Oswald Rant: The Age of Immaturity

When I began taking notice of new action based, realism mods which were to succeed Action Quake 2, there was a modest list of possible candidates. By no stretch of the imagination did I think I would find myself on the “inside” looking out, answering questions and pimping a mod like Urban Terror. But something has been bothering me since the days of Quake 2, while involving myself in Action Quake 2 and associated web sites, until now. It deals with the professionalism, or lack thereof and respect between competing mods and people in the community. This is something which has to be dealt with in the only way I see possible, by voicing my opinion.

When it comes to developing mods, only the people behind the scenes know what is false and what is fiction when it comes to their mod. While many people see the beta and eventually the finished product, there is a considerable dedication and effort put forth to create a mod/total conversion that will give you a sense of accomplishment and create excitement in the gaming community. Unfortunately, respect is something every team must earn, either based on previous experience or their current project. It is not something which happens overnight. You must work to achieve it. Now that I am a team member of Silicon Ice Development, I feel it is my responsibility to defend the mod when slander is turned upon it. Like most forums, there are some who not only use the First Amendment of the Constitution to their advantage and speak their mind. But before engaging your literary skills, indulge us all and use that mushy, gray mass between your ears. It was put their for a reason.

In a strong, player backed community like Quake or Half-Life, both of which are sponsored by GameSpy Industries and their affiliated Planet System, there are many who seem to think making an impact means saying what is one their mind without hesitation. While hearing it from prospective players is to expected, getting an earful from other development team seems to lower the level of professionalism. This fact is compounded by team members returning fire of their own in defense of what they work long and hard on. In hopes of making it successful.

When it comes to criticism, the cold, harsh realism may be difficult for some to swallow. Others look upon it, accept it and attempt to better themselves with it. There comes a time when some lob salvos in search of attention, or to make themselves look, “high and mighty” by talking down to a development team. Is this really needed? Does it serve any sort of relevance? No, usually not. It is just that need to stand up, pound you chest and feel dominating. Now sit your ass back down and take notice!

The only thing talking down to a competing development team does is make you look unprofessional. It basically becomes a, “my dad is bigger than your dad” type of argument, one which makes both teams and all participating look quite childish. What sort of message does this send to those interested in the mods? Not only am I talking players of all ages, but gaming web site giants like PlanetQuake and PlanetHalf-Life, big time developers like id Software and Epic. It makes everyone involved look foolish and immature. This scope can also be expanded to include the rivalries between gaming communities, like the aforementioned examples.

What’s the solution to this ever increasing enigma? Remember back to your childhood, and heed those words of your mother, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, do say it at all.” Or if you mother never said that, listen to Fargo from PlanetQuake when he says, “STFU!” I am sure most of you can identify with the latter saying. This does not make you look intelligent or cool. It makes you look like an idiot.

While this rant is not directed at any particular group, it has been something I have noticed becoming more and more of a problem. I can remember my first early experiences with Quake 2 DM, finding a good server and fragging with the same group of people on a regular basis. Somewhere, somehow the community seems to be coming apart at the seams because there are no morals or etiquette to be followed. Basically it is every man/woman or every mod for themselves. A battle to the death, like Captain Kirk and that green alien from Star Trek.

If you remember one thing, remember this. What makes a community, like Quake, so strong is the continued support from avid gamers. It is also the development teams that come together to show off their talent and go above and beyond the call of duty to create what many of us come to find exciting. Mods. Without mods, games like Quake 3 and Half-Life would be just another game. Which, after awhile would collect dust sitting on the shelf above your computer.

An Open Letter…

Today is a bit of a different update, and is more of an open apology to the group who is working on the community mod, Reaction Quake 3. A bit of background before I get to the heart of the matter. Reaction Quake 3 is a “port” of Action Quake 2 to the Quake III engine. The mod is community based around the desire to “breath new life into Action” and maintain those features which made Action Quake 2 so great!

Back in January I composed a rant titled, “The Porting of Levels” which centered mainly around level designers in the Urban Terror Community desiring to recreate famous Action Quake 2 maps for the mod. While we ask for the cooperation from the community, most respect our request and have not introduced these levels to Urban Terror. Not even Gerbil’s Urban! I did make numerous statements which shed a negative light on the Reaction Quake 3 project by asking the question, “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?” This same sort of question was asked of Urban Terror after the release of Beta 1 by Oddjob himself, who’s opinion I respected as I defended our project as it resembled Action Quake 2.

A few days ago, a link to that rant found its way into the Reaction Quake 3 Forums [Click here to read thread] and their community took offense [rightly so] to some of the comments I made. I can accept that, as everyone is entitled to their opinion. Unfortunately when that rant was written, the mod was still fairly new and not much information [on the web site] was available. The only real information was obtained via the RQ3 Forums and ICQ.

I had no intention of creating bad blood between the mods, but some has surfaced based on the comments I made. The porting of levels and bringing to life a “re-Action” is what this community is about. They are out to port Action Quake 2 over to Quake III. While they intend on porting many of the popular levels, like Sludge, Kumanru, TeamJungle and the aforementioned, Tequila. There will be also be new levels created for Reaction Quake 3.

While I will stand behind the comments I initially made, I have been brought up to speed on the scope of their project, thanks to many “colorful” e-mails, ICQ messages and the RQ3 Forums. Hopefully they will accept this as a form of apology, as I was not attempting to discredit their work or mod. At the time I was a bit misinformed in some of the statements I made. Good luck to RQ3, as I know there will be many AQ2 faithful who will stand behind your product.

Oswald Rant: Community Mappers

I take much pride in what I have accomplished on The 6th Floor. What began as a small, unknown map review site for Action Quake 2 has grown to become a popular fan site for Urban Terror. While I never expected this to happen, nevertheless I am glad to be part of the community, offering my services, opinions and reviews.
I receive quite a few e-mail and ICQ messages from gamers in regards to the reviews I write on The 6th Floor. Seeing as it’s my site, I guess I have the right to post whatever I want without input or comments from outsiders. Some of the recent comments have attracted my attention, unlike previous ones. The comments go a bit like this. “Don’t you think your review of [insert map] was a bit hard, wonder what [insert map author] will think?”

While I review maps and write corresponding reviews for the Urban Terror maps, I have the utmost respect for anyone who decides to accept the daunting task of creating a map. While you might tell yourself, “Oh I can do this. Just toss a few brushes together and slap some textures on it.” There is much more that goes into a successful level design and its not as easy as you may think.

Why is it there is such a disparity between Silicon Ice Development created levels and third party, community created levels? I believe part of the success of the SID levels come from experience. More than anything else, it helps to have level designers like, BBQ, Gerbil!, NRGizeR and WetWired, all of whom have previous experience from Action Quake 2 and know their way around an editor like QERadiant.

If I am “too hard” on mappers, then maybe they should try and obtain feedback and criticism from those in the community who create levels. Of course you ask the every day player about a new map and they will surely, fill your ear with nothing but lies and misconceptions about your newly created level. Community developers must pay more attention to details, as many minor problems add up in the end. Things such as textures placed backwards, portions of the map scaled incorrectly, overlapping textures. These are but a few of the common mistakes that mappers continue to make.

What do I think of the overall quality of the community maps created for Urban Terror? Many of them need work. A few of the level designers were smart enough to toss a ‘beta_’ tag on them, in hopes of receiving feedback, which to improve their level. But very few seem to take any feedback and apply it to their map. It becomes the battle of “quantity” over “quality” in terms of maps for Urban Terror. I would rather see fewer maps, which were continually tweaked and modified until they something other than average.

In the end, hopefully the community knows and understands that Silicon Ice Development is there to help them improve upon their levels. The community can be a valuable source for information, if you are able to extract the constructive criticism from the nonsense. If you want your level to be recognized, then spend the time and go the extra mile when creating it. Good, quality maps are imperative to any mod’s success. Urban Terror is no different.

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.”

Oswald Rant: Blinded By Counter-Strike

After checking PlanetQuake for the latest news last night, I ran across a news article posted by Spyke titled, Is Counter-Strike Killing The Community? authored by Merlin who wonders, “if the mod community can go back to the days of Quake and Quake 2, when many different mods had their own piece of the scene.” But thanks to the success and popularity of Counter-Strike all the other mods seem to be left, “holding the bomb” as the timer flashes 00:00.

I tend to agree with some of the observations and comments which Merlin wrote, but that leaves me begging someone to answer the question: “Who is to blame for this mod community SNAFU?” The mod developer? The software company? The distributor? No, the reason we are seeing Counter-Strike as the big, bad bully is because of the narrow mindedness of gamers who are looking outside the box through a pair of rose colored glasses. While they continue to go crazy for Counter-Strike, many realism mods are looking to create a name for themselves, some have fresh, new ideas and engines which look impressive, while some are lacking what has made Counter-Strike so popular. Compare it to an old, ex-girlfriend, you know she is always there for you and will give it up, but it’s the extra baggage that comes with her you can’t stand.

It is the gamers’ fault because every new mod that is released as a beta is either, “a Counter-Strike clone” or “not as good as Counter-Strike.” Uh, back this APC up for a moment. Wasn’t Counter-Strike hurting for players back during its early development? Face it, Action Quake 2 was where the real action was at. As Counter-Strike developed and improved upon what Action Quake 2 was, gamers began to jump ship and make their move, as they found their new action. Counter-Strike. The rest is history. But the story does not stop there.

By far, Counter-Strike is still the highest played online game, but it is beginning to feel dated. Why not look to the community for a fresh, new spin on realism. Ahhh…I can already hear the CS Community saying, “You $#%!@ name me a better realism mod?” I have already acknowledged the fact that Counter-Strike is one of the best mods of all-time. What I am saying is expand your horizons. Both the Unreal Tournament and Quake III engine offers some great looking and playing mods based on realism, why not give them a chance. That Counter-Strike clone could actually have potential. Ease into a new mod like you made the transition from Action Quake 2 to Counter-Strike. Enter a new community, while the mod is in early development and help to make that mod successful.

Instead of trying to change, gamers will continue to support their beloved Counter-Strike. Remember even Counter-Strike began and a lowly Beta 1 at one time, when gamers would echo, “this mod sucks” or “OMFG, they are trying to make another Action using the Half-Life engine.” All mods begin small, some with potential, others with potentially nothing. If gamers continue to ignore up and coming mods, who will be there to support future endeavors of young mod teams who really do have something to offer the community?