Piston Camping for Fun and Profit

By Shamus Posted Thursday Feb 2, 2012

Filed under: Video Games 112 comments

Digging through the archives on my computer, I unearthed this old gem. It’s probably my first example of videogame analysis

Some background: This is an article talking about the level CTF-Facing Worlds in the game Unreal Tournment. It was a horribly broken, unbalanced map with a layout that encouraged all the wrong behavior from players. Despite this (or perhaps even because of it) CTF-Face was by far the most popular map of all time. There were countless servers that hosted games running exclusively in this map. I once saw numbers suggesting that there were more hours clocked on CTF-Face than on all other maps combined.

The map is just a floating island in space, with a tower on either side. Inside the tower is the flag room. Inside the flag room is a teleport that will send you to the roof where you will find a sniper rife, some sniper rounds, and armor. Players spawned in the open, beside the tower. The towers were usually covered in snipers, who would shoot respawning players again and again. Here is Facing Worlds:

Click to big-ify.
Click to big-ify.


The game had a melee weapon called the piston hammer. It was this pneumatic device that built up a charge over the space of five or six seconds. At full charge, the hammer was a guaranteed kill against an unarmored player. All you had to do was get close to someone with the charged hammer and it would go off, smashing them to bits. Players also had a translocator gun, which would shoot out a puck with a little glowing antennae on top. You could instantly teleport yourself to this puck.

This is an article I wrote around 2000-ish, back when I was really into the game. I was so proud when this thing was linked on the gaming news sites of the day. I got over two thousand views. (OMG I’M FAMOUS!) Keep in mind I was in my late twenties / early thirties when I wrote this, and I’m 40 now. It seems pretty childish by today’s standards, not to mention overlong and rambling, but I can see little hopeful glimmers of the someday-critic peeking through the cracks.

This is actually kind of embarrassing to post, but I’m hoping it will be good for a laugh. Or… something.

I have left the article just as it ran, with all of the original errors intact. Here we go…

1. My Confession

Hello, my name is Shamus, and I’m a piston camper on CTF-Face. There I said it. Are you mad yet? If so, then you are probably mad at the wrong person. I want to talk about Piston Camping, why its important, how to do it, and how to defeat a piston camper.

CTF-Face is by far the most played map for UT of all time, in any category. With over 316 total years (as of April 2001) of player time logged, it is way ahead of all other maps in Unreal Tournament history. However, it has some serious “flaws” that are open to abuse. These so-called flaws give the map its unique play style and thus its popularity, but also open the door for all sorts problems. This causes a lot of fights (CTF-Face seems to have way more than its share of angry, frustrated, and whining players cursing at each other while the game rages on) and even leads people to try to enforce “rules” for others to follow in order to correct these abuses.

The most obvious problems are that the snipe lofts overlook ALL spawn points for the opposing team, and – worst of all – the most strategic area of the map is accessable only via a single teleporter. This leads to the two most popular and most hated passtimes on CTF-Face – Spawn Sniping and piston camping.

I don’t think we should be blaming players for the insanity on CTF-Face. People play to enjoy the game. They enjoy it more when they have some success (like killing someone else or capping the flag). Should one player enjoy it less (giving up potential kills) so other people (who they do not know) might enjoy it more? If you answer “yes”, then do you really expect everyone to behave in such a selfless way?

What is spawn killing? Killing someone when they respawn? On CTF-Face, how long do you wait before someone is fair game? Two seconds? Five seconds? Until they are armed? Until they are heading for your base? This whole debate is silly. People will play the game in a way that makes them happy. Nobody complains about spawn-sniping in other maps, because its not possible to spawn-snipe on other maps. If it were, people would do it.

However, spawn-sniping is really only good for the guy doing it. He can rack up tons of kills in moderate safety (compared to life on the ground, that is) and do very well for himself. He won’t, however, be helping his team. (What good does it do to kill a newly spawned player?) On the other hand, piston camping is profitable for both the camper and his team. Players are always crying about piston-camping being “lame”. Why? Because its hard to defeat? Because the enemy flag carrier gets away easily? Because you can’t control the map with snipers? Sounds more like good strategy than lameness.

Yes, these things are really annoying. I have been spawn-sniped and smeared by piston-camping foes enough times to know that these things are totally irritating. However, they are a way for players to win, and asking a total stranger to handicap themselves so you can enjoy the game more is not just unreasonable, but a complete waste of time. Lets have a look at CTF-Face for a second:

2. Whats wrong with your face?

Here are some ideas for making good CTF maps. Read them and see if you can spot where CTF-Face went wrong.

  1. First off, don’t just make one big open area that must be crossed to get between the bases. Make more than one path. If you don’t, the middle with turn into a giant, lag-inducing firefight.
  2. If you must make a big open area with no alternate route, then at least avoid putting sniper posts around it, or the whole level will turn into a giant sniper range.
  3. If you just insist on using sniper posts, please put them in a neutral area, and not part of the team bases. Make it so people have to at least travel a ways to get to them.
  4. If you are crazy enough to build sniper posts directly into the bases, then at least have the sense to not add armor or health nearby, or these areas will become too important.
  5. You put armor in there, didn’t you? The ONLY armor on the map? Way to go. People will camp there all day. If you have any shreds of human decency left, you won’t put the spawn points in view of the sniper loft. If you do, you are begging players to spawn-snipe each other.
  6. You put ALL the spawn points in view of the snipe loft?!?! Alright, what is wrong with you, anyway? Are you some kind of lunatic? Anyway, people are going to be trying to dig the snipers out, so at least have the decency to put more than one way into the snipe loft.
  7. You only put ONE way in? Okay, fine, you just made these areas very powerful and very easy to defend. Pull together what is left of your common sense and make sure the one route into the loft is not a teleport!
  8. You what?!?! You made it a teleport? Are you totally evil? Well, to save the sanity of everyone that will play this monster, DON’T PLACE THE TELEPORT ANYWHERE NEAR THE FLAG! Please, I beg you. The snipe loft is too powerful and important already. To make it a possible escape for the flag carrier would be insane. Please… (sobbing)

You didn’t listen, did you? Nice work, you’ve just made CTF-Face. Now people can hate each other for Spawn Sniping and Piston Camping. They will send hateful emails to each other, and post long, endless debates in the forums. Eventually, people will start putting up web sites with their opinions on them.

3. Why is control of the roof so important?

The top sniper loft is probably the most important area to control on the map. Its is, as mentioned above, the best snipe loft, the home of the only armor available, and the safest escape route for a flag carrier. If you control this area of the enemy base, then they will have no access to armor or the best snipe spots, and your team will have a quick and safe exit for when they grab the flag. The snipers on your own tower will be able to focus on the ground instead of worrying about getting sniped from the enemy tower. Also, the enemy will be short two or three defenders, since they will be occupied trying to dig you out. Best of all, this can be all be done by just one guy! There is no other map that offers this much power to a single dedicated individual!

If you can hold down the enemy snipe loft, then your snipers can move in and take up positions there. Then your team will be able to totally dominate the board, sniping with impunity while the enemy runs around on the ground like fish in a barrel. Also, having your snipers on the enemy tower is actually better than having them on yours, since they can’t spawn-snipe. (only their own teammates spawn in view of them) Instead, they will be shooting at enemies moving to and from your base. This is far better and much more helpful than what they can do from their own snipe loft atop your base.

The best part of the roof is that it is a common haven for both flag carriers. Many, many times the enemy has run the flag all the way back to their base, and ducked onto the roof for a breather, only to be smeared on my piston and have the flag returned. Even better is the fact that once you are in position, your team has a free escape from the enemy base with the flag. All they need to do is make it into the teleport onto the roof, and they are free of their attackers. They can grab some armor while they wait for their hapless pursuers to pour through the teleport onto your Air Hammer ‘O Death, and then decide if they want to jump down or head back into the enemy base. Or, they could dig in and wait on the roof with you until an escort arrives.

If this still sounds “lame” to you, then you need to ask yourself why. Because its too powerful? Too easy? Too annoying? Too hard to counter? In all cases, you should blame the map and its flaws, not the person exploiting them.

4. Piston camping made easy

So you are convinced that piston camping is the way to victory and total domination? You are ready to go to the top of the enemy base and claim it as your own? Good. Here is the simple version:

Get to the enemy sniper loft. Make sure there are no enemies around (you may need to kill some people, don’t be shy about it). Get out the impact hammer. Crouch in front of the teleport while holding down the fire button. Wait. Enemies will pop through and get insta-gibbed on your impact hammer.

Sounds easy? Well, the above method will get you started, and might even earn you a quick killing spree, but if your foes are worth anything they will kick you out pretty quick if this is all you do. To really dominate the tower and be of use to your team, you need some more tricks up your sleeve. If you follow the below guide and your skills are solid, you should be able to single-handedly slaughter the other team’s defenders. I got my first (and only) Godlike Spree while doing this.

How to control the tower

  1. First off, don’t even try this stuff if your impact hammer and translocator skills are not up to par. You ought to be able to score some decent kills with both before you try to claim the enemy tower as your own.
  2. Control the armor. While this does mean you leave your post and thus possibly letting an enemy slip through, its well worth it to deny them the chance at the armor, and to keep yourself healthy. Remember, there is no health up here, so this is all you got.
  3. Keep your head down. When you are camping, crouch. When you are up to get armor or deal with enemies, do it quickly and jump around a lot. If you need to stand (to type a message or peek over the edge) do it BEHIND the torches. Just because the opposite tower is your tower doesn’t mean that it has your guys on it.
  4. Sounds are critical. Play with good speakers or headphones. All you are looking at is a blank wall and a teleporter, so you are pretty much blind to your surroundings. You are listening for two very important sounds: the redeemer and the translocator. If you hear the redeemer, then move. Now. Dive through the teleport. Sure, you don’t know whats waiting for you on the other side, but whatever it is, it will be less dangerous than the redeemer.
  5. If you hear the translocator, you need to move from your camping spot. When the enemy gets to the top the first place they will look is the middle of the roof, so you need to make sure you’re not there. You can try a couple of different methods for dealing with your new visitor. You can keep the hammer running (so your foe doesn’t know you are onto him) and start moving around. When you see the puck landing on the roof, head for it and you should be able to nail them before they get their barrings. However, they might aim for one of the torch flames over your head, in which case you can just translocate to the same spot – just make sure YOU get there SECOND.
  6. If the person climbing the tower has not mastered the translocator (if you hear them firing the puck a lot but not translocating) then they are probably having trouble. Poke your head over the edge and snipe ’em so you can get back to your post.
  7. Resist the temptation to escort the carrier back to base. In most maps this would be the smart thing to do, but not in this case. Look at how much trouble the enemy is having at getting in here when they outnumber you. Do you think that if you leave you will be able to re-take it all alone?
  8. If you get overrun and foes get onto the roof, don’t panic. Just keep your hammer running and start hitting them. Remember, all you need to do is knock them off the roof, you don’t need to gib them. They will probably be using the shock rifle or rocket launcher. Either way, on a narrow platform like this, you have the advantage with the hammer. Jump back and fourth over the pit. This should keep them dancing and throw their aim off. Whatever you do, resist the temptation to jump back through the teleporter. If you do, you will find them piston camping the teleport when you try to go back. If you need to retreat for a second, jump off the tower to a lower ledge.
  9. Be patient. Just because you are not racking up kills doesn’t mean you aren’t helping the team. The other team may have given up and have decided to defend the base rather then fight with you (good move on their part), in which case your team really owns the roof. Try to let your snipers know so they can join you, and make sure the carrier knows he has a safe place to run to. You won’t top the charts like this, but your team should have no problem winning.

5. How to kill me when I’m piston camping

I’ve actually been kicked from a couple of severs for using the above tactics. In every case, the admin has been on the other team. The worst time was when I was on a server and the admin (MOM_SAYS_HI) was threatening to ban me for slaughtering her team, but didn’t have a problem with the rampant spawn-sniping that her team was doing. This made no sense to me. I was, after all, actually playing the game, while they were just racking up kills for themselves. I challenged her about this and she said, “Spawn camping you can do something about, but there is no defense for piston camping.” This may be the most stupid thing anyone has said to me in a game. If you are this dumb, then I really can’t help you. However, if you just want a little advice on how to deal with my kind, here it is. Below are the methods that others have used to kick me out and, in many cases, keep me out.

  1. First off, unlike spawn sniping, when I’m piston camping you know exactly where I am. You don’t need to bust out the sniperscope and hunt around the entire board. I’m in a 3m x 3m area atop your base, and I’m not going anywhere. Come get me.
  2. The easiest way to kill me is pretty much a no-brainer: come through the teleport two at a time. The first guy will, of course, get smeared – but if you are the second guy you will appear right in my face, and my hammer will not be ready for another hit. A face full of razorblades or a good boot with the shock rifle ought to send me sailing off of the tower.
  3. If you want to take me on alone, or are in a hurry, come thru with the impact hammer running. I don’t know why but sometimes when this happens we both get smeared, and every once in a long while I get smeared and you don’t. I havn’t figured this out yet, so use it to your advantage. But remember, I have armor and you don’t.
  4. I may have armor on, but it never helps much against those pesky nukes. Drop a warhead on my head to reclaim your roof. If I hear it coming, I’ll dive through the teleport for a few secs. The best way to keep me from hearing it is to fly the warhead up the side of the tower, and set it off when you are a little above the tower. If you just fly it in from above (like most people do) then I’m probably going to hear it.
  5. Translocate up the side. This is time consuming and risky, since I have the advantage, so you will need to be sneaky. If you just appear on the roof you’ll get smeared instantly because I’ll hear you coming. I recomend getting almost to the top and then trying some different tactics. You can, if you are quick with the translocator, get up on the torches and attack me form above – but only do this if you can translocate on the first try. If you fire the puck more than once, I’ll see where you are going and you will be dead when you get there. Also, you can try chucking greanades into my little trench on top. There is not a lot of room for dodging up there, so this contest comes down to luck for both of us.
  6. Go to the top of the opposite tower (in my base) and snipe me. I need to move around from time to time to freshen up my armor and deal with interlopers. Headshot me when I pop my head up. And hey, while you’re on top of my tower, why not try a little piston camping yourself?
  7. If you are lazy and don’t want to dig me out, then you can just let me have the tower and live with it. So I say to you, “STAY OFFA MY EFFING TOWER, FOO!”
    If you just can’t cope with it, can’t counter it, and you happen to be an admin, you could always just ban me from your server, ya big nancy.

  8. An interesting note here is that CTF-FaceSE and CTF-Face][ are both designed so that pison camping it not very useful, yet these maps lag way behind traditional CTF-Face in terms of total player hours logged.

    Have a tactic that I missed here? Have a good way to off Piston Campers that I didn’t mention? Want to comment? Just Email Me!


From The Archives:

112 thoughts on “Piston Camping for Fun and Profit

  1. And a lot of those design flaws were translated directly to maps like 2Fort, which is easily one of the most played TF2 maps.

    I think people just really love being able to one shot their foes at little to no risk to themselves. Or maybe it’s the relaxing soundtrack.

    1. Anorak says:

      Yeah! 24/7 32-player instant respawn 2fort! *sob* I avoid those like I avoid rage virus zombies.
      I remember being in one of those once where my own team got pissed off because my friends and I had the gall to ACTUALLY CAPTURE THE INTEL. They apparently LIKED being in a stalemate.

      I used to play Facing Worlds with bots, because I had half speed dialup in rural Wales. People weren’t keen on me joining their servers with a ping of 2 seconds.

      Learning to beat the bots was not really much help for playing against humans- you can learn the maps and the weapons, but not the tactics, or the etiquette.

      The other CTF map that I used to love was CTF Hall Of Giants, which had a similar layout but fewer exploit opportunities. I think.

      Anyway, thanks Shamus for posting that, it’s interesting to see how far you’ve come as a reviewer / analyser / dispenser of gaming wisdom. And you’re spelling has improved ;)

      1. Anorak says:

        Just realised that I criticised your spelling while my grammar was in the toilet.

        1. JM says:

          If you had kept quiet, you could have passed that off as irony.

        2. Really, his spelling and grammar have improved in amazing ways. I noticed it when I was proofing Free Radical for re-release in between proofing/formatting his two more recent books.

      2. Ysen says:

        Oh gods, 24/7 2fort servers. So terrible. So full of people with no comprehension of basic decency, let alone lofty concepts like “teamwork”.

        Honestly, I think the reason those maps are popular is that they’re a mindless shooting gallery. Some people just like to shut down their brains and shoot stuff, and of course they also tend to collect all the people who lack the people skills to actually work as part of a team, or who are terrible at strategic play and awareness and therefore prefer an environment where all they have to do is point and shoot.

        1. Cineris says:

          I hate to admit it, but I feel like the worse a map is, the more popular it will be.

          Unreal Tournament 2004 introduced a mode called Onslaught where players capture control points (nodes) and can drive around in vehicles. A lot of maps have say, one tank, and a variety of other light infantry transport vehicles. Inevitably you get people who decide it’s their job to drive the tank, and will wait around literally contributing nothing until it respawns.

          Later [d]evolutions involved maps where all vehicles were replaced by tanks. And currently on some servers, you’ll find that “all tanks” wasn’t good enough, so instead you get all tanks, but the damage each tank does has been increased by 10x. So it’s tank instagib, essentially (except it’s hard to miss a tank).

        2. MadTinkerer says:

          On the positive side, when the Free update hit. Most 24/7 2Fort servers became filled with n00bs. The servers went from being a pain to break stalemates to being ridiculously easy for any player with even moderate experience to tip the balance of power while racking up a ton of kills.

          It’s been over a month since I played, though. That might not still be true now.

      3. Someone says:

        I don’t know why anyone would go on an insta-spawn 2Fort server expecting tactical play of any kind – the whole point of the map is to decimate the other team and then either snatch the intel while they’re indisposed or contain them within the spawn while your team steals the intel and/or builds an engie nest in the other base, neither of which is possible with insta-respawn because you will always be overwhelmed by numbers far away from your own spawn and vice versa.

    2. rofltehcat says:

      I’ll never understand why people seem to LOVE the horrible maps. And oneshots. And not having to move. And killing people without them having a chance to fight back.

      There are so many “Metro 24/7″ servers even in Battlefield 3. Now you’d think someone who wants to play BF3 would favor playing a game of objectives and open warfare, but nope. Operation Metro (=”Operation Corridor”) is easily one of the “most favorite” maps! (Well, at least for many people… servers I am on are normally empty withing a few minutes if the server switches to Metro because I join servers where people play the objectives.)

      Same for sniping. People seem to enjoy humping a rock 300 m away from any objective and taking shots at people (often never hitting). They aren’t contributing anything to their team as they are basically a lost player slot. Instead, their team could have that newbie guy who finishes the match with 5/20 but at least healed, revived, catched bullets for the others and captured stuff. And that newbie guy would be more beneficial to the team than having another sniper who ends the match with 8/1 stats and 1000 points.
      As a rule of thumb, the team with less snipers wins.

      I just don’t understand it. Some people seem to be enjoying being immobile and having bad stats (except K/D ratio and even then that one is ruined most of the time by me lobbing grenades into their faces).

      I blame the focus on K/D ratio in the shooter community as well as “aiming” being the pinnacle of “skill”. For many people, hitting people from very long distances in the head is the pinnacle of skill whereas killing snipers with explosive weapons and even flanking and situational awareness are considered “cheap” or “nooby”.
      I guess I’ll never really understand the “shooter community”.
      I wonder when this shift in priorities happened. I remember watching pro matches in UT. They didn’t play campy, they played by anticipating the enemy, by showing awesome movement, by shooting where the enemy will be instead of where their head now is… it was just missing objectives since they often played DM only…

      1. GM says:

        I play´ed once counter strike, i was killed nonstop until the map changed to some other in which i found a button which made me safe and killed everyone but me ha ha ha.

        in other words i did not have a good time,well i was entertained through.

        1. rofltehcat says:

          I’m having a very good time in BF3 (though haven’t played much the last days). Got over 450 score per minute, my KDR of 1.1 probably isn’t that great but then again I have a 2.2 Win/Loss ratio. For snipers/campers this is normally more like 150/2/0.7

          I just don’t understand them. They are really holding their teams back and sitting there, gaining nearly no points and sometimes being killed by a grenade, a motar strike or a helicopter can’t be really fun, can it?

          But I guess this isn’t just about the attitude of people but mainly also about map design and map choice by players. In CoH there are Scheldt and whatever River. The first one is a large river where the two sides shoot each other with artilllery for 3 hours. The other one is a large river with islands and the bridges are destroyed by default, leading to even more “artillery fun”… and people play those like crazy.

      2. Simplex says:

        “There are so many “Metro 24/7″³ servers even in Battlefield 3. Now you'd think someone who wants to play BF3 would favor playing a game of objectives and open warfare, but nope. Operation Metro (=”Operation Corridor”) is easily one of the “most favorite” maps! (Well, at least for many people… servers I am on are normally empty withing a few minutes if the server switches to Metro because I join servers where people play the objectives.)”

        You, Sir, read my mind. Why is 24/7 Metro with 1000 tickets and 64 players so popular is unfathomable to me. Sometimes I look at players profile on battlelog and I often see that all their latest played maps are metro – makes me not want to live on this planet anymore ;)

        1. Deadfast says:

          I have no idea what the actual reason is, but it is definitely the same one behind infantry-only Strike at Karkand being so popular in back in Battlefield 2. Ugh, the memories.

      3. Calming music and a pretty backdrop can’t hurt, otherwise I think it’s just one of those “fun while you’re winning, not much penalty to losing because nobody’s accomplishing anything anyway” scenarios.

      4. Daemian Lucifer says:

        I dont enjoy spawn killing,but I see why someone might enjoy it.What I do enjoy,and why I play such difficult maps,is the sheer joy of finally killing that camper.

        1. Joe Cool says:

          I read your post as “I don’t always enjoy spawn killing, but when I do, I prefer CTF-Facing Worlds.”

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Weird thing,but Ive rarely used sniper on this map.Id usually go for the redeemer and wait for a sniper nest to form in the enemy tower.

      5. Deoxy says:

        just don't understand it. Some people seem to be enjoying being immobile and having bad stats

        Actually, I think most such people enjoy the thrill of the headshot, the “clean kill”, and the rest of the game just gets in the way, so they try to ignore it. Just a guess, though.

      6. Dork Angel says:

        Speaking as a frequent sniper on MW3, let me respond. In Team Deathmatch, each kill you take gives the other team points. Therefore that 5/20 ratio you mention got your team 500 points but gave the other team 2000 points. By racking up strings of kills you also can call in support which assists your team-mates. The grenades you spent killing me are grenades you didn’t get to throw at my team mates. My job is to distract you and be a pain in your ass but I can also give intel to my team-mates on where you’re going even if I miss.

        Aside from the skill of a headshot and/or one shot kill, playing as a sniper is challenging in that you have to first work out where the good sniper points are and then get to them. This requires you to be pretty good with your secondary weapon as those big one shot weapons aren’t worth squat in a firefight. Once you reach one of your spots, you need to work out a good strategy to defend it as most have multiple entry points.

        As an opposing player you have to know where the sniper points are so you can avoid them if they’re being used and how to work with your team-mates to take me out if I’m there. There is no “right way” to play the game. Because you want to run around hoping your ping rate is a little better than the guy rounding the corner doesn’t mean I have to – though on some maps I do. Also as Seamus said, don’t blame the player, blame the game. If they put in a sniper class / weapon in there, there is only one way to use it. BOOM! Headshot…

        1. Ysen says:

          That would be relevant if people were actually talking about Team Deathmatch, or about sniping in general, which they are not. What they are talking about is people in objective gametypes who hide in a corner working their K/D rather than actually playing the objective. Note that Facing Worlds and 2fort are both CTF maps – if I die a hundred times to capture the flag once, and you get a hundred kills but don’t capture the flag, I win the game.

          Plus a lot of the time, the kind of player we’re discussing won’t even get a lot of kills, or do other helpful stuff you mentioned like call out enemy positions to their team. We’re talking about people who hide somewhere miles away from the objective and go 8-2, then congratulate themselves on how much better they are than that dude who went 27-20 and captured the flag three times “because my K/D ratio is so much better!”. Half the time the reason they don’t get killed is that their impact on the outcome of the game is so low, it’s not worth your time to walk over there.

          So in other words, it’s not snipers or sniper rifles people have a problem with, it’s players who join objective gametypes and don’t play the objective, or join team games and don’t work as a team, and poorly-designed maps which encourage that.

      7. zootie says:

        I second pointing the finger at K/D and all other individual counters/achievements for the lack of fun in team games. Planetside began to go downhill bigtime when they introduced K/D counters, and as for achievements, we can also look to Planetside – Core Combat’s BFRs and MW’s perks for examples of why giving single players something that can outweigh the entire other team’s strengths is a Bad Idea. It defeats the point of teamwork if you can do more to help your side win by solo killing.

        And then there’s griefing, I’m minded of the BFR guy in my outfit in PS who documented a K/D of 150/1 in a couple hours just by sniping ground troops with it and running away, and of the guy in MW who had the nuke perk and ended every game with it as soon as he could. Both players did nothing but p*ss off lots of people to no useful purpose.

    3. Eric says:

      The entire Unreal Tournament soundtrack is all kinds of awesome, but aside from that…

      Gamers exploit bad design in multiplayer because they want a leg up over everyone else. If there is a strategy that allows the player to rack up tons of kills with impunity without any real effort, well, as the article mentions, can you really blame them? Especially if it’s the only way to compete on that map? The fact is that you can rarely ask your players to stop behaving like children, and even fewer will actually obey. You have to use level design to ensure game balance and fair play, because there really is no other alternative.

      I think this specific example ties in with something I’ve called the “sniper fantasy” in the past. The sniper fantasy is effectively a kind of role-playing whereby a player has an elevated sense of self-worth and an inflated appraisal of his or her own ability, almost always tied to sniping. The “one shot, one kill, lone wolf” mentality is something I see in a *lot* of players, because the idea is appealing to them for one reason or another. However, these players are almost never very good, so rather than being able to snipe competitively in fair situations, instead they tend to gravitate towards easy prey – meat grinders like CTF-Face, awp_map, Iceworld, and 2fort.

      The same phenomenon happens in Team Fortress 2, but applies to spies more than anything else – the idea of being one is appealing enough that many teams find themselves clogged up and completely crippled by the sheer number of awful spies in play. Players will create fantasies for themselves while playing and more often than not, it’s better to play into those fantasies (otherwise they complain that your game has no interesting options or is too bland). I’m not sure if, as a developer, there’s a way to get around this.

      1. Cineris says:

        This is exactly correct in my eyes.
        The appeal of the sniper archetype is role-playing fantasy of being awesome if only X. (X in this case usually being some condition that is out of their control, thus shifting the blame away from themselves. “We would’ve owned them if you had covered me!” for example.)

        Essentially it’s self-delusion that allows players to handle the prospect that they suck, protecting them from the damning light of self-criticism, and allowing them to form bad habits like only playing a particular way on a particular map.

      2. Klay F. says:

        I’m a Sniper/Medic in TF2 and I’m a Payload freak. However, I am under no delusions that I’m a good player. What keeps me playing Sniper however, aren’t the displays of skill, but my own crazy freak lucky moments. Head-shotting a Scout in midair? Yeah, that will never get old, even though I’ve only done it like twice in all my hours of playing. But that and others like it are the moments I live for.

    4. wererogue says:

      I don’t mind 2Fort – when playing Team vs. Team. It’s useless on a pub server.

      The map absolutely breaks those rules, but since it’s easy both to take out the snipers or take out a camper, it becomes pretty much a non-issue. I’ve seen 2Fort dominated way more often by engineers than snipers, with a turret on the ground below the enemy sniper ledge. Or a pyro down there. Even then, if you go on the roof or in the water you’re pretty much safe.

    5. Dragomok says:

      And a lot of those design flaws were translated directly to maps like 2Fort, which is easily one of the most played TF2 maps.

      In my opinion (coming from my somewhat limited practical experience* with TF2), those flaws weren’t really directly translated. The route connecting base has three somewhat separate layers (only top of the roof and the areas near base’s exits is within sniper’s view), spawn points are separate rooms with doors, snipers have to walk 10 seconds when they ran out of bullets or health and at nearly any moment they can be assaulted by a guy with sawed-off shotgun, rockets, pipebombs or given a friendly pat on a back by a lucky or OMFGItsaNinja-level spy.
      Also, it appears to me that on 2Fort most of the snipers’ victims are… other snipers.

      To me, the real problem with 2Fort is that all of the routes meet in a single choke point (top of the stairs near main spawn), that can be easily fortified by a single engineer. If the other team members do just as much as go through the courtyard in groups, the defense is almost unpenetrable without people willing to consciously** co-operate, i.e. perform coordinated strike. And since asking for an escort for an engineer on his trip to enemies’ sewer, offering that escort or even suggesting that one of the snipers should change to medic because you’re the ONLY MEDIC IN YOUR TEAM SINCE 6 ROUNDS AND WE DON’T EVEN NEED THAT MANY SNIPERS is usually answered with either silence or disdain…

      But, yes, excluding 2Fort, you are absolutely right.
      Er, judging from comments, because the only other team FPS’s I’ve ever played were Battlefield Heroes and Free-To-Play, so I can’t really tell.

      * I’ve read many articles on TF2’s Wiki before I even thought it would be possible for me to buy it.
      ** In some games co-operation is just a side-effect of racking up points (see: Battlefield Heroes) or just following common sense (see: Baron “Let’sfireeveryabilitywehaveatthatsucka” Nashor in League of Legends).

      1. Someone says:

        It’s interesting to compare 2Fort with other TF2 maps, because it’s more or less the only map that requires an actual conscious effort to accomplish the objective and win.

        It’s pretty much safe to assume, in any online shooter, that no matter how fun your maps and gamemodes are, there will always be a noticeable amount of people who only logged in to get some kills, and are not interested in trying to coordinate with the rest of the team or even accomplish the objectives. The developers understood that, and designed the maps in such a way as to make sure the frag hunters don’t have to go out of their way to help the team or capture points. Notice how all the control point maps resemble a straight corridor. There are multiple entrances to each control point area, so multiple tactics are still possible, but it’s pretty hard to get past your current objective and run off to do your own thing. The Payload maps are the ultimate example of this – to ensure everyone takes part in moving the bomb, it has been made to replenish health and ammo – not very fast, but enough for the fraghunters to consider hugging it.

        2Fort, on the other hand, subverts these principles, because it requires a coordinated effort to even reach the intel, let alone grab it, and there are multiple paths, nooks and crannies the players can use to run off and do their own thing, often going alone along different paths and being slaughtered, never able to consolidate into a strike team.

        1. Dragomok says:

          You’ve just nailed it.

      2. Ysen says:

        It’s true that the Choke Point of Doom and the hideously narrow and easily-blocked corridors to the intelligence are the main problems with 2fort, though the middle area also has a few issues.

      3. THIS. The problem with 2Fort is NOT the sniper’s nests. It’s the fact that a sentry gun placed on the staircase closest to the top spawn can dominate two entrances: The entrance from the sniper nest, and the entrance from the hayroom. It even gets some damage on Soldiers and Demos hopping in from below. However, there IS, thank god, a tradeoff. The optimal position to protect the two entrances is vulnerable to attacks from below, and the position that protects against the demo and to some extent against charges from the sniper’s nest is a nice bottleneck for the stairs but that’s about it.

    6. swenson says:

      After many games of 2fort, I’ve come to the conclusion that its predictability is exactly why people like it, I really can’t think of any other reason. It’s one of the very few maps where so long as both teams aren’t gibbering morons, a stalemate is inevitable. Have two to three snipers and three to four engies on each team. Have two sentries covering the courtyard, a third in the intel room, and the fourth wherever you feel like. Everyone else is now free to play whatever class they like forever, dying and respawning in a never-ending loop until the time runs out, unless it’s a 24/7 server in which case you go on until your engies get bored, change servers, and are replaced by twelve-year-olds who all want to play spies.

      1. Well, there IS a way to break the stalemate, though eventually Scouts ARE useless. A good team that uses Medics, Heavies, and especially highly skilled Demos can get a push that obliterates all the defenses really quickly.

    7. Someone says:

      Sniper rifles, and their sci-fi equivalents, should be banned from online shooters. Some of the variety will be lost, sure, but that’s a price worth paying for cajoling thousands of wannabe Oswalds into activities actually useful to their respective teams.

    8. But 2Fort is way different.

      1) There’s another way in: The bottom route.
      2) People don’t spawn in the middle.
      3) The path between both areas is covered. If you can get into the roof zone, you’re much better off.
      4) Counter-sniper tactics such as rocket jumping, lobbing some grenades, etc. work because the tower is not a teleport away.
      5) Both sniper teams can see each other and there is a very limited space to work.
      6) The headshot is a skill shot in and of itself, and even good snipers will get arm shots.
      7) The sniper can’t also have every other weapon. This is one of the best ways to balance sniping: Make it so, if you want to be able to snipe, you have to be pretty much garbage at everything else.

      On 2Fort, having zero snipers is a viable but somewhat unstable unequilibrium. One sniper can be very dominant, but they don’t accomplish much aside from denying one of two ways out. More importantly, the enemy just needs to grab a sniper. At that point, it comes down to a sniper-versus-sniper war. Someone unaware of the previous iterations may ask, “Why do you keep having a sniper if all you’re doing is killing the enemy sniper?” It’s a Nash equilibrium.

  2. Simon Buchan says:

    Well this is a bit random!

    Face was pretty much the only UT99 map I could get people to play at LANs (when that was a thing). I didn’t really mind it much – but when you had crazy stuff like Hall of Giants or the more ‘well designed’ stuff I didn’t really see the particular appeal to Face. It’s not like they even did the spawn or tower camping!

    Did you have much to do with the later UTs? I really liked a lot of 2004… except the aesthetics.

    1. Alphadrop says:

      They didn’t even like Deck 16? Everyone loves Deck 16.

      1. Felblood says:

        Which is how a sniper heavy map should be done.

        Death match with the redeemer spawn overlooking the sniper roost, and lots of little tunnels to let people play where the sniper isn’t.

    2. rofltehcat says:

      Probably has something to do with “having to learn maps” and getting lost (even on easy maps).

      We recently played UT2004 on a LAN and nobody really knew the maps. We also played Face but I hated that one (3v3 with 2 players each side camping and 1 trying to cap the flag).

      1. Eric says:

        I’ve noticed this too. A lot of players love familiarity, not challenge, and want to dominate other players rather than build up skill over a long period, or try to learn something new and lose while doing so. de_dust in Counter-Strike, Killhouse in Call of Duty 4, 2fort in Team Fortress, etc. are all some of the most popular maps in their respective games and it’s pretty much entirely because those maps are easy to learn and fast-paced.

        I think it also applies to game modes a bit as well – team deathmatch seems to be far more popular than straight-up deathmatch because everyone would rather have another player take the bullets for them, and it means you don’t have to constantly be on guard. Alternate game modes usually languish in obscurity next to TDM, even if they might actually be better balanced or produce more tense and chaotic situations rather than the usual “oh god our team sucks and we’re all losing” stuff that happens almost all the time in TDM. That desire to stick with the familiar means most players will never, ever go beyond it even if it stunts their ability and keeps them from seeing more interesting parts of the game.

        1. Someone says:

          I think 2Fort is neither fast-paced nor easy to learn, it’s probably the biggest and most sprawling of the original maps. Surely something like Dustbowl or Granary is much more straightforward (in more ways than one). Hell, in Gold Rush you just need to get to the cart and stay near it, the rest follows naturally.

    3. Brandon says:

      I didn’t play CTF. I really liked Morpheus for DM. Found it to be very interesting, and quite crazy.

  3. Amstrad says:

    This is great. I remember the map and the game but multiplayer gaming was outside my reach when UT was at its height I had no idea this sort of tactic existed on the map.

    What it reminds me of though is how de_dust and de_dust2 are by far the most popular maps for Counter Strike (both of which have infamous ‘sniper alleys’ in which the AUP dominates to such an extent that many servers have the weapon banned).

    1. Naota says:

      It’s true that de_dust and dust2 are probably the most popular CS maps, but for a long while in the pre-Source era I would’ve put money on fy_iceworld taking a close third place. Good lord was that a wretched map. Spawn camping in a game like Unreal Tournament is bad enough, but spawning within direct view of your enemy, fifteen feet apart, in a game where you have a single life per round? To this day it baffles me that even one human being was capable of tolerating the yawning depths of un-design brought to light by fy_iceworld.

      Similarly, tc_lobby was yet another level with cripplingly bad design which became the only map any server would play in The Specialists near the end of its mod-lifespan. It was literally impossible to find a server hosting anything else which wasn’t either empty or dedicated to some frighteningly perverse non-gameplay purpose.

      Imagine your favourite Team Fortress game reaching a point where the only servers running were either “24/7 2fort – WE HOPE YOU LIKE SOUND CLIPS” or “Ungamer’s Fortress Roleplay Server – Character Interaction Only; No Fighting!”.

      Death by poor taste: the sad fate of The Specialists.

      1. Eric says:

        fy_iceworld was interesting because, while kind of utterly terrible, it also fixed a lot of complaints inherent in the original Counter-Strike gameplay: long wait times between rounds, too many Mexican standoffs, playing endless cat-and-mouse with the bomb carrier, etc.\

        On top of that, fy_iceworld is extremely easy to learn, gives you all the guns at once (so there’s the mini-game of racing for weapons at the start), and it’s just complex enough to allow for a few interesting tactics, like hiding behind the short walls on the left and right sides, or circling around the columns. It’s atrocious, but that simplicity and the continual feedback loop is what kept people coming back.

      2. Galad says:

        Have we played the same iceworld map? Yes, there is one or two spots where you spawn in direct view of the opposing team but that makes at most 1/5 of the spawnings. Usually I’d have had to walk right or left to the center lane to come into direct view with the enemy team..

      3. I really preferred the old mansion map. It was somewhat susceptible to sniping, but not as much.

  4. Halceon says:

    Well, i’d blame the popularity on the fact that the map is tiny. There’s never really a downtime between spawning and engaging. The spawn-sniping, oddly enough, only enhances this trait. I don’t see why piston-camping would be so shunned, though.

    1. Soylent Dave says:

      Any gameplay that feels like there’s no counter is always loathed. Any kind of camping regularly gets lumped in with this (even though, in most games, knowing exactly where your opponent is makes them easier to kill (or avoid))

      Similarly, any time there’s a one-shot kill weapon in a game – especially if it doesn’t require much (or any) aiming, it very quickly gets decried as ‘broken’ or ‘lame’ or whathaveyou. Sometimes they probably are, although in most games the ‘one shot kill don’t need to aim’ is ludicrously short-ranged (or melee), which is the actual balancing factor.

      Piston-camping managed to combine these two common complaints into one glorious uber-whinge.

      1. Scow2 says:

        Planetside’s “Jackhammer” got hit with this complaint a lot… then again, it was only available to one of the three factions.

  5. kanodin says:

    Huh I’ve played this map, seems someone took the time and energy to recreate it in TF2. I thought it was the worst map I had ever seen and the work of someone brand new at map design making every basic error, fascinating to learn about this.

  6. Thomas says:

    The thing about it’s popularity, is that for it to be so popular more people have to like in than are going to end up spawn sniping that match. Is the chance of easy sniping actual worth the certainty of being repeatedly spawn sniped in lots of people’s eyes?

    1. Hmmm . . . I think it has something to do with the way people gently twist things to enhance their self-esteem.
      See, the getting killed part is a bit of a pain, but it doesn’t make them feel bad about themselves because there was nothing they could do about it. Not their fault–so it’s a waste of time, but not a psychological defeat.
      But at the same time, when people get to the other side of it, they manage not to reflect that the flip side of that is their sniper-killing isn’t really an accomplishment on their part. No, they feel good about themselves for racking up the kills.

      Result: They *feel* as if they gain victories but not defeats. When they win, they win, but when they lose, they feel like they didn’t really lose. So the up side dominates–>enjoyment!

      An awful lot of stupid stuff in the world is IMO explainable by this ability people have to twist reality so that they see themselves or their side as more of a winner or better morally than they actually are (and opponents worse).

  7. noahpocalypse says:

    Will we get more of your beginning articles soon, or is this just a one-off thing?

    1. somebodys_kid says:

      A weekly feature of a 5-10-15 year old piece would be a great idea…like a greatest hits or something.

      1. Hitch says:

        Greatest misses? ;-)

  8. noahpocalypse says:

    Sorry for thee double post, but I remembered something:

    Does anyone recall the Kashykk map in SW: Battlefront 2? My friend and I always loved it for some reason, and I am interested in analyzing it now. We logged probably a hundred hours on that map alone- a lot of the time locked in a big stalemate because we kept repairing the walls (always play on Republic. always). Would anyone happen to have some idea of why we loved that map so much? I’m thinking it’s the vehicles, the multiple paths (if you count stealthing in the water; if not, you’ve still got the bridges), the repairable walls which encouraged altering play style…

    In hindsight, it seems like the droids had a weaker base, but better offense- my friend and I sometimes got the numbers of both teams down to the ones digit. Any thoughts on this?

    1. Eärlindor says:

      I loved that map! I’m not entirely sure why. I think it was the whole Wookie fort set-up.

    2. Alexander The 1st says:

      Maybe you were looking for Chewbacca all that time?

  9. Nawyria says:

    I read through half the post before I realised the term piston camping refers to camping the sniper spot with the Impact Hammer. I first thought it was like spawn camping, but with a melee weapon rather than a sniper rifle, which caused me to read the post in a sarcastic manner after the “On the other hand, piston camping is profitable for both the camper and his team.” comment. I laughed my ass off at the irony until you actually explained the team benefits. :P

  10. Abnaxis says:

    People do like their cheap one-shots.

    This is why I think all the popular L4D/L4D2 versus maps are the ones with ample opportunities for insta-kills (No Mercy and Dead Center). It got to the point where it’s not only virtually impossible to find a game not running these maps, if you start one nobody joins :

    1. Cineris says:

      Left 4 Dead, unless it’s modified, is brutally unfair to the zombie team, so it’s not surprising that players would seek out some minor way to make it a little more balanced.

      However every single campaign has death charges (that I can think of). The real unifying factor is that No Mercy and Dead Center were the demo / first campaigns.

      1. Abnaxis says:

        Yeah, but I said cheap one-shots. There are death charges aplenty elsewhere, but it takes a lucky run/crappy infected team to make it through No Mercy or Dead Center without a survivor getting charged off a building. Anywhere else, the survivors have to be doing something seriously wrong or the infected have to work as a team to get the instant kill off.

        See also: the No Mercy Scavenge map. Since the day it came out, it is the most played map, exactly because over half the cans sit in a death charge zone.

  11. rayen says:

    wow thats sounds pretty dreadful. probably the reason didn’t get into competitive FPSs unti TF2 (and halo, but that was forced and i didn’t enjoy it…). 2fort is really my only kind of expeience with this kind of thing. apparently fun has many different definitions…

  12. Grudgeal says:

    My favourite was the CtF map with the two facing bases with the two bridges running over a river of acid that you played late in single-player (forgotten the name, just remember the music track being “run”). It had the two sniper bunkers on each side of the bridge, which made running over the bridges without suppressing fire or fire support suicide.

    It, too, ended up as a stalemate sniper charlie foxtrot a lot, but at least a good player with a bio-rifle could shake up the balance every now and again and the actual bases were a lot of choke points and tunnels and warehouses that made for cramped firefights. Ahhh, old sins…

    1. Simon Buchan says:

      Problem with that map was that the facing sniper nests could cover the sniper pickup in the other nest – meaning you had to be clever about flushing out the other guy!

    2. Cineris says:

      CTF-Hydro16 (http://ut-ctf.on.ufanet.ru/index.files/maps/023.jpg).

      Never really had a problem with the sniper on this level, since the sniper nests overlooked only maybe 20% of the total area you had to run to capture the flag, and they didn’t put the spawns in the open nor place valuable pickups near the sniper.

      It was really hard to get out with the flag though, probably needed another path out of the enemy base.

  13. Jonathan says:

    That was my favorite map…. I don’t melee well, but I can at least snipe decently.

  14. Oh wow! I remember this level. Wasn’t gravity reduced as well so you jumped/higher farther?
    Running across that dual bridge was always fun. Do you or do you not feel lucky punk?
    And I seem to recall that the rocket was remote guided.
    I loved that, especially on a map like this where you could send it careening across the bridge or towards the sniper in the tower.
    I also seem to recall dying a few times (and killing a lot) inside the tower base when trying to steer the rocket through the structure halls.

    Maybe the level is so fun because it’s essentially two giant battleships which send out fighters (folks running across the bridge) and artillery volleys (snipers and guided rockets), and dogfights (close combat/melee).

    I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tanhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. [pause] Time to die.

    Damn. Now I want a Bladerunner FPS/space game combo…

  15. Naota says:

    Am I the only one who immediately thought of Minecraft when looking at that screenshot of Facing Worlds? Not only are there low-res textures devoid of shaders and additional maps which consist entirely of broad colours, but there’s even that proto-Ambient Occlusion effect going on which shadows the points of intersection on those blocky tower shapes. To top it all off, there are even a pair of torches crowning the more Minecraft-esque building of the two.

    The similarity is quite eerie now that I’ve seen it, really.

    1. Simon Buchan says:

      It’s weird to hear true radiosity computations referred to as “proto ambient occlusion” :) AFAIK, Minecraft uses a simple 1 or 2 block scan to detect local occlusion modulated with some sunlight test I don’t quite understand.

      On the other hand, nearly all early “true” 3d shooter engines used full radiosity computations that physically simulated light transfer – probably physically accurate if the lights weren’t completely nonsense! The trade-off, of course, being that these computations took up to hours! (when building the levels), which is most of the reason maps were so static (and the bits you could move or blow up were often lit wackily).

      Funnily, The Sims, 2 and 3 at least, seem to do at least simplified runtime radiosity (even if not quite real-time) – I haven’t figured out exactly how complete it is, but it looks pretty decent.

      1. Naota says:

        I actually still have to compile maps with pre-rendered radiosity on Source, and it is far and away the most lengthy process, usually taking hours to complete. On the other hand, it certainly makes for some pretty, albiet static, ambient lighting effects.

        The difference between Source’s VRAD and whatever Unreal 2 uses is that Unreal seems to simulate ambient occlusion in a far more obvious fashion, such that there are always deep shadows where faces intersect at harsh angles. It’s one of the things that makes Deus Ex look so distinct from Half-Life.

    2. Eärlindor says:

      No you weren’t the only one. It got me too for a sec.

    3. Eric says:

      Have you, like, never played a 3D game made before 2005?

    4. Dragomok says:

      When I first read the title of the post on RSS feed I thought it was about Minecraft (you know, pistons – pistons are probably the most popular part in any Minecraftian machines), but the screenshot fooled me only for about one second. Does that count?

  16. Hal says:

    Credit where it’s due: Your writing has improved over the years. I wouldn’t peg this as something you wrote if I’d found it anywhere else.

    It happens, though, when you spend enough time writing. When I look at the posts on my own (sad little) blog from its origins, I’m pretty embarrassed by the quality of the writing. Thank goodness nobody cares about what I was writing in 2003.

  17. Even says:

    On a positive note: The map doesn’t favor either team. The concept of the map sounds like it would have worked much better for pure deathmatch, though.

    1. swenson says:

      It sounds like it wouldn’t be bad for pure crazy deathmatch, actually. I mean, yes, whoever got to the sniper rifle first would obliterate everyone else for the rest of the match, but still, it could work. For something with an actual goal other than “kill all those guys”, meh. Doesn’t work so well.

  18. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Ahh unreal tournament.It really was a fascinating game.Too bad none of the sequels was nearly as good.

    And the most enjoyable thing in face is when you get the redeemer and blow up a bunch of snipers in one swift go.

    1. Eric says:

      Can you explain why UT2004 and UT3 weren’t “nearly as good”? Granted, UT2003 was kind of pants but we don’t really talk about it.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        I really cant,because it was a long time since Ive played them.But it was more of a feeling.The guns simply felt wrong,the maps didnt feel as appealing.And its not just nostalgia,because ut3 made me reinstall the original,which Ive then played for a month afterwards.

      2. Felblood says:

        No Enforcer Pistol.

        ‘Nuff said.

        UT2004 added a lot of cool vehicle mechanics )that it never really took full advantage of before the whole thing was overrun with all tank all the time) but the respawn weapons were seriously nerfed, making it harder to jump back into the action.

        I still load up Assault and Onslaught mode in UT04 at LAN parties sometimes (forget tanks and Leviathans, Cicada dueling is where it’s at), but if the game-type is Deathmatch, or Team DM, the game is UT99.

        The weapons, the maps, the pickups: the game has just never been as perfectly tuned as it was in 1999.

        2004 is actually weirdly disappointing. It has all these neat gimmicks (variable gravity, alternative ultimate weapons, tanks with jump jets, some of the best AI a shooter has ever known) but the weapons just don’t feel quite right in your hand.

        Tuning a weapon in an FPS is a delicate art, but if you don’t do it right, nothing else matters.

  19. Eärlindor says:

    This makes me wonder if I’ll look back at some of the stuff I’ve written 10 to 20 years from now and say, “My gosh. I was a silly person…”

  20. Jarenth says:

    Hah. That was a fun article, thanks for sharing.

    I personally get a little antsy whenever I read the stuff I wrote last week, mentally cursing myself for writing that drivel. So uploading stuff from twenty years ago must really be nerve-grating. Kudos.

    1. I think I have a big narcissistic streak. I find myself going back to recent posts or long comments I wrote and looking them over thinking “Yeah, this guy really hits the nail on the head”. I probably need help.

    2. Even says:

      I get that too lately. What’s even more jarring is to go back and read something you’ve written as a teenager. You just wanna go slap that person silly for all the stupid shit he said.

      1. Thomas says:

        I’m still like that now. There was an email I wrote four hours ago and I already can’t believe I’d ever write something like that :D

  21. Deoxy says:

    In my very limited experience with multi-player FPS games, I find it very unsurprising that a map like this would be very popular:

    It provides players with even fairly minimal skill but good map knowledge an easy way to completely screw over players (even fairly good ones) without said map knowledge.

    Get to both roofs first before the other player knows they need to (or practice so you can get there faster than most people), and you dominate. The “flaws” in the map were what they LIKED!

    That is, it provided a relatively low-cost way to be “the best”. And to make that best-ness very painfully felt by those you were besting.

    These sorts of things are one reason it was so hard for gaming to attract new gamers: the newbies weren’t opponents, they were ego-trip fuel with no chance to actually play the game.

  22. JPH says:

    Wait, are you saying getting over 2000 views for one post doesn’t mean you’re famous?


    1. krellen says:

      It’s more views than I ever get.

    2. Shamus says:

      It’s all relative, man.

      There’s always someone out there who think’s you’re famous because you have 10x the traffic they do. And someone else who thinks they aren’t famous but does 10x your traffic.

      1. Irridium says:

        Personally, I consider 100 views to be great.

        “Holy crap, that’s 100 people who read it! That’s, like, EVERYONE!”

        1. Wandring says:

          If it’s any consolation… It’s a safe bet to say that over 100 people read your comment right here :P

          1. rofltehcat says:

            Oh! Oh! I want some views, too! :D

            1. Felblood says:

              The throwawa comments I make here reach a far wider audience than my actual blog.

              –and I post more often too….

  23. Brandon says:

    Oh man this brings back memories. :) I had a blast with UT99 back in the day, although I didn’t pick it up until it was past its multiplayer prime, I think. Pretty sure when I was playing it, Counterstrike was the new big thing and most everyone had moved on.

    I find it interesting that a lot of the stuff you are talking about in this article still applies to modern multiplayer. People still camp, people still whine about it. The move away from dedicated servers (As dumb as I still think it is) has at least alleviated the problem of over-zealous admins banning people for “cheap tactics”

    I wonder if there are any big multiplayer games along the same vein as UT out there right now? Seems like most shooters have moved away from that Arena style game.

    1. Abnaxis says:

      Erm….you mean like TF2?

      1. Brandon says:

        Does TF2 have an Arena FFA deathmatch now? I haven’t been keeping up with it at all. Either way, it’s quite significantly different, what with the classes and such rather than just “whatever weapon you can find and pick up.”

        I dunno. TF2 is fun and all, but it lacks some of the charm of the old school UT.

        1. Abnaxis says:

          Ah, I see what you’re talking about.

          Hrm….Halo multiplayer works like that IIRC. Is that recent enough?

  24. Kdansky says:

    I only have three words (and a link):

    Playing to Win.


    1. rofltehcat says:

      Yeah, Sirlin wrote a lot of interesting articles back in the day.
      However, I find many of his newer posts (last year or two) to be less interesting. But this is probably because he is busy designing games (and earling money) instead of just writing about designing games (and earning very little money).

  25. Factoid says:

    I used to go to a lot of LAN parties in high school and we played a ton of Quake3 CTF at those things. One of the guys that attended was a prolific map maker.

    He built this amazing custom map that consisted of a LOOOOOONG and completely fogged over bridge, with a small base at either end. The bridge had gaps in the railing so you could get blown off the side if you weren’t careful. You could also rocketjump to the top of the bridge and walk along the beams above the platform.

    visibility through the fog was about 20ft on a probably 300-500ft bridge.

    Each base consisted of a small entryway that had a railgun and a rocket launcher in it, and then a room to the side of the entryway that housed the flag and most of the spawn points. I think it was possible to spawn in the entryway but unlikely.

    Basically the playstyle of the map was to stand in the entryway and spam rockets and railguns down the bridge, hoping to intersect players coming across. The bridge was wide neough for about 5 players to stand side by side, so you did have some maneuvering room to zig zag.

    There was also some minimal cover provided by support columns every 50-75 feet.

    This map was amazing. It was ridiculous and almost impossible to capture the flag, but we had a blast playing it. Firing rockets and railguns into the void and getting kills is like crack.

    There was also a grenade launcher hidden up above the entrance to the bridge, so you could sneak along the top and rain death on those below.

    To this day I still lament the fact that I no longer have a copy of this map. Probably few than 100 people ever did.

  26. Guildenstern says:

    Thanks to those darn Star Wars reviews I can only read the second header title in Plinkett’s voice.

  27. Jimbo says:

    What I took away from the article is that human nature hasn’t changed. I got kicked from a COD Blops server yesterday because an admin didn’t like that he kept dying to me over and over.

  28. DaveMc says:

    “5. You put armor in there, didn't you?” Ah, there’s the Shamus we will come to know and love.

  29. Alex says:

    Wait, Unreal had a gun that was also a Teleporter?

    I’m putting that in with the Shrink Ray in the “List of FPS Weapons That Make No Sense NOT Being In Modern Games Anymore“.

    1. William Curtis says:

      Was only a teleporter… Great item… :)

      1. Bryan says:

        Was “only” a teleporter — that you could telefrag with.

        So yes, a teleporter and a pretty decent weapon, if someone happens to run near the disc, and you see it happen. Or if someone is dumb enough to not move when they hear the disc fly up around them.

    2. Cineris says:

      One of the best things ever for Capture the Flag – Made matches actually exciting instead of missing the Flag Carrier and having absolutely no chance of catching up to him.

  30. Bryan says:

    CTF-Face][ was the only variant I think I ever played — but that was because I never actually played multiplayer, but only ever against bots. Upsides and downsides to that. :-)

    But I didn’t like CTF *nearly* as much as I liked Assault. Had to go back and look up the names of the maps again, but yeesh: AS-HiSpeed, AS-Mazon, AS-Overlord (what’s not to like about reenacting bits of Normandy!), and that was just the ones that came with the game. I also managed to find a bunch of extra maps at one point, including AS-BankJob (yes, exactly what it says on the tin :-) ), AS-Resurrection (run through a graveyard, toward a wall with sniper nests on top, but with a bit of cover, take the gate in the wall, run around and do a couple more things I don’t recall, then go up a large circular staircase and dump a flak cannon round into the face of a bunch of large statues), and a few others.

    Man, I had a lot more time in college. (Yes, I am somewhere in the neighborhood of ten years younger than Shamus. I also picked up on UT a bit late, while CS was in beta 6.5 I think, and was also pretty popular on the college network.)

  31. Yay! Nostalgia! I remember this map! Yeah, it’s tragic that this is the map everyone played. It’s weird that the worst designed maps get the most play: I think that the standard two fort gulch map in Halo is bad, I don’t much care for the standard Quake 3 bounce level map, etc.

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