INS Legacy

Well said…

Posted in anecdote, commentary, essentials, insurgency, review by Argyll on March 9, 2010

trinith, a long-time forum member has this to say that I think is one of the most fair assessment statements I have seen in a long time. I share his feelings:

I would have paid $50 for a completed insurgency 2-3 years ago. I’d pay $50 for a completed and updated insurgency now. I wouldn’t pay more than $10 for what we currently have. I’m afraid Insurgency has missed the boat.

Don’t get me wrong, what’s there is pretty damn good, but you can tell it’s half-finished and buggy. The game is dated and it shows. I realize there’s a difference between a professionally funded game and a mod people do in their spare time, but there’s also a difference between what we have in INS and pre-retail CS and DoD on the original half-life engine. As far as completeness and polish goes, INS is far, far behind.

I’ve been following this mod for quite a while and I liked it a lot, but after so many years you just start to lose interest. The mod has been in Beta 2 for a loooooong time, and there really hasn’t been a lot in the way of updates. There’s been new maps and some new models, but those really fit into any state of the game and were never really the “problem” with INS anyway. It’s the gameplay bugs really. Sure some have been fixed, but many more have been generated. The mod just feels… stagnant. The first talks of Beta 3.0 were what, a year ago? Beta 3.0 which promises a solution to all the mod’s problems… that’d be nice, if we ever saw it.

Also, before folks get up on their pedestals and talk about how the devs do this in their free time and I can’t complain because they do it for free (as they’re wont to do), I would have happily donated that $10 I mentioned above to the cause in hopes of a better game. It should be an indicator of how much potential this game has that it’s so popular in it’s current state. And you’re right, you don’t have to listen to me and you can slam me and treat me like garbage for expressing my opinion, but such conduct only serves to alienate people from the community and further push INS towards vaporware. Still, I hope that as a “customer” these thoughts don’t fall on deaf ears.

So would I pay $50 for INS 3.0? Absolutely not, but I would happily pay that for INS 1.0 Release. This mod is great, it just needs to be worked on and completed.

This post written from San Francisco, where I am attending the 10th Game Developers Conference.
I will say hello to Gabe for you all.

2.5 Review

Posted in commentary, designtalk, essentials, insurgency, review by Argyll on November 7, 2009

Now that the patch came and the mod is more functional (many users experienced crash issues, as every major patch has), a proper look can taken at the latest iteration of Insurgency.

First impressions:

Yes, finally tracers are working. They weren’t in the original release because of a bug that you could see them through surfaces (i.e. behind walls, etc). Now that it took more than two years to solve, you begin to realize how important tracers are to the game, especially a game about war.

The M203 sight is more broken than it was before. Except now it defies logic. I don’t know how to fix that sight, since I have never used that particular one (the sight I used on the M203 with C7A1 is different), and apparently nor does anyone else.

Sounds take a bit of getting used to. I like the phrase, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, but I understand the reason that it was an opportunity to get engineer’s work in the game, and I respect that. However, I do feel that some of the sounds before were better. M203 reload and pistol firing come first to mind. The shotgun I am getting used to, but preferred the previous one.

I like all of the new insurgent skins, but why replace the previous ones and not just add the new ones? It would see more variety in the player appearance. However, I do strongly advocate the replacement of the previous default skin (the light camo top) to the current dark camo with Iraqi flag smock. Nice work by Splinter on these, but spine’s originals are still very strong to use together.

I have been experiencing more Marine victories it seems. I’m not sure of the competence of the other team, but I also believe the Marine weapons have less recoil and stronger accuracy. Damage seems to be reduced on many as well.

Grenade physics are worse. They don’t bounce, and I don’t like the sound… it matches the dropping a weapon sound, but you should be able to hear a distinctive sound from a grenade bouncing or someone throwing their weapon near you.

I don’t recall the reason behind no weapon in first-person spectate, but it was a bug that was just waiting to be addressed. It makes spectating way better, and better shows the game to other users (who can learn from it by watching).

I do not like the VGUI in the spectate. I like the function (as we originally designed a death vgui that wasn’t completed for release because it caused crashing) and information. It is just not very clearly displayed. There is an overuse of Dity Headline font. I love that font (having picked it out myself), and we were one of the first media to use it (I have seen it since used on CNN). But it is not legible at the smaller sizes. I can barely read the stats on the VGUI. Plus it should be transparent so that you can see more of what is behind.

Also on the VGUI, I tried minimizing it, but it just locked up any ability to move around in spectate after. Nor could I enable the VGUI again. Not sure if this has been addressed by the patch, as I am too scared to use it.

The weapon retextures are nice.

The End of The Beginning: Part Two

Posted in anecdote, commentary, designtalk, essentials, insurgency, news, review by Argyll on October 6, 2009

Insurgency is about winning the little moments. That split second it takes to aim your weapon – essentially drawing weapons with one another in a duel – it is that moment you need to beat the most. It is the moment defining your survival. Do you risk shooting from the hip in an attempt to temporarily blind and hopefully giving you time to land the shot? Or do you aim by instinct to land the accurate shot, provided you are quicker on the draw and getting on target?

There are several factors that need to come into place in order to have success. Combat is complex. It is confusing. It is defined by the leadership, communication, and ultimately intelligence of the victorious force. Guerrillas are highly intelligent. There are battles and there are wars.

While I remain ‘Senior Advisor’ of the mod, those channels of communication were cut.

Here is my parting words of advice in regards to improving Insurgency. They must be public in order for them to find you.

1. Abandon Beta 3, it is a waste of time to just explore the technology while you could be working on improving the current Source version of the mod.

2. Release what you have so far in the patch, even if it’s only cosmetic. Give the community something – you make them suffer far too much for a released game that only needs improvement. I took it through the toughest times to get it started and off the ground running. I envy you can lead the development on the released product. Yet, you do nothing.

3. Understand your audience, but more importantly understand your topic. What separated us from everyone else was we seemed to know what we were talking about when it came to representation of contemporary war. You easily could market the mod that way, but do not have the vision in that area.

4. Recognize talent. It stares you in the face. More importantly, recognize the lack of talent. Jeremy was my Art Director. Who is yours? What is their contribution?

That’s all big picture stuff. Do you want me to go into more detail?

Cheers.

The End of The Beginning: Part One

Posted in anecdote, commentary, designtalk, essentials, insurgency, news, promotion, review by Argyll on October 3, 2009

Introduction

I know Insurgency inside and out. I have the benefit of seeing it from all perspectives: founder, designer, developer, producer, director, and fan.

I am now writing a series of articles outlining my final thoughts on Insurgency. It is time to move on. There is so much potential for INS, yet those who currently control decisions for the mod do not recognize its potential. I did everything in my power (see article below) to save the project and the vision from the clutches that now hold it.

Their loss. The next project’s gain.

My day job currently is a Graphic Designer – which I am self-taught as a result of making websites for Insurgency over the years (in fact the current design was originally designed by me, and still uses tables, ugh!).

I have also worked as a freelance photojournalist – taking photographs and shooting/editing/producing videos – for the largest newspapers in Canada (and the occasional international publication).

I even produced a 12-part series on Leadership, filming and editing interviews of 12 CEO’s and leaders in major Canadian organizations. This was for The Globe and Mail, and for the same department that just won an Emmy (no, I did not work on the project that won, but I know who did).

As Insurgency was released in July 2007, I was beginning a two-month trip to Europe in between my fast-track summer program (instead of doing a whole first year, since I taught myself news photography while at my university’s student newspaper) and second year of Photojournalism at college.

By the end of July 2007, I was sitting in an internet cafe in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo. It was before Kosovo declared independence. I could walk out the door of that cafe and look to my right, and see the UN Headquarters. Swedish military vehicles patrolled the streets.

In the town of Kosovska Mitrovica, I crossed a bridge under watch of French snipers and patrols. Signs warned against any assembly of crowds. That bridge divided the Serbs from the Albanians in the town, and is a reflection of the division of the country. I still have 710 Serbian dinar in my wallet that I can’t get exchanged anywhere.

Oh, back to the cafe. I wrote a proposal while sitting in that cafe. I had always thought that Insurgency should expand beyond the over-exposed desert settings (but they keep things contemporary), and move to a European setting. Originally, it was going to depict the 1990’s conflict in the Balkans, notably Croatia and Bosnia. To get to Kosovo, I was in the city of Mostar to get on a bus to Sarajevo while en route.

I walked the streets of where we were going to depict the war in the game. I had a camera the whole time. Not only did I walk the streets. I met, interviewed, and photographed, Albin Kurti the leading activist for VETËVENDOSJE! (Albanian meaning: Self-Determination) at his apartment where he is under house arrest. I still get their newsletter sent to my e-mail.

The current plans for Insurgency ‘Beta 3’ remain as the depiction of Kosovo (which was voted by the team members in 2007 over depicting North Korea). Yet, the same people developing that idea still don’t recognize the value of my experience in Kosovo.

Nor do they value the experience or talent of Iraq war veteran and level designer of ins_Buhriz – Mike Majoris. In the depiction of the Iraq War setting for a game, what better resource to have but someone who has been there engaged in the very war you are depicting?

Another INS Alumni level designer now working for Crytek volunteered to help Insurgency… until he was driven from the team by the current ‘leadership’.

The original creators of Insurgency matured quicker than the mod itself, especially their talent.

Those whom are left over carry a legacy greater than the ‘Insurgency’ project itself. INS is only the beginning of a look at the representation of war in reality-based games.

(Re)Thinking Sinjar (Part 1: A + B)

Posted in anecdote, commentary, designtalk, essentials, insurgency, level design, review by Argyll on April 20, 2009

It is the most popular level available in servers for Insurgency.  You will find several options to play Sinjar 24/7.  It is a level to learn from.  What makes it so popular?  How is the gameplay style different from other levels?  How can we apply the success of Sinjar to current and future levels?

What needs changing?

The development team has recently mentioned that changes are coming to Sinjar.  Since it is likely to be months until we actually play a changed Sinjar, we have lots of time to come up with a wish list and analysis of the mod’s hit level.

This is the first part of the series, looking specifically the first two objectives.  A second part will follow looking at Charlie and Delta objectives.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on Sinjar (and the first two objectives in particular)  in the comments below this article.

Also, some of these ideas have also been thought of by posters on the INS Forums, which is a good thing that multiple players share this viewpoint.  Particularly, USMC-Dutch, Harkonnen, and Centar share a similar mindset.

ins_sinjar:

As the Marines ascend the road on the first hill towards Alpha, everyone knows what’s coming.  Smoke trails are seen arcing towards the objective from the ridge.  Frag grenades follow, then the RPG’s.  By now, typically the second wave of reinforcements are on their way following death in a wall of explosions.

This is the first turning point: how did the teams approach the beginning of the round?

If the Marines were smart, they would have cover fire on the ridge and bunkers.  40mm dropping on the rock, Marines securing both buildings flanking the objective.  Holding the ground until the insurgent counter-attack is repelled.  Then they can secure the objective.

They also have several options to flank.  Flanking routes are longer and out of the way, but that is the risk you take since the reward is usually being in a position to cut off the enemy on their approach to bombard Alpha.

The open ability to flank is one of the unique qualities of Sinjar.  Its size and scale allow this to be successful.

If Alpha is not secured, then only 25% of the level is played.  If any extended battles over a single objective are to take place, it should be at the half-way or final objective points (C and D), not at A.

Part of Sinjar’s charm is the epic beginning and challenge of the first objective, but there need to be ways for the attacking team to have a little easier time so that they can experience the rest of the level.

Suggestions for Alpha:

  • Resupply point at the Humvees at the bottom of the road approaching Alpha.  This will provide support weapons that are necessary for clearing the ridge to resupply, but it is still risky to be moving up and down the road.
  • More cover on the road approaching Alpha, including: swallow ditch along the left flank, destroyed car for cover between Humvees and A.
  • Extend objective area into both buildings flanking the current area.
  • Left building wall facing the road should be destroyable by an M203 or frag.  This will provide easier access to the objective but only if the team is smart enough to destroy.
  • If a player falls off the ridge from the bunkers area across to Delta, they should die to prevent insurgents accessing the road from the start of the round.
  • Truck bordering Alpha should be blocked along the bottom to provide more cover.

Once Alpha is secured, the Marines spawn in the right building and make their way either up the ridge or along the road to Bravo.  The fight along the road is another one of Sinjar, and Insurgency’s, highlight moments.  The firefight is usually vicious as the Marines cautiously advance from vehicle to vehicle as the insurgents cover from the bridge and objective building.  To clear the defenders, flanking is almost essential via the double walls or field flanking the walls.  This area is typically defended from the garage wall, ‘hotel,’ and ammo point.  Enemy in the bunkers can easily stop the advance up the ridge.

Once the Marines have swept up the road, they can enter the objective while the best tactic is to have someone watching the enemy’s spawn exit from directly underneath the bridge.

Suggestions for Bravo:

  • Add a trench along the ridgeline from between the double-wall to where the concrete bunker is.  Replace the concrete bunker with a dug-out sandbagged area.  This will still provide defensive positions for insurgents, but can be cleared by attackers and used to support a flanking move in the open area.
  • Allow attackers to secure Bravo from on top of the objective building (but not on top of the bridge) as well as inside.

If you have any suggestions for the first two objectives, share them in the comments below!

Part Two will follow to solve issues addressing gameplay between Bravo to Charlie and then on to Delta.

Teamwork gameplay

Posted in essentials, insurgency, promotion, review by Argyll on October 9, 2008

This video is candid gameplay footage, experienced in a public server, demonstrating the teamwork and tactical design features working as envisioned by Argyll, the founder, former project director and original designer of the Source mod Insurgency.

This match was not set up prior to recording, nor did the players know that it was being recorded.

It features the level ins_buhriz, set in Iraq, by Mike Majoris.

Featuring custom Canadian skins by Meeshman.
The HUD is disabled.

Insurgency 2.1 Review

Posted in essentials, insurgency, review by Argyll on July 19, 2008

written by Argyll: the Founder and former Project Director of Insurgency.

1. The Release

I woke up around 8am on Saturday, feeling like a game of INS, I went to check and see how the servers were doing. I saw a couple with Insurgency 2.1.

‘Is it out?’ I thought, ‘or is it a couple of testing servers?’

Going to the INS website, there it was. 2.1 had been released.

This is called a ‘release candidate’ … whatever that means. A public release is a release regardless of it being called ‘beta’ or ‘release candidate’ or anything else.

At the same time I was starting up the torrent, which was the only available method of download, Majoris, the latest addition to the level design crew and who designed/built the new Buhriz level featured in 2.1, messaged me the news that 2.1 had been released at 6am Eastern time – that is 4am my time, just four hours before I discovered it.

The download was quick. I got up to speeds of 1 MB/s over the torrent. That was a great method of delivery – far better than the exclusive release to Fileplanet.

Another smart move in conjunction with the release was having Trinity Games hosting a large number of 2.1 servers to immediately serve the rapid client updates, while it typically takes longer for servers to get running the updated version.

The only forewarning of 2.1’s arrival came from a June 25th cocktease news post saying that it was almost ready for download. The last time we heard anything resembling a release date came five months plus one day ago, stating that it would be ‘ready within a month’s time.’

2. The differences

The first difference that I noticed came in the sounds. They were the most apparent, since they are a downgrade.

Engineer, the current sound guy on the dev team, has already gone into damage-control for this reason.

The new USMC voice commands are the most talked-about in-game as being plain bad. The previous ones weren’t even that good.

The second issue with the sounds may be more apparent to me personally than the average gamer. The M4 and M16 sounds pathetic. The previous sound by Optical Snare was near-perfect. I spent five years in the infantry and have put live rounds through the C7A1 rifle (Canada’s standard rifle, which is just like an M16, but automatic) and know how it sounds like both with live and blank rounds. The new sounds are closer (but still different) to blanks being fired, rather than live.

Luckily, I backed up 2.0e since I saw the 2.1 videos and was a little wary of the new sounds. I simply copy-pasted the previous ones and it is an improvement.

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A new feature that is also very apparent is the suppression effect. When a bullet passes close to you, there is a freezing/blurring effect and a whizzing sound.

The sound needs to be changed. In real life (as I’ve almost had my hand shot off by a 5.56mm round) the bullet makes more of a snap or cracking sound – not a whizz sound when it’s that close. Yes, it can whizz, but the only time I’ve heard a whizz has come with ricochets. There is some recent footage from a BBC camera crew who came under fire, and the sound of bullets passing close by is very distinct. I have since lost the bookmark to the video, so if anyone finds it, please post it in the comments below.

The effect itself is definitely good. It instills more fear when being shot at because you are more aware of the threat to your virtual life. Also, when you enter a close-quarters situation and manage to get rounds off first, it inhibits your enemy’s ability to get some accurate fire towards you in return. This gives you an advantage when you get the first rounds out, but also works on the flip side.

One criticism on the suppress effect though. When killed, it no longer fades to black or flashes red. It should flash red when you’re hit to be a better distinction that you have become wounded. Also, in some cases, a delayed fade to black would be nice since your virtual death perspective can be kind of interesting. In short: add fade to black, but have it depend on the wound. For example, if you are shot in the head, it should cut to black immediately as your virtual life was cut immediately. If you are hit elsewhere, such as in the limbs, and sustain a fatal injury, it should prolong the time until fade to black.

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Iron sights have changed. The perspective does not zoom in on some weapons, and makes a better difference in using.

The weapons have also increased both in damage and accuracy. The recoil is hard to figure out how or if it has changed, but it feels fine. There might be some tweaks needed if studied a little bit more in-depth.

Yes, the sniper rifles are finally working as they should!

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Sinjar was the most popular map of 2.0. This time around, the initial USMC spawn has moved. This was an idea that I had proposed to Xanthi, the level designer. It only works well once the players get used to the changes.

As the Marines, my team only succeeded when we started with a strategy – that was to rush Alpha from the far left at the bottom of the valley to reach the traditional route; not use the close Delta route. We also got serious once we were on emergency reinforcements and concentrated more on the objectives.

The new Sinjar brings out the best and worst of INS at the moment. Good tactics and communication lead to teamwork and success for the Marines. Otherwise, the insurgents will just sit back on the ridge and bombard the spawn.

There has been a lot of negative reviews on the new Sinjar, and many players want it to be reverted back. They should just get used to the changes, as the best part of it is that more of the level is now being used. That said, it does still needs some design changes to allow more cover for the Marines exiting their spawn area and solving many of the problems that do exist.

3. The new levels

:: Buhriz

This is the most popular new level. It puts in some open and distanced combat, much like Sinjar. It is also a nice refreshing terrain with more vegetation, rather than sandy desert.

It provides alternative routes within the open terrain, allowing the attacking Marines with options to flank. The initial info about this map had the Marines on the defensive, but this has changed for the release. It might be a refreshing change to have had this map with the USMC defending. However, there was a recent reversal of roles on a Sinjar server. Maybe servers can change these roles on Buhriz, plus alter the reinforcement counts.

:: Abdallah

This is an excellent level. Firefight mode levels have not exactly brought out the best in INS gameplay, until this one. It is vastly underplayed though. I had a difficult time in finding a server running this map, but when I did I had a blast.

The size of the level blends close quarter combat in alleyways and buildings with some open street firefights.

It is also one of the most impressive levels visually and in its level of detail.

4. Insurgency 2 point next?

What is next for Insurgency? They have just announced an ‘RC2’ version fixing a few issues, such as the Marine voices. But what fans should really be concerned about is what comes after 2.1?

Apparently, 2.1 is the final version to be seen on the Source engine. The development team is taking the time to code it, once again, from the ground up. It took six years to get it to this point, so why not continue?

There NEEDS to be more in the way of major releases for Source – at least two more, not including minor patches such as the latest.

Gameplay still has not been refined at all levels. It seems that 2.1 was a tweaking patch at the personal gaming level (i.e. smoothing out movement, the suppression effect, iron sight tweaks, etc.) but the greater gameplay did not have much attention paid to it.

We here at Legacy will likely be compiling a wish list for future versions of the mod. We hope to bring the community’s response into consideration and evaluation in order to make a balanced and realistic outlook on the future of Insurgency.

This mod is still in the beginning stages of what it was always meant to be. Let’s hope that the current developers can recognize this fact and bring out its full potential.

5. Overall conclusion

For what this patch delivered, it doesn’t bring much for the time we had to wait for it. There needs to be more improvements, and delivered to the fans quicker. Overall, gameplay needs to be concentrated on because that is what really will make or break the mod.

Regardless, 2.1 is a welcome improvement.