This is the final version of the Quake article I submitted to CITYSEARCH webzine. It has now been published, with lots of graphics! See the groovay published version at

by Chase Kimball, http://www.aros.net/~chase.
And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof: and it shall be an habitation of dragons, and a court for owls. Isaiah 34:13.

It’s 2100 hours, soldier–do you think you’ll live forever? I snap out of reverie, as I imagine the barking of a platoon leader in my headset. Minutes earlier I was watching “Frasier” in the company of my beloved Briseïs and Curly, like any typical family man (typical in this case being broadly defined to include a divorced man whose immediate family consists only of his two parrots). All that is a distant memory now, my feathered babies secure in their covered cages, as I prepare to go forth seeking whom I may destroy. I teleport into a mysterious abandoned fortress on a distant planet. The air is thick with foreboding and a feeling of decay, and in the distance I hear explosions, gunfire, and groans. Nearby I see some bodies and miscellaneous heads, and it would take someone with the descriptive powers of the Prophet Isaiah to adequately describe the horrific scene. Unfortunately, Isaiah is not available for comment.

Like the freshly teleported Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Terminator,” I am effectively naked, with no battle gear. I scurry around in the shadows trying to avoid any attention, because the first mistake in this helpless situation will be my last. I find a cache of war matériel, and quickly don armor and load my rocket launcher. I check my displays, looking for traces of known badasses. They are absent, and I breathe a sigh of relief. Sometimes there are women warriors present, but that is no comfort, since on this futuristic battlefield strength counts for nothing, and only speed and cunning matter.

Summoning up the courage of my fighting ancestors (Did you notice any member of the Kimball family ditching King Henry V and skulking into the woods with ill-assumed nonchalance on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt? I thought not.), I don the colors of my clan “Zero Tolerance,” assume the guise of the ancient warrior “Hannibal,” and proceed out into this nightmare scene to do battle for the greater glory of my clanmates. Welcome to “Quakeworld.”

LINK 1. What is Quake?
In case you were wondering, Quakeworld does not exist locally, or even at the Dugway Proving Grounds. It exists only on networked computers, typically those connected on the Internet.

The game “Quake” was developed by the renowned programmers at id Software, whose huge hit “Doom” became the most popular computer game of all time a few years ago. Quake is the follow-up to Doom, far more sophisticated, and specifically designed to allow people to play one another in a game called “deathmatch.” In single-play Doom and Quake your opponents are monsters generated by your computer. This is a lot of fun, but monsters, even when animated by a computer, can only be so smart. Their patterns are predictable, and after a while they become easy to defeat.

The geniuses at id saw these shortcomings, and designed their games to take advantage of the Internet by letting humans fight one another rather than computer monsters. The version of Quake that has been optimized for Internet play is called Quakeworld.
The difference in gameplay between monsters and humans is profound. In single play I move methodically, letting monsters make a mistake, and then fire off a few rounds before hiding again to wait for another mistake, as the monsters are seldom effective in pursuit. I wouldn’t last 30 seconds playing deathmatch in that manner, because the instant another warrior gets close he will be on me like a duck on a Junebug.

Deathmatch struggles tend to be extremely violent and brief. Two warriors meet, and nearly always one is dead within less than five seconds, as retreat is seldom an option. Reflexes, weaponry, and skill are what is required, and trickery many orders of magnitude beyond what a computer-generated monster is capable of is common.

People all over the world deathmatch one another on the Internet, and the type and variety of people involved might well surprise those who are not acquainted with this computer culture subset. Salt Lake has a vibrant and thriving community of deathmatchers, and they range from people like the extremely deadly 11 year old “Homie G,” to many established professionals, as but one example I am a 44 year old attorney who concentrates on civil litigation. Salt Lake also has at least one world-renowned deathmatcher, “Dmann” (David Sabour), who is all of 15, but last year was ranked 9th in the world. These players and others are profiled elsewhere in this article.

For more information about Quake, some good sources are on the internet, particularly http://www.stomped.com. There is also a local newslist where people discuss Quake, to subscribe send email to utah-quake-help@lists.inconnect.com.

Some friends of mine have set up a site where you can keep track of the local Quake servers and who is playing on them, which is a way of looking for your clanmates or blood enemies, so check out http://www.inconnect.com/cgi-bin/cgiwrap/kn/uqsl.pl.
LINK 2. The Women of Quake
The Internet is celebrated for the fact that it is an equal opportunity and anonymous domain, and this equality is obvious in Quakeworld. While the siren call of killing in cyberspace is generally more attractive to the immature and bloodthirsty male animal (like me), women are welcomed into Quakeworld, and there are several locals who have gained respect.

I might run into shy, mysterious Tahnia, who will flirt with me until my guard is down, kill me, then continue to flirt with my dead body. Beautiful and deadly, Kali might appear, aptly named after the Hindu goddess of death and destruction. Many men have approached her, and they have died for their impudence. Most ferocious of all is Curvy TDR. She will take advantage of her small size and super-fast reflexes to attack me from all angles with a furious barrage of firepower, always dancing just out of reach of my counter-attack. I have met TDR many times in single combat on the field of honor, but have seldom prevailed. Whoever said “It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.” (Proverbs 21:9) probably got beat up by one of our local female players.

TDR is Tracy Richards, who, after a prominent local career in the performing arts, left the stage and sharpened her computer skills. Now she is a mother of two, and a networking expert. She has her own company providing computer support for many local businesses, and at night after her young sons are in bed she roams the Internet going through male opposition like a devouring flame. Her motto is “Girls Rule!” Because I am such a funny guy, whenever she flashes her motto on the screen, I respond with a hilarious “Girls Drool!”, and am usually reduced to subatomic particles shortly thereafter when she catches up to me.

She is an active member in the local clan Necrosis. TDR was introduced to Quake by an old friend, who literally forced her to play initially. This was about a year ago, and it took her several weeks to really get hooked. She loves Quake because she is highly competitive and into computers. As another sign of her competitiveness, she was also 1997 Western Regional Women’s Underbelt Kenpo Karate Women’s Champion. She admits that not many women play Quake, and some of her theories about this include the fact that many of the adolescent males playing use offensive language. We discussed the subject at length, and she emailed me the following:

“Fact is…males can’t seem to express themselves without using sexual talk, foul explicatives, yo mama jokes, etc. What is it about being male…that makes little boys…and full grown men act so stupid?”

Ummmmmm, I don’t know, Tracy, but I hope I qualify for a “present company” exception.

She attributes her Quake success to her natural competitiveness and the fact that she plays at least a little every day, and plays with the best people she can find.

Kali is known to a careless world as Kristen Tanner, 23, and she was turned on to Quake by her brother, who plays under the name of Begbie. Kali’s consort works a different schedule than she does, so she fills her time away from him with Quake, among other things. She is in a managerial position with a Utah County company that distributes computer products. She loves socializing with her Quake buddies, and considers many of them good friends.

I know very little about Tahnia except that her real name is Tiffany, and that she is so shy she refused all requests for information for this article.
Sometimes when I am playing and women are present, I feel inspired to get in touch with my touchy-feely feminine side, because that is the kind of sensitive new-age guy that I am. When that happens I stop playing for my clan, and change my battle name to “Princess Die.” My theory is that we girls gotta stick together, a theory not universally shared by some of the local women, who actually seem somewhat annoyed occasionally when I play as the Princess. Go figure.

LINK 3. Local Badasses

There are many very fine local players, including Flux, Panther, Loveitdu, T4_Echo, Rebel, Hetfield, Tokenhay, Wraith, Freed, Preacher, Havoc, Drethis, Pinbender, Boon, Raggedy Man, Liu Bei, Backslash, Tweed, Gixmo, Cruelsun, Ammoboy, Hellatio, Clock-Cycle, XM FozzMoo, Makaveli, Muerte, Akira, Rufio, LastNLine, Biffo, Fergus, Hicks, 1BadMF, Halcyon, DrWeedSak, The Docta, 502, Max, Sleepykid, Pure, and Braindamage, among others. But pride of place must necessarily go to “Dmann.”

Dmann is David Sabour, 15 years old, and a sophomore at West High School. He is active in the Professional Gaming League, http://www.pgl.net/profiles/dmann_bio.asp, and was very successful in their international Quake tournament last year. The May issue of Computer Gaming World has an advertisement for the PGL which features him, and he was recently interviewed by “Good Morning America” for a story they will be running in May. The top player in the world is “Thresh,” aka Dennis Fong, http://www.pgl.net/profiles/thresh_bio.asp. Dmann battled Thresh to within two points at the tournament, and was awarded 9th place overall.

Dmann lives in what might reasonably be called a mansion in the foothills above Salt Lake, and has the luxurious basement for himself and his computers. He has been playing Quake for about 1.5 years, and didn’t play a lot of other computer games before learning to deathmatch. Although he lives in Utah, most of the other really great Quake deathmatchers live in Southern California, so Dmann plays mostly on California servers. He attributes his success at Quake to practice, and scrimmaging with the best players on a regular basis. Most of his interests center around the computer, and while he realizes that it would be difficult to make a living as a professional Quake player, he hopes to go into game design or programming as an adult. He is also interested in webpage design, and is constantly tinkering with his own pages.

During our interview Dmann logged onto a server to show me some of his tricks. He casually killed “Blur” a few times, then stopped to discuss some of the finer points of his play. Blur took advantage of this to sneak up and kill Dmann, and then had the extraordinarily poor judgment as to taunt him about it. Dmann swung into action, his lessons to me instantly forgotten, and became the incredible killing machine that he is. He reminded me of nothing less than Bruce Lee disciplining the talented but errant disciple of a rival karate school. He would not stop until Blur literally begged for mercy. I watched with a bit of wistfulness, for during this display it occurred to me that Dmann is better at Quake than I will ever be at anything, and a hint of my own mortality came upon me.

Another red-hot local player, who has apparently beaten Dmann on occasion, is Chief. Chief is a member of a highly regarded local Quake clan, “Fire in the Hole” http://www.ns.net/~katt/fith. In real life Chief is 18 year old Matthew Kankainen, and a senior at East High. Chief began deathmatching about 1.5 years ago. He came to play Quake after a year of playing Doom. He attributes his success to determination and practice. He will be studying computer science next year at the University of Utah. For right now he is largely self-taught in his computer skills. Besides computer interests, he loves ski racing, river running, and is on the school varsity golf team.

Although I have played Chief and Dmann both on several occasions as part of a group, and been thoroughly stomped by them, I have never met with them strictly one-on-one for a deathmatch. Accordingly, the WORST drubbing I have ever received is from another local hotshot, Just4Fun. Although I fancy myself a pretty good deathmatcher (some opinions may differ), Fun absolutely demolished me 59 to 0 in one level, and when I begged him for a rematch on my best level, I fought him to a humiliating 26 to -5 score. Every time I think of it I writhe in impotent fury. I have watched Fun fight others, and the observed battles always end the same, with some ridiculously lopsided margin. Just4Fun has been in hiding, and while careful detective work from me and others uncovered his lair, he apparently has no interest in public recognition.

If you want to be as good as these guys, you have to learn the tricks, and one of the best sites for learning Quake tips is http://www.weenie.com.

LINK 4. Local Computer Programming Professionals and Quake

id Software has a long history of ties to Utah. Programmer John Cash used to work for Novell. John Romero, no longer with id but one of the original guiding lights, grew up in Murray and I am told his father still lives there. Designer Sandy Peterson is still with id, and he is a graduate of BYU with five kids. More information can be found at http://www.idsoftware.com.

Some other local deathmatchers are intimately involved in professional gaming and programming, including ILikeFood (Jeffrey Gosztyla) who works for Kodiak Interactive. Jeff, 29, has been doing game programming for 5 years, and his current project, Stratosphere (http://www.kodiakgames.com) was released May 18th. The game involves floating fortresses duking it out in the sky, and Jeff’s contributions to the game include working out the physics and science involved in such a battle scheme. (Hey, I could do that! Mass times velocity equals momentum, baby!) When speaking about the local gaming and programming scene, Jeff says that Salt Lake is a hotbed of gaming studios right now. He believes the future of gaming is online competition like Quake, for instance, and Stratosphere supports online play. Jeff says “last year video and computer games made more money than Hollywood.”

There are many amateur and professional local programmers who do interesting modifications of Quake on their own time, for fun or to address an issue they think has been ignored. One of these is Redflame aka Matt Ownby, who is sensitive to the problems of “ping” or the response one gets between the computer, phone line, and the internet. He has developed a modification he calls “Balance of Power.” Although programming it was difficult, the concept is simple: the worse your connection to the Quake server, the more powerful your player is. This modification is starting to garner a lot of official attention, because connection difficulties are distressingly routine for internet gamers. The most recent official reference to his modification can be found under May 14th at http://www.bluesnews.com, an excellent source of Quake information. More information about Balance of Power can be found at http://www.xmission.com/~redflame/bop/.

Matt is 22, and manages the computers for a local travel agency, while finishing his computer science degree at the University of Utah. Matt started simple programming on his Apple computer at age six, and has taught himself many computer languages since 1982. He started programming Quake modifications to make the game fairer for people like himself who have trouble getting good connections to the internet.

For another take on the local professional gaming scene, I spoke with Clark Stacey of “Beyond Games,” who is not directly involved in the deathmatching milieu, but has a good overall view of the computer games area. He was too busy to meet with me, so we conducted our interview via email. His highly idiosyncratic responses were such that I have elected to not try to paraphrase them (an exercise doomed from the beginning under the circumstances), but will provide them verbatim. You will understand my reluctance to paraphrase after you read it.

1. What is your area of expertise?

I’m the V.P. of Beyond Games, which means I have keys to all of the Playboy clubs and I can start fires with my brain. I do the biz for Beyond, and a substantial portion of the design. I also speak Pellen, the language of deer – this gives me a real advantage in the high-pressure business world of software development.

2. How long have you been programming/designing, etc., and for whom?

I’ve been working with Beyond Games since our first game for the Atari Lynx: BattleWheels; that was released in 1993. Before that I was a porno actor, a costumed super-villain, and an evangelical preacher, though my first love is the rodeo.

3. What is your view of the local professional gaming scene, versus that of a larger city, e.g., LA?

SLC doesn’t really have a presence in professional gaming – i.e., the Professional Gaming League, though we should. In terms of professional game development, though, we have a lot more going on than most major cities. I don’t think many people outside the industry realize that SLC actually has one of the largest concentrations of game developers in the US. There are a

lot of possible explanations for this, but I don’t think you can

underestimate the influence of the LDS church in this phenomenon – the fact that they give game companies total access to all of the secret tunnels that criss-cross the downtown area is a major reason why we stay here.

4. Where do you see computer pc/console gaming going in the future?

Sony will rule the console market for another couple of years, and the sequel to the PSX will be a huge launch if the rumors of backwards compatibility with existing Playstation games are true. 3D accelerated PCs are the real future of gaming, though, as TVs, PCs and game consoles all merge into a Borg-ish altar of global communication and stimulation, which nobody understands completely except little kids.

LINK 5. Some of the diverse local Quakers.

Although the “man on the street” may rightly think that the average deathmatcher is some teenage boy with an overabundance of testosterone he desperately needs to channel somewhere, anywhere; this is certainly not always the case. Taking advantage of the democratic nature of the Internet, people from virtually every walk of life meet for deathmatching.

Some of the more diverse locals include Homie G, a very fine player who is all of 11 years old and a member of the feared Necrosis clan. The humiliation I felt when I discovered that the badass who had been drubbing me consistently was so young is still green in my memory. Homie G is Trevor Osborn, a sixth grader at Bountiful Elementary. He has been playing Quake for about a year, and really doesn’t play any other computer games, unlike most older Quakers who played Doom first. He was taught the basics of Quake by his brother Justin, now 17, but learned his superlative skills from various mentors, including LastNLine and Necrosis clanmates Loveitdu and T4_Echo. He plays Quake not so much for competition, but to associate with the friends he has made on Internet. He is no computer nerd, however, but is also active in his school and plays a “little league” version of football.

At night, 38 year old Ed Armour becomes Fragrider as he delivers death in small packages to those unlucky enough to come within his sphere of Quake influence. By day he is a union organizer for a major construction trade. He learned about computer gaming when he volunteered to raise two unruly nephews, who introduced him to Doom. He gradually upgraded his computer and learned new games, and together with the nephews got hooked on Quake. He attributes his superior play to getting some tips from more experienced players, and LOTS of practice, and he uses it to deal with the stress of his day.

Claudius is Mike Teeples, a 35 year old networking expert who works for Huntsman Chemical. He is married with four sons, and loves the distraction that Quake brings him after a busy day dealing with job and family. He didn’t play solo Doom or DukeNukem as so many other Quakers have, he started playing wargames at work with their network during lunch hours, and then finally began playing online after work. Because he didn’t play the solo games first, he has a rather unusual style of play, but it suits him well, and one cannot argue with his success.