Before I start about Counter-Strike, Iíd like to explain why, despite my complaints about it over the years, itís been the dearest multiplayer game to my heart. Sometimes Iíve played it publicly, other times itís been my dirty little secret Ė whenever I was too vocal about a patch I didnít like, Iíd quit but secretly fire it up again. Except, after a prolonged absence, I find myself wondering why I feel no joy in my recent return.
God, in his infinitely cruel sense of humor, made me a natural at learning any game - up to a point. Within a few hours, Iíd be better than 80% of the people who owned it for weeks. This incredible talent was balanced-out by the fact that once I got to that certain point, say the 95th percentile, Iíd be unable to improve no matter how much practice I put in. That 95th percentile sounds impressive, until you consider just how many clueless noobs there are out there. Counter-Strike is the exception to that Ė Iíve rarely ever been able to take even 3rd place on my team. It permits me the joy of feeling that my practice matters, that I can continue to get better Ė which is more important than being the best on a server but with the knowledge that any truly good player could whip my ass.
Moreoever, at FiringSquad, being the 5th best is sort of like being an Airborne Ranger at a gathering of Delta Force troops. To give you an example of how things worked, Iíll relate my NetQuake experiences with Kenn ďD5-SpearĒ Hwang, a clanmate of Threshís. Kenn was probably the second-best Quake player at FS/GX, though many an argument could be made for James Yu (but they never fought it out to the best of my knowledge.) (Brandon has informed me that Lyle "Cross" Fong was in fact likely the second-best, and he'd know better, having spent quite some time at the home office :)
Before I go on, you have to understand one thing about Quake, and NetQuake in particular Ė it exaggerated skill levels like no other game before or since. A memorable quote of Kennís is that ďif you canít maintain a 20:1 on DM6, youíre not even twice as goodĒ Ė or something to that effect. Whereas going 15-3 in Q3A is quite dominating, in Quake, thatís a close match. The game offers absolutely no forgiveness for any mistakes, any lack of reflexes or strategy. Something as simple as missing the timing on the red armor or megahealth can instantly double your opponentís odds, and if he gets the frag and follows it up with control of the armor, health and weapons, youíre meat. On the other hand, all the armor and health in the world will also do you no good unless you can dodge and deliver damage as effectively as the next guy.
Iíve played about ten one-on-one matches with Kenn in my life, most on a LAN at the old Gamers offices, some over the internet. The typical outcome on DM6 is along the lines of 100:0. A few times I might get a frag or two in while heís warming up at the start, but heíll whittle me down to 0 or even the negatives by forcing grenade or rocket suicides. On DM4, the score is about 100 to -40, when he felt generous enough to end it quickly rather than force suicides. I didnít like to play much DM4 with Kenn.
In all fairness, the original Quake is by far my weakest; I didnít have a computer that could play it at anything resembling a decent speed until 3 months after Quake II came out. At the time of the matches with Kenn in 2000 and 2001, Iíd probably rank 3rd or 4th on a 16-player DM server. My natural talent took me far along in the game, but I never really appreciated all the subtle nuances, and how the slightest difference of skill in one area could turn into dominance, until my conversations with Kenn on the subject.
But isnít this article about Counter-Strike? Yeah, weíll get to that shortly.