Instagib is a mode of play that was made popular by Quake II multiplayer – every player is generously gifted with a railgun at spawn, along with which comes the inalienable right to deal an electromagnetically propelled shot of immediate death to all and sundry.

A game like this is based heavily on reaction speed and accuracy. There’s a basic rate at which you are able to process the information of somebody flip-jumping around a corner into your not-so-direct line of fire – there is a very limited, unforgiving timeframe within which you must move the crosshair over the relatively small hitbox of the enemy sprite and, in that precise moment, fire the defining shot. The amount of constraining variables that determine who gets the shot in first are numerous, but the goal of the game is in becoming so proficient in all areas that the only remaining limit is your reaction speed; a time that is quantitatively defined by your neurons. The beauty of it lies in the hunger for literal perfection that it inspires.

Topping a server in the world of Instagib means something. It’s not an arbitrary achievement pinging up on your screen, you will have no record of it after that final scoreboard disappears to make way for the next round, but the feeling of satisfaction feels truly earned and – more than that – directly indicative of your own supremacy.

Slaps only
Choose your weapon. They gib just the same.

The one-shot-one-kill philosophy of multiplayer gaming is one that has recurred in various guises throughout its history. Goldeneye pre-dates Quake II with its own iteration, License to Kill. Instagib servers proliferated their way through PC multiplayer first person shooters of the late 90s and onward, while rifles-only servers scattered through WWII FPSs to create a variation on the theme. Still, all have worked to create an environment based on objective skill. Wits are pitted, shots are fired and to the victor goes the absolute satisfaction of knowing they were better. The wheat is seperated from the chaff with a brutality that is becoming less and less apparent in modern multiplayer FPSs.

This divergence comes hand in hand with the widespread use of more limiting control devices and the resulting implementation of artificial skill-curves – the idea of levelling-up in an FPS, to me, is blasphemy. I’m not suggesting that every game be siphoned into Instagib soup, but there is a distance from that level of challenge at which a crucial ingredient is lost. Catering for the lowest common denominator in an arena that should be devoted to singling out the most adept creates a painful paradox that contradicts the very core of competition.

Get gibbed
Quake Live

I challenge you to fire up Quake Live (free and in-browser), pick an Instagib server and then to die a lot. Die a lot, and often, until you are mediocre. At that point, there’s a chance you’ll top a server. When you’ve done it, come back here and read on.

You’re welcome.







18 responses to “Instagibbed”

  1. chobe avatar

    I was never that bothered about instagib or the railgun in general. I wasn’t good enough and didn’t find it fun. I agree that it is about as ‘pure’ as FPS games get, especially in terms of testing your reaction. But it was too thin for me.

    I liked quake, quake III, UT and CS 1.0-6 just the way they were, didn’t get on with quake II much. CS is my favourite FPS ever and it’s the least twitchy game there; it requires good reaction time but you also have to be clever to win at it, which is what I love about it.

    Interesting comment about accessibility and the lowest common denominator, though.

  2. Kami avatar

    If you’re into your free online fps’s with insta-gib, I hope you’ve checked out Warsow. A quake style FPS with an emphasis on fluid movement. Super fun game.

  3. Ninja avatar

    I have heard of instagib, it scares me. Hmm…

    “Catering for the lowest common denominator in an arena that should be devoted to singling out the most adept creates a painful paradox that contradicts the very core of competition.”

    See, I’m not sure that’s true about the lowest denominator if we’re talking levelling up. Bear in mind I haven’t thought about it until there now so kudos 😉

    People that are rubbish will get better because they are faced with people that are better than them, it wouldn’t matter about that feature. It’s simply a better way to track skill development (probably). Ultimately, it is survive or die. Die a lot, you learn how to survive. Man, I feel like Yoda right now. I could’ve said Darwin but no, I’m gonna stick with Yoda.

    Cool name btw.

  4. Simon avatar

    Kids don’t know they’re born these days, with their auto snap-to CoD aiming and generous Halo energy shields, that’s all I’ll say.

    Well, that and “BOOM, headshot”.

  5. Dean avatar

    Me and my friend used to play Goldeneye on Licence to Kill. Your piece sure brings back memories. However, i don’t think it was because we were particularly good, just because it seemed more fun that way. It was possibly the only mode in which the mighty klobb edged it over a magnum and playing with proximity mines in that mode was hilarious. I remember suddenly playing with another friend who didn’t share our outlook and i just got my butt whipped because i wasn’t used to winning sustained firefights. So its not necesarily the case that one hit kills mode requires more talent – i think it adds an element of chance to the proceedings.

  6. Rose avatar

    kami – i’ve come across it but have yet to try it out. i will do soon. thanks for the rec.
    simon – at least we can console (ha) ourselves with the knowledge that they are certainly less able to dance all day.
    dean – perhaps that can be said of goldeneye if you don’t stick to pistols only (or an alternate gun-genre of your choice), but i challenge you to play a round of quake instagib and come back with the same opinion.

  7. Mark P avatar

    You really can’t beat playing a game time where skill is a key factor in the path to victory. Something I lack in spades. Wait, what?

  8. Barry avatar

    I’ve never liked Instagib modes, played these in Red Faction, Quake and the early CoDs. It doesn’t help with your overall skill, least not when you play objective based matches often like I did, I found that I played a lot more looser and as a result died loads.

  9. Dean avatar

    Rose, considering my experience with first person shooters more or less began and ended with Goldeneye (well, unless you count Bioshock) i’ll respectfully decline:) I fear i would crash and burn in this highly competitative world with my flimsy reactions.

  10. DelTorroElSorrow avatar

    Good old instagib, I never did it in Quake though, Unreal Tournament was when I lost my Instagib virginity.

  11. Hesten Blumenthal avatar
    Hesten Blumenthal

    You cant make an omlette without shooting a few faces

  12. daiphoenix avatar

    “the wheat is seperated from the chaff with a brutality that is becoming less and less apparent in modern multiplayer FPSs”
    True, so true…

    I’m so happy with Quake Live. I was a huge fan of the original Quake 3 (best and purest duel FPS, IMO), but it got old and inadequate in terms of it’s multiplayer functionality. It was always a bit complicated to play outside of a LAN.
    But now Quake Live is bringing the hardcore back, hurray 😛

  13. Blitzkrieg avatar

    Gotta give this game a try.

  14. Francis avatar

    Quake has always been a more pure, hard core experience. I don’t imagine a great cross over between people who played gridiron at collage and people are who are good at Quake.

  15. Jope avatar

    Buggy as fuck (for me anyway, continually crashes in both FF and IE). I do like the idea of having pick-up-and-play instagib at my disposal though. Logged most of my insta hours in Unreal way back when, but your point about that petty, fleeting sense of gratification that comes with reaming an insta server still got me feeling all nostalgic and thirsting to relive the magic. Here’s hoping they can clean this up before long.

  16. Blitzkrieg avatar

    Just played this game. My Viva Pinata skills did not translate well into this genre.

  17. KingothaKosmos avatar

    Nor do my Katamari Tactics, unfortunately.

  18. dkinvoker avatar

    Nowadays nobody plays ffa instagib, but still quakelive is awesome and free (ofc you have more stuff like maps, ability to create servers etc. if you pay but t’s extremly cheap). Anyways, how do you feel about strafe jumping and lack of headshots? Many of my friends think that headshots are essential for fps, but fast paced game like quake doesn’t need headshots in my opinion.

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