Oswald Rant: In Control (Revisited)

Now, I usually do not revisit a rant topic as quickly as I have done this past Oswald rant titled, In Control. In this article I discussed my thoughts on being an admin. One of the points I touched on was the “power and control” aspect admins have over gamers in their servers. I concluded, “respectful of players, but keep control of what goes on…You do not foot the bill, we do.”

Recently, I have seen a few complaints in the form of e-mail addressed to me, since it is my server (Hottie’s 6th Floor Hideaway) asking questions about their presence being banned from our server. Now being banned is nothing uncommon for online gamers. Hacking or cheating is usually the quickest way to exit stage left off a server. This is but one reason a gamer could be kicked or banned from their favorite server.

Attempting to resolve a conflict that arises between an admin and a gamer over a ban can be a touchy subject. First, if brought into the public light, it can shed negative light on your server admins and their quick actions to pull the trigger and present a gamer with a ban. There are three sides to a story, yours, mine and the truth. Rarely does the truth ever get revealed, but two conflicting reports from the parties involved.

Are there certain unwritten rules or guidelines games should follow when playing online? I do believe in an online creed that gamers should follow. I can sum it up in two words, “be respectful.” This applies to admins or refs on the server and your fellow gamers. A good example would be an apology if you happen to shoot and kill your teammate. a Quick, “sorry” goes a long way in keeping the server atmosphere a friendly one. Connecting to a server with a high and mighty attitude will not get you any points, but will get you run out of town.

There are “gray areas” when it comes to the proverbial, “Do’s & Dont’s” while on a server. One of those unique features of online gaming is a player’s alias. We are all unique and wear our alias and clan tag (if applicable) with pride and like to be recognized. There are names that gamers will find offensive, but what’s in name? Should that gamer be frowned upon as an outcast, as the admin looks for any reason to kick them? Or should they be allowed to remain to game the server, as if they were just another gamer. This varies depending on who the admin is. Some gamers come in with a bad reputation, being repeatedly kicked from other servers. Admins do talk and share information. Why shouldn’t they? They need to protect their own in order to promote the fun.

Lastly, too many admins spoil the server. While it is more enjoyable to play on a server that is usually manned with an admin or ref, who has limited powers on the server. Games tend to flow a bit smoother and gamers are generally more well mannered. But in the case of conflicting admins opinions, problems can and do arise. This is a no win situation for everyone. Tempers tend to flair and span decisions are made, usually resulting in bans being unjustly handed out.

For any conflict, there is a resolution. As an admin, I just want to run a respectable server that is full 24/7 that gamers enjoy playing Urban Terror on. To date, I think we have been very successful in that regard. Hopefully those who play on The 6th Floor enjoy the server, but have respect for others and the admins when on the server. If you have problems, bring them to me. You can e-mail me at oswald@planetquake.com. Hopefully I do not need to play judge, jury and executioner in order to resolve conflict that should have been resolved before resulting in an e-mail being sent.

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Oswald Rant: In Control

Before sitting back and enjoying the development side of gaming, I only knew gaming in terms of playing. Development was something that I took no interest in. Like many of you, I asked the dumb question, made an ass of myself (like many of you) and had people flame me for asking. All I wanted to know was is the server full or empty, because I want to play.

I now look at Urban Terror and gaming in general from three angles. First, as a gamer. As I have admitted before, I am not good, average at best with an occasional “streak of luck.” Second I look at the game as a developer. Knowing where we have come from and what are future plans include, allow me to see the “big picture.” This is a luxury that gamers in the community do not have. Finally, I view it from that of a server administrator. While still engaged in the learning process, being active in this capacity helps to support the mod. This is the aspect I want to focus on today.

One feature that all server admins have is that of power. Many, like myself pay out of pocket for their servers, upwards of $100US a month depending on the number of client slots. This means, you ultimately have complete control of what goes on in your server.

Considering this new found power, attempting to administer the server yourself can be a real challenge. If you are new, like I am, you have an endless list of questions, not really sure how to configure the server of map cycle, or how to draw gamers to your server. This last point, I feel a bit fortunate for two reasons. First, I am part of the development team and second, the existence of the web site.

Beyond that, the choices get difficult, who do you entrust with these sacred powers of “Admin” in order to watch over your server. Of course EVERYBODY wants to be an admin, they want the control. Administering a server means more than kicking or banning gamers. While these might be two of the more common actions, you play an important role in server development. Admins must be open to criticism and suggestions in order to improve the position of the server. Servers, like Poop of FSK that are highly visible servers, have respected admins who play and help monitor all the action taking place in the server. Probably the most important function of is the implementation of the configuration and map cycle on the server. If there are not levels and gamemode(s) the community wants, your server will be nothing more than a money pit (remember the movie?). Admins need to pay attention to what gamers are saying about the levels. What levels cause gamers to disconnect? What levels are they continuing to callvote or ask for? Admins also need to make sure they have the levels on their server accessible. I use a message when each map loads that gives the URL, www.the6thfloor.com/server.htm. This link allows gamers to see the current map cycle, and details of each. Other servers like FSK have their own website, www.kickassctf.com. As long as you make the tools available, gamers should have enough information about your server.

There is a mind boggling amount of information on the Internet on how to implement and administer a server. Many in the Urban Terror community have been more than helpful to give you pointers. I was fortunate tha Mumblez and SteppinRazor of .223 allowed me to use their server configuration and map cycle as templates in order to configure my, well our (Hottlipz and I) server. Since the launch of The 6th Floor server, it has undergone one name change. It is required to have a catchy name, “Hottie’s 6th Floor Hideaway” works nicely. We also update the map cycle on a regular basis. Recently, we have concerns about Golgotha2 by Dick Dastardly. Since the spawns are on top of the flags in CTF, a long spawn time is required, which makes gamers wait around more than playing. Gamers a join a server to play, not wait.

One last piece of information regarding a map cycle are the inclusion of community created levels. While I have been a big supporter of community involvement, especially level design, it becomes a crapshoot when you begin adding community levels. I have said it many times before, but there are only a handful of community levels I would think of placing into my map cycle. Why? Because many gamers will not have the level or not like the level. This first point goes back to what I said a bit ago, make the levels available. While it will ultimately be my decision, as admin, to what is in the cycle, it will be the community who sways this decision.

Owning and administering a server requires constant attention. If you want to tackle the challenge, go in with no preconceived notions that it will be an immediate success. Once you have established your server, be respectful of players, but keep control of what goes on. Being available, of having trusted admins control and watch game play helps to improve the overall attitude on the server. Hopefully gamers understand, this is a free service to them, so don’t be pissed off if you are kicked, even banned for repeated offenses. You do not foot the bill, we do.

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Oswald Rant: A Look Ahead

It has been some time since I have put pen to paper…err…fingers to keyboard and get some things off my chest that fall under that category I so lovingly refer to as Oswald’s Rant. Over the past year, it was not only things that got under my skin, but reviews of LANs and just happenings centered around gaming. But to start 2004, I thought I would try and look into the future as it relates to Urban Terror and SID.

While I do not promote The 6th Floor as a SID sponsored site, this is my web site and has been since I registered the6thfloor.com back in 1999. Since that time, I have made a transition from Action Quake 2 to Urban Terror. So I thought I would take a few minutes look at potential happenings in the community. Of course all of this is pure speculation, until it is made official on their the Urban Terror or SID web sites. Then again, I do have some inside information.

Let’s go back to 2003, August 9 was the 3.1 release of Urban Terror, as usually it drew some criticism, as any release ever does. But it did beg the question as to “what’s next?” We finished out the year playing 3.1 and to be honest, the community was probably shrinking in size. The development team had continually stated, “we are not giving up on Urban Terror.” They have stood behind every release, even as community members continued their insults and complaints. Those seems to linger more than the positive comments and support for the mod and team. But those negative comments are the ones that we build off of.

To open 2004, the community was probably surprised at such a non-event release as Urban Terror 3.2. The patch was released Friday, January 16, with an excellent turn out in both #urbanterror channels on ETG and Quakenet. Not the biggest release, but one of the best in probably the past 12 months. Again, this is from MY eyes, not that of the development team.

With eleven months left in the year, what is left for Urban Terror to accomplish? The development team started as a virtual no name group of avid gamers wanting to give something back and create a mod. Since that time, the mod has grown and expanded and we have brought many hours of enjoyment to those Quakers who enjoy playing a realism based shooter. So what is left? Many gamers continue to ask for the source code, in order to make “their” version of Urban Terror. I recall The A-Team made their source code for Action Quake 2 available after they abandoned the community and the project. As for SID, don’t plan on getting your grubby little hands on our code. Sorry to burst your bubble.

I don’t think it’s much of a secret that SID has been talking to id Software since 2000 and our first roadie to Mesquite, Texas for Quakecon. But recently, the lines of communication were brought back to life and discussions about a project were reintroduced. Many gamers want to see the legacy (we do have a legacy, don’t we?) to live on with Urban Terror and not die when Quake 3 dies. And no, I don’t think Quake 3 is dead, still many gamers playing the game. The increasing problem is finding a retail copy of the game, which makes the fan base a bit stagnate. Are their solutions? There sure are.

Splashdamage, began their amateur career as a group of avid gamers, playing Quake 3 and wanting to do more. This group created Quake 3 Fortress and was invited to Quakecon 2000 in Mesquite, Texas. At that time, their vision was much further along than that of SID. They were already in the planning and proposal stages when they met with Robert Duffy and a few other members of id Software. Since their Q3F days, they have gone on to release Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, which is one of the most highly successful stand alone releases to date. While I don’t know all the details behind the evolution of ET, it was released free to the any gamer. Nothing to buy, so their fan base is relatively unlimited. How many gamers can pass up a free game, with no strings attached?

Now why do I bring up Enemy Territory? I do so only because there has been talk last year that SID could possible port the game to ET, which would further Urban Terror and gain an entirely new fan base, while still supporting their current gamers. When you look at the upcoming game releases, like Quake IV and DOOM 3, two of the more notable games that have been mentioned to us, you see these are still slated for a late 2004 release (pending any delays). Not to mention, if SID went commercial, we would not have to put together capital in order to purchase the new engine. Have you ever heard rumors of how much these game engines run? Let’s just say you would need to win the lotto to help pay for it.

I do believe Urban Terror will continue to provide hours of entertainment through 2004. Many gamers cannot stay on the “leading edge” of hardware technology, as it is continually changing and improving. But finding a retail copy of Quake 3 will start to cause more issues as the years continue to add up since its original release. The mod is still supported throughout the world by leagues such as Clanbase in Europe and the Team Warfare League in North America. The development team is still in full support of the mod, which reflects on the support from the community. Lastly, I continue to hear many comments from gamers saying it is still the most fun they have had playing online. Even as new games enter the retail sector, especially the WW2 or realism based shooters. Many say they continue to return to Urban Terror.

So, the future does look bright for Silicon Ice Development and Urban Terror. Now that 2004 is here and we have a very good release in Urban Terror 3.2, we can look forward to a 3.3 release. After that, there are many doors open for the development team.

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Oswald Rant: EverLAN Summer 2003

Another weekend has ended, another LAN has come to a close. Those full pallets of caffeinated drinks are now empty and strewn in disarray. Garbage thrown across the floor of the hall, as the stench of body odor and pizza is still hanging heavy, tired eyes continue to stare, bloodshot at the monitor, with the same intensity of he first day.

This is the second time I have been invited to attend EverLAN, a local event in Colorado Springs, Colorado (that’s in the US, Euros). In an event that continues to grow in popularity, EverLAN was sponsored by ATI, Ubi Soft, AMD, Plantronics, Belkin, GeekwearZ, Geeks on Call, High Plains Internet and Mountain Dew Live Wire. Unlike the last event I attended, there would be no 2 v 2 Urban Terror to watch. Not to worry though, there was some great LAN action spread across eight games including, Half-Life’s Counter-Strike, Quake 3 Rocket Arena, Rainbow Six: Raven Shield, Battlefield 1942, Starcraft, and Unreal Tournament 2003.

GBC Sports was on hand to provide their services to emcee the event and shout cast some of the action from Counter-Strike, Unreal Tournament 2003 and others. While Gunslinger was usually the GBC caster we heard, Kessler, Hogan, Ghozr and stickgod we keeping the action real with some great shout cast coverage in support of EverLAN. Some of these casters were not new to EverLAN, as they had participated in the Winter 2002 event on behalf of Cyberkast Radio.

My presence there was somewhat two-fold. First, I was there in support of Urban Terror, which was played during the Winter 2002 event, but also to help out Tommy of Geekwearz. For those who do not know, Geekwearz is the vendor who prints and presses a multitude of shirts, sweatshirts, stickers and other Urban Terror swag for the geeks who support the community. His product is second to none when it comes to quality! So during the event, Sard (another Urban Terror faithful) and I would man the table for Tommy, as he had a few other events to attend to during the weekend. We sold quite a bit of merchandise, as Tommy does not want any gamer to go home empty handed.

Andrew, also known as Everman is the organizer and host of the event. Along with his dedicated staff, they bust their asses to make this a great, fun filled event for everyone in attendance. I had arrived Friday, a day before the LAN began, so I was able to reacquaint myself with some of the people I met last year, as I tried to lend my assistance in setup.

With many big money prizes on the line, such as a collect of ATI Radeon 9800s, tournaments were a top priority, as each staff member was in charge of a specific game. From what I followed of the tournaments, the EverLAN staff was right on schedule. As expected, the top drawing tournament was Counter-Strike, under the watchful eye of Baker, from the CAL League. Cheers of jubilation could be heard as another individual beat down his opponent to take home a new 9800.

There were some “odd” contests lined up, such as the peppercini eating contest, the ATI body tattoo contest and the Mountain Dew Line Wire Guzzlefest. Not really sure how else to describe it. Last year’s champion, Mt Dew was back. Now, Mt Dew is not a small fellow, but the dude can pound soda. The qualifying round pitted about 20 contestants of varying drinking skills to chug two bottles of Live Wire, with the top five moving into the finals. You have heard of two fisting it, right? Well those with mouths large enough to support two bottles attempted to pour all the Live Wire in at once. Some ended up wearing it, as opposed to chugging it. Back to the returning champion, Mt Dew. It only took this boy, 10.4 seconds to down two, 12 ounce bottles of Live Wire to retain his title.

Saturday began early, as gamers started showing up very early for registration and to get that prime LAN spot, whatever that is. There were assorted servers up and running, as gamers played CS, Unreal Tournament 2003, Starcraft and of course Urban Terror. A quick side story, there was a group of gamers from Clan {AD}, Warlord Aetyr, Evil and a few others set up right in front of Geekwearz. So they set up a few local servers and we “got our frag on.” More on that later.

As for me, I was one of the judges for the modded case competition. With the exception of one returning case from the Winter 2002 event, all those who participated did a fine job modding their cases to varying degrees. The winning mod was a computer inside a small remote control car created by Dementia, quite unique!

Everman had approached me on Friday about holding a mod roundtable to talk about Urban Terror and modding in general. Seeing as I cut out early at the Winter 2002 event, and was not able to fulfill my roundtable duties, I looked forward to sharing some of the details and experiences of modding. The roundtable was hosted by Gunslinger and Ghozr of GBC Sports (and I can’t say enough good things about these guys!). The show aired live on the Internet, with the discussion being recorded on video. I had made a news post on the Urban Terror web site, which filtered to a few other game related sites, along with spamming the headliner for the event in IRC. TO be honest, I am not sure of the turn out, but rest assured there were some who did tune in and get something out of the discussion.

Events like EverLAN are not always about what happens on the gaming floor, but the enjoyment when the day has wound down (figuratively speaking) and you can sit down, relax and shoot the shit with some of the staffers. We took advantage of this on Saturday night (feeling the effects of Saturday night on Sunday morning), as a group of staffers, GBC Sports, Tommy, myself and a few others made our way to Maxi’s, the overpriced, hotel lounge. With music blaring, we decided to take our adult beverages out to the “Quiet Bar” located just outside in the reception area of the hotel. For the next few hours, we drank, laughed, shared stories and basically just had a great time in each others company. We were also fortunate enough to be joined by Hornet and Wycked, who drove in from Denver to hang out.

Speaking of Wycked…guys, let me just say that all the pictures you see of her are REALLY her. She also put the smack down on the {AD} guys on Saturday night. Cannot say much for her partner (don’t look at me) who was two sheets to the wind and could not seem to keep a positive score. Hahaha. We played some 2 v 2 and free for all throughout the night. Speaking of good Urban Terror gamers, Sard, a roommate of Tommy’s who was also working the Geekwearz booth really tore it up in both FFA and 2v2. Nice gaming, Sard! As for me, well I’m in for the fun and enjoyment, that is what I had, but I did hold my own for some time on a few of the FFA rounds.

Sunday morning, as I said above you feel like your head is still in Saturday. The drunk ass I was, I stumbled back to my room about 2:30am and instead of setting my alarm, I moved the time ahead one hour, then set the alarm and passed out. Needless to say, I was up way too early on Sunday morning, as I find Sard still manning the Geekwearz booth, downloading files from the network and watching movies. I did not last, as I went back to the room and showererd, trying to wake up.

And that my friends, was EverLAN Summer 2003. I feel very fortunate to have been invited by Andrew. Let me just say, you guys put on a great event and I am proud to be a small part of it. I enjoy hanging out with Tommy and helping sell swag to the geeks…er…gamers at the event. The things people do for free stuff still amazes me. I am already looking forward to the Winter 2003 event in November. Thanks to the entire staff at EverLAN for another successful event!

For more information check out, EverLAN.net for upcoming events and dates.

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Oswald Rant: Thanks Quakecon

I have been debating when and how I would make this announcement, as I know development team members and the community alike are interested. In what has turned into a yearly pilgrimage to Mesquite, Texas for Quakecon, this year is going to be different. Along with a new venue in downtown Dallas, I have made my decision today that I will not be attending Quakecon 2003.

Now for those outside the Urban Terror Community or those people who I consider friends I see once a year at the event, then this news is irrelevant. For me Quakecon was a true “mecca of all things Quake.” Before becoming involved in Urban Terror in late 1999, I had never heard of this event. Then with the impending release of the mod, the development team was invited to Quakecon, thanks to the organizers and id Software. Leading up to this, I had been in regular communication with Robert Duffy, programmer at id Software.

Quakecon 2000 marked the release of Urban Terror, Beta 1 from Silicon Ice Development. In attendance at the event was Bar-B-Q, Cricel, GotteBeKD, Gerbil!, Jake, Odd and myself. We were provided a mod table in the developer’s hall, needless to say we were excited to be walking, no make that strutting around as VIPs, or so our badges read. Some of the big sponsors around us were Nvidia, Ravensoft, Activision, Apple and Discreet, just to name a few. This was a BIG event for us and were ecstatic to be involved.

In 2001 we were invited back, thanks to the Quakecon organizers and id Software once again. This time, the mod was bit more established, as we had a community that continued to play and support our work. We released Beta 2.3 a few days before Quakecon, in order to give a new version that could be played during the event. We had a mod table set up in the developers hall again, as we showed off our latest work, as gamers had the chance to experience the mod at the 12 player LAN that was set up. We also introduced Proball, courtesy of Apoxol during the event. This was an exciting time, as we had nearly a full team on hand, Apoxol, Bar-B-Q, dokta8, Meaty, Miles, Jake, Odd, BotKiller, SweetnutZ and myself. The development team was also asked to give a roundtable discussion on the mod, which we do to a nice sized crowd, along with participating in the mod roundtable.

Between the 2001 and 2002 events, I became involved in the Team Sportscast Network, a non-profit group of volunteers who have come together in order to provide live shoutcast coverage for online games. Urban Terror was my main area of coverage, as we had a good casting team including, JeffT and Whizperz (Vansilli came aboard in late 2002). I began to split time be Silicon Ice Development and TSN. To be honest, it was a good move for Urban Terror, as gamers could not tune in and listen to the coverage that was provided from OGL, CAL, STA and Clanbase.

Quakecon 2002 was going to be a bit different than years past. This year, TSN would be attending in full force to cover the Quake 3 and Return to Castle Wolfenstein Tournaments during the event. Silicon Ice Development would also be return to Quakecon, “where it all started” back in 2000. Even though some of the faces changed, we were all excited to going back to Mesquite! For me, it would be very hectic, as I was trying to make arrangements for the development team, but would be splitting time at the event, between SID and TSN.

While the development team had no problems with my absence through much of the event, I was able to spend “quality time” with them and take part in some of the fun and enjoyment, such as meals at the local eating establishments, such as TGI Fridays and Razoo’s. Those who were not in attendance during 2000, saw the id Software building and visited some of the tourist attractions in Dallas.

So what could happen in 2003 that would outshine all the previous years? I guess we will never know. Why? Because of events that have transpired in the past few weeks, TSN will not be covering Quakecon 2003. We intended to, but negotiations broke down and there was no agreement reached for shoutcast coverage. Details are irrelevant, and if you asked me I would not explain them. Let’s just say that the only people who know all the details were the few who were involved in the talks. Everything is rumor and speculation.

Now we are two months away and development team members are making their arrangements for lodging and travel. Some of the community members are excited to go to the event, provide a tournament for Urban Terror or just meet some of the SID team members. It really is enjoyable to meet some of those gamers you know from online, you actually get to know them as a person, not just a screen name. I have the utmost respect for each team member attending the event and I am quite loyal to the Urban Terror Community, but I am also in a position with TSN that requires my services at another event.

That is my predicament, I have told the development team that this is a possibility, due to recent events. Now, I am making it official, I will not be attending Quakecon 2003 this year. I am upset, I will miss seeing Blade, RabidCow, Bar-B-Q, Miles, Apoxol, SweetnutZ and others from SID, along with many from the Urban Terror Community. I do wish everyone who attends the best, as they will have one hell of a good time at Quakecon 2003.

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