Originally Published: Thursday, 8 June 2000 Author: Brian Satterfield
Published to: enhance_articles_games/General Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Tips 'n' Tricks: Quake III Arena

This month we've decided to do something a little different. Instead of reviewing a game, we're going to start a new series called "Tip 'n' Tricks." Every few weeks we'll revisit this series by highlighting a game and giving you the best tips and tricks we know to improve your play online.

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This month we've decided to do something a little different. Instead of reviewing a game, we're going to start a new series called "Tip 'n' Tricks." Every few weeks we'll revisit this series by highlighting a game and giving you the best tips and tricks we know to improve your play online.

For our first installment, I'm going to focus on Quake III Arena. This doesn't mean Quake is #1, or it rules, or whatever, so don't read much into my choice. I happen to love it and am decent at the game. That's all.

This is also not a definitive list. It's a good list of things I've learned from playing, and as such is very biased, far from complete, and by no means a guarantee that you'll win. That said, if you're a newbie and you read this you'll learn quite a bit. If you're an intermediate, you'll probably increase your rank by one or two. If you're an expert, well... let's fight!


This may seem like a no-brainer to you veterans, but don't underestimate this step. You must be comfortable with your preferences before you go into battle. Id Software put a lot of hard work into giving you the most options they could think of in terms of changing your preferences.

Experiment. Take note of what works and what doesn't. If you're new to this process, here's what to do: pick a map and go through each option while you run around with a single bot.

There are two things you'll want to closely monitor. The first is the number of frames per second. Drop down the console (hit the tilde(~) key) and type "/cg_drawfps 1" without the quotes. This will put your current frames per second stat in the upper right corner of your screen.

So what's fps? It's how many frames or static scenes your computer is capable of rendering or displaying per second. This statistic takes a lot into account hardware-wise (CPU, memory, 3D card, etc.) and relies heavily on your video driver as well. That's why if you have a P2 300 you'll only see about 10 frames per second, and if you have a Dual Xeon you'll see about 60 frames per second (I'm making these numbers up but you get the idea). FPS will go up and down depending on what is currently visible in the map. So if you walk right up to a wall and stare at it you'll see your fps go through the roof.

Alternatively, if you're in a fragfest with 20 people and there are tons of rockets and things flying around you'll see your fps start to crawl. As you change each option, watch what your fps does and try to make it as high as possible. At 60 frames per second, the frames make quite a fluid motion, so anything over that is really overkill. The fps stat also heavily relies on your 3D graphics card; if you don't have 3D acceleration you're probably out of luck in playing Q3A.

Second is how it feels and looks. It might take a few frames off your fps but if an option makes the game feel better, gives you better aim, or just makes it more fun, then enable it. After all, it's just a game you know. :)


Now a topic of much debate. How much does ping affect your score? How can one counteract the affects of a bad ping?

First, does ping affect your score? Of course it does. For those of you who don't know what the ping concept means, it's the amount of time in milliseconds that a packet of data needs to travel between your computer to the server and back. One round trip. In this context, it means how long of a delay between when a rocket is fired and when you see that it's heading right at you!

Sure, the lower the ping the better, but I've had my ass whooped on my own server by people with pings in the 300-500 range. It's rare, but it has happened. Granted, these guys are incredibly good, but it is possible to win with a high ping. It's not the end of the world, so don't whine about it.

To try to counteract the affects of a bad ping, learn how to "lead" your opponent well. Leading a person means to place a rocket or some other shot where they're going to be, not where they are now. Of course, this is something to always do well, but it's especially important if your play is affected by a bad ping time. I've been on servers where my ping was 200-300, and I've had to adjust my rail shots to be quite a bit in front of where the person is currently. This isn't a problem for a LAN party where rails are instantaneous.

There's quite a bit you can do to counter a bad ping before you even start playing. Do everything you can to reduce the amount of bandwidth you're using. Turn off any services; for example, don't run a Web server while you're trying to play. There's also a little known parameter in Q3 that specifies how often you get updates from the server (sv_fps). It can only be changed at the server so it does you no good as a player but if you're running a server it's good to know. For a list of all console variables see http://www.planetquake3.net/console.shtml


Love 'em, hate 'em, frag 'em -- but learn from them always. These guys, annoying as they are, can teach you quite a bit. For any map I want to study I let a few hardcore bots loose and follow one of them around for a while. As it moves around the level, watch what it does and really try to figure out why it did it. Think. Someone programmed it to move the way it does, to look at certain things and ignore others. Watch its health and see when it goes for more. Watch what weapons it focuses on using. Learn the moves it makes.

This strategy will help you in a number of ways. First, if you've never played the map, you'll learn some great ways to get around. Second, you'll learn how the bot itself moves around the map (hint: they almost always take the same path). So the next time you're on a server with a bot, you'll have a few easy frags because you'll know where it'll be and not have to think about where to shoot.


If I had to pick one section of this that was the most important this might be it. Physics are so integral to the game. Q3A is built around rules -- simple physics rules. Get a feel for them, understand them and watch your frags go up.

The physics of Q3A deal with how high and how far you travel when you jump, how fast you can run, how much a shotgun blast will knock you back (my personal favorite), gravity, friction, and angles. It's all in there -- all of it important.

This is definitely for the advanced user, but you should think about this along the way. Try to remember where you land when someone hits you with a rocket coming off that jump pad. What happens when you rocket jump at the edge of the platform? Do you make it to the quad? Do you fall off the level? Can you do a double jump after landing and hop right onto another jump pad? Know your limits. All this may save your life. Seconds count. If you have someone chasing you around a level and he knows the jump trick and you don't, he'll catch you, and you'll be dead.

These are the things which make great players great. Learn them.


Ah, the tools of the trade. These guys are your best friends.

Did you ever play someone really good? I mean really good. They use every weapon on the level. Sometimes they'll hit you with three different weapons in a row. Trust me it's not because they ran out of ammo. They know exactly what weapon to use, and when. This isn't something I can just tell you. It depends on the situation, the map and the player. Sure, the railgun is best for long distances, rocket for medium, and shotgun for close. There, I broke it down to three weapons. :) Some of it is obvious from the weapon itself, but most of it is subtle.

But that's not going to make you great. Let me set the stage. The map: q3dm17. What weapon are you going to use if you're on the way back from the railpad and someone is right behind you? There's one frag left for the fraglimit and you're both tied. Best bet is a shotgun or machine gun. Know why? Because both of those weapons offer the least dependency on accuracy and all you want to do is kill him or make him fall before he reaches the level. That way either you get the frag and win or he just lost a frag (Q3 subtracts a score if you fall off). Would you use the railgun? Maybe, if you're good and want to gamble. Rocket? Only if you want to hotdog it with a mid-air rocket shot.

There's a million scenarios and a perfect weapon for each one. The more you know yourself and the level, the quicker you'll learn which weapon is right for you.


This is one of the toughest tricks to master. When I play I rarely chat or message other players. But if I really want to intimidate someone or get them frazzled it's pretty easy to do with just a word here or there. Be subtle. As he's falling off the level after you put a rail in his back type "cya" in the console. That's all. If he says anything don't answer. You don't want to start a shouting match, just a little dig that will set the mood. :)

It's also fun to get someone with a humiliation every now and then. Switch to the gauntlet if you're up by quite a bit and try pounding someone for the last few frags. This really ticks people off.


This is something every player needs and will depend more on your personal style. There are definitely some universal things to remember. Again, for you veterans, this may be old hat to you.

Monopolize the power-ups. I don't care how much someone tells you you're a quad hog; if it's in the level, use it before someone else does. It's different if you're doing a one-on-one and you both agree not to use it... or if the map you're playing is lame with a quad. But, if you're in the middle of a fragfest and it's between you and 10 other people, get it. Same goes for the haste, flight, regeneration, and so on. If they're there, get them, and time how long it takes for them to reappear so you can be right back there when they come again.

Know the well-traveled routes. Sometimes you can pick up five frags or more a game by just sending a rocket down a well-traveled but empty hallway. Besides, your opponents will think you're a frag god who can shoot around corners! Launch rockets at every weapon spawn where you see people milling around. One of those idiots will not be able to resist picking it up, and your rocket will be in his way.

Don't ignore the bots. Players have a tendency to ignore the bots and focus on the human players. The game is about who gets the most frags right? Well, the bots are easy (assuming the server admin isn't sadistic). By now you should know where the bots go step for step and already have a rocket headed that way with their name on it.

Never, ever stop moving unless you have a very good reason to do so. This has got to be pitfall number one for newbies. I don't know how many times I see someone stop to aim. You'll never get the hang of aiming that way, besides you'll probably be dead before you squeeze off a shot.

No matter where you are, know where your opponent is in the level. This can be hard to do, but with all the visual and audio cues in the game you should be able to know where your opponent is within a few hundred yards. Know where the teleporters go, what sounds are in the level, and how long it takes to get from one part of the level to the next. All of these will tell you where to go to either find him or stay away.

Pick up items. All of them! If you have them, then he doesn't or they might not be there for him when he needs them. You never know when he might be right around the next corner, and if you get into a dogfight and he frags you because you left some health for him to pick up or some rocket shells that he needed to finish you off, you'll be kicking yourself afterwards. It's not that hard to modify your route to pick up as much as you can. Just do it -- you'll thank me later.


Most players, especially newbies, are so engrossed in the game and trying to stay alive that they become reactionary. They wander the halls until another player comes around the corner and BLAM! This reduces the entire game to who can get off the first shot. It removes all strategy and makes your ping time a much bigger factor.

A better way of playing is to understand your environment. Be active, not passive. Stop and listen. Hear any footsteps? Any explosions? Powerup sounds? See any light flashes? Any recently fragged bodies laying around? To find your prey you need to take in as much information as you can and make a good guess as to where they went. If you know the respawn time of different items you can tell that someone picked up an item that long ago if you see it respawn in front of you.

Use these clues to either find your prey or hide from the predator tracking you down.

Id spent a lot of time getting these clues into the game and making them as realistic as possible. Don't let them go to waste.

Money Shots

This one is true for any sport really (and yes, I'm saying Q3A is a sport). It's important to practice different shots. Everyone knows that. Get into a level by yourself or with a few bots and just use whatever your worst weapon is (probably the railgun). As you jump or fly through the air, try hitting a light or mark on a wall or something. When you have that down go for the bots or moving targets.

BUT -- and here's the important tip -- when you're practicing, always take a shot at the impossible shots. The money shots. The ones that will astound your foes if you make them. As you fall off the level, turn around and try to hit someone. Or try to hit someone falling with you. As you pass an opponent in the air try hitting him with a rocket. Any shot you can think of, take it. You won't make them the first few times but your brain is learning way more than you'll ever know and someday you will make the shot. If you stick to average shots you'll only ever be an average player. You have to start trying the great shots to be great.


Know the map, know the map, know the map!

This section brings together all of what I've talked about. Every nook and cranny, every bounce, every health, every weapon, every sound -- know it all. Because your opponent will.

Figure out the best ways to get from point A to point B. Practice them. Time them. Know them. Because your opponent will.

For all your favorite maps, throw a few hardcore bots in and pick one to follow around. You'll see things you never saw. Watch what it watches. Figure out why the programmer made the bot look there. There is a reason and your opponent will know it.

Try out all the physics tricks. When you hit ground after coming from a jump pad, jump. See where you land. You might land right on a health item. Knowing that might save your ass someday. You might go flying off the level into space. Know that too. And realize that if you see someone coming from that same jump pad at you and you place a rocket right at his feet when he's about to land, he's going to go flying off the level. Know those places well (Say it with me kids). Because your opponent WILL!


There's a lot more to it than this. You'll develop your own tips and tricks as you get better, but hopefully I've given you some ideas or pointed you in the right direction. Now go out there and frag the hell outta someone!

-- LegoWhore

For more info on Q3 and to obtain free Q3 software I wrote, visit http://www.legowhore.com.

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