Esports News UK editor Dom Sacco details a fun – yet rather painful – experience at the Nvidia RTX press event.
It’s a hot summer evening at Kachette bar in Shoreditch and Nvidia is showing off its latest RTX graphics cards.
At one end there’s the drinks bar and a row of systems showing off Control, the upcoming action/shooter game from Max Payne and Alan Wake devs Remedy Entertainment. I spend a good half hour playing this and it’s pretty fun, blending third person shooting with telekinetic powers, allowing your character to levitate objects and smash them into enemies.
An Nvidia spokesperson tells me about the graphics card’s ray tracing technology, which improves the in-game shadows and reflections to make them more realistic.
At the other end of the room, there are two blocks of four PCs running the new Quake II RTX edition, which also features ray tracing technology, greatly improving the old school in-game visuals.
It’s somewhat jarring to see such an old game looking sharper and more visually pleasing than usual, combined with the same simple, fast-paced gameplay we all know and love (well, us oldies do anyway).
The press team convinces me to take part in a tournament, despite me not having played this game in probably more than two decades.
I get coerced in and sit down to play. The last time I was at one of these things, I somehow managed to get a chicken dinner in my first ever PUBG game, and finish second place in a PUBG press tournament (I say ‘somehow’, it was actually because my friend was duoing with me and carrying my noob ass to the final).
Quake II is as fast and chaotic as usual, and after taking a few rounds to practice and get into the swing of things, I start to admire the gameplay all over again. I don’t do very well at all, finishing fifth or sixth in the few couple of practice rounds.
“Playing against onscreen at a Quake LAN is like being thrown into a bullring without a red cloth to help you even attempt to control the situation. With time sped up. Every second that ticks by brings you closer to your inevitable death.”
As the third round begins, I’m told this is the one that counts, so I try to focus to get enough frags so I can eventually make it through to the final. It’s later in the evening so a lot of people have gone home already, leaving some extra spaces to fill.
I start off surprisingly well, with three quick kills putting me in first place. Luckily I find a rocket launcher early on, and keep returning to it throughout the game. It seems most of the other players around me aren’t complete Quake experts, as they aren’t contesting the rocket launcher too much.
My early lead soon squanders. I find myself
playing cautiously camping a little, and while I pick up a few kills, I also pick up a few deaths. I soon realise you cannot just play Quake in this way, stealthily or otherwise – you have to be on the hunt, always looking for that next kill so you can raise your score before everyone else raises theirs.
The other mistake I make is I fall into the lava three times, and the acid once (mistaking it for harmless water), killing myself and reducing my score each time by 1.
By the end of the match I’m fourth, which isn’t too bad, and the admin tells me I made it through to the next round.
As I remove my headset and look to my left, I notice that British streamer Craig ‘onscreen’ Shannon has been playing at the system to my left all this time.
We greet one another and he soon starts
mucking about showing off with the in-game settings, making the game almost look like some kind of 16-bit monstrosity (to the admin’s horror).
— Dominic Sacco (@Dom_Sacco) July 17, 2019
After chatting for a while (and a wild Mark Mantle and Ben Woodward appear), we play the next few practice rounds. Craig has managed to change his in-game name to onscreen, where he sits atop the scoreboard each round, closely ahead of another player (RTX2). I continue to remain hard-stuck in fourth/fifth as RTX8.
Now that I know I’m up against onscreen, I can see when he makes a frag (or kills me) and I try to analyse his playing style a little.
Playing against onscreen at a Quake LAN is like being thrown into a bullring without a red cloth to help you even attempt to control the situation. With time sped up. Every second that ticks by brings you closer to your inevitable death. You’ve got to somehow face the bull head on and try to fight back. But it’s hard when you respawn and one second later have been shot in the face with a railgun. It’s brutal to put it mildly.
On top of this, one thing that makes Quake so distinct is the noise. The endless shooting, random explosions, the frantic footsteps, the grunts of other players as they run and jump and die and burst into small pieces, the screams of death and chaos and carnage is enough to make you lose your bloody mind.
Before we know it, the final has rolled around. Like usual, there are two practice rounds first, something Craig is almost oblivious to as he races to 20 kills first, celebrating enthusiastically each time, only to be told by the admin it’s not the final ‘final’ yet.
When the final does roll around, it takes place on the lava map again.
I start off well like last time, picking up three quick kills again, putting me in first place. But something strange happens. Unlike last time, my lead continues into the mid-game.
I use the grenade launcher and rail gun to pick up some nicely timed kills, pressing tab now and then to check my score. After a little while I am still top, with 9 kills, while onscreen is just behind me with 8.
My headset is pretty quiet, so I can hear a few people behind me talking about my surprising lead.
“One thing that makes Quake so distinct is the noise. The endless shooting, random explosions, the frantic footsteps, the grunts of other players as they run and jump and die and burst into small pieces, the screams of death and chaos and carnage is enough to make you lose your bloody mind.”
I somehow remain calm and… still end up falling into the lava. My score falls to 8 and before I know it, onscreen has 12 kills.
At this point I can’t find a way to come back into the game. Craig storms ahead to victory and I eventually finish third. But I can’t complain! It’s been a lot of fun.
Craig walks away with a high-end GeForce RTX 2080 Ti graphics card and a copy of the original Quake II game signed by id developers.
I don’t leave entirely with nothing. I leave knowing that I went into the bullring and, for a moment a least, was even in control.
Then I remember getting railgunned in the face.
I think I’ll stick to League of Legends and World of Warcraft for now!
Dom is an award-winning writer who graduated from Bournemouth University with a 2:1 degree in Multi-Media Journalism in 2007.
As a long-time gamer having first picked up the NES controller in the late ’80s, he has written for a range of publications including GamesTM, Nintendo Official Magazine, industry publication MCV as well as Riot Games and others. He worked as head of content for the British Esports Association up until February 2021, when he stepped back to work full-time on Esports News UK and as an esports consultant helping brands and businesses better understand the industry.