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Tournaments  /  15 Sep 2010, 13:42
League Evolution
As usual, the announcement of a new EQL season has let to plenty of discussions both on this website and the servers with relation to the chosen rules. I thought I’d blog a bit about the history of QW TDM leagues as I’ve known them to perhaps give some background into the evolution of league rules. It is worth pointing out that I didn’t start playing QW online until late 1998 and so (unlike a couple of other people on this site) I do not have all the facts about some of the UK leagues I mention below. Hopefully the general impression I give will be accurate though! To those not interested in the UK leagues, scroll down, and hopefully you will find something of interest.
The first league I played in was the United Kingdom Quake Academy (UKQA). This was a 4v4 designed primarily for newbie players with a goal of preparing them for life in the main league at the time, the United Kingdom Clan League (which had 6 divisions). If memory serves there was originally a limit on how many LPB (non-modem) players you could field in any given game although this may have been dropped for the final season. It was of course like all novice leagues quite imbalanced at times, with a wide range of skill levels and indeed a few experienced ringers playing under alias for an easy ride (much like Riker playing NQR div6 a few years ago). Essentially it was a bit like the ‘rookie’ divisions we’ve seen from time to time but there arguably wasn’t enough support given to new players.

UKCL was the premier league in the UK encompassing up to 6 divisions during the time I played. Again there was a restriction on pings and you had to field at league one modem player (possibly more in the lower divisions). This may seem quite strange these days but you need to remember that at the time (1990s) the majority of players in the UK were on modem which gave players on uni connections or even ISDN a huge advantage. The idea I assume was to stop clans dominating based on ping and ensure that the top modem players still got a chance to shine. As time moved on pressure was exerted on the admin team to remove this restriction for div1 which came in part from rival leagues like the Free Ping League (FPL). By the time I took over running of the UKCL isdn was much more common with broadband (cable/dsl) starting to be rolled out, so pings were unrestricted throughout the league.

But perhaps more interesting, and relevant to today, was the way the maps were chosen. In UKCL rather than having home/away maps it was simply a case of playing a different predetermined map each week on a set day at a set time weekend afternoons usually although there was obviously some flexibility). Games lasted 30mins and were originally 5on5 before shrinking to 4on4 as players movement and skills improved enough to make games seem crowded with 10 players. Having a predetermined map arguably placed too much emphasis on luck in terms of what clan you were drawn against to play that week. For example when playing a weaker clan you’d want a well known map like dm3, whereas against a division favourite the relative unknown territory of a uk99a, e2m7 or whatever could be a welcome leveller. The plus side was that it gave you a bit of a focus each weak in terms of learning the map, devising tactics, practicing etc (since all clans were playing the same map that week it was much easier to find prac on ‘strange’ maps than you might think nowadays!). Ultimately the league adopted a more traditional approach of home/away maps (from a set pool) lasting 20mins each, although there was no 3rd deciding map or frag comparison (the game just ended 1-1).

Alongside the UKCL there was also the Modem Clan Wars league (MCW). This usually followed a very similar format except that games were played on weekday evenings rather than at weekends. Plus of course only modem players were permitted. Again what may be hard to grasp nowadays is that some of us continued playing in MCW even once we’d become LPBs. I’d play on ISDN with 27ms and then dialup my modem with 100ms when it was time for MCW! Of course over time the number of modem players diminished (both because of improved availability of broadband and a general exodus from QW towards newer games like Q3 and CS) and so the league wound up around 2001 I think.

It shouldn’t be underestimated what affect these leagues had on the mapping scene at the time. UKCLDM1-9(?), androm9 (later to evolve into CMT4), titan2 (a common feature in games involving 10+ players), UKPAK1-8 and many more were all maps created for and used by leagues of the time. In hindsight I think some of the maps used were pretty shocking but surprisingly people were much more accepting at the time and just got on with it (perhaps due to all the tournaments being driven by the admins with much less ‘player power’).

There were also cup competitions organised by the leagues. Basically more of the same exception a knockout competition where you could be drawn against teams from any division. In contrast to modern QW where many shy away from the prospect of playing a higher div clan (even in prac), back then there was more of an ‘FA Cup feel’ where lower division clans would in general relish the chance to pit their skills against more famous opponents and perhaps cause an upset.

But there’s more! Another UK League from the 90s was the Quad Frag Fest League (QFFL). This was essentially a fun combination of TDM and FFA whereby games were played 4v4v4v4 on large maps (you may have seen QFFL2/5 in the current XS4ALL FFA map rotation). I think it was Teamplay 1 (only teammate armour can be damaged not health) with dmm3 and was thus full of plenty of spam. The league was later replaced with the United Kingdom Packetloss League (UKPL) which was played 3v3v3v3v3 in an attempt to boost activity as some clans found it tough to field 4 players (or if they had 4, were more interested in playing a traditional 4v4).

Some common elements all these leagues shared that are different from today were:

-Games were played on dedicated passworded league servers rather than the current approach of grabbing random pubs
-Games usually had an admin present
-Clans had little influence on scheduling
-Fairpacks LST setting was used since shotgun/axe scripts were widely regarded as cheating in the UK at the time. This meant that your dropped weapon was always the last one fired rather than one held in your hands. One amusing side affect was that a kteams bug meant that this wasn’t reset on gamestart and thus if you fired RL in prewar you could drop one at the start of the game even if you didn’t have one, e.g. by spawntelefrags!

One vaguery of the UK scene at the time was that there was something of a split community. On the one side there were ‘net’ players who just played on a range of internet servers as we do today (although typically Barrysworld). Then there were ‘Wireplay’ players who played on a dedicated gaming service that you had to dial-in to (it may come as no surprise to learn that this service was founded by British Telecom). Anyway I won’t go into much detail as I was primarily a net player, but suffice to say that Wireplay ran their own leagues such as the Wireplay Deathmatch League (WPDML).

But enough about the UK scene. Those of you who have played CMT2 – at least, those of you who haven’t completely obliterated your textures! – will likely have spotted the ‘posters’ on the walls of the RA room showing scoreboard screenshots from classic QW matches (a genius design touch, IMHO). One such poster is taken from a game between Death Row, of the USA, and Clan Nine, of Sweden. A bit of googling or maybe archive.orging will doubtless bring back far more detail than I can hope to regale here, but suffice to say that this was a legendary LAN matchup between the two best clans from either side of the atlantic. As an aside the star players of each clan (Thresh from DR and Xenon from [9]) were able to use their fame to setup major gaming websites that are still running today; www.firingsquad.com and www.esreality.com (formerly xsreality.com) respectively. Anyway, one of the issues with such a match was that in North America dm3 was the main map for 4on4 (tb1 if you like) whereas e1m2 was also heavily played in Sweden and as such was [9]’s homemap. So for this game between the two clans it didn’t really seem fair to just play dm3. In the end they played 5x dm3 and 4x e1m2, which seems a fair compromise.

Of course so far you’ve not seen me mention dm2. Dm2 has always featured pretty heavily in places like Germany and Poland, as well as being relatively popular in Scandinavia. And so for a league like Villains, one of the first truly European leagues, it made sense to focus on a primary 3 map pool of dm3, dm2, e1m2 (tb3). I’ve called it a league, but in reality it was a tournament more akin to the soccer World Cup whereby teams were in mini-groups of 4 before progressing to knockout playoffs. The final was played best of 5 and in many ways it was the blueprint for the modern map pool and selection. It was also an invitation-only tournament to in theory maintain a high standard of play throughout (I say in theory, as my somewhat naïve clan Strikeforce somehow blagged ourselves an invitation to Villains 2, along with perennial losers Gods of Hellfire (GoH) from Belgium!).

The ‘spiritual successor’ to Villains was Challenge-Smackdown. This was a highly ambitious project by the now defunct Challenge network to standardise QW TDM across the world. One of the premises was to have a stable ruleset (including map pool) across all regions and then ultimately have a LAN final between the winners from each region, a dream which sadly never came to fruition. The map pool was expanded slightly from Villains, to include dm6 (popular in Germany, Holland etc) and e3m7. In later seasons the pool changed slightly to incorporate e2m2.

Of course by now improving connections across the continent, together with the demise of national leagues such as UKCL, meant that clans were now playing against foreign opposition much more frequently. One problem with a tournament like SD was that with no concept of divisions, relative newbie clans could be placed up against the likes of Flaming Fist, resulting in a particularly heavy defeat. And so up sprung Nations Quake Rank (NQR), which was based on the Nordic Quake Rank ladder previously involving solely Nordic clans. This ladder tournament gave clans the chance to play against literally any opposition they wanted. It was also very liberal when it came to map selection, I think you could choose from any episode map plus dm2/3/6. So we saw clans championing all kinds of weird and wonderful maps, such as e2m2 (JAMS), e3m4 (Headcharge), e1m5 (Axemen), e1m6 (Koff), e3m3 (Kala) etc.

The evolution of NQR is something, if I’m honest, I can’t remember a great deal about. At some point they changed it from a ladder tournament to a traditional league system (again with a view to avoiding huge mismatches). The map pool gradually shrunk but how and when I wouldn’t like to say. A ladder tournament (Ad Mortem) briefly sprung up to replace the old NQR, and ultimately EQL took over the mantle as premier European 4on4 league.

OK, I hear you ask, so where do CMT maps come in? CMT was the brainchild of legendary Norwegian whiner Link, and actually started life as the Smackdown Maps project (http://web.archive.org/web/20021222215815/www.challenge-smackdown.com/hq/sdmaps/ ). This was in response to a general feeling of apathy towards the ‘extra’ maps in the Smackdown pool and Link’s belief that If maps are designed for 4on4 from the ground up, that they would work better than some random episode map. Ultimately I think perhaps Link grew frustrated at the conservative attitudes within the Smackdown admin team (myself included) and then setup CMT as a kinda standalone project but hosted over at NQR. The funny thing is although I wasn’t overly keen on using brand new maps in a tournament like SD I still took a keen interest in the project. I actually went around showing Link some of the old UK maps to see if there was anything he could use. CMT4 was basically androm9 after he emailed the mapper with some changes he’d like made based on some analysis we did (removing some ammo, swapping RA for YA, also the SSG near YA used to be a second LG… anyone who thinks it is too easily dominated by shaft should see the original!). But yeah, so NQR run a CMT tournament over the summer. There were some big clans involved like Slackers, CMF and Firingsquad. At this point feedback was still possible and CMT1 and CMT5 were both tweaked a little to make CMT1b and CMT5b.

CMT maps then got played a bit in NQR and EQL. But as is apparent from recent discussion threads, there is still no general acceptance of the maps to be used (or not) alongside tb3. CMT maps are 7 years old, Episode maps are twice that. There is talk of people designing new maps – how should it be done? By committee, by a mapper under heavy instruction from div1 player(s)?

My feeling is that such endeavours are likely to be a waste of time. Because one of the main arguments against new maps is not “This map is flawed in design”, but more like “This map is flawed because the lack of player experience means games will be of lower standard”. I think CMT1b, CMT3 and CMT4 are actually perfectly decent 4on4 maps. I’m not convinced any new map will be necessarily be inherently superior to them. If after 7 years these maps are not embraced, what hope is there for something new? CMT was not just some random map made for 4on4 and shoved out there. It was a full-on project involving iterational playtesting, analysis, feedback loops, guides, and even a close alignment with tournament admins. And in all honesty CMT is probably more acceptable to some players than anything new for the very reason tb3 is more acceptable than CMT – because it has seen more play to date. I remember one div0 player commenting “if you’re gonna pick Kenya, at least pick normal Kenya!” in relation to our selection of Schloss during the summer ladder.

My intention here isn’t to stir up another debate as to the merits of an expanded map pool – that seems to be ticking along quite nicely elsewhere on the site. But hopefully I’ve given a little bit of background into how the map pools used in leagues have expanded. Of course, I’ve not really touched on the scene in other countries, so feel free to add your own anecdotes about how the accepted map pool evolved where you live.
Comments
2010-09-15, 14:26
nice reading hangtime, thxalot.
2010-09-15, 14:38
UKPL was UK Penta League as it was five teams of 3.
2010-09-15, 14:40
A good read indeed with a lot of stuff i had never heard about before.

LAN finals for 4on4 tournaments would be epic...imagine the 8 best teams battling it out under LAN conditions...yes please!
2010-09-15, 14:59
Interesting read, very amused at 'normal kenya' remark!
2010-09-15, 15:16
Very interesting to read. My current UK connection actually managed to load the page, hooray! Check this out, I don't know if i'm supposed to laugh or cry: http://privat.bahnhof.se/wb695037/connection.jpg :p
2010-09-15, 17:49
Penta, yes, so it was
flinta: I hope that Orange icon in systray doesn't mean you were foolish enough to take Orange as you ISP
2010-09-15, 21:36
I don't know where you store all this information Nice read once again.
2010-09-15, 23:06
2010-09-16, 06:55
"perennial losers Gods of Hellfire (GoH) from Belgium!)."

Hehe i remember them primarily from nqr2, they lost like 50 games and won 4 or 5
Btw, gamblers also played e1m6, like koff, in nqr2 and osams played e2m2, like kala, as well. Cant remember if any clan played e3m7 but i have a vague memory that some clan did. It was good times.
2010-09-16, 09:17
Campbusters played e3m2. We started playing it because of Pepin (who came to us from Oblivion). He knew all the secret tricks from his time in Oblivion and taught us everything we needed to know

In the CMT-tournament I remember Campbusters doing really well. We even took some maps from SR and FS. Unfortunately we had Link "the fragbag" in our team trying to show off some superiority because he was the "CMT boss" As a home map we played cmt5. I haven't played it since then, but I remember thinking it was actually a really fun and rather well balanced map. However we seemed to be the only clan with this opinion From what I remember cmt3 was the map that most clans seemed to like. Cmt1 wasn't played all too often, and I think it didn't get much recognition until after the tournament (maybe when cmt1b came?).
2010-09-16, 15:17
Really enjoyed reading that. You should write a book on QW history
I for one would buy it


Edited by pleuraXeraphim on 16 Sep 10 @ 16:18CET
2010-09-16, 17:04
Good read. I won't get into issues that deeply now, but would just like to point out a few things:

qw was the first big net multiplayer fps and as such the scene and developers had to do a lot of pioneer work. The evolution of maps being played and rules also coincide quite heavily with the general growth of internet play and ofc qw pretty much missed out I've been playing Quake since 96 and qw since the middle of 97 (ofc with a lot of breaks) and having seen most of the evolution, I think we are in a really good place right now, especially considering how small the scene has been for almost a decade now. I really don't miss the days of dm6 4on4/5on5 or dmm3 4on4/5on5, the days of obscure episode home maps. To me, home maps always made it seem like we were playing different games. The fewer maps there are, the more we can focus on playing the same game and improving leaps and bounds on it. There is a limit however and I'm not advocating a tb1 future.

There is one clear advantage in having new maps designed _now_. It would be a clean slate and they would be our maps, as in the small scene that has stayed quite steady for years now. cmt's have a lot of history, none of which is really all that great from my point-of-view. They were also a product of another time and possibly weren't even well enough suited for back then, let alone now.

I think it's good that we keep on trying with kenyas, even if just for the drama But I'm really not sure if we should have a map pool of even 5 maps as it feels to me that it makes the game too broad and skill development across the board too thin. I probably wouldn't even mind one of the tb3 to be swapped out at times. At least then we'd still have to concentrate on three maps and that's _plenty_ for a scene with this little activity.
2010-09-17, 07:41
Yeah I agree, regardles of the maps, 3 is better than 5 for the quality of the gameplay.
2010-09-17, 10:26
Surely 1 map is better than 3 though? Kinda lame that we have to keep playing dm2 and e1m2 if it is lowering the gameplay potential on dm3. On the flipside some might suggest that having 3 maps played at 90% average potential is better than 1 map played at 95% potential. Or that 95+90+85+50+30 is better than 95 (especially in the long term where the 50 and 30 steadily increase).

Niomic, I’m not sure I agree about the advantages of maps being designed now. What you are suggesting isn’t really much different from CMT. CMT was born into a small, stable scene. They were ‘our maps’ in that they were built for serious 4on4 with input and playtesting from clans (including div1). The situation in 2003 wasn’t much different from what it is now in this regard. Certainly I don’t think there has been a huge increase in demand for new maps since then. It’s not like I see huge volumes of posts on the forum saying “WE NEED NEW MAPS!” – at least I’d wager that there are more people in favour of adopting existing maps, than those in favour of creating completely new ones.

If anything creating yet more new maps could be counter-productive because everyone has to start from scratch in terms of map knowledge, tactics etc. The standard of play will be even lower than it is on e.g. cmt3.
2010-09-17, 15:52
1 map would be better for pure competitive play, but ofc it's a balancing act of keeping the game both entertaining, interesting and competitive and also getting enough variance in games to facilitate the former. This is not a professional sport, there is history (not always good) and we have a really small scene At least for me, three seems like a pretty good number for tdm, even there we are seeing a big gap between dm3+dm2 vs e1m2. e1m2 has interesting and very different dynamics, but it simply isn't as fun to play mixes on as for most of the players it would just be running around with sg/ssg/sng for most of the 20min. It's often the same in team games for at least 2/4 in each team.

Five is still fine for duels because it's so much easier to prac alone and easier to get prac games.

"If anything creating yet more new maps could be counter-productive because everyone has to start from scratch in terms of map knowledge, tactics etc."

Sure a new map would have that disadvantage, but if it was actually embraced by the scene, it would be _easily_ taken care of. The level of play on any cmt map is still quite low in my mind that it shouldn't really be held as a measure

And no, I don't need any new maps, but it could be interesting to have _one_ new map that people jumped on and see where that takes us, a new tb3 possibly? Probably not. And of course it's no trivial task making such a map AND have it succeed. Even if it was the best map ever for 4on4, it would have a lot of obstacles to overcome just to keep it a float for longer.
2010-09-17, 19:47
Egowhip actually wanted to have teams from as many different nationalities as possible for Villains 2, so GOH was admitted upon first request.
As for our 30 (or was it 40) map losing streak in NQR, that was just to make sure we would remain on the front page forever

good read, as always!
2010-09-17, 19:50
Luckily it's still not impossible to play 3-4 rounds per prac, but for 5 maps you'd need like 7 rounds to get some replays on maps that went bad etc. I don't think anyone has the time for that anymore. So yeah ofc 1 map is the extreme but I think there is a bigger gap from 3 maps to 5 maps than from 1 to 3.
2010-09-17, 20:50
I get where you are coming from but you don't even need to play all the maps against the same clan in prac, or you don't always need to start on the same maps. Playing

dm3
dm2
e1m2
cmt3
cmt1b

isn't really much different from...

dm3
dm2

e1m2
cmt3
cmt1b

Yes, ideally you'd play all the maps multiple times against the same clans, but even nowadays with 3 maps you don't always get that, players are swapping out and what have you. I've also seen my fair share of 1-2 map pracs where you don't get to replay maps or even cover all of tb3 in any case.
2010-09-17, 21:01
True 2 map pracs are common, but adding even more maps certainly wont bring the level of gameplay up. Personally I would not mind just playing dm3, but I think most people just want more variation. In mixeds I am always happy to play one more dm3 instead of switching the map. I can't help it, I just like playing dm3.
2010-09-17, 21:02
It's the same in 1on1 for me, I just like playing pov and nothing else.
2010-09-17, 21:52
HT, I think you're assuming quite a lot when you think that the second prac opponent will want to play those three maps. Sure you could split it differently, but it's no secret that most teams still have a huge amount of work to get really good at even tb3, so they are focusing on those (also it's more fun for most playing something they are more proficient at). No doubt there will be a surge in praccing the additional maps that are announced shortly, maybe we would even see more of kenyas pracced if the kenya set was standard for many years and there was no real fear of it changing without a good notice time. Still, it comes back to spreading it too thin. You already have some of this going on in Tennis for example and I'm not a big fan of that aspect there either, but for us it's a whole lot more drastic with 5 maps than with a few court surfaces
2010-09-19, 11:24
great read!
2010-09-21, 11:36
Great read HT, feels like one of my old articles
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