More Maps To Shake A Stick At

Can I buy some more time, please? I always run out of time when it comes to trying to stay on top of development for Urban Terror, moderating the forums, hanging in IRC on ETG, shoutcasting for the Team SportsCast Network and my daily routine. Ah, what the hell. I guess it is time to bring you up to date on some of the “thangs” as it relates to maps.

First, a map depot, since the development team is not going to host a “real” map depot, I along with a few others will be working with INVIS when it comes to a true map haven for those homeless mappers. “Its coming. A few of the community mappers got with Oswald and expressed our concerns about maps and why people don’t play them. After a great amount of discussion we decided to come up with a new map depot that has not just every map to download from a fat pipe, but reviews and screen shots of each of them,” says INVIS.

There is an interesting level being created for Urban Terror by slinki. “The setting is an abandon bolt factory that terrorists have converted into a missile launch site…Small to mid size with plenty of vertical play to appeal to your lemming side. lots of level changing as alternate routes which makes it look bigger than it is.” A working beta of this level is available. Click here to download. Quite a “vertical” level upon first glance, for a moment you could mistake it for a vanilla Quake 3 level. I will have to see if I can obtain more information as to what he plans on doing. Very subtle change of colors depending on what side of the level you are on, blue and red hint of lights on the walls. We will have to keep tabs on this project. Here are a few shots I took while checking the design out. Again quite impressive looking.

MAD-HORSE continues to turn out some impressive looking levels. Chemical Arena, which is featured as the Latest Action Fix is another level is has under development. More recently, he has been working on a level called, ut_TrainAssault. “This is a big map.. (10 vs 10? ..15 vs 15?!) ..and there is an “armored train” that moving around the map…Assault it…soon,” says MAD-HORSE. For more information and twelve screen shots, check out this thread from the Level Design Forums. As to be expected, MAD-HORSE has some of the most highly detailed, realistic textures in this level.

Another level we have featured on The 6th Floor previously is called ut_toxic from the guys who brought you ut_rumble, Team Mapness. Still waiting on a release date for this level. I believe while fragging on Thunder’s Playpen, the map was nearly complete said du Knifen. Here are a few teasers for you. Also, check out this thread:


These are but a few of the levels under development. Still much work being down on the side of the development team when it comes to map. I finally got a near completed copy of WetWired’s ut_precinct last week. Took a long run through it and it is very impressive. Ranks right up there with Revolution, which I still continue to pimp as one of the finest levels around. Unfortunately, it gets very little play. But bomb/defuse should take care of that in due time. Maybe I will be able to share some more screen shots shortly.On a non-mapping note, I had to reinstall two of my systems the past week. My server locked me out and I was not able to hack into it. Thanks Microsoft! My game rig was action up as well, so if you sent e-mails related to mapping or tutorials, chances are it was lost. I believe I still have a few tutorials to upload.

Streets of Terror

While it was actually my dream to do a level for Urban Terror. Unfortunately my priorities have been rearranged and I do not think I will have the time or effort to put into one right now. But don’t worry, all is not lost. As I mentioned on the Urban Terror Forums, INVIS offered to out on a level that I rebuilt. The level was originally done by NRGizeR for the Beta 1 release of Urban Terror. It was updated, for Beta 2.0 and now for an upcoming version of Urban Terror will be updated once again.

Unlike the versions before it, this will be an all new version of Streets called ut_streets2. It will be playable for Team Survivor and CTF. As for future game modes, we will have to wait and see. By future, I mean the new game modes that are under development by Silicon Ice Development.

INVIS was nice enough to get a few shots for those of you yearning for all the “digital crack” you can handle. These two shots show off some of that “new car smell” of the upcoming release of ut_streets2. I have not had a chance to test the level yet, but from these shots and the layout of the minimap, along with some of the comments from INVIS, this is going to be another favorite for the mod. Check out that crane. Can you say, mad, crazy strafe jumps. uNF! Hit me!

nocheats

Feast or famine here on The 6th Floor…but after however many years I have had this site up, I am sure many come to expect that. It is not that there is no news out there. One can ALWAYS find news! Actually today, I come bearing, well, nothing at all. From the land that we, the level designer make, things are sort of in a lull. There are projects that are being worked on, as I continue to scan the Level Design Forums. Rest assured when SID releases the new .def files with some updated features, level design will take off again.

I have seen some screen shots recently of SweetnutZ [remember him?] and his latest project. You might remember hearing it as “the snow map.” We featured it here on the floor a few months back. Well, let’s just say, that this is “Raven quality” work he has done on this, now-titled-but-will-remain-untitled level. Some excellent work.

I have also completed my first full layout. Yes, I know only three years into this damn project and I finally am on my way to releasing…err…re-releasing a level. I have spent the past two days rebuilding NRGizeR’s level, ut_streets from the ground up. It has taken some time and after looking at the original .map file. Oh my god, what a nightmare! Although it was not nearly as bad as Trainyard was. At least NRGizeR knew to add hint, clip and trigger brushes. Screen shots? Uh, yeah, right. Not yet, as I have one small portion of the level actually textured, that allowed me a single “teaser” that I shared in #urbanterror yesterday. Maybe you saw it, maybe not.

Finally, the best news has been saved for the last. The new point release has brought PunkBuster to the Quake III and Urban Terror Communities. The long wait it finally over. My only suggestion. OPEN THE README132.TXT file and follow the instructions before asking a stupid question. Oh wait, there are no stupid questions, only stupid people…or something like that which brings us to our last bit of news.

The OGC bot is no more. Boo hoo hoo. I am just heartbroken for this hack. As post on the hack’s web site, “There has been a licensing problem with releasing modified quake3 SDK files. Apparently, mods can only be released in binary form, and not source form. This means I will need to rewrite alot of the Q3 SDK code OGC uses. However, once this is done, all the source will be 100% owned by me, except for the GNU crypto stuff which is also under the GPL, so can be included.” That is a no no…hahah PUNK BUSTED, BITCH! I’m out…

PS – Damn, forgot to mention, the entire reason I did this news bite. There is a new rant posted titled, Busted Punk! that talks about PunkBuster, Urban Terror and cheating. Check it out!

New Levels from SID

Ooooh, where should we start? How about with a “confirmed” rumor that the new point release for Quake 3, 1.32 will be out next week, as reported by RogeR over on Planetquake3. Of course I have been mum on the entire cloud surrounding the point release, since I did sign an NDA with id Software and was not going to compromise anything that I knew. So, the community has been digging that news, as is SID.

As promised, we are going to show off some of the work that the level designers of Silicon Ice has been up to. Some might know the name, WU. He is a level designer, who has been around the dev team from the beginning. Actually a long time member, but his only level he really did, that still remains is called Beachhouse. Maybe some of you heard or have seen screen shots of it. It was never released, due to missing textures. WU has been hard at work on a new level we featured in our ‘Latest Action Shot’ a few days ago. The level is called ut_turnpike and is a industrial/urban type area that features an overpass. Currently it only supports TS and TDM, as he told us, but he is going to look at adding CTF spawns and flags.

We will keep tabs on the progress of this level. No decisions as to when we will see this level released for Urban Terror. Also, if you check out the action shot today, Bar-B-Q [coned] has been busy, as usually. When he is not out with the [PIT] crew coning gamers, he is actually mapping. His new level is called ut_mines and features and semi-abandoned series of mines. Interesting level, some nice work, perhaps his best to date. Yeah, I know its tough to beat Rommel…we will be feature more shots of this level soon.

Ever wanna see BIG…I am talking BIG trees? Soon you will, thanks to ydnar and RabidCow. No further information on that…yet. But the screen shots I have seen are highly impressive. RabidCow, again on the cutting edge of level design and development. Props man, Twin Lakes is going to be amazing! We will present some screenies on that level soon as well.

Now, I don’t even know why I am going here, but I have been at it again, dabbling in GtkRadiant. I am going to blame Kostas this time around. I saw his level and got the bug to go back in and see if I was “skilled.” Hahaha…let’s put it this way, I have a full layout. If this work gets past the initial stages, it will make it’s way into a CTF level. Way too early for any sort of screen shots. Of course, we have seen me do this in the past. So, right now, don’t hold your breath.

Coming tomorrow, meet rustyTNT from |d’angels|, down in Australia. We will tell you about how her interview came about for the continuing Fem Fatale Series, right here on The 6th Floor.

Oswald Rant: Why Go Beta?

This week, I touch on a subject that is beginning to spiral out of control as Urban Terror continues to progress. In the past, I have ranted on such things as quality versus quantity, when it comes to level design, the community mappers and even the porting of levels. While not everyone agrees with my opinions, I feel this current situation is being abused and level designers should take a look at their work before making the decision to release their beta level.
In all my years writing level reviews and modding, do I ever remember a time when beta levels were being released almost on a weekly, if not a daily basis. Level designers are now compelled to release ut_mylevelsucks_beta1.pk3 to the community, in order to get feedback. But what exactly does a level designer do to support their release?

There are two schools of thought on this.The first and usually the easiest, since it requires no legwork by the level designer, is to post a thread in the forums and by word of mouth the level is released, occasionally being picked up by some support web sites. Other times, the level designer will e-mail this information to those same sites, looking to get their level posted and mirrored on an FTP, in order for gamers to grab and test it.

But just how successful is that? It isn’t, as gamers tend to be quite lazy, only wanting to check out a new level and make a snap decision on if it “rocks” or if it “sucks.” Usually (but not always), a beta level will not draw a second look, but like all rules, there are exceptions.

One prime example was the release of golgothabeta by Dick Dastardly. This level was a very well rounded level, based on the criteria set forth by The 6ixth Floor. But this level also fell into the same trap as many other beta maps. It suddenly found its way onto web sites as a beta map. Fortunately, this level had a good ending, as Dick Dastardly hosted some test sessions, worked out a few problems and re-released the level.

The more successful way to release a beta level, if you think your level is ready to be beta tested, is to do what laerth, author of ut_subway did. He decided to use the community to his advantage and actually did some work setting up test servers and coordinating test sessions, in order to get feedback from the community. This was not a closed test by any means. It was open to anyone who wanted to take the time to get the information and pak file and test it. These testing sessions ran through the weekend, with laerth being available for comment and starting a few feedback threads in the forums, in order to collect information pertaining to ut_subway with hopes of correcting problems and improving upon it.

What was interesting to note, was the level did not really make it’s way onto many (if any) public servers, unlike like golgothabeta. In the end, the feedback that laerth was presented with helped to create a very successful and popular community level. The time he spent, coordinating the beta test effort that helped make the difference. Unfortunately, golgothabeta and ut_subway are the exceptions to the rule. There are no fewer than fifteen to twenty “beta” levels that are currently available for downloading based on my research of Urban Terror sites. How many of those do you think get played on the pubs? One? Two? Maybe, but I doubt it. Most will spend their time, without gamers giving them a second look, or the level designer continuing to work on them.

Level designers need to concentrate more on the initial work and effort they put into their level, than just trying to get a level released. Because looking at many of those beta levels, they should not even be available for download, as many of them look (and probably are) unfinished. I use the analogy of a house being built. Would you invite your friends to a party at your unfinished house, in order for them to give you feedback? No, you wouldn’t, so why release a beta level?

As I sit here there are five levels for that Urban Terror that reside on my hard drive most, if not all will never see the light of day. Why? Because they are not completed, but compared to some of the beta releases, mine are more complete! Yet, I know I will be scrutinized, if I release a below average level, so I continue to work and develop my ideas into something better than before.

All I ask of level designers to step back and look at your level. Ask yourself, “Is my level ready?” If so, then do some work to support your beta release. Don’t rely on the development team or the community to become attached to your map, because that is not likely to happen. As mentioned above, if you feel so inclined to release a beta level, then shoulder some responsibility to organize some testing sessions in order to receive feedback. This way, you will have achieved something from being a beta, rather than having you level get stale on some FTP, knowing it won’t get played. If, without hesitation, you cannot answer, “Is my level ready?” then why release it?