“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.

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 FROServers.com. 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.

Far Too Long

*sigh* It seems I go through extended periods where time seems to be against me. Unlike that money tree planted in my backyard, I cannot buy an extra hour or two during the day. There are only 24 hours in a day and I seem to have none…well, very little left for myself. It also means I have too many of those hobbies that continue to draw zero attention. Of course my wife and son are the two most important things in my life, so I guess everything else ends up being secondary, right?

So the resolutions were on the final day of 2006 and this is actually my first post of the new year. As you can tell it has taken me nearly 3 weeks to finally get a few minutes to sit down and dust this place off and drop a few thoughts.

First, the job at BART. I love the company, although it’s rather hilarious over at BARTrage.com to read the complaints from an ill informed traveling public who use the transportation system daily. I’ll admit it, I had never used public transportation until I moved to NoCal and my only complaint when I used BART was the high fare to get me to and from work, which was about $15.45 a day!

As for training, and I think I speak for the three of us, Train Controllers that we cannot wait until February 9 until we are done with the first phase of our training. We have gained an extensive knowledge, but as our instructor said, “once you leave, you will forget everything you learned.” You know what, she is right. We have so much more information to learn and absorb that phase of training is like a warm up. Not to sound negative, because I am not, I am so thrilled to be one of the few who were selected to be a Train Controller, but we have A LOT of training to get through and this is just the beginning.

After numerous complaints (I love you wife!) from Hottlipz, we finally got a new SUV. We traded in 2002 Mazda Tribute ES for a new 2007 Mazda CX-7. Now I hate, just hate dealing with car salesmen. They are snakes. ALL of them. But I will consider myself lucky this go around. A buddy of mine who works at Mazda in Walnut Creek recommended a salesman to me, so I ended up buying from him. Good guy, gave us a great deal on a Chystal White Pearl Mica CX-7 off the showroom floor. It was my intention to get a more fuel efficient vehicle, but I do believe I failed in that attempt. This is a 244-hp turbocharged engine, which require 91 octane fuel, so I loose out there. Also, the estimated MPG was 18 city, 24 highway, I fear we will never see anything close to 24 on the highway. But, the wife is happy. Isn’t that all that matters?

The gaming scene continue to roll on in the life of Urban Terror. I know very few community goers actually visit my site any longer since I changed the format, but there are still a dedicated few. The new version is awesome, we feel it is our best work (okay, so I didn’t actually work on it) to date. The improvements on a very aged engine are amazing and there is actually more we could do. But overall the team is feeling very confident about announcing an upcoming release date.

We continue to support a QA Team…quick aside, its amazing some just want to bitch and complain when on the QA Team, thinking they are a gaming gods, guess they don’t understand some things, like you don’t make the game, we do. Anyways, big props to many of the testers who have put in a lot of time and effort, providing their time, input and expertise when it comes to a game they enjoy.

We are still a few levels short of a release, I can think of two, well now one level that is outstanding that RabidCow is still working on. Great looking level too. INVIS just dropped a near final version of Crenshaw on the FTP for the testers, you can see the new shots at the Urban Terror website. And yes, I am still working on getting an Urban Radio Show together for a pre-release and one on release day.

That’s all for now, my son is crying, need to check into that…

Sky’s the Limit

Hey look? A monthly update from Oswald. Hahaha…while time is still not on my side I do have a bit of it and will try to circulate some new material for the Urban Terror community. First, as many have heard or I guess I should say, not heard, Urban Radio has not been on the air since February. Why you ask? You can read the new rant titled, Lost in the Airwaves. Like those who desire to tune in, I do desire to cast, hopefully the show and match coverage will return soon to TsN.

In a SID monthly meeting on TeamSpeak, RabidCow has offered up 32 skyboxes of his own creation. Look for The 6th Floor to host those as soon as they are made available. He has some of the best looking skyboxes around for Urban Terror, each high quality with a professional finish. Don’t believe me? Check out the TwinLakes2 for a taste of what he has done in the past.

ThorN continues work on a new level titled ut_tower. I was offered the latest, ‘7j’ version of the level. As the name implies, the level is NOT vertically challenged. Reminds me of an Action Quake 2 level called Highrise. Anyone? “The r_speeds are currently pretty low and allow for more detail, however not too much detail can be added to the roof because they are creeping on the high end up there. Also when you are on the roof you can barely see the ground with a scope so there isn’t much need for detail from that viewpoint,” says ThorN. For more information and that latest beta version visit, forums.clanbank.com/.

Last I recall, no means no,” right? Just to set the record straight, once again. DO NOT modify a Silicon Ice Development .map file. That really goes for ANY .map file you might reverse engineer in order to “learn” or “fix.” This will not teach you a damn thing. Ask any level designer in the Urban Terror community. INVIS of Section 8 Studios, as far as I know has been the only designer to include a .map file for learning purposes in his release of ut_automotive, which was released more as a model pak, a tool for level designers. Bottom line, if you didn’t create the level, do not mess with the .map file.

As SID continues in development we continue to see more and more levels that could be included in the upcoming release. Right now, it numbers close to twenty-five levels, which about fourteen are under some form of play testing. There are some new features we are working with, such as a func_wall entity, like that seen in ut_rommel when playing TDM vs CTF. You know those two access points to the tunnel system, closed in one version, open in the other. This will have new meaning and functionality in the next release. A prime example is Casa by SweetnutZ. Think of the blue spawn point, you drop into the game right near a closed gate. With the func_wall entity, that gate is opened for game modes like bomb/defuse and CTF, while it could be closed for TS or TDM. Pretty damn ingenious. Instead of creating an entirely new level for CTF or creating a smaller level for TDM, this entity comes in very handy. Oh yeah, while I am at it, there is no official release of the new .def file for Urban Terror. Once there is a release client for the next release, we will work on making the .def file available to the community.

Out to the Movies

We have some new updates from around the Urban Terror Community. If you missed Urban Radio last week, then you missed an interview with |NV|S, the talented level designer from our community. He checked in with an update on how progress was coming with the new version of ut_streets. If you missed the show, just go download it from the RADIO link above. He was also kind enough to give us a few more shots from the upcoming level

The “nuevo” thing to do these days instead of posting screen shots, is to create “teaser videos.” Today we are pleased to bring you two videos from levels that will make their into the mainstream very soon. The first was posted by eXKalibuR from UT Designs on the Urban Terror Forums (click link for thread). This is a 2:32 video of the work he has done on his level ut_paradise, the NEXT version. Highly recommend you download it! You can grab it from that link or here, at FilePlanet (15mb).

The next video is an exclusive here, on The 6th Floor courtesy of MasHeeN. This is an all new video of a level he is currently working on called ut_crossing. This is a level that has been under development for some time, as MasHeeN, like others await the implementation of the bomb game mode from the development team. Check this teaser out and get ready to “storm the crossing!” Download courtesy of Fileplanet (5mb). The level is still in beta mode, at least from what I was told when I viewed this teaser yesterday. Enjoy the flicks!

That is not all, MightyJoeYoung, aka Vivian is back with another rant, this time focusing on the evolution of the mod and some of the maps. for Urban Terror. So see what she has to say, click here to read Mod Evolution.