Keys to Unreal Tournament 2007’s Success

Games, Unreal Tournament

Ran across this gem on the Epic forums. Reposting it here since I agree with pretty much every point made and it’s coming from someone who’s not just another nobody.

The Keys to UT2007’s Success
I don’t post on these forums, so as a brief introduction to those of you who don’t know me, my name is Brenton Sellati a.k.a. “Khyron”, and I was an active member of the original UT99 competitive community from 1999-2003. I competed in many tournaments, both online and LAN, and at the high point of my competitive success placed 3rd nationally in 1v1 Deathmatch at the World Cyber Games 2001 Los Angeles qualifiers, and then 5-8th at the World Cyber Games 2001 in Seoul, Korea. I’m not trying to say I’m better than anybody, but that I have played longer and logged more hours in UT99 than most people on the planet, so I do have some degree expertise in making the statements in this post.

It’s indisputable that no Unreal series game has had the success of Unreal Tournament 99 in creating an active competitive community—in fact, none have even close. Like many other UT99 players, I was EXTREMELY disappointed in the game play of UT2003 and UT2004, and as much as it pains me to say it, myself and many others have become disillusioned by Epic’s failure to create a new incarnation of Unreal Tournament equivalent to that of the original game, and harbor only a shred of skeptical hope that the story for UT2007 will play out any differently. In 2002, I made a similar post to this one on these forums and Mark Rein personally contacted me over the phone to discuss the issues I raised; I was supposed to be flown to Raleigh to test UT2003 myself, however this never materialized. If you happen to read this Mr. Rein, I’m open to another go around, and I hope the lackluster track record of UT2003 and UT2004 help convince you of the validity of the issues I raise.

There are two critical areas of UT2007 game design which need to be addressed: one is the game play itself in terms of weapon selection, function, and player movement, and the other is the incorporation of standard community-building social tools such as a built-in IRC client and World NG Stats tracking.

I’ll begin with the weapons and game play analysis:

UT99 Rocket Launcher vs UT2004 Rocket Launcher : GOOD

This change was okay. The fact that you could load up 6 rockets in the original Unreal Tournament was a little bit excessive—the amount of area you could blank for tons of damage from a six rocket volley made the gun a little bit too powerful—you could shoot down a good sized corridor and hit anything for massive damage with minimal aim. The increased speed and reduction to a maximum three rocket volley was a good change.

UT99 Minigun vs UT2004 Minigun : BAD

The weapons in UT99 were significantly more damaging than those in UT2004, and a lot of the truth in this statement is taken from the significantly watered down UT2004 minigun. While this gun was arguably a little bit too powerful in UT99 when placed in the hands of a skilled player, the strength of the other weapons compensated well enough to keep it from being completely unbalancing. In UT2004, the minigun isn’t strong enough to double as both a ranged (primary fire design) and melee (secondary fire design) weapon effectively, limiting its versatility. The UT2007 minigun should have about 80% of the damage capability of the UT99 version and the primary and secondary fire modes should function nearly identically to the original.

UT 99 Plasma Rifle vs UT2004 Plasma Rifle: BAD

The plasma was diluted the same way the minigun was. It should also be brought back up to do approximately 80% of the UT99 version, and the primary / secondary fire functions should remain unchanged. I am personally not a fan of the spiraling animation of the gun’s secondary fire because it makes it more difficult to track other players in open space, however this is probably the best counter-balance to increasing the gun’s damage potency to original levels.

UT99 Sniper Rifle vs UT2004 Lightning Gun: GOOD

This is, by the far, the best weapon change Epic made between games. The UT99 sniper rifle was the most unbalanced weapon in the game. A very fast rate of fire, incredible damage potential, and no tracer allowed players with good hit-scan ability to completely overwhelm players with even marginally weaker aim. Gitzz, the undisputed international dueling champion of UT99, is a perfect example of the sniper rifle’s potential for abuse: Gitzz was only moderately skilled with all other weapons besides the sniper rifle, however he built his entire game around this one gun and was able to completely dominate the dueling scene because of it. Imagine going for the jump boots with 150 shield belt and 100 health on Deck16][ and being dead in under 2 seconds from two head shots because Gitzz was by the rocket launcher portal with a sniper rifle. The slower firing rate, still potent firepower, and tracer of the lightning gun make it a much more balanced weapon, and should be kept the same. The UT2004 incarnation of the sniper rifle, with the puff of smoke is great as a nostalgic throwback, but it should be included only through a mutator because the new incarnation of the sniper rifle is just that: nostalgia.

UT99 Ripper vs UT2004 No Ripper: BAD

The ripper was one of the most overlooked guns in Unreal Tournament. It had the unique ability of allowing one to attack around many corners with the primary fire, and was also a great melee weapon because of its juggling ability using the secondary fire’s knock-back effect. Game play isn’t really hurt by not including the ripper, but it would be improved if the original gun were to be put back in with its original functionality unchanged. The ripper’s functionality is unique to the Unreal franchise, and I personally feel UT2007 could only benefit from its return.

UT99 Shock Rifle vs UT2004 Shock Rifle: BAD

The shock balls in UT2004 move much slower than those in UT99, and the power of shock combo explosions was also reduced. The reduction of the shock combo explosion was a good move; it was a little bit too powerful in UT99. However, the speed and the size of the ball should be brought back to original levels—a faster moving shock ball means that the gun is harder to use in close range melee, but not impossible for skilled players, which is the element of skill it should have, while also making the gun more versatile in making long range attacks and prediction shots. The UT99  UT2004 port of this weapon wasn’t horrible, but I think after both versions have been around for years, the fact that the UT99 one was more widely accepted should be a sign that this gun was taken a step in the wrong direction.

UT99 Translocator vs UT2004 Translocator: BAD

This change single handedly ruined UT2004’s chance at having a good CTF community. The only problem with the original UT99 translocator was its original ability to fire with no delay, allowing players to exploit its telefragging ability. This translocator abuse was a key tactic of the prolific (and successful) UT99 CTF Clan MurderDeathKill {187}, and was fixed through a patch. This patched translocator was perfect: it took players SKILL to effectively transverse vertical terrain (think getting up to the redeemer on Facing Worlds) or avoid attacking players. The UT2004 translocator, with its “charges”, tracer, and huge launch distance really hurt the game play of CTF and is one of the main reasons UT2004 CTF never went anywhere. The UT99 translocator served its purpose more or less perfectly and needs to be brought back.

UT99 Piston vs UT2004 Shield Gun: BAD

The replacement of the piston with the shield gun had horrendous effects on UT2004 game play and is, overall, the single worst change from UT99 to UT2004 besides double-jumping. It was meant to hinder the ability of a player with map control to continually spawn-kill opponents because it allowed just-spawned players to much more easily survive attacker pursuits. It also allowed flag carriers to absorb much more damage, and made it far too easy for a player who was on the verge of losing an encounter to put up their shield gun and retreat, frustrating the player who rightfully won the battle. The shield gun is a weapon which only improves game play when playing in assault / onslaught type game modes, because players often have to traverse huge open areas while prone to enemy fire. For CTF and Deathmatch game types however, the shield gun is extremely unbalancing because it destabilizes a player’s ability to maintain map control or follow through on killing blows, which is one of the key skills in being a successful player at top levels of competition.

UT99 Flak Cannon vs UT2004 Flak Cannon: Good

The flak cannon is one of the staples of the Unreal Franchise, and its transition from UT99 to UT 2004 was perfect. It still feels true to its predecessors, and I have no suggestions for improvement on this one.

UT99 Bio-Rifle vs UT2004 Bio Rifle: Good

The UT99 bio-rifle had very limited uses and if it was the only weapon you had, wasn’t very effective in defending attacks from other players. The UT2003 Bio-Rifle was a little bit too strong: the weapon did too much damage and the secondary fire moved too quickly, however this was fixed in UT2004 and I feel as it currently stands, the bio-rifle is as good as it ever has been.

UT99 Dodging vs UT2004 Double-Jumping : BAD

This change was BAD, BAD, BAD. The “dodge” ability is one of the game play aspects that really defined the difference between Unreal and Quake, and while it’s inclusion in the Unreal franchise was considered somewhat radical, it turned out to be very successful Unreal series signature favorite. Then came double-jumping, wall-dodging, etc. This is skill is gimmicky at best, and game play breaking at worst, depending on how you look at it. The wall-dodge-double-jump combination allowed players to move around levels MUCH faster than in UT99, wreaking havoc on the ability to estimate an opponent’s location and predict their next move. Levels had to be designed on much larger scales to compensate for this increased mobility, which explains the lack of small, compact maps like Codex, Coret, Turbine, etc, in UT2004 which were very popular in UT99. Close range dog fighting became much more about dancing through the air and bouncing off walls than anticipating where your opponent thought you were going to move and leading / predicting their movements yourself. Not only did this completely change, and I would say ruin, player engagement tactics used in UT99, but it also caused the style of maps themselves to completely change, further making UT2004 feel like a completely foreign creature to UT 99 veterans. Double jumping should be removed from standard game play and exist only as a mutator; the original dodge system worked perfectly and should be brought back as it was originally. The UT2003/2004 dodge-jump mechanic is the single biggest game play mechanic which made UT99’ers hate the feel of the UT200X series. Like the shield gun, this game mechanic is really only suited to modes like onslaught, and ruins conventional game types like CTF, TDM, and dueling.

Part 2: Community Building Social Tools

Built in IRC Client

I would not be here writing this right now if I had not, out of curiosity one Saturday morning connected to IRC for the first time ever–through my Unreal Tournament client. I never expected that the rabbit hole I continue to tumble down would have been this deep, but I’ve enjoyed the ride. It’s going to be impossible to grow a strong competitive community when the majority of the remaining UT99 competitive community resides in isolated, esoteric IRC servers. People who might otherwise have been interested in joining the community, like myself seven years ago, will never know about the competitive scene if there is nothing included in the game out of the box to point them in the right direction. UT99’s built in IRC client was the, I repeat THE main reason the UT99 competitive community surged to a size far greater than the modest community the original Unreal had acquired. Please, please bring back a built in IRC-client and default channel, or else no matter how great UT2007 is, a huge majority of the people who would’ve joined the competitive community won’t do so because they’ll never catch wind of its existence.

Built in World NG Stats

This was also a unique and critical element to UT99’s success. Not only could you view detailed stats on every game you played, but you could also check out the global rankings to see which players were ranked highest that week. This allowed good players to cultivate reputations—if you played against a top 10 NG stats ranked player on a public server and fragged them, it meant a lot more to you—it was like you killed a famous warrior. Furthermore, trying to reach the top of that list, and striving to be competitive with those top players is one of the key motivators pushing new players to raise their skill level. I don’t care if it forces you to raise the cost of the game five dollars, Global NG Stats or something like it needs to make a return in order for a resurgence of the competitive Unreal community to be realized.

Demo Recording / Playback

Demos are important because they allow players to watch the best of the best playing from their own point of view, as well as improve their own skills through replay analysis. I don’t know if it’s possible to prevent servers with slightly different file packages (e.g. different versions of CSHP) from breaking demo compatibility, but at the very least the inclusion of a .unr  .mpg or other universally playable media format converter would allow anybody to watch matches between top players, regardless of whether they even own the game or not. This would increase the audience which could potentially be exposed to the competitive community and would further aid in adding to its size and activity.

From what I’ve heard, UT2007 is an attempt at combining the best elements of UT99 and UT2004. This is my opinion on what a detailed list of what that combination of things should be if UT2007 is to equal or surpass the success of UT99. I hope any Epic staff reading this who are in a position to make some of these changes will give serious consideration to the suggestions I’ve laid out. UT2003 and UT2004 were not successful; they may have sold millions of copies, but in the eyes of the competitive community, they were both still-born dreams of a return to the glory days of Unreal Tournament. Having played both games extensively, I hope you will take some of the things I’ve said to heart, as I only want what every other Unreal series fan does: for UT2007 to be the most successful Unreal game yet.

– Khyron

10 Responses

  1. Hi,

    I have to agree with every word. NG world stats was one of the most important aspects of the game. I looked forward to moving up and watch those who were in the same skill set as myself move up and down the ladder. It was enjoyable to watch the big guys trade places at the top and I looked for these great players just to have a quick go at them. 10 bucks would be worth it.

    Heh, I also remember you! Take Care.

  2.    Ðì§çØñNë¢T

    i agree with you in EVERYTHING except the bio rifle
    the bio rifle in UT99 is extremely danger and powerful
    when i discovered this weapon and i started using it
    i used it in a way that if i face an oponent face to face or at some distance even the oponent has a shock rifle or a sniper my chances to make a frag was very high (i am talking in past because i play a little bit, i used to play a lot…)
    the best weapon for me was the shock, when i met the bio rifle, i fell in love :P

    have a nice day Khyron

  3. party, sobala =P

  4. +1

  5. I have to say, the Shield Gun, while roughly infinity times stupider than the Piston, add something to UT2004. The Shield Gun only covers about half of the opponents bodies forcing you to aim at different places than the head the whole time. As for the Shock Rifle, I felt that the primary fire was a bit too overpowered in UT99. If someone had just spawned, it took 2 shots from the Shock Rifle to turn them into a spewing pile of gibs. The “enhanced mobility” of UT2004 is what turned the series true to what its name says it is, Unreal. Blinding fast movement speed and the ability to veritably fly is what characterized UT2004 and really set it apart from UT99. When I bought UT2004 the day it came out, I was hoping it wouldn’t just be the same game as UT99, but with better graphics, and I wasn’t disappointed. UT99 and UT2004 are completely different games, and both very good in their own ways. UT2004 really changed the UT series, and ergo, they aren’t meant to be compared. It’s like comparing Mario Kart and Gran Turismo. They are completely different, but both good.

  6. Oh my god, you’re clueless…

  7. I don’t get it. Excuse me if I’m wrong, but… you’re all saying, with that post, that UT3 should have been just the original UT running in the UE3 for it to be a success? That’s ridiculous! That makes no sense! I highly doubt that UT would had the success it had if it was just a port of Unreal’s Deathmatch. I highly doubt that UT2004 would had it’s success if it was only UT running on UE2. They had got their success because they had something new to offer to the series.

    For me, pretending that every new Unreal or UT game should be just UT or UT2004 running on the newer engine it’s just stupid puritanism.

  8. Like Yahtzee said once: “What really was the point of the last 15 years if you’re just going to make the same game complete with old sound effects? It’s supposed to be the future, dang it!”

    But, well, this reminds me of the other, more famous quote from him…

  9. I cant say anything of ut 99 I just tryed it offline, wow , nice game, so I had to try 2003 and see what it was.
    Did not liked it at first but after a week I went online, not many players at that time but fun as hell, and there where no going back now, this is it, best game all time.
    But no one on the server to plat with so *I decided to really buy a game for the first time ever, ut game of the year and ut 2003 was given to me to me from a friend, the first one I think was on the harddrive of an old computer given to me when they upgrade there computers, very lucky there, I never heard of the game before, did not even play any games back then, B. Ut and A. UT, now I do anything else, and yes I got it, Unreal Tournament 2004 Editors Choise Edition,It was bigger, better and veicles, more gametypes and much more people to play with and really, really fun, that is if you really are playing the game and not running around looking at the walls and textures to see if it is a good game.
    Maybe you could do that back when you where playing, but now days your sure be killd in 1 max 2 sec and a very bad player.
    I dont see much flowers and I am not counting the bricks in the wall, I dont even see the shadow thats supposed to be under me when I moving around.
    Really? Guess you never be a player, keep on with you sigtseeing, I dont care, I AM PLAYING THE GAME AND ITS A REALLY GOD FELLING, JUST WONDERFUL TO PLAY, AS MANY OF THE OLD GAMES, they where made to play and force you to give all you have, and still lose.
    Ut 2007, well I tried it for a week and then I uninstald it.
    But I gave it one more chance, thinking it´s me thats wrong, not the game, I mean have you seen the grafik, its awsome, ……….yes it is, and its not me, its the game, useless, trash,,,,
    nothing what so ever, nothing, no feeling at all, all that flashy, glowing, smoking, dark shadow and…. what the f..k, a big, 10 times bigger than me, hammering or somthing and everything remind me of a bulldoozer, come on, no feeling, to big guns, to big man, flashes and lightning everything just distract and take away the gameplay, its nothing left, how can they so totaly destroy at perfect game, yes I forgot to say, when you have a pefect game, and ut 2004 really are a perfect game, you cant, as the knight say, have somthing new or whats the point, you cant take a perfect game and change a little here and there and throw in a new thing and thinking it will be better, then you are just stupid, no player and dont hava a clue what you talking of, how can you take a perfect game and make it better, almost everthing you do will only make it bad, you can only do little things, update the textures, some new skin and things like that, just some polish, not destroy it.
    The best game are already done, long ago, microsoft did a perfect pinnball 95 and on some, not all, win NT they did a hovercraft game, I still have not drive anything better, and do you see somone trying to make chess better, no but they look better but it dont play better.
    And there can only be one FPS, one dogfight, one strategi and so on, and yet there are hundreds of new game every year, how com?
    Well they just put in somthing new and they know people will buy them, becouse they new, differnt somhow, but not better, they actually know that, but if you buy new game you forget the old god ones and playing on the new bad ones until they are perfect again and start all over.
    you know a car from the 50 or 60 they lasted for 40- 50 year if you did nothing, if you took care of them they last forever, but they cant do cars that way, they must break so you will buy a new one from them.
    But its ok, running around in your wheel, sooner or later you learn and take a break and a cup coffe

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