Why is it…

…that gamers all think they know what is best? You don’t! The argument I always hear is, “you don’t play the game enough.” Which, I’ll agree I don’t because I have a family, a job and many other real world responsibilities to take care of. As do many others in the community. I also hear, “let me help, I played since the start and know exactly….blah blah blah” Oh, you do?

I guess 9 years of development and the team still is clueless when it comes to how we should development and promote the game of Urban Terror. One could say we are still learning and we have no idea how to get over this hump. Okay, so I am being a bit facetious with those last two comments. But I had an IRC discussion with a gamer who came at me with, “I played it since start know exactly what u need to change to make it really popular again.”

Whoa money, slow your roll. Correct me if I am wrong, but currently there are more players playing then ever before. Yes, even a larger percentage of gamers playing then back int he 2.x days. I was told, “there was always at least 10,000 [gamers]”, which is not true, Quake III Arena NEVER had that many gamers. Hell, Counter-Strike brought in about 75,000 at times. So we must have done something right along the way to be here 9 years later with gamers at a record high.

Checking GameSpy Stats, we still are the top “mod” (game) for Quake III Arena and rival other retail games such as Soldier of Fortune 2, BF 1942, AA and even ET: Quake Wars. The gamer to server ratio is much higher then any previous version as well. Again a testament to the community.

In this conversation, I will give the anonymous individual one point. In a recent poll when asked what version did you start playing Urban Terror, an overwhelming majority began with 4.x. So there are many new gamers being injected into the community. Again new gamers are not going to have the perspective many old school Urban Terrorists will. This gamer has been around since 2001 and is a good player, but his rational to make it “really a great game” and “a lot more popular with the right adjustments” is a bit skewed.

Many within the community, especially those who were never asked to participate in the quality assurance testing will usually point fingers saying they could have done a better job or how did QA miss this or that. Having an upcoming release, “carefully tested by a few group of very good players” is not how we approaching testing. We cannot cater to the so-called “pro gamer” we must development for a common denominator in the community. This is why the QA team has never been stacked with only clan gamers because you must take into consideration all skill levels and abilities.

The idea of tweaking weapon characteristics does not excite the development team or the community. There is always a collective groan when we mention we are tweaking a weapon. Look at the ruckus raised with a minor change to the SR-8. Have some freakin’ cheese with your whine! So adjusting recoil, damage or spray in order to reward a gamers aim is not going to be met with open arms.

I think many gamers would agree the weapons are acceptable (outside the thoughts on the SR-8) with the latest release. Could there be some changes? Sure, there is always room for change, if that change will truly be beneficial. I don’t think reducing damage and modifying the recoil on weapons will bring new gamers into the community. Sorry, neither does the team.

We have some definite winners when it comes to future ideas, but none of those will be implemented until we know for sure we can be reward with bags of money. Sure these ideas might not be meet with open arms by all, but then again what idea ever is? These ideas are nothing new and have been used in many other games, but it is something that gamers seem to drool over and yearn for more. Just like increasing your post count to see a new tag under your alias other than “Urban Loser.”

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Updating Old School Levels

Sometimes I wish I could put myself in your shoes, as a gamer on the outside looking in at the development team and Urban Terror. I can only use my limited experience playing Action Quake 2 and visiting the forums, as a gamer to compare with the gamers involved in the Urban Terror Community. Like many who play Urban Terror, I didn’t spend hours a days (even when I was playing games a lot) on the forums. I had no reason to, I wanted to play not bullshit with gamers in the community.

Urban Terror might be considered unique because of the longevity of the mod (which is free to play using the iourbanterror.exe) since its first release in 2000. Eight years and the game now seems to be pulling better numbers then we did 5 years ago! That is truly a testament to YOU in the community.

What many don’t understand is our rational for dropping “old school” levels or updating old levels in a way that they no longer give gamers that “old school” feeling. For example, Streets of Terror (ut_streets) was included in the v1.0 release of Urban Terror. It was a highly popular level because of its fast game play and simplistic layout. It was decided to update this level and include it in a later release. While the original .map file did exist, opening in QERadiant was a level designer’s nightmare.

I spent the better part of a month working on updating the level, fixing the brushwork trying to optimize the level for improved FPS. I did not intend to completely rebuild the level, but after discussion with INVIS and a few others more knowledgeable in level design, the more rational fix was to rebuild it. This is just what INVIS did.

Unfortunately, like many of Joe’s levels, Streets 2 was not well received. The original concept behind Streets was preserved, a simple block of a city, but Joe being Joe, truly went above and beyond, as he does with his levels and created a stunning looking level. Many believed the game play suffered because there level was much larger now, due to some underground passages and other alternate routing that was added.

When future development rolled around the team decided to drop support for many of the original levels: Streets, Docks, Trainyard, Mbase, Pressure Zone, Ricochet, Revolution, Hotel and Swim, just to name a few.

The “why” is never really understood though. Citing “developmental reasons” does not satisfy or sit well with some in the community. The Streets example should tell the story as to why there have not been more of the old school levels revived. In most cases (WetWired’s work aside possibly) each of these levels required a complete rebuild for one reason or another. Even now Swim does not support more then 6v6 or any true game modes by TS and TDM. Why, because there needs to be some major work done to the level in order to present it as we want it. That level did come back, maybe not as good as it could have been, but gamers seem satisfied by it.

Some gamers on the Urban Terror Forums continue to push the issue. Do they have a valid argument? Looking in, as many gamers do, sure they probably do. But once we have said our peace or a community member has stated valid response (not STFU!), then I think the issue should fall by the wayside.

To sum it up, here is how it works. If you want an old school level revived you have a few options:

1. Get authorization from the level designer who originally created the level. If you cannot get them to respond, then you cannot update their level.
2. Get authorization from the development team. We have provided some community level designers with the .map and have tested their changes before reintroducing the level back into Urban Terror.
3. Use the exact layout of a particular level you favor and create your OWN level based on a previous level (2Fort is a prime example in TF2).
4. If none of these answers are satisfactory, then consider the issue dead and the level to remain in the Urban Terror archive.

If none of the above reasons are to your satisfaction then sorry we cannot help you. We ask all gamers to respect our work and not update/modify/port our levels without consent. Of course some asshats disregard anything we say and do what they want. Hopefully you are not one of them.

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Never Stop Learning

As with nearly anything you do, be it in life, your job, a hobby, never stop learning. This is the essence of who each of us are. Maybe 25 years ago as a teen in high school I didn’t want to learn because there were so many extracurricular activities to partake in, such as sports and girls.

Now that I am older, a member of the daily workforce I have adopted the adage of “never stop learning.” Maybe 13 months of training at BART got this ingrained in my head because it will still be 3-5 years before there is a “comfort level” in my position.

While not a stated resolution for 2008, I have begun looking into some actual development work. I have stated from day one on Urban Terror, I am on the development team and may use the term, “developer” but outside one, digital photo of a blue rail car, I have not lent any development to Urban Terror. To be honest, I am completely fine with that, as are many of the members with whom I have worked over the years.

Recently, I started looking for online college course, which would help me better myself as a “developer.” Maybe not for Urban Terror, but for future projects that FrozenSand might create. After talking to CrazyButcher and Flash, both of whom worked on Urban Terror I decided to skip paying the money at a junior college and teach myself modeling and animation.

While books will teach you the basics of anything you do, experience and practice are what make you excel. Thanks to a few recommendations from Flash, I picked up a book titled, ‘Modeling a Character in 3DS Max‘ by Paul Steed, former modeler/animator for id Software.

Along with that book (which I have not started, but skimmed through) I bought ‘Introducing 3ds MAX 2008‘ from Autodesk, which will help introduce the basics to 3D Studio Max. I also obtained a copy of “Max” and have begun learning.

To date, since Friday, I have modeled a baby’s mobile (you know that toy that hangs over a baby crib) and animated it. While the scene uses simple primatives (shapes) and no fancy animation it was a nice, simple introduction of what is to come.

Depending on what happens with the current iteration of Urban Terror, I might have a chance to model/animate a weapon or a character. Nonetheless I am excited with the prospects of learning these skills, as well as talking to people like BladeKiller, TwentySeven, Flash, CrazyButcher and others I respect based on their work and work ethics.

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Owed What?

Why is it that some gamers think they are owed something in return for playing a game? I have never understood this. Some of those same messages are alive and kicking today in Urban Terror as well and have been for some time.

I can recall Action Quake 2, when the development team announced they would no longer support the game because of the bitching and complaining from the community. The game had lost its luster and was no longer enjoyable. Hmm, sound familiar?

If you waste a hard earned $60 on a retail game, you have a right to bitch, but unlike mod development your voice will usually fall upon deaf ears. While not every mod team approaches their work the same way, in a small, close community change is possible. No guaranteed, just possible.

Regardless of your tenure playing/supporting, respect is something that is earned, not only as a developer, but as a gamer. You cannot walk in, announce your presence, throw a few fresh words and ideas out and expect it to be well received. Urban Terror, as an example has a well informed and supportive community. Why? Because the developers took an active roll and earned the respect of those gamers. The is true some individuals in the community, not necessarily gamers, but admins and those who support Urban Terror.

So knock the chip off your shoulder, relax and enjoy your game. There is no sense walking around a community you frequent tossing around accomplishments and achievement, wanting to know what you will get in return from others. Above all have fun, that is what gaming is all about.

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Urban Terror. The Real Deal?

While I was not around when the concept for Urban Terror was originally conceived, I was a few months late to the party, but was able to become a member of the development team prior to the end of 1999. I have experienced much in the lifetime of Urban Terror and honestly I never thought I would be talking about it in 2008. Who would think a game concept from a teenager would see so much success in the future.

The future. Success. Just how successful has Urban Terror been? We were invited by id Software to Quakecon in 2000 and 2001 in order to show off our work on the game, as well as host a few round table presentations for gamers to attend. We met personally with members of id Software including Kevin Cloud, Robert Duffy and Marty Stratton. After the 2000 event, myself and Sam, aka dokta8 were invited by Activision to their Santa Monica offices to talk about the future of Urban Terror. Both of these events were the proverbial “feather in the cap” sort of experiences.

The Activision meeting would have been more productive IF we actually went in with the idea there was going to be a future for the game. Unfortunately, in 2000 the developers were really nothing more than enthusiasts who enjoyed developing the game as a hobby. Looking back, we probably did more harm than good for any future the game could potentially have.

The mod has been featured in worldwide publications from the UK, France and here in the US, as well as some of the newspapers and countless web sites wanting interviews. Again, a taste of success, but nothing that really put more then a temporary spotlight on what we had achieved.

Urban Terror was never as successful as Counter-Strike, then again very few games will EVER reach that status again, especially coming from the mod scene. It makes me wonder, the tenure we have with Urban Terror, the strong community support and now the ability to play Urban Terror without paying for Quake III, why are developers/publishers not taking notice?

In reality Urban Terror is a small fish in a big ocean, a REALLY big ocean. We have seen many retail games come and go with success so short lived it makes your head spin. Maybe I shoulder the responsibility as Project Coordinator/Public Relations saying I have not met expectations that were set. Of course, we were not incorporated until a few years ago, when Urban Terror was already established and the founders of FrozenSand, LLC now have a direction and goal they want to pursue.

That goes back to the question, why is Urban Terror not getting noticed? Part of it stems from the aging Quake III engine,we definitely had some good use out of the engine, but maybe we should start looking for a new, next generation engine to move the game to.

Urban Terror has never been heavy on the artistic side. With that said, I take nothing away from BladeKiller or the others who have spent years, countless hours and a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get the game looking like it does. But the fact is, developers and publishers want a game heavy in art assets. This is something we did hear when our demo was played by some professional developers.

Over the years we have concentrated more on game play, which you think would play a prominent role among developers, but I can’t think of any game I come back to other then Urban Terror because of the game play. This is echoed by gamers in the community, some who leave and return version or years later because of the game play. Now, if we were heavy on the art assets, would Urban Terror get the notoriety it deserves?

Nothing is ever just handed to you on a golden platter. We have been given nothing, but earned everything over the years. Our hard work, effort and commitment to Urban Terror, the community and most importantly to our fellow development team members makes us thankful for the success we have achieved. Who knows, maybe with v4.x release series we will be able to promote the game more heavily and possibly get some developers/publishers/bags of money interested in what we have to offer, not only in the game but as a development team.

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