Xpilot, an introduction

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One of the Internet gaming world's best-kept secrets in North America is Xpilot. Perhaps this is because the game originated in Europe. Or perhaps this is because Xpilot lacks the flashy graphics of modern 3D, shoot-em-up, blood-and-guts games like Quake. Or perhaps the platforms supported until recently were not as accessible as the widely-used gaming systems of today.

Still, there remains a sizable following, particularly with the rapidly enlarging Linux user base, one of the many operating systems on which Xpilot runs. Another factor which I believe is contributing today in the resurgance of Xpilot's popularity is the ubiquitousness of high-speed Internet connections in the home. Now, Xpilot is no longer just for university students who are blessed with computer labs with fast connections to high-speed educational backbones. With the proliferation of cable-modems, ISDN, and ADSL available to ordinary consumers comes a rediscovery of this exciting, addictive networked game.

Enough hoopla. If you want to find out what this game is all about, see the Xpilot Home Page. There, you will find everything you need to get started.

The birth of a pilot

My personal introduction to Xpilot started at a Nova Scotia Linux Users Group (NSLUG) meeting.  I remember starting to play the game over our little LAN, and then before I knew it, several hours had passed, and the meeting was over! I went home, fired up the default Xpilot server (The Globe), and started blasting away at the bots. Since I didn't know any better, I used the keyboard to control my movements. At that time, my sole connection to the world was a PPP connection over a 33.6K modem. I remember my surprise when the first outsiders started dropping in on my server from overseas to try it out. Very few of these players hung around for more than a few seconds, as they found it unplayably laggy. But I had suddenly become aware that there is a big, wide Xpilot world out there to explore. Off I went to try to find some remote servers to play on.

Xpilot-Tournament Map (Blood's Music)

It did not take long for me to discover that the premier map of the Xpilot world is Xpilot-Tournament Map (Blood's Music) which you can find at several servers around the world. When it is up, weyl.ams.sunysb.edu, seems to be the best for lag. It is currently used by Euro and North American players as a common "middle ground" where the lag is about tolerable for everyone. Still, since the majority of Xpiloters are European, today you will most likely find people on this map at hanging-gardens-of-babylon.e.kth.se (also known as wonder2.e.kth.se). A few times a year, someone eventually gets around to hosting an Xpilot Blood's Tournament. My team, the Dead Pilots Society put in a respectable showing at the Vakk Cup 1999, ending up around the middle of the scoreboard.

Sadly, the Dead Pilots Society has not had a reunion since PREACHER's Death Cup 2000, in which we made it to the Quarterfinals.

Wussy maps

In spite of the excellence of the tournament Blood's map, a variety of wussy maps abound. It seems that many people these days like to play on some variation of New Dark Hell. For instance, you might find people congregating at rex.buckosoft.com where Bucko has put up his modified version of the map with the new asteroids feature turned on. Perhaps it is because most players aren't good enough to play Blood's. Or perhaps it is just because people are lazy and would rather go around cloaked, firing their smarts and wides, or tossing cluster bombs at unsuspecting newbies, than to put in the effort, teamwork, and practice required to excel in Blood's tournament play. For whatever the reasons, you will occasionally see me hanging out on one of these maps lately, just waiting for someone to suggest a good, rousing game of Blood's.

But arrogance about Blood's aside (and you have to expect a bit of that if you're a regular player of this game) Xpilot does provide more server options than you can count, and new ones are added in practically every release. It can be fun to experiment with these and perhaps even try your hand at map-making.

Who is Fishy?

You will no longer find me using my Finny shipshape, but I do still use the Fishy nickname which I took on when I designed this ship. I am Canadian, and though I have a cable-modem, now, to replace my old, clunky PPP connection, there is still a fair amount of lag to Europe. However, most places on the U.S. east coast are decent enough to play, and occasionally more westerly servers are playable. But the Internet being what it is, everyone, regardless of where they play from, has particularly bad "lag days". Whining is an XPilot institution. Real xpiloters never suck due to lack of skill. It is always: "Lag!" "Damned stray!" "Hacked server!" or "You wuss!" Of course, the excuses don't end there ... I have four kids who keep me busy. Our preschooler, Jessica, loves to crawl up into my lap, even as I Xpilot. "Jess! Stop pressing those keys!" "Jessie! Keep away from my mouse!" "brb, kids need something." or a simple summary of my handicap as in: "J in lap." Many players have remarked that Jessica will be an excellent Xpilot player by the time she grows up. Look out world!

Who is Wifey?

Wifey, as she usually goes by now, sporting the default triangle shipshape is my wife, one of the growing but still small number of women xpiloters in the world. Although she got a late start to the game, she is getting better daily. I think she started playing just so she could talk to me again. Her: "Honey, when are you coming to dinner?" Me: "Just as soon as I'm done this game!" Her: "Sigh! If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." One of these days we'll have to hire a sitter for an Xpilot tournament so we can both play together on the same team without the kids going haywire.

Welcome to lag!

I have noticed a trend with the better players. Having fought their way to the top of all of the ranking servers, these players have become bored and are now seeking new challenges in Xpilot. Enter sanctuary.nslug.ns.ca my very own Blood's server. Cable modem servers are among the worst servers in the world for lag. If you want to see the world of Xpilot through my eyes, come drop in on my server sometime. You'll hone your skills for those "away" tournament matches! Watch out, if you don't practice at Sanctuary, some day you'll find yourself in a match against my team on my server wishing you had heeded my advice. :)