Games Developers Play

It’s rare I speak about the electronic entertainment industry since retiring from any sort of online game development or online game, I’ve also given up supporting many companies, such as Microsoft who still cannot get the XBox 360 right. In my tenure working on an amateur development team and rubbing elbows with some well known companies like id Software, Activision, Ravensoft and others I have lost some respect I once held for some of these professional development houses.

Since moving on from Urban Terror I have yet to spend any money on another PC game, nor have I built a new computer to support these high end fandango games that only seem to be getting prettier than anything else. I can’t speak for their game play, but after nearly 10 years of development on Urban Terror it became quite apparent that game play would always trump graphics. As we have seen in the past and will continue to see in the future, graphics will continue to sell games, not game play. Even games that should have never made it to retail will end up being found on retail shelves and not long after in the bargain bin.

Unfortunately many game developers continue to recycle their “franchise” products. This in my opinion is not what development is about. I feel that many companies seem to have lost that creative drive that bought us many unique and enjoyable games back in the day, DICE and their Battlefield series is one of the most popular. Another example is Call of Duty from Grey Matter Interactive/Activision. Both of these developers have been taking their series to the next level, but how is the game play? I believe as a franchise ages it can become chocked full of so many features that it actually detract from game play. I still feel Codename: Eagle was a solid game from DICE. Simple, yet enjoyable on a LAN.

Recently with the release Portal 2 by Valve (alleged) fans seem to do nothing but trash talk the game. This is typical of supporters to whine, “while hundreds of negative summaries complaining about unbelievably inane shit (source). This just goes to show even professional designers can’t get things right and fans continue to shell out their money for games and feel they are deserved something in return.

I do agree with what is stated in this article on Destructoid, “Of course, the people whining would still buy <insert game here> and everything else <insert company here> puts out without a second thought. No wonder they whine so hard — it must be difficult being such spineless, dickless chumps.” This was ALWAYS the case with Urban Terror development and all those chumps didn’t have to pay to play. It’s no wonder I got out of gaming.

Development houses will continue to develop games. While the actual retail market is undergoing a change, with boxed software slowly giving way to downloadable software, the quality of games continue to improve. I believe this is a trend that will continue to rise for years to come. Franchises will continue to spin new iterations and gamers will continue to overpay for under-developed software.

Urban Terror. The Real Deal?

While I was not around when the concept for Urban Terror was originally conceived, I was a few months late to the party, but was able to become a member of the development team prior to the end of 1999. I have experienced much in the lifetime of Urban Terror and honestly I never thought I would be talking about it in 2008. Who would think a game concept from a teenager would see so much success in the future.

The future. Success. Just how successful has Urban Terror been? We were invited by id Software to Quakecon in 2000 and 2001 in order to show off our work on the game, as well as host a few round table presentations for gamers to attend. We met personally with members of id Software including Kevin Cloud, Robert Duffy and Marty Stratton. After the 2000 event, myself and Sam, aka dokta8 were invited by Activision to their Santa Monica offices to talk about the future of Urban Terror. Both of these events were the proverbial “feather in the cap” sort of experiences.

The Activision meeting would have been more productive IF we actually went in with the idea there was going to be a future for the game. Unfortunately, in 2000 the developers were really nothing more than enthusiasts who enjoyed developing the game as a hobby. Looking back, we probably did more harm than good for any future the game could potentially have.

The mod has been featured in worldwide publications from the UK, France and here in the US, as well as some of the newspapers and countless web sites wanting interviews. Again, a taste of success, but nothing that really put more then a temporary spotlight on what we had achieved.

Urban Terror was never as successful as Counter-Strike, then again very few games will EVER reach that status again, especially coming from the mod scene. It makes me wonder, the tenure we have with Urban Terror, the strong community support and now the ability to play Urban Terror without paying for Quake III, why are developers/publishers not taking notice?

In reality Urban Terror is a small fish in a big ocean, a REALLY big ocean. We have seen many retail games come and go with success so short lived it makes your head spin. Maybe I shoulder the responsibility as Project Coordinator/Public Relations saying I have not met expectations that were set. Of course, we were not incorporated until a few years ago, when Urban Terror was already established and the founders of FrozenSand, LLC now have a direction and goal they want to pursue.

That goes back to the question, why is Urban Terror not getting noticed? Part of it stems from the aging Quake III engine,we definitely had some good use out of the engine, but maybe we should start looking for a new, next generation engine to move the game to.

Urban Terror has never been heavy on the artistic side. With that said, I take nothing away from BladeKiller or the others who have spent years, countless hours and a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get the game looking like it does. But the fact is, developers and publishers want a game heavy in art assets. This is something we did hear when our demo was played by some professional developers.

Over the years we have concentrated more on game play, which you think would play a prominent role among developers, but I can’t think of any game I come back to other then Urban Terror because of the game play. This is echoed by gamers in the community, some who leave and return version or years later because of the game play. Now, if we were heavy on the art assets, would Urban Terror get the notoriety it deserves?

Nothing is ever just handed to you on a golden platter. We have been given nothing, but earned everything over the years. Our hard work, effort and commitment to Urban Terror, the community and most importantly to our fellow development team members makes us thankful for the success we have achieved. Who knows, maybe with v4.x release series we will be able to promote the game more heavily and possibly get some developers/publishers/bags of money interested in what we have to offer, not only in the game but as a development team.

Friends of Terror

It is still hard to believe there is a group of dedicated individuals who have the desire and make the effort to keep Urban Terror alive. The fact we still have a very strong and dedicated community is a contributing factor to the longevity and success of the game.

I have been fortunate over those years to meet (yes, face to face) with many individuals on different levels as it relates to Urban Terror, from the invite to Quakecon in 2000 and 2001, to LAN parties in NoCal, SoCal and Colorado Springs and an appearance on TechTV (when it was around). There have been closed door, sit down meetings with Activision and id Software, which was more of a “wow factor” for me at the time since we did not know where we wanted to take Urban Terror.

If I knew then, what I know now, Frozen Sand (at the time, Silicon Ice Development) could be mentioned being on par with Splash Damage. Those guys had their shit together! They also had an amazing group of talented individuals. Not saying our development team hasn’t, because we have had over the years many contribute to the game.

Meeting gamers, executives, sponsors and personalities alike have been some of the best memories I have had. I mention this because I was able to meet Lt1 (aka Rob Bergman) last night, as he flew into NoCal for some training. Now, it’s not often that an opportunity arises, which will have gamers come in contact with each other, let alone team members. Remember, outside of meeting INVIS, BladeKiller and RabidCow I have not met the other talent on our team. But we have all worked together for nearly 4 years (if memory serves me correct).

It’s always interesting to put an alias to face, face to a voice and a voice to the online persona. I flashback to Quakecon 2001 when I was employed by TsN and our station was covering the event. I wanted to meet WarWitch, who at the time covered RtCW and was just an amazing announcer, complete with an entire online persona. With his voice, I expected something other than I got. Here stands a short, maybe 5′-5″ guy with a dark ponytail. Really blew my mental image of him, but nonetheless a great person and top class shoutcaster!

LAN parties are always interesting, especially when they were Urban Terror specific. Now I attended a weekly LAN in SoCal and Urban Terror was still rather new, but when our group made the transition to Quake III Arena, we played it every weekend. I did attend the .223 LAN in NoCal in 2003, which was also the first time I met Hottlipz face to face (little did I know we would marry a year later), along with many gamers from .223 and some other local Urban Terror players.

A few larger LANs featured Urban Terror and I was fortunate enough to attend those as well. Once in Los Angeles, where I was on hand to award the winner a custom Urban Terror case that was specially designed and constructed in Australia. I was also fortunate enough to attend EverLAN in Colorado Springs a few years, once when they did use an older version of Urban Terror.

Again, it is the people who make the game. I could sit here and rattle off a list of people who I have met and known over the years. I would love to have the time to go on a world tour just for Urban Terror. I know it sounds silly (Oh, remind me to talk about my East Coast trip!), but I think it would be a great time! I am sure there are enough gamers worldwide, I could shack up with, drink beer with and game with that could easily fill one month of travel.

The itinerary would include a trip south to Los Angeles and a stop by the GGL offices, where Epileptic Gaming transmits from, because djWheat is still Inside the Game. From there it would be on to Phoenix, Arizona to hook with Blankz, also of iTG. You can blame him for getting me involved in shoutcasting, thus the reason I can’t say Euro names correctly. I would fly to Colorado and check in with Spellbinder, because he has been a long time friend. This would be a coordinated trip to stop in Mesquite, Texas for Quakecon and countless people I know at that event including: Evil John, Tapper, Precious Death, the guys at id Software, especially Robert and of course, just to keep the list short Splash Damage.

The East Coast swing would include a stop to visit with Ghozt, AGBD and Fragging Newby. Hopefully we could find MFDoom, yes the now married Doomy and Capt. Porno. I went shooting with these guys and hung out with them years ago and it was one of the most memorable trips. Especially when you don’t know dick about some guy who goes by ‘A Giant Black Dude.’ Maybe a quick stop over in Florida to kick the shit out of BasiLisK.

The European tour would start with a stop in Portugal, why? Because I still feel they are the best community of gamers going for Urban Terror (yeah flame me, then fuck off, it’s my website and my opinion). From there it would be on to England to see Dick Dastardly and his flatmate, Qster and lord know who else we would find in and around the UK.

A trip would not be complete with traversing he frozen tundra of Sweden, Denmark and Finland (sorry Norway!). Definitely stop by House Valhalla! Many in the Danes and Swedes on the list who have been supporters for many years. A tour of the Rhine, well, Germany to meet Warbird (aka Wolfseye), since he has become a good friend.

An intersting stop would be Slovania, because of SLOfaca, Blaz especially and many of his countrymen have been wonderful to cover and talk to over the years. The Netherlands would mark one of the final stops, to meet “Whoa Keeley” or woekele. I need to forgive my lack of knowledge, but I would want to hook up with J0E and Preat of Then again I would hope J0E is not nekked getting into the shower.

I could go on and on about the names, faces and places. But it would be an endless cycle. It has been many years and gamers come and go, but it is interesting to note how many names return to Urban Terror saying something like, “this is the only game I come back to play.” Hopefully this sort of comment is typical through out the community. It has been one helluva ride over the years and hopefully there is more in store for our community and us, as a development team.

Parting shot, I must apologize for not mentioning dokta8, Sam Hinton, one of the original coders. He was a big influence on me, a great friend and the one who got me involved.

More *unofficial* Urban Terror news you can shake a stick at!

For the Urban Terror Community it has been a long…very long time coming, but the past 5 days have been a proverbial whirlwind of excitement. The community, well most of them except for a few asshats, have come alive and are really looking forward to our ’27 Days of Terror’ and the impending release. Of course, you must remember to ignore those asshats who will try to ruin everyone’s fun. Not going to happen this time, remember if you don’t like it, GO AWAY! Is that asking too much?

I am already beat and I have only provided four updates. I have the remainder of the ’27 days’ organized, so there should not be any interruption during this month. Although, my parents come into town on Monday, August 14, so there might be a day or two I miss. But fret not, if we miss a day, it just gives you a few extra days in which to catch up…haha. I don’t believe we will miss a beat, but that is my excuse if we do.

I am hoping there is enough interest from clans that we could start a new league as part of the Global Gaming League. This league has owns Clanbase and has a controlling interest in the gaming radio station, Inside the Game, of which I am employeed at. I have already spoke to the powers that be and with enough clans we could get a new North American league started that could eventually compete head to head with the Clanbase EuroCup. GGL calls their the AmeriCup. Some of this is just food for thought, but it could be a great idea, as we have many talented individuals who have organized and administered leagues with the OGL, STA, CAL and TWL.

While I cannot speak about “details” our business is making steps in the right direction. Not sure when, or if we will publicly comment on what we intend to do with our company or Trademark, ‘Urban Terror’ in the near future. But rest assured the base community we have established would definitely have a vested interest in future development. Urban Terror for Quake III Arena has provided us a great footing on which to move. Hopefully our future ventures will have us moving forward.

I still compare are development team to that of Splash Damage, although we are about 3 years behind them in terms of our planning and organization. I don’t believe when Sam ‘dokta8’ Hinton and I had a meeting at Activision after Quakecon 2000, we figured that Urban Terror would still be active 6 years later, or the development team would incorporate into an LLC. Actually, I am the only surviving member from 2000, but we were not looking “long term” in our early years unlike the “Q3F development team.”

I recall both of our development teams received a tour of the id Software offices and then sat down with Graeme Devine, Robert Duffy and others discussing our current project we were working on. While we did not have much in terms of presentation material, it was still neat to rub elbows with the big boys. the Q3F Team showed off a demo and provided them a presentation to id Software. Then again Paul ‘Locki’ Wedgewood is someone I really look up to and respect.

So, while Frozen Sand, LLC is playing catch up, you are never too late. We did spend some unproductive time during the life cycle of Urban Terror. We did announce a port to Enemy Territory, of which we decided to cancel for development reason. We followed that up with the ‘MX’ demo, which provided us some neat tech stuff and input/feedback from industry insiders. That also killed nearly 2 years of development on Urban Terror. But nothing is ever lost, not even that time. We did make some great progress, some of which may be seen in future development we do.

I believe I can speak for those on our development team that we are looking forward to the upcoming Urban Terror release. While I cannot say it will be perfect, we would love to put the “finishing touches” on a already great mod that has outlived its expected lifetime.

2003 Resolutions

Now that Festivus is over and the new year is here, it is time it straighten up and get my ass back into gear. The last few months have been…well, long and tiring. I think I peaked with the release of Urban Terror Beta 2.6. Of course, many supportive fans praised our work, while others continued to bitch. What else is new, huh? So much of November and nearly all of December I have not done a damn thing. For me, there is more than Urban Terror. I know many out there think SID we spend every waking moment at your beckon call. Fact is, we don’t. We each have priorities to attend to. Currently mine is trying to keep my job at the airlines, seeing as our company has gone into bankruptcy. So, I have not been my cheery, friendly self as I have in the past.

*sigh* But that is more less in the past, we can wipe the slate clear (sorta) and start fresh in January to try and provide some insight into Urban Terror, while bringing you reviews, rants and interviews. Unless you have run a web site, or two, or three, then you do not know how tiring and time consuming it can be. We all want to see fresh and new information posted every day, but sometimes (maybe that is often) it will not happen. Not sure what will happen in 2003 with this site. I know the focus will continue to be on Urban Terror. I am not closing the doors or ignoring the fact that for last few months of November there was not much added to the site. Hopefully we can see some new tutorials from the UT Community and a few reviews of the outstanding levels in the community.

I am not going to make any promises as to what I will bring each week. You have seen it before, I go fast and hard for a month or two and then hit a brick wall and nothing comes out. So I will try to keep things consistent. Who knows, maybe an assistant to help out is needed. It’s not like I do THAT much traffic a day, but being able to bring you 365 new things a year would be cool. We’ll see. I would like to spend time on the site, doing what I do best. Who knows, maybe I will FINALLY be discovered and offered a PR job at one of these gaming companies (Activision, Blizzard, Bungie, Raven, I am talking to you!!!). Until then, I will hold onto my little corner here on Planetquake.

That is really all I have right now. Just wanted to drop my first post of 2003 out here and hopefully those in the Urban Terror Community will continue to support the mod, as the development team looks to have another great year ahead of them. To all who visit this site, thank you for all your support.