Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself (Name, Location, Hobbies, Interests, etc.).
My name is Peter McNeill, I am an Aussie, a full time professional games coder, am married, and have a 10 month old son. My post-work interests are all pretty much computer related, but my wife and I are both major geeks so this isn't too much of a problem.
What is the Urban Terror modification all about?
Urban Terror is a total conversion of q3 that is probably best defined as "action realism". The players, sound, weapons, damage models and maps are all based in reality, yet SID (Silicon Ice Development) have always been very careful to make sure that the "fun stuff" takes priority over the boring ultra-realism stuff. So what you end up with is a realism shooter team game with locational damage, Ak103's, Grenades and Desert Eagles, mixed in with players who can bunny hop, sprint, dive off buildings and then grab a ledge midair to haul themselves up with.

Action quake for q2 was really the primary influence, just as it was for gooseman's little mod called Counterstrike. However Urban Terror is what happens when a team decides that insane movement penalties and everyone having to stop and crouch to have a firefight are not the way to do a realism mod.

The other big thing about Urban Terror is that it really is still evolving. We thrive on good feedback from our community - our coding team is more productive then it's ever been, we literally have about a dozen mappers producing AAA quality work, the sounds, weapons, skins and textures are continually being refined and improved, and the gameplay (in my humble opinion) just keeps on getting more polished and refined. We're the most skill dependant of any of the realism shooters, and easily one of the prettiest, and we're damn proud of it.
Could you tell us a bit about your personal life?
Sure! Not that it's terribly interesting. I work for a company that develops next-gen rendering technology, I play with my son, I enjoy the company of my wife, and I decapitate the heads off my friends while they're being friendly and taking me on a guided tour through their new maps.
What is your role in the project?
I am the lead coder, which sounds impressive but really doesn't count for much when you work with such a talented bunch of guys as I get to with SID. My duties typically involve implementing new features, fixing old features (gah!), and digesting the often contradictory feedback we get from the community and our QA/testers. I'd make up some crap about having to keep the other coders in line, but the truth is there's no super-massive coder egos here and they'd do just fine without me.
How many hours do you spend in a week working on Urban Terror?
(grabs a calculator) Whoa. That completely depends on real life commitments, but during "full swing" development, any given member of SID (including myself) can easily spend 40 hours on UrT on top of their real world jobs. Did I mention we all have real jobs and are like old and crusty and stuff?
I must admit that Urban Terror is a fantastic modification to play. What do you personally think makes it so great?
I bet you say that to all the mod teams! As a gamer, I especially love whats really been shining in the more recent builds.. faster gameplay, a real reward for skilled intelligent play and tactics, (especially compared with other realism shooters), lowering of the insta-gib factor, the graphics and the way the guns handle, and the recent shift in focus towards objective based gamemodes. As a member of SID, I just love working with people who should all be doing this full time for a living and instead getting all their talents for free. (*insert arch-villain goatee twirl and evil manical laugh here*)
Urban Terror has an ever-growing/ever-expanding community. Just how much input from it do you take in regards to “polishing” the mod?
We've always prided ourselves on having a great relationship between the developers and the community. We read their suggestions, discuss things over with them, and actively involve top clans and about 200 community testers in actively testing new builds and maps. Often alot of what comes up is contradictory between the various weapon specialists (sniping whores, auto monkeys, nade spammers), so it's important we get the widest cross section of feedback as possible to make sure that everything has it's place and most everything remains balanced.
What are your thoughts on other Quake III Arena modifications such as CPMA, OSP, RA3, and 3Wave?
Well, I take my hat off to anybody who gives their free time in giving something as cool as those mods back to the community. It chuffs me when I hear stuff like Rhea from OSP getting contracted out to put his bag of goodies into SOF2 and RTCW. These mods are "still" q3 however, even though they all take it far past where id software took the concept and feature list themselves. *shrug* It's all still about rocket launchers, armour and railguns. Don't get me wrong - I personally love that style of play and think it requires a lot more "deep skill" (aim, movement, control) then Urban Terror itself does, but I also know that I don't have the 3 hours a day practice required to become good enough at those mods to where I simply don't get plastered 3 ways from sunday every time I join a server. At least in UrT (and q3f and nsco) if my non-gaming brother sits down for a go, even though he's really going to suck, he's not going to get vapourized instantly if he uses his head and trys to figure out something useful to do for his team. These mods are for gamers who are already pretty damn good and have an axe to grind.
Do you ever converse with the programmers of those modifications on what to add to Urban Terror?
Well, I've spoken with Rhea before about how he did some of his OSP goodies like MVD, and we'll be including similar functionality at some future point. Generally though, not really. We used to have a fairly good relationship between splash damage, the q3f team, before they all sold out and went pro on us with their RTCW expansion ;). (bum wrap guys, sorry about the bad news!)
As I was playing Urban Terror the other day, I had made not of the fact that its game play strongly emphasizes on realism. What factors of realism do you believe first person shooters should feature in general?
Personally? It depends. Urban Terror, despite the fact we still somewhat let you bounce around like a q3 superball, has a lot of "Realism" things that simply aren't in other games and that surprises me. The most noticable of the ommisions in other realism shooters is the ledge-climbing.. that was in UrT before I even joined the team, and yet I can't explain how jarring it is to play another tactical shooter, come across a chest high box, and find that there is no way my super-elite soldier can get on top of it without standing on the head of another player.. Do what's fun. Do what Makes sense. Don't do stuff just because you can. And don't leave staples out just because others beat you to it. Oh, and stop encouraging camping already.
Do you think that Urban Terror is doing a good job of applying these factors to the Quake III Arena engine?
Heheh, yeah, I think we do an alright job. We take what would be the realistic approach, and boil all the tedium and suckyness off until we wind up with something thats fun. In terms of what we do with the engine, pretty much everything we do besides the core player movement has had to be added in ourselves. Per region hit detection, antilag, bleeding, realistic weapons with recoil spread and a tonne of animations and sounds, the minimap, stamina, high-detail skins, weather effects and maps that're always pushing the limits of q3's rendering ability.. Generally if there's a bug in urban terror, it's usually been because we've been trying to push the limits of what q3 can do, and sometimes that bites us on the ass.
What are your thoughts on id software’s Quake III Arena Point Release 1.32 and its new Punk Buster addition?
Well, a little birdie told me id Software added Punkbuster for q3 because id dudes was still playing q3 and some of it's mods *cough*. So that made me grin like an idiot, truth be told. PB had it's teething problems but now I believe it's detecting almost everything except an occasional private hacks and some openGL wallhacks. The thought of a global ban is pretty scarey to these 14 year olds, they'd have a hard time explaining to their folks why they need cash for a new copy of a game they already own.
Have you ever encountered a cheater in an Urban Terror server? If so, how did you react to him or her?
Yeah, it got pretty bad pre-Pb. I generally only play on servers when I have Admin rights however, so it was pretty easy to just slap a ban on the dorks. Thankfully cheaters now are so infrequent that you generally feel pretty silly for even having that question about another player roll through your head.
What are your thoughts on cheating in general, and how do you think that it can be avoided?
Well, to be honest I could write a big psyche paper on it that'd basically boil it all down to low self esteem and "little penis syndrome". Cheaters never try and make it look obvious, they do it for the hero worship they think they might get if someone is fooled into believing they're really that good, or to show off what a great coder they think they are. And yes I think it can be avoided. Although I completely applaude the efforts of active anti-cheat groups, generally the most cheat prone games are written in 20 year old coding styles like flat C, (q3/half life), that are a hell of alot easier to reverse/usefully hook then a modern C++ app where there are no static memory addresses. I think we'll see wallhacks and stuff for doom 3 engine based games that utilize OpenGL wrappers, but I think it'll be very unlikely we see engine hooks that are anywhere near as "complex" *cough* as the OGC series of cheats.
Many believe that Urban Terror is Quake III Arena’s Counter-Strike. What are your thoughts on this?
Well firstly I'd be tempted to believe they probably haven't played both games if they think that. We share alot of features with counterstrike, and we're both are children of action quake 2. We're faster, meaner, leaps ahead of them technically, and better balanced. And totally biased - lol!
What do you think of Counter-Strike as a whole?
In a word? Disappointing. (/me goes out on a bit of a rant here) I used to play it *a lot* before I got hooked on urban terror. First came the cheats (and valves blind eye), then came the self-destructive community, and then came Valve sticking a pitchfork up everyones ass by continually dumbing everything down until it's gotten to the point where two elite soldiers packing modern day automatic rifles may as well be using slingshots for all the accuracy and reliability they're provided with. The damage done per shot is actually quite similar to the equivilant guns in Urban Terror (the time to kill SHOULD be about the same), although somewhere along the line CS went to the silly extremes of two players who've surprised each other can do nothing but immediately crouch in the open and click until the other dies. If you retreat, you'll be pegged in place by their hit code. If you strafe, you won't hit a god damn thing. My Personal feeling is that they've deliberately jacked the Movement Penalties and spread up that high, so you're never firing upon moving targets, and never really able to percieve any of their shoddy antilag or collision detection.
What are some of the similarities and differences between Urban Terror and Counter-Strike?
Even with all our "fun" enhancements I think we still do the realism thing better then they do. Our graphics eat them alive, but then again we don't run that great on a PIII450. They do the objective thing better then we do, well, at least for the moment. They have a buy system, where only about 6 guns in the entire game are actually useful and pretty much forces the loosing team to keep on loosing. (actually, about 4 guns if you don't count the team specific variations), we let the user spawn with pretty much whatever loadout he wants -which works due to our attempts to keep our guns task-specific and balanced. We have our own radio show ;) Oh, and our community generally consists of older gamers with a fairly good mix of men and women, suprisingly enough - like the 20+ 30+ 40+ crowd. I think the survey we held a little while ago pegged the average UrT player at about 28. Heh, if I was to make an obscure comparison, CS = mid-priced wine, UrT = Bourbon. Plus, we have coinbird.
What country, in your opinion, has the most advanced and skilled Urban Terror gamers and why?
Eeek! What a loaded question. I don't really have much of an experience with the European competitive scene, but I'd say in terms of sheer volume of good players the award would have to go to the yanks. Frankly I'm more interested in the "social" clans like Triad, Doggus,Un and PIT - who exist as real friends outside of the virtual world and so you don't see nearly as much of the antagonistic rantings of anonymous hormonal teenagers - the typical stuff with other online communities. They're gentlemen, they have real lives and families, they treat their fellow gamers with respect, and generally great fun to play with because of it.
Are you satisfied with what has been produced in the recent Urban Terror release? Why or why not?
Yeah I am. That 2.6 Spas shotgun was nasty! The biggest thing to come out of 2.6a however was the opening up of the weapons/balance testing to a far wider slice of the community. We're going to be doing all of our testing this way in the future as the feedback and results so far has been incredible.
Do you believe that violence in today’s games encourages kids (perhaps even adults) to act violently?
No more then I believe any other form of media is capable of causing someone to act that way. In the 1940's it was comic books, in the 1950s it was rock and roll, in the 1960's it was drugs and rock and roll (hah, well maybe they were onto something that one time...), in the 1970's it was television, in the 1980's it was dungeons and dragons, in the 1990's it was cartoons, music and video games. Society needs their scapegoats.. simply because parents have been and will always be too vain to admit they might of f*cked up when they've raised Billy-Bob into a sociopath. (to steal a quote) Case in point, if video games really did affect kids, after playing pacman wouldn't we all be hanging around in dark rooms, eating pills and listening to repetitive electronic music? ;)

What are your future plans for the Urban Terror modification?
Well, we're adding a lot of match features in, a lot more bug fixing, we're almost entirely happy with the weapon balance issues now, we've got a built in stats engine coming up, OSP style MVD, and most importantly, over the next few versions we're introducing some new more objective-orientated game modes.
When can we expect to see a future release of Urban Terror and what can we expect it to come with (new features)?
All of the above, and probably within a month or three. Progress has never moved faster then it has in the past couple of months - it's been a riot.
Thanks for the interview, Peter. Do you have any last statements and/or shoutouts to make?
Yeah. Hi Wife! Er. no. Thanks!
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