|Before the Event|
This past weekend marked the twelfth anniversary of a gaming event started by a group of die hard Quake players in suburban Dallas, Texas. Evolving and growing rapidly since its grass roots founding, Quakecon has become the largest LAN gaming event in the United States, with over 3000 gamers attending, some from places as far as Japan, Iraq, and Finland. Put on by id Software with their main sponsor NVIDIA, this year’s Quakecon was filled with gaming tournaments, vendor exhibitors, and new gaming announcements, but the heart of the event was the bring-your-own-computer area, or the BYOC.
Although the event officially got underway Thursday morning, die-hard BYOC gamers were in line as early as Wednesday afternoon to ensure that they would be among the first to put their gaming rigs in the BYOC area. In the hours preceding the opening of Quakecon, the line itself had to be moved into an enormous overflow area because over eight hundred people had lined up to get in the BYOC. However, while in line, many attendees used the opportunity to meet new gamers from all over the world, exchange hardware and overclocking tips, and a few even played card games.
One of the most impressive things about Quakecon is that it is completely free to the public and staffed completely by volunteers. From the 24 hour registration team, to the security and network operations center, everyone that works at Quakecon volunteers their time and energy to make the event work. That is truly impressive when you take a look at the 3,000 computer BYOC area, all of which was set up over two very long days of cable crimping, powerstrip taping, and table moving. When all the dust had cleared and as Quakecon was coming to a close, Quakecon officials told us that over 2000 computers were present in the BYOC throughout the event.
|NVIDIA Kick-Off Event|
If you’ve read or heard about Quakecon in years past, you’ve probably heard about NVIDIA’s annual Quakecon launch event. Two years ago, with host Julie Stoffer from the Real World and G4 fame, NVIDIA had a Fear Factor inspired launch event that challenged attendees to compete in grueling challenges to win the latest graphics hardware. Two girls even shaved their heads in front of the audience to win a pair of graphics cards, one gamer ate an entire raw onion, and another danced on stage for over an hour. Last year, NVIDIA’s theme was reality shows and gamers competed in reality-show related challenges to win NVIDIA’s latest hardware.
NVIDIA was back with their Kick-Off Event this year and managed to pull off on of the most fun and entertaining events at this year’s Quakecon. Hosted by NVIDIA’s Director of Public Relations, Derek Perez, on the first day of Quakecon, the event put volunteers from the audience in a series of television game show themed challenges. Gamers were tested on their spelling, their dancing skills, and some even competed to win a date with a Quakecon model. Our favorite event was when gamers were chosen from the audience and asked to trade one of their belongings for a chance to win a prize inside one of three boxes held by the Quakecon girls. Attendees gave up their hats, shoes, and one even their underwear for a chance to win a new graphics card and motherboard setup. One person briefly offered his iPhone for a chance to go on a date with a Quakecon model, but after her firm denial, he rushed off stage. Fortunately, most left the contest better off than they started, even though one gamer in particular left the stage with a $100 NVIDIA Gift Certificate, walking off in his socks.
|id Keynote and id Tech Demo 5 Announcement|
On Friday evening, the second day of the show, id Software held its annual keynote address to the gamers of Quakecon. First up was CEO Todd Hollenshead, who announced that Quake Wars:
Also mentioned at the keynote address was that id Software’s full catalog of games through Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil, are now available through Valve Software’s Steam distribution system. The entire collection, ranging from id’s first game, Commander Keen, to Doom 3 : Resurrection of Evil, can be purchased on Steam for $70.
But the biggest news of the keynote took place when John Carmack, the creator of the modern first person shooter, came on stage. Carmack used his speech to officially announce id’s newest game currently in development, titled Rage. Originally showed off with Steve Jobs at an Apple event in June, Rage uses Carmack’s latest graphics engine, titled id Tech 5 and simply looks stunning.
Based in a post-apocalyptic world that resembles the Mad Max movies of the 80’s, Rage is part first person shooter, part driving game, part adventure, and all id. You play the role of a man living in a shattered society that was destroyed by a comet and is now ruled by an oppressive regime. You find yourself aiding helpless people abused by the regime and end up fighting the regime yourself. Throughout the game, you’ll be able to drive great distances, get out of your fully customizable vehicle, and go explore the enormous world that id creates. Carmack noted in his keynote that the game has about 80GB of uncompressed data, which is already more than triple that of Doom 3. Another big part of the id Tech 5 engine and of Rage itself is that it is “platform agnostic”, meaning that it will work equally well on a PC, a MAC, an XBOX 360, and a Playstation 3. Carmack said that no one platform will have an advantage or disadvantage over another and id mentioned that the game should be released on all platforms at about the same time, if not simultaneously.
|NVIDIA, Dell, and MSI|
Right next to the BYOC was the Vendor Hall, where gamers were able to test drive the latest in PC Games and Gaming Hardware. NVIDIA had a big presence through their large booth in the vendor hall, running many contests and give-aways on their stage, selling merchandise like t-shirts and pens, and of course providing gamers a few GeForce 8800 based PC’s to play Quake Wars:
Dell was also had a very large presence at this year’s Quakecon, showing off some of their latest hardware and fastest systems at their booth. The company had their latest XPS systems running Ghost Recon Adanced Warfighter 2 and Rainbow Six Vegas on their stunning 27” LCD monitors.
Dell ran a series of contests that included a random drawing for entrance into a 1v1 Quake 4 tournament with the grand prize of a Dell 24” 2407WFP LCD and new XPS gaming PC. The Dell sponsored Frag Dolls, an all woman gaming clan, were also in attendance, talking with and fragging alongside gamers throughout Quakecon.
Dell also showed off the highly anticipated third person shooter 'John Woo: Stranglehold' at their booth running on an Alienware PC. I was able to play the game for a bit and was struck by how much the game resembled the Max Payne series, with the ability to slow down time and blast bullets into your enemies. I was left impressed with Stranglehold after the brief time I spent with the game and you can look for it to come out at the end of this month.
MSI was the only motherboard manufacturer at this year’s Quakecon, and the company was there promoting their latest products, including the MSI P35 Platinum motherboard that we reviewed a few weeks ago. At their booth they had a MSI P35 Platinum based system with an NVIDIA GeForce 8800 Ultra and Intel Core 2 Duo QX6700 CPU.
Also on display was the MSI GX600 gaming laptop we first showed you while at Computex in June. Just to recap, the GX600 is a P965 based Merom notebook that has a “Turbo” overclock button, when pressed it automatically overclockis its core frequency by up to 20%. The GX600 was a big hit with the gamers attending Quakecon and will be available in the Fall.
|Patriot, PNY, Valve, and Armadillo Aerospace|
At Patriot’s booth, the company was showcasing some of their new and highly overclockable memory products. The company was displaying their 1600MHz DDR3 (9-9-9-24) and 1150MHz DDR2 (5-5-5-12) desktop memory as well as their new Xporter XT line of USB sticks. The Xporter XT comes in 4GB and 8GB configurations and like the OCZ ATV Turbo USB sticks we showed you in our Computex coverage, is guaranteed to work under water.
Next up we stopped at PNY’s booth and took a look at their new XLR8 line of graphics cards. You may recall that PNY once only had the Vertigo series of cards for desktop users, but since late last year, the company has been on a marketing and branding campaign and created the XLR8 line to cater to the demands of high end gamers. PNY was showing off their XLR8 GeForce 8800 Ultra and even hinted that in a few months we might see a PNY branded XLR8 motherboard hit the market.
As mentioned in the id Software keynote address to Quakecon attendees, id and Valve are now partners and Valve’s Steam online distribution system will distribute id’s current catalog, and likely future catalog of games over the internet. The company came to Quakecon to show off a new game they’re helping to develop called Left 4 Dead, based on Valve’s latest source engine.
Left 4 Dead’s premise is that the world has been taken over by zombies and you are one of four survivors trying to stay alive. The catch is that the game is co-op based, meaning that you have work with the three other people around you to make it. I was able to play the game for a few minutes and enjoyed the new approach Left 4 Dead is taking to first person shooters. Co-op games are definitely fun; hopefully we’ll see the addition of co-op in future Valve developed titles. Look for Left 4 Dead to come out in early 2008. Also, Valve mentioned that Team Fortress 2 and Half Life: Episode 2 are almost completely done, the development team is just in the process of fixing bugs in the game and doing last minute balancing. The Valve representative mentioned that there are only about two more weeks of development left on the games, then there will be a beta, and then the game will hit store shelves.
And finally on display in the vendor area of Quakecon was the Quad vehicle of Armadillo Aerospace, the company that John Carmack founded to create a space ship capable of manned space flight. The Quad space vehicle was a bit of a hit with Quakecon attendees and is even officially sponsored by NVIDIA.
|The BYOC and Case Mods|
The BYOC is and always will be the heart of every Quakecon. This year’s BYOC was packed with over two thousand PC’s, ranging from only a few inches to almost seven feet in height, and running on everything from 5” LCD displays to 47” Widescreen LCD televisions. The BYOC was filled with gamers playing the latest games like the just released beta of Quake Wars:
The BYOC is open 24 hours a day while Quakecon is under way, and even at 4AM games of Quake Wars:
With the past three Quakecon’s as reference, we can safely say that this year’s Quakecon had the best attendee created case mods we had ever seen. It seemed as though almost every aisle of the BYOC had at least one modded case, with some of the more interesting mods on display here. One system, created by Dohcdragon, featured a phase change cooler with an overclocked Intel Core 2 QX6700 CPU at 4GHz, two overclocked GeForce 8800GTs cards, and almost 2 terabytes of hard drive space.
|More Case Mods|
Some of the best mods in the BYOC were created by a group of modding enthusiasts called the Austin Modders. One of these members is Stephen Hawkins, who solved the problem of lugging around a monitor in addition to your desktop by building his LCD right into the back panel of his custom-built case. Hawkins built the great looking system around an AMD Athlon 64 FX-57 and Dual GeForce 7900GT graphics cards.
Another Austin Modders member built his own “gaming cube” complete with an AMD Athlon 64 FX-60 and Dual GeForce 7900GT cards running on a 42” Westinghouse LCD television.
The modded system above was also custom built, this time using an Intel Core 2 Duo E6750 overclocked to 2.8GHz and a GeForce 8800GTX.
Deja 2.0 is a wooden desktop PC created by Shan Murphy of the Austin Modders. Murphy started to work on Deja 2.0 three years ago and created the case out of real wood. The keyboard is custom made and the entire system is enclosed, excluding a mouse, in Deja 2.0’s tiny frame. The system is running an AMD Opteron CPU and 2GB of memory, but is too small to fit any of today’s high end graphics cards.
A unique case mod that certainly caught our eye was the Snoopy case mod. The Snoopy mod is built on VIA’s Nano-ITX platform and uses a 1GHz VIA C7 CPU. It was running Quake 3 very smoothly and was a big hit with anyone that realized that it was an actual working computer.
|Case Mod Winners & Optimus Prime Case Mod|
Case Mod Contest Winners:
The winner of Quakecon’s “standard case” mod contest was Dewayne Carel from Modders-Inc.com Dewayne’s mod was inspired by United States Military radio backpacks. DeWayne took a Coolermaster Centurion case, created a custom camouflage paint job, added his own side panel, and his own backpack straps to allow the case to be carried on his back. Dewayne also created an ammo pack with the same camouflage color scheme and painted his keyboard and mouse to match as well.
The second place in Quakecon’s “standard case” mod contest was by another modder from Modders-Inc.com. It was a modified Ultra mid tower with dark black glass side panels, custom lifting handles and a great collection of LED fans and lights.
Optimus Prime Mod:
But of course we’ve saved the best for last. The talk of this year’s Quakecon was of the Optimus Prime Case Mod by John “Max Prime” Mangus. Mangus’ Optimus Prime Mod was hand built from the very start and took almost an entire year to complete. It took Mangus over 300 hours to complete the mod and he says that the case can even ‘transform’ to fit onto a computer desk.
The Optimus Prime Mod is running two BFG GeForce 8800GTS cards in SLI, Corsair XMS2 memory, an Intel Core 2 Duo E6750 CPU, and an EVGA 680i SLI motherboard. The mod even has a 5” LCD screen on Optimus Prime’s belt buckle. Measuring in at just under seven feet tall, it’s a bit hard to tell just how big Optimus Prime is from the pictures, but trust us, he’s huge! Although some die hard Transformers fans would say John Mangus has created the mod of all mods, he's not done yet and has plans for an even bigger and better case mod for next year’s Quakecon. We'll be there.