Broadcast Yourself

youtube_logoYou Tube is all the rage when it comes to viewing online videos, many of which are submitted by independent artists and individuals. Going live in February, 2005 I never really used the service or uploaded material to be viewed my by myself or others. Within the last few years it seems You Tube has truly taken off, recently purchased by Google, the video service is thriving. Broadcast yourself!

As an 8 year old  1976, we had no such service, the VHS would come to American on June 4 the following year. Televisions was limited to a handful of channels and movies were viewed in theaters.

These days mobile devices reign supreme, online retailers and cable companies seem to have cornered the market when it comes to videos and movies. You can watch the newest releases in the palm of your hand or your favorite television show you recorded last night on your tablet.

Technology has truly moved us in a new direction when it comes to video. These days You Tube seems to be all the rage. When it comes to the latest viral video or something trending, chances are You Tube has it captured. Every form of media seems to have a channel, from news outlets to magazines and papers, to businesses if you can record it, You Tube can capture it.

In 1999, on the verge of Y2K, not know what was going to happen to digital (computer-related) and non-digital documentation and data storage situations, I was deep into PC gaming. It wasn’t long after my indoctrination to PC gaming I got involved in shoutcasting, taking a position as a caster, covering live, online gaming from Urban Terror to Medal of Honor and hosting my own shows, Urban Radio and the 80s revival show, Just Push Play. I also ventured into live video casting.

I toyed around with live video coverage, which the respective communities loved! It took casting to a new level, one that had rarely been seen outside of being involved in the game itself. Unfortunately, true video coverage took more hardware, power and Internet connection than I had at the time. The majority of my coverage was done strictly as audio, which for the time was still pretty impressive.

These days I am in awe at You Tube personalities and the show they produce. My knowledge is quite limited and I am sure my son knows much more about them than I do. He’s 9 years old. It has gotten to the point that I find myself watching some of the shows he has going on You Tube. Stampylongnose, Dan of The Diamond Minecart and You Always Win featuring GUNNS4HIRE and meatwagon2 are just three of the channels he has saved as favorites.

While my idols growing up usually played in the NFL and MLB, these days it’s not uncommon to see kids idolize these personalities on You Tube. I must admit these three channels are good fun. Stampy and Dan provide fun and entertainment for all ages, while Gunns and Meatwagon usually play some ‘MA’ games their humor is probably geared toward a rated ‘T’ (for Teen) audience. Yet, I have no problem with my son watching any of these You Tubers.

My son, again age 9, has asked for the last few months for, “my own You Tube channel.” He has recorded some videos on his iPad and toy video camera, but to date, nothing has been shared outside of our family. His schoolmate, Taylor has recorded some short, corny videos that he made available on You Tube, which only spurred more comments of “Dad, when can I get my own You Tube channel?”

I have been highly impressed to see him experimenting with playing his games while providing a running commentary on what he’s doing. Who knows, maybe he will be the next Stampy Cat with 5 million subscribers! I do think it’s great to see him interested in this sort of technology as consoles, mobile devices and PC allow users much more flexibility and ease of use to get content shared and viewed online.



Games Developers Play

It’s rare I speak about the electronic entertainment industry since retiring from any sort of online game development or online game, I’ve also given up supporting many companies, such as Microsoft who still cannot get the XBox 360 right. In my tenure working on an amateur development team and rubbing elbows with some well known companies like id Software, Activision, Ravensoft and others I have lost some respect I once held for some of these professional development houses.

Since moving on from Urban Terror I have yet to spend any money on another PC game, nor have I built a new computer to support these high end fandango games that only seem to be getting prettier than anything else. I can’t speak for their game play, but after nearly 10 years of development on Urban Terror it became quite apparent that game play would always trump graphics. As we have seen in the past and will continue to see in the future, graphics will continue to sell games, not game play. Even games that should have never made it to retail will end up being found on retail shelves and not long after in the bargain bin.

Unfortunately many game developers continue to recycle their “franchise” products. This in my opinion is not what development is about. I feel that many companies seem to have lost that creative drive that bought us many unique and enjoyable games back in the day, DICE and their Battlefield series is one of the most popular. Another example is Call of Duty from Grey Matter Interactive/Activision. Both of these developers have been taking their series to the next level, but how is the game play? I believe as a franchise ages it can become chocked full of so many features that it actually detract from game play. I still feel Codename: Eagle was a solid game from DICE. Simple, yet enjoyable on a LAN.

Recently with the release Portal 2 by Valve (alleged) fans seem to do nothing but trash talk the game. This is typical of supporters to whine, “while hundreds of negative summaries complaining about unbelievably inane shit (source). This just goes to show even professional designers can’t get things right and fans continue to shell out their money for games and feel they are deserved something in return.

I do agree with what is stated in this article on Destructoid, “Of course, the people whining would still buy <insert game here> and everything else <insert company here> puts out without a second thought. No wonder they whine so hard — it must be difficult being such spineless, dickless chumps.” This was ALWAYS the case with Urban Terror development and all those chumps didn’t have to pay to play. It’s no wonder I got out of gaming.

Development houses will continue to develop games. While the actual retail market is undergoing a change, with boxed software slowly giving way to downloadable software, the quality of games continue to improve. I believe this is a trend that will continue to rise for years to come. Franchises will continue to spin new iterations and gamers will continue to overpay for under-developed software.

Urban Terror: Close the Door

Since leaving the development team and Urban Terror, nearly 2 years ago I have yet to return to online gaming. The motivations for my departure and retirement were purely personal. For me, I had gone as far as I could with development as it was quite clear the game would never flourish as I had hoped for during the early years.

It’s quite rare I even bring the name, Urban Terror up because it’s a part of my past and I have moved on, leaving the community, the web sites and activities to others in order to cultivate. I still have an informal tie to the community as I continue to hold the rights to the domain name.

I happened upon a conversation today with an individual who is still around the community and as I understand it, the community and the game are not the same. I can’t speak to that, but can only surmise the problems plaguing the community/game now. While I never had a direct hand in any development, it was the community who drove the game to the success it had upon my departure.

Of course the development team was at the core of the community, with talented individuals leaving their mark and moving on. The early years were truly the “best of times” for me personally. Being courted by id Software, visiting their offices, participating in Quakecon, jet setting to Los Angeles for E3, being featured on Tech TV are just some of the highlights I take with me. Of course those days are all in the past and rarely do I even cast a glance at the newest PC games on the market because it’s “more of the same.”

With that said, there is still something to say about those individuals who continue to support the game after so many years. I have a few individuals in mind who, through thick and thin stuck it out with the development team. Not sure if I were on the outside looking in, like I was with Action Quake II if I could have continued for nearly 10 years even with a game I enjoyed

Being in the rare position I was, between the community and the game I had a unique perspective and seemed to get opinions from everyone. For many, I was the voice/face/name of Urban Terror, but never did I attempt to take credit. While I was involved, I left the real development/design to the talented individuals that knew how to code a feature, or create a model, uvwrap it and skin it. I was highly impressed with those who were level designers, but that was not my calling.
Unfortunately, it was “never quite good enough” for some. The worst place to be the day of a point release was on the community support forums. This was my domain, a place I controlled and supported and nurtured from the beginning. It was a unique feeling creating a community from virtually nothing to a strong community of supporters we had when I departed. I was amazed at the success and the ride I had been privy to.

Maybe my departure gave rise to someone with new ideas and new blood to bring something into the community to improve the game. While some may disagree I took a lot with me the day I left. Much of the unwritten history left with me. Many gigabytes of files continue to reside on my archived hard drives that will most likely never be accessed again.

Most of all I remember the people, behind every alias, either in game, via e-mail or on IRC there is a person. I was fortunate enough to meet a small percentage of these people over the years. The strongest bonds were between the long standing development team members. The same can be said for the long time supporters in the community, the people I entrusted files or hosting to. There were some great people behind the scenes who rarely got a mention. Maybe they hosted files or ran a web site or always put in a word of praise to the community, game or development team. While I will probably never communicate with these individuals again, they were a special part of the community and one of the things I held close though out my tenure.

Often times I was referred to as, “not a developer” because I did not provide any content for the game. While that is a true statement, it could not be further from the truth. I was a development team member and played an integral role that was often overlooked. Many individuals involved couldn’t or wouldn’t do what I did over the course of 10 years. While not the most important aspect of the game or community, I brought Urban Terror to life though the use of shoutcasting, when online gaming radio stations were still in their infancy.

My use of the radio medium introduced a new dimension to online gaming that was rarely seen previously. I attempted to stress the importance of the community, wanting feedback and information from supporters in order to strengthen the radio show on a weekly basis. By far, the most important portion of the show, aside from my bad, 80’s music was the development team update. This was sometimes a futile attempt to provide up to the minute information about development.

The second part of this new medium was acting as a commentator during online matches. I spent many hours a week dedicated to my radio shows and broadcasts. It would have been enough to just cover the match, but our community was something special and they deserved more. I had a pre and post game report, as well as commentary and sometimes guest casters on air.

This, to me was my calling for the game and it went a long way in the community. Yet some failed to see the connection. In the end I was burned out, tired. Maybe it was the years of abuse I took never really striking back or going off, unless completely necessary. A few examples spring to mind. When I initially got involved I wanted to see this development through to a defined end. For me, that will never happen as I dropped everything in a blink of an eye and walked away, never to return.

But, as I said early on the friendships you make will last a lifetime. The memories remain, but may fade as years go by. For the most part these were good times, never great, but good enough to keep you going for just a bit longer. Hopefully those involved now have an idea of where the game came from and of those who came before.

Resolutions 2009

I believe this is the third of fourth year I have posted resolutions for the upcoming year. Interesting to back in time and see what I was able to resolve and those that just did not happen. I fear looking at what I wrote for 2008 because I know I was not successful on some of them, unlike 2007.

So let’s look at Resolutions 2008 that were posted a year ago today. It seems I did carry a few over from 2007,m such as working out with the Bowflex we own. Again, I started and stopped numerous times and really did not get into any workout regime. So this remains on my list, especially after talking to my doctor when I got my physical in November. He told me the BMI was 29, which is technically 1 point away from the “obese” category. Although I don’t look obese or fat, but as I get older it will only be more difficult to keep weight off. So working out is still on the list.

I was able to keep off the carbonated drinks…soft drinks, energy drink, not beer. I probably drank more beer because of passing on sodas. This will be easy to keep. The ’68 Cougar is still on block and has not moved now for almost 3 years. Couple the time factor with the investment in order to work on the Cougar and the car remains untouched. I did do some work on it, started removing the chrome and taillights in order to trailer it to a body shop. This will really depend on any extra income I want to throw at the Cougar. As I tell my 3 year old son, “the car will be ready when you can drive.” That gives me 13 years to work on it. LOL!

Finally, one ’08 resolution I was successful at, learning CW. Sure I might be a 5 WPM operator, which is really slow when in the HF bands, but I do know all the letters, numbers and pro-signs, which means a lot to me. Hell, my son even learned two letters and he is 3 years old. He knows ‘D’ and ‘E’. I have made a number of CW contacts and worked in one CW contest. So mark this as resolved, but it will forever be a learning process in order to increase the speed.

As for Urban Terror, I retired from any form of online gaming and support. I retired Urban Radio, shoutcasting and Just Push Play. I can cite any reason, from no free time, to lack of desire to no reward from the community (outside a few die hard supports, whom I thank). Retiring from this was the best thing I did in the past 10 years. I still find it hard to believe I wasted so many years and energy on this project. There were many good times, prior to that past 18 months or so leading up to my retirement, but after that period it was no longer enjoyable. Thus, my decision. I deleted any reference to the game, all IRC channels, had someone remove all my account details. I am done, never to return.

As we are hours away from 2009 let’s look at what we can resolve. First off I want to put more time into ham radio. This has really become an enjoyable hobby, now that I have learned CW. I want to become more involved in contesting from N6RO as part of the NCCC [Northern California Contest Club]. He is the local “big gun” station in Oakley and usually has hams working many of the contests. My first opportunity comes up January 3-4 in the ARRL RTTY Roundup.

While this might not sound like a resolution, I feel it is important in my son’s growing up. The family needs to get organized, get time off and get down to my parent’s house in San Diego County (Poway). My parents are not getting any younger and have had the free time to drive up to NoCal, but the 2-day trip really ends up taking a toll on them, as well as staying in a hotel because there is not enough room in our house. So hopefully I can load up my wife and son and get to SoCal.

I also want to spend more quality time with the family. That past year, after finishing training at work my schedule was a mixed bag of start times and days off. Now I have a set schedule with set days off and actually get home when it is still light out. Things have become a bit better, being able to see my son and wife and eat dinner together. Now that my son is 3 years old, it is becoming easier to keep him entertained and interested in new hobbies. I also want to spend more time with my wife when I am off. Sure radios and the Cougar are great hobbies, but it’s not the same when you have a family who loves you and depends on you. So I resolve to be the best husband and father I can in order to foster open communication and relationship.

Outside of those resolutions I look forward to the new year. Everyone have a safe New Years Eve if you are planning on going out. Thanks for the continued support here on T6F. I look forward to 2009.

“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.