The Old Weird Web: Formative Online Gaming Experiences

Usually you’d find Week In Tech in this spot, but it’s been a particularly big week in tech already. With the big Microsoft Win10 and Holowhatsit announcements covered here and here and here, for this column I’m proposing to go off the reservation. Let us, each one of us, reminisce and indeed celebrate our earliest experiences of the internet and of course gaming thereon. And then ponder what the future holds for our internet connections and how we game on them.

I’m thinking less social history, more unapologetic geeky nostalgia.

If there’s a price to be paid for nostalgia, it’s surely the full, ghastly revelation of years gone by and never to be recaptured. But there’s no avoiding it. I shall recall my very first experience of what we now recognise as the internet. Goodness knows what if any comprehension I had of it then, but it was a dedicated terminal on the bonds and derivatives trading floor of a French investment bank in London. It was my first job out of uni. It was the 1990s.

Picture a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, public-school-educated young capitalist sauntering across the the set of Wall Street, only with banks of very early (and, I now realise, exotically expensive) flat screens in place of the sea of CRTs, and you’ve got a good enough idea.

Blue Horseshoe loves Anacott Steel: The internet, yesterday

I faintly recall some kind of beige Compaq box running Netscape Navigator, a lot of time spent staring at spinning status icons and researching obscure Eastern European equity exchanges. It was a different life. I probably earned more then than now. Life choices, eh?

As for the connectivity, my nascent web browsing mind had no notions of such things. But even with sufficient resources to make Solomon blush and a shameless attitude to spending, the bank’s early internet box was slow. Something resembling usable internet browsing began for me at my second posting at another money shuffling institution in Vienna, at which point I became an early Hotmail adopter. Or so I thought. Not early enough to snag jeremylaird@hotmail. Doh!

But home internet is inevitably where the internet and gaming first crossed paths for me and here my memories are hazier. Technology had achieved the heights of 56k dial-up before I had internet at home, no doubt qualifying me as a serious Johnny-come-lately in the eyes of the baud-savvy trail blazers of yesteryear.

Overwhelmingly, my memories of this time are dominated by arguments over shared phone lines, dodgy freephone service providers and god-awful triple-digit ping in Counter-Strike. Quite vividly, I remember a friend beating me to the broadband punch (512Kbps!) and regarding his sub-50ms ping with acute jealously as he tore through the hapless high-ping hordes on cs_italy.

Ring any bells?

Such was the conspicuous divide between the low ping haves and the dial-up have nots. The latter didn’t stand a chance. In hindsight, you have to marvel at just how workable it all was in those dial-up days of 150-250ms ping, frequent freezes and total loss of connectivity notwithstanding. Remarkable what you’ll put up with when you don’t know any better.

Whatever, my first broadband connection was still a revelation for online gaming and home networking, to boot. We sailed right to the bleeding edge with a 10Mbps Homelink phoneline network that seems quaint now but was a technology that worked very smoothly at the time. Apart from reliable low-ping online gaming, locally networked and thoroughly epic Age of Empires battles ensued without a direct Ethernet connection. Magic.

Of course, broadband wasn’t entirely the low-latency nirvana I’d been expecting. Suddenly things like fair usage, protocol throttling and ‘bad times of day’ became the battlegrounds. That and fierce arguments over bandwidth whoring and tell-tale spikes in ping. Are you torrenting again?!

As for today, I’ve been on the same 16Mbps LLU service for several years while all around have apparently switched to fibre and much bigger numbers. I’m a little reluctant to risk a swap due to the consistency and quality of my connection. There’s never once been any evidence of throttling or usgae limitations. I know BT and others now advertise absolutely unlimited services, but once burned thrice and many more times shy.

Indeed, I regard my broadband connection as easily the best value product or service for which I currently pay. Just £17 a month. When I think about the ransoms levied for gas, electricity, petrol or even water and then consider the sheer giddy utility I glean from my broadband service, the comparative value is off the scale. With nothing else do I achieve and enjoy so much from so little.

The early internet was a rather baudy affair…

Of course, broadband and home networking hasn’t exactly been the hottest of subjects for gaming for some time now. All but the shonkiest services will suffice. But that could be changing soon, and the reason is game streaming. Device-to-device streaming is predominantly a matter of home networking kit. You’ll want the latest n-spec wireless clobber as a minimum and fallback to wired connectivity may even be desirable for the very best experience.

On the broadband side, the big challenge is game streaming over IP, whether that’s cloud-based streaming services or streaming games from your own gaming box to another remote device over the internet. Suddenly, having a seriously hot internet connection, especially something with a quick upstream link if you’re using your own box as the host device, will become critical.

This all supposes that game streaming will actually become a ‘thing’, which I dare say is hardly a given. But word-count needs must and streaming has got us over the 1,000 word hump. Huzzah.

In all seriousness, shout out below your formative experiences of the internet and gaming, any ongoing connectivity favourites and foibles and what, if any, experiences and expectations you have on the subject of game streaming.

61 Comments

  1. Rodman1_r2 says:

    I think the first game I played online was Jedi Knight II. Then probably Counter-Strike, and other early ones were Day of Defeat, Team Fortress, Sven Co-op. Also America’s Army, for a long time.

    First MMO I played, after my brother got into it, was Nexus: Kingdom of the Wind. God, I loved that game, for the few months I got to play it.

    All those games on dialup. Amazing how well they played, given the slow connection, compared to today.

    • rcguitarist says:

      You youngin! I remember playing the original quake, doom and bloodbath in my childhood.

      • Rodman1_r2 says:

        Actually, I realize I meant Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, the one that came out in 1997. I’m not that young! 28 yrs old now, I would’ve been a 10-12 at the time I played it.

        • UKPartisan says:

          First game I ever played online was Command and Conquer Red Alert around 1996 if memory serves me right. I was 21 and one of the only people in my circle of friends who had access to 3.6Kb/s dial-up, everybody used to pile round my flat to come and use the ‘Internet’. It was ridiculously expensive though and I ran up some rather large phone bills as a consequence. I now have 100Mb unlimited fibre optic broadband for a fraction of the costs I was paying in 1996….Crazy.

  2. acheron says:

    Local BBSs of course. Legend of the Red Dragon, Planets, various “Food Fight” games, Barren Realms Elite, and so on.

    Then there was the dial-up Sierra network, with the Krondor RPG and such. That lasted about a month until my parents got the first bill.

    As far as the actual Internet — well, there were MUDs. I mainly gravitated towards a Diku called “AlexMUD”, but I played a few others too.

    • LarsBR says:

      Haha, AlexMUD was my first online game, in the spring/summer of 91.

    • jrodman says:

      I was never much of a fan of most BBS games; or “doors” in the WWIV speak. However there were a few standouts for MajorBBS, like Galatic Empire and some multiplayer MUD that was pretty captivating.

      If we mean games that run on your computer at all, instead of just intereacting with it like a fancy terminal, then my first “online” game would have been Populous over a direct modem call.

    • darkside says:

      I remember playing Gemstone III a lot on BBSs, what a game!

    • -funkstar- says:

      “Diku” – now there’s an acronym I never thought I’d see on RPS. Turns out there’s a DikuMUD, made by people from DIKU (which is the acronym for the Department of Computer Science, University of Copenhagen). Huh – I never knew that.

  3. Monchberter says:

    XWing v TIE Fighter fur balls and Jedi Knight deathmatches over dial up through what was once Microsoft Gaming Zone. And despite the ridiculous ping, a complete revelation. I could actually play complex games against other humans who were equally aware of the cheap combos and techniques that I abused furiously in single player games

    • K_Sezegedin says:

      Same here, – Xwing vs Tie and Jedi Knight over my 14,4k.

      Good lord. After having raised myself on Xwing and Tie Fighter I still remember being shocked there were humans out there who were better at XvT than me. Ah the naivete of the single-player mindset.

  4. aliksy says:

    £17 for broadband? How fast is that? I pay $60/mo for I think 50 mbps down. score one for merica?

    • aoanla says:

      17 GBP is about 25 USD.

      More to the point, unlimited, 72Mbit/s down broadband in the UK is 25 GBP, or about 37 USD (not including line rental for the associated phone line).

      So, no, not really a score for America. :D

      • noggin says:

        not including line rental for the associated phone line

        BT line rental @ £17 a month brings the total to £42 / month = $63, so not much difference really (assuming our American friend doesn’t have additional line rental)

        Toodle pip!

        • Hedgeclipper says:

          Things may well have changed since I live there but my recollection of US telephone companies was that you also paid line rental, federal tax, state tax, possibly phone rental (for the physical phone) and about a dozen other items that more or less doubled the bill.

    • GallonOfAlan says:

      EUR 45 here in Ireland for 240Mbps fibre and that includes phone calls. :)

    • aldo_14 says:

      From what I recall, the US is pretty famous for having poor broadband given its advanced first world nation status….

      Now South Korea, there’s a place to boast about connections. Lucky bastchaps.

      • Ducce says:

        I pay somewhere around 80$ a month for a unlimited 1000/1000 Mbps here in Sweden, I can’t complain.

    • Premium User Badge

      Schmouddle says:

      Local Wi-Fi services (5Ghz local with microwave links) are quite popular in Czech Republic, given to the poor ex-commie landline infrastructure.
      Currently I pay CZK 680 (approx 25 EUR) for a 40/10Mbyte line with 1:5 agregation. Public IP included, no throttling or FUP and rock solid past 3 years, pings in central Europe under 20ms. Real speeds vary, but I do not care as it never went under 20/5.

      Went from ADSL 8/2Mbyte line, which was in reality 2/512 and was the same price. Actually I never looked back.

    • Flit says:

      This part of murica gets you 18 down/2 up for $100 per month, with a 150 gig cap every month. In a town of 300,000 people.

  5. Jason Moyer says:

    Descent, Indycar Racing II, Hexen, and Warcraft II over direct connections on a 14.4 modem. Don’t really remember having any tech issues aside from the usual difficulty of making sure both parties had the correct modem settings. Probably the most fun I’ve had playing games with someone who wasn’t in the same room, too. I guess that’s not technically “internet gaming” but I didn’t really get into that until Quakeworld or whatever, a few years later.

  6. LegendaryTeeth says:

    I played a lot of games before this, but my the first online game I really got into was Star Trek: Elite Force. Man, that was a sweet game. Great CTF maps. I remember one where you were basically back to back with the other team, and you had to actually go down and under the center dividing wall and back up again to get to their flag.

    I also remember trying and failing repeatedly to get the likes of DOOM working over the phone lines. Man.

  7. aoanla says:

    Thanks to fortuitous timing, the Internet (or at least, the popular face of it with websites and easily done dial-up to ISPs) happened just as my family got an IBM compatible PC for the first time.
    I remember playing a rationed amount of Quake 2 and Quake deathmatch at the time, and misusing my school internet connection to get mods for them. (Although, honestly, latency was horrible – all my best deathmatch experiences were on the school lan, possibly better for being illicit as well as much lower latency and with people I knew :D )

  8. Premium User Badge

    Grizzly says:

    Most of the gaming I did was very old fashioned lan-partying, which we did a lot in my youngest years. My first encounters with the internet were playing the Lego games on the lego websites, visiting lots of Bionicle websites, and downloading new cars for Need for Speed 3 back when the series had two very moddable installments.

  9. Antsy says:

    Arctic MUD, Ultima Online, Everquest, Asherons Call. These games and BT’s then non-existent Internet service meant gigantic pay-per-minute monthly phone bills and constant complaints from my girlfriend’s parents about our phone being engaged.

    Those were the days :P

    • Premium User Badge

      Andy_Panthro says:

      Ah yes, Ultima Online. My first MMO and the only one I really loved.

      Still, on a crappy modem it could sometimes be utterly unbearable. I died far too many times from trying to accomplish too much when it was too laggy. Or just lost a pack horse and a bunch of rare ores.

      • jrod says:

        Sorry about your pack animal and rare ores… I was probably the guy who Vas Ort Flam’d and Corp Por’d the poor bugger to death :-)

        • Premium User Badge

          Andy_Panthro says:

          I still made more than enough money to kit myself out in half-decent bronze armour and magic swords. Even managed to buy a house at one point (although I had to sail around the map to find a place to build it, when every available plot of land was almost taken!)

    • Blackrook says:

      Yep Ultima online was my first real online experience – > experience of getting a hefty pay per minute
      bill at the end of the month. Had to limited myself to discrete 1 hour gaming until we got signed up
      on a eat as much as you can download deal. Also was playing a bit of the old UT99 at around
      the same time > a ping below 200 and you were pretty leet.

      Before that I’d messed about on a few muds inc Shades through the universities net.
      But I don’t really count that as I didn’t pay for it.

      Now I’m back in the slow lane on a crummy 3-4mbs download,
      and with the amount we dl these days it seems slower than the dialup.
      I’d quite happily pay £xx a month for a decent cable/fibre connection but
      as we live the countryside so we have cows instead.
      Cows get a bit boring when your watching them for 2 days while
      your game downloads.

  10. Scurra says:

    The first dial-up game I ever played was some weird thing called (quick google later) SHADES on the old Prestel system (think Ceefax but with interaction.) I am startled to learn that it is apparently still running today…
    I dabbled a fair amount with the Essex MUD when I was at university, but never had enough computer time to get anywhere serious on it. But pretty much everything that is now recognised in modern MMORGS can be seen there, just in text form.

  11. melnificent says:

    We were early tech adopters in our household… My clearest memory is in the C64 days at about 9 or 10 years old… I’d been on a few BBses and would 1v1 a friend for 20 minutes or so when allowed.

    There was one time when being online before internet access saved me too…

    My Dad had a 286 which was his pride and joy, but on this fateful day I had gained access to the bios. I wanted to install games, but it wasn’t allowed as he watched every kilobyte on his 20mb hard drive. In the bios was a 40mb option, so I dutifully took it, he’d never know. To cover my tracks I set a random password on the bios, to be able to feign ignorance if something went wrong.

    In hindsight it wasn’t a brilliant plan.
    His computer wouldn’t read the drive, the bios was inaccessible. My secret game directory idea was toast. Dad found out and had to take a soldering iron to the motherboard to reset the bios. Once the drive was correctly picked up there was another problem, it had somehow (I again feign ignorance) got wiped clean. Oops. There were no backups of the drivers for the PC, so after an install of windows (3.0) there was no sound.

    The only modem we had was in my c64 and they weren’t compatible. A short online session later, I grabbed the PC drivers, copied them to a spare disk and installed them on the PC. To this day my Dad has never let me forget that I once screwed up his computer. I in return have always made sure to point out the value of a modem even if it’s only 400baud.

    • Premium User Badge

      teije says:

      You guys were late to the party! My Dad was a real early adopter – I remember the day he brought home one of the first Commodore PETs, the one with the integrated tape drive – with the awesome name of the “Datasette”. That was a gaming best for sure :)

      Then it was onto the Vic 20 and C64. I have great memories of that old PET – the possibilities with it just seemed endless.

  12. zat0ichi says:

    I cut my gaming teeth on COD2 with blueyonder cable – 2mbit. BLAZING FAST

    Virgin have ruled the roost too long and have over sold in some places causing local exchanges to have routinely crumpled under the weight of the marketing.
    Having sensed the need for better upload I apprehensively went back to BT after a horrible DSL saga a few years ago.

    They don’t lie, no throttling ever for anything. 9MB all day every day for everything. I think upload is 2MB

    BUT

    Their associated TV package is balls and the kit they give you is balls.
    At least Virgin kit worked, I could stream 1080p effortlessly using powerline adapters but BTs router just spacks out every now and again (wifi as well is shonky) THe TV box i got is awful, I tried to send it back within days but I got told that I would have to buy the box of shitness for £200.

    I guess I’m a relatively early adopter so the exchanges are under no real pressure.

  13. Fnord73 says:

    Being something of an arty-farty type back in my first year at Uni i gravitated directly from MUDs to MOOs, where there was no game-element whatsoever, just literary interchange. Has anyone written a history of MOOs? Chiba-Moo was wonderfully weird.

  14. Premium User Badge

    Wisq says:

    Very first game I ever played: “Ladder” on the Kaypro II, basically a text-based Donkey Kong clone.

    Very first game I ever purchased: SimCity, the first one.

    But neither of those is the most memorable. The ones that really stuck with me:

    Life & Death — used to play this with my mother. We had a crappy mouse so we tried to do our incisions with the keyboard (numpad diagonal keys), but (we didn’t know it at the time) that was doomed to failure because the aspect ratio of the surgery site was not 1:1 and it didn’t leave us with enough room by the time we got down to the appendix. I never actually completed this game until 20+ years later.

    MechWarrior 2 — for a time, this was the most advanced game my poor old computer could handle, long after much better games had come out. I never even had the full version, I just played the demo, over and over.

    System Shock — terrifying, so much so that I had to cheat myself some godmode just to take the psychological edge off. But what stuck with me more about this was that it was also the focus of my delving into game memory hacking using Game Wizard. I located almost every important memory location regarding the main character — I could turn any weapon into any other weapon, even some weird ones that shouldn’t exist. I think the memory hacking was probably even more fun than the (already very fun) game itself, which is actually rather appropriate, given the subject matter.

    Action Half-Life — my “I can finally buy a computer” early employment game. Started out as Action Quake2 with the office folk, but quickly progressed to this. I spent so many years playing this, making friends, running my own server for a while, and I still miss it dearly. (And yes, we frequently delved into Hondo’s crazy map secrets.)

    It also poisoned me against ever seriously playing Counter-Strike, because (in a sort of early proto-hipster way) it was “that annoyingly mainstream boring clone of AHL”. It wasn’t, of course, but back in those days, having a game that used real-world weapons was enough of a distinguishing feature for us to lump them into the same category, even if that seems ridiculous today.

    MOOs, MUDs, and MUSHes — where I learned programming, C programming, and roleplaying. Since I spent most of my school years with an old computer that couldn’t run many new games, these were my substitute. Ironically, the programming I learned from them is what lets me now earn enough money to play anything I want. :)

  15. Scandalon says:

    Gosh – first online? Must be the BBS standards (LoRD, the space-themed one, etc.). First live-multi would have to be Doom over direct null-modem and dial-up. (Anyone remember typing in “AT” commands into their modem connection setup?)

    First true internet game was probably Quake/Quakeworld.

  16. Jamorobo says:

    My first foray into online gaming was direct dial up with Red Alert, with a usual routine of calling up a friend and deciding who would call the others modem, a synchronized call-end would then occur followed by a wait for connection. Then came MSN Gaming Zone with Fighter Ace (My first monthly subscription), Age of Empires and Jedi Knight 2 (I got a huge amount of use out of the multiplayer demo).

    Counterstrike beta around 0.5-0.8 was always a favorite, dialing up BT’s Wireplay Phone number allowing 3.5p a minute peak time and 1p a minute after 6pm for a cool 180ms ping. This unfortunately lead to a £250 quarterly phone bill one winter as i hogged the phone line from 6-10pm most evenings….

  17. Ejia says:

    If BBS door games count, then it was LoRD. And things like Falcon’s Eye and Barren Realms Elite.

    Imagine my joy then to discover that they had webgame counterparts in Utopia and Earth: 2025. Ah, Utopia was fun. I always, without fail, played a Faery Thief/Mage province, because who has time to be online at precisely the moment your armies come back from an attack? Not me, at least.

  18. Mr Coot says:

    Mm. My first modem was a Maestro 2400bps in 1987. It cost the princely sum of AU$400 (by contrast a well paying entry lev PS job was about $350 gross pw). The RS232 cable I had to pay extra for :/ $20. At the time there were still ppl using acoustic couplers as in the pic, quite a few on 300bps but most were on 1200.

    It really felt like a whole new world. And the internet clientele were a very different mix compared to today… you had to be able to set up your own modem with Hayes commands and write your scripts in telemate/telix if you wanted to play MUDs – it was very much an enthusiast crowd and the exotica of it all filtered out the scum for the most part.

    One of my fondest memories was creating a sort of frankenstein serial cable from 2 ribbon cables soldered into one 25 pin connector going to 25 pins for my Amiga and 15? for my 286 so that my gf and I could chat at the same time in a group on the BBS. :D

    [Ed. Re: future. I am hoping our political parties come to their senses and go ahead with FTTH. Our connex in Oz are embarrassing, 44th for speed in the world.

  19. Napalm Sushi says:

    My entry point was Malice, a now obscure cyberpunk-themed total conversion of Quake. Our 56k modems were incapable of handling it and the ceaseless rubberbanding made a crude joke of any attempt to derive a meaningful competitive experience from it, but the sheer novelty of remotely sharing a virtual space was enough to override such obstacles to our enjoyment.

    Generally though, online gaming wasn’t something we dabbled in much beyond the (very) occasional LAN party until the last 10 years or so.

  20. Razgovory says:

    First time I used the internet was on a school computer around 1993. Everyone in class was allowed to log in on the same dial-up modem which meant that my first impression of the internet was that it was some sort of high tech way to watch paint dry. First game I played a game over the net was Warcraft II, I think, and though it was on a dial up as well, though it worked reasonably, well (though I had to call up the person I was playing with to find out the the long string of numbers needed to contact him before we connected).

  21. wu wei says:

    My first online game was LambdaMOO, back in 1990. I remember the heady day we first hit fifty simultaneous users, oh my those were some crazy times.

  22. Hammerzeit says:

    Air Warrior on the GEnie network way back in 1989. It cost $6 an hour to play.

    Edit: That was on an Amiga 500

  23. jrod says:

    repeatedly plasma cannoning my friend to death in Doom over a 14.4k modem was my first and fondest memory.

  24. Hastur says:

    Hunt the Wumpus, on Compuserve. Played at 300 baud using my TI-99/4A’s modem.

  25. Wret says:

    Lots of terrible BYOND games (Space Station 13 excluded)

    Winning the first match in the UT2004 demo

    LagSausage Operation Flashpoint deathmatch in the bushes.

    Oh, and trying desperately to fight off hostile mercenary bastards in Face of Mankind while on AT&T dial-up. Unfortunately once bullets started flying I was worthless. I had nice times with some lady called Beeblebrox though. And found a martian with a friend, that then chased us back to the Mars outpost where a guard shot it(shuddup we were the hippie faction).

  26. randomkeyhits says:

    LORD and various BBS games on a 2400 baud modem. There was a guy in Kingson upon Hull who had eight modems on his BBS because the Hull Telecoms was sooo much cheaper than BT.

    Then going AmigaNOS / AmiTCP and getting onto the internet directly when Demon’s 10 quid a month dialup arrived and discovering muds. I remember fiddling with my 14.4k modem to turn all the compression off. Bandwidth dropped but so did the latency and it made mudding so much faster. Good times.

    • airmikee says:

      I had a friend that could scream at the pitch required to complete a 300 baud handshake. Nothing but gibberish came out on the other side, but he could complete the connection. For some reason we found it fun to pass around that obsolete relic just so we could take turns calling him with it.

  27. Premium User Badge

    Harlander says:

    Chaining endless free Compuserve and AOL disks, getting into newsgroups, and MUDs – the first one I remember getting up to a lot in was the Discworld one.

    And I remember an IRC room where I spent a lot of time, but I ca… wait… Era Online? Man, that sure was something that went nowhere in the end.

    Also a lot of failing to play things like Doom and GTA over phone lines.

  28. airmikee says:

    My first was Trade Wars 2002 over a 1200 baud modem on my 8088 XT Turbo. It was a big deal when my dad surprised us one day with a high speed 2400 baud modem and one of those newfangled 3.5″ floppy drives. Discs so small that could contain so much? Surely it had to be a joke. After my dad finally decided to upgrade the family computer to one of those superfast P5-75Mhz machines, that 8088 metal beast lasted me all through high school, playing Legend of the Red Dragon, Trade Wars, and making ridiculous ANSI art. While those are fond memories, I much prefer todays games and art. :)

    • mavu says:

      Trade wars was awesome though. We had some players, who played it more like a roleplaying game, and i very much remember one evening, when some of us met up one evening to log in in one after another, and destroy a heavyly defended planet of one of the other players.

      Also, turn based scifi game called VGA Planets, or just planets. you had a graphical client program, that took a file downloaded from a BBS and with that you made your move, then upload the resulting file again. Each night/couple of days the BBS would run a server and compute the turns of all players (up to 11 i think) and generate new turn files for everyone.

      We had a couple of friends and played that a lot. Including meetings to discuss tactics and diplomacy in person. One of us had a Computer shop and we would meet there and scare away the few customers he had :)

      good times.

  29. bonuswavepilot says:

    Hmmm probably MUDs played through a dial-up connection to a friend of a friend’s university Internet account… Can’t for the life of me remember the name of the terminal software I was running on my trusty Amiga 500 to do so…

  30. Blue_Lemming says:

    Some BBS’s offered 4 player doom matches back in the distant past, i managed to have a game with a rather infamous PC Gamer writer, who summarily handed my ass to me numerous times, Its where i cut my twitch skills, before many janky CS matches.

    I still miss that calming Netscape animated loading icon.

  31. hjjools says:

    Didn’t experience the internet until I went to Uni in 1997 and once there I discovered NMEchat to the cost of my degree.

    First internet gaming experience was awfully laggy dialup XWing Vs TieFighter and in that game I met my first gaming friend who invited me into their Quake 2 clan. From here I was introduced to Action Quake II and the world of mods and character model customisation. Many nights I would play AQ2 until the sun came up and the birds started to sing. Nildram ISDN was a revelation and I used two lines for clan matches only as it doubled the phone bill.

    Massive phone bills, awful free ad supported dialup services etc are all painfully familiar.

  32. phoss64 says:

    Anyone else have the modem dialing tones imprinted on their mind? I played CS beta for the last few versions. I remember looking at the CS 1.0 running animations and thinking the characters looked like they shat themselves. When I got 250ms ping it was like finding some rarefied gaming nirvana, closer to 300ms was more common. Half my CS gaming experience was in the console, typing in IP addresses I had written down. I found finding a good game with an acceptable ping was a dark art. My fondest memories of online play are the small fraction of the time I got a playable ping and a good game; such a thrill. The brutal and stark violence of CS was magic back then. I stopped playing when the early ADSL people appeared who would dominate us mortals.

  33. jinglin_geordie says:

    I had a modem on my Spectrum. I won it (the modem) in a Blue Peter competition when they did a feature on the future of computing [answer: “modulator-demodulator”]. It came with a year’s subscription to Prestel. This was around the time of the Duke of Edinburgh hacking scandal, so about 1984. Prestel had a turn based space conquest game which I played, I forget what it was called, but there were hundreds of players all manoeuvring their fleets and conquering planets, within the context of an Empire/Rebellion conflict. I gave up when my fleet was mauled after missing a turn because we unexpectedly stayed overnight at my gran’s. On such things the fate of empires turn.

    You also used to be able to purchase and download Spectrum software from Prestel, recording the download on a handy C90 cassette. It was a bit hit or miss but, given the various technologies involved (not least my cassette recorder which had to be held at 45 degrees to ensure a good connection to the Spectrum), it was amazing it worked at all.

  34. salattu says:

    Tribes 2 represent! I can’t quite recall if I cut my online teeth on that or CS, but Tribes 2 was the one I stuck with for a good while. I don’t think I played online on our dial-up, but got started with my family’s second (and my first personal) computer and broadish-band (cable). I do remember installing Netscape and required drivers on our old mac to make it work with the dial-up modem. The ISP (“phone company”, we called them back then) us the software on a CD, but we needed diskettes – and got 12!

  35. Hedgeclipper says:

    NWN was probably my first online ‘online’ game ‘game’ in the early 00s but I’d been online since the early 90s, got banned on the university system after getting caught playing the original Doom networked with a bunch of friends in one of the labs and I used to play a fair bit of online go through Yahoo (mid to late 90s). Still not a huge fan of online games to be honest, pretty much missed the whole MMO thing, have no interest in any of the Massive Blah Blahs and I’m pretty sure my reflexes aren’t up to online shooters.

  36. spaceseeker19 says:

    I could go on quite a bit about formative gaming experiences, but as to formative *online* gaming experiences?

    Well, my gang of friends all grew up around computers. Going to the Lawrence Hall of Science for birthday parties, we kids would all enjoy the museum for a few hours, and then inevitably this would devolve into playing tag with Chinese yo-yos. One year, probably 1981 or 82, in the process of such running around the Lawrence campus, a couple of us found the basement, which contained the computer lab. Of course we used the time catching our breath to start up a terminal and explore the directory structure. It was a dumb terminal, but it ran a shell more like DOS than UNIX, so we were able to navigate pretty well. Quickly we found the game DND on the network, and proceeded to roll up characters and explore the dungeons, laughing with delight at the terrible grammar in the game (“Your deadly!”).

    A few years later, in high school, I had an ST and a modem (1200 bps, by the time I discovered games), so of course I played door games with other players through FidoNet and other BBS networks through our local bulletin board systems from 1987 onward. Logging in to find that some punk had broken into my base and stolen my gear in Operation Overkill II led me to the habit of hunting down the perp, crushing him back to level 1, and eradicating everything he had with a thoroughness that almost matched how I dominated all the Esterian Conquest games. Later, by the time I started up and ran my own BBS during unviersity (around 1991), we moved on to ANSIterm games like Land of Devastation and Legend of the Red Dragon, which allowed client software to provide graphics and sound to the players locally. Somewhere during that period, I also started playing and designing MUDs, as well as using the Lynx browser to navigate the web (though my first experience of HTML was a bit earlier, on games collections CDs).

    I remember in 1993 or so, trying out Netscape in the university computer lab, and being unimpressed with the thing. I scoffed at talk of the “new” thing called the “World Wide Web,” and talk of the “Information Superhighway” prompted serious rolls of the eyes. My feeling then was that Netscape did everything that Lynx did…albeit much, much slower. But it would download the pictures automatically, and display them for you on the same page, without issuing any additional command! All of them! Whether you wanted to see them or not! Woo!

    Most of our multi-player gaming was done via LAN, however. We had a permanent four-computer LAN in our bachelor house (anyone else remember how to set up an IPX network?), so many of the games that others mentioned (Doom, Dark Forces, Descent, Heretic, Warcraft, X-Wing, Command & Conquer, Terminal Velocity, et cetera) we didn’t seriously try playing online, because we could always play better locally. We ran Doom tournaments (in single-player, deathmatch and co-op categories), Hexen was a particular favorite, and Duke Nukem 3D, when it arrived, blew everyone away because it had “mouse look” – you could use the mouse to control your character’s facing/aim…which meant that you HAD to use the mouse, because if you didn’t, you would pretty much automatically lose to the guys who did. Then, our house pretty much stopped any non-Warcraft 2 activity for months after that was released. All during the years that we played these games – most of the 90s – we continued running the BBS and playing online that way. Eventually ethernet cards became available for home PCs and we made the upgrade. But then, in 1999, EverQuest was released. That, in combination with the release of the Counter-strike mod to Half-Life later that same year, ended the BBS era and started what others would recognize as online gaming for me.

  37. Coldyham says:

    sammy’s science house and millie’s math(s) house were my first game-y things, along with the minigames in mavis beacon, but in terms of proper gaming, I think age of empires 1.