Clan Cicatrix: Godsmurf the Gamer
As a kid I had been hooked to computer games on my c64 and later my Amiga, but at 17 I quit computers completely to do more interesting real life stuff. When I was a student at the VUB in Brussels (1991-1996) I didn’t own a computer anymore so I just went to a university PC room when I needed one. It’s there in the computer room (2nd floor of building K for any VUBers read this) that I saw several guys playing the hot new game 3D Wolfenstein one day. I was completely blown away as it was the first time I ever saw a textured 3D game – on the C64 it had just been lines and on the Amiga one-colour polygons, but this had pictures of Hitler on the walls! During the next few weeks half the students in that computer room were playing that game and so did I when I was there.
When Doom and Doom 2 were released the same happened; it was hard to get a PC to do your work coz all PCs were being used by students playing Doom single player (multiplayer wasn’t possible). Both games impressed me with their incredible 3D engines, but I didn’t really play them much yet. One day I got to play some Doom 2 1on1 for a few hours though when a friend of mine had 2 PC’s in his room. We played on the little square map and we first had to kill off all the giant spiders there before we could play 1on1. It was my first ever multiplayer FPS experience and I absolutely loved it, it was the most fun I ever had had in a computer game, but it was a one-time thing as I still had no computer.
In 1995 I bought a computer because I needed it for my thesis,a nd now I really got to play Doom and Doom 2 and went through all the single player episodes. When Quake test was released in 1996 I played it and was awed by the technology (3D models! Looking up and down! Water!) but my 486 couldn’t really run it so I soon forgot about it. I did get to play a 1on1 though; after many hours of configuring COM ports and what not me and my friend Abdel managed to get it going but his PC was even worse than mine so it was only a symbolic game :)
Fast forward to december 1997 when I was living and studying in Leuven. I overheard some online friends on a mailing list saying something about this new game Quake 2 but I knew my PC couldn’t run it. A bit later I read something about multiplayer Quake 1 in a PC magazine. The article reminded me of the fun I had had those few hours playing Doom 2 1on1, and since I had a P166 now plus an internet connection at home (a 33k6 modem) I thought “hey I should be able to play a multiplayer shooter now, that would be cool”. So I downloaded the Quake 1 sharewareversion, enjoyed the single player a lot and tried to play with my 33k6 modem using Kali to find servers. I had my first ever online multiplayer experience on 11 January 1998 (as I discovered from finding this. I found it an awesome experience to see other players moving (the first time I asked “are you a human player” to be sure it was multiplayer :-) ), but with ping 600 and almost continuous hangs, it was totally unplayable.
A few weeks later in February 1998 I read about an add-on called QuakeWorld that would make Quake playable with a modem, but when I downloaded and installed it it said it only worked with the full version. So I went out and bought Quake, then a budget game as Quake 2 was already out, and started playing QW with my 33k6 modem. My nick was Uebersmurf at the time and I soon made a skin that was a laughing smurf with sun glasses. I played with ping 400 or more and with maybe 15 fps in 320×200 software mode, and for many months I didn’t even know you could turn on a crosshair, so I couldn’t even begin to get a bit good. But I enjoyed it a lot nevertheless and played about 1-2 hours a day for several months, resulting in big phone bills. I thought I was the only Quake player in Belgium because I never met another one. I mostly played public CTF on the episode 1 maps, which were absolutely superb, and CA on dm3 (on the quake.ie server). I soon started disliking the overpowered all-purpose RL though, and that’s the main reason my Quake addiction faded away when the novelty of online multiplayer wore off.
I had had many hours of great fun playing Quake though, and when now I’m playing on some Q3 server late at night and see people with ping 400, who play against LPBs without seeming to be bothered by it, who make 3 frags in 20 minutes, who don’t speak to anyone and who are most likely completely oblivious of any such thing as a Quake scene, I can understand why they are there and why they keep playing, because I was one of them once and had a good time.
By the summer I hardly played Quake anymore, but I kept an interest in gaming and remained an avid reader of Blue’s News and Planet Quake. After the summer of 1998 cable became available in my student house, and I was also going to upgrade to a new PC. I decided that as soon as I’d have those I’d go out and buy Quake 2. And so I did on 2 November 1998. The first Q2 server I connected to was the Fragland server as that one was sponsored by the cable company. At first my ping was 600 and I thought oh fuck but after some searching on Planet Quake I found 3fingers’ tweak page where it said in big red letters “if you have huge pings although your connection is good, then your computer is probably too fast and you need to set a maxfps value”. I fixed that and my ping dropped to 20 on that server, and now my Quake career could really begin. Thanx 3fingers :)
The cable I got was a university connection (Kotnet) that turned out to be total crap. I got ping 20 on the Fragland server but on all other servers I had pings of 200 and more and lots of pl until about 2am at night. So I only played on Fragland, which was a Q2 Lithium server. Lithium was THE game being played in Belgium at the time; there simply were no other servers. So I played Lithium, which is basically FFA with an offhand hook. It was at the time played on all Q2 maps; both the single player and DM ones. I loved Q2 from the start because you had a neat array of weapons ranging from useless to powerful instead of just an RL and a shaft. I got really addicted and played a lot, several hours a day. I had had a severe dislike for clans since my QW days; in my opinion putting a clan tag before your name was just a way of trying to look important. As I got better in Q2, I particularly enjoyed finishing before guys with clan tags. I did get better all the time, although like many newbies at the time I only used the RL and thought the railgun was a useless weapon. Half a year later it would be completely different and newbies would play railgun only.
After about a month, in December, I first discovered the web site of Fragland, and there I saw all the regular Fragland players who I only knew by name posting to the forum on that site. This was the first time that I became aware of anything like a ‘scene’ of hardcore players – I only knew Planet Quake and Blue’s News before that.
Around that time [KC]Cronus, who was THE Q2 God on Fragland at the time with over half the map records on his name invited me to play a 1on1 against him on his own IP (he was also using Kotnet). I had only played FFA until then so this was something completely new. It was fun and we’d often do it again. We always played with fl 10 and I invariably lost by 10-0, but it taught me to think instead of just shooting around and it helped me get better.
Late December 1999 I put in even more hours of Q2 as I had discovered the CLQ and (like many newbies still do) wanted to finish as high as possible in their ranking. I broke a map record on Fragland for the first time (on the lame low gravity map but still :) ) and one day I got noticed by a guy I’d never seen before who was called [CX]Kingpin. He chased me on q2dm1 for a while, commented on all my mistakes, suggested I should try to join his clan CX, and then entered the game and owned it up.
After the game Kingpin told me the leader of his clan was on an irc channel somewhere, so I decided to check it out. I hadn’t used IRC since my early internet days in 1992 so I was totally amazed to discover that there were now several IRC networks instead of just one, and that there were Windows programs like mIrc to get on IRC instead of doing it in a terminal window that connects to a Unix server. Anyway after learning mIrc a little I found #cicatrix on IRCnet, and this was my second introduction to the scene after the Fragland forum: I discovered that Quake players were hanging around in IRC channels named after their clans all day. Seemed really silly to me, just like this whole clan thing did, but anyway I talked to the leader of Cicatrix, one[CX]SemperFy who I had never seen in action yet but whose name I knew from his map records at Fragland. He said he was watching television and he was very uninterested. I asked why he never played on Fragland and he said “I don’t play there anymore, it’s bad for my skills. I only play 1on1s against other good players now”. Of course he was right and I’d say the same thing later but there and then I thought he was just conceited and self-important. Kingpin told SemperFy I might be interested in joining, but I wasn’t really interested anymore and I just left IRC after a while.
Cronus one day took me and some other Lithium players from Fragland to the 2nd server Fragland had started (and therefore the 2nd server I could actually play on). It was running a strange mod called Battleground in which you could vote for strange settings we didn’t really understand (what’s tp 4?) and on which you could play in teams and which, most shockingly, did not have a hook! This was the first time I ever came on a team deathmatch server and I was very attracted by the concept.
Thus the idea of joining a clan came up again, although I still thought clans were silly. I started checking out clan sites. The best Belgian clans of the time were the Flemish clans KC and CX and the French-speaking clan BK. All these clans played Q2 Lithium, and their strength could only be estimated from their players’ results in Lithium FFA, as playing wars was almost impossible on Belgian internet. The best FFA players in Belgium were [KC]Cronus and [CX]SemperFy, they were really two classes above all others. [BK]W@rrior was also considered one of the best in Belgium but I never saw him play FFA.
About a week after first checking it out, I came on IRC again and this time I hung around. SemperFy asked me to play a 1on1, and he also beat me 10-0 just like Cronus always did. A while later he asked me on irc “so, do you want to join”? I was still a bit reluctant to join any clan that took itself seriously. But, not expecting to stay longer than a week, I just said yes and joined Cicatrix, on 9 January 1999, together with Dawfighte, also a student in Leuven and also a newbie. The CX members at the time were SemperFy, Kingpin, Bosjer, Vaguh and Zebig, and two inactive guys Ko and Which?doc. Vaguh and Zebig would also turn inactive soon.
Less than a minute after I said I’d join, SemperFy asked me which skin I wanted. Every CX player had his own skin, but it was always a variation on the same skin of a guy wearing a black outfit with CX on it in red letters; only the color of the armcollars differed. Expecting this serious clan dude wouldn’t want to allow it I said I wanted to have a skin of a smurf wearing sunglasses; the same skin I had had in QW, but wearing the CX outfit of course. I tried to make it myself but the result was pathetic (it was a green smurf due to Q2’s colour palette). SemperFy then surprised me by booting up Photoshop and making the smurf skin for me in no time, and then working on it until it was just like I wanted it. I started to like this guy :)
The Flemish Q2 scene at the time was concentrated in Leuven. Over 50% of all Q2 players were from Leuven because that’s where TVD and Kotnet were available; Telenet was only available in very few area’s so Telenetters were far outnumbered by TVDers. In CX, three members were living in Leuven: Bosjer, Dawfighte and me. I soon got to meet both of them, going to a cafe where I also met Cronus, who was considering joining CX, and members from fun clan HC who were Bosjer’s class mates. That cafe was de Reynaert btw, still a meeting place for the Quakers and ex-Quakers of Leuven :)
I quickly got to like being in CX, and I started putting my energy in it almost from the start. SemperFy had put up a secret page for CX members with 6 team binds on it – team binds were quite exceptional in the Belgian scene back then :). I jumped on the idea of team communication and started working with SemperFy on improving it and soon on making map tactics. I also helped SemperFy to convince Cronus to join CX (basically I nagged to him both online and irl until he said yes), and I also convinced Fragspecter to join. With these three united in one clan CX was suddenly something of a Belgian super clan.
When I joined CX, SemperFy had sent me a login for a site called ClanBase, which after the Fragland forum and the clan channels on IRC was my 3rd big introduction to ‘the scene’. At the time I was a fanatic Netscape 3 user, so I saw ClanBase only as a black on white site without any layout, and therefore thought it was utter crap. Belgian clans had just started using ClanBase, which was then a brand new site used mainly by Dutch clans. Because I saw some news items there about Dutch players joining Dutch clans, and because I was really enthousiastic about Cronus and Fragspecter joining CX, I clicked the ‘send news’ link and wrote the news to Talita and Rob of ClanBase, who much to my joy and that of the rest of CX posted it.
During my first month in CX, I never got to play. Actually, CX never got to play and neither did any other Belgian clan because playing matches on Belgian internet was impossible; most of the time everyone could only play on the server of their own ISP. About once a week SemperFy arranged a war but it always got canceled. When a war was finally played, against VdO, it was played on SemperFy’s own server where I couldn’t participate.
On 19 February 1999, I finally got to play my first wars. First I played a 3on3 against CrC, a fun clan from Limburg that we owned. Later that evening we played against SQA, the best Dutch Lithium clan. This was a totally awesome experience, of the 200 or so wars I’ve played it’s still the one I remember most fondly and the one that defines a clan war for me. This was something I really wanted to keep doing. To my own surprise I scored just as well as SemperFy and Cronus. Just a month before these two had been my gods and I had expected to be a CX bench player forever, now I was playing with them and keeping up frag for frag. I was in newbie heaven :)
The rest of my career as a Q2 player is part of the story of Cx which I already wrote down. In short I played in 99% of all Cx’ Q2 wars, was our best player quite often and always had a good time. I became co-leader with SemperFy and invested a lot of time in our teamplay, writing down the tactics and improving them all the time by studying our demos, and ‘programming’ our infamously complicated configs. In our later Q2 days Cx became a clan known for its teamplay by beating technically more skilled foreign opponents, so these efforts really paid off. Strong teamplay always was and still is what makes Quake fun for me, which is why I wouldn’t want to be in any other clan than Cicatrix.
Somewhere in 1999 I convinced my clan mates to move #cicatrix from IRCnet to Quakenetwhere all the big Scandinavian clans were (#mm, #nine, …). As #cicatrix was the meeting place for the whole Belgian Q2 scene back then, all other Belgian Q2 clans soon followed us to Quakenet. Other countries (e.g. Germany) would only find their way to Quakenet much later in the Q3 days.
In the spring of 1999 when Cx had just made the transition from Lithium to DM we had the problem that there were no DM servers. Then I read about a new mod called OSP Tourney on Blue’s News. At the time there were no Tourney servers in Europe yet, but I figured that this mod would allow Lithium and DM on the same server if the Tourney hook could be made 100% identical to the Lithium hook. I made a Tourney config that accomplished that, wrote a manual on how to simulate a Lithium server with Tourney that I got plugged on Blue’s News, started campaigning for European Lithium and Battle servers to be changed to Tourney servers and later used my position as news poster on ClanBase to plug the mod as much as I could. I became friends with the OSP programmer Rhea and made a lot of suggestions that found their way into Tourney; I was most proud of the idea to have votable configs, one which Rhea first didn’t like but that worked so well that he would later also implement it in OSP for Q3. At one time there was an OSP version called 1.64GS named after me, I wished that would have been the final version :)
In June 1999 I was asked by Talita and Rob to post Belgian news on ClanBase. ClanBase was still mostly a Dutch scene site then, with Belgians using the ladders but otherwise not being involved. Just posting Belgian news would take like 10 minutes every month, but I started doing a lot more and also worked out a lot of suggestions to improve ClanBase and make it more international, many of which were implemented. After a few months I was asked to become the 3rd head admin of ClanBase. The ClanBase Cups have been my baby from the start, the first one being the Q2DM Cup Fall 1999 in which I also played the final with Cx.
After our Cup final I switched to Quake 3 along with the rest of Cicatrix. Although I already disliked Q3 from the q3test day, I was pretty good at it, as our early Q3 screenshots show. I was probably the first to do the rail-to-bridge jump in q3dm6 (on the day I got Q3 in fact); in any case I was the first to put up a demo of it, on SHOD.
In March 2000 the first and regrettably last Belgian Quake 3 Trophy was played, the first Belgian championship Cx participated in as there had never been such a thing in Q2. It was also our first confrontation with the Belgian Q1ers, and we won it gloriously :) I managed to take 3rd place in the 1on1 competition after beating Gecko, Kingpin and Fuz and after losing from Warlock by only 1 frag in the decisive 3rd map of the semi-final.
After some months I stopped getting better while the rest of Cx luckily didn’t, so my role as a player became less important. I kept doing the tactics and configs, inventing the now generally used keypad timer scripts for Q3, which Sujoy copied without crediting me. Others invented such timers by themselves but I was the first to release it :) When SemperFy retired I was the only clan leader remaining which basically meant I had to do all the shitty work by myself now. I still played in almost all our matches though. In the fall of 2000 we did really well in the EuroCup 2 and became the Benelux champions by beating E and AoS in the playoffs of the ClanBase Benelux Cup.
In January 2001 I went to LA5 with Vertex, Kingpin and Warlock where we did really well. I had intended that to be my last matches and I announced my retirement right after it, but just a week later Cicatrix ran into serious member problems so I returned. Cicatrix was soon on track again but I kept playing and in the spring of 2001 we played our best season yet with me mostly acting as tactics guy, coach and bench player.
Throughout my Q3 time ClanBase got to consume more and more of my time, as with Q3 we also introduced the EuroCups which have been vital to ClanBase’s expansion on the European level. ClanBase is like a full-time job now and that is also a good excuse for becoming less good as a player :)
Basically Cicatrix and ClanBase have been a big part of my life for the past two years. In both I started out as a newbie with zero responsibility, but both ignited my enthusiasm so I started investing my time and energy in them to help the founders – SemperFy in Cx, Talita in ClanBase. For both these guys I had and have a lot of respect and it’s been fun working with them and building something up. Both Cicatrix and ClanBase have come a long way since I joined them and both are still growing.
I’ve always said I’ll keep putting time in Cicatrix as long as we keep getting better, which until now we’ve kept doing. With EuroCup 3 we’ve probably reached a peak we can never improve upon, so as of this writing I have no clue what my personal future plans as a player are. At the moment I’m mainly playing WFA which is a lot of fun and which I’m quite good at coz the marine class fits my style perfectly.