This season’s been a bit up and down activity wise, but I think we’re finally starting to realize that NS is actually nearing the end of its lifespan. I’ve seen the community through its ups and downs for seven years now and I’ve never seen it this dire. It’s been a good run though and with NS2 improving steadily and hopefully reaching a playable state soon, maybe it’s a good time for it to end.
We’ve got some business to attend to first though! Two (hopefully!) matches remain for us this season, the semi final against DeGz and then possibly the final against Saunamen or TROLLS. All great matchups and well worth spectating. We’ll probably be playing the semi final against DeGz at 18 CET Sunday the 5th of December (tomorrow!) and then hopefully the final at 20 CET.
Unfortunately the last month has seen a serious bout of inactivity in the entire scene — in what little is left of it anyway. Even just getting a PCW has proven difficult and officials not being played has been the norm rather than the exception. While we weren’t the first to stop playing, this has affected us too. Our practice lately has been non-existant, in part due to no opponents and in part due to lack of available players. As a result, the quality of our play has taken a nose dive. We still intend to finish this season in style and with semi finals coming next week we’ll hopefully get back into activity and melt some faces.
Last week we played a two matches in a row on Sunday, to try to catch up with the season schedule. We defeated both DeGz and CAL-NS, although in a less than impressive manner and are pretty much guaranteed a spot in the semi finals even though we have two matches remaining. Unfortunately lagga had some problems with the ENSL plugin, which delayed the DeGz match by an hour and ultimately forced us to play with mercs. Big thanks to Osku for mercing against DeGz and to Doctor for mercing against CAL-NS.
I’m not entirely sure what’s going on with Prostokvashino or TROLLS, but hopefully we’ll play those matches on Sunday to wrap up the league part of Season 15.
I finally got around to updating my list of the top Natural Selection movies — in other words the Natural Selection movies that are worth watching. Quite a few newcomers on the list, while some old ones have dropped off. Go check it out yo.
I should also mention that the work on what’s probably going to be my last Natural Selection movie ever is still moving forward, if a bit slowly.
First things first: Make no mistake, I love bunnyhopping and I’m biased as hell. This post is an argument for implementing bunnyhopping in NS2.
For a few months now there’s been a debate regarding bunnyhopping in NS2 on the NS2 forums. At first it looked like it was going to be the usual name calling contest with occasional attempts at serious but uninformed discussion. This time however, several intrepid posters made sure the debate got taken to another level. The debate has mainly concerned the viability and balancing of bunnyhopping in NS2. Considering the awesome posts made, I don’t think I can add anything to this. Therefore I’m going to start off by quoting some of the most important points.
Quoting the posts in their entirety would take too much space, so I’ll have to boil it down to the bare essentials. I highly encourage you to read the full posts though, especially the ones by TeoH. They’re probably the most well written and thought out posts I’ve seen on the subject — ever. I’ve provided direct links to the posts I’ve quoted.
You’ve got many who see it as a way to gain an edge via skill, increasing the skill ceiling and allowing better, more dedicated players to gain an advantage. It’s also a very smooth skill-to-performance system. You can progress about linearly in bhop skill and get about a linear gain in performance.
In order for melee vs ranged to work at higher levels of play in a FPS, it’s necessary that there is some skill quotient to the melee side that will properly scale all the way up with player ability, in order to match the wild scaling of people’s aiming ability when using accurate weapons. Since aiming really isnt relevant at all to a melee class, a complex and very deep movement system is ESSENTIAL to making these fights work at all skill levels.
If all the skulk has to work with is incredibly basic ‘push forward to go forward’ movement, and a leap button with no quakeworld bananajump control, along with the ability to stick to walls which is exactly the same form of motion as being on the ground… While the marines have precise aiming while moving to develop… The inevitable result is that if you balance skulk vs marine at any particular skill level, your balance will be wildly off at skill levels significantly higher or lower than that.
NS has fairly accurate rapid fire hitscan weapons. The thing about fairly accurate rapid fire hitscan weapons is, in the absence of more interesting movement techniques, the most effective way to dodge against them is to spaz left and right in as random and meaningless a pattern as possible. As it happens, spazzing left and right in a random meaningless pattern is not much of a deep skill. However, if you add techniques such as bunnyhopping and quakeworld air control into the mix, which may be preferrable to random spazzing because of the speed advantage they have in closing a melee vs ranged fight, things become more interesting.
To clarify something for people who haven’t necessarily played at a higher level: Once people start to be able to aim properly, jumping is not an evasive advantage against a hitscan machine gun. Practically any form of movement that locks you into a particular path is bad, jump arches can be tracked easily. Bunnyhopping while closing distance is viable as a result of the speed advantage it gives, inspite (not because of) the disadvantage of a more rigid movement path. As i’ve said, the most effective way to dodge an accurate hitscan weapon is randomly mashing left and right, because tracking becomes inpossible, prediction goes out the window, a lot of the skills that players with good aim develop become null and void. If you increase skulk base movement speed and stick with generic forward/back/left/right movement, all that happens is people mash left and right quicker.
The speed boost from moving through the air is the lure that encourages players to adopt this form of movement instead of the brainless alternative that would be adopted if it had no speed advantage. The result is the skulks practice to develop their advanced movement skills, speeding up in the air while intentionally hitting good lines of attack, instead of mashing strafes randomly – and marines develop the aiming skills of reading and tracking skulk trajectory through the air, getting familiar with the curves they’re likely to take to maximise speed and the limits of their air control. This is good for both players, and results in interesting and indepth combat that scales well for both sides.
I’m afraid i don’t have an alternative to hopping that serves the same gameplay function through different means, in 15 years of FPS games nobody has developed one yet. Intentionally creating such a thing is incredibly difficult, it took the early quake players several years just to fully explore the physics and the implications of all the little tricks they could do in that engine. It is a very simple set of physics quirks that cause all the hopping, acceleration and air control techniques to work, incredible complexity arising from a few simple rules, developing such a thing from scratch would take some real effort.
Phew, now that that’s out of the way, I’ll get on with the point I want to get across. I’m going to quote a few more posts to set the mood.
mastery is what you want to have in the game, it’s what keeps people playing beyond the initial novelty of being in some sort of aliens movie spaceship scenario and looking at a big fleshy rhino monster. Mastery motivates people, and it results in player satisfaction from accomplishing something that they knew took substantial skill and effort. That’s a feeling you can’t get from Mario Party or snakes and ladders.
My belief of what makes NS great is its unpredictability. A relevant to topic example being the way people can surprise eachother even after playing it for 8 years because perhaps the marine does a little but fast silent crouch hop onto a railing and flys over the others head.
Its exactly the skill-based movement that keeps melee vs ranged interesting
My point is this: Bunnyhopping is FUN!
1. Rewards time spent practicing, giving an incentive to keep playing.
2. Gives a great feeling of mastery.
3. Encourages creativity.
4. Opens up new possibilities in combat.
5. Makes it possible to create ace players on the melee side of combat.
6. Can even create a game within the game.
I’m going to elaborate on these points in the following, using videos from Natural Selection gameplay to exemplify.
Bunnyhop example 1: Sub-sector rails
This is a fairly easy but efficient jump combination to take out marines building the RT in Sub-sector on ns_veil. This is a good example of bunnyhopping creating new possibilities in combat. Without bunnyhopping, there would be zero viable opportunities for the skulk to attack the marine once he’s gotten to the RT. Just straight jumping over the rails and running towards the marine is too slow and he’ll be able to disconnect from building the RT and shoot the skulk down with ease. It’s still a risky move though, half the time against equally skilled players, the marine will kill the skulk. Teamwork between two skulks doing the same maneuver or one distracting radically increases the chances of success.
Bunnyhop example 2: Maintenance jump
This is a bit more nuanced example. This isn’t the only way viable way to frag a marine building the maintenance RT — it isn’t even the safest way to do it. The safest way is to go through the vents below the RT and sneak up to the marine. However in this scenario bunnyhopping creates an additional opportunity for attack. An attack option that’s also spectacularly flashy. Without bunnyhopping it’s impossible to get enough speed to cross the gap. Now, one could simply make the gap smaller or the skulk faster and the opportunity would be there without bunnyhopping, but that’s disregarding a very important part of the equation: mastery.
If it was possible to do it by just jumping normally over the rails, anyone could do it. There wouldn’t be anything special about it. When it becomes difficult to do, it also becomes more interesting to do. Now you have to practice to be able to do this particular attack. This gives incentives to keep playing the game and rewards time spent practicing.
This particular video is a very good example of that. Many years ago I practiced for weeks just to be able to do that jump once on an empty server. It took further months to be able to do it every time and even longer to master it in a combat situation. But it gave me a great feeling of mastery, great satisfaction, to be rewarded for my efforts. Tricks like these are why bunnyhopping makes melee vs. ranged combat more fun.
Bunnyhop example 3: mu vs. Levitacus
This is an example from an actual match, from the first season of ENSL back in 2005. Knife, a tournament favourite, was playing against Levitacus, the tournament dark horse, in a match that would likely decide which team got to the final. At the time Levitacus had one of Europe’s best shotgunners in Talis and their marine round was highly centered on him succeeding in taking out alien RTs and skulks quickly. Obviously Knife had to stop him somehow. The original plan was the usual one: to ambush the marine offence team while they were trying to kill the RT. This is usually a 50/50 situation for both teams, but with Talis’ shotgun skills they had a clear advantage.
Mu however, thinking on his feet, managed to take out Talis through very creative use of bunnyhopping and wallwalking before they even managed to get to the first RT. That gave Knife a vital advantage in the early game and they eventually won both the round and the match. Mu was rewarded both for his time spent mastering bunnyhopping and also his creative thinking using an opportunity only available because of bunnyhopping. Pulling off something like that is the height of fun for many players, including myself.
Bunnyhop example 4: wltrs vs. Levitacus
This last example is also from an actual match — the ENSL season 5 final between nL and Levitacus. In this situation wltrs was alone against two marines waiting for the RT to drop in Sub-sector, after they’d chased away the Lerk. Usually this would be a lost cause: two highly skilled marines in a large open area are almost impossible to take out for a single skulk and wltrs would’ve had to wait for some of his teammates to arrive. Unfortunately they are all busy defending alien RTs on the other side of the map, leaving him with no other choice but to attempt to do something by himself.
Taking advantage of the first marine being distracted, wltrs makes his move. The problem is taking out the second player, Inva, who is on the other side of the room. Normally this would be an easy frag for Inva if wltrs tried to rush. wltrs is also aware of this, but he knows that Inva isn’t expecting him to do something so foolhardy and exploits it by using bunnyhopping to fly forwards and bounce over the rails to take him out. Taking out both of Levitacus’ RT cappers is a big blow to their economy and nL eventually wins the round and the match. An almost impossible frag, made possible by bunnyhopping and great skill by wltrs.
This is a perfect example of how bunnyhopping makes it possible to have ace players on the melee side of the game. Just like Roger Federer, Lionel Messi, Tiger Woods or Kobe Bryant captivate audiences by doing the impossible, doing what nobody else can, players like wltrs could take control in NS matches because there was a movement system that rewarded skill and practice. Giving skulks the ability to leap from the start will never be able to replace this. Leap by its nature is not something that truly rewards practice — it’s something anyone can get big results from without practicing much. If everyone can do it, it becomes commonplace. Nobody finds commonplace interesting.
A game inside the game
Lastly bunnyhopping is itself a game inside the game. Not just because practicing it is a metagame, but also because one can have fun doing it without actually playing the game.
A few years back, myself and many other players had a lot of fun just running around on maps and finding jumps that were only possible to do through clever thinking or perfect bunnyhopping. Sometimes to get to places otherwise inaccessible, other times just for the hell of it. This culminated in several trickjumping movies that were a great success at the time. With bunnyhopping you’re basically getting a free second game with the game — is that really something you can say no to?
Without bunnyhopping none of these movies, or the many others created by other moviemakers, would’ve been possible to make. Without bunnyhopping we wouldn’t even have been able to have fun jumping around on maps trying to find new and clever ways to use the geometry. Bunnyhopping adds immensely to the game and that far outweighs the slight negative impact it has on the atmosphere and learning curve.
In my opinion Natural Selection had the perfect combination of free alien bunnyhopping and very limited marine bunnyhopping (bear in mind that most of the marine jumps in the trickjumping videos posted above are only possible if you throw away all your guns first). I pray to every deity that exists that a similar system will be implemented in NS2. That said, even just bunnyhopping for the skulks would make a huge impact in terms of gameplay, even if it ruins most of the fun in trickjumping.
I would also like to point out a very common fallacy in the argument against bunnyhopping. Many opponents of bunnyhopping claim that it hurts the ambushing game. What they don’t take into account is that ambushing is still a very important part of skulk play in NS, even for those who have mastered bunnyhopping. Bunnyhopping and ambushing are not mutually exclusive. In many situations, ambushing is still the best way of taking out the marines. Sometimes bunnyhopping even promotes ambushing: Hiding spots that would otherwise be too far away from the expected marine path can now be used because bunnyhopping allows the skulk to close the distance in time when the marines go past.
Bunnyhopping creates alternatives, so that the game isn’t only about finding somewhere to hide and pop out when the opportunity arises. Such gameplay would quickly become boring for the majority of the player base.
In conclusion (tl;dr): The positive aspects of bunnyhopping outweigh the negative aspects by such a large margin that I’m absolutely convinced it should be implemented in NS2 — similarly to how it was implemented in NS.
Obviously things have been pretty quiet around here the last few months. The reason is simple: I’ve been really busy with exams. With the last one finished earlier today, I’m ready to get back into NS again. I’m not really sure where take over stands at the moment, or if there’s even going to be another ENSL season on NS1, but in any case I intend to keep playing in preparation for NS2.
Some assorted news and thoughts:
I’m going to start working on two new NS1 movies very shortly. These are going to be my last NS1 movies EVER, so this should be interesting. I’m not going to release any details about it just yet, but rest assured this will materialize.
I’m not sure what’s going to happen with 9L.ns2. I/we had originally planned to try putting together a 9L reunion of sorts, but I doubt this is going to materialize. To be honest the season 13 reform left me a bit disappointed. Of course playing with the dudes again was fun, lots of fun actually, but I also realized that life is really starting to catch up with most of us. Priorities change and most simply don’t have the time or motivation needed to play at the top level. I guess we’ll see what happens — I don’t even know if NS2 is going to be worth playing yet.
Take Over got destroyed by BALLS in the ENSL Season 14 semi final a few weeks back. Big disappointment. It was a fair win though; we got outplayed at every turn. Unfortunately the team wasn’t able to prioritize at the moment when it was the most needed and almost a full month of lackadaisical practice left us helpless. I’m sure the players in question had good reasons, but it’s still very frustrating. This isn’t some great new development though — the team with the greatest stamina and will to win usually comes out on top in the end. It just feels a bit strange watching it from this side. In the past I’ve usually been on the team that hunkered down and kept practicing until the end no matter what.
I’ve also realized a few things about leadership. No offence to x-man and Danny, they’re good guys, but they simply didn’t put in the time that was needed to shepherd this team to the finish line. Again, I’m sure they had very good reasons, real life tends to override computer game commitments, but this is essential to the winning formula. Having a good leader who knows his shit and always puts in the time needed to rally the troops and get stuff done is a rare but very important commodity in NS. I’m not going to claim I was some great leader, because I certainly wasn’t, but I’ve known a few in the past. They really do make the difference between a half-assed group of players and a sharp team.
Hopefully we’ll see a resurgence of strong leaders in NS2.
It’s been a few weeks now, so it isn’t really news per se, but I thought I’d give a shoutout to wltrs and pizza (aka. växjo) — current and past 9L.ns players — who recently won a TF2 LAN tournament. Together with the rest of their team, Power Gaming, they claimed the top spot in the i38 TF2 tournament. It was a fairly high profile tournament with decent prizes and some e-rep on the line, so it’s nice achievement for them.
For those of you who don’t know, wltrs and Pizza have been playing TF2 at the highest level for a while now. After our ENSL season 10 comeback and subsequent fold, they created a TF2 team called coolclan with sherpa, Admirable, Altbst and several other familiar faces from NS. They eventually worked their way into the top 10 TF2 teams, before folding this September. Wltrs and pizza had a reputation as one of the best Scout duos in Europe and were quickly picked up by a fledgling MGO called Power Gaming. Since then they’ve been fighting for the top, being rated as one of the top 3 European TF2 teams. i38 is part of the i-series LAN parties, the biggest in the UK and one of the biggest in Europe, and wltrs and pizza got expenses paid to attend. Pretty cool!
According to pizza the level of play at the tournament wasn’t very high, with only six teams in attendance. Fortunately for the players and spectators, two of those were top 3 teams. Power Gaming and Team YoYoTech duked it out a total of three times, before Power Gaming could climb the podium. First in the group stages, where Team YoYoTech came out on top. Then in the upper bracket final and grand final, both of which Power Gaming won. Very close matches and good fun from what I’ve heard.
A few months ago there was a twitter update on ns.com:
“Having a teamspeak session to hear the thoughts about NS2 from some very experienced NS players.”
Unsurprisingly this raised a few eyebrows, and a (dumb) debate ensued in the twitter thread on the ns.com forums. The names of the participants was also revealed. Now frankly, the chat wasn’t a big deal. We talked about a few topics of interest to competitive players, and got some previously unknown information about the game in the process. Basically, Flayra told us a little bit about what he had planned, and we gave him our thoughts and concerns. Interesting, but not especially exciting. There’s certainly no reason for anyone to feel left out.
We obviously didn’t sign any NDAs or anything like that, but I don’t feel comfortable sharing the contents of the chat regardless. Mostly because it was very insubstantial and could give people unrealistic expectations. I will say though, that it left me reassured and confident that the devs are doing their very best to make it a great game for both casual and competitive play.
So now we wait… Alpha release on the 31st of october would be way cool, but unrealistic.
I came across an interesting post on a forum I frequent, regarding the Half-Life netcode:
Hit registration in HL games is a myth, its your latency.
HL games ( except for TF flavors ) use whats called “server authenticated shot registration” and here is how it works:
Server sends you relative positions of everyone around you.
You put your sight on their head.
Your client registers the hit and gives you blood splatter.
Your client sends the shot to the server.
The server looks at when it got the shot, compares it to where the server says that player is now.
Your target is not where you shot, discards the shot(took too long for your shot packet to reach server).
Server sends you new relative locations for everyone around you.
That’s what’s commonly called “server side shooting” and what the vast majority of online FPSes use. It is highly dependant upon your latency. Latency, not ping. Ping is a derivitive of latency, but ping is not latency.
Reg is a myth, its just shitty latency on your part.
Team Fortress flavors use what’s called “client side shooting with server authentication” and here is how it works:
Server sends you relative position of people around you.
You put crosshair on your target and pull trigger.
Your client registers the shot, sends it to server.
Server compares timestamp of your shot and where that player was when you shot.
If the server verifies that when you shot, they were under your crosshair, it gives you credit for the shot, target dies.
The 2nd is called “client side shooting” and is much more forgiveable with those with higher pings/latency than “server side shooting” setups. That’s why most people consider TF flavors easier to play, but its because of how they handle their shot mechanics.
That’s why the perception is those with a lower ping do much better, but it’s not about their ping, it’s their lower latency in a server side shooting game.
Of course this is from some random person on a random Internet forum, so I can’t guarantee the veracity of his claims, but it seems reasonable. NS seems to use the second method, what he calls “client side shooting with server authentication”, which would explain the infamous “sparks bug”. It also explains how you can get hit long after passing a corner, how shots that seemingly hit fail to do any damage and why that fucking LERK JUST WON’T FUCKING DIE FUCK. If this is true, some of us (ahem) should be feeling pretty embarassed by now.
So, is that it then? Is hit registration a myth? Have we been needlessly bashing Spanish connections and German rates? Is the notion of a German panzer just a mirage?