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Quake 3 Arena takes Linux by force

Six tips to keep you from getting fragged.

(LinuxWorld) -- This past week I did something unthinkable. I purchased a Windows application. It was a game called Quake 3 Arena. Don't worry, I haven't gone over to the dark side. I haven't gone back to dual-booting, either. I just needed to have a valid retail version (and the CD key that accompanies it) of Quake 3 Arena to install and use my Linux version of Q3A. I downloaded the latest point release of Q3A from the id Software ftp site. (See the resources below for the URL.)

Serious gaming is out of character for me. Tux Racer is my idea of a walk on the wild side. Violent multiplayer Internet play of Q3A was a brand new experience. I blame the whole thing on associating with the wrong crowd. People like [Cadet], ascii, Debiot and The_Dome. They lured me astray with all their talk of multiplayer gaming on Linux. Peer pressure of the very worst sort. You can see that the deck was stacked against me. Nurture ran rampant over nature. I had no choice.

The details of why I had to buy a Windows version of a game that's already been ported (and published) to Linux aren't clear. Possibly, it's a consequence of Loki Games financial hardships the past year. Loki did the original port and offered it for sale. However, you can't buy it from Loki Games Web site any longer. Tux Games (see the resources) does offer the Loki version on its Web site, but the price with shipping would have been almost twice what I paid for the Windows version at Wal-Mart.

I contacted id Software by e-mail to learn more about Q3A for Linux, but received no reply. I called the number provided by directory assistance in Mesquite, Texas. That got me as far as the id fax machine. I faxed them a copy of my e-mail, but id's ignored that as well.

I've been told not to take it personally, id Software is very busy. Its folk are busy providing technical support for the game companies that license the engine used in Q3A. That in addition to a lot of work on "the next big game." But then, given the string of mega-hits id has produced, dating all the way back to Commander Keen in the early 1990's, I imagine the officers and engineers also try to save a little time for themselves to enjoy their Ferraris.

When you can't get in the front door, after asking politely, it's time to go undercover. I fired up X-chat and ventured onto the #loki channel on the Open Projects IRC network. There I learned -- unofficially -- that the contract between id Software and Loki expired. That's why id took over the Loki port, and why id now maintains it. Tux Games still offers the boxed Loki version simply because it's still in stock.

Quake 3 Arena tip No.1: Mind ping times

I also learned a little about playing Q3A online. For one thing, when you select Multiplayer/Internet, you connect to the "master server." This server sits in an id Software office and runs OS/X. It provides you with a list of the servers matching your interests, sorted in the order you specify, and allows you to then pick one of them to join. I am a rank newbie at this, but take my advice. Sort them in sequence by ping time. It makes all the difference in how you do in the game.

OK, watching the ping time is my first tip. Unless you're experienced, you can expect to get fragged -- a euphemism for being killed -- much more often than you can frag others. At least in the beginning. It is the way of first-person-shooter gaming, grasshopper.

Still on the subject of the "master server," it seems to me that id Software has everything it needs to start collecting data on the share of their customer market is running Linux. Unofficially, I've been told that the client "probably" provides that information to the server. I was also told id just didn't have time to gather/analyze that data. It is obvious that id could care less. The company makes tons of money without knowing, or caring, how large their Linux customer base is, or whether it is growing or shrinking. For the time being, that is.

Quake 3 Arena tip No. 2: Move & shoot simultaneously

Mano a mano in Quake 3 FFA Back to the game. To start improving your play, you have to learn to move and shoot at the same time. That was hard for me to do. Invariably I would freeze in whatever spot I was in when confronted with another player and start shooting. Bad tactic. Learn to move sideways, forward, backward, and to crouch and jump. While shooting the bad guys, naturally. You also want to find the best weapons, the most armor, and the most health. Nothing to it, really.

Quake 3 Arena tip No. 3: The best way to learn to play is to not play

The aforementioned ascii taught me another trick that is very handy. Not to play. I know, that sounds funny, but it's true. Watch instead. Find a server that you like and become a spectator rather than a participant. When you press the fire key or mouse button as a spectator, it tabs you to the next player in the game. Then you see exactly what they see as they are playing. Try to watch the best players. They will be the ones at the top of the scoring list. Watch where they go and what they do. This is an excellent way to gain local knowledge of a particular game map.

Quake 3 Arena tip No. 4: Run!

On the #mandrake IRC channel I was given an alternate configuration for the control keys for movement and firing. I was also told to set the game option to "Always Run." That last bit is good advice.

Quake 3 Arena tip No. 5: Change the control keys

I tried those settings, but was actually less comfortable with them than the defaults. I went back to the defaults and tweaked them just a bit. I used "s" for forward rather than "w". That gave me strafe left, forward, and strafe right all in a row at "a", "s", and "d". I also made "w" the jump key and "x" the back key. The positions all seemed to make better sense to me and that made it much easier to quickly remember what key did what in the early going.

Quake 3 Arena tip No. 6: Try the demo version first

My last tip is this: don't run out and buy the game. Not until you make sure that your computer can handle the 3D requirements. The best way to do that is to download the demo version and try it. You can find the demo version in the idstuff/quake3/linux/old subdirectory at ftp.idsoftware.com. Be sure to get the demo, the various beta versions and point releases in that directory require the retail CD.

Oh, one more thing. If you see WartBaby on a Q3A server, flee for your life, sucka!

More Stories By Joe Barr

Joe Barr is a freelance journalist covering Linux, open source and network security. His 'Version Control' column has been a regular feature of Linux.SYS-CON.com since its inception. As far as we know, he is the only living journalist whose works have appeared both in phrack, the legendary underground zine, and IBM Personal Systems Magazine.

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