed in their civvies. A few of us (morbid, Redwood, sicko, Process and I) who were invited to a couple of local parties had failed to bring costumes, and none of us had green hair. Time to hit the strip malls.
The Party Patrol
Costumed and armed (we had Redwood's automatic pellet gun), we headed up to the Ritual offices for the first party. There I saw some of the funniest costumes I've ever seen, including an authentic looking Jack-in-the-Box, who (thankfully), didn't seem to have anyone shouting burger orders in his mouth, and Tom Hall looking more like Krusty the Clown than any non-animated entity should be allowed. We practiced guerrilla partying trying to mingle while dodging sniper fire from Wireless, who had acquired the gun. We left after a bit and made our way to Steve "Gateway" Tietze's party at Tony Goodman's house (that's the way to throw parties: at someone else's place). I got to talk to a bunch of folks, including Bear from id (looking quite military). We had a couple more beers, Tony and I exchanged cigars, and we watched South Park on a huge projection TV. Kick-ass! Gateway took a bunch of pictures, which due to the cool fog machine, look like the negatives were exposed to plutonium or something (see left). Here are the rest of Gateways photos.
The Inevitable Moment
Saturday morning I finally made it to Denny's with OneThumb and Sicko (commonly referred to as "OneThumb's brother"). Today on the menu: the meat lover's skillet, a smorgasbord of sausage, bacon, fried potatoes and eggs that definitely belongs on the John Cash DietTM. The MacAskill brothers opted for juice and water, content at just being at Denny's. Can you blame them? We set a new record for shortest Quake related stay at a Denny's (counting take-out) at 45 minutes.
Re-fueled we returned to the FRAG where I set myself up on Polish's computer to update the news. I managed to attract quite a bit of attention with my loud cursing as I watched Eudora happily delete all the mail I meant to leave on the server. Argh. I also ended up with people watching over my shoulder, including Mr. Wolf, who pointed out that the ton of mail I received was one of the reasons he shut down the Wolf Den. During my work, the Daikatana movie was shown, a really impressive music video featuring some beautiful skins. The reaction was quite strong: it was shown again due to popular demand. The lights came up, and as I finished up what I was doing, I started to suffer from a headache.
I uploaded the news and found that I had missed the first giveaway, but, not the appearance of the new Sin girl. The idea of the Sin girl is to make you Sin to earn a Sin t-shirt. Well, if not Sin, at least embarrass yourself.
Some decried her tameness compared to her QuakeCon predecessor, as the general depravity level lowered (no whipping), but the complainants were in a minority as she was awfully cute (left). The men in the crowd were eager to do stupid stuff at her bidding (right).
The phrase "men in the crowd," brings me to an interesting point: there seems to be a slight rise in the percentage of women in the crowd at each of these events. Pretty soon they'll have to bring along a Sin boy too.
I was urged to do something to earn one of the new Sin T-Shirts (which look awesome), but my headache was really starting to pound, no doubt the Sin girl's effect on my pulse-rate a factor. The headache, now cresting on nausea (and I still refuse to blame the meat lover's skillet), forced me to retire to my room for a couple of hours, which turned out to be a crucial mistake.
You Snooze, You Lose
Shortly after I departed the Sin demo was conducted (I'm still kicking myself). I also missed the id guys: apparently between Friday night's party hopping, and Saturday's headache I managed to miss Paul Steed, tokay, Disruptor, and Brian Hook. Timing is the key to life.
I returned and got to watch some of the action in the tournaments. Watching good players play is very entertaining, and this case was no exception, as over the weekend some spectacular matches took place. But this, being the first event of its sort (a beta?), had a problem with the spectating as it was hard to find a good vantage point to watch the action sometimes, especially in the big name matches, and the crowding was uncomfortable for the spectators and the participants at times. There were a pair of projection screens up front but they were a bit drowned out by the light, and not in full use. I spoke with Polish and Angel Muņoz who both agreed that an area separate from the competitors was in order for those screens, or some other arrangement, as this was not yet ideal.
We hung around for a while watching the action when John Romero and onethumb headed off to ION Storm for their Doom2 challenge. Somehow Joost, Sicko, Process and I managed to get invited along. We got to take a tour of their new space which is still under construction. As you may have heard, they're building their offices on the top two floors of the second-tallest building in Dallas, and it looks just insanely spiffy (and expensive). Their current temporary space, meanwhile, looks like an explosion in a toy store, featuring the most amazing maze in the middle, which is something right out of a game. We got to see the Daikatana video again, and got one of the first chances I've heard of for outsiders to peek at Anachronox, which is looking way cool. They have the third-person perspective working flawlessly, their "float cam" has none of the jerkiness other camera views all seem to share). Romero loves game music, and we listed to examples of it from his extensive collection of game music CDs.
The game on the menu for the evening was Doom II, which has apparently been in vogue for ION after-hours enjoyment for some time now. I drew the Romero first, and bad enough that I hadn't played Doom in 18 months, but I could not kill my vertical sensitivity (just wanted to establish all my excuses up front). We played on Dead Simple (Map 7) and he crushed me 50-22, but I had a ball. It's a blast to deathmatch with him because of the hysterical things he screams at you while you play.
I told him I was going to practice and crack his skull the next time (and I will too). Then onethumb took his medicine to the tune of 50-9, but he and I never got around to playing (so he's on my list for next time too). Soon Redwood, morbid and Zor returned, we played around some more, took the tour again for the latecomers, and finally, nade our way back.
Sunday Bloody Sunday
I found myself trying to assess the whole shebang. Matches were still taking place, but it seemed safe to say the tournament was a success. I heard some complaints that it was slow going (which you hear at every tournament), as it just seems to take more time than it should to get matches rolling. But the organizers seemed pretty, well, organized, and it went smoother than I've ever seen a tournament go. There is still room for improvement, but I was impressed. The later matches were broadcast on the projection screens, and the lights finally lowered, and the attention the spectators were paying to the matches seems to confirm the viability of computer gaming as a spectator sport.
How will the competition between the Cyberathletes and similar organizations such as the PGL shake out? I don't see how there's any way of knowing, but it is clear why there is such strong interest in organizing this type of league: there are a lot of companies who feel there is a market here, and maybe there's even enough of a market to support multiple leagues. This is definitely one of the stories to watch in the coming months.
Also being shown off was the X-Men Ravages of the Apocalypse TC, along with 80 pounds of assorted Marvel merchandise that H2H passed around. H3D continues to show a strong interest in this market, considering their product, stereoscopic glasses, is not yet in stores. The belief that these events and this audience are worth pursuing was also evidenced by the two controller companies, Mad Catz and one whose name escapes me at the moment, both are working on next generation controllers that attempt to fill the needs of the first person gamer better than some of earlier efforts. Logitech was also a sponsor, supplying a boatload of mice, word is that they finally understand that their mouse is a gaming device. Another company looking to make inroads here is Bazooka, who placed subwoofers under a lot of the computers (I'm playing with one of them now, and it's pretty damn awesome). I spoke with Bazooka Joe (that's what I was calling him) and he said they wanted to make themselves a real presence in the community, and make these available for giveaways at other large LAN parties. Combine this all with all the sponsored computers filled with PowerVR cards and the Typhoon uber-system grand prize, and it really adds up to a significant show of interest in a short time.
The list of sponsors is impressive, and imperative to the success of these events if they are to continue to charge no admission fee. It might be easy to decry it all as commercialism, but small LAN parties remain what they are, but the large gatherings of this sort quickly generate expenses in the tens of thousands of dollars, and that money has to come from somewhere. I don't know about you, but I prefer having the sponsors pay that than me. Besides, it meant the opportunity for free stuffTM.
Which brings us to the results. I had to head out Sunday evening as the last matches were being played. The final standings were:
and the winner is...
|Play by play from the tourney can be found at:
|Congrats to Gollum and all the competitors, and thanks to
Polish and all the organizers for their hard work.