Urban Terror: Close the Door

Since leaving the development team and Urban Terror, nearly 2 years ago I have yet to return to online gaming. The motivations for my departure and retirement were purely personal. For me, I had gone as far as I could with development as it was quite clear the game would never flourish as I had hoped for during the early years.

It’s quite rare I even bring the name, Urban Terror up because it’s a part of my past and I have moved on, leaving the community, the web sites and activities to others in order to cultivate. I still have an informal tie to the community as I continue to hold the rights to the domain name.

I happened upon a conversation today with an individual who is still around the community and as I understand it, the community and the game are not the same. I can’t speak to that, but can only surmise the problems plaguing the community/game now. While I never had a direct hand in any development, it was the community who drove the game to the success it had upon my departure.

Of course the development team was at the core of the community, with talented individuals leaving their mark and moving on. The early years were truly the “best of times” for me personally. Being courted by id Software, visiting their offices, participating in Quakecon, jet setting to Los Angeles for E3, being featured on Tech TV are just some of the highlights I take with me. Of course those days are all in the past and rarely do I even cast a glance at the newest PC games on the market because it’s “more of the same.”

With that said, there is still something to say about those individuals who continue to support the game after so many years. I have a few individuals in mind who, through thick and thin stuck it out with the development team. Not sure if I were on the outside looking in, like I was with Action Quake II if I could have continued for nearly 10 years even with a game I enjoyed

Being in the rare position I was, between the community and the game I had a unique perspective and seemed to get opinions from everyone. For many, I was the voice/face/name of Urban Terror, but never did I attempt to take credit. While I was involved, I left the real development/design to the talented individuals that knew how to code a feature, or create a model, uvwrap it and skin it. I was highly impressed with those who were level designers, but that was not my calling.
Unfortunately, it was “never quite good enough” for some. The worst place to be the day of a point release was on the community support forums. This was my domain, a place I controlled and supported and nurtured from the beginning. It was a unique feeling creating a community from virtually nothing to a strong community of supporters we had when I departed. I was amazed at the success and the ride I had been privy to.

Maybe my departure gave rise to someone with new ideas and new blood to bring something into the community to improve the game. While some may disagree I took a lot with me the day I left. Much of the unwritten history left with me. Many gigabytes of files continue to reside on my archived hard drives that will most likely never be accessed again.

Most of all I remember the people, behind every alias, either in game, via e-mail or on IRC there is a person. I was fortunate enough to meet a small percentage of these people over the years. The strongest bonds were between the long standing development team members. The same can be said for the long time supporters in the community, the people I entrusted files or hosting to. There were some great people behind the scenes who rarely got a mention. Maybe they hosted files or ran a web site or always put in a word of praise to the community, game or development team. While I will probably never communicate with these individuals again, they were a special part of the community and one of the things I held close though out my tenure.

Often times I was referred to as, “not a developer” because I did not provide any content for the game. While that is a true statement, it could not be further from the truth. I was a development team member and played an integral role that was often overlooked. Many individuals involved couldn’t or wouldn’t do what I did over the course of 10 years. While not the most important aspect of the game or community, I brought Urban Terror to life though the use of shoutcasting, when online gaming radio stations were still in their infancy.

My use of the radio medium introduced a new dimension to online gaming that was rarely seen previously. I attempted to stress the importance of the community, wanting feedback and information from supporters in order to strengthen the radio show on a weekly basis. By far, the most important portion of the show, aside from my bad, 80’s music was the development team update. This was sometimes a futile attempt to provide up to the minute information about development.

The second part of this new medium was acting as a commentator during online matches. I spent many hours a week dedicated to my radio shows and broadcasts. It would have been enough to just cover the match, but our community was something special and they deserved more. I had a pre and post game report, as well as commentary and sometimes guest casters on air.

This, to me was my calling for the game and it went a long way in the community. Yet some failed to see the connection. In the end I was burned out, tired. Maybe it was the years of abuse I took never really striking back or going off, unless completely necessary. A few examples spring to mind. When I initially got involved I wanted to see this development through to a defined end. For me, that will never happen as I dropped everything in a blink of an eye and walked away, never to return.

But, as I said early on the friendships you make will last a lifetime. The memories remain, but may fade as years go by. For the most part these were good times, never great, but good enough to keep you going for just a bit longer. Hopefully those involved now have an idea of where the game came from and of those who came before.

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sign the petition…

Now normally I don’t support any petitions, but I found an interesting thread on the Urban Terror Forums titled, Online petition to rescue Oswalds gaming rig started by Hippie of PIT and UAA.

You see, my computer has been held hostage, stuck in the world of Guild Wars, which I will refer to as “Guilt Wars” from this point on. My wife, I love her A LOT had issues with a Dell she built with a former clan mate. Well unfortunately the computer went tits up and didn’t even last a year.

She contacted Dell who contacted a tech to look at it and it’s been a complete SNAFU on the part of Dell. Bottom line, Dell built her a new computer that is actually better then what she had. In the meantime I was persuaded to loan her my game rig, after being told I had three computers and I had not offered to let her use one of them. Pfft…yeah.

So being the supportive and loving husband I am, I disconnected all the extra wires and connectors that were connected to my game rig, which doubles as my video/audio rig for Urban Radio. I even let her install Guilt Wars…sigh. Yes, my box is corrupted. All audio settings were changed so she could spend her precious time doing wizard shit in lands I cannot pronounce.

With any luck I could have my game rig back in the computer room by this week (Tuesday possibly?) and on the road to an Urban Radio show this weekend. Lord knows how much work I have ahead in order to get all the audio settings back to where I can broadcast and stream Urban Radio to the community.

I am looking forward to firing up UrbanTerror TV and getting some feedback from the community on what they think of it. UrTV was revealed to the community this week on the UT Forums. Many like the concept, so hopefully we can use it to the benefit of Urban Terror.

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It is unfortunate that some “gamers” (if they can be called that) no longer respect their community, the game or development team. Respect is not something awarded or given out at the end of a round. This is a quality that must be earned. Some disregard this quality altogether and go about their business as if they are doing nothing wrong.

There is always a small percentage of individuals who feel they are above everyone else, from those on forums who claim they are never heard to the so-called “pro” gamer who can do no wrong and is always right. Many gamers are respectful when it comes to the community, the game and especially the development team.

While it is unfair to emphasize the development team, it is necessary. All gamers should respect each other, of course that does not happen and I am sure every gamer have had their own personal experience they could relate to.

I single out the development team because unless you have walked a mile in our shoes you have no idea what it takes behind the scenes to achieve what we have achieved. It is understood this is voluntary work and none of us have received monetary compensation for the thousands or hours and many years of development and service to the community.

Incidents have occurred in the past that have tested the patience of the development team. Many of these have done nothing but to frustrate the team, making us reconsider continuing development. Sometimes these are the actions of a select few, but they end up ruining things for everyone. Thankfully we have not taken that drastic of action…yet.

Some gamers must have no conscience either. You have read and heard many rants from myself regarding those who want to update or modify old levels that we no longer support. Unless there is express consent from the level author or the development team, you do not have any authorization to update a damn thing!

The same goes for all the files that were created for Urban Terror. From the readme.txt included in the latest release,”Use of any file contained within the mod is illegal without permission.” But, just like those who feel they are above everyone when they modify our levels without consent, these individuals are just as bad when they mod much of our work.

It really is a sad state of affairs when all respect has been lost between the so-called gamer, their community and the development team. Recourse to these offenders? Hopefully gamers will see through the facade of these fakes and continue respecting those integral parts that make up the whole, which is Urban Terror.

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“That level looks old!”

I was just reminiscing using the “way back machine” perusing the news I wrote while I was the Head Monkey at the AQMD (Action Quake Map Depot) back in 1999-2000. I can still remember receiving the e-mail from Death Magnet telling me he was stepping down and was handing the “reins of power” over to me. LOL.

While I cannot find the exact day, I still vividly remember the day I stepped down from the AQMD because I felt I was not fulfilling my position as the Head Monkey and my interests were moving to Quake III, in search of the “next action.” That turned out to be Urban Terror and my time and work at the AQMD became history.

A part of me wanted to leave the AQMD because the Quake 2 engine was getting dated and levels were looking old. Even new levels were retreads of old ideas and very few level designers were bringing something new to the table in terms of development. I guess I can’t fault them, but why anyone would spend months working on a level that will be tossed in an ever growing pile of already “official” AQ2 levels was beyond me. I guess each individual had their reasons.

Just the other day I had an ill feeling when I looked at some new images of a level in development for Urban Terror. Just like the day I left the AQMD, that feel returned, when the first thought was “that level looks old.” Now, I know the Quake III engine is dated, just as Urban Terror is. But even with this engine it is possible to up the level of quality before releasing a level.

Some level designers have stated they won’t spend the time taking their level to the proverbial, “next level” for numerous reasons. First, it’s too much work. Okay, I’ll give you that reason, to a point. Level design and development is nothing but work. Why half ass your work? Part of level development is improving and learning, working with techniques that will improve your skills and level. I don’t understand releasing a level that looks like it’s from 2000, when it’s 2008.

Second, there is always a chance your level will not be played. The reasons vary; FPS, poor layout or game play, or those asshats who just say, “it sucks” without reason, just to name a few. While many level designers understand this before diving head first into their levels, some don’t. After spending months and months, possibly even years on a level that last thing you want it no one playing your level. But to admit defeat before you even start is setting yourself up for failure.

I know the “basics” of level design, but I am no expert when it comes to what some in the Urban Terror Community create. I will cite INVIS, who is a consummate professional, maybe too much so when it comes to his levels. He understands level design from the inside out, knows the elements and how to construct them to create a successful and good looking level. WetWired was another Urban Terror level designer who was able to accomplish the same thing.

These are just two examples, but they worked at a different level than most other level designers. Their time, effort and persistence usually paid off. While I don’t mean to characterize other level designers as failures, I would like them to take a look at what levels have all the elements that make up a successful level. Above all other is game play, but this isn’t something that “just happens” this is something that is planned from day one. You can’t happen upon game play, you must create it.

While game play does reign supreme and is the foundation on which to build, you cannot ignore the other factors when level designing. I am hoping that some level designers understand what makes the good levels good and try to learn why another level not so good. Don’t only push the Quake III engine, but push yourself to rise above the mediocrity we see creeping into the levels that are played in Urban Terror.

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Bending Reality

Been what, 10 days since my last ranting about some asshat gamer KNOWING what would bring more gamers to Urban Terror. *sigh* Okay, so I digress I know I am always on about this. But lets move past that for now and onto another topic that spotlighted the Urban Terror Community last week.

Games for Windows had a small blurb on the Free Play page that listed Urban Terror as a game that gamers should take a second look at. Why? FREE! That is a word all gamers enjoy seeing. Especially after 9 years of development, the game rivals any retail game out there in terms of game play.

If we were to actually put more time and effort into working on the game, I know for a fact some of the remaining issues would be worked out and it would be even more polished. This would also help to bring new gamers into the community, along with some “new” features we brainstormed that would seriously take the game to the next level.

With that said, let’s segway into Quakecon 2008, Dallas, Texas starting July 31. I have reserved a room at the hotel in which the event is being held at. The wife wants to go, as she has never attended and a contingency of her [former?] clan will be setting up and playing Urban Terror for 3 days straight.

Right now, we are on the fence as to our attendance. I am not sure I want to deal with the headache of getting myself, the wife and our son on an airplane for 3 hours to DFW. Does not sound like fun, especially when my wife hates to fly and my son has never been, so he might get a kick out of it. But that only leads to another problem. The need to watch him for 3 days while the event is going on.

Just sounds like too many variables I don’t want to work out, outside costing a few thousand dollars in air fare, hotel, transportation and meals. Hell, we might as well take a REAL vacation and go somewhere to relax instead of sitting in a large sweatbox with sweaty, smell kids. Does not sound like fun.

Still waiting on the Xbox to return from service AGAIN! No word, no nothing from MS or the contractor in Mesquite, Texas where I sent it to get fixed. Oh I can’t wait to get my 1-month free LIVE! card. JUST FIX THE DAMN MACHINE YOU JACKHOLES! That is all I ask!

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