“That level looks old!”

I was just reminiscing using the “way back machine” perusing the news I wrote while I was the Head Monkey at the AQMD (Action Quake Map Depot) back in 1999-2000. I can still remember receiving the e-mail from Death Magnet telling me he was stepping down and was handing the “reins of power” over to me. LOL.

While I cannot find the exact day, I still vividly remember the day I stepped down from the AQMD because I felt I was not fulfilling my position as the Head Monkey and my interests were moving to Quake III, in search of the “next action.” That turned out to be Urban Terror and my time and work at the AQMD became history.

A part of me wanted to leave the AQMD because the Quake 2 engine was getting dated and levels were looking old. Even new levels were retreads of old ideas and very few level designers were bringing something new to the table in terms of development. I guess I can’t fault them, but why anyone would spend months working on a level that will be tossed in an ever growing pile of already “official” AQ2 levels was beyond me. I guess each individual had their reasons.

Just the other day I had an ill feeling when I looked at some new images of a level in development for Urban Terror. Just like the day I left the AQMD, that feel returned, when the first thought was “that level looks old.” Now, I know the Quake III engine is dated, just as Urban Terror is. But even with this engine it is possible to up the level of quality before releasing a level.

Some level designers have stated they won’t spend the time taking their level to the proverbial, “next level” for numerous reasons. First, it’s too much work. Okay, I’ll give you that reason, to a point. Level design and development is nothing but work. Why half ass your work? Part of level development is improving and learning, working with techniques that will improve your skills and level. I don’t understand releasing a level that looks like it’s from 2000, when it’s 2008.

Second, there is always a chance your level will not be played. The reasons vary; FPS, poor layout or game play, or those asshats who just say, “it sucks” without reason, just to name a few. While many level designers understand this before diving head first into their levels, some don’t. After spending months and months, possibly even years on a level that last thing you want it no one playing your level. But to admit defeat before you even start is setting yourself up for failure.

I know the “basics” of level design, but I am no expert when it comes to what some in the Urban Terror Community create. I will cite INVIS, who is a consummate professional, maybe too much so when it comes to his levels. He understands level design from the inside out, knows the elements and how to construct them to create a successful and good looking level. WetWired was another Urban Terror level designer who was able to accomplish the same thing.

These are just two examples, but they worked at a different level than most other level designers. Their time, effort and persistence usually paid off. While I don’t mean to characterize other level designers as failures, I would like them to take a look at what levels have all the elements that make up a successful level. Above all other is game play, but this isn’t something that “just happens” this is something that is planned from day one. You can’t happen upon game play, you must create it.

While game play does reign supreme and is the foundation on which to build, you cannot ignore the other factors when level designing. I am hoping that some level designers understand what makes the good levels good and try to learn why another level not so good. Don’t only push the Quake III engine, but push yourself to rise above the mediocrity we see creeping into the levels that are played in Urban Terror.

The Floor in 2004

Good morning, afternoon or evening, depending on where you are. It’s only taken me 18 days into 2004 to FINALLY get off my ass and update The 6th Floor. Now before you all jump my shit asking, “Oz, why no updates or map reviews? Where are the rants? What’s the deal dude?” One thing those in the Urban Terror community don’t want are excuses. Hell, don’t you give enough of those to your parents, teachers, spouse or boss? Heheh…I know I do. Well, not the girlfriend, she’ll gimme the proverbial “knuckle sandwich” and right now I am not too hungry.

What can you expect this year from The 6th Floor? While not really considering many changes, I would like to get some more concise reviews out of more of the quality maps in the community. I admit, I am not one to jump on many community levels, because honestly many of them are not that good. Some will cite SID as the problem, because they (or shall I say we) do not promote them. Then again, why should the development have to promote something that looks like it was created for Quake 2 or worse, Half-Life? I also might not be a creditable source, because I myself have never completed any of the levels I have started. Believe me when I say, not only is it time consuming, but does take some planning and execution on the part of the level designer. I also do not consider myself an “expert” when it comes to mapping. Much of the information I present is thanks in part to an active community.

In conjunction with the upcoming release of the NEW Urban Terror Forums, I would like to run a month long poll to draw results from the community as to what the most played community levels are. Community, not SID created levels. These are already included in the distribution files, so there is no reason to include these. I’ll be honest, I like eye candy, I am sure most do. But many gamers don’t give a damn about how a many looks, but how it plays. Why do you think there are still so many playing Counter-Strike? So I would like to put together a list of 10-15 maps that are played throughout the community and see if we can pull these together into a distribution.

I think I sorta got off track here, as to why no updates since November. Over the course of the last 6 months there have been many changes in my life, outside of Urban Terror and the Internet. I have shifted my priorities somewhat and am not spending 12-16 hours a day in front of my computers, supporting Urban Terror or shoutcasting on TsN. More on that in a bit. Since the last news post, I have moved out of SoCal and up to NoCal, but still have to commute to SoCal for work. So I am spending many hours a day traveling and the time I have to spend in front of my computer has dramatically decreased. This should change around February 1, 2004. Hopefully I update before that time.

As for TsN, the Team Sportscast Network, I have resigned my position as Public Relations Director/Shoutcaster. It was a difficult decision, since I had been part of this organization for close to 2 years. But with changes in my life and scheduling of priorities, I could no longer commit the time or energy to casting. It always bothered me in the past of casters who idled in the staff IRC channel, but never casted. Being a member of the management staff, I felt I had an expectation placed on me to be a leader and set an example. I felt I had to make a decision, so I did and respectfully stepped down. TsN is still a leader in online coverage and I wish them the best. As for Urban Radio and any further Urban Terror coverage, I will be using any number of “other” shoutcasting streams, in the coming months. Normally I would turn to Spellbinder, who has gracefully offered up his server at times, along with a few others in the community.

The only other real change on The 6th Floor recently, as I mentioned a few months back, has been the addition of Oswald’s 6th Floor Urban Terror server. The admins are .223|Hottlipz and myself. We also have a few good friends who have admin or referee abilities. So far, I have been very pleased with the success of the server, sponsored by Play Dedicated. We are currently playing Urban Terror 3.2, CTF with the following map cycle: ut_pg2-27, ut_precinct, ut_oz, ut_rommel, ut_docks, ut_turnpike, ut_golgotha, ut_sliema, ut_druglord2-urt3 and ut_abbey2. Each map is specifically set with a caplimit and/or timelimit.

Beyond that, I make no guarantees as to what happens the remainder of 2004. Like previous years, I will continue to roll with the punches and see what sort of free time I have to continue updating The 6th Floor. One thing that has made the web site successful has been the input from you, the community. If you have something to say or contribute send it to oswald [at] planetquake.com. You can also find me on IRC in #urbanterror on Enter The Game or Quakenet.

Maps! Rejoice!

One of Urban Terror‘s QA guys, vynnski has been diligently working on his upcoming level, ut_suburbia He has used textures from Max Payne that are now community use textures. What a difference quality texturing makes!

These shots only show one side of the map (less than half of the total size). When complete, it will be a symmetrical map with 2 houses facing opposite directions and a road leading between them. There will also be a center section and a drain pipe tunneling underneath the center of the map which will server as an alternate route between ‘bases’,” says vynnski.

[Suburbia #1] | [Suburbia #2] | [Suburbia #3] | [Suburbia #4]
[Suburbia #5] | [Suburbia #6] | [Suburbia #7] | [Suburbia #8]
[Suburbia #9] | [Suburbia #10] | [Suburbia #11] | [Suburbia #12]
You can check out some other screen shots over on the Level Design Forum.”It’s really hard to estimate a release date. As mentioned, progress is slow right now due to the amount of time I have to map lately. Basically, things are real busy at my real job and they’ve got me working 7 days a week and 10+ hours a day. Then once I do get home, I spent time with my wife and daughter until they go to bed. So I’d like to say that it’ll be done in a few weeks but my gut tells me it could take up to a month,” says vynnski.

Another level that said “couldn’t be done” is currently being done. Hmmm…wonder if I was the one who said that? Anyway, AutoMX is out to proven critics and naysayers alike wrong. Based on his early beta screen shots from Skyscraper, we all better just STFU! Check these out:

[Skyscraper #1] | [Skyscraper #2] | [Skyscraper #2]
Well, a lot of people talking here, so I will resolve the issue (the only one):


  • 1. Stairs
  • 2. Out-of-service window washing cranes
  • 3. Service ladders
  • 4. Emergency stairs outside :: not to choke from smoke
  • 5. **Secret**AutoMX continues on about Skyscraper, “Its the top 5 floors of a 40 story-high skyscraper. The architectural elements are accurate and damn good looking too. The map is HUGE in area, perfect for TDM, FA, or anything else using 10 or more players.” It sure is looking fine. Better than many of the vertical layout maps I have seen in a very long time. Best of luck AutoMX!

    The 6th Floor would like to say, CONGRATULATIONS TO WETWIRED!!!” Brent, that’s WetWired has been hired by 4D Rulers as a level designer in Australia. This Nebraskan based company works in conjunction with Eyecon [who Wet works for] on the upcoming project, GORE. We wish him the best of luck. Not sure what that means for Urban Terror, but we do know, he will finish ut_precinct. Thanks for some excellent maps for both Action Quake 2 and Urban Terror!

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.

Damn I am Busy

Blurry-eyed and tired I finally get around to updating today…er…tonight as it is almost tomorrow. I guess for my mates in Australia it is tomorrow. Oh well, its still today, so this is the update for the 29th. Why does 8 hours never go this fast when I am at work? I can sit in front of my rig for 8 or 9 hours, look up and say, “Holy shit, where did the time go and why didn’t I get anything done?” That has been echoed that last two nights, as Apoxol has been working on reducing the size of the Beta 1.27.

Currently the new file comes with an installer which does all the work for you, just point it in the direction of your quake3/q3ut directory. Once the files install, you will be left with a single pak0.pk3 file. Kinda cool! Tonight, I am working with Yose on getting a Mac Installer together. I actually entertained thoughts of working on ut_reactor [my new map for Urban Terror]. Oh well, duty calls, what can I do?

Some new screen shots of a few maps popping up for Urban Terror. First from Australia comes Charger’f and his latest creation, “It has an Arabic feel, with a lo-tech culture situated in a sandy desert. It is, as yet, unnamed, but that is but a small problem.” For some of the latest screen shots, visit CrossFire.

I received an e-mail from Devlin & KaZ, to check out their map titled, Kriegerhorn Bergstation!. Picture a cross between the Action Quake 2 maps, cliff, cliff2 and winter. The map was inspired by, “Snowy mountains and a trip to Austria!” I will feature some shots of this map soon, after I talk to the authors and provide them with some feedback their level.

Gerbil! who is still noted for the Urban Series from Action Quake 2 has been rather quiet over the course of the past year. His first level for Urban Terror was a bit of a rush job for the hasty release of the mod at QuakeCon 2000. But Gerbil! is back and is well into development of his next attempt which is far superior in quality and layout that feeble mbase. While his underwater submarine base is yet unnamed, the screen shots seem to get better with each passing day. I hear he will soon have fish swimming in his map. What other mod will provide you with that? Check out the Latest Action Fix for his newest screen shots.

NRGizeR was brought aboard here, as we host [that sounds funny] his Urban Terror Tutorials on The 6th Floor. Not sure how much you will get out of him in terms of updates. But I will try to keep you up to date on his level design. Currently he is beginning work on a map inspired by the movie, The Three Kings, which is based on the Gulf War in the Middle East. If you have seen the movie, then I am sure you know which scene I am about to describe. There is a small Iraqi town, with George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Ice-T storm into in search of Saddam’s gold. Thanks in part to about 40 screen shots I ripped from the DVD, NRGizeR now has some reference pictures to work off of. His map will be a desert layout, based around this scene. The map should be completed in time for Urban Terror Beta 2 and should be a featured CTF map. Hopefully he and the other level designers are provided with the necessary terrain tools, which would really make the level look impressive.

It looks like I am back into that slump again. I will try like hell to get more maps reviewed. I have 4 in different stages of being reviewed, but with the last release of Urban Terror, I have been spending more time playing Mr. Answerman in hopes of providing information necessary to get all interested Urban Terrorists up and running with out latest build.