Oswald Rant: The Porting of Levels

What is at the heart of nearly every first person shooter? Maps. Levels. Environments. Call them what you will, these are usually the first and most talked about visuals gamers see. In order to draw attention and gamers to your specific community, your mod development team must be able to use their creative talents to design functional, well playing levels. But, before you even step into a map, that level must catch and hold the attention of the community.

We have been able to capture the attention of the Urban Terror community simply by using screen shots. There has been considerable amount of attention drawn to levels which have been created by Brent ‘WetWired’ Waller for Urban Terror. Levels which are visually stunning and layouts that flow like a smooth shot of tequila. Don’t believe me, have a look at Venice his newest creation which is scheduled for released with Beta 2. I would put this map up against a Counter-Strike level any time. Best of all, it is all original.

WetWired recently gave permission to a fellow developer working on the Reaction Quake 3 project to port his map, Tequila. Along with this map, they have decided to port some of the more legendary maps to their mod. Maps which were created using the Quake 2 engine such as Sludge, Kumanru and Team Jungle, just to name a few. My question is why? Are mod developers no longer being creative? Can they not decide on what type of levels to create, that they must take a step backwards in order to preserve a mod like Action Quake 2 alive?

I will be the first to admit, our early beta releases resembled Action Quake 2, but with more eye candy and some newa features which were never introduced to Action. One thing Silicon Ice Development asked of those in their community was not to port or develop maps which were created for Action Quake 2? The reason wass simple. We are not Action Quake 2 and in order for people to realize that we must move forward and look to build a mod around the idea the action and realism. If there was any team who would benefit greatly from porting Action maps, it would be Urban Terror.

Gerbil! who was known well in the Action Quake 2 community had the all-time greatest map, Urban. His follow up maps, Urban2, Urban3 and Urban4 also had a long tenure in the Quake 2 based mod. NRGizeR, while not as well known as Gerbil! had three successful releases which centered around the town of Malax, Finland. Wetwired was a relative unknown, until the tail end of my tenure at the AQMD. His maps were some of the most creative and unique maps to date for Action.

So my point being, is with these three level designers, we could recreate many of the popular levels which had a starring role in Action Quake 2. But we have vowed not to do that. We want Urban Terror to be known for our development, not the development and ideas from years past. There are skeptics who will raise many questions, with as little as two words in response to my question, “Why port Action Quake 2 maps?”

Why not? If these “level designers” go through the proper channels and get approval from the original authors, what harm is there to porting these levels? I don’t know, but I guess it would be difficult call these people actual level designers, since they did not conceive the idea, they took something which was already there and copied it to a newer, more powerful engine. I guess some don’t see that as a problem. Personally, I do. This is the basis of all mod development. Taking a simple idea and building a foundation and watching the mod grow and develop. Not taking another’s work and redesigning or “porting” it to fit a new engine. While our development up to this point may not be completely ground breaking, we have cracked the mold and our development will be much more than Action ever was.

Like many issues there are two sides. What someone believe is wrong, another will call it right. This is true in the development of levels for realism mods. It is understandable that gamers should great levels to live on. By the same token, gamers want to see new and creative environments which push the limits of the more powerful gaming engines and strive to create something which will stand the test of time, like Urban. Hopefully gamers will see through this facade and call for new levels to be created instead of having level designers living off the success of others and calling it “new and improved.”

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