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PC Fight Club

Vol. 2, Issue 6
December 13, 1999 

The big point being here that kids can do this much more easily than adults do, and take much greater satisfaction over it. Yes, adults can do it too, we’ve all spent an evening playing Mortal Kombat 2 on our SNES with our best mate and a few beers, and made with the potty talk, but that’s not the norm for adults. We also would find it hard to do it in person to a total stranger. Of course, many would point to Quake and say in loud voices “oh no we don’t, we talk trash in Quake!” And yes, they’d be right, but Quake is almost completely anonymous. You wouldn’t dream of saying some of the stuff you say in Quake to people you don’t know in person. They might be bigger than you, after all. “Well, fine, then I’ll play Killer Vixens over the internet,” I hear you shout. Well, we’ll deal with that in the next item. The point here is that kids can get into this whole humiliation thing much easier than adults usually do.

Something else that’s worth pointing out here is that these games are often called ‘twitch games’ and there’s a reason for this. You need damn good instant reflexes to play these games well, not only in comprehension times but in reaction times too. Some of the combos in Killer Instinct need you to be a lightning fast octopus to pull off. Kids, traditionally, are better at picking this stuff up than we are, sad to say. We older folks can learn it, there is no doubt, but kids will always have the edge. Fighters traditionally are more about reflexes than experience, since its all reaction, and pro-action.

Networking issues.

In the last section, we touched on one networking issue that has an impact on how much fun these games are to play. The whole textural communication between players is a thorny subject. In Quake, it’s possible to sit in a corner and type in your messages – Quake III:Arena even has a special mode to show others you are doing this – but in a fighting game, there is no real time to do this, except in between bouts. This communication is an important part of personalizing the humiliation factor involved in these types of games. There are always ways around this – having several pre-entered strings of text, that can be associate with specific fighting events – the successful connection of a round house kick always generates string 4 on the screen: “Eat that, Yankee scum” or whatever... but no one seems to have picked this up yet.

But that’s just touching on the real network issues. We described these games as ‘twitch games’, and therein lies the rub. The Internet just isn’t fast enough to keep two games concurrent enough, when lightning fast responses are required.

These games are all about instant responses to actions – you press your front kick button and I hit the block button - which requires an instant response across the Internet. And everyone knows how scary the net can be for losing or delaying packets. Quake II gets around this kind of thing by having some prediction built into it, so when your client loses track of the server for a few milliseconds, your game predicts what the server would be telling you, so when the game re-establishes itself, you don’t notice the difference. Well, that’s the idea anyway. However, often the prediction is wrong, and people leap about the place, putting themselves where the server says they are, rather than where your client thinks they should be. Anyway, this kind of propping up of the Internets failings won’t work in a situation where you rely on almost instantaneous responses.


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Credits: Illustration © 1999 Kevin 'Rorshach' Johnstone. This article is © 1999 Jake Simpson. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited. So don't do it, or we'll beat you to a bloody pulp.