Archive for January, 2015

Unreal Tournament Map History

Neohuman: I believe duels in UT99 never used the belt. I never remember having either of those available when playing on the main duel servers or with the old “pros” and this is what Ut2k3/2k4 was based off. Interestingly ASDF seems to be designed around a polarity between the belt and the chest piece, and I think it’s done well. Still I agree with you that the belt is overly important, but at this point rather than removing it I may still lean towards making players spawn with some armor. I’m not too sure which I prefer, deck with belt or deck without. Here

ut99 was generally played with amp/invis/keg* disabled. Referred to at the time as “EU rules”. Generally weaponstay was off but I do recall watching some old German demos of horny playing with WS on.

*not on any duel maps, let alone dm maps in general.

US/AU/NZ* played with the default “remove powerups” mutator. AU/NZ changed mid 2000 and played with EU rules. So much better. Bit more trivia – wcg2001 (first wcg) announced rules in line with EU ruleset (plus a retarded map list that included maps never played like peak and koos). This generated all sorts of fun discussions because NA played without belt. A few weeks before the event (after qualifiers had been run with this ruleset) the organisers backflipped and changed to NA rules. Oh the shitstorm that resulted was amazing.

*Probably others too. But the majority played with EU rules.

ut99 map list around 2001:


This is not all encompassing and I have probably missed some, but overall at some point between release and 2003 when ut2k3 was released these were played fairly heavily compared to the rest of the DM maps.
The belt is not overly important. The “amount” of armor any of the items give is fairly irrelevant in and of itself. The problem, if you want to call it a problem, is the disparity between in/out of control play.

I guess you could say that the belt is “too much” but this is only because when the in control player has belt+jacket under control (not difficult given their spawns) and the out of control player is working with thigh pads only. So rather than nerfing belt, because really big armor is required for big hitting weapons, give the out of control player options for equalising stack

Of course other maps were played but these were the “better” ones. The duel map pool so to speak. I say better and not awesome because I don’t really think any of them were that great. Epic were very clever with their design and all of ut99 worked kind of ok. Most of the maps were large and balanced oddly for duel. For instance curse had belt vs thighpads. Tempest was a gigantic +back affair due to its size and while not directly related to items this is an illustration of problems that existed. All the maps could have used tweaking – things like addition of jacket (curse), addition of belt (malevolence) and so on. Size wise these maps were ok, with the outliers (tempest/viridian) being a bit large/small. Connectivity wise they were ok with some oddness like the upstairs sections of curse and codex being super campy and difficult to access.

And as a community we could have fixed the maps. Since we could edit the maps it would have been fine to fix them up, release them as dm-deck16][-communityedit and play them. Provided license terms allowed it. We could have fixed spawns – I don’t even remember the specific spawns that were problematic. Or we could have used third party maps. For all the hype ut gets for being open to modifications the ut99 duel community was solidly against it.

There was a community duel map pack released at some point, probably early 2002? At the time I thought this was awesome, however in hind sight while the maps themselves looked awesome – both layout and design wise – they highlighted, or rather should have highlighted problems in the ut99 ruleset that ended up carrying across the next three titles. We choose not to see them. Maybe a better way to express this is that we did not notice because overall these maps went unplayed.

When designing the “main” DM maps in ut99 Epic stuck to a very narrow set of rules for pickups. All weapons would be represented at least once. Many weapons would have two packs of ammo at each pickup. Not all but it was very common. Armor was restricted to one per type maximum on DM maps if added. This meant no maps with two jackets, no maps with two belts, no maps with two thigh pads. This system worked very well and gave an ok FFA experience, an ok TDM experience and an ok duel experience across the board. Looking back I think that Epic intended the smaller maps, stalwart, morbais, fractal, fetid and so on to be the “duel” maps. This is not based on anything – one cliffyb interview discussed duel strategy on fetid? It always felt like Epic were never sure where 1v1 should live.

The 1on1 map pack. I consider this to be a very problematic group of maps. While not widely played at time of release up until 2k3 came out all of them were heavily different from what was traditionally played in ut99. They did fix some problems with the standard ut99 duel maps – most of them had all three armor items as well as a nice load out of vials. If they lacked an armor it was belt. Even if they did not have all three armors the pickup layout was superior to standard duel maps. This is what triggered my interest in them originally. They received rave reviews at the time, and for good reason as they were very polished maps, good layouts, nice architecture that was textured well. Item loadouts made sense. They flowed nicely. Technically they were better than Epic maps. I wanted to play them but noone in Australia was really keen more than an initial look. I think the mappers were influenced by quakeworld and quake2 custom maps since the maps displayed more in common with these games than most ut99 maps.

So what was the problem? Why could maps that fix problems (weird armor balance on official maps, less than ideal flow) and weapons while looking good and flowing well cause issues?

Overall these maps were too small for the duel ruleset adopted in ut99 that carried into future titles. Either NA or EU. Not hugely too small, but the lower end of the spectrum when it came to appropriate duel map size. When the game was heavily in one players favor comebacks were hard. The existing/traditional ut99 duel map pool had its own problems for sure but they just worked. These maps took the problems (which I never saw discussed*) and amped them 2-3 fold, simply by being too small.

Too much flow, too easy to go around, no areas to back into etc

Davidm 1on1 ut99 map pack

You can check out the pack here.

Plus they received amazing reviews. This was the main problem in my opinion. They received good reviews, touting their excellence. All of them. Other mappers went out and created similar style maps, many of which also received similar glowing reviews. These maps were setting the benchmark for maps to come in future iterations of the game.

The problem is they did not really work very well with the ut duel ruleset. Noone really played them all that much, especially not at a competition level when the game was super active. This is not because they were bad (they were never played enough to be called bad yet they reviewed well) but because there was heavy push back against third party content for duel, tdm and ctf. CTF eventually came around but by the 2k3 release duel had not changed. I had them put on our local duel servers (long live IPGN) and played them a bit, however because I was OP at the time and stomped most people I did not see the problems.

So we had this fairly significant set of maps that were rarely played / not played at a high level and were considered awesome. They influenced community mappers going forward into future titles. On top of this they influenced Epic mappers or community mappers that went on to work for/at Epic. 2k3 was released without duel maps. The maps we played were horrible. 2k4 was released and.. it had dm-1on1 maps. A fairly significant number of them too. Thats cool! I was really stoked for these as ut99 had dm maps we played duel on, 2k3 had horrible maps and 2k4 had maps specifically for duel! Yay. Upgrade. Epic noticing duel.

Surprise, surprise, they were similar to the ut99 community 1on1 maps in size and style. However because they shipped with the game this time around they actually got play time. And they were not good for duel. They were small, which in and of itself was not a crime but combined with weaponstay off they were very one sided and unplayable. Weaponstay adds a lot of depth and is one of the saving graces of ut duel, but maps need to be large enough for weapon stay to matter for the out of control player.

Here are the 2k4 maps.
DM-1on1-Mixer (UT2003’s Epic BP)
DM-1on1-Serpentine (UT2003)

I played them. I wanted to like them. There is only one in this list that worked and you all know which one it is. It just happens to be one of the larger maps from this list.

These maps shaped the future of ut duel from when they were released to today. They are not great and maps based on their style are only passably ok for duel. They tend to exacerbate the problems that ut duel has, rather than mask them like the older ut99 maps did.

And they shaped the world of unreal tournament custom maps in an irreparable way – all the way to ut4.

*Most discussion back then revolved around EU vs NA rules. Essentially belt vs no belt.

Possible changes and additions to unreal Tournament 4 duel

This is being actively edited in case you stumble across it.

Two things about fantasy land below in ut4 duel

1) All iterations of UT lack an out of control game beyond get gun – deal damage.
2) Items in UT do not drive player interaction as well as they could.

The lack of out of control game would be mostly fixed with the following changes. This is the real issue facing duel. The community have various beliefs that relate to why the game plays the way it does, or how to fix it. The vast majority of these views look at a single aspect and ignore the bigger picture. These fixes try to make what is there work marginally better so as to mask duel in UTs short comings.

The most popular aspect to look at is armor values which translates to maximum stack vs fresh spawn. Logical place for UT players to look at since this has been a key function for about 15 years now. But it is not enough and by tweaking this no depth is added to the game.

The changes outlined below would fix things from a duel perspective and not have huge (any?) repercussions in other game types. The below would keep the “UT DNA” intact with belt + other armors. It would also create a duel game completely different to any seen before.

One assumption throughout this is that weapons will be roughly the same power at their intended range. This means the flak/rocket are powerful in close and the rifle is powerful at range.

The idea to copy quakelive simply to copy quakelive is not good. But we can learn much by looking at past unreal and quake titles. Not to simply steal aspects/mechanics from them, but more importantly to understand why a particular game plays out the way it does in duel. Why some play better than others. This is a topic for another post but the idea of simply “take this whole games armor” or “add this aspect” has more repercussions than most posters realise…

.. not to mention the posters in question usually misunderstand the other game..

.. not to mention that transplanting another games system is hardly needed to fix and add depth.

Ahem. Sorry.

Traditionally in UT duel when one player has full control (belt+jacket) there are limited options for the out of control player to pursue. Obtaining a weapon and applying sneaky damage is about the extent of out of control play. To UTs credit this works quite well, generally much better than it does in quakelive. The main reason this works is the ridiculous amount of damage a player can front load with good shots. In this way even full stack can be reduced to nothing in short order. However it does mean swings in control rely on excellent execution and more than a bit of luck. The changes here should allow players to lower stack differential in other ways.

The other important goal is to drive better player interaction. The items are the structure for duel and push the game forward and the players together. Again UT in the past does this poorly.

Control should not mean one player has all resources and the other has none. Control should mean that a player has a resource advantage, at the expense of time. This resource advantage should not be permanent (provided items are collected) and by giving the out of control player a method of stacking that allows the resource difference (stack differential) to be equalised they have a method of breaking control that does not rely on execution and/or luck. The in control player must use the advantage in the window it takes out of control to stack to an amount in order to challenge them.

This is duel.

remove this? There are a number of ways to gives a player “ins” back into control. The quakelive method is non-binary slow stacking. I don’t think this fits what UT, mainly because it is played with weaponstay off and its bursty weapons, so lets go another route. Hard lock outs that allow denial and sacrifices/decisions need to be made by players. The goal here is to offer a certain number of “moves” in a spawn cycle. After the second spawn cycle.. well you will see what happens.

Preface: This is heavily based on ut99 armor. The description here ( is wrong. Read the Unreal belt description on the same page for a rough idea.

Armor (jacket+pads or big+small) are separate to the belt but share the same “slot”. They will work on a overwrite system. From this point on “armor” refers to jacket/pad item and belt refers to the belt.

The last point is to allow a player with 20 belt a jacket pickup without forcing clunky self damage. From a pickup perspective the belt is always considered superior as it offers the most protection in one pickup.

This is essentially how ut99 worked minus bugs and stacking weirdness. The main difference is overwrite on armor pickup at low belt values.

1) Give jacket/pads the same level of absorption.
Removes stacking confusion and “how much armor do I have” issues. This is also because thigh pads offer very little protection compared to UT damage output. Removes possible confusion in relation to stacking.

Spawn time on these armor pieces would be 20-30 seconds.

The absorption amount is dependent on weapons and movement – hard to gauge at this point.

1b) Pick a max armor value that sounds good.
As the total itself is fairly meaningless lets go with 150. Protection can be tweaked at a later date via absorption %. The goal is to have armor offer more protection than belt at a full stack.

The total number is important in relation to the “armor” pickup numbers as a “how many pickups do I need to stack to max armor” which comes later.

2) Allow jacket/pads (big/small armor) to stack with themselves.
This allows the non-belt player to stack using a single pickup multiple times – it also gives reason for denial after a non-belt opponent picks up an item, which drives player interaction harder. With the current setup once a player has an item their opponent is free to ignore picking it up until they deal damage unless they opt to deny it for after the other player has taken damage.

Have at least three of these items on a map, at least one big. Armor values something like 100/50.

3) Lower belt spawn in line with mega
55 seconds is too long and allows too much freedom to the belt player. At first glance this appears to be a huge buff but in reality a player with belt now has to worry about this pickup much more often. In addition it offers out of control more chances for ambush at the belt. It also ties into one other change.

Somewhere between 30 and 40 seconds.

Give the belt around 100 points. The important point from a UT DNA perspective is 100% absorption.

4) Add keg to duel maps
One thing glossed over when posters discuss ql armor/duel is mega. Across the board it is the one item included on every duel map in current rotation and the vast majority of all competitive duel maps ever played. However the keg in ut has a very long spawn time (or did) Change this to the new shorter belt spawn.

Cap max health at 200 (or 199). This could be lower for balance but 200 is a good starting point.

5) Disable health tick down
This may not exist currently but it is important for how this system would work. Prevent pickups of mega/vials when at max health.

6) Lower weapon respawn to 15 seconds, halve ammo pickup with weapon

This forces players to return to weapons for denial more often. Boosts importance of ammo and revisiting weapons. Takes pressure off the out of control player as they will have weapons available more often allowing them to defend themself. Allows throttling of weapon use via ammo scarcity as a mappers choice. For example is a map is heavily based towards rifle due to being open, having one rifle spawn and no ammo on the map causes the player denying the rifle to return to it frequently in order to deny it and because of ammo and also for their own use.

This is a minimal change and personally I think the way weapons are used in duel should be revisited, however because this overview is intended to demonstrate a way to add depth to duel using an existing title (ut99) pickup system with a few changes more major weapon adjustments will not be discussed.

Overview of changes:

In this way a limit is placed on control. Obviously players can do things like self damage to circumvent the belt+mega “problem” but it needs to be considered – is it really worth dropping 100 points of belt in order to deny 100 points of health? If I have 199 health/100 belt and mega is available it is probably not in my interest to do this. They then need to play tethered to the mega going forwards unless they want to cede it to their opponent.

This allows the out of control player to stack to a decent amount with a single item (or two items) via armor. One item not one item pickup. It adds another item for the in control player (keg) and at the same time caps out their ability to deny it if they have belt. Blocking pickups at max is similar to tickdown (also suggested in this thread) but has an obvious effect on the game.

And we end up with two stack types. Belt+max health and Max armor + max health. Ideally max armor has a higher max hitpoint potential but takes longer to arrive there, especially from an “out of control” situation where the player stacks on small armor + vials.

Belt – Big armor 100% absorption (30-40 second spawn)
Jacket – Big armor X% absorption (<100%) (20-30 second spawn)
Pads – Small armor X% absorption (<100%) (20-30 second spawn)
Keg – +health over base max, no tick down (30-40 second spawn)
Vials – +health over base max, no tick down (same as keg + normal health)
Helmet – Blocks a headshot or whatever.

Weapons – 50% less ammo on pickup. 15 second respawn.

How this plays out

In comparison to existing unreal titles this is an item rich game. Consider the two routes to stacking.

1) With belt a player can deny: Belt, armors, keg (once) unless their belt is used entirely and their health is lowered from max.

A player using belt must consider the keg and how to deal with their inability to pick it up. Do they defend it and cede armors to the other player? Do they leave it to deny armors and leave the keg for the other player?

2) With armor a player can deny: Armors, Keg indefinitely as low incoming damage will allow pickup.
A player using armor has a similar situation to deal with. If they take the belt they nerf their maximum potential. Thus they must make decisions about leaving it up/guarding it/denying other items.

Notes: If you opt for the “stronger” armor route you have to deal with the belt. If you decide you cant deal with the belt being up you effectively limit your maximum further while at the same time limiting your keg denial ability.

the belt player has to take – the belt. the belt player has to deal with – the keg. the belt player has to deny – armor

At this point maps become a problem. But that is an issuefor another post. Ideally maps should have something like sb/j/t/t/k or sb/j/j/t/k or possibly on smaller ones j/j/t/k or even sb/sb/j/k

This may sound like a lot of armor but it is one item more than previous titles plus the keg.

About spawn times and how many items?

In case this has not become apparent yet spawn times and in/out of control will now be discussed.

Revise section – sounds retarded : One main problem with ut duel is the lack of items. Players in ql* often run red, mega and a yellow. Three items every 30 seconds or so. This will be the goal in order to occupy the in control player . In order for the out of control player to have stacking options the in control player needs more than two (traditionally ut) items to keep them busy, preferably located in separate parts of the map. Deck is possibly the only map (belt, boots, jacket) where this occurs but one of the items is not stack specific (boots) and the “out of control” armor is near the high sniper, hardly worth the risk for the protection pads offer. Plus with jacket+boots close proximity it becomes trivial to line them up – ie minimal time requirement – max stack vs fresh spawn health prevails again.

The goal is to have one player running three items while the other player can stack on one plus vials. The player with more items would be considered “in control”, however unlike other duel games this control is not open ended. The out of control player can stack a meaningful amount and the speed of this stacking is directly proportional to the choices the in control player makes.

If a map contains sb/j/t/t/k the in control player with belt and keg can limit the speed at which their opponent stacks by taking the jacket and a pad. In this way the out of control player needs to take 3-4 spawns to stack on their remaining pad pickup. During this time the keg will become unavailable to the belt player unless they take damage. It might seem prudent for the out of control player to push for the keg pickup straight away, however if they fail and only have part of a stack (two pad pickups instead of three to four) they set themselves back that amount of time and have to start again.

This means that going forward maps need the above mixes – A map with sb/j/j/t/k makes the “in control” player hit belt then denies at least one jacket per cycle.

*which is a “better” duel game, has a longer history, more players and as such better “upper level” benchmark than ut. Players can do three items relatively easily, thus more than three are probably required without hard lockout like quakeworld – which does not play all that well in duel because of this.