“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.

Bring Out Your Maps!

Remember that scene in Monty Python, The Holy Grail where the cart master is pushing that cart full of dead bodies, while ringing the bell telling one and all to, “bring out your dead!” I make the comparison to many of the “dead” Urban Terror levels wanting to be “rebuilt” as a gamer so bluntly put it in the Urban Terror Forums.

Instead of bodies on that cart, there are old levels from Urban Terror versions gone by, levels such as Swim, Trainyard, Alleys, Hotel, Sands, Ricochet, Revolution and The Druglord Series, just to name a few. Ringing the bell, not the cart master, but the community wanting an answer to, “Why?”

In the past we have cited, “developmental reasons” but that alone does not sit well with some in the community. I think we can all agree there are some levels, if updated could be successful today, as they were during 1.27/2.0. Sorry you can’t include Docks yet since it was not released with 4.0, but I don’t have a doubt INVIS will “sexify” that level to a new degree.

Anything included in the original should be discarded as garbage. In the day they were fine, but no longer do they have any redeeming qualities that make them good levels. Hotel? Nope, Swim? Eh, one could provide a good argument for it. Streets? LOL, don’t think so. Ricochet and Revolution? Possibly.

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and everyone sees Urban Terror levels differently. I personal thought Revolution was an outstanding level! To this day it could still be a successful level for Bomb mode and quite possibly CTF. Others will disagree.

The development team still controls the old levels and under no circumstances will we provide you permission to update our levels. Tub is the exception to the rule and under certain circumstances would find it “flattering” if a community level designer rebuilt one of his old levels. Again, he is the exception.

The challenge lies with the community, because GAMERS HATE CHANGE! They always have and will continue to do so into the future. By dropping levels that were not 4.0 compliant we stirred the proverbial hornet’s nest again. Gamers were furious that Uptown and Docks were not going to be included and could understand why.

We decided to do a quick update on Uptown, you read about that in my previous update. The decision to not release Docks was a good one. It will return as a better, more playable level than it left in 3.7, when we heard nothing but complaints about how unfair the level way.

So, remember this instead of pulling off one of those dead maps from the cart, use some creativity and be original. Create something yourself. Something you can call your own. Not something you rehashed because it was a good level in the past. Urban Terror has changed, so have our levels. Gamers and level designers should think about changing as well.

Lights! Camera! Maps!

Back to back updates, Oswald back in the saddle. Hahah…actually I have some kick ass screen shots to share with you. Okay, so maybe they are not a 1337 as those teaser videos we debuted yesterday, but still these are some great shots. First up are some new screen shots, after a considerable amount of work from RabidCow. “Something that I like to achieve is a balance between light and dark that everyone can live with. That doesn’t mean that it has to be bland, however. I am finding that by making a dramatic skybox and using the entity sun etc, I can make a map look good to those that like dark moody lighting and yet not have totally black shadows. It is the range between the extremes that gives the dramatic feel…if that is wider, the shadows can be lightened enough for fine visibility without giving a washed out look,” says RabidCow. This quote and others come from a thread titled, “Lighting in the maps” started by RabidCow.

Had a chance to check in with WetWired last night, remember him? Action Quake 2 level design guru, SID level designer with one of the (still) best overall levels, Revolution. More recently he has been working for 4D Rulers down in Australia. Their latest achievement, GORE has been out now for some time and Wet’s talents are showcased in some of the levels included in this game.

Today we bring you some updated screen shots of his level called, ut_precinct. This level has been under development for well over a year. But with his commitment to 4D Rulers, his time has been very limited when it comes to updating Revolution of finishing Precinct. But from these screen shots, Precinct is looking very good.

I have an older version of this level, very good design, as one would expect from WetWired. Very much a CQB (close quarters combat) level by the way it is designed. Stay tuned for more screen shots and information from WetWired on Precinct.

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!

It’s All Wet

I got my first look at ut_precinct and the level formerly known as ut_venice from WetWired. Many saw shots of Venice on the Urban Terror web site a few months back. The level was never finished and just rests, taking up hard drive space. Yet, the areas [and there were not many] that were finished were quite detailed. Basically, all the three or four screen shots that were presented were the entire map. There was not much complete.

As for Precinct, it looks as if this will be another top notch level from WetWired. This map is still in an alpha version and to be honest, I am surprised I even got a glimpse of it this soon. It is very unlike Wet to let anyone see his stuff, especially a level this early in development. Precinct is a three story police station, including a garage, administrative floor and a holding cells. Much of the level is still without details and models, but the layout is pretty complete from what I could tell. Unlike the previous levels that used a plethora [that is dokta’s favorite word] of color, cold, lifeless concrete dominates the entire level. With a stairwell and working elevator, this layout should be prove interesting and a challenge to make work successfully. But, if anyone can do it, it is WetWired. Check out these alpha screen shots from ut_precinct by WetWired:

For those who don’t frequent the Level Design Forum, chances are you have missed out on fourdee. When it comes to realism mapping, fourdee seems to excel and take it to that “next level.” His previous levels have stressed realism and photosourced textures. His early levels included Mall and Military Barracks, recently he released Interchange [click for download], which is an urban-esque setting of a bus depot and train station platform. Add another feather to this talented mapper. Fourdee has just released a vehicle prefab pack that includes: a semi truck and trailer, dump truck, delivery van, mail van, loader/backhoe, along with numerous other models to be used in your upcoming Urban Terror level. Check out the vehicles in this download and then pay homage to fourdee in this thread. For a preview of the vehicles, check out this screen shot.