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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Twenty years ago... a brief history of my social gaming

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One of my friends recently posted the following picture on his Facebook timeline, in honour of our first gaming clan which started twenty years ago. It got me thinking back to the fun times we had, and really what was the start of  two decades of online social gaming (I'm the one being Mr White for those wondering...)


Things have changed a lot since then, obviously, but stumbling across some old forum caches recently was a real nostalgia trip into my gaming history.

It all started back when Doom first launched in 1993. It was the first real multiplayer PC game that my friends and I had encountered, and entire weekends were devoted to lugging heavy PC cases to each others houses in order to try and link them up for some LAN gaming.


This was back in the days that trying to get the PCs talking to each other was no simple task, and often hours could be spent messing round with cables, .bat files, mods, home-made Doom maps and configurations before they would link up properly. It was always worth it though, and the drunken gaming sessions would carry on for the entire weekend with little or no sleep to interrupt them.

Favourite games we would play back then included Doom, Quake, Command & Conquer and Age of Empires.

It was during those unorganised LAN parties that our gaming clan [FSB], or FunkSoulBrothers, was first formed, though the name didn't really come into the equation until much later. The reason for the formality of an organised gaming clan arose due to the release of the QuakeWorld, a modified version of the Quake client that finally allowed reliable multiplayer gaming over the internet.

Back then we were all dialling up to the internet with our 33.6kbps modems (or if you were really lucky one of those newfangled 56kbps models) through our phone lines. We had to pay for every minute we were connected (around 1p per minute in the evening I think). Disconnects and lag were common place, but the new software opened up a new frontier.

A gamer's best friend in the late '90s

With the advent of QuakeWorld we were able to play against and with each other without having to carry our PCs round to one of our houses. We were also able to take advantage of the social aspects of the internet, such as bulletin boards and newsgroups to meet like-minded people. It was through a bulletin board that we became friends with other players and got invited to the inaugural Liquid Lan event in September 1998.

Rather than carrying our PCs round to a friends house this saw us carrying them a couple of hundred miles up to a hotel near Bradford to meet up with all the new friends we had made on the newsgroups. Tournaments were held, and in the case of the Action Quake 2 tournament our group actually won the event. I still have the mug I was given as a prize. [FSB] was officially born.

The first thing I ever won by gaming
The clan name [FSB], or FunkSoulBrothers, was conjured up by myself and my mate Dave, the co-founder of the clan. We decided on it because our primary competitive game would be Action Quake 2 (AQ2 was a mod for the recently released Quake 2), and the name fit with the 70s and 80s action movies that inspired the mod. It might also have had something to do with the fact that Rockafella Skank seemed to be constantly playing on a loop during the Liquid Lan event!


Our group took on cheesy 70s action movie monikers for the clan. Whilst I had always been known as Merecraft I took the name DaddyCool[FSB] for clan purposes. Dave was ErrolBrown[FSB], and the rest of our original group became FatToni[FSB], Superfly[FSB], Shaft[FSB] and HuggyBear[FSB]. We were joined by friends from the Liquid Lan (CowsGoMoo, Rabid, Musashi and others) and in 1999 formally joined the inaugral Action Quake 2 league on Wireplay (British Telecom's original gaming league).

We decided early on that the clan would be mainly about having fun, rather than success at all costs. We therefore operated a rotation system, meaning all of our players would get the chance to take part in tournament games, rather than just fielding our best players all the time. This also meant I got to play occasionally!

Games took place on a Sunday evening. We'd meet up in IRC for a chat before hand, and I'd inform the group who would be playing that night. At the allotted time the players would head onto the server for the match. Those left behind had a nervous 40 minute wait for the result as the others were busy battling it out on a variety of pre-agreed maps. There was no room on the servers for people to just go and observe the games back in those days, so we waited with baited breath as one of the players would occasionally hop back into chat to tell us the latest score.


Despite the focus on fun over success, and the lack of lpbs in our clan (low-ping-bastards was the nomenclature of the day for anyone with a low ping connection, a rarity in those dial-up days) we did pretty well. In fact we won the league by the end of the first season and were promoted to the Premier league.

Our success did not continue into the next season, and we were roundly beaten in most of our matches. We were up against lpbs and serious players (the kind that would spend all week practising for their matches). We won a few games, but languished near the bottom of the table for the entire season. Despite that Sunday nights remained a highlight of the week, and the camaraderie of the clan was infectious.

We even scored a little fame for a while, and I was interviewed for an article that appeared in The Guardian about online gaming clans (sadly I can't find a link anywhere). This was more down to me being an old University mate with the freelance author of the article than anything else, but it was the talk of the forums for about, oh, a week or so.

Due to the transient nature of the internet few links now remain to those days. This old forum post from 2000 was made when the [FSB] hung up their dual pistols for a while, and this forum thread details the fallout from a disputed clan match (our opponents kicked the referee off the server and set up one of their own players as the admin, so I took the team off the game and forfeited the match). It's an amusing, nostalgia-filled read for those of us who were around at the time. Finally, this archive highlights a discussion about organising a follow up to the original Liquid Lan party. And that's it, I can't find anything else...

So, what happened to [FSB]? Well, in early 2000 we decided to quit the Action Quake 2 league. The main reason was that we had all got into this crazy new game that had launched in the middle of 1999 and was taking up the majority of our gaming time. That game was Everquest, and for us nothing would ever quite be the same again.

I still remain firm friends with that original core group of FunkSoulBrothers however. In fact I was playing DayZ with some of them just last week, and several of them are involved in my Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign for Call of Cthulhu. In a way [FSB] are still going strong, twenty years later. That warrants at least a little round of congratulations I reckon.

3 comments:

  1. FatToni[FSB] - checking in!

    Great nostalgic read!! 20 years of gaming together...damn!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. FatToni! Of course, sorry mate I couldn't remember all the names after all this time. I have trouble enough remembering what I'm supposed to be doing this afternoon...

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    2. Added FatToni[FSB] to the write-up :)

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