Oswald Rant: In Control

Before sitting back and enjoying the development side of gaming, I only knew gaming in terms of playing. Development was something that I took no interest in. Like many of you, I asked the dumb question, made an ass of myself (like many of you) and had people flame me for asking. All I wanted to know was is the server full or empty, because I want to play.

I now look at Urban Terror and gaming in general from three angles. First, as a gamer. As I have admitted before, I am not good, average at best with an occasional “streak of luck.” Second I look at the game as a developer. Knowing where we have come from and what are future plans include, allow me to see the “big picture.” This is a luxury that gamers in the community do not have. Finally, I view it from that of a server administrator. While still engaged in the learning process, being active in this capacity helps to support the mod. This is the aspect I want to focus on today.

One feature that all server admins have is that of power. Many, like myself pay out of pocket for their servers, upwards of $100US a month depending on the number of client slots. This means, you ultimately have complete control of what goes on in your server.

Considering this new found power, attempting to administer the server yourself can be a real challenge. If you are new, like I am, you have an endless list of questions, not really sure how to configure the server of map cycle, or how to draw gamers to your server. This last point, I feel a bit fortunate for two reasons. First, I am part of the development team and second, the existence of the web site.

Beyond that, the choices get difficult, who do you entrust with these sacred powers of “Admin” in order to watch over your server. Of course EVERYBODY wants to be an admin, they want the control. Administering a server means more than kicking or banning gamers. While these might be two of the more common actions, you play an important role in server development. Admins must be open to criticism and suggestions in order to improve the position of the server. Servers, like Poop of FSK that are highly visible servers, have respected admins who play and help monitor all the action taking place in the server. Probably the most important function of is the implementation of the configuration and map cycle on the server. If there are not levels and gamemode(s) the community wants, your server will be nothing more than a money pit (remember the movie?). Admins need to pay attention to what gamers are saying about the levels. What levels cause gamers to disconnect? What levels are they continuing to callvote or ask for? Admins also need to make sure they have the levels on their server accessible. I use a message when each map loads that gives the URL, www.the6thfloor.com/server.htm. This link allows gamers to see the current map cycle, and details of each. Other servers like FSK have their own website, www.kickassctf.com. As long as you make the tools available, gamers should have enough information about your server.

There is a mind boggling amount of information on the Internet on how to implement and administer a server. Many in the Urban Terror community have been more than helpful to give you pointers. I was fortunate tha Mumblez and SteppinRazor of .223 allowed me to use their server configuration and map cycle as templates in order to configure my, well our (Hottlipz and I) server. Since the launch of The 6th Floor server, it has undergone one name change. It is required to have a catchy name, “Hottie’s 6th Floor Hideaway” works nicely. We also update the map cycle on a regular basis. Recently, we have concerns about Golgotha2 by Dick Dastardly. Since the spawns are on top of the flags in CTF, a long spawn time is required, which makes gamers wait around more than playing. Gamers a join a server to play, not wait.

One last piece of information regarding a map cycle are the inclusion of community created levels. While I have been a big supporter of community involvement, especially level design, it becomes a crapshoot when you begin adding community levels. I have said it many times before, but there are only a handful of community levels I would think of placing into my map cycle. Why? Because many gamers will not have the level or not like the level. This first point goes back to what I said a bit ago, make the levels available. While it will ultimately be my decision, as admin, to what is in the cycle, it will be the community who sways this decision.

Owning and administering a server requires constant attention. If you want to tackle the challenge, go in with no preconceived notions that it will be an immediate success. Once you have established your server, be respectful of players, but keep control of what goes on. Being available, of having trusted admins control and watch game play helps to improve the overall attitude on the server. Hopefully gamers understand, this is a free service to them, so don’t be pissed off if you are kicked, even banned for repeated offenses. You do not foot the bill, we do.