Sunday Night Terror

Okay, maybe early evening in Europe and the afternoon in North America, but there was some mucho grande testing going on today for the upcoming release of Urban Terror. I know I sound like an LP that skips by saying, “it’s coming” or “when it’s done” but today was a very good testing session, one of the biggest on record.

I know, you are sitting there saying, “how can you NOT have a big testing session with all the people you have in QA?” Believe it or not trying to coordinate more than 6-8 gamers at any given time is a challenge. Either it’s too early in the US or too late in EU. But with a bit of advanced planning and some notice we had up to 20 gamers fraggin’ ass today for Frozen Sand.

Basically, it was a “stress test” to make sure A) the server didn’t crash, B) there were no glaring issues that would put a stop to the countdown to release and C) that everyone had fun, because that is the name of the game. If the game is no longer enjoyable, then what use is it to play it, right? I was there on and off for about 45 minutes in between “daddy duties” and working on Hottie’s box (no, her computer). But I was able to test Tombs, Elgin, Thingley and Proving Grounds. All played very well, considering the changes. We were trying all three game modes, TS, CTF and Bomb in order to see where the problems were, if any existed. Sure, there were some minor issues, but as I was told they are “easy fixes.”

So what does this mean for you, the Urban Terrorist who wants to get their hands on a copy of the new Urban Terror? Well, pay me enough I can get it to you early. LOL, just kidding. With the cancellation of Urban Radio, BIGGER plans could be in the making for next weekend. As Matt Drudge says…Developing…

QA: The Circle of Trust

While my web site is not directly related to the continuing development or support of Urban Terror I do bring up some related items from time to to. Over the years our development team, formerly known as Silicon Ice Development has learned quite a lot as is relates to development. One area we originally did not put too much thought into prior to version, Beta 2.0 was that of quality assurance testing. The development team was the testing team, so needless to say those first few releases were spotty at best with many bugs. Just look at the readme from any version prior to 1.27.

I can still recall lining up gamers, both in Europe and North America to act as testers for the upcoming Beta 2.0 release. It was an exciting time, as we were about to provide an upcoming release to a closed group of gamer in order to get their feedback and input. We must not have put too much thought into this testing because we had numerous problems that arose from the formation of this group.

The first problem was that of the files being freely distributed by a few gamers, who were supposedly trustworthy individuals. Chalk that problem up to a learning experience and something that was not address until a few years later during development. It was a simple fix too, but we missed it early on in development. I recall connection to a Beta 2.0 server before we officially released it being played by gamers who had “obtained” a copy of the beta. While their comments were not all positive, it really did not play into the overall success or failure of the eventual release.

More recently, with team members who have now been together upwards of 3 years we have a more stable ground on which we develop and communicate. Sure the development cycles have gotten longer, such as 3.7 to the upcoming version, as we failed [or didn’t plan] to release a version during 2005. During this time we have had a more dedicated group of gamers from the community anchoring our Quality Assurance Team.

This group, while not grossly huge plays an important role in the overall development of Urban Terror. Along with play testing and bug hunting, it is the QA Team who provides changes to current features, for example the weapon damage values. The development team has become more “open” in changes brought to them by the QA Team. It is this sort of working relationship that will help bring about another successful release.

We do not try to please all the gamers, be it in the community or on the QA Team. We would die trying and still not achieve the goal. We do have a solid cross-section of gamers who participate, from the hard core, “pro” gamer to those who, well play like me. Sucky! Nothing wrong with this sort of spectrum of gamer, as each will look at the game a bit different.

There have been gamers in the past who would not be pleased regardless of what was said or done. It’s unfortunate those individuals must go a different direction and not be taken serious. Most will go looking for their “5 minutes of fame” by mouthing off and playing down a release. We have seen it before during development of those “gamers” trying to grab the attention. As if they think it will get them noticed or get anything changed, it won’t

Regardless of those outside the “circle” the development team has been upfront with all the impending changes that will be implemented in the new version of the game. This is what The 27 Days of Terror was all about. I have done a good job [so I think] on not sugar coating bullshit and presenting it to the community. Last week’s Urban Radio show was a no frills Q&A show that answered those questions from the community. Outside of not directly answering the standalone question and breaking down each change to the weapons, the community was very supportive on the upcoming version of the game.

Since that show and our announcement of releasing a standalone client the future looks great for Urban Terror and the community. How long will this success last is anyone’s guess. One year? Two years? Regardless of the level of success the release will bring new blood to an old, but supportive community. Thankfully with those gamers within our circle of trust [QA] and the best gamers in the community Urban Terror will continue to live on and thrive.

Oswald Rant: I Can Beta Test

During the development cycle of Urban Terror Beta 2, Silicon Ice Development took on community gamers as “beta testers.” Some will contest that development has gone downhill since the release of Beta 1.27, but beta testers have been involved in every release since Beta 2. Those beta testers came to be known as the Quality Assurance Team, who work on testing releases before they are released to the community at the end of a development cycle.

In order to dispel some of the myth, here are a few facts about the gamers who make up quality assurance.

Myth: You have to be a kiss ass, brown nose or “suck up” to the development team to be included in quality assurance testing.

Fact: There is no application to join this group of gamers, development team members agree upon someone and offer them the opportunity to act as a tester.

Myth: The gamers that make up quality assurance are not “skilled” and are just friends of the development team.

Fact: The gamers SID have represent a cross section of the community and include a wide range of skills, system specs and Internet connections.

Myth: Testers do nothing but play the mod, that is why there are so many bugs when SID releases a new version.

Fact: QA gamers are continually testing and reporting issues and problems to the development, while working with the team to resolve these problems before releasing a build.

Not really sure what resolve that will provide to the community as most everyone who contacts me or another team member, feels they could have caught a bug that QA or SID missed. We have seen this for months now. It goes something like, “Oswald, I should be a beta tester because I would have caught [insert bug here] and I am a skilled gamer who knows what to look for.” Some might have a valid case too, but for the most part the development team is very pleased and trusting of those gamers who are involved in our development for Urban Terror.

Up until this release, SID never really announced the members on the QA Team. If a gamer wanted the community to know, then it was up to them to make that known to the community. Even now, if there is an issue with any gamer on the QA Team, then issues should be directed to Silicon Ice Development and not the QA Team member.

We also ask the QA Team not to give “too much” information out the community when it comes to testing. It also goes without saying that any files or information released to them prior to an official release should not be compromised. Again, this is a touchy area, as can be difficult to judge someone’s character and integrity over the Internet. QuakeCon helped to add a few new members, as SID was able to meet a few face to face, which usually provides some reassurance.

During this last development cycle the quality assurance team played an imperative part to our development. Many of them have been involved for close to a year and have dedicated as much time as some of those on the development team. Staying up long hours with the coders and SID members in order to resolve problems at that eleventh hour of development.

This group of people have a huge responsibility and have been able to take much of the sometimes, harsh criticism in stride. Looking back at the end of this development cycle and the release of Beta 2.6, it was not more than one hour before the bug issues came rolling in. Along with the phrase, “How could you miss this during testing?” *sigh* As for this last cycle, we are still looking into the causes, in order to answer, “why.” We have thoughts and theories, but will keep them internal until we can confirm them.

Looking back on development with and without the quality assurance team, this group has taken a very active roll in the mod. I don’t think any of us on the development team could think of development without their support, effort and attitudes. They truly have played a big role in the success of Urban Terror.

Oswald Rant: Locked and Loaded

Comments such as, “You guys suck,” “Didn’t you test these weapons,” “So much for skill, the mod caters to n00bs and luck,” seemed to flood the Urban Terror community with the release of Beta 2.5. There were some changed made to numerous weapons, that were not very well received by some in the community.

As SID continues to develop Urban Terror, some would contest the mod will never be as “good” [and I use that term lightly] as it was back during Beta 1.27. Yeah, remember that version? Everyone using the UMP45 and spamming like there was no tomorrow. There have been many changes not only to the mod, but most notably the weapons.

Beta 2.3, 2.4 and 2.5 all introduced new characteristics to the weapons. Some gamers feel they are being cheated, because they need to relearn a weapon. In the case of 2.5, we reduced the effectiveness of the machine guns, which makes “lucky” headshots a bit more prevalent. This is a characteristic we are looking at removing and making skill play more of a factor.

Some “old school” gamers are under the impression the development team must listen to them, just as some clans have moved on because they were not receiving the attention they felt they should because of their tenure in the league. In effect, the development team should listen to everyone who plays the mod, the new gamer, the old schooler, admins and clan members. It is mod for the community, by the community.

During the hiatus SID is on, we have seen many of the negative weapon comments subside and the real colors of the community come shining through. Many gamers continue to support the mod and understand that there are changes constantly happening.

After coming out of this hiatus, weapons will be tweaked and modified, based on comments we see from the community, in an attempt to “finalize” their characteristics. Does this mean they will never change? Of course not. It does mean the community will have some input as to how the weapons should act and feel.

As the team continues to say, we do take an active interest in our community and feel by doing so lines of communication are much better. The development team enjoys talking to those who continue to support the mod and want to see it improve. For your patience and support, we thank you.