Tag Archives: Unreal Tournament 3

Competitive Awareness

BTLiveToWin45

Recently, professional tournament player ThatSrb2DUDE made a video commentary about growing a community. In this case the competitive side of Splatoon 2. As someone who used to play in an Unreal Tournament clan back in the days of that franchise, I had a few thoughts about his points. As well as some things of my own that I couldn’t possibly reply on in a mere tweet on Twitter.

In the commentary, he brings up the fact that as Splatoon 2 is nearing the last run of updates, and will soon be in the final version of the game going forward. Because of that, some competitive players fear the competitive side of the game may go away. He goes on to tell people that rather than go around dooming the game, they should create awareness of the game. Make videos discussing aspects of what they love or don’t. Making debates about strategies, or any other number of topics about the game. And he very passionately talks about that content potentially getting people interested or even keeping people interested in the game.

BTLiveToWin1

The potential for a bigger competitive scene in Splatoon 2 is absolutely there. The game has sold over 8 million copies and people are still buying it. There’s a lot of people playing it, and there’s no shortage of competitors when I’ve ventured into the game’s Ranked modes. Even if I never seem to get beyond the B ranks. But I digress.

He is right though. If you love a game and want people to look into it, you’ll have to bring it up. And it’s no secret that I’ve really liked playing the Splatoon series. The original and current entry have both been quite phenomenal. Still, while I’ve talked about the game a lot, I don’t cover this game exclusively here. But his video did make me think about some larger points. Some things I remember from my Unreal Tournament days are applicable to this topic, and even some things from other genres. Maybe you’ll agree with some of this. Maybe disagree. But I’m going to lay it out there anyway.

I’ll also preface this by saying while I was in a pretty good clan, we were by no means the top players in the world. Much like Splatoon did, Unreal Tournament really grabbed me. It had fantastic weapons. It had a wonderful aesthetic, and it had something no other FPS at the time did: A focus on movement. To become good at Unreal Tournament you couldn’t just simply master knowing the maps, or what gun was best for what situation. You had a dodge system. Mastering dodges was the best way to avoid projectiles and even get around maps faster. You could diagonally short hop down halls. Roll out of the way of missiles, and more.

The sequels 2003, and 2004 were more fantastical and added newer modes. But they also made the movement even more important. Adding greater distances, dodge jumps, and crazy animations that made characters harder to hit. Somewhere along the line, I decided that I just wanted to be good at the game. So I practiced and practiced. But I found simply doing this wasn’t helping. So I decided to take baby steps. I decided to get proficient with one weapon and give myself a small number of frags every deathmatch.

BTLiveToWin2

I chose a weapon nobody seemed to use. The Bio Rifle. It shot little blobs of goo. If you held the secondary button though, it would charge a giant blob using all of its ammo. Often times this would kill people in one hit. Thing is, it was slow, and you had to have a great ability to lead opponents. It took time, but I would eventually consistently be in the upper half of the scoreboard.

By around 2005, I had played a lot on a server called The Super Witch server, where a lot of regulars noticed me. Again, I wasn’t great, but they were intrigued by how well I did with the Bio Rifle, before long, I was in the mXc Maximum Carnage clan. We played late night scrims with other clans. We were all really invested in the game, and by 2007 when the sequel came out things petered out. The new game changed some mechanics many in the community didn’t like. It changed the aesthetics to mimic Gears Of War more too. It was still an amazing game, but it didn’t have the staying power the old games had.

Be that as it may, I can see some parallels. Getting new people to embrace the game is going to be the first major goal. This is true of any game. Again, the potential for Splatoon 2 is definitely there in the sales numbers alone. One factor in this is what ThatSrb2DUDE talks about when he mentions content. Sadly, most console games don’t have mods. But that is one of the ways we kept the UT games going as fans. Sure, internet video would have been a Godsend back then, but mods did the same thing. If you were playing UT, and a friend came by you could load up custom levels. In fact, the second game came with the Unreal Engine utility if you bought a certain version. I actually got invested enough in the game to attempt making my own maps for Maximum Carnage. I went to Borders, (I miss that bookstore) bought a 900-page textbook on it, and tried to learn the basics. I figured out enough to make very blocky, poorly textured maps. But you know, other players who knew what they were doing liked my layouts. So a few of our members took them and polished them up. Lighting effects, some terrain, some modeling, and they ended up on map rotation.

Thing is if you love Splatoon 2 or any game you don’t have to be a master to contribute to the fandom around it. And growing that fandom can increase the number of people who want to play more seriously. Back in the day, there were a lot of Unreal Tournament fans making wallpapers, icons, maps, and mutators. You might not be able to mod Splatoon 2 but people have done the former. Over the last few years, a lot of talented people have done extensive animation. Even small bands have covered songs from the two games’ soundtracks.

BTLiveToWin3

Where am I going with all of this? The point is you don’t have to be a professional gamer to potentially bring in a player who may want to play at a professional level. Like Unreal Tournament, that kind of stuff can get people to at least look at the title. To see what all of the fuss is about. Another thing you can do is simply play the game with friends or relatives. Bring the Switch over to their house and let them try it out. Talk about the basics with them. If they find it fun, they might go pick it up for themselves. Sure, you can stream the game, but people will generally keep coming back to see you more than a game. If they like it, they may recommend it to people they know. Keep in mind that doesn’t guarantee they’ll love it as much as you do. But somebody else they know may.

Of course people already hopelessly devoted can talk endlessly about tricks, strategies, and metagame topics. But a lot of that is going to appeal to people who have already decided they want to put in the extra time to master the game. This again is where someone who doesn’t mind talking about the beginning paces can be key. Potential newcomers to any game can find even dipping their toe into competitive environments daunting. The perceived complexity can bring a bit of apprehension or frustration to someone coming into a new game green. Especially if that game has been out for a while. This is why veterans should be mindful of new players. That doesn’t mean going easy on them or letting a newcomer win. That sort of thing doesn’t make it fun for the long-time fan plus, it can even feel condescending to the person who just started the game.

But it does mean letting go of some of the pride. We’ve all run into that player in our favorite game that has to let everyone know they’re top dog. That person who has forgotten that at one point they too were once a beginner. That person who will deride anybody who may suggest something that may potentially help someone just getting into the game at their detriment.

But those newcomers looking to become a competitive player need to also remember that it isn’t going to come easy. Splatoon 2 may look family friendly, and cute. But it is just as cutthroat as any other team-focused shooter. You have to have some self-confidence going into those ranked modes. But you also have to have humility. You’re probably going to lose an awful lot of matchups before you fully grasp the nuances. “How did I get shot by 20 missiles already?” The other side filled up their specials at the same time. “I shot that guy point blank! How is he not dead?” Did you see what perks they have equipped? This is where you’re also going to have to analyze your own habits, find where you messed up, and try to come up with contingency plans or ways to avoid the same situation.

And you shouldn’t give up. When things get rough remember that while you’re trying to be the best, it is still a game. Unless you’re in the midst of a tournament because you got to the professional level, and have big money riding on a win, a loss means nothing. But each loss can give you valuable data that you can learn from. Going again, back to my days in UT, (specifically UT2k4) It took me months of playing on Deck 16, to come up with the best possible path through the map. Memorizing the four main choke points, and how to shoot down the redeemer with a glob of slime. Did that mean I was always going to be at the top of the scoreboard? No. In fact, everyone who spent a lot of time in the Unreal Tournament games had a very good idea of how to move in that map as it was one of the most popular maps. But I did learn what rooms to avoid, or how to use trick jumps to escape a certain situation. If I had thrown up my arms, and pressed CTRL+ALT+DEL I would have never gotten as far as I had. That isn’t to say I never got angry. But I didn’t leave mid-match. I finished a grueling round.

Rage Quitting is also something you should never do. It doesn’t look good on you, and it drives away anybody who might have tried to help. Splatoon 2, in particular, is also a game that can turn on a dime. If you watch some of the Championship matches you’ll see matches that seemed like decisive victories for one team, completely change in the last twenty seconds. Even if you’re not having the best day, you at your worst is still better helping to the other three players, than not having a fourth at all.

This is applicable to all kinds of games. One of the bigger names on YouTube, Maximillian_DOOD talked about this a long time ago. But it’s still applicable here. Just as it was applicable to me back in my Unreal Tournament days. I can tell you, I can be a sore loser. Nobody likes to lose. But it is so much better to finish the round, then go calm down, than to take the ball and go home mid-match.

BTLiveToWin4

But if you can roll with the punches in a game you really enjoy, over time you will improve. It’s like anything else. If you play regularly, eventually you’ll get better. A competitive environment isn’t easy, but it isn’t supposed to be. Don’t go in expecting to win or lose, go in doing everything you can to win but making small, reasonable goals that are more important. “I’m going to get five splats.” “I’m going to learn the side path in Walleye Warehouse better.” “I’m going to get better at finding, and destroying enemy beacons.” You might not get the win, but they’ll get you one step closer. Making the first time you do get that win to feel even more satisfying.

Anyway, I realize I’ve been rambling, not all of it may seem related, and I don’t know how much this helps. But if you love a certain competitive game like Splatoon 2, and want to grow a competitive community talk about the game with anyone who will listen. Be welcoming to newcomers, while helping them realize it takes a little bit of time, and practice to become better than average. If you have a skill apply some of that to the fandom. It’s part of the reason why fighting games made a resurgence, and even why arena FPS attempts have come out of the indie space. I have no doubt there will be another Splatoon, as both the original Wii U game and the Switch sequel have done so well for a relatively new I.P. But ThatSrb2DUDE raises a great point. If you like a game, don’t cast a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom on it. Celebrate it. Have fun with it. Share it with as many fellow players, and collectors as possible. Also, if you are competitively minded and Splatoon 2 intrigues you check out his channel.

Until next time…

STAAAAY FRESH!

Unreal Tournament Retrospective Part 4

Unreal Tournament III was, and is the game that tried to be all things to the entire fandom. Sadly, the fandom didn’t ever see it.

Pros: Wondrous UE3 visuals, Homogenized movement, Worthy gameplay additions.

Cons: Botched launch. Steep (at the time ) requirements. Gamespy.

What The Poop? It’s rated M so why the watered down announcements, and taunts?

It’s no secret that Unreal Tournament, and Unreal Tournament 2004 were both major successes for Epic Games. Both games won all kinds of awards from publications, and websites like PC Gamer, Computer Gaming World, and Gamespot. Both games were featured in high-profile tournaments for huge prizes. Both games gave other FPS makers like id Software some really stiff competition.

But what the casual observer may not have noticed, was that Unreal Tournament’s player base was fragmented between the two games. Many gamers felt that UT2k4’s adrenaline pills, and required mastery of trick jumping may have been a little too unreal. They preferred to be grounded, and able to dodge firepower. But without looking like Keanu Reeves bouncing around in another Matrix movie.

Meanwhile, others had felt that the new additions 2k4 brought to the table increased the skill level for those who wanted to play seriously. They enjoyed the new Onslaught mode. They relished in the movement system, staying just out of firing range before returning fire, and scoring high frag counts. Going back to standard UT felt backwards.

Still, there were plenty who enjoyed both games enough to go back, and forth.

With UT3 Epic was whetting their appetite for console development. Sure, in the past UT had been ported to the PS2, and Dreamcast. UT2k3 had also been on the Xbox as Unreal Championship, and they had done an exclusive Xbox Unreal Championship 2 which was met with mixed reaction. But those weren’t done entirely in-house, and UE3 was poised to power many console games. So with UT3 Epic had to not only please fans, but also try to make a game they felt console players would give a chance to.

Upon looking at the fragmented fan base, Epic decided to make a bridge game. An Unreal Tournament that would please the diehards who never left the original game, as well as the 2k4 purists. But they also wanted to make something Playstation 3, and Xbox 360 only types would be able to play without giving up in frustration.

UT3 features some stunning visuals. There are some really beautiful environments, and some of the classic UT maps from previous games like the iconic Deck make a triumphant return. Even seven years after it’s release the textures, lighting effects, sounds, and animation will impress. The uninitiated may pick this up, install it on their PC or console, and wonder why this game didn’t take off.

To answer their question the game really did do what was advertised, but not entirely.

UT3’s movement system is indeed a hybrid of UT, and UT2k4. Like UT the gravity is more grounded. Gone are the superhuman double jumps, replaced with a double jump that feels like a jump, and a half. One of the most vocal oppositions was the removal of the dodge jump. In 2k4 a player could tap any direction to dodge. Pressing jump immediately afterwards would allow them to jump very far. In some maps this may have cleared a room. To be fair, UT3’s maps are designed around this new system, but it somehow turned off both the UT, and 2k4 fan bases despite how well it really does homogenize the two systems. For instance, even though dodge jump is gone, wall jumping is still here. It’s still possible to cart-wheel over rockets, goo, and flak balls. Just don’t expect to be halfway down the hall afterwards.

UT3’s weapons also changed to accommodate the rest of the game. In previous games the Bio Rifle would also spray on the floor, or you could fire a single full charged shot for what was often times an instant kill. In UT3 A fully charged shot instead sticks to opponents, and drains their health. Sometimes still leading to an instant kill. The Rocket launcher reverted back to its original UT firing modes, while the Flak Cannon’s arc was changed. The Shock Rifle’s combo attack was also tweaked to slightly reduce the blast radius. Unreal Tournament III also brings back the command to feign your own death. This is really only effective on new players however, as series’ veterans will shoot corpses.

One of the more unpopular changes however was the character designs. Presumably to appeal to the Xbox crowd (Which ironically got the game last), UT3 almost seems to take place in the Gears Of War universe. Gone are the over the top races of 2k4, and standard science fiction designs of the original UT’s races. Instead characters have big bulky Space Marine designs eerily similar to those of GoW. If you are coming into this game late, don’t expect to see the UT1 styled Necris designs, or UT2k4’s Mr.Crow, Egyptian costumes, or other designs. Longtime fans turned up their noses at this. To be fair, the Robots are back (albeit in a new look), and the new Krall models are playable. You can also do some light costume edits on your models, choosing boots, belts, shoulder pads, and visors. But it is a far cry from the variety of earlier games.

Unreal Tournament III brings over the standard Death match, Team Death match, and Capture The Flag. There is also a Vehicular Capture The Flag that introduces vehicles to the mode. One of the most popular modes in UT2k4 was Onslaught which was updated, and called Warfare. In Warfare nodes are still captured, but now there are orbs added into the mix. Orbs can be carried to the nodes to more quickly set them up or buff their defense shields.

Doing so is important because it makes things that much more difficult for the enemy team to take the nodes down. Every node becomes a frantic battle for control. By capturing enough of these areas, your team will lower the force fields around the opposing team’s reactor core. Once the defenses are down you can attack the reactor core until it is destroyed.  Hover boards have also been added to every character in the mode allowing players to get around faster than walking if they can’t get into a vehicle.

 

Also while not an official mode, Death match now had stock maps with vehicles for Vehicular Death match. While some scoffed, and still scoff at this idea, it is actually one that works. Furthermore, it keeps people who simply like to goof around, and wreak havoc with vehicles out of the Warfare mode. This can relieve some of the more team oriented player base. Also other games such as Battlefield Bad Company 2 seem to have taken a cue from UT3, putting vehicles in their DM variants for likely similar reasoning.

Unreal Tournament III also has a campaign, that tells the story of series’ newcomer Reaper. In it the Necris return to destroy an outpost colony by releasing an army of Krall. Reaper’s group; The Ronin, are slain. After being rescued, He trains with Malcolm to get revenge.

 

The campaign isn’t a traditional one either. Instead of an 8 hour single player game you will play through a tournament ladder. This is to get you accustomed to how each of the multiplayer modes work. Some of the ladder stages may throw in an objective to advance the story. But it mainly serves as a tutorial. Along the way, you can complete side challenges to obtain cards. The cards can be cast to make other missions easier. It is possible to play the campaign in Co-op, but most players will likely stick to the other multiplayer modes.

Love or hate these changes UT3 is still a very fun, and very good game. Console players who are intrigued will find something completely different from the umpteenth Call of Duty clone, and open-minded fans of the previous games will still find a lot to like. The console versions of Unreal Tournament III are much better than the ports of UT, and UT2k3 on previous consoles. The Playstation 3 version has all of the content from the initial launch of the PC version. It can also run mods or content PC players make with the editor. It can’t run the editor itself, and the mods have to be specifically made for the PS3 in mind. Still, for fans with both versions, or PS3 owners who have friends who mod on the PC it is a nice feature. The PS3 also received some the updates, and patches over time. The Xbox 360 version came late, and with some exclusive content. However due to Microsoft’s Xbox Live restrictions at the time didn’t get as many updates. It also cannot run mods made by the community on the PC version.

Unfortunately the biggest problem for even the most devoted fan at release was a buggy launch. UT3 had a demo come out shortly before release. Despite feedback from a vocal community, UT3 launched in a state not too different from the demo. There were crashes, instabilities, and performance issues for the first couple of months. Also while it was heavily promoted that the PC version editor would be able to make levels PS3 version buyers could use, there were also complications with this feature. It also used Gamespy for matchmaking which reduced a lot of the ease of server browsing with its account system. Strangely, the salty yet funny award announcements had been changed to substandard PG rated names. Despite the fact the game had about as much gore as ever.

Finally, the system requirements were criticized for being steep at the time of release. Crytek’s Crysis came out around the same time, and was berated for the same reason. This, coupled with a glitchy launch hampered early sales of the game. Also homogenized gameplay seemed to fracture the fan base further rather than bring it together.

Months later Epic was able to get out a comprehensive fix for the PC version with a lot of free bonus content added. Called the Titan Pack, it fixed many of the glitches the original release had. It also cleaned up performance issues, and on top of that added new maps, and weapon balances to the game. Titan pack also added Titan mode. In this fun mode players could turn into a giant if they met certain conditions during a game. It really is a lot of fun, and is definitely worth checking out. The Titan Pack also brought a new UI that PC gamers should have had during launch. Now they could change all of the various visual settings the original release locked them out of.

Unreal Tournament III is a great game that didn’t really get the attention it deserved. Playing it today certainly gives that impression. It runs fast, it has the wild weapons the series is known for. The modes are highly enjoyable, and the PC version still includes the Unreal Editor for free. This a great deal for anybody even remotely interested in-game design as you get to play with the very same utility many games are still being made on. While not as plentiful as previous games, one can still download all kinds of community driven content for PC, and PS3.

If you’re a PC gamer who missed or skipped UT3 when it originally came out in 2007 you may find yourself pleasantly surprised if you play it today. With its beautiful graphics, fast paced gameplay, and hundreds of hours of free content one can’t help but wonder what could have been had there not been so many missteps during its original publishing.

For Xbox 360, and Playstation 3 owners in their teens, and early twenties who have only experienced Epic’s later franchises, UT3 is a great way to see what shooters were like in the days of hyper competitive old, fast paced, difficult, yet fair.

PC gamers can get this underrated entry on Steam, While Console users may be able to find it in bargain bins for a comparable price. Epic is also transitioning away from the Gamespy service so UT3 players can still find games when Gamespy shuts down.

Final Score: 8/10