Archive for the ‘FPS’ category

Duel and weapon denial in ut4

As a side note someone mentioned working out an opponents preferred weapon and locking that down – this is not really how weapon control should work.

At high level all weapons are roughly equally dangerous at their effective ranges. Denying a low level player his rocket launcher (because he is useless with other guns) is well and good but at higher levels it is not really an option as your opponent will have access to flak which is roughly interchangeable at the same range. In 1999 specific denial like this was good due to players preferring one weapon, players needing one weapon because of connection and general lack of aim overall.

With the current weapon implementation denial works sort of like.. scoop up everything you can and pray. 2kx may have been different due to reliance on lg/shock hitscan, however this dynamic does not occur when all weapons are roughly equally useful. In addition there are very few demos of this occurring in game, which leads you to think that does not really happen.

In addition unless players are familiar with each other identifying “preferred” weapons is unlikely to occur. This is a chicken or egg situation – a player that is not good enough to be efficient with the entire weaponset is unlikely to realise what weapon their opponent wants – if players are at a level where they could identify weapon preference they are probably beyond the point where they “need” a weapon in order to play well. A better way to structure weapons in duel is by range. In this way players can take advantage of gaps in the other players arsenal, this is quite easy to understand. ut does not offer this due to double up on fire modes.

Think of weapon pickups like class abilities that are paper scissors rock. Long beats short/medium at long, medium beats short/long at medium and.. well you get the idea.

So rather than looking upon duel as locking out your opponents “preferred” weapon (because as player skill increases there will not be a preferred weapon, plus it is ineffective to play this way) players should instead look at locking down a specific range – in this way the player controlling the sniper/shock can leverage long range encounters to their weapon stack or the player controlling the rockets/flak can dominate in close.

In a game with a tiered weapon set (either quake2 where there are good/bad weapons or 2kx where hitscan is dominant) denial based on grab everything (everything in the “superior” niche”) works to a degree. However this also leads to face stomping as the controlling player has the better weapons.

A game where weapon respawn is shorter leads to players becoming more predictable and better drives player interaction. If I know you have rockets and mini/pulse then denying sniper or shock is a good step in the right direction – I can then utilise my advantage (long range) over my opponent. Players can also predict where their opponent will be going based on weapon.

The problem with ut4 weapons is there are simply too many for the game to work like this in duel in a reliable way. Some maps partial situations like this might occur – for instance deck. It possible to lock down mini and pulse as they were right next to each other. In general maps were not designed with the flak next to the rocket or the mini next to the pulse, resulting in the aforementioned range lock down from happening. This could be viewed as a good thing (never getting locked out of a range) except players view locking out _everything_ as a viable strategy.. so something less severe and reliable that adds another level of strategy should be embraced with open arms. A setup like this would be much more reliable than the current mess. It would also serve to drive player interaction better – as per the previous example I know you have short and medium range weapons so you are likely to seek out the long range slot in order to compete.

In many ways range based lock out is as effective as total lockout. How do you counter rockets or flak in close when you do not have either or how do you counter sniper at long range with only rockets or pulse? You can’t. You don’t. So you stay away from encounters at the range you are lacking. You play at the ranges you have access to, which you have weapons for. You are still dangerous at the ranges you have weapons for, just not the ones you lack vs being ineffective at all ranges due to no guns at all.

So since I am now off on a massive tangent – rather than simply changing respawn times I propose the following. Change respawn time to 15-20seconds and bundle weapons.

  1. Rocket + flak
  2. Pulse + mini
  3. Shock
  4. Rifle
  5. Bio+other

In this way range lockout becomes possible by concentrating on one pickup. This adds more nuanced play to the game and gets away from the “collect them all” mentality. If duel then becomes locking out specific ranges also becomes a reality compared to currently.

Decreased spawn time serves to send the player back to the weapon they want to deny more frequently, increasing predictability.

Also player interaction is increased – when my opponent has 2+4 from the above list it is worth my time to visit 1 as that is the gap in their arsenal. Improved player predictability is a benefit from these changes as well. If there are 7 weapons (rockets, flak, mini, pulse, shock, rifle) that are sought after, predicting player movement beyond shock is much harder, bordering on impossible.

Newer ut4 weaponstay discussion


Preface: I love weaponstay off*.

nuxx: This is fairly obvious stuff but I said I’d point it out and it would be some of the reasons I think changing weapon spawn times might impact the game negatively. It also ties in some of the stuff why I’m against item timers

The codex example is the argument for why weapons should be taken off the armor spawn time for ut4 duel and possibly TDM. Not necessarily shorter and the weapons are not necessarily the items that should be changed..

Having different times forces the player to consciously time/control specific weapon(s) as well as the armor. Not simply run a lap. It makes players select weapons they want to deny and further restricts in control player movement and limits available time. Limiting available player time is the goal here, the side effect is making control “harder”.

In the codex example with 20 second weapon spawns the shock would be coming up before the armor. The player has a choice – hang at the jacket for the next 10 seconds leaving weapons spawning or go collect weapons, to arrive back at the jacket in time for it to pop. Keeping in mind if they managed to pickup the same weapons you did there will be some they cannot get to before the jacket becomes available. In addition weapons would be spawning while the in control player is going for the jacket, making denial selection more important than it currently is.

20 seconds is plenty of time to control a large number of weapons – but it will be harder and the player will have to be much more deliberate. This forum is full of posts about weaponstay off adding depth but in general there are very few examples of how. Rankin in 2kx with lg/shock/50a/vials is the most commonly cited example. Out of 15 years of games if there is one example where players deliberately play differently there is something up.

Interestingly changing the jacket to 20 seconds would have a similar effect, at least for duel.

Historically there is a precedent for shorter respawns in the base game – health packs in ut99 have a 20 second spawn.

Fun side stuff.
Quakeworld TDM essentially has one weapon: the rocket launcher. It is on a 30 second respawn and one of the core maps has a single pickup (e1m2). This creates an interesting, almost class based dynamic in TDM where players without weapons become scouts or hunt in packs to kill players with weapons. Unweaponed players dying is unimportant. Avoiding weapon drops on death is important. Not to say that ut should go down this path of slow weapon stacking but it does give a different perspective on things. The armor has a 20 second respawn so there are often more armored players than there are weapons available.

*In fact I would like to see it off in some manner for all game types, not in the same way as traditional ut, but something that allows shorter term denial. eg 5 seconds in ctf so a flag runner could grab weapons on the way out of the base to neuter chasing by fresh respawned players, 3 seconds in ffa so a player can deny a weapon for the duration of a skirmish, etc.

Hoonymode and Round based duel for Unreal Tournament 4

A round based alternative for duel already exists and keeps most of the duel pros while eliminating the down sides.

hoonymode solves a good portion of the less palatable problems* duel has while retaining the core components. It stays an item driven game type rather than whatever 1v1 ra is.

“HoonyMode is a form of tournament introduced in November 2003 which is loosely based on the rules of tennis. During the warm-up, each player chooses a spawn-point or they are randomly generated if none are chosen. One player typically has a “stronger” spawn and the other a “weaker” one. When the game begins the player with the stronger spawn is considered to have the “serve” and each player death is treated as a point. After each point is scored players and the arena are reset and a new point is played; players switch spawn-points, so the player who had the “weak” spawn for the previous point now has the “strong” one, effecting a change of serve. All in-game behaviour (i.e. weapons, physics, etc.) remains the same as in the standard deathmatch.”

Drop the spawn selection as it is unneeded – random alternating spawn pairs work well enough. (1a 2b, 1b 2a, 2c 1d, 2d 1c) Originally introduced to “fix” imbalanced spawns in quake the delayed armor spawn “feature” in ut can be done away with as result as well – allowing players to get straight into it off spawns that are setup with items in mind.

All of the fun fighting over control, none of the problems associated with longer unbalanced play time.

The main aspects lost from traditional duel:

in control – no more killing naked players as once a kill occurs the map resets and the game starts again.
out of control – no more getting back into control after making a mistake that gets you killed.

Completely out of control situations become less frequent as it only occurs when a player takes heavy damage, recognises this and adjusts after damage but before dying. Even then weapons are not “reset”. This is what sets great duelers from the rest – they recognise these situations and back out before getting killed, even if they take large amount of damage.

There would still be in control/out of control situations, however it would never progress to the point of a player having no weapons and not having access to anything.

One possible change I would like over the quake implementation is to see each round progress to +2 points rather than resetting each death. In this way a player can “come back” from a first death, the game retains more of the traditional in/out of control play but the entire game will never snowball to 15 minutes of spawn kills. A close kill (one player dead, one almost dead) can then be followed up on quickly by the dead player to equalise at 1-1. Likewise when a player puts themselves in a strong position and kills a player then follows up quickly they are rewarded by winning that round swiftly. And in/out of control dynamic is preserved and it is still possible to come back from a death. Games where players go neck to neck in points are exciting.

The main reason to change is simply because it is more fun. When players are somewhat balanced stack wise the best games occur. The better dueler will still push the weaker player off items and kill them – much like what occurs at the start of 1v1 currently. This part of the game is quite often the most enjoyable for most players. Unfortunately it is a short part of a 15 minute game.

In addition it also allows smaller maps like aerowalk to be played, which imo is unsuitable for 27 second weapon respawn times due to the small size. The map works in quakeworld and quakelive because of weaponstay on / 5 second respawn. Not to say we should copy quake, however with hoonymode each player is guaranteed to get weapons off spawn. There will rarely be a situation where a player has no weapons unless they royally screw up – and they we will get an opportunity to rectify that screw up after dying on reset.

Now you could say this sacrifices the importance of weapon control in duel, however in many ways it amplifies it and forces players to concentrate on sets of weapons rather than the traditional “get everything” attitude that is so prevalent on the dev forum.

Every round there will be missing slots in a players arsenal and every death players must concentrate on fleshing out missing weapon ranges. It pushes both the player in control and the player out of control more.

Going back to weapons because this was the OPs concern with traditional duel – hoonymode reduces the importance of weapon control from a complete lock out standpoint because players will always have something off spawn. At the same time amplifies its importance in more interesting ways. Each round players will have gaps in their arsenal they need to take into account and they should aim to exploit the gaps in their opponents weapons. As an example a player that receives the shock on a map with a single shock can lock this down for the duration of a round and as a result have a significant advantage. Because of the large number of weapons in ut and both firemode and effective range double up weapon control in traditional duel is less subtle than in quakelive where a player with rl/lg/rail has an advantage over a player with only two of the three main guns, both in combat and knowledge of player movement.

The general attitude towards duel weapon control, at least on this forum seems to be one of “lock out all the guns”. This would no longer exist and instead be replaced by a more interesting and frequently resetting “what do I/opponent have and what do I want to deny in order to keep a gap in their effective range for the current round”.

Problems: How to score and how to limit game duration would be the main problems that spring to mind. If played to +2 points are the full points added to the score or simply 1 point to winner of each round? So four rounds totals look like this

2-0 | 3-1 | 2-0 | 2-4 (9-5) or (4-0)

How would time limits play into this? I dislike the TAM “count down health/armor after 2 minutes” method. Perhaps a running timer that stops once a map has been played for a total of X minutes. Perhaps score numbers based on map – so aerowalk is first to 9(+2) and deck is first to 3(+2).

Lets not forget that the ut armor system in any previous titles is not really suited to out of control play. ut4 duel armor notes

By changing duel to be based on hoonymode this is of less importance and the mismatched armor system would benefit the round based style of play. One player does end up with less favorable items and is then dead. Rather than having to leverage a system that does not really cater to out of control play, the game is reset and the player can try to not end up in the same situation.

It would be important for the gaps between deaths to be quick. Player dies – play stops for three second – players respawn and start straight away.

*I don’t consider them problems and enjoy out of control more than in control play provided the game provides ways back in. However the majority of players do not like this aspect.

Duel is demanding and very hard to get into. Hoonymode is fun, makes losing less demanding, offers frequent resets which in turn improves player learning. In a regular 15 minute game you get one chance to not screw up your initial spawn. In hoonymode you might get.. 10?

Spawn rules and protection in ut4 and arenafps in general

This post started due to..

And I lost interest, then heard the beyond unreal podcast 20 and some unusual comments prompted me to flesh it out and post. I will preface this by saying I like arena FPS because the random aspects and like spawn selection being out of the players hands. However the current handling does not work all that well either, so lets look at some possible changes.

Enjoy and correct me where I need correcting please.

Recap TLDR version without reasoning

A spawn system appropriate for FFA, duel and TDM. The aim is to remove spawn protection with a better spawn system.

The basic idea is to make spawning players less predictable so they cannot be picked off instantly on spawn.

What is spawn protection

Spawn protection aims to give spawning players some sort of chance. Players should not spawn then die, or so the concept goes. It only sort of works in games I have played and I don’t think implementations in any other games is really that great – because if it was it would simply be copied.

Players should not die because they happened to spawn next to a dude with a rocket launcher. They should not die because the spawn system can be gamed/exploited/skilled in order to make them spawn nearby a stacked player. They should not die to a % play of timing a shot on a nearby spawn point, unless that % is so small it is unimportant.

Basically players who are rejoining the game should not be sitting ducks and be obliterated instantly. Or so the proponents of spawn protection think.

Current spawn protection implementation

As of writing (11092014 and 21102014) the system works like this. Players spawn with 2500ms invulnerability (previously 3000ms), which is cancelled on attack. The player can move as far as they want in this time. They can run away from anyone trying to kill them. They can run and get a weapon.

And thats pretty much all. It is not a new take on spawn protection, it has been used in other titles in the past.

A question: I don’t know if things like locking down spawns in TDM or shooting close spawns (or known spawns if a system worked that way) in duel is actually good gameplay or adds much to the skillset. Yeah it takes player knowledge but is it good to have? Should it be a skill? Should timing a shot and shooting a spot on the ground after killing a player yield a % possibility to get a free kill?

The current implementation of spawn protections does not function well – I haven’t even played with it and know it is flawed. Battlefield 3 is a great example here. Spawn protection works in a similar way to ut4, the player is invulnerable (also does not take suppression) however protection is cancelled on attack or movement rather than just attack. It is also significantly shorter in BF3 due to the spawn in black screen delay. You can spawn then rotate view with mouse and aim down sights. Anything else cancels it – movement, medpack drops, weapon changes (I think), grenade throws. Given the short ttk and loadouts in BF3 this is quite powerful – as a spawner you have enough time to almost casually line up a shot and kill the player attacking you – optional for even better performance wait until the player shooting at you starts to reload/in between bursts in order to avoid suppression. Spawn protection did not ship with BF3 and was added later due to how respawns have a delay with black screen when popping into the map. Or it shipped but was much “weaker” initially. It was still quite short in comparison to 3 seconds.

Sounds good right?

However, and this is the problem, few people knew how it worked. Few knew the game had spawn protection or even used it. The vast majority of players simply spawned, +forward and were mowed down if they were on a contested point. They spawned on their teammates under fire (derp) and died due to pressing W. Players being unaware of the mechanic was good because if everyone used it properly spawn protection would have detracted rather heavily from the game. As it was not really ever used on pubs. Players died on spawn because they moved straight away.

The same will happen in ut4 duel and other game modes – the vast majority of players will shoot when they spawn if there is someone to shoot at and cancel spawn protection. If they do not cancel it will be because there is nothing to shoot at. Now the obvious argument here is that “well then spawn protection will not break the flow of the game as most players will exit invulnerability unwittingly anyway!”. Unfortunately its not that cut and dried. Most will cancel it and as a result they will not benefit from protection.

Thats fine – like the BF3 example it will not detract from the game for most players.

Yeah there are probably ways to make it more obvious, etc. But it is counterintuitive. Much like holding fire to wait for spawn protection to run out when a player spawns in front of you.

It will be abused by the minority that understand it, like BF3. Personally I feel that abuse of this type of mechanic is just as bad as spawn killing it is trying to fix. This is why discussion on the forum about spawn protection specifically is pointless. We should be discussing ideal spawn systems (plural for different game types) rather than trying to work out how to cludge invulnerability or some other nonsense in a way that is not too distasteful.

A Better Spawn System

Is the problem spawn protection or is the problem the spawn system?

For the sake of this article let us assume that the spawn system should not be influenced by other players. Players should not be able to force, or at least make it more likely that the player they just killed will spawn in front of them or at a known location. On top of this simply knowing spawn points and aiming at/shooting at should not yield kills reliably.

In short the goal is to have a spawn system that cannot be influenced by players and dead players spawning will have a very low chance to instantly die. After this all bets are off.

The first main consideration is stopping players being killed as soon as they spawn then there a number of easy fixes. Adding limited invulnerability is not the solution, at least in my opinion. It is somewhat jarring, breaks the flow as many other posters on the dev forum have pointed out and also allows the player too much freedom if they know what they are doing. It also does not really protect players as highlighted by the BF3 example. It is there but because players have not been educated they will just cancel it.

In short it is both useless and exploitable. If the goal is to alleviate spawn killing due to players exploiting that particular system, adding another that can also be exploited makes no sense.

Invulnerability can cause some other unintended side effects besides interrupting flow. If the spawnee plays correctly and does not attack back then they may be able to get a weapon without taking damage. Is this ok? Is this fair? This is akin to spawning them with a rocket launcher or shock rifle. It is negative feedback for killing players. You can argue that it is ok and they should be given a chance and I agree, but I do not think it should be at the detriment of the player who is trying to kill them.

I understand the argument from the pro-spawn protection crowd, and even agree with it to a point (thus this post), however we need to look at better solutions. Better spawn systems.

Whatever solution/fix is picked needs to be seamless and not negatively impact either player and most importantly not be gameable if the goal is also to remove this aspect, lets assume it is.

The current solution stops player being killed. This is all it does, and could barely be said to achieve even this. It disrupts the flow of the game. While many seem to be of the opinion that this does not matter to the pro-spawn protection group, my question is this: If there is a solution that does not have the same downsides why not use that instead?

Plus the current implementation has problems and is exploitable. If the goal is to stop newer players from getting killed as soon as they spawn tying invulnerability to +attack is the wrong way to go about it. Players who are not interested in learning how the spawn system works* currently will not make the connection between shooting and cancelling protection. They are not the type of players that will understand spawn protection. In this way they will always be killable because they will attack back upon spawn. On the flip side their spawn protection informed brethren will be able to do the inverse – not attack and run towards a gun, dragging out invulnerability as long as possible. The way of the world means the better players may be the ones to know the mechanic and the less regular, dare I say casual, players will not be aware of it.

So we end up with the current situation reversed – rather than the killer exploiting new spawning players the new spawners are exploiting protection to damage/kill other players. Imagine being the less savvy player, working hard to finally get a kill then the other player seemingly not dying to your fire? Omg lag, hax, whatever. Frustration.

It could be argued that this player should then go and look into WHY this occurred but we know that is unlikely to happen.

*no negative connotations intended, this is a fairly niche aspect.

And so we have a situation where instead of chain dying, the less keen players will die when they spawn (because they +attack) and when they manage to kill the better players they will have less opportunity to kill them again because the better player will be more likely to be aware of the mechanic. This might be a marginally better situation than chain death but it is not idea.

Fifteen years ago spawn protection in this manner was possibly acceptable, less players were looking at games at this level. Obscurity like this does not work anymore.

In duel this could be because the spawn system is setup and the other player can “force” the spawn to where they want. In TDM this might be due to locking down part of the map, covering spawns with some members of the team and killing respawning players that the rest of the team kill. In CTF it might be killing players who are spawning in your way out of the base with a flag. I don’t have the experience to comment on CTF.

A Better Spawn System before spawn protection

This is my opinion on what a spawn system should be. This sort of setup alleviates many of the problems associated with spawning and spawn killing in arena FPS, particularly in duel and ffa.

Firstly spawns should be random. 100% random. Any algorithm that spawns players based on X, Y or Z can be reverse engineered. Spawn farthest, or safest spawns or whatever can and will be worked out and abused. Also some systems promote not-killing players as it may give away items – it may also promote /kill in order to ninja in on a particular spawn. Obviously the latter can be addressed with a different spawn system for self kills but the point stands, if the goal is to remove spawn killing and manipulative aspects of spawning the only real solution is random. Removing mechanisms that makes the spawn system predictable/gameable in any way completely levels the playing field.

As we can see, a spawn in front of the player below is opened up by backing into a corner.

ztn abuse able spawn

So make it 100% random for duel. Make it 100% random for FFA and TDM. CTF is different and someone who has experience in that department should comment on it. I like the idea of spawning on teammates but I doubt that would go down well 😉

Even in a random system players could opt to upload rockets at the closest known spawn, giving an almost guaranteed conversion frag at (100/spawnpoints)% kill based on timing the shot, knowing where the spawn points are and simply shooting the closest/most appropriate.

This can be solved in a number of ways. Remove the “instant spawn” that ut99 (and from memory later titles) had and replace it with a delay the user can cancel to spawn instantly. In this way players can spawn up to 10* seconds after they die. Why is this important? Because it removes any chance of timing shock balls, rockets or anything on nearby spawn points. It puts the choice of when to pop in the spawners hands. Also make sure not to introduce a Xms delay between death and spawning that quakelive has – if the player wants to spawn instantly, let them, if they want to delay 5 seconds let them. Obviously cap this delay to something reasonable, the goal is to stop players timing shots on nearby spawn points.

Allowing delayed spawns may cause concerns with the existing ut commnity. ql has a similar mechanic and it has never been a problem. In fact it should be added regardless of random spawning – put the time to spawn in the player that is dead hands and run the spawn algorithm when they choose to respawn, again putting more distance between the killer and the information on the spawning player.

Secondly add enough spawn points to a map so a player in each area has more than one place to shoot. This way it becomes less likely to receive a point for simply shooting at a spot.

The alternative to adding lots of spawn points is changing spawn points to spawn volumes and randomly spawning players in them. This way there is no “point” to direct rockets or projectiles at. I like this idea over many spawn points as it allows infinetly more variation on spawn locations but it may be harder to implement.

Of course both more spawn points and spawn volumes require mappers to implement them, just like spawn points need to be placed in logical safe places and not in the open or at the end of corridors that allow easy killing of fresh spawns.

Finally remove respawn sound and visual cues. In this way even if a player spawns close to their death location they are “safe” from the other player provided they opt to proceed stealthily. In this way the killing player can still check for spawns but they “spend” time (the currency in duel) checking nearby LOS hidden spawn points rather than simply knowing the other player spawned there from audio.

Maps and spawn

The spawn system should not try to make badly designed maps work or make maps that are designed for four players work with 16+. Putting twice the recommended number of players on a map should never be a consideration of the game core rules/mechanics. Of course its not going to be ideal.

code187: What about arcane temple in 99 rocket launcher area facing out 2spawn spots spawn kill then they spawn 3meters to the left or right. And again and again and again monster killing… fun as hell for the camper not so much for the spawner***

Firstly this is exacerbated excessively by ut99s weaponstay system (unlimited ammo via dropweapon) and the way most weapon spawns had 2 ammo boxes next to them. Off the top of my head Peak also had this problem in the belt room as well with the spawn in the doorway. On arcanetemple the rocket pickup had 30 ammo including the packs and even if the packs were gone due to another player you could easily weapondrop -> pickup to refill ammo indefinitely.

Also it was also problematic due to 16player games on small maps. When players opt to play in this way all bets should be off.

abuse able arena fps spanws

Bad maps and spawn issues like this should not be a reason to implement an across the board cludge to spawning. The system should deal with this up to the number of players the map is designed for and if it breaks beyond that then that is reasonable. The spawn system should not be designed to deal with content creators having a weapon with infinite ammo + two spawns in front of it (there are actually four since two additional points are in the corridors nearby as well). These spots were terrible for spawns anyway even if the rocket was not where it was. The spawn system should not have to deal with a room with a single door and a spawn in the doorway – peak. This is beyond what the spawn system should be dealing with.

For problems like this look to the mappers and content creators not the base game ruleset for fixes. Look to the developers who allowed unlimited ammo and weird weapon pickup rules. This actually highlights a problem with ut – for all the posters on the dev forum rabbit on about mutators and customisation maps with problems were rarely changed or fixed.

Going back to the arcane temple example with 100% random spawning. There are 20+ spawns on the map. If we drop this to 10 (due to two spawns at the rl) the chance of spawning there twice in a completely random spawn system is very low (one in one hundred). From a “not spawning players multiple times in the same spot because they die instantly” standpoint simply having completely random spawns fixes the problem. Dying once every now and then is fine, dying repeatedly is not – but the likelyhood of it happening two spawns in a row in the same place is quite low, even with only 10 spawn points. Add more and it would occur so rarely that it is not a problem.

The system could also be setup to not spawn players at the same point twice in a row.

Add spawn volumes and the rocket launcher camper on arcane temple can no longer spam at two tightly defined points. But beyond this the problem goes back to the map design. Arcane has a dead end with a pool of water in it. With spawn points. The setup is really asking for it.

Extending spawn ideas

Some random things.

In an attempt to make duel spawning “fair”, remember close/far spawn order then give the opposite player similar spawns when they kill the other player. In this way streaks can be given to the comeback player and spawning close/far. Obviously this steps away from the whole.. “random” aspect I have outlined previously but it could be worked in.

The ability to define some spawns as “initial” spawns that are used for the start of the game. In this way a mapper has more control over what players have access to at the start of a match. This means the “delayed item spawn” that ut features can be removed. Players are given similar powered stacks by the map designer. Not all spawns are suitable for first spawns due to item locations.

[QUOTE=conX5;127043]Armors should certainly be delayed off initial spawn, but I don’t think anything else should really be necessary.[/QUOTE]

Realistically armors/mega should not be delayed. The “no armor” start of the game simply skews it in favor of weapons that are more efficient with lower health pools or weapons that are more suitable for the upcoming armor spawns, etc. The problem is still there, just shifted. Pretty sure this point has been discussed to death over the years.

A better solution to this is giving mappers the ability to define spawns as initial starting points. These are used for the first spawn of the game. Spawn points not flagged as first spawn cannot be spawned on at the beginning of a match.

More spawn points may make sense as the game progresses but disallowing some during the start of the game should cut down on dm6 pillar spawn type problems.

This is how quakelive handles things and from the current pool of popular maps there are only a handful of “bad” starts. YA on aero for example – but even this is good compared to some examples mentioned around here for ut. Others like dm6 pillars have been ironed out. Sure there are still better/worse spawns but not quite as bad as getting belt/boots/jacket.

Another thing that must be done is update maps. Maps are not “finished” when they are released. ZTN for example has had [URL=””]at least three[/URL] spawn setups in recent memory. To my knowledge it was never updated in q3. That particular post is concerned with all spawns in general but the same can be applied to initial spawns easily enough. Basically the mapper cannot be expected to “see” every possible out come and problem that can arise – but they should be able to get it partially right and fix problems that do come about after lots of play time.

That is one way to approach it. Disallow spawns that make no sense or are wildly imbalanced. There is no way to have “perfect” split system because in ut stacking/armor/health does not really lend itself to both players being even – one is always weaker. This “initial spawn” system is validated reasonably well by quakelive, provided maps are tweaked after being played on enough.

However that might not be far enough? Players in ql still whine about some spawns and while the above cuts down problems heavily it does not remove it 100%. As an example high lower YA vs plasma on ZTN. This is more messy than anything else and turns the opening into a large dice roll (based on decisions) more than other spawns.

Solutions? Have “pairs” of spawns setup in a way to give both players some pickups. Create 3-5 “pairs” per map and you have a solid set of not-unbalanced* starts. The previously suggested half time is not needed.

*balancing this perfectly is not the goal. Aiming to remove 100/belt/mega vs nothing setups is the intended outcome.

Sounds like a good solution right? Give players somewhat even splits and remove 100%stacked vs unstacked occurrences via forcing pairs of spawns. The unfortunate problem is this breaks part of the early game that is overlooked and is quite important. By having pairs of spawns players simply know the opening and this becomes very fixed. Some might be considered a good thing but personally I love the dynamic nature of duel and the decision making process at the start is interesting.

If you have two spawns that are ALWAYS the same spawn A will have an optimum opening and a sub-optimal (but probably more aggressive) opening. The sub-optimal, aggressive option becomes less viable when the opposing spawn is fixed as they will know where the aggression will come from.

There are many ways to go about fixing things that are not as overboard as delaying initial item spawns or setting two spawn points in stone.


One main difference in quake compared to ut is these problems are very specific (in ql) and players quite happy to point out the problem on the maps in question. In ut, at least on these forums so far, players tend to post very broad comments about opening spawns. eg “You can get all the armors on deck” or similar. Being specific when discussing this is key. Even if no changes to the initial spawn system are made can spawns XYZ on deck be dropped or moved and a better map result?

It is important to not confuse things. A player making a bad call and not getting items is fine. When there are situations where one player can pillage all important pickups before the other can even show up needs fixing.

Item Driven Gametypes in Arena FPS

Arena FPS is the moniker given to games like unreal, quake, etc. There are many ways to describe them and many factors that make a game more arena FPS than another.

One key ingredient are the gametypes. FFA, Duel and TDM. These gametypes are driven by their items. The items are the game. This factor is quite often not mentioned when discussing arena FPS. Typically people will talk about movement, weapons (types/styles and the ability to carry more than 2), lack of classes, game speed, the fact you pick things up (but nothing beyond that) and time to kill. Gametypes may get an honorable mention but how the gametypes play beyond “deathmatch”, “team deathmatch” or “duel” is rarely, if ever, bought up.

Arena FPS History

FPS game types grew from single player. Free for all was single player items with respawn times (or not for weapons) attached to them. There were different places players could spawn after dying – spawn points. There was a scoreboard to keep track of who killed more people.

Duel and TDM is the obvious extension from FFA. One for going head to head, one for teams. Neither needed much tweaking, duel typically removed damage modifier style items like quad damage and amp.

This was the dawn of FPS, the original game types and to this day the best. Players and developers have created others, in large part due to lack of understanding of these gametypes. They lack objectives players said. They were just about killing. They take no teamwork. Its just aim. Teamwork is minimal.

Flags were added to custom designed maps and CTF was born. Players were given specific roles like attacking and defending. Items were still there but they played different roles, buffing defenders or enabling attackers to push against lower odds. Quad allowed breaking of defences.

And then items were relegated to a menu. Teams purchased them or selected them based on classes. Some FPS became rock/paper/scissor class based affairs and most added heavier emphasis on aim. The latter was unintended but is the result of shifting focus away from strategy and other aspects due to the removal of the game mechanics that allow greater depth.

Finally spray, “realistic” weapons, recoil control, aim down sights and similar mechanics were implemented. Player movement was slowed, strafespeed was slowed, time to kill (ttk) was shortened and we ended up with COD/CS/BF. Players now think that these modern FPS require more strategy, tactics and thinking. They think that BF is a brain game, and becomes an even bigger brain game when played on hardcore mode (less health, faster ttk). While this is a side argument and not really within the scope of the current articles on this site I believe that modern FPS require more aim, reward better reflexes in general and less brain. This mainly stems from ttk, lack of items and the gametypes played. A slow game does not equate to greater tactical or strategic depth which is often cited as a reason why arena FPS are shallow. But maybe that is an article for another time…

Items have all but evaporated from the FPS landscape and with them gametypes that have arguably more objectives, more challenging positional play and greater depth than anything on the market today. Gametypes that are more challenging and push players due to their dynamic nature. Gametypes that drive conflict better than flags. bombs or hostages. Gametypes that work because the players have to overcome a problem to gain an advantage rather than because the time is ticking. Gametypes that at the time they were first implemented were dismissed by the majority as shallow and objectiveless. “TDM is about killing, the most kills win. This is the objective”.

This is a long way from the truth.

This sort of statement is probably one of the more naive FPS related comments ever made. There are issues involved with item driven gametypes, for sure, but they are not what most players thought when CTF was innovated or when modern gamers make comments like the above. There are issues involved with all gametypes but some less than others, and in some game types balance does not matter much at all. The example here would be CS bomb style objective gametypes. Both teams play both sides, map balance or even weapon balance does not matter overly much. A map could be designed so you only have a 10% chance of winning a round on defence, but over 20 rounds total this becomes acceptable and the map is just considered difficult for the attacking team. In fact this sort of imbalance could make for what could be considered close and exciting games. Maybe this is an exaggeration..

Item driven gametypes and made by their items as well as maps. They are highly dynamic, which is quite challenging for most players. In 1999 there was a basic understanding of how to play, since the break between gamers and these game types in mainstream games even more of this understanding will have been lost. Going forward part of the challenge of an arena FPS

The two main factors of items and how the effect the flow of the game is their strength and how frequent they spawn. This could be a difficult to balance – do you want powerful items that spawn infrequently and as such are very important? Do you want them spawning more often so that one pickup difference does not skew balance too much? Do you want infrequently spawning items that do not really add a great deal to a team or players stack, they are beneficial and will be fought over but could they be ignored? How do they related to each other? Is there a cycle that involves a set of items within a given duration and then some others that sit outside it in order to “break” that cycle periodically?

There are a number of games that do this well. Quake is one and Unreal is the other. There are quake and cpm spinoffs like warsow.

The armor system includes health – and rests heavily on values as well as spawn times and how the armors work together.

This may all sound obvious but discussions about spawn times and relative power of items/health are very rare. In fact I cannot remember reading anything in depth over the past 10 years. In part this may be because the arena shooter and this style of gametype is dead so there is little discussion. When these games were popular it was not discussed. It is an important conversation to have because all of this determines how the game plays. People can say that “I just want to run around and kill stuff” and that is fine – the challenge is to balance the game so players that want to do that can^, while others have an option of playing a more structured game. This balance does not need to be in a way that will give the player who chooses not to partake in item control an advantage, but at the very least having a game that is accessible for all levels is good. Obviously this scales differently. In a 8 player FFA game one participant timing will not be as evident to other players as in a 1v1 situation.

Discussions of weapons are very common but are generally related to damage values or weapon mechanics like rate of fire or projectile speed. For instance I think ammo on pickup is an excellent way to balance a weapon , even if it is a little more overpowered than it should be. If it can only shoot four times per spawn its not likely to cause large problems and players will have to consider its use. Just an example. Discussions of movement and very minor issues like air control* in ut go on for pages.

^or players can do that if they do not know any better.

*air control in ut is not like air control conversations in quake. This is more limited to allowing players slightly more “aim” when falling whereas quake revolves around letting players turn sharp corners in the air.

To demonstrate item driven game types working at all levels we need only look at how a player progresses from when they start playing the game. If a player starts FFA they will undoubtedly pick up whatever weapon they can find for the first few games, and continue to do so. However as time passes and they learn maps and weapon locations they will end up seeking out a specific weapon, either because they are more efficient at using it, enjoy using it above others or because they see the potential of using it more. The new player may also opt to play maps they have seen before rather than branching out to other levels, because they will know where the guns they need are located.

For weapons there are two examples in ut99 – the first would be rockets and flak. Both are easy to use and in the past typically satisfied newer players with kills. The latter is the sniper rifle as the new player probably thinks they can use it to engage at long range out of harms way, its fun to snipe. Headshots are fun. One is easy and the other has appeal. The last weapon type, high rate of fire hitscan is probably not that appealing for a completely new arenafps player, however others with some FPS experience, might gravitate towards these as they may already “know” how to aim and something like the minigun is the closest the ut franchise has to an m16 or ak.

So the new player starts to seek out a weapon of choice, and picks up the others along the way while traversing the map. They learn to become more efficient with their chosen weapon while at the same time are forced to use weapons outside their comfort zone due to not having the weapon they want available after every death. Sometimes these other weapons may surprise them and from here they can add other guns to their repertoire. At the same time they also learn the maps, or at least routes from where they spawn to the weapon they want.

This applies to every item driven FPS ever. The beauty of it is the lack of game specificness. It simply works and teaches the player how to play. Telling a new player that the jacket spawn is 27 seconds is not really useful. This can be extrapolated out from simple weapons. The player learns that they can kill more if they look for health. To begin with this could be to preserve their “stack” (in this case the gun of their choice) but as time goes by they will realise they can improve their KDR by not dying. They will realise they can get armor and start taking mental notes of where it spawns. They might like the idea of quad damage and try to take this.

The player starts to “play” the gametype correctly, without instruction. There is a built in learning curve and teach the player to improve. There comes a point where they might get interested and go looking for information on spawn times and whatnot, however for many players this never occurs.

As a side note the main item driven gametypes (FFA, TDM, Duel) are also the greatest for public play. The objectives improve player net/kdr and overall this is what a large proportion of pub players are going for. These players also ruin games of CTF.

This in turn gives players different options for playing and different areas of their game they can work on. Do they want to play aim +forward heavy game? Do they want to control armors and play pac man. Do they want to concentrate on weapons and optimise their various strengths? Even if they are bad aim wise they can contribute by timing for their better mechanically skilled team mates. ut99 was well balanced at release for non-aim heavy play and I would like to think this is going to make a comeback.

Items tie back to time. Items cost time. In FFA, TDM or Duel time is the general currency. For example, a player could spend 5-10 seconds getting a better weapon in FFA or they can go straight into combat with their spawn gun. If they happen to kill someone they can take that weapon and continue, a kill gained faster than if they

Items are control.

Note: Flow and what items are for. Quad is not for killing, it is for securing armor spawns. Rockets are not for killing they are for securing spawns, etc. Disconnection of items from killing is paramount to understanding how to play. Taking this further – disconnection of everything from killing is key to winning. Item driven gametypes are about control.

Items drive conflict and player interaction since players need to obtain items – it sounds obvious, but without a solid system it falls apart. This is why discussion of the armor/health system beyond posters wanting a belt or jacket or furry coat is important. Items are why the game works on a deeper level than “get gun and shoot stuff”. They have always worked this way, this is what FFA, Duel and TDM are.

At a duel level players should be contesting items regularly. The player who is taking the better items should be constrained in movement and ability to pressure the down player because of them. On the other side of the coin the lesser player can plan their moves around the predictability of the “in control” player – they can try to deal efficient damage (where they take none as their stack is lesser) or they can just opt to avoid the locations altogether.

Weapons do not drive conflict or shape the course of a game in the way armor and health do, at least not in the context of ut99 duel. Or ut4 duel for that matter. For a gametype driven by weapons I strongly suggest you check out DDKs quakeworld TDM videos. In ut99 they do not drive conflict for a number of reasons, the brief version is:

Weapon (or firemode) use is doubled (or tripled) in ut. There are two of each main “attack”. High ROF/low damage hitscan (pulse/mini). Low ROF/high damage hitscan (rifle/shock). Projectile with area of effect (rockets/flak/combos). Most maps had every weapon, often weapons multiple times. In order to drive conflict an item needs to be sought for a reason – they make players predictable and force them to show up at the same place around the same time. With the abundance of weapons they will not drive players together. Sure you can deny weapons (this adds depth, which is good) but from a conflict creation standpoint they do not work well because there are so many of them. Also denying weapons in 2014 is very different to 1999. Quite often players back then would have a favorite weapon. This was quite often due to connection (dialup using shock/rockets/flak). Now players tend to be decent with everything. Also, even in a three weapon game like quakelive weapons do not truely drive conflict. They shape fights when one player is lacking specific weapons, but rarely would you see a fight pop up because of a weapon.

As such you can deny weapons in ut99 but the weapons themselves don’t really drive player interaction in a meaningful way. They do dictate player movement because players want specific guns, but because they are not really timed or controlled in the same way as armor or health conflict does not come about because of them often.

Again this is not to say that sweeping weapons to stop your opponent taking them is not a legitimate thing to do, far from it. However it would be rare for the player not taking a weapon to bother timing it and come back to find their opponent turning up at the same time.

This is an important difference to understand.

And of course there is an exception to this rule and it is a very interesting exception because it shares many similarities with ut but at the same time is completely different. That game is Quakeworld TDM.

The problem of gamers

Beyond the rose tinted glasses issue previously mentioned gamers have a habit of discussing ways to improve FPS games that are very specific. Players generally get hung up on specifics that involve weapon or movement mechanics. cpm has the best movement. The rocket in qw is overpowered but good. UT movement is clunky. The shock rifle is awesome. To an even finer level “I cannot combo myself”. Sometimes maps are a discussion point but rarely does the gametype come up beyond “quakelive duel is the best” or similar.

The gametypes and in item driven gametype, the supporting items*, tend to just.. be. Noone really talks about them. Noone. Weapon specifics are important, super important. But the amount of ammo in a weapon pickup? Unimportant, or rather if you read the forums it is an unimportant question.

*This applies to health, armor, weapons, powerups, miscellaneous pickups and their respective respawn times.

In truth the gametype and how it plays is a large part of why a game is good. In the case of item driven gametypes the items and how they interact is key to the game being good.

Quakeworld is the standout in this department, with comments like “the weapons, items and armors are all overpowered, its awesome!” but generally little discussion about WHY this makes it an awesome team game.. Since the items in item driven game types are essentially the gametype it pays to have a good setup. This is similar to saying that “we need good maps for a good FPS*” but not being able to put ones finger on why a map is good.

*der, this is the downfall of most FPS over the past 15 years.

Discussion revolves around very specific aspects of various games. Comparing quakelive to cpm in a movement. Comparing ut99 to 2kx. Comparing a lightning gun to a sniper rifle.

The problem is the underlying framework changes between games, and while not as fun to talk about as weapon or movement specifics actually give more insight into why a game is good or not.

On changing item driven gametypes in arena fps

Obviously I am a fan of this style of gametype. Who would have a site dedicated to the idea of a gametype rather than a specific spin of a gametype in a specific game?

Items are the gametype, there is no way around this. Suggesting to remove armor or health is not conductive to a discussion about how to improve and balance duel or TDM or this type of gametype in general. Statements like “remove pickups” is akin to saying “remove flags” when discussing CTF. Love it or hate it, the items are the game. Not always the items themselves but how they drive the game. They cause one part of the map to be more important than another. Now this is not to say that other game types cannot exist, I can think of many spins on classic TDM that would make it more accessible while teaching players how to play “real” TDM.

And in the same way holding mid on a CTF map may be more important on some maps while on others heavy base defence or offence becomes important. Camping in the armor room might not be the best route to take, for example dm3 in quakeworld – the Red Armor is best handled by staying in the ajoining area.

In fact if you dislike duel, TDM or FFA and have suggestions on how to improve them that include things like adding loadouts for spawners, free armor to help comeback on spawners please, the door is that way.

If on the other hand you want to partake in a discussion that involves balancing and changing what already exists to give a better game, please speak up!

The slippery slope

Firstly one needs to accept that an item driven game has a particular flavor. It has uneven situations where a player with no weapon or armor is killed by another player with a gun, armor and quad damage. It has situations where a stacked player is smashed by a less than stacked player because of excellent execution and timing.

One needs to look past the fact that respawn frags are simply points, and your team will receive them as well. Think of them as conversions if it helps. A map should not allow one team to farm heavily because of spawn points but at the same time the spawn system should not be constructed in a way that forces teams to spawn on oposite sides of the map at all times as other problems can arise from this.

Once one accepts these things are part of the game and that the underlying structure is acceptable we can stop looking at changing or adding things. The game works at a decent level, adding strange abilities or mechanics to try to cover up one aspect that may be considered a problem is not really needed. Spawn killing in this example.

Why I like UT

I have always enjoyed ut99.

The different ways you could play appealed to me, especially at its release two players could approach the game from very different ways. You could play rocket or flak heavy. You could play with shock. You could play with sniper or mini/pulse. Aggressive and defensive play was catered to. You could play an item heavy game or basically ignore them and go for damage. It was decently balanced so players with high ping could still have fun.

IDS Education

Even with the nice story about the new player, IDS has problems. After a certain point the mechanics become vague and non-intuitive. The main points are: respawn times and how to time. I think in part this is easily addressed in FFA early in a players career. The item timers that Epic are planning on implementing and ID have implemented do not really teach item spawn duration or how to time from a traditional point of view due to adding a mechanic that does not previously exist. Once this is removed the player is left hanging.
The player may have been made aware of the item due to the pie-chart hanging above it and they may have paid a little more attention, but overall they will not have learnt much beyond “this is important enough to attach a pie chart to”.
The goal of this article is to look at how we can educate players better, not change how the game plays.

Hang up on timing

Because item driven gametypes revolve around items and spawns there can be an unreasonable amount of importance attached to timing. Arena FPS in general place a lot of importance on positioning, and while timing is large part it is a very obvious aspect of the game. This actually causes a problem that places too much emphasis on timing at lower levels. Quite often at lower levels timing loosely is sufficient. Reading some comments one would think that the entire game is timing, when it is simply one aspect.

UT4 Duel and UT99, Unreal Tournament – where to now?

UT4 Duel and UT99, Unreal Tournament – where to now?

This article started as a post as a result of the below comment that was basically ignored. I thought it was interesting and worth a look at with ut4 duel in mind.


The armor system in ut needs an overhaul for duel, both to drive player interaction in a more meaningful way as well as limit landslide games. The problems go deeper than belt being “too strong”. Spawn times and item overlap as well play a very important role.

Please do not be too put off by the breakdown starting with quake live – the main reason it is structured like this is because the post started as a reply to another post that heavily mentioned ql.

CC- Says: QL/Q3 is a bit harder to control because of spawn times are staggered. For example, in UT2004, pretty much everything other than 100a in duel has a spawn time of 27 seconds. This creates more simple and patterned ways to control the maps. I think staggered spawn times would be great for real duel gameplay.

You are looking at it the wrong way and this is the problem with duel in ut from a traditional sense. You are partially right with the comment about control being too easy, but it stems from a more complicated problem than simply times being the same. Times are the same in ql.. so a similar problem should exist there right? Armor times in quakeworld* are the same so the problem should exist there as well? Players should be able to run all the armors in ql (because they are on the same timer) easily and lock everything on the map down?

*it is not an issue in quakeworld because better armor carriers cannot pickup ones that offer less protection. If they opt to damage themselves to take YA the health differential is less.

At least, if the only or major contributing factor here was spawn time this might be the case. Respawn times are an important factor, but not the way you mean.

Quakelive armor system

In ql the armors (red 100 (RA), yellow 50 (YA), green 25 (GA)) all have the same spawn time : 25 seconds. The mega is 35 seconds. These are the main items that drive conflict in quakelive duel. This example will lean heavily on ql, not because I think we should copy it (far from that) but because it works in duel for a reason and it helps prevent snowballing and give a way back into the game. There is plenty of room to improve what we have based on some ideas. As a side note I would not use ql as an example for TDM.

For reference the health bubbles (5, 25, 50) are 35 seconds. The armor shards (5) are 25 seconds. Then weapons have 5 second (or something) spawn so these are not really controlled. None would typically cause player interaction in the same way as armors/mega or amp/quad in TDM. Occasionally an opportunity might present itself where you damage a player and know they will be headed for a health pickup or know they lack a weapon – rail on t7 comes to mind and can ambush them. Even with weaponstay off weapons in ut do not drive player interaction like armor or health.

ql maps typically have (1RA 1 mega) + (2YA) or (1YA 2GA). Along with a stack of shards, 5 health bubbles and whatnot. Newer maps tend to be more item rich than older ones which have dropped out of map pools. T4 is an example of a light item map that is rarely played today.

From this we can ascertain that the issue is not that items are on the same spawn and thus players can run patterns easily, as the same problem would occur in ql if this was what was happening. Yet it does not.

If we look at the quantity/volume of items and stacking in ql vs ut we get a better understand of what the root cause is. Specifically items in duel that drive conflict and player interaction: The armors and the big health (mega/keg). Most of the examples I will use are in control / out of control. However a balanced state exists in ql. For example off spawn players typically split pickups and end up with roughly the same stack. Because this is more concerned with comeback and change of control that aspect is not overly important to analyse, however I will say that when pickups are split and combat occurs the game is really good.

This balanced gamestate does not really exist in ut99 due to the belt/jacket dynamic. One player is automatically at a disadvantage stack wise. It would be interesting to try and achieve a balanced state as this is when the best games occur.

If we use the ql mega as the frame of reference for an item “cycle” the in control player has 2-3 items to be concerned with in a 35 second time period. With travel time and delays this consumes the majority of the in control players time while at the same time making them highly predictable. Playing in control means not having time to hunt your opponent. It means the out of control player will have a very good idea of where you are and what you are getting soon. On top of that the out of control player generally receives items away from the in control players sphere of influence.

At least that is how it works in quakelive.

In a 10 minute game there are ~35 pickups of red + mega. 3.5 per minute.

In addition with stacking the player taking RA/mega is not fully stacked until the second cycle. Even if the out of control player deals modest damage at one of the two pickups the in control player will not reach critical mass.

This restriction of movement, predictability and lack of time to pressure the out of control player should be the downsides to playing in control. Being able to see when to be aggressive in gaps between items without giving large pickups to the out of control player is important.

Armor/health tick down plays no role in ql duel, even though it is often raised on the dev forums as a contributor to players hunting items more. Pickups are required because players take damage or they want to deny items. Originally implemented to stop heavy +back, tickdown fails even in this as 100/100 is plenty of stack to play defensive if one desires.

On the flip side the out of control play can get the non-major items. On a map like ztn this usually equates to a YA (50) plus shards (25 to 55). Each ~30 seconds. If the in control player is sloppier they may be able to take a second YA. The out of control player is still timing their own pickups – they need to in order to leave whichever YA they are using in order to get weapons, shards or possibly pressure the in control player. They need to make good use of their time and not simply sit in the YA room. If possible they need to leave when they can and try to deal some efficient (unreturned) damage on the in control player, keeping his stack under control. Even utilising a single YA the out of control player is 100/100 in a short time.

And this works in the inverse too – if the in control player is too passive when pressing the other player, out of control can accumulate a stack and then challenge for items on an almost even footing. Even mega can be nullified with good timing and attacking with health to retreat onto. When stack difference is a single good rocket apart it becomes much easier to level the playing field.

Stack in ql is not binary. It is a sliding scale that takes a while to build up from multiple sources. Your stack in relation to your opponent’s stack is important as well – stack for aggressive play differs between maps – ztn or dm13 players might opt to wait for more stack where as aero/tox might go after a single red pickup. In the lead up to an in control/out of control situation players may be splitting RA/mega and in this way both have significant stacks

If it was simply a case of times being the same the problem originally quoted would exist in ql too, and it does not.

Will the Ut4 duel armor system resemble ut99?

Then we have ut99 which all predecessors have followed in one way or another, the underlying dynamics that are important are close enough that they can be bundled together for the purpose of this conversation. UT3 might have an additional armor item and 2kx changed the stacking rules slightly, but overall the games are close enough for our purposes here to roll them into one, at the very least ut99 and ut3. And it looks like ut4 is following.

In ut we have the shield belt (150 points @ 100% ) on a 55second spawn time. Both epic and third party mappers have been very strict with its use in DM maps over the course of the games life. When belt is included on a DM map there will be one instance only. None of the ut99 duel (or DM) maps ever had more than one belt and I have never seen a third party DM map that had more than one. The belt stacks only with itself (ignoring bugs) but a single pickup gives the maximum stack. Maybe a better way to state this is the belt refreshes itself.

The next main item of interest is the jacket (100 points @ 75%) on a 27 second spawn (27.5, everything rounded from this point out). Finally we have the thigh pads (50 points) also on a 27 second spawn. At this point you might be wondering why the quakelive armors are rolled into one sentence and ut99 ones split into multiple. The jacket and pads stack with each other but not with themselves.

ut99 health is available in 25 packs and 5 vials, on an 18second spawn. Vials stack beyond base 100. ut99 also had a keg (100 health, 90second spawn) but it was not on any duel maps that were played.

ut99 duel maps were varied. Some had belt/jacket/pads. Some had belt/jacket. One had jacket/pads. One had belt/pads.

This should all be obvious to the ut veterans on this forum, but laying it down as people seem to forget. Or because ut99 is quite old and a lot of posters played newer versions which are similar in the important ways we are going to look at.

Over a 15 minute game there are ~43 pickups of belt + jacket. 2.89 per minute. On the surface this appears close enough to ql when it comes to number of items a player needs to be concerned about. Taking other things like boots and weapon stay off into account surely they are close enough?

To get a better feel of how ut99 works in duel we will look at the venerable map: Deck. This illustrates ut99 duel very well. I will preface this with a caution – yes people will post that there are ways around the problem, and I kind of agree. However the problems that are bought up in threads about snowballing and comebacks being difficult should be addressed, and by doing so we will end up with a better game all around. This is achieved by looking at the armor and health system rather than offering specific work around like denying sniper rifles and boots (or similar strategies). The existing options will still be there.

Again if we look at the volume of items and stacking – Specifically items in duel that drive conflict and player interaction: The belt and jacket are the main items that cause player interaction in ut99, and this is even more pronounced on deck.

Deck has a belt, a jacket and thigh pads. Also it has some vials. It also has boots. It has lots of weapons.

Using the same methodology as the previous example one player is in control and has belt – in this example the “cycle” is 55 seconds for the belt. Belt pickup fills the in control players armor completely. At this point they do not need to worry about the belt again for 55 seconds. They are free to go and do whatever they like. Get weapons. Pressure the other player. Pressure the jacket. None of these are predictable to the jacket player – the belt player can essentially do what they like.

The only reason they need to revisit the belt is for top up or denial. One pickup is a full stack of belt armor.

The jacket player is in a similar situation, but they can add to their armor stack with the thigh pads. This is already a problem. The player with the superior item and superior stack has a single item to obtain it. The underdog by virtue of the stacking mechanic in ut99 becomes more predictable if they opt to pursue armor as an option. There is only one other source due to the stacking mechanics.

Deck further exacerbates this particular point by placing the thigh pads at the top of the ramp out in the open area of a large room. Not particularly inviting for the weaker player – if you were trying to make safe plays this would rarely be one. This is a map specific problem and while it could easily be addressed it has never been. Deck is still played today in its original form.

Also because of the long belt spawn there are few reasons for players to interact. Meeting at belt will not occur for almost a minute. Meeting at jacket? Is not required unless a player takes damage. Meeting at weapons is more luck due to the sheer number of guns available and double up of fire modes – and thus less reasons to seek a specific weapon. Even though this is a side issue to what the main point is I want to highlight it because it is interesting. Nothing really drives player interaction in ut because items are not structured in a way that creates conflict unless players take damage.

Other ut armor things

A somewhat side problem that exists and could be up for debate is the length of the spawn on the belt. Besides the freedom it gives the belt player to pressure the other player, it also lends itself to more defensive play due to the length of time between spawns. “Wasting” the belt 15 seconds after picking it up is not ideal. Being overly cautious and waiting till the next spawn could be considered a problem if player interaction is a key driver in building the game. With the other considerations in this document you can see how it might be seen as n issue. This could also be seen as a reason why it is not quite as powerful for the in control player.

One thing that comes up in timing/item threads on the dev forum is delaying belt pickups in unreal tournament 4 duel. The idea is simple. When there is a conflict near the belt the player that “wins” and either kills or drives off his opponent will wait until they think/know the other player is out of pickup sound range. Then they wait a bit longer and take it. This apparently screws up the player that died timing and is very unfair. Not to comment on this particular point but delaying causes more problems than this. By delaying items the in control player can give themselves both the belt and the jacket indefinitely. This is not really a problem either, its just how the game work, however the posters latching onto the delaying “problem” with belt should also highlight this point.

Wait, where are we up to?

In my mind the biggest problems (besides the maps, or more specifically their item load outs and balance for out of control play) in ut99 is the item offset time combined with pathetically weak out of control armor and lack of reason to revisit pickups. These problems are exacerbated by the maps that were played, however even with maps that are setup correctly I feel that belt vs thighpads (in the situation above where the in control player has belt+jacket) is rather lopsided and does not allow a great deal of options for the out of control player.

Thought Process, how we got here?

My original thoughts for armor in ut99 (and by extension ut4 with its current setup) was fairly simple. The belt is overpowered and creates an unbalanced game. It is significantly more protection in one pickup – this is typically cited as the reason it is too powerful. In addition the belt player can pressure every second jacket spawn – every spawn if they are careful and make sure to offset them correctly. Even without paying attention getting things to not clash is trivial, with travel time and the spawns it just tends to happen. This is rarely mentioned but is a larger problem than the straight up better belt stats. Being able to do this might not seem like a problem and simply the dynamics of the game, however in my opinion there should always be options and this situation removes many as the out of control player loses access to the jacket and belt.

This is only part of the story but was where I got to when initially planning to write these pieces and jotted down an outline. This dynamic has come to the front of my thoughts whenever ut99 duel popped into my head for over ten years. To me it seemed enough at the time. However because of the stacking mechanic, revisiting the jacket for the jacket player is unproductive unless they have taken damage. Likewise the belt player only needs to deny jacket when the other player has taken damage or died. There is less reason to visit it or deny the pickup if the player already has it – you become predictable* doing so and possibly give up position on other more interesting items. True the jacket could be denied for the next 30 seconds, thus removing a fall back point for the out of control player if they do take damage, but overall it is not needed.

However watching streams/youtube of good players recently, time and time again they go to jacket to deny it when their opponent already has it and has not taken any damage. Quite often they take damage on their belt doing so.

*both traveling to the jacket as well as traveling back to the belt.

Sorry this is so long but we are getting to the final piece of the puzzle that is the broken ut99 (and future ut4 duel) armor system. The final piece is total out of control play. To this point there has been a belt player and a jacket player. In ut99 there is no option to play like my quakelive ztn example. Once you are dead as the jacket player and the belt player can sweep the jacket and belt you are essentially left with nothing to work with. Vials and on some maps thigh pads vs belt. The problem is not so much that the belt is strong, the armor/item dynamic in ut99 lacks options for the out of control player. This in part is due to the maps played in ut99. Deck for instance. Thighpads should probably be the last item the in control player goes for and they should be available for the out of control player, right? Unfortunately they reside at the top of the main room, impossible to get without taking damage. On Codex there are no thigh pads, only belt and jacket.

At this point it becomes beneficial for the in control player to deny the jacket as the dead, out of control player has no armor. Control switches heavily in favor of the in control player. The in control player can now run two items – easy, especially given the spawn times in ut99 – and lock out the down player. The belt is only once per minute.

Maybe the argument is that the down player should not have let the game spiral to this degree and I agree to a point. However I think there should always be options that do not rely on execution for comebacks. Slow stacking should be a viable alternative and the way ut plays both being an option add diversity to the game. To me ut has always been about giving players many different options for play, and an armor system that works and allows out of control stacking should be one option.

For example, allowing a player to stack to 150 on thigh pads does not break the game. Forcing the in control player to do more for control via stacking, more items or similar would also not break the game.

I think a large part of the problems that duel in ut4 faces, at least the snowballing and difficult to come back complaints could be addressed by working on the armor and health system. I hope the examples above highlight the games flaws. Even ignoring these complaints a better version of duel* and TDM could easily be fashioned, one that stays true to what I feel are UTs original core values but builds on them to allow a better experience all round without adding contrived mechanics like spawning with belt or as someone else suggested, redeemer in duel.

*Solely by looking at item values, stacking rules and respawn times.

Damage Amp, a side issue to further illustrate duel balance

One final.. interesting change that 2k3 brought to the table was the damage amp in duel. To this point 2kx health/armor has not been discussed because it is not really relevant to ut99 and ut4 duel – Epic seem to be going down the ut99/ut3 route. We can think about how amp changes unreal tournament duel in relation to what has been outlined to this point. While many people think you need to actually play with settings in order to ascertain how something will affect the game I am of the opinion that spawn times and how everything lines up tells enough of a story to get a good idea. This is not to say that amp would never work, but within the parameters outlined above we will dissect what we have.

Personally I liked amp in 2k3, this does not mean it was a good addition however. I liked it for the same reason adding the belt + vials back to ut99 duel was good – it added more pickups and as a result made the game play better. It gave more options to the out of control play and at the time that was good. At this basic level it “works”, but just adding more stuff really fix things.

The amp is a temporary, time limited buff. This is important to remember and from the perspective of how it affects the game plays during its duration. In the current alpha the amp lasts 10 seconds.

One common defence of amp is its ability for an out of control player to get back into the game, the out of control player can make use of the amp to remove the in control players stack. This might be the case, however due to the spawn times on the belt and jacket, slotting in another single item every minute or two should pose no problem. Also because of how item driven FPS work this can be swapped and the in control player can get the amp too..

On top of this we have another interesting problem. Because the amp is time limited, allowing a pickup does not really impact the important aspect of the game – the in control players stack.

There are a few ways to go about things here:

The in control player takes the belt, jacket and amp. This is likely to happen because of the aforementioned spawn times and plenty of free time for the in control player. In this scenario the out of control player gets a little extra breathing room, however unless the amp is a frequent spawn (~30 seconds) it will not add much stress to the in control player. I could not imagine the amp being a short duration spawn.

The in control player takes the belt and jacket, ignoring the amp. The amp is time limited (currently 10 seconds) and the in control player then plays keep away for the duration. In an ideal situation the out of control player delays pickup of the amp until close to the belt or jacket spawn so he can pressure the pickup, hopefully stealing it thanks to additional damage. In quakelive players to a medium/high level have problems with mega/red overlapping – I don’t think introducing a mechanic that requires this level of timing ability for comebacks is a good way to proceed. Think about it this way, in order to be able to leverage the amp effectively you need to :

While this might sound similar to the belt/jacket scenario that has been hammered on so heavily over the course of this document. However in practice it is the opposite. Aligning times like this is hard. Deliberately doing it is difficult for most players.

Sure it takes skill to execute but I feel it is too niche to do so.

It would be rare for a player to ignore the belt in favour of the amp, a short duration buff.

*insert stack differences here

Contesting the amp as the out of control player is probably not a great idea – the main problem here is that the down player should be trying to deal safe or efficient damage. Because they have less to work with they have more to loose when taking smaller amounts of damage.

Swings heavily to aim.

Discussion on the dev forum seem to think than amp is “ok on deck but not suitable for maps like compressed”. To me this reads “its ok on deck because you can run away for the duration” rather than giving the player with amp a chance to utilise it. In addition to this the comments (and indication that this seems to be the existing attitude) of “it adds an extra thing so helps even out control” is wrong as already demonstrated.

It should not be added until a more robust armor/health system is in place – maybe it would work then, who knows. The whole time limited thing strikes me as the largest problem. Make it “double damage for the next 3 seconds after shooting” or something. This way it is easier to utlise on a belt, mega or jacket pickup.

Ok. Kinda ran out of steam on this point, I don’t find it that interesting because I strongly suspect that amp will not make it into duel, however.. its worth thinking about anyway.

A Few Final thoughts

One final thing that needs saying and should have been said by now is this : the thighpads are useless. By themselves they are not a way back into the game for the out of control player. 250 health vs 150 health is highly imbalanced.

In addition to this, simply adding thigh pads to a map does not solve the problem. This is similar to adding amp. Sure there is an extra item to suck up the in control players time, and in the pads case more time than an amp due to faster respawn, however a big part that is lacking from out of control play in ut is the ability to generate a meaningful stack if the player wanted to play this way. Once a player has pads they are basically out of options when it comes to larger value uncontested items.

Vials have also been glossed over as a way back into the game for the out of control player for a number of reasons. Firstly they are there for both players due to the lack of a megahealth style item the in control player can take them. Secondly they were never really well positioned for out of control stacking in the popular ut99 maps. For example the vials on deck are in the main room and in a dead end that can be heard from the main room, not exactly out of control territory. The vials on codex are right next to the belt and the jacket, both areas the in control player will be. Thirdly vials in ut4 are unlikely to be on an 18 second spawn like ut99. This alone buffed them a little more than vials in other games, but putting them back to 25-35 seconds is a nerf. Incorrect, health packs are on 20 seconds in ut99 but not vials. Finally this has concentrated more on items that drive the game and player interaction, which is rare for +5 health/armor to do in any previous FPS.

I think stacking speed is important in item driven game types. For duel this is armor/health and for TDM this is weapons. More to come on stacking speed.

Mappers seem to love putting vials in locations to use as audio queues, which is cool but there comes a point where out of control needs a way to safely stack up a little. Due to the belt/jacket dynamic the in control player is not tied up for long periods of time like in quakelive and thus can pressure vial pickups.

Armor Changes

As of late 2015 I do not agree with these suggested changes. However it can stay as it outlines the thought process needed to analyse armor and health changes. If you are interested in possible changes this post might be good to look at.

Preface. Armor refers to armor items (Jacket/pads/helmet). Belt refers to belt armor. Essentially there are two armor “types”.

All these changes are intended for duel. The goal is to reshuffle so the in control player has more on their plate and a harder time locking things down while at the same time giving the out of control player more options for stacking.

Broad changes:
Remove different absorption values from armor. If thighpads@50(50%) is too much drop them 35(75%) which gives roughly the same additional health as 50. Personally I don’t think this is needed and part of the reason they are less than ideal in ut99 is because of the high damage weapons. Stacking with different absorption amounts makes things overly complicated especially when combined with one of the changes below.

Allow items of the same type (armor/jacket) to stack. eg pads stack with pads to give 2* pad armor pickup to the maximum armor amount. Two jacket pickups stack.

Helmet offers no armor and simply converts a headshot into a bodyshot. This makes it a separate to belt or armor and removes confusion as to how much armor you really have. It also streamlines use with belt.

Optional: Change belt to be 95% absorption. It stops belt diving with two health. Also makes more sense once mega is added to the game.

Item specific – Pick one:

These are just three options, change them or more suggestions are needed. Simple is better.

Map specific changes in conjunction with one of the above.

Add keg to maps and have it on a much shorter than 90second respawn. This is another item to tie up the in control players time as well as have a longer “balanced” section of the game where both players are somewhat even. Rather than belt vs jacket we could have belt vs jacket+keg.

Offer more variety in pickups and less dangerous pickup style for the out of control player. Out of control play is a problem on maps like deck. ut mappers seem to go out of their way to make pickups dangerous to get. For some items, some of the time this is fine, but all items do not need to be suspended above lava with rabid dogs spawning on pickup – a slight exaggeration but you get the idea.

If old maps are going to be rehashed can we please fix them? Maps like curse might have ok layouts but belt vs pads is super lame even with the changes I am suggesting. Change them! Make them better! They were only ok to start with, improving them is good, and improvement is more than just taking new movement into account. If the armor system is not changed make a map with two belts and two jackets. Make a map with a belt, two jackets.

Break out of the mold that is “one of each item” – it has been going since ut99, it is outdated and boring.

Cosmetic problems may arise from this. While I can deal with picking up four sets of thigh pads for 200 armor, some player may find this a little odd. Where would you put them? To rectify this the thigh pads could be changed to armor pads – players wear suits where pads can be attached. Thighs, upper arms, forearms and shins. Jacket could become torso plates – can attach to chest/back mounts. Alternatively change armor to a lower damage absorption version of belt and have “power” pickups to charge it. I’m not very good at this part of the game because I just don’t care. I could be picking up carrots for armor and it would not matter. I hope epic go the “pay for customisation” route and have a whole slew of different armor graphic styles I can buy. I would get red/yellow pack for sure. Or maybe plate and mail vs leather jerkin. Likewise the railgun graphic for the sniper rifle – yum.

A fix that involves changing nothing and using existing mechanics
Finally the perceived problem of out of control could somewhat be relieved with a single mutator. Somewhat, this is the clunkiest “fix” and not ideal. In fact it would be better to simply add better items to existing maps.

If there is an amp, change it to a jacket
If there is no amp but there are pads, change pads to jacket
If there is no amp or pads, change Bio (or something) to jacket

The main problem is the ease / time requirements which belt on 55 and jacket on 27 is locked down, giving the in control player lots of time to pressure the out of control player who then has nothing to work with. By adding another jacket the in control player has something else to worry about getting, giving them less time to pressure and accidental overlap is more likely to occur. In addition a jacket rather than pads puts players on a more even footing.

Another idea that will surely polarise opinions is adding spawn points to both the belt and the jacket. This would probably be combined with the above item switch. Now while this may sound crazy, aerowalk, one of the most popular quake maps has a red armor spawn and it works relatively well (depending on your outlook). To me this setup would be better than giving players “wildcards” they can play like spawning with belt. Not only do you spawn with belt, you would also deny their pickup and mess with their timing. Of course the argument against this is that a player playing perfectly will never let you spawn on the belt, which might be the case. However I think this would be one of the last things to look at – better than giving players the option to spawn with belt twice a game, much worse than actually fixing the underlying problem. These are more ideas for people who do not find changing the armor system palatable, personally I am not a huge fan of either idea as I feel changing the base would yield a better 1v1 experience.

Even just changing the belt to the same respawn as the jacket would do much to alleviate the problems.

Why this is important
It is important because a game with structure leads to better games. A game with structure that allows comebacks and slows landslide games with natural gameplay mechanics rather than giving players “cards” to play on spawns and in turn leads to better games.

If the base game allows inroads to control it is better than relying on execution to bleed the in control player. It also gives more style options.

Finally I personally think that the belt+jacket dynamic in ut99 is broken. It may not have been as glaringly obvious 15 years ago but when it is laid out like the above it is. If the game was played to the level quakelive is played today it would be very obvious. If ut4 ends up being as successful as cs:go or one of the MOBAs then the huge player base and competitiveness will latch on and exploit this sort of thing into the ground. Yes the game is fun but it should not allow one player to be one 250 health while the other is relegated to a pickup that provides 1/5th the protection with no way for it to become more when they are locked out of jacket/belt. And thats if the map even allows it, it might be belt vs naked.

It is important because at the core the changes suggested do not break the game as it is, they simply give other options to the out of control player. The existing duel dynamic would still exist. You can still get a single set of pads and press aggressively if you choose to.

This was an intro. An intro to changes that should be made, at least in my opinion. In order to understand why something needs changing it needs to be analysed like above. If anyone would like to correct anything I have stated to this point please go ahead – In case you couldn’t tell I have an axe to grind on this particular subject so if there is a glaring mistake I need to know 🙂

The flavor of UT armor should be preserved as well. To me this means something like ut99 with its different armor pools: belt (100% absorption) and armor (not 100% absorption). This will be preserved in the following ideas because to me it is a key Unreal Tournament thing. Plus there is no reason to change it, work with it and make something unique.

A somewhat relevant post here.

The duel points are interesting. At the end of the day nothing has really ever been tried with duel, it simply uses whatever the rest of the game does and this is why it is has always been somewhat broken in ut. Players seem to accept armor/health sets/spawn times that ship with games and never try to change them. ut99 is essentially a two item game and the bigger item gets lots to pressure the lesser item due to the 55/27 second spawns as well as stacking dynamics. This is the short version as to why it is broken. The duel hard line players will argue otherwise of course but nothing else really drives player interaction. You can deny other pickups but players will generally not try contest a mini-gun or rocket launcher.

Also the maps, tempest for duel? Compressed for duel*? Curse for duel? Overall there were some acceptable maps but there were also some really bizarre options in map pools. Even deck barely worked with the item set ut99 had. This is not really a problem with the gametype as such, more an indication of the stubbornness of the community to accept third party content or drop, or at the minimum modify terrible maps. On top of this in 2kx epic decided to take the lead from the community mappers doing 1on1 maps for ut99, which resulted in a batch of maps designed for 1on1 that did not play well at all. I hardly blame them, the 1on1 third party maps for ut99 were polished looking and appeared good AND got excellent reviews. Unfortunately they played quite poorly in general.

In the unreal world the problem goes beyond the gametype.

*The fatality games were terrible but they highlight the problem that really exists – noone has really spent time trying to make duel work, especially in the ut world. Especially 2k3..

Before changing duel drastically (adding free belts to spawn or something..) it would be really nice if epic went down a path of look at spawn times, values, stacking and how this drives the gametype. These things can be changed and heavily effect how the game plays, how in/out of control works and help prevent snowballing, allow easier comebacks that are not overly reliant on execution and other things that people are concerned about.

And then look at the same values for TDM, FFA and probably CTF. One size of numbers (armor values/ spawn times/ stacking) here does not fit all anymore, as evidenced by existing games that are great for TDM but lack lustre for duel and vice versa in other cases.

Personally I am of the opinion that the mechanics in place and how duel works is perfectly fine, it just needs heavy tweaking and good maps to work.

The one other change that keeps most of what exists in duel is hoonymode. So, so awesome.

How does timing work in FPS duel

Courtesy of esreality

>> I got a new arena shooter idea for you: Put noodles to microwave for 3 minutes, come back exactly 3 minutes later. Repeat.

Make it harder: put noddoles in a tupperware in the microwave for 5 mins and you have to come back exactly 3 minutes later.

Apologies if parts come off disjointed, this was written over a four week period and some thoughts simply stopped.

Timing is a confusing and complicated topic. Depending on the gametype it is a large part of the game. Players who have only recently discovered timing think of it as addition and subtraction to obtain a number. Even players who are unaware of the specifics are affected by timing – there can only be so many itemX spawn during a Yminute length game give it has a Zrespawn time. This may sound contrived but in an item driven gametype, items, and by association, timing / respwn times, dictate flow of play even if players are not consciously keeping track of pickups.

Calculating Spawn Times

When discussing calculation of spawn times we generally refers to the seconds of the game clock. Minutes are usually unimportant. If you pickup an item with 55 second time at 13:23 its going to spawn at 14:18(counting up) / 12:28 (counting down).

There are in betweens obviously. There are different ways to calculate the spawn time and different players handle different items in different ways. One size does not fit all and players might opt to time in a more exact fashion if their aim is a little weaker. Quite often the dev forums discussion treats aspects of the game as if they are in a vacuum. This is frustrating and it gives the impression that all players are amazing or all players are absolute retards. The beauty of a non-binary skill is that players can perform in different ways and at different skill levels. Reading the dev forums on gets the impression that every player there commenting on timing is perfect OR cannot time at all. In truth the ones that claim to time perfectly can calculate the spawn time, but probably do not actually act on it correctly all the time.

Here are some examples of how to calculate spawn times

Some might calculate the time +/-5 off the current time. Or -3 -20. Or +35. And so on.

Some might memorise pairs – so 1=28, 2=29, 30=57 and “know” the spawn time simply by looking at the number. This may sound excessive but is as simple as learning times tables or basic arithmetic. When asked 2 plus 7 or 3 times 5 many of us simply know the answer – this could be because they learnt the answers by rote in school but also via use over a long time period. The same happens when calculating spawn times – given enough repetition players using the first method would eventually transition at least some numbers to memory.

Some players might “feel” out when things are spawning. If a player is cycling between three items with the same spawn time they will spawn one after the other. The player then repeats this to lock down those items. An example in ut99 of this would be the jacket, pads, weapons as the belt has a separate spawn time. This can be extended to simply visiting the belt “between” jacket spawns. In this way you are locking down both items but timing nothing. This works acceptably because arriving at items before they spawn to setup is important. This chain cannot be too long otherwise you run the risk of the initial item being up before you get back to it. Adding delays before pickups allows more leeway in travel time but sacrifices how many items can be included in a cycle.

A player could count in their head – or even out loud. This may sound silly this was an ok option early days in ut99 before showscores | onrelease showscores was in everyones config or TTM/HUD clocks were introduced, and when (at least in Australia(early days) and US) as we played with belt/vials disabled, leaving ~1 armor on most maps.

You could have an analogue clock on your desk. By looking at the clock you “see” the rough spawn time – 27 seconds is approx opposite current second hand time. If you don’t like the in game clock you could use a digital external. Personally this is my go to these days, a simple clock on my tablet.

You could time with an external app on your phone/tablet.*

You can have a Xsecond long sound file and play it when a pickup occurs.*

*dubious if this would be considered legit.

Even a missed pickup can be guesstimated to the next spawn. The absolute earliest an item can spawn when missed is twice its spawn time from the previous pickup. This would allow a player to contest an item even if they missed the previous pickup completely.

And so on. There are probably other methods. The above are easily combined, time one item, have others in sync with it. An example of this on deck would be timing two items: belt and boots – jacket pickup – shock pickup. If the boots chain is performed directly after the belt pickup the player needs only time every second boot spawn as the alternate will conincide with belt.

Another example would be ammo pack pickups on ztn near mega in quakelive. Rather than timing mega I pickup an item nearby that I can use as a reference for when it is spawning. Picking up the ammo packs near the mega at the same time results in the ammo respawning 10 seconds before mega. This is an easy way to know when it is spawning soon. This is not foolproof and you do not have the spawn time to the second – but when the ammo pack spawns you can check the game clock +10 and be ready to go. This is not ideal but I have never tried to play a perfect game of ql so it is good enough.

As we can see working out the spawn time is simple, for anyone who has basic math skills it is easy. Deliberate memorisation or memorisation via repetition in play is easy.

These are some examples of techniques players use to know or estimate when items are spawning, however timing is more than simply knowing when an item is spawning – if it was item driven gametypes would be amazingly boring. Basic math to dominate opponents is boring. Memorisation of number sets is boring. If timing was simply knowing when an item is going to spawn then item driven game types would be no more interesting or dynamic than others.

If thats all it was then item driven FPS would be dead. I guess a better way to look at the above are ways of “knowing when an item is spawning”. The techniques that involve having numbers (A B C)***) by themselves are uninteresting. I dislike the term “timing” and its connotations on the dev forums, mainly because a lot of weight seems to be given to the number itself, when this is probably the least important aspect of “timing” and item driven gametypes in general.

It is important to know but the method of knowing a number it is unimportant. How you go about discovering the number in game is key. What you do with it after is important. The number itself? Not much.

I feel this is where discussion on the dev forums (and in ut circles it seems) veers away from what it should concentrate on (how items/times drive the game) and latches on/assumes obtaining the number is important. The same happens in quakelive to a degree. The goal here is to show that 1) how you get the work out the spawn time is not important 2) how to make this process easier for new players as this seems to be a big thing on the dev forums. It will feed into other articles that aim to improve the ut franchise and create a richer more diverse game. Coming back from quake circles after the ut4 announcement I was somewhat surprised by how hard the community has latched on to the spawn time.

Another point that is thoroughly beaten into the ground on the dev forums is delaying pickups.

How important items influence and drive game dynamics

To understand timing more we need to look at how items drive games and how players interact with items and thus with each other. In this way we paint a broader picture than a simple numbers. This discussion will be very duel centric, firstly because I personally have more experience in this area and it is simpler (or at least less chaotic and easier to illustrate a point) than TDM.

The simplest way of putting this is that Items drive the game. Players meet at items, they plan around items, they go from a weak position to a strong position, because of items. They can opt to leave items up to chase for kills or let the enemy get away to secure a pickup. This is the beauty of an item driven game – the objectives keep moving, importance and goals shift regularly and creates a rich and dynamic gaming experience. This is hard to balance – on one hand if things are too dynamic there is no structure to the game and the resulting gameplay feels like free for all or simply +forward aim spam. On the other hand having a single item that is important in duel is boring, makes control switches difficult, depending how it works may be super defensive and possibly too lopsided – or it may give the out of control player one option for comeback, damage.

In duel there are typically three positions. Balanced, in control and out of control. ut99 and ut4 duel tends to skew this towards in/out of control play imo at all times as belt is quite dominant – not specifically because of value but how it allows players access to the jacket as well. ql can run in some sort of “even” state for some time.

Item driven duel the player with the better items is usually constrained by having to run pickups. Because of this they become predictable to the lesser stacked player who can either avoid completely or opt to deal damage at predictable intervals when they are picking items.

The trade off is predictability vs surviveability.

Lets look at how players play with items, spawn time and where timing comes in.

Off spawn players are split – some spawns will give them item A and some spawns will give them item B. Obviously ut changed this in later iterations and delays spawn on armors/mega, however for now we will roll with items spawning at the start of the game. This example is non-game specific. It could be quake or it could be unreal. It could be hldm. It doesn’t really matter.

Players will sweep up items they spawn near, armors and health. On a well designed map each will get some starting items, depending on how the game works and how the map is designed each player may get one item and a third is contested. Maybe one gets two and the other gets one. At this point there is generally no strong in/out of control situation. Both players have some stack, both players know when some items or possibly all items are spawning. For the items they picked up they can work out times/pickup orders, for items their opponent got they may have heard pickup sounds or because the first 1-2 pickups have “standard” times that generally occur at the start of a game.

From here players can opt for stack more, get weapons, setup for next set of spawns, try to ambush their opponent and so on. For this example it is not really important what they do. However at some point one player will be either mauled and have no stack left or will die (player-). At this point the player that dealt the damage (player+) would not be considered “in control”. If player+ sweeps majority of the items after killing/damaging off their opponent they are then considered “in control”. Depending on where and how the damage/kill happens and where player- spawns/runs to it is entirely possible that the damage dealer is not in control.

This pre-kill play is in my mind the most interesting part of the game and when players are even it can go for a decent length of time. Hoonymode in cpma is great because of this, the whole game in the first frag.

Once player+ has established control the game changes from fighting over spawning items to one player trying not to die while the other takes armor and health. The dynamic here is important. This is key to duel/TDM in item driven FPS work and armor/health systems in general. At this point player- will attempt to stack up on the non-major items that player+ has access to. Knowing when items are spawning is important for both players, even player- who will not want to try to take major items but knowing when they are spawning is good as it allows them to plan their movements around the map to avoid player+.

Player+ knows when items are spawning as he is taking them. He can use the previously discussed methods to know when they are spawning after he picks the up. This player is constrained by the items he is controlling and because of this becomes more predictable for player-

Player- on the other hand is not taking major items. This player may or may not know when items are spawning. In the short term (30-60seconds) after they are heavily damaged or killed they will know when the items they took or can easily extrapolate when these are spawning. After that their spawn knowledge will have gaps unless they actively try to obtain the info. When is the big health spawning? When is the armor spawning?

To fill these gaps they have some options. They need to obtain the spawn times in order to be able to effectively challenge for the items or deal damage on their opponent when the other player is taking items.

1) Hang around the physical location until the item spawns and challenge for it. This is dangerous and against a prepared opponent (stack, knows spawn time so does not need to linger) will get player- killed. Leans heavily on execution from a position of weakness. This may be a reasonable route to take after player- first death, depending on their damage output when they died.

2) Hang around the physical location until the item spawns and see when it is picked up. This is dangerous because player+ will turn up when it is due to respawn. Similar to point 1 but without the engaging.

3) Get visual on the item from a distance and wait for the pickup. This is safer than 1 or 2. May not always be possible due to the map. For instance getting a visual on the belt on liandri was not really a good idea as it was heavily enclosed.

4) Get within range to hear the pickup sound. This is the optimum method. Player+ takes the item, player- notes the next spawn time then leaves to stack up on smaller items. player- can come back to setup for the next spawn.

This is how duel in item driven gametypes work. Players need to obtain pickup times and extrapolate spawn times. This then drives player interaction and the game forward in a structured manner. Once player- has a spawn time they can try to stack up a little during the next cycle and then challenge at the next spawn.

When players know spawn times they can position and time aggressive play*. For example, the belt is taken in ut99. Should the player that took the belt push the jacket player as soon as possible? My call on this would be no – the belt player should generally wait a little until the alternative jacket spawn is coming up. They can position themselves for the next jacket spawn (don’t have to worry about belt right?) and can fall back onto it if they take damage. Positioning for this sort of thing might be as simple as knowing where your opponent is and placing yourself between the item and them. If you take damage, fall back.

*You have to know when to be aggressive and when not to be aggressive.

In control

The in control player should be constrained by the fact they are running items. They should not be free to stack up and then go looking to kill the other player without either giving up an item or timing things very well. Timing in this case does not mean the item time or even going to the item to contest it, but choosing to go hunting when items are not spawning soon. Knowing when this is in relation to items and when to push the down player is important. At the same time knowing when you can leave an item up and pressure the other player is also important, and when the two overlap (pressure at the right time between spawns + leave an item up) you can really put the pressure on the out of control player. However knowing when this is takes a decent amount of knowledge.

Because the in control player must cycle between items to keep resources away from the other player they are predictable. This is the trade off when in control. Predictability and restriction of movement for survivability.

Out of control

The out of control player has to stay away from important spawns until he is capable of challenging for them. Quite often he will not know when items are spawning and when he does will probably not have stack to challenge directly for it. What he can do instead is stack up at other places on the map while the incontrol player is busy taking things. The out of control player is constrained by their lack of stack. This might sound obvious but it is important. They must choose when to pressure and deal efficient damage, not wasting the limited resources they have available. They may want to deal damage on pickups where possible to keep the in control players stack under the thumb. Ideally this damage is efficient, dealing some damage but not risking their own (usually lesser and slower built) stack.

And during all this both players should try to remember spawn times, remember to visit them again when the items are going to pop and keep an eye out for overlaps so as to avoid giving away freebies to their opponent.

Why else does the spawn time matter?

Obtaining the spawn time as above is fine and dandy but beyond the above obvious uses what else do players use with it and why it it important?

Item timers

And so we finally end up on a topic that has been raging on the dev forums for well over a month. Timers on item bases. Give the above it is obvious that this implementation is a step away from what the pre-existing methodology is. Rather than player- needing to setup and discover item pickups they can simply visit the items spawn base at any time when the other player is not around.

Personally I like the sneaky aspect of out of control play. The planning and thought that goes into converting a kill is satisfying. However at the same time I think that the calculation for the item spawn time is unimportant, boring for new players and at the end of the day totally unneeded.

The suggested implementation of timers on weapon bases does not teach players how to time. If the goal is to prepare them to play at a higher level (who will no doubt disable these features) then timing on bases does not teach them anything useful beyond “this is important”, which is fairly obvious anyway. Nothing I have outlined above will be added to their game by simply giving them a rough idea of when things are spawning if they are close enough.

The goal with the follow suggestion would be to preserve the in control/out of control dynamic that is outlined above, because it is good, while giving players the numbers they need while at the same time teaching them to time properly.

When a player picks up an item of importance their game clock displays when it is spawning next for a short period of time. With a 20 second spawn item, clock counting up we have the following

11:34 – Itemname 54

When the player is not taking the items this information is only presented when they are either within line of sight of the pickup or hear the audio queue. In this way the out of control gameplay is preserved.

The number is unimportant. Giving a player the number at pickup time does not break the game. It removes an aspect that is considered boring by many, calculating the number.

Having the spawn time displayed on the item is a step away from the existing duel dynamic and one I hope epic do not end up shipping. Instead a mechanic akin to the above that empowers players with the information they require while keeping the integrity of duel intact would be a much better step to take. Players would learn how to play. They still have to remember the numbers, they still have to act on them in intelligent ways. It just removes the part that most players can do easily but find horribly boring.

One of the counter argument to giving players the spawn time is that “it is hard to calculate the spawn time in the heat of combat at a contested pickup. Thats cool and I agree it could make it harder. However remembering the pickup time is not hard. If a player cannot do the math or memorisation on the fly the solution is to simply remember the pickup time. When there is a lull they can work out when the item is spawning. Easy.

Timing assistance for the in control player

The “down” player is typically pointed to when discussing pickup timers. Timers will make their life easier. Timers will allow them to get back into the game. One aspect that is glossed over is how it effects the in control player. The player with the stack. Pickup timers will benefit this player too. Players are not perfect (no matter what the dev forum seems to think) and missing pickups and mistiming is common, especially at non-high levels of duel. In fact mistiming at lower levels is common. Not timing perfectly is common. Using a chain of items (see above) makes this easier but the addition of pickup timer makes this method even more effective.

In many ways the idea is good but also bad.

One final point that needs addressing is delaying items. This seems to be a point of contention on the forums. One camp considers it the height of strategy and the other considers it lame. Rather than trying to add timers to items to address this “problem” the camp that dislikes it should be looking at the heath/armor system, values and spawn times. ut could do with some big fixes in this area.

The following seem to be goals of adding item timers to items :

1) Introduce players to timing and teach them how to play.
2) Build a better experience using existing proven dynamics by allowing players to more readily play the “correct” way.

The proposed system of pickup times does neither. It does not teach players to time and it does not use the existing dynamics that are in place to create a better game.

Finally by adding timers to items the entire game is significantly changed. Instead of what existed previously (wait for pickup -> find time -> act on time next spawn) it becomes (visit at any point -> get rough spawn time -> act on next spawn). This cuts down forced player overlap to when the item is spawning only. Player interaction outside of spawns is “luck”. I think the ut99 item set could do with some tweaking to create a better duel game and in/out of control experience in general without adding timers, but that is not what this article is intended to address.

In Closing

The hope is you now have a better understanding of what constitutes timing and a little better understanding of how items drive gameplay.

The “math” part of timing is a non-skill. Working out number is trivial and if players are caught up on this being the difficult part then they simply don’t understand the game. This is a separate issue to players disagreeing with this style of gametype in general, which is reasonable. Go for it and create something else. Personally TDM/duel work decently the way they are (in general, specific games have issues but I am planning articles to look at those), have plenty of depth and offer many options for different play styles. Tweaking at a per gametype is required but is outside the purview of this article.