Experienced Points: Unbelievable Tournament

By Shamus
on May 20, 2014
Filed under:
Column

My column this week is about the baffling announcement that:

  1. Epic Games is making a new Unreal Tournament. Despite the fact that Epic has been focusing so much on consoles, the game…
  2. …is planned to be a PC exclusive that…
  3. …will be completely free and…
  4. …developed in collaboration with the community.

So yeah. Strange things afoot.

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201434 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.

From the Archives:

  1. lucky7 says:

    My first FPS was playing the original with my uncle, so I am VERY excited to see what comes out.

  2. kanodin says:

    To me it looks like Epic is looking to learn from all the success Valve’s had. The model looks almost identical to how tf2 works these days, with the community creating products to sell to the community and the company just providing a framework for that.

    I hope it works and that this model starts to catch on, it’s a great way of implementing free to play while still delivering quality. I just hope maybe there aren’t so many ludicrous hats in all the other ones.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I was so happy when I learned about this.I like fps’s of old,because its just nice to have some quick dirty fun once in a while.

  4. Deoxy says:

    Your remarks about being unfriendly to newbies is probably why I STILL don’t really like FPS’s – I was a newbie then, and being a newbie was hours of stupid hassle and annoyance, with some theoretical fun to come much, MUCH later. Ick.

    What I find strange about this is that you seemed to like that, even though you generally get no thrill from overcoming an obstacle, and I hated it, even though I generally like DIAS, Nintendo-hard games (up to a point).

    • ET says:

      I think a good place to start would be a players-vs-AI match, preferably with some friends. Then you can take your time learning the controls, etc, and you can turn up/down the difficulty as needed. Maybe Team Fortress 2, Mann-vs-Machine mode? Actually, Left 4 Dead (2) might be an even better place to start, especially on an easier difficulty. Then you only have to worry about four people.* :)

      * Lots of veteran players like playing on maps with the player limits turned waaay up past what the maps can handle. For example, most TF2 maps can handle about 4-12 players total (i.e. 2 vs 2 to 6 vs 6), and 99% of the servers I see are 32 vs 32. Total meat grinder, which is barely playable. :S

      • MadTinkerer says:

        TF2 used to be a much more enjoyable game for experienced players before Valve made it free. In the beginning (for me, 2009), the classes were indeed unbalanced and there were not enough players playing medic. Then Valve went and trained everyone who bought the game, class by class, how to play properly. On every server you could expect everyone to at least know what their dang jobs are for whatever class they picked that round, and of someone was deliberately playing a class they weren’t experienced with, you could expect helpful tips and sometimes volunteers for help with achievements.

        For a while there, at least in my experience, TF2 actually gained a sense of netiquette.

        And then Valve ruined it forever.

        On the negative side, new players probably won’t get any helpful advice directly from other players, and you likely will get more than a few bad examples of morons playing “randomly”. No one will bother to explain to you that in order to win the match you have to actually pursue objectives, and it’s entirely possible for everyone on both teams to not know what “push the cart” means, making the automatic character barks very frustrated indeed.

        On the positive side, seriously: just go try out TF2. No one will have any expectations of you whatsoever, and if you have the patience to even try to play right, you’re probably already playing better than the worst players on any given server. Even just not being AFK puts you in a better category than the bottom third of players I usually see.

        It’s been a few months since I last played and the playerbase might have improved in the meantime, but the bar has been lowered so low that even if there are obnoxious trolls on the server, no one will notice one newbie not knowing the rules. Just bear in mind that some servers have weird custom stuff (favorite example: a few servers had hats before Valve implemented hats) that doesn’t apply to the real game, and it’s mostly pretty straightforward.

        Oh, also Valve finally put in tutorials and bots a year or two ago. So you don’t even have to learn the hard way anymore.

        • Felblood says:

          Dude, I was a TF2 newbie shortly before it went FTP.

          It was far, far away from the utopia you have described.

          This was in that awkward age, when it seemed like the only people on a public server who owned a microphone were jerks, who loved the sound of their own voice, and had a bottomless well of vitriol and derision.

          0/10; will not play again.

    • MichaelGC says:

      One possible explanation might be that Shamus was never really a newbie, having been able to ride the learning curve of FPS games in general as the curve itself developed:

      http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=168

      Also, whilst searching for that post I came across this one which folks might find interesting:

      Some people constantly hop around as if they were some sort of gun-wielding maniac on a pogo stick, which looks stupid but is amazingly effective at making them hard to shoot. It’s like fighting Tigger’s murderous, coked-up doppleganger.

      http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=1399

      So that’s a link to a nearly seven-year-old post talking about fifteen-year-old deathmatch games, but I feel confident it won’t be too esoteric!

  5. SunRa says:

    “Epic is planning on releasing the game for free, but then (as far as I can tell) allowing the community to make and sell their own add-on content. Epic would then take a cut of these sales. It’s like Bethesda releasing Skyrim for free, but then allowing users to sell their mods. What do we call this? Crowdsourced DLC? Official fan-made expansions?”

    Valve does this with the new Counter Strike (although you pay for the initial game as well which is good because it blocks off some of the hackers). There’s a basic set of maps that everyone has access to but every now and then they release an “operation” that you pay like 3-4 euros for and you get a new set of maps that was made by the community. The money is split between mappers and Valve while you get to play those maps on Valves own servers. When the operation ends the community votes for maps that will appear in the new operation. Aside from that you also get unique skin drops playing on those maps.

    This system seems to work very well so far in Counter Strike so I’m looking forward to see how the new UT will do this.

  6. TMTVL says:

    Free as in free beer or free as in FREEDOM!? [Braveheart meets rms]

    • Cybron says:

      Given that they’re planning to charge for map transactions, almost certainly as in beer.

      • ET says:

        Hmm…charging for maps would instantly split the player-base, so you can’t play against your friends if you don’t have the money. Maybe have a free map rotation every week/month, like League of Legends free-week champion rotation?

        • Zukhramm says:

          Or you could just choose a map that everyone has when playing with friends? Or they could let players who have bought the map invite people who do not own it if they’re playing together. That’s how Counter-Strike does it.

  7. Hal says:

    I had UT:2004, and I really loved it. Had so much fun with it. I especially loved the non-standard gameplay modes (i.e. not capture the flag or deathmatch).

    The problem was that I always played it alone. None of my friends had it, and my few forays into anonymous internet play were . . . awful. A few years later, I made friends who had it, but they were “done with it.” Bah.

    • Irridium says:

      Heh, I’ve rarely, if ever, been online in Quake/Unreal Tournament. My experience with the games have been pretty much exclusively with bots. On easy. And I used god-mode.

      It actually helped me “get good” at FPS games. Turns out playing Quake/Unreal for ~12 years makes you good at them. Learned everything slowly and at my own pace, and always had fun. Thanks to all those years I can now do decently enough in those games online and more often than not get high on the scoreboards for modern shooters.

      • Unreal was the first game I used mods with. It also gave me a little insight into how the game handled certain aspects of play. For example, thanks to a “Bullet Time” mod, I saw that whenever you score a headshot, the bits of head spontaneously appeared (this is UT 2003, by the way) while the actual head shrank to a pinpoint on the character’s neck.

        In other words, the gibbed head was a lie.

  8. Irridium says:

    I can see it probably coming to the PS4 at least. Unreal Tournament 3 on PS3 did allow you to install mods, after all. Which was actually pretty cool. Shame the game wasn’t that great, though.

  9. Felblood says:

    Things I really want to know:

    1. How much is Deck 47 going to cost?
    (Deck 47 was the noob tube of UT’99 and UT’04 both. Lot’s of chances for an easy kill, even against a veteran player, but also lots of ways for a sneaky player to pile up a huge score. It had the sniper shooting galley feel of Towers Facing, without… all the BS that makes Towers Facing so awful.)

    2. Assault mode? Please?
    This is basically the reason I still drag UT back out every few years.

    3. Enforcer or Assault Rifle?
    –because seriously, Enforcer.
    Once again this was UT’99s way of making a master of map control less than completely invincible, because even the crappy gun you respawn with can be a credible threat if you get lucky. The assault rifle… well you had to be very lucky indeed to even mange to so much as annoy your target, even with two of those.

    • Ringwraith says:

      Also the fact dual Enforcers if you ever managed to get them were ludicrously powerful. Probably too much so.
      I suppose the argument with the assault rifle was at least it had grenades.
      Though it did have the shield gun, so running away was valid.

      • Felblood says:

        The grenade launcher is handy to use from ambush, but even if you have two of them, it’s unlikely to do enough damage that you can finish your target off with bullets.

        1 on 1 matches in UT’04 are just much more likely to be runnaway victories for whoever gets the first kill, in spite of the fact that the second kill won’t earn you the coveted dual enforcer.

  10. Paul Spooner says:

    So, this is interesting, but it’s been going on for a while. It’s basically moving the DRM away from platform availability, and into content authoring. Will there be systems in place to prevent third party map distribution? WC3 didn’t have any, and their traffic basically got swallowed by these guys: http://www.epicwar.com/maps/
    So, in Starcraft II, Blizzard made it so that you can’t get maps from anywhere other than BattleNET (their own distribution platform). Which is why you don’t see third party distribution of maps. You also don’t see anyone inventing new genere of games in the SC2 engine, whereas several new genere emerged from WC3 (TD, DOTA, etc).

    I predict that the new Unreal Tournament will be about the same. It will be a solid platform for the kind of games they are trying to play. A few map authors will make money (and careers) out of it… But the restrictions on map generation and content will stifle the truly creative alternative uses of the platform.

    Still, the software-as-platform philosophy seems a better alternative than the software-as-service model. Good on you Epic!

  11. boz says:

    “…And no, this doesn’t mean the game is “dumbed down”. Just because newbies can score a point once in a while doesn’t mean they can win. It’s not trying to negate skill, it’s just trying to make skill a little less humiliating to acquire…”

    I think you are wrong on this one. Last modern FPS I played was Modern Warfare 2. It had the witch build in which player can constantly sprint and blink strike one hit kill enemies with his knife. It had akimbo 1887 shotgun build which killed anyone standing in front of you without aiming, in short / medium range. And last but not least “noob-tube” build with grenade launcher and refreshing ammo.

    Lets say unreal tournament had a skill range of 1-100. CoD skill ceiling stops at 10.

    • RandomInternetCommenter says:

      Yeah, evening out the playing field isn’t in itself a bad idea, but modern FPS shooters also cap out the skill ceiling much earlier. Even a single change like going from fast movement to slow movement significantly reduces room for improvement, as faster movement increases your options exponentially, and this is all complexity and depth you lose with slower moving player pawns.

    • Shamus says:

      I didn’t say that no modern game was dumbed down. I said that this particular balance change (making it so newbies could score the occasional point) didn’t automatically mean it was dumbed down.

  12. Sean Riley says:

    It occurs to me that if the goal is to let players create and sell mods as part of this strategy, the answer to your fundamental question (ie. Will this be a game like UT, UT2003, or something more contemporary?) may well be: Yes.

  13. Bartendelous says:

    “So there is going to be a new Unreal Tournament and…”

    IS ALEXANDER BRANDON GOING TO MAKE THE SOUNDTRACK AGAIN?

    Sorry. Emotional outburst.

    • Shamus says:

      I know, right?

      Last game he composed music for was Bejeweled 3. What is wrong with this industry?

      • RCN says:

        The weird places people and companies go… anyone remember the awesomeness that was Reboot? Transformers Beast Wars? Shadow Raiders? Do you know what that particular animation studio is doing nowadays? Barbie movie after Barbie movie…

        Anyway, my favorite composers in the industry are Jeremy Soule (of Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander fame… and some minor title named Old Parchments or some-such) and Paul Romero (of Heroes of Might and Magic as well as some Might & Magic games).

        • I think what you’re seeing there isn’t so much to do with the brilliance of the studio as with the iron-fisted marketing control toy companies and TV show producers want over the end product and narrative.

          As I understand it, these toy companies used to basically throw the toys and what little lore they had at these studios and said, “Here, make a show out of this, call us when it’s done. We don’t care what it is so long as our product is the star and our 1/2 hour toy commercial passes muster with the FCC and our budget.”

          The Transformers were a shining example of what happened when you let the animators and writers have a lot of free reign. A few other shows managed to achieve that level of imagination as well, as did some comic book tie-ins. My favorite of the latter was ROM: Spaceknight, which had a deep and cool story far beyond the poorly-proportioned action figure that started it.

          Now, the “story” is usually maximized to meet certain criteria for marketability, product placement, etc. with little regard to character development or just trying new and weird things.

      • Bartendelous says:

        Going from creating this for UT:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3x8geNo31yg

        And working in Alpha Protocol as Audio Director, to Bejeweled 3 on the same year (2010). How the mighty have fallen. Even Batman is sad.

        Well at least he…wait, what the fu-
        “Alexander is also a voice actor, having been cast most recently for the parts of Ancano and Amaund Motierre in the Role Playing Game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Bethesda Game Studios.”

  14. So this is going to be PC only. But it’ll run on Linux. That means, it’ll run on a Steambox. So in a weird sense, when it comes to console-like-things, this will be a Steambox exclusive. As will all PC-only releases that run on Linux.
    I am starting to think those Valve folks with their Steam boxen are crazy like foxen.

  15. saluk says:

    No one has mentioned the real reason for this project to exist. Epic’s meal ticket is no longer in games, but in engines. Unreal Engine 4 is new and shiny, but other than a few demo showcases does not have any strong recognizable games developed for it yet. Similar to the “make something unreal” contest, a new UT will bring a lot of eyes to the engine. This helps from a publicity standpoint, but also encourages feedback on the engine itself. By developing the game in the open, they have the best chance to make eating their own dogfood worth the effort in boosting productivity for the engine itself. It’s a really cool idea, and almost a no-brainer, but I’m not sure if the end product is going to be a worthy UT successor or if it’s really just going to be a proof of concept. They are definitely looking at successful service oriented companies, like Valve and Unity, for inspiration.

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