15 years in review
Around this time, 15 years ago I joined the world of online gaming the first time. To me it seems to be the perfect time now to write a small review about my experiences during that time... the good ones... the not so good ones... the games... the communities... memorable moments, etc.
I had pretty good experience with LAN play and modding already but online gaming up to this point never really was an interesting topic for me. It was just after finishing the Starlancer Singleplayer campaign, probably just a moment before I would have decided to delete the game when I thought "hey, lets see what happens when I click on this Multiplayer button". I fired up my 56k dial up, the lovely connection noises toned up and I pressed this MP button. A few moments later (well, with 56k dial up probably half an hour later) I found myself in the "MSN Games Zone" surrounded by other Starlancer players.
I joined an open game match and found myself back in Starlancer together with a guy called WP_Devil. The match didn't take long. Devil made 10 kills and after 5mins the game was over, I only made one kill.
Back in the Gaming Zone I felt a bit lost. I played such kinds of games for years already but this time I didn't had much of a chance.
Seconds later people started to ask on the main chat about the score of that match. Soon I had to find out that my first Starlancer MP match was against the by far best SL player. The one and only kill that I - the SL noob - did surprised many people.
That changed everything. I had a new motivation, I wanted to win.
Later that evening I joined my first clan.
That's how everything started.
SWAT, Crossfire, the Phoenix Legion and everything else that existed in the past years was result of this single event.
The time as Starlancer player was filled with many ups and downs.
I joined the German Task Force which at that time was a relative young but active clan. The clan leader assigned me to a Phoenix fighter wing (as this was my prefered ship at the beginning). There I learned to fight. I lost most matches at the beginning but I learned fast. After one week I was better than my trainer, soon after even better than my Wing Leader.
I invited my best friend to try out the Starlancer Multiplayer and join my new clan. We played together for a very long time, trained and got better and better. We got addicted to that game. His nickname was GTF_Pr0SaC++ and he later became known as SWAT_XL-R8R.
It was a very fun but also very hard time. Starlancer Clans were often hostile to each other. Fought Clan wars which even led to the destruction of clans. Only few played fair. Many gave up.
Over months PrOSaC++ and I improved our fighting skills, we raised in rank within our clan, eventually became Wing Leaders and a serious threat to the top Starlancer players.
My time as as Wing Leader was limited.
GTF (German Task Force) turned into a multigaming Portal (similar to SWAT) and one of its original leaders resigned due to personal reasons. I was asked to lead GTFs biggest game section (Starlancer) and became founding member of another GTF Game section.
That was the first time when I really had something to say and I shaped GTF (or better to say its Starlancer clan) to something really big. My friend PrOSaC++ took the position of GTFs training officer while I forged alliances with other clans, recruited members and helped with the tactical training.
We united the german Starlancer clans and soon after, GTF was as big as all other remaining clans together. Some of our new members became really good players while PrOSaC++ and I managed to become extremely good Starlancer players, able to beat everyone... well, with one exception. During the 3 years that I played the game I could beat WP_Devil only once. A situation I learned to live with. It was one time more than 99,9% of the other players did.
However, GTF didn't stay that strong for long.
Clan wars broke out, dirty tricks were played, members got frustrated, finally went inactive and GTF lost multiple sections in other games.
While the core members stayed loyal to the clan, it became harder and harder to find new members, especially since Freelancer was announced to be released.
At this point I either did my first wrong decision or the first one that was truely right.
I decided to accept english speaking players into a german clan. I never liked to limit myself and the future of the clan to just one language. This got me a bit in trouble with GTF_Darkdog, the GTF founder and Portal leader. This led to a small disput in which I pointed out the success of my game section compared to his own sections. He said "do what you want" and so i did.
Having english speaking players in a german clan worked for a while but it didn't work good.
Some members were able to adapt to the new situation others didn't want to. Other clans like WP and TTG took advantage of this situation and stirred up troubles. New clan wars broke out. TTG declared war on GTF and didnt survive that. Eventhough GTF won that war, it was WP which good the biggest benefit from it. From that moment only 3 Starlancer clans remained. UNG (United Nations Gamers) which always tried to remain neutral, GTF (German Task Force) and WP (WolfPack).
GTF and WP were constantly in troubles with each other. Flamewars on the main chat, heavy fights for every point inside the game. Mortal enemies.
WP was much better in manipulating people, much more experienced in these kinds of conflicts.
There wasnt a week when I didnt try to resolve a conflict or get into one.
In December 2002 I left GTF out of frustration.
PrOSaC++ followed me and we hoped that more people which share our views would do that aswell and leave the "bad apples" behind. I hoped for more people to follow us and didn't expect being backstabbed.
GTF_Senior, the XO of the clan took command and instantly started a vendetta with the leaving members.
Personally I didn't expect him to make such a decision. He had my trust and I used to help him out of unfortunate situations before. It was the first time during my gaming experience when I was personally disappointed about a person.
At this point of time I accepted that Senior was reveiling his true face and to a degree was glad that such a "bad apple" remained in GTF, while three of the four Wing Leaders and all of GTFs Training Officers joined us to start something new. Something we wanted to be better, free of limitations, free of the old reappearing old problems.
On December, the 14th 2002 Werewolf, rBaron, Hawk, Sensemann, Paladin, Don_Zardeone, XL-R8R (formerly known as PrOSaC++) and I founded the SWAT Portal and its first Clan, MoD.
At the evening of the same day, GTF allied with WP and declared war upon us.
Nothing is better than absolutely clear conditions. This confirmed that our decision to leave GTF was right.
We finally knew what to think about these people and in the following days we made sure that all their illusions about winning a war against us got destroyed.
One of my most memorable moments of my online gaming experience was the first fight vs. GTF during that clan war.
XL opened a game room for 8 players and we challenged the biggest trouble makers and the biggest bad mouths.
Six GTFs vs two of us. We made sure that GTF didn't get a single point. We completely ignored the usual 10 point limit and kept killing them over and over again until they dropped out of the match.
During the next few weeks MoD joined every open game with GTFs inside to make them primary target and ensured that they could win a match, no matter with whom they were fighting with.
The Starlancer main chat got pretty silent and more and more game rooms got password protected. Until the very end of Starlancer GTF didnt dare to disturb us any longer... well... at least in Starlancer.
With the release of Freelancer, all remaining Starlancer clans also started to play FL.
WP and UNG directly went to FL while only very few of them remained playing SL. I am not really sure why or how but the GTF Starlancer players split from the GTF Portal and created their own "clan hub" after forming a Freelancer section.
Here at the SWAT Portal the BloodGuard clan was founded and months later it was the by far biggest FL clan around.
BloodGuard grew that fast and that big that soon we were able to host our own Clan server and also started with the creation of our first Freelancer mods (Brainbug Mod, BloodGuard Mod RPG and an Arena Mod for tournaments).
Back in those days there were times when we hosted up to three servers at a time. It was a totally different environment where ten thousands of players were online and resources never were a real problem for a big clan.
Our first server was hosted by an university and later we got private hosting solutions done.
It was a time with many fights. Bloodguard took position in the Omicrons (where all the good ships are located) and guarded that territory. It was a superior position and it caused lots of conflicts. During that time it was exactly what we wanted. Our members got more than enough practice from defending our territory. During that time we were pretty good fighters, but not the best in FL. We noticed that when from time to time players arrived on our servers to break through our blockades. That did not happen often but it did happen.
But it was our decision to remain on our server and stick to our defence. It was a luxury position and one that appeared to be good considering that the wars between the Starlancer Clans did spread over to Freelancer.
We found countless of fake chars trying to infiltrate BloodGuard or trying to cause troubles on our main server. Over time I became pretty good locating fakes before they could cause problems.
From todays perspective it was a very paranoid time. I really have to admit that.
The conflict with GTF found its end with an "invasion" of their own clan server after they once more provoked us.
Several BG members were sent to the GTF Clan server to create fake chars and collect enough money to finance such an invasion. We didn't need much. Just enough money to buy eagles, some equipment and a few store chars full of nomad weapons.
The Invasion went fast.
A few BG wings joined the GTF server at the right time, went straight to Freeport 9 and 1-2 hours later we were combat ready, sitting in the middle of the GTF territory.
We knew that we wouldnt have much time before getting banned and instantly opened fire on all GTFs online and on everyone trying to defend them. We have hit them hard that day. We had to notice that GTF was no danger at all and just a few months later their server disappeared and the clan disbanded.
It also was the last time Ive seen one of the other founding members of SWAT. I guess its just natural that over years you lose people out of sight. Players find new games, new interests and often change their priorities. Thats life.
BG returned to our main server and started something that was called the "Wing Wars", a clan internal war scenario between our fighter wings.
Whether that was a good idea is questionable.
Despite being alot fun it also was a time when BG lost large numbers of players due to clan internal troubles.
Today I know that conflicts arise from situations when one group of people tries to be better than another group of people instead of just having fun.
Well, the Wing Wars ended for BG in a minor catastrophy, member wise. And additionally to that the hosting solution for our main server didnt work out any longer due to technical problems.
With other words, we were pushed into the void.
MoD as Starlancer clan was mostly inactive since meanwhile the MSN Gaming Zone was closed by Microsoft. Our Helbreath Guilds (which we formed somewhen 2005) collapsed due to constant hosting problems and low number of members. And now BloodGuard was losing its home.
We started to move from server to server trying to find one that suits us. One where we can create a new home for us.
Eventually we ended up on the CHSP server, a server with a small but pretty good and stable mod. It was a server full of pirate clans which controlled the main trade routes and we were the outsiders, a police clan which pushed through their blockades.
We tried to form alliances with the other police clans but didnt get far with that. Then all of a sudden the Snakes clan appeared on the server and started to attack us and pretty much most others.
We knew that during that time they were pretty much the best FL players but together we could keep them halfway under control.
And then... a new version of the mod was released turning the server into a less fortunate environment.
We were in need of a new home again.
Whether it was bad luck... or just the perfect timing, i dont know.
I had a sports accident that force me to stay at home for nearly 6 weeks.
Bloodguard needed a server and a stable environment in which the members can play again. But servers were expensive (much more expensive than today) so we needed a solution in which multiple clans could finance such a server.
So I created the first version of the Crossfire mod which offered a perfect environment for clans to grow and rented the server.
The BG members moved to our new home in Custodian and soon after the first new players joined Crossfire.
They created the IcePirates clan and shortly after that the LostProphets appeared on the screen.
Creating Crossfire and renting that server certainly was a risk but it was one that worked.
The server filled fast and clans started to rent their clan systems.
New versions of the mod were released, Crossfire evolved and many clans have played on it.
UAC, R39, Chaos, CFPD, IOC, DC, TRF, Fallen, PX, SMG, SA.... and ... and ... and...
From the early days there always were conflicts on CF.
No matter if it were fights over a save passage through Custodian, ASF vs CSF battles or serious wars. Crossfire deserved its name.
The first true serious conflicts were the two wars between Bloodguard and Chaos. At their end Chaos multiple clans allied with BG and fought together against Chaos and R39. It was a nasty war in which Chaos fell victim and R39 draw back.
It also was the time when I realized that I can no longer be leader of Bloodguard without risking such conflicts.
Leading a clan and being Admin of the server and this community would always lead to troubles. Its a conflict of interests.
I left my clan and focused on providing an environment for all the clans instead.
That of course did not mean that the conflicts stopped.
When ever the interest of clans collide, anger grows. And when ever clans think that they are more important than the rest of the community then the shit hits the fan.
We had enough of such moments on CF. Decisions... beneficial for a clan but a catastrophy for the rest of the community.
That were moments I personally would like to forget... but its exactly what happened. You cant make things undone... you can only get rid of the problems and then try to move forward.
Crossfire experienced the last of such a moment more than 2 years ago when some PX members thought that the server and community rules dont apply.
How this incident ended was unfortunate but from todays point of view I cant really regret my decisions back then. Some people reveiled their true face and thats better than living a lie.
Crossfire has been an open and player friendly community without much troubles since these days. It evolved into a great community where players help each other and support the community.
It allowed me to do my job without constantly getting interupted by conflicts. The results can be seen in Crossfire 2.0.
Yes, we went through a times when not everything was shiny.
But each day this community reminds me of the positive sides.
The joy players have when they play the games.
The help new members receive from old community members.
The people which support me and my work here.
I think this community means alot to some people here. Many have found new friends and a place that can at times make life a bit brighter.
I remember people coming back after years, being happy that we are still here.
I remember people telling us that this place has been their motivation to change their lives to something better.
I remember the impressive support when we upgraded this place one year ago. Within days people donated everything that was required to get started. Yes, that was a truely amazing moment and one that clearly paid of for the community.
When I look back the past 15 years then I have learned alot.
There are always ups and downs, problems and solutions, conflicts and times when the whole community works together.
Everything good and also everything bad that happened in the past has lead us here... and we will shape the future of this community together.
All paths are open to us.