Dark Pulse

In 2001, I had just recently gotten my first "real" computer of my own - a Pentium II 350 MHz. A friend of mine, as a bit of a welcome gift, gave me a couple games of his. Two of them - Rollercoaster Tycoon and Need for Speed II - went unopened. In fact, they still are to this day. The third one, Unreal Tournament, was absolutely torn open.

I had never played anything like UT before. I had Quake II for the PS1, but this was something completely different - a world of difference. Quake II, of course, had its own positives and negatives, but UT had this incredible attitude to it - an attitude shown in everything from the weapons, to the taunts, to the maps.

Having never played the demo - or indeed, never having even heard of the game before due to a lack of a PC - I was absolutely floored at the powers and abilities of the weapons. Globs of explosive green gunk. Ricocheting razorblades. Hot shards of shrapnel that could rip you to shreds. And of course, a portable tactical nuclear warhead! Everything almost screamed overkill, and people ripped into beefy chunks so easily.

I remember being completely floored when I loaded up CTF-Face for the first time. So stunned that I didn't even immediately play... I just watched. Stood there and watched the Earth go round and round for a minute or two. It felt so totally real that I couldn't believe it. And then, of course, when I played, the giant Earth swirling distracted me and I lost track of my position and promptly fell off the asteroid.

But there were more memorable maps than that. AS-HiSpeed so convincingly did the illusion of a racing train that I was convinced 100% that the train was actually moving through a very, very long tunnel. CTF-LavaGiant, it felt like I could reach out and touch the sun. DM-Morpheus had me high above the Earth's surface, fighting in low gravity. And of course, DM-HyperBlast... which besides having areas with completely different gravity, had an incredibly terrifying opponent named Xan Kriegor... who moved so methodically, so easily, you could swear he was reading your thoughts!

I've met a lot of people through Unreal Tournament. Some of my best friends, I've made during this game. Having a regular group of friends to play with was always a blast, and it also slowly got me better. I've made some dumb quotes during the years as I improved, I'll admit, including stating I was "very, very good" as I played on bot difficulties of "at least adept." I won't attempt to backtrack and say I didn't make it, but there was something exhilarating about improving.

And there was also tragedy. No less than three people I used to play with have died since; two of them committing suicide and one of them, dying of a disease. This hit me most hard right around the time UT2004 had come out, shortly before I had joined BeyondUnreal. A friend of mine, nicknamed Masatoshi, had seen the UT2k4 demo with me and he, like I, was floored, as neither of us had computers that could really play UT2k3. (I lacked a graphics accelerator with hardware T&L, he lacked that as well as a CPU that could handle it.) I was buying a new system, an Athlon XP 3000+, to play 2k4 on, so I told him "Tell you what, I'll sell you my old Athlon 1 GHz box as I know your current PC can't play it." We sealed the deal, he paid me about $250 for the whole case, and so I sent it off to him a little while later.

I didn't hear back from him for a little while. At first I figured it was because he'd removed his old computer, but when a couple days turned into four, then five, I really began to worry. A few days later, his brother came on AIM, and when I asked him about it, he said six words that sucked the wind right out of my lungs like I'd just been tackled by a speeding linebacker.

Those six words were "Didn't you hear? Brian hung himself."

My enthusiasm for my new game, one I'd been enjoying totally since I got it, was simply and completely gone. Totally. I could not enjoy it anymore. I knew one of my usual playing partners would never play with me again. For two weeks, I couldn't touch the game... it depressed me too much. Even after that, when I did, I played halfheartedly. It was about the only time that I'd ever seriously thought about quitting UT, if not FPS games, entirely and finding a new genre to like.

In the end, it was a friend of mine, Spineblaze, who really brought me back to UT. A few of you might recognize the name - this is the same Spineblaze that was in Carpe Imperium. We were friends on an emulation board, and coincidentally, he also played UT. Naturally, I challenged him.

He obliterated me something like 30-4 in DM-Liandri before I threw in the towel. His challenge brought me to do my very best, and seeing how even with me going the hardest I can that he was still obliterating me with complete ease made me simply in awe of his skill. I had to know how he got that good.

I asked him, and his words were "Well, I go to this weekly event called FragBU, these guys at BeyondUnreal run it. You should check it out sometime." I told him I would, and a few months after that, I decided to leap in. It was the weekend of September 10-11, 2004, where I played my first FragBU match on AS-Convoy with guys like Raffi B. and Hal and Haarg, that I really got my spark for UT back. In a way, BU brought me out of a funk that had been lingering for months due to the death of Masa. And for some years, I was a regular, devoted, FragBU attendee - in addition, of course, to becoming staff here and helping out with the site, posting news and in the forums.

And here we are, November 30th, 2009, 10 years after a game that was an important thing in a lot of our lives began. I might not have been here for the very start, but sometimes I feel like I have been. It's been a long ride. To this day, UT is installed on my system, as are 2k4 and UT3. These three games are games I will always have on my PC, as long as they're able to run.

Whether you're a newcomer to this series with UT3, or an old veteran like I am, take a moment to remember how this game has undeniably shaped your life. UT is, sadly, not exactly a mainstream series anymore, and Epic seems to be struggling to find what the players truly want. But with the original UT, at least, they simply hit every nail on the head. It might not be as flashy or pretty compared to games of today, or even yesterday, but no game had more mind-blowing, realistic graphics than UT had at the time it seemed. Think of the friends you've made, of the matches you've played. For those of us at BeyondUnreal, UT was more than a game, or even a way to play with friends. It literally shaped our lives to some extent.

All I want for Christmas now is a source code release, so that I can enjoy UT on any computer in the future... forever. Until then, I will simply have to hope with every new version of Windows, that I can find a way to wiggle it into playing. The day where UT will no longer run on a PC simply due to the hardware and system being too new and the OS too different for it will be a truly, truly sad day for me.

Here's to hoping that you have memories as fond as I do of this great game and series that has changed my life forever. And once we get that server set up, maybe I'll even see a few of you on there.