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.|
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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?
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