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.

Friday on the Floor

Hell yeah! It’s Friday. Strange how we always look forward to Friday and the weekend. For me, its somewhat immaterial, since my days off rotate each week. But rest assured, you will be able to find, Hottlipz and many others tonight on Hottie’s 6th Floor Hideaway. You can also join IRC, #the6thfloor on ETG and then log on to the Team Speak 2 server and have a rocking good time!

Everything is on track to return to shoutcasting (as an independent shoutcaster) Clanbase matches around February 16. I am looking forward to providing, what I think was the best coverage of the best league. Quick shout out to Tidus (my favorite Frenchie!) and Lord, who continues to do an outstanding job at Clanbase. You guys really know how to run a successful league!

As many of you know Silicon Ice Development dropped a bombshell on the Urban Terror community a few days ago, announcing their official intent to port Urban Terror over to Enemy Territory. I am sure you all want more information from me, seeing as it was my name attached to the post as to what that news on really means. Well, there is not much else I can tell you that has not already been said. The main point, that we are trying to stress is two-fold.

First, this was not a “spur of the moment” decision by the development team. This idea has been topic of conversation for many, many months. Second, I think I can relate to the Macintosh users are pissed with our decision to move to Enemy Territory. As I posted numerous responses to questions on the Urban Terror Forums, that nothing has been set in stone for Mac development. Currently, there is no Macintosh support for ET. Will it stay that way? We will have to wait and see. We have talked to relevant parties and “nothing has been ruled out.” Let’s leave it at that. Any official information on the move to ET will be posted on

I also present a new rant today here on The 6th Floor. Today’s topic revolves around server administration. I am no expert, but I now have a taste of what’s involved. Read what I have to say about servers, admins and gamers in today’s rant, In Control.

The 6th Floor server map cycle has been updated recently, you can check out the server page and see what new maps are included in the map cycle, along with the server side settings, such as cap limit and time limit. So, far the response to the server has been excellent. One minor request, this is paid for out of pocket by myself. If you enjoy the server and want to donate to the server, please use the PayPal link on the server page. Any donation is appreciated. Thanks. Enjoy the gaming!

Oswald Rant: A Look Ahead

It has been some time since I have put pen to paper…err…fingers to keyboard and get some things off my chest that fall under that category I so lovingly refer to as Oswald’s Rant. Over the past year, it was not only things that got under my skin, but reviews of LANs and just happenings centered around gaming. But to start 2004, I thought I would try and look into the future as it relates to Urban Terror and SID.

While I do not promote The 6th Floor as a SID sponsored site, this is my web site and has been since I registered back in 1999. Since that time, I have made a transition from Action Quake 2 to Urban Terror. So I thought I would take a few minutes look at potential happenings in the community. Of course all of this is pure speculation, until it is made official on their the Urban Terror or SID web sites. Then again, I do have some inside information.

Let’s go back to 2003, August 9 was the 3.1 release of Urban Terror, as usually it drew some criticism, as any release ever does. But it did beg the question as to “what’s next?” We finished out the year playing 3.1 and to be honest, the community was probably shrinking in size. The development team had continually stated, “we are not giving up on Urban Terror.” They have stood behind every release, even as community members continued their insults and complaints. Those seems to linger more than the positive comments and support for the mod and team. But those negative comments are the ones that we build off of.

To open 2004, the community was probably surprised at such a non-event release as Urban Terror 3.2. The patch was released Friday, January 16, with an excellent turn out in both #urbanterror channels on ETG and Quakenet. Not the biggest release, but one of the best in probably the past 12 months. Again, this is from MY eyes, not that of the development team.

With eleven months left in the year, what is left for Urban Terror to accomplish? The development team started as a virtual no name group of avid gamers wanting to give something back and create a mod. Since that time, the mod has grown and expanded and we have brought many hours of enjoyment to those Quakers who enjoy playing a realism based shooter. So what is left? Many gamers continue to ask for the source code, in order to make “their” version of Urban Terror. I recall The A-Team made their source code for Action Quake 2 available after they abandoned the community and the project. As for SID, don’t plan on getting your grubby little hands on our code. Sorry to burst your bubble.

I don’t think it’s much of a secret that SID has been talking to id Software since 2000 and our first roadie to Mesquite, Texas for Quakecon. But recently, the lines of communication were brought back to life and discussions about a project were reintroduced. Many gamers want to see the legacy (we do have a legacy, don’t we?) to live on with Urban Terror and not die when Quake 3 dies. And no, I don’t think Quake 3 is dead, still many gamers playing the game. The increasing problem is finding a retail copy of the game, which makes the fan base a bit stagnate. Are their solutions? There sure are.

Splashdamage, began their amateur career as a group of avid gamers, playing Quake 3 and wanting to do more. This group created Quake 3 Fortress and was invited to Quakecon 2000 in Mesquite, Texas. At that time, their vision was much further along than that of SID. They were already in the planning and proposal stages when they met with Robert Duffy and a few other members of id Software. Since their Q3F days, they have gone on to release Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, which is one of the most highly successful stand alone releases to date. While I don’t know all the details behind the evolution of ET, it was released free to the any gamer. Nothing to buy, so their fan base is relatively unlimited. How many gamers can pass up a free game, with no strings attached?

Now why do I bring up Enemy Territory? I do so only because there has been talk last year that SID could possible port the game to ET, which would further Urban Terror and gain an entirely new fan base, while still supporting their current gamers. When you look at the upcoming game releases, like Quake IV and DOOM 3, two of the more notable games that have been mentioned to us, you see these are still slated for a late 2004 release (pending any delays). Not to mention, if SID went commercial, we would not have to put together capital in order to purchase the new engine. Have you ever heard rumors of how much these game engines run? Let’s just say you would need to win the lotto to help pay for it.

I do believe Urban Terror will continue to provide hours of entertainment through 2004. Many gamers cannot stay on the “leading edge” of hardware technology, as it is continually changing and improving. But finding a retail copy of Quake 3 will start to cause more issues as the years continue to add up since its original release. The mod is still supported throughout the world by leagues such as Clanbase in Europe and the Team Warfare League in North America. The development team is still in full support of the mod, which reflects on the support from the community. Lastly, I continue to hear many comments from gamers saying it is still the most fun they have had playing online. Even as new games enter the retail sector, especially the WW2 or realism based shooters. Many say they continue to return to Urban Terror.

So, the future does look bright for Silicon Ice Development and Urban Terror. Now that 2004 is here and we have a very good release in Urban Terror 3.2, we can look forward to a 3.3 release. After that, there are many doors open for the development team.

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.

It’s Out! Finally!

I think things are slowly returning to normal. This past weekend has been outstanding. As many know Silicon Ice Development released Urban Terror Beta 2.6 yesterday. It was a very long and tiring day for those on the development team who took part in the release party festivities. Mad props go out to all of SID, especially Density who was a real trooper the last few days when it came to the code base.

If you missed Friday and Saturday, we held back to back, Urban Radio programs. Saturday’s program, the Urban Radio Pre-Release Party was out of control. You can download and listen to the shows from the Radio tab. Thanks to the guys at TsN Central we had enough bandwidth to accommodate nearly 600 listeners! Now that is support! It was an excellent time for all, as we discussed the upcoming release, new features, weapons and support features for the mod. Things such as the kick ass Urban Terror Manual. Course I am pimping it, cuz I spent a few months working on it. My contribution to Beta 2.6…hahah.

As for the mod itself, the Beta 2.6 release was very successful! The servers are increasing in numbers, gamers are at an all time high and everything…well most everything is going well. There are bugs and we are aware of many of the common issues that the community is bringing out attention. Of course they are catching things we had fixed, yet something seems to causing problems. So, SID is working on it.

As for the level designers, thanks to Dragonne has updated the def file for Urban Terror. This def file has new keys for the doors: gamemode_open and gamemode_shut. You put the game types that you want the doors locked open or locked closed in those keys I mentioned. If you are not sure what we are talking about, then load up ut_rommel in Team Survivor and CTF and you will notice the tunnel system is locked out and you cannot access it in TS. But in CTF they are open. Nice, huh?

Many mixed responses on the new levels SID released with Beta 2.6. One person will bad mouth ut_uptown and then the next person will praise the changes. It is like that for many of the updated SID levels. The same can be said of ut_riyadh, seeing as those two levels have stirred some controversy in the mod. Guess some gamers do not like change.

As for new levels, the community has responded very to the new levels. Mines by Bar-B-Q is a very popular level, many enjoy the ambiance of the level. Yet a few have had a hunkmeg issue with it. Others seem to like WU’s offer called Turnpike, as it offers fast game play and some excellent texturing.

I think by far, the most popular level was RabidCow’s Twin Lakes, version two, that SID decided to include in the distribution. RabidCow has spent months working, tweaking and improving the original level. All his hard work definitely paid off as Twin Lakes is just visually amazing. You should check out the sky box. WOW! The big trees are well, just freaking huge! The texturing is the highest quality, along with many great features. Check it out!