Friday on the Floor

Hell yeah! It’s Friday. Strange how we always look forward to Friday and the weekend. For me, its somewhat immaterial, since my days off rotate each week. But rest assured, you will be able to find, Hottlipz and many others tonight on Hottie’s 6th Floor Hideaway. You can also join IRC, #the6thfloor on ETG and then log on to the Team Speak 2 server and have a rocking good time!

Everything is on track to return to shoutcasting (as an independent shoutcaster) Clanbase matches around February 16. I am looking forward to providing, what I think was the best coverage of the best league. Quick shout out to Tidus (my favorite Frenchie!) and Lord, who continues to do an outstanding job at Clanbase. You guys really know how to run a successful league!

As many of you know Silicon Ice Development dropped a bombshell on the Urban Terror community a few days ago, announcing their official intent to port Urban Terror over to Enemy Territory. I am sure you all want more information from me, seeing as it was my name attached to the post as to what that news on www.silicon-ice.com really means. Well, there is not much else I can tell you that has not already been said. The main point, that we are trying to stress is two-fold.

First, this was not a “spur of the moment” decision by the development team. This idea has been topic of conversation for many, many months. Second, I think I can relate to the Macintosh users are pissed with our decision to move to Enemy Territory. As I posted numerous responses to questions on the Urban Terror Forums, that nothing has been set in stone for Mac development. Currently, there is no Macintosh support for ET. Will it stay that way? We will have to wait and see. We have talked to relevant parties and “nothing has been ruled out.” Let’s leave it at that. Any official information on the move to ET will be posted on www.urbanterror.net.

I also present a new rant today here on The 6th Floor. Today’s topic revolves around server administration. I am no expert, but I now have a taste of what’s involved. Read what I have to say about servers, admins and gamers in today’s rant, In Control.

The 6th Floor server map cycle has been updated recently, you can check out the server page and see what new maps are included in the map cycle, along with the server side settings, such as cap limit and time limit. So, far the response to the server has been excellent. One minor request, this is paid for out of pocket by myself. If you enjoy the server and want to donate to the server, please use the PayPal link on the server page. Any donation is appreciated. Thanks. Enjoy the gaming!

Oswald Rant: In Control

Before sitting back and enjoying the development side of gaming, I only knew gaming in terms of playing. Development was something that I took no interest in. Like many of you, I asked the dumb question, made an ass of myself (like many of you) and had people flame me for asking. All I wanted to know was is the server full or empty, because I want to play.

I now look at Urban Terror and gaming in general from three angles. First, as a gamer. As I have admitted before, I am not good, average at best with an occasional “streak of luck.” Second I look at the game as a developer. Knowing where we have come from and what are future plans include, allow me to see the “big picture.” This is a luxury that gamers in the community do not have. Finally, I view it from that of a server administrator. While still engaged in the learning process, being active in this capacity helps to support the mod. This is the aspect I want to focus on today.

One feature that all server admins have is that of power. Many, like myself pay out of pocket for their servers, upwards of $100US a month depending on the number of client slots. This means, you ultimately have complete control of what goes on in your server.

Considering this new found power, attempting to administer the server yourself can be a real challenge. If you are new, like I am, you have an endless list of questions, not really sure how to configure the server of map cycle, or how to draw gamers to your server. This last point, I feel a bit fortunate for two reasons. First, I am part of the development team and second, the existence of the web site.

Beyond that, the choices get difficult, who do you entrust with these sacred powers of “Admin” in order to watch over your server. Of course EVERYBODY wants to be an admin, they want the control. Administering a server means more than kicking or banning gamers. While these might be two of the more common actions, you play an important role in server development. Admins must be open to criticism and suggestions in order to improve the position of the server. Servers, like Poop of FSK that are highly visible servers, have respected admins who play and help monitor all the action taking place in the server. Probably the most important function of is the implementation of the configuration and map cycle on the server. If there are not levels and gamemode(s) the community wants, your server will be nothing more than a money pit (remember the movie?). Admins need to pay attention to what gamers are saying about the levels. What levels cause gamers to disconnect? What levels are they continuing to callvote or ask for? Admins also need to make sure they have the levels on their server accessible. I use a message when each map loads that gives the URL, www.the6thfloor.com/server.htm. This link allows gamers to see the current map cycle, and details of each. Other servers like FSK have their own website, www.kickassctf.com. As long as you make the tools available, gamers should have enough information about your server.

There is a mind boggling amount of information on the Internet on how to implement and administer a server. Many in the Urban Terror community have been more than helpful to give you pointers. I was fortunate tha Mumblez and SteppinRazor of .223 allowed me to use their server configuration and map cycle as templates in order to configure my, well our (Hottlipz and I) server. Since the launch of The 6th Floor server, it has undergone one name change. It is required to have a catchy name, “Hottie’s 6th Floor Hideaway” works nicely. We also update the map cycle on a regular basis. Recently, we have concerns about Golgotha2 by Dick Dastardly. Since the spawns are on top of the flags in CTF, a long spawn time is required, which makes gamers wait around more than playing. Gamers a join a server to play, not wait.

One last piece of information regarding a map cycle are the inclusion of community created levels. While I have been a big supporter of community involvement, especially level design, it becomes a crapshoot when you begin adding community levels. I have said it many times before, but there are only a handful of community levels I would think of placing into my map cycle. Why? Because many gamers will not have the level or not like the level. This first point goes back to what I said a bit ago, make the levels available. While it will ultimately be my decision, as admin, to what is in the cycle, it will be the community who sways this decision.

Owning and administering a server requires constant attention. If you want to tackle the challenge, go in with no preconceived notions that it will be an immediate success. Once you have established your server, be respectful of players, but keep control of what goes on. Being available, of having trusted admins control and watch game play helps to improve the overall attitude on the server. Hopefully gamers understand, this is a free service to them, so don’t be pissed off if you are kicked, even banned for repeated offenses. You do not foot the bill, we do.

The Floor in 2004

Good morning, afternoon or evening, depending on where you are. It’s only taken me 18 days into 2004 to FINALLY get off my ass and update The 6th Floor. Now before you all jump my shit asking, “Oz, why no updates or map reviews? Where are the rants? What’s the deal dude?” One thing those in the Urban Terror community don’t want are excuses. Hell, don’t you give enough of those to your parents, teachers, spouse or boss? Heheh…I know I do. Well, not the girlfriend, she’ll gimme the proverbial “knuckle sandwich” and right now I am not too hungry.

What can you expect this year from The 6th Floor? While not really considering many changes, I would like to get some more concise reviews out of more of the quality maps in the community. I admit, I am not one to jump on many community levels, because honestly many of them are not that good. Some will cite SID as the problem, because they (or shall I say we) do not promote them. Then again, why should the development have to promote something that looks like it was created for Quake 2 or worse, Half-Life? I also might not be a creditable source, because I myself have never completed any of the levels I have started. Believe me when I say, not only is it time consuming, but does take some planning and execution on the part of the level designer. I also do not consider myself an “expert” when it comes to mapping. Much of the information I present is thanks in part to an active community.

In conjunction with the upcoming release of the NEW Urban Terror Forums, I would like to run a month long poll to draw results from the community as to what the most played community levels are. Community, not SID created levels. These are already included in the distribution files, so there is no reason to include these. I’ll be honest, I like eye candy, I am sure most do. But many gamers don’t give a damn about how a many looks, but how it plays. Why do you think there are still so many playing Counter-Strike? So I would like to put together a list of 10-15 maps that are played throughout the community and see if we can pull these together into a distribution.

I think I sorta got off track here, as to why no updates since November. Over the course of the last 6 months there have been many changes in my life, outside of Urban Terror and the Internet. I have shifted my priorities somewhat and am not spending 12-16 hours a day in front of my computers, supporting Urban Terror or shoutcasting on TsN. More on that in a bit. Since the last news post, I have moved out of SoCal and up to NoCal, but still have to commute to SoCal for work. So I am spending many hours a day traveling and the time I have to spend in front of my computer has dramatically decreased. This should change around February 1, 2004. Hopefully I update before that time.

As for TsN, the Team Sportscast Network, I have resigned my position as Public Relations Director/Shoutcaster. It was a difficult decision, since I had been part of this organization for close to 2 years. But with changes in my life and scheduling of priorities, I could no longer commit the time or energy to casting. It always bothered me in the past of casters who idled in the staff IRC channel, but never casted. Being a member of the management staff, I felt I had an expectation placed on me to be a leader and set an example. I felt I had to make a decision, so I did and respectfully stepped down. TsN is still a leader in online coverage and I wish them the best. As for Urban Radio and any further Urban Terror coverage, I will be using any number of “other” shoutcasting streams, in the coming months. Normally I would turn to Spellbinder, who has gracefully offered up his server at times, along with a few others in the community.

The only other real change on The 6th Floor recently, as I mentioned a few months back, has been the addition of Oswald’s 6th Floor Urban Terror server. The admins are .223|Hottlipz and myself. We also have a few good friends who have admin or referee abilities. So far, I have been very pleased with the success of the server, sponsored by Play Dedicated. We are currently playing Urban Terror 3.2, CTF with the following map cycle: ut_pg2-27, ut_precinct, ut_oz, ut_rommel, ut_docks, ut_turnpike, ut_golgotha, ut_sliema, ut_druglord2-urt3 and ut_abbey2. Each map is specifically set with a caplimit and/or timelimit.

Beyond that, I make no guarantees as to what happens the remainder of 2004. Like previous years, I will continue to roll with the punches and see what sort of free time I have to continue updating The 6th Floor. One thing that has made the web site successful has been the input from you, the community. If you have something to say or contribute send it to oswald [at] planetquake.com. You can also find me on IRC in #urbanterror on Enter The Game or Quakenet.

Oswald Rant: A Look Ahead

It has been some time since I have put pen to paper…err…fingers to keyboard and get some things off my chest that fall under that category I so lovingly refer to as Oswald’s Rant. Over the past year, it was not only things that got under my skin, but reviews of LANs and just happenings centered around gaming. But to start 2004, I thought I would try and look into the future as it relates to Urban Terror and SID.

While I do not promote The 6th Floor as a SID sponsored site, this is my web site and has been since I registered the6thfloor.com back in 1999. Since that time, I have made a transition from Action Quake 2 to Urban Terror. So I thought I would take a few minutes look at potential happenings in the community. Of course all of this is pure speculation, until it is made official on their the Urban Terror or SID web sites. Then again, I do have some inside information.

Let’s go back to 2003, August 9 was the 3.1 release of Urban Terror, as usually it drew some criticism, as any release ever does. But it did beg the question as to “what’s next?” We finished out the year playing 3.1 and to be honest, the community was probably shrinking in size. The development team had continually stated, “we are not giving up on Urban Terror.” They have stood behind every release, even as community members continued their insults and complaints. Those seems to linger more than the positive comments and support for the mod and team. But those negative comments are the ones that we build off of.

To open 2004, the community was probably surprised at such a non-event release as Urban Terror 3.2. The patch was released Friday, January 16, with an excellent turn out in both #urbanterror channels on ETG and Quakenet. Not the biggest release, but one of the best in probably the past 12 months. Again, this is from MY eyes, not that of the development team.

With eleven months left in the year, what is left for Urban Terror to accomplish? The development team started as a virtual no name group of avid gamers wanting to give something back and create a mod. Since that time, the mod has grown and expanded and we have brought many hours of enjoyment to those Quakers who enjoy playing a realism based shooter. So what is left? Many gamers continue to ask for the source code, in order to make “their” version of Urban Terror. I recall The A-Team made their source code for Action Quake 2 available after they abandoned the community and the project. As for SID, don’t plan on getting your grubby little hands on our code. Sorry to burst your bubble.

I don’t think it’s much of a secret that SID has been talking to id Software since 2000 and our first roadie to Mesquite, Texas for Quakecon. But recently, the lines of communication were brought back to life and discussions about a project were reintroduced. Many gamers want to see the legacy (we do have a legacy, don’t we?) to live on with Urban Terror and not die when Quake 3 dies. And no, I don’t think Quake 3 is dead, still many gamers playing the game. The increasing problem is finding a retail copy of the game, which makes the fan base a bit stagnate. Are their solutions? There sure are.

Splashdamage, began their amateur career as a group of avid gamers, playing Quake 3 and wanting to do more. This group created Quake 3 Fortress and was invited to Quakecon 2000 in Mesquite, Texas. At that time, their vision was much further along than that of SID. They were already in the planning and proposal stages when they met with Robert Duffy and a few other members of id Software. Since their Q3F days, they have gone on to release Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, which is one of the most highly successful stand alone releases to date. While I don’t know all the details behind the evolution of ET, it was released free to the any gamer. Nothing to buy, so their fan base is relatively unlimited. How many gamers can pass up a free game, with no strings attached?

Now why do I bring up Enemy Territory? I do so only because there has been talk last year that SID could possible port the game to ET, which would further Urban Terror and gain an entirely new fan base, while still supporting their current gamers. When you look at the upcoming game releases, like Quake IV and DOOM 3, two of the more notable games that have been mentioned to us, you see these are still slated for a late 2004 release (pending any delays). Not to mention, if SID went commercial, we would not have to put together capital in order to purchase the new engine. Have you ever heard rumors of how much these game engines run? Let’s just say you would need to win the lotto to help pay for it.

I do believe Urban Terror will continue to provide hours of entertainment through 2004. Many gamers cannot stay on the “leading edge” of hardware technology, as it is continually changing and improving. But finding a retail copy of Quake 3 will start to cause more issues as the years continue to add up since its original release. The mod is still supported throughout the world by leagues such as Clanbase in Europe and the Team Warfare League in North America. The development team is still in full support of the mod, which reflects on the support from the community. Lastly, I continue to hear many comments from gamers saying it is still the most fun they have had playing online. Even as new games enter the retail sector, especially the WW2 or realism based shooters. Many say they continue to return to Urban Terror.

So, the future does look bright for Silicon Ice Development and Urban Terror. Now that 2004 is here and we have a very good release in Urban Terror 3.2, we can look forward to a 3.3 release. After that, there are many doors open for the development team.