Hosting Changes Coming

I believe it was 1998 when I started my first web site entitled, ‘Oswald’s 6th Floor.’ A few months later I purchased a domain name and bought space at my service provider, The Loop. It was not long after that I outgrew my provider and was fortunate enough to stumble upon an individual who offered up FREE hosting with a fancy domain name, actionquake.com. My site was then linked from www.the6thfloor.com to 6thfloor.actionquake.com. Due to circumstances beyond my control and that of my friend who helped me with hosting I was forced to go elsewhere.

I landed at Planetquake.com, part of the Gamespy Network where I was happily hosted as part of their network. What made this relationship so great was the fact my updated news would appear on Planetquake, which helped me increase my traffic and followers to my site, which at the time was still focused on game mods such as Action Quake 2 and Urban Terror.

As all relationships do, I terminated mine with Gamespy and Planetquake, but left knowing their assistance had help me to grow my site. I ended up at IPOWER a number of years back as I wanted full control of all hosting, which this company provided at a relatively good price. After retirement from online gaming The 6th Floor was somewhat dormant, as I evaluated the situation and the direction I was going to take the site. Since I had very little knowledge of PHP, which helped power the last version of my site before switching to WordPress.com, I decided to focus the site on myself.

While gaming was such a big part of my life for some 10 years, there are still some followers, but for the most part I have moved in other directions. I now post articles about fantasy football, thanks to the guys at Fantasy Football Starters, as well as my radio hobby and operating activity as part of the Northern California Contest Club. Every now and then I touch on some of the other topics (home remodeling anyone?) as they occur.Recently I attempted to move from WordPress.com, where the blog is hosted over to IPOWER, but have been unfortunate. It seems there are functions that won’t work at a hosted site that work on WordPress.com. For example posting images in the right column, which I use for the 6th HamCAM shot. While I have not explored every option, there could be a plug-in that provides that functionality.I have considered leaving IPOWER this coming July and making the move to a recommended (by WordPress.com) host and running free of the constraints and prices that WordPress.com charge. One thing about many web sites are the ever increasing amount of storage space, especially if you post images, videos and more media files. I have a hard time swallowing the price of $49.97 for 15GB of storage space. Currently Blue Host and Dreamhost are the two providers who are leading the way.

While the transition was not all that smooth making the jump to WordPress late last year, I do hope to have no down time when I change hosts in the coming months. Thankfully I will be able to get the new site on line and running before it goes live, allowing a seamless transition.

Currently I am facing more problems, as I am nearly out of space at WordPress.com. All the images I once had on this, the current version of The 6th Floor are all missing or very limited, since I have wiped the IPOWER directories clean of any files. So, while the content is still there, you might experience some issues over the next few months until I am done with the housecleaning.

Where’s the Creativity?

For those that know me, you know I am not too excited about the PC games that have been released during the 2005. That is not to say there were not some good titles depending on what gaming web site you read. For example, GameSpy’s 2005 Top Ten has some rather obscure titles on there, but also includes title you would expect to see.

In a Variety piece by Peter Bart titled, Creative engines turn creaky in ’05 states the media has been “upbeat for the media world” but end of the year statistics tell a different story.

Now I have been saying this for at least a year that the creativity in the electronic entertainment industry has been lost. I sit here and ponder what the last truly unique and creative game I played. Nothing comes to mind. Sure, there have been some great and enjoyable games I have played recently. I can cite Dice’s Battlefield 1942 as one of the games. I do think it leans toward being “revolutionary” in terms of being a MMOFPS (Is that an acronym?). Going back to 1999-2000, I think Counter-Strike changed the way gamers played online games, that game was a phenomenal success in the mod community for Valve’s Half-Life.

I guess there many other examples, bits and pieces of “technologica” that were features in games, not necessarily top titles. But these days, where has that creativity gone? From Variety, “Video game sales are sagging badly despite the heralded introduction of the Xbox 360.” Stating it’s a Microsoft product says enough, doesn’t. Especially those Windows users who have not made the shift to Linux. I don’t think you can slough off PC sales on all gamers waiting for the heralded release of Xbox 360. That might weigh in to some degree.”…only three of the top 10 games were actually released during 2005 — the rest were holdovers.” Now, I don’t know who’s top ten list they are using but all the games listed in the GameSpy article were released in 2005, beginning in March. I have sent an e-mail to Mr. Bart to inquire about his facts (I’ll report on that soon). But it is safe to say that video game sales are down and the numbers are there to support it.

In 2004 retail sales of video games, which includes portable and console hardware, software and accessories, reached more than $9.9 billion – a decline of less than one percent when compared to $10 billion in the previous year. “Compared to the same time last year, this November showed an 18 percent dip in retail sales to $696 million. Hardware sales dipped even lower, falling 21 percent from last year’s figures to $456 million,” from the latest NPD Group data released (12/15/05).

It comes full circle with gamers wanting more out of their game when they plunk down $50 (and more) on a game these days. In my opinion the quality, along with creativity for their titles has been rather non-existent. These days it’s “all about the franchise.” You know those titles, Quake, Madden, Grand Theft Auto and The Sims, just to name a few. I rant and rave about the bottom line with developers and publishers being all about making money. I guess some don’t give a shit when it comes their final product.

Gamers will be gamers, or lemmings, buying what is hot and avoiding what it not, based off reviews and conversations with other gamers. Hopefully some of these developers, like a Splash Damage, can actually introduce something unique and revolutionary when it comes to their first retail title. Why? They come from humble beginnings in the mod community of Quake, so seeing them progress and work to achieve their position today is something rarely seen.

As for me, I will continue to be stingy with what discretionary income I have to spend on upcoming to so called “hot titles.” But for now, I don’t see anything that really needs to find a home on my hard drive.

Oswald Rant: From Beta 1 to Beta 2

With the Beta 2 release of Urban Terror by Silicon Ice Development [SID], the development team looks to forge ahead and give their community a mod that far exceeds the expectations of any gamer. Created using one of the most powerful gaming engines available, the Quake III engine by id Software, Silicon Ice looks to have a very successful realism based mod to rival any in the gaming community.

Beta 1 was released August 5, 2000, while members of the Silicon Ice Development team were attending QuakeCon 2000 in Mesquite, Texas. On an invitation from id Software, the team shared a booth with Quake 3 Fortress, as each took time preview and demonstrate their projects. SID and Urban Terror were still relative unknowns at the time and were following in the footsteps of some very popular mods with cult-like followings, in Action Quake 2 and the highly publicized and successful, Counter-Strike.

Since many of the team members were strangers to “modding” it was a challenge to know what sort of reception Urban Terror Beta 1 would receive upon its initial release. Those of us attending QuakeCon were quite pleased to see gamers swarming to the booth, waiting in droves and a chance to play the mod. Looking back on the release, there were some fundamental mistakes that could have been resolved, providing for a stronger initial release giving us a better reputation. Looking back on our Beta 1 release, we agreed not to make the same mistake in future development.

For those in the community who were around less than one year ago when Beta 1 was released, I am sure you have not only see, but experienced the difference while waiting in anticipation for Beta 2. Silicon Ice Development takes great pride in their community and the mod they have come to support. To us, it’s the gamers that make the community great. We have continued to ask for input, in the form of suggestions, features and changes that could make the mod more enjoyable. We also released the mod to a group of internal beta testers, who provided valuable feedback and quality assurance. This to supplement the countless hours of team based testing in order to work out many issues and problems.

Silicon Ice Development is the driving force behind the creation of Urban Terror, but the community measures just how successful it is. While SID had an idea, gamers never failed to voice their opinions. As a development team, we took an active interest and listened to what they were saying. We continued to interact with the community, on our forums, in IRC, on ICQ and even on public servers. We were continually answering questions and providing feedback over the last ten months, which culminated in the release of Beta 2. Of course the most common question on the community’s mind, “When is Beta 2 being released?”

There was one minor incident that sparked some controversy during our development. That was the unfortunate leak of an internal build to the community. Looking back, that event was probably a blessing in disguise, as gamers not chosen by SID had an opportunity to experience our work and get a hands on demonstration of what was in store for Beta 2. We did everything in our power not to recognize those who were experiencing the build, as it was an early version, not meant for the gaming public. Through the period of the leak, there were rarely any negative comments that were received by SID. This was foreshadowing of things to come with the release of Beta 2.

A major component of any release is an official release date, something SID was hesitant to recognize. We had delays during previous beta development that had us overshoot our target date. We were bound by blood not to make the same mistake twice, as it weakens the credibility and report we have with our community. We continued to give a developer’s answer, “The mod is ready when we are done.”

We offered an internal build to Caryn “Hellchick” Law of GameSpy Industries and 3D ActionPlanet and Robert Duffy, programmer for id Software. Caryn had provided us with the female voices in Beta 1 and provides great insight into the community with her work. SID offered her the opportunity to play test the mod with a few of the team members in order to get her opinion and to provide us with feedback, which she gracefully did. She has been a support, since her initial preview of Beta 1 over a year ago.

Robert Duffy has been our main point of contact at id Software. We have play tested numerous times and received positive feedback on our development. Beta 1 provided Silicon Ice a platform from which to build, they must have seen potential in our development, as we were invited to QuakeCon. They have provided valuable support and answers to our team as we look to keep a strong working relationship with them through development.

June 1, 2001 was a day in which our expectations were not only met, but also exceeded when we released Urban Terror Beta 2. We were taken back by the over 500 gamers awaiting the release in #urbanterror on Enter The Game. The mod was officially released at 5pm and gamers flocked to FTPs in an attempt to download this much-anticipated beta. Now, a week later, the total number of downloads has exceeded 50,000! Based on GameSpy Stats, Urban Terror has jumped from #8 to #3 in terms of popularity with between 500-800 gamers online playing since the release.

Support like this from a community starved for a mod to take advantage of the power of the Quake III engine has arrived. Urban Terror Beta 2 has received overwhelming support and praise though out our community forums. A tough group to crack, the Shackers had many positive comments over at Shacknews. We feel very fortunate to be in the position we are since our release. We are already drawing up plans for our post Beta 2 development, which will include a multitude of bug fixes and additional maps in the coming weeks.

Silicon Ice Development would like to say thank you to everyone in our community for the patience and support for Urban Terror Beta 2. Be proud to know that you have had a hand in creating one of the best Quake III mods around.

Give it to me Wet!

I have been quite busy trying to get The 6th Floor updated. There are many new things you will want to check out. Let’s start with the first Oswald Rant since March. While FreakStorm created a small article explaining scale, I felt it was time to provide some information regarding proportion. So check out Get the Perspective.

Thanks to all those who voted in last week’s poll. It was the most successful to date! As for the results, it looks like most in the Urban Terror have “the patience of a dead saint.” Don’t fret, it is almost ready. This week we pose the question, “Do you like the idea of a stamina system in Beta 2?” I am guessing this is going to be one of the biggest issues when Beta 2 is released. So check out the previous and current poll.

There are two new screen shots from WetWired and his level, ut_revolution. One note, the boxcars are actually shots from my Olympus D-490 Zoom digital camera. SweetnutZ took these shots and created the textures you see on the boxcars though out Wet’s level. We are all quite happy with the way they turned out. Check out the shots under the Latest Action Fix.

The Electronic Entertainment Expo, better known as E3 starts this week here in Los Angeles, California. Just received my pass in the mail, that to the gang at GameSpy Industries. Okay, so I must wear “da man” on my back for three days, but that is well worth the chance to check out the latest and greatest! Should be a good time, I will look at having an update and screen shot page when I return, as I did last year. If you are going, contact me via e-mail before Thursday this week.

I know I brought this up before, but I am in the process of gather a few hundred digital cam shots that will be made available after the official release of Beta 2. WetWired and NRGizeR have already come calling for a few specific textures to be used in upcoming levels.

Link of the Day comes courtesy of Quake3World Forums. This link can be described in a single, “WTF?”

I’m Mad as Hell.

To kick the weekend off I have composed another rant which is titled, The Porting of Levels. While I could have looked at this on a very broad scale, encompassing QW, Quake, Quake 2 and Quake III, I focused my attention on realism maps being ported from Action Quake 2 to an up and coming mod called Reaction Quake 3. Personally, I find it hard to call someone a “level designer” if they take the work of another and port it to a new engine. Maybe you don’t. Give it a read and let me know.

Received this piece of news from GameSpy as a bit of an advanced warning in case The 6th Floor goes down.

Electricity in California is growing as scarce as a quality Adventure game. The utilities in the state are attempting to solve the problem by using “rolling blackouts” in different areas. A rolling blackout means that a section of the mighty power grid would be completely without power for a couple of hours, and then the blackout would “roll” to another part of the grid.

So, what does this mean to you? The massive collection of GameSpy Network servers run on electricity, despite our best attempts to convert to coal-burning servers, so you might think this would be a problem. Fortunately, the ISPs where we house the servers are ready to run for days on their own power. All of the servers are connected to Uninterruptible Power Supplies. These massive batteries protect the servers from any minor interruptions. If there is a major problem, the ISPs have huge diesel generators to give the servers the juice. Each of the generators has its own back-up generator. In other words, California would have to run out of Electricity and Petroleum for several days before it would be a problem.

God I love California!

WetWired finally has given me permission to show off his latest creation he calls Venice. Check out the detail, this map is going to rock! Here are some teaser shots:

Hopefully we will see more quality levels like this, not only from WetWired but community developers.

I am not sure how many of you were alive in 1962, I know I wasn’t but I went and saw the movie 13 Days this afternoon. If you are any sort of history buff, I highly recommend it! It gives a look inside the politcal turmoil during The Cuban Missle Crisis. Kevin Costner is good, but his Boston accent sucks!