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.

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.

Future Development

December, 1999. That was the year I became a member of the development team working on an unknown Quake III Arena modification called Urban Terror. After 8 years there are a dedicated few who still turn the gears that drive continued development of the mod. Based on the figures, the number of players today are just as strong, almost better than years back, when v1.27-v2.0 were at their high points. That is a testament to the support of the development team that the product is still a quality product, even if the engine is outdated. It is also a testament to the gaming community, not only those who make the core but also the new gamer who is welcomed into the community.

I have the utmost respect for the folks I have known for years who founded FrozenSand, LLC. They are a highly talented group, who given the resources could really take the Urban Terror concept and go retail with it. Unfortunately, game development is not that simple. Venture capitalists are not found on every street corner ready to thrown out millions in development costs for an unknown potential in return.

Unfortunately my current position on the team has faded. I’ll be the first to admit I never played a big role in actual development, I make that no secret. I never learned to code anything past Basic and Integer on my old Apple computer. I have no skill to create models or turning a blank model into a highly detailed character. I did give level design a shot after loading up Radiant. Unfortunately, time is one thing you need as a level designer in order to create a quality level. Time was something I did not have much of, but I did learn quite a bit. I never considered myself an expert, but I could tell a good level from a piece of shit.

So what did I do? Initially I took over running the public relations side of development. This I was good at, still am, but nearly 9 years later the game sells itself. It does not need much promotion (regardless of what some individuals think). Of course when a new version is released, the information will make the rounds on some game related web sites.

Gamers in the Urban Terror community are treated considerably different than in other community. Of course you would think some have never played an FPS game and don’t feel they need to take the time to read some basic instructions on how to set up your keys for the game. Somehow that responsibility ends up falling on the development team. Why, I still don’t know. Overall the gamers make the game an enjoyable experience and go out of their way at times to assist new gamers in the Urban Terror experience.

So after all these years what does the game need? Why do we continue to see “request for new features” those days are long since gone. There are very few features that need to be added to improve the game. I do think the best thing would be to put this version of the game to rest by finishing development (which has ALWAYS been a goal of ours), take a break and work on a new project. Gamers out there always ask, “but what happens to Urban Terror?” As the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end.” But at this point it is the community that keeps the game alive, not the development.

Many of those involved for years have received no pay and have put up with lots of bullshit, to put it bluntly. We continue to believe we have a great game that will continue to taste success, but for the health of the development team we must move on, especially if we want to take our talents to retail.

As I have written before, what does the future hold for FrozenSand? I don’t know. We have some different ideas kicking around. Sure there were ideas to port Urban Terror to Enemy Territory, followed by working on a concept demo (MX was the working title) in order to showcase our talents. While neither of those panned out we still have other ideas that could not only benefit the development team by those in the community we have created.

We continue to hear and read different rumors as to what we doing. While I won’t confirm or deny what our next move is, I will say we look forward to working on projects in the future. As for Urban Terror, hopefully we see it on an updated game engine with improved graphics and the same style/speed of game play.

Friends of Terror

It is still hard to believe there is a group of dedicated individuals who have the desire and make the effort to keep Urban Terror alive. The fact we still have a very strong and dedicated community is a contributing factor to the longevity and success of the game.

I have been fortunate over those years to meet (yes, face to face) with many individuals on different levels as it relates to Urban Terror, from the invite to Quakecon in 2000 and 2001, to LAN parties in NoCal, SoCal and Colorado Springs and an appearance on TechTV (when it was around). There have been closed door, sit down meetings with Activision and id Software, which was more of a “wow factor” for me at the time since we did not know where we wanted to take Urban Terror.

If I knew then, what I know now, Frozen Sand (at the time, Silicon Ice Development) could be mentioned being on par with Splash Damage. Those guys had their shit together! They also had an amazing group of talented individuals. Not saying our development team hasn’t, because we have had over the years many contribute to the game.

Meeting gamers, executives, sponsors and personalities alike have been some of the best memories I have had. I mention this because I was able to meet Lt1 (aka Rob Bergman) last night, as he flew into NoCal for some training. Now, it’s not often that an opportunity arises, which will have gamers come in contact with each other, let alone team members. Remember, outside of meeting INVIS, BladeKiller and RabidCow I have not met the other talent on our team. But we have all worked together for nearly 4 years (if memory serves me correct).

It’s always interesting to put an alias to face, face to a voice and a voice to the online persona. I flashback to Quakecon 2001 when I was employed by TsN and our station was covering the event. I wanted to meet WarWitch, who at the time covered RtCW and was just an amazing announcer, complete with an entire online persona. With his voice, I expected something other than I got. Here stands a short, maybe 5′-5″ guy with a dark ponytail. Really blew my mental image of him, but nonetheless a great person and top class shoutcaster!

LAN parties are always interesting, especially when they were Urban Terror specific. Now I attended a weekly LAN in SoCal and Urban Terror was still rather new, but when our group made the transition to Quake III Arena, we played it every weekend. I did attend the .223 LAN in NoCal in 2003, which was also the first time I met Hottlipz face to face (little did I know we would marry a year later), along with many gamers from .223 and some other local Urban Terror players.

A few larger LANs featured Urban Terror and I was fortunate enough to attend those as well. Once in Los Angeles, where I was on hand to award the winner a custom Urban Terror case that was specially designed and constructed in Australia. I was also fortunate enough to attend EverLAN in Colorado Springs a few years, once when they did use an older version of Urban Terror.

Again, it is the people who make the game. I could sit here and rattle off a list of people who I have met and known over the years. I would love to have the time to go on a world tour just for Urban Terror. I know it sounds silly (Oh, remind me to talk about my East Coast trip!), but I think it would be a great time! I am sure there are enough gamers worldwide, I could shack up with, drink beer with and game with that could easily fill one month of travel.

The itinerary would include a trip south to Los Angeles and a stop by the GGL offices, where Epileptic Gaming transmits from, because djWheat is still Inside the Game. From there it would be on to Phoenix, Arizona to hook with Blankz, also of iTG. You can blame him for getting me involved in shoutcasting, thus the reason I can’t say Euro names correctly. I would fly to Colorado and check in with Spellbinder, because he has been a long time friend. This would be a coordinated trip to stop in Mesquite, Texas for Quakecon and countless people I know at that event including: Evil John, Tapper, Precious Death, the guys at id Software, especially Robert and of course, just to keep the list short Splash Damage.

The East Coast swing would include a stop to visit with Ghozt, AGBD and Fragging Newby. Hopefully we could find MFDoom, yes the now married Doomy and Capt. Porno. I went shooting with these guys and hung out with them years ago and it was one of the most memorable trips. Especially when you don’t know dick about some guy who goes by ‘A Giant Black Dude.’ Maybe a quick stop over in Florida to kick the shit out of BasiLisK.

The European tour would start with a stop in Portugal, why? Because I still feel they are the best community of gamers going for Urban Terror (yeah flame me, then fuck off, it’s my website and my opinion). From there it would be on to England to see Dick Dastardly and his flatmate, Qster and lord know who else we would find in and around the UK.

A trip would not be complete with traversing he frozen tundra of Sweden, Denmark and Finland (sorry Norway!). Definitely stop by House Valhalla! Many in the Danes and Swedes on the list who have been supporters for many years. A tour of the Rhine, well, Germany to meet Warbird (aka Wolfseye), since he has become a good friend.

An intersting stop would be Slovania, because of SLOfaca, Blaz especially and many of his countrymen have been wonderful to cover and talk to over the years. The Netherlands would mark one of the final stops, to meet “Whoa Keeley” or woekele. I need to forgive my lack of knowledge, but I would want to hook up with J0E and Preat of Then again I would hope J0E is not nekked getting into the shower.

I could go on and on about the names, faces and places. But it would be an endless cycle. It has been many years and gamers come and go, but it is interesting to note how many names return to Urban Terror saying something like, “this is the only game I come back to play.” Hopefully this sort of comment is typical through out the community. It has been one helluva ride over the years and hopefully there is more in store for our community and us, as a development team.

Parting shot, I must apologize for not mentioning dokta8, Sam Hinton, one of the original coders. He was a big influence on me, a great friend and the one who got me involved.

Blood. Sweat. Cheers.

This is always an exciting time for the development team, as the hours tick down and we close in on release day. I wish I was scheduled different hours these past few weeks to offer up my services to BladeKiller because she has been the “heart and soul” of this development cycle. Without her strength, the mod would not be where it is right now, on the verge of release. I am quite sure she is a ball of stress and she works feverishly to get everything completed and packaged for the April 1 release.

Woekele has been a welcomed addition to the team. He works very well with TwentySeven and BladeKiller as the team continues to push forward. The same can be said for QA, many of the testers, for example [T]Stone seems to be around all the time and willing to lend his services to testing as a moment’s notice.

My stress level is starting to build as we get closer to Sunday. I am still working on coordinating the release and will maintain the files and provide those individuals with access in order to host the files. The release party on Urban Radio will get the festivities started. And if previous shows are any indication, I am sure many will be calling for the files even before the show begins. Patience my little minions, you will have to wait until the show is over.

The effort of the development team might go unnoticed once you finally drop into a server and play the new version of Urban Terror. Many countless hours of blood, sweat and more blood make it all worth it when the files are released and gamers are populating servers at a rising rate. Hopefully the decisions Frozen Sand has made over the course of this development cycle will help equate to a success and popular release of Urban Terror.

Many gamers ask me, or tell me, “Urban Terror is dead.” I beg to differ on many levels. Our core community is strong and I am sure they would follow us regardless of what game we were working on and offer up their services to help test. There are still leagues that support Urban Terror, so the competitive side of Urban Terror still lives, although it has been dwindling at a good rate, this release will give it a shot in the arm and I think we will see more clans participate. The functionality of the stand-alone files and the impending support of BattlEye means that ANYONE without Quake III Arena will be able to play the game.

These are just a few factors that lead me to believe the game will continue to see success in the community, on public servers and in leagues. Hopefully this will mean a larger community that continues to play and support Urban Terror for a few more years. The development team continues to support a game they love and I am sure the same will hold true for those in the community.