Oswald Rant: In with the Mod Crowd

For those who pick up or receive a copy of PC Gamer each month, you are quite familiar with the Opinions Section, where individual contributors give their opinions on a wide range of subjects from modifications and 3D action gaming to sports, RPGs, war games and simulators. While my attention is usually focused on the columns titled Extended Play and The Killing Box, dealing with mods and 3D action gaming, I was caught a bit by surprise at the sports opinion this week in The Point After dubbed Specification Shock.

What draws most gamers to any game or mod released? Usually it is the astounding graphics. Hell, we saw a 30 second clip of Doom3 and people think it is going to be the best game ever from id Software. It might will be. When it comes to gamers, “a sizable percentage of the PC’s in people’s homes aren’t capable of playing many of today’s games” says Rob Smolka, contributor to The Extra Point and this article. We really don’t care much about this group of gamers, since their systems are “old school” Pentiums which run Word and can access the Internet and when feeling very wild a game of Solitaire or Mine Sweeper.

The next group “shelled out $2000-$3000 for a brand-new system and think it’s preposterous that they should have to spend even more money just to keep up with the time.” This is obvious are large groups and most fall under this group when it comes to gaming. Their systems are modest machines running a 300MHz processor and a low end graphics card. Gaming is possible, but without many of the details which games like Quake III were design with. Target audience? A larger group, whom are interested in gaming, some of whom might make the jump to the next group.

Finally you have the hard core gamer, “the demographic what makes up the actual market for PC games.” Most of these gamers are up with technology, while they may not have a top end system, the can run a vast majority of the software titles without any problem. “Many people in this group aren’t afraid to spend a little money to improve their system” says Rob. This statement could not be more to the point and is driven by Moore’s Law. Nowhere is this more evident than in the graphics industry, where it is tenfold!

If this is our intended “target audience” why do we bother with such low system requirements? The system requirements for Quake III are extremely low; Pentium 233MHz, Pentium II 266MHz or AMD 350MHz K6-2, 3D hardware video card with OpenGL, 64MB RAM, 25MB hard disk space and a quad speed CD-ROM drive. Are you kidding me? Mods should look much higher then just the minimum system requirements. Can development teams afford to do that?

Rob says, “If you give us a good reason to upgrade our systems, we’ll be happy to do it [talking about sports gamers].” But I feel this applies to any computer gaming genre, including first person shooters, like Quake III and Unreal Tournament. If the developers or mod teams create a quality product, gamers would be more willing to accept and support it. Usually that means a hardware upgrade or in terms of mods, purchasing a game like Quake III to play many of the amateur developed mods such as Rocket Arena 3 and Urban Terror.

Silicon Ice Development has been working from the development point of making Urban Terror playable for anyone with Quake III. We have heard many comments like, “I bought Quake III just for Urban Terror” or “Your mod made me dust off my copy of Quake III.” This is a good thing, more people are aware mods are there and free for the taking. Once they see the level of quality, they will think about increasing their system specs. “Think of the incredible games that could be made with a minimal system requirement of a PIII 600 with 128MB RAM and a GeForce-level video card.” That is what I am talking about, like it or not that is the direction gaming is heading.

With new software on the horizon using the most advanced hardware on the market. Even now with the newly released Tribes 2 as an example we are seeing, Low End, Recommended and High End system requirements. 1GHz processor, Voodoo4/5 or GeForce 2 GTS. How’s that for “high end specs?” Get used to seeing these type of requirements when you go to buy your next game. This will mean mod development teams will have their work cut out for them. But that should increase the overall quality of the game, which in the end is the best result.

Thanks to TheSorus for bring this article in PCGamer to my attention and Rob Smolka for giving some good information. It all makes sense.

Redhot Mapping

Before we go into “tease mode” there was an excellent thread posted on the Quake3World Forums So all you mapper types, get your pens and pencils ready…its lineup time [okay, the baseball season is upon us too]. Astrocreep, Webmaster over there has begun a thread entitled, Post all your Level Editing Links here!!!. It features links for tools, manuals, tutorials, textures/shaders, terrain, map objects, Macintosh, sound effects, plug ins, architecture & level design, map packing utilities, review sites and a whole lot more. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you check it out and bookmark most, if not ALL of these sites since they provide great information in your mapping endeavors.

Speaking of mapping, I was talking to SweetnutZ and got a sneak peak at some of the “extra” work he has put into Casa. Gone are the boxy looking structures you can see in the Urban Terror Screen shots found on the web site. The map is a combination of architectural styles, taking Italian and Spanish influence and using them together. Since SweetnutZ is a 2D and graphic artist, his texturing is quite impressive. He has already been in contact with WetWired and BattleCow, both of whom have “provided real early feedback…and helped a lot” says SweetnutZ. Unfortunately with his job of finishing up the impressive looking user interface [UI], chances are this level will not be seen until after the release of Beta 2, with a few other surprises. Look for new screen shots in the future from Casa.

Thanks to TheSorus, who is a member of the clan DAWG, and a frequent visit to the Urban Terror Forums. He bought up an excellent point, that I missed when I read the April 2001 Issue of PCGamer. There was an article [on page 110 for those playing at home] in the Opinion Section under The Point After titled Specification Shock. While the authors take centered around the comparison of console vs PC sports games, his opinion did raise a few questions in my mind, as did some of his thoughts about computer gaming. “In my eyes, the problem is that PC sports developers are aiming way too low in the marketplace. By trying to appease those with lower-end systems, they wind up frustrating their actual target audience.” I think he is onto something here. I could be completely nuts for thinking this, but the fact remains, “If you build it, they will come” when talking about gamers.

Counter-Strike had flaws, still does depending on who you ask, but the mod is still the most successful undertaking in online gaming today. Why should SID have to sacrifice “quality” to appease those with lower-end systems? Hell, I cannot count the number of people who have said something to the effect of, “Oh yeah, I bought Quake III just for Urban Terror.” Does it stand to reason that, if the mod/game does not run well enough you will upgrade? Sure, to some point, be it more RAM, a new video card, faster processor. I can remember playing Quake 2 on my girlfriend’s IBM 233MHz Aptiva, with onboard sound and video, I dropped $249.99 on a Voodoo2 card. Why? To get the game to run better. More on this, as I think it will turn out to be a solid rant for Friday. Look for it.

I sure hope the Urban Terror Community is an excited as we are about Beta 2. Eight members of SID and one brother, spent about 2 hours last night playing Team Survivor, followed by an insanely intense game of Capture and Hold on Tub’s new map, Abbey. We really feel good about the progress which is coming along. All the pieces are falling into place. And damn that Apox. I never see him, yet I am always on the receiving end of weapons, catching bullets with my teeth. Just an incredible time! Stay tune and watch the Silicon Ice Development and Urban Terror web sites in the coming weeks.

Oswald on Stamina

After moderating the Urban Terror Forums for the past years or so, I have seen quite a bit in terms of ideas, opinions…..oh and let’s not forget the spam! I am quite level headed and will try to answer anyone’s post if I have an idea as to the answer. Many of the Silicon Ice Development team members respond and interact with the community. By doing this, SID does not put themselves above the gamers, but on the same level, as we interact with them and their ideas and opinions everyday.

One thing I have noticed as Beta 2 draws closer. The number of gamers who are starting to speak up over some of our new features for Beta 2. There are a few topics which seem to hit home with gamers, which include lightmap vs. vertex, the new stamina system and strafe jumping. Most of the comments have centered around the stamina system, which is not surprising. Gamers want Urban Terror to stay a “fast” mod, like Quake III is out of the box. For the most part, SID has preserved this need for speed the gamers have been yearning for. The change from Beta 1.27 to Beta 2, will not see a decrease in running speed, as it remains the same. Walking will play a larger roll in order to revitalize your stamina. Does this pose a problem? Probably, as you will be a sitting duck for enemy fire. Standing still will also cause your stamina to come back quicker, but pose similar problems. The medkit we have implemented will allow you to bandage twice as fast, but do you want to carry one?

Gamers are not going to like the fact their movement is going to be dictated by that annoying, yellow stamina meter on the bottom, left corner of the screen. I can already see the complaints rolling in. Even now, some gamers are already knocking the system and they have yet to play Beta 2. Fair? Eh, not really, but everyone is entitled to their opinion and myself [since I am writing this] and SID respect that and will listen to any and all issues. We are not trying to destroy the mod, which some may think. We are trying to put the “TEAM” back into team gaming. We want gamers to stay together and move in groups to accomplish the objective, not have a single llama go bunny hopping across the level and make it a one man show. So please, bear with us, as we feel this system has its advantages, but one which might take a bit of time to perfect for Urban Terror.

I know I can speak for SID when I say, we are looking very forward in presenting the Quake III Community with Urban Terror. This is a far cry from out Beta 1 release. This is definitely the build which helps to get Quake III recognized again as the game of choice. We feel from here on out, there is only one direction to go. That being up! With your continued support and interaction SID is ready to take Urban Terror to the next level.

The Link of the Day comes from Sixpak over at Mobilized Forces. We all think she is a hottie and “baby definitely has some back.” But check out her “delightfully perky tasty treats” as Sixpak puts it. Click here to read all about J-Lo.

Community Support

eXKalibuR posted some beautiful looking shots yesterday of his upcoming Urban Terror level called Museum. The outside shots of a large, old building are might impressive. Knowing his past work, I am sure this will live up the expectations of the community. Enough of my babbling, here comes some shots:

[Shot #01] | [Shot #02] | [Shot #03] | [Shot #04]
Found this in my earthly travels today. The Atmosphere Builder. Not sure if these can be imported or will be able to be imported in Quake 3. But it is worth a look.

There is another new site which has come online in support of Urban Terror. The site is run by Dominator and is called, Urban Terror Guild. Like most sites, these are only successful if you, the community supports them. They have posted an article on camping. It explores the difference in campers….er snipers. Which one are you?

For the Germany Urban Terror Community comes Urban Terror Germany. CrazyButcher has put some time into getting this young site up and on its feet. Unfortunately I don’t remember much of my high school German, so I cannot tell you what they are talking about. But nonetheless, give it a look.

Mobilized Forces has some new screen shots posted of the completely retextured level, Docks by BattleCow. Five new shots to give you an idea what the map will look like when you finally get to play it when released in Beta 2.

I also felt my small complaint on The CPL deemed it rant worthy and it has been posted as yesterday rant. Give it a read. I think I have been saying the same thing as most who wrote about it. Angel was wrong in what he said.

Talk the talk. Walk the walk.

Okay after slacking off for the past few days, I am back to update you on what’s been happening.

Hmmm….nothing much. Hahah…just kidding. For those who haven’t read it yet, you can go check out the most recent interview which the team members of Silicon Ice Development gave to Ronin over at Inside the Game. For those new to the community or just wanting a fix for the most up to date information concerning Beta 2 and the development of Urban Terror I recommend you check it out.

There are a few new community levels which have been brought to my attention. The most notable creation is being created by LegoManser. Check out the screen shots and e-mail Lego with some feedback to improve his level. Now the sexy screenies:

[Shot #01] | [Shot #02] | [Shot #03] | [Shot #04] | [Shot #05]
[Shot #06] | [Shot #07] | [Shot #08] | [Shot #09] | [Shot #10]
[Shot #11] | [Shot #12] | [Shot #13] | [Shot #14] | [Shot #15]
While the mapping competitions which were held at the AQMD, in conjunction with The 6th Floor never really drew the numbers I expected, there is a good possibility we could see some sort of competition in the future for Urban Terror. This is by no means an introduction to an upcoming competition, just a transition into what everybody is after. The free swag.

I have been talking to Darkness and MasterX from Alien Media. What exactly do these guys do? “Alien Media offers high quality and professional computer case modifications and hardware. If you are looking to modify your computer case, look no further.” For a sampling of their work, check out before and after shots. They use the ‘A-Open KF45a Midi Tower Case, you can check out the case specs for more information. I have been talking to Darky and MasterX about getting some Urban Terror cases made up as possible swag. Nothing firm yet, hopefully I can get some pics for you later on.

It seems I am always pissing someone off. Or maybe people are out to get a rise out of me. Either way, its all good. I just had to respond to some “accusations” which reared their ugly head in this thread. Oh well. I guess I really don’t do “anything” on my web site or Urban Terror.

Today Link of the Day submission comes from someone, but I cannot remember who. So if it was you, e-mail and tell me to pull my head out. I never thought I would reach it. But I did. My life is now complete. What is it? Click here to find out. Then and only then will your life be complete.