Thursday 16 September 2021

Team Fortress Classic: Forge Revived

A map I’ve made for a 22 year old game has been discovered by another developer and given a new lease of life.

I first played Team Fortress Classic when it came bundled with the Game of the Year edition of Half-Life. I was really excited to try it out, having read the back of the box, noting that it was another full game included. 

This was back in 1999, and the early days of internet gaming, and, I suppose, the internet. Team Fortress Classic was an online-only, multiplayer, team-based game, where everyone performed a specific role to lead to your team victory. I instantly loved it, and found a few great servers to play on regularly. The 56k modem was a bit of a pain in the neck, especially if someone tried to ring through, but it was still an awesome little community and a lot of fun. 

I’d been making games since I had a copy of AMOS Professional on Amiga as a kid. When I got Half-Life, it opened up a whole world of developing for me. It came with the editing SDK on the CD, something pretty rare for the time. The tool was called Worldcraft, since renamed Hammer, and although it had a pretty steep learning curve, it was also incredibly powerful. Not much has changed with the original version compared to the latest-used in creating such wonderful titles as the new VR Half-Life: Alyx. It’s still my game creation tool of choice. 

So I’d made quite a few maps, had some mild notoriety as a mapper, making a few maps for TFC and Half-Life Deathmatch/single player. I also made a few maps for an upcoming mod called Mutiny!, which was about piracy and adventure on the high seas. My brother wanted to be part of that development team as an animator but he didn’t get asked. He was furious when I was part of the team, as one of the only mappers. The mod never made it past alpha, sadly, but it was pretty polished and I might dig out some of the old files if I can find them.

The date on Forge readme file says I’d completed it in August 2007, so already pretty late in the life-cycle of Team Fortress Classic, although still before the online juggernaut of Team Fortress 2 had been released. I think the only server I’d probably be playing that on in those days was a weird UK server called Royston Vaysey, named after the League of Gentlemen Comedy show. I often asked the admin to upload a map to try out and see how it worked. I don’t remember giving this map an official release, perhaps we only played it once or twice and I found it had some errors so I parked it on the back burner for a while, eventually forgetting about it. I don’t even think I’ve the source files for it anymore. I was still in university when I made this, I probably did it between second year and third year, on my summer holidays. Probably before starting this blog!

So fast forward to present day… another keen mapper emailed my old address, asking if they could edit my map to smooth out some of the issues and make it more playable for their Team Fortress Classic Server. I was quite shocked, having forgotten about this little project completely. Of course, I gave permission and asked to be informed of any updates. I was very happy to see some of my old work brought back to life and enjoyed on full servers again. So here it is: finally an official release of the Team Fortress Classic map, Forge. I feel like it could be inspired a bit by World of Warcraft, theres certainly a hint of snowcapped mountains and molten metal. Maybe it was more of an opportunity to mess around with the HL: Rally textures for the snowy roads? No idea, its been quite a while. 

Heres a link to the download, and if you want to play it, it’s available to vote for on the ‘OldSchool TFC’ server. Enjoy!

Monday 26 April 2021

A Little Update

I haven’t posted in a bit so heres something of an update on what I’ve been working on. 

I’ve had quite a productive lockdown, mainly focused on paintings. I’ve been able to have something of a studio clear out due to the Artist Support Pledge on Instagram, which also allowed me to purchase some amazing works from artists that I love. 

Much of the paintings have been a continuation of my work from last year, looking at contemporary landscape painting around the border region in Northern Ireland. I was interested in ideas about Brexit and issues with rising paramilitaries in the news. I tried to portray stillness in these paintings, and focusing on creating unassuming little vignettes of life on the border, including aspects like old burnt out vehicles or the side of a road, or some signage in them. My dad just informed me that a Give Way sign that I included in one of my paintings had recently been stolen. Great.

I had a painting of a UVF flag included in the Beep painting prize, down in Swansea, although I was unable to attend the exhibition in person due to all the Covid stuff and didn’t want to risk it. The curator, Jonathan Powell, has invited me to partake in an interesting new project about borders, which I’ve just finished up. This should come to fruition later on in the year. Watch this space! I've had a few other digital exhibitions too, check out this screenshot from one last year:

As a response to riots a few years back, I started making a 2D game a bit like a GTA/Lemmings crossover where you have to kettle protesters into a specific area. Unfortunately, a recent upgrade on my computer has made the build a bit unstable, so maybe I’ll spend a day or so soon and work out the kinks and get something usable out of it. Heres hoping. 

I was commissioned a while ago by a friend to do a painting of a famous uilleann piper from an old photograph. This started me on a series based on historic pipers, using black and white photographs as a source. I found it a good challenge to paint these portraits. Pipes, fingers and faces are all hard to capture. I guess I couldn’t have picked a harder subject matter, but I’m very happy with how it’s going.

As a piper with a love of poker, I had an idea many years back to make a deck of cards based on famous pipers/makers. I found my initial idea in an old sketch book while moving house, and I felt that it would be a great time to try this again. The initial inspiration was from a deck of cards that we used to play with when I was a teenager: The Millennium Deck. This had a different portrait on every card of famous politicians, scientists, musicians and artists from the last millennium. I’m about half way through this one, drawing some of the most famous pipers using Procreate on my iPad. I can’t wait to see this finished as a deck of cards. I don’t imagine I’ll sell many but its something I’m doing for the passion of it, and a product I’d love to see in my life. Very niche!

In other news, I’ve been doing a lot of music stuff on the side, working slowly on a Celtic Rock Opera which was a lot of fun, but nowhere near finished. I’ve also recorded two albums of Uilleann Pipes, one doing covers of classic Nokia ringtones on historic pipes, and another of straight up traditional solo piping but recorded on an old cassette recorder that I had since I was a kid. This one is coming out soon, just getting the CDs printed at the minute. I think I’ll release on the next Bandcamp Friday. The ringtones album I’m sitting on for now. Seems like not a great idea to release two strange and somewhat novelty albums at the same time. Well, the ringtones is more of an EP experiment.

I’ve also been working on making a mod for the original Half-Life, trying to recreate some of the old buzz from the single player campaign in a condensed way. I have about 80% of the map sketched out, just need to get some play testing done to see how it flows and then I can make changes if necessary. I’m approaching this one a little differently than normal, building very rough brushwork on the maps and then using Procreate to sketch the details in from screenshots, so I can then make the environments a bit more believable and inhabitable. I wanted to make something along the lines of Half-Life: Uplink, that is, a short 1-3 hour game but tight and fun. I’m a big fan of short games, cant be bothered sinking 40-60 hours into a AAA title these days, I just get bored. 

Ok so thats been a busy year for me, more stuff coming, so watch this space.