For the first time in quite a bit, I’ve opened my Private Airport kai map, watching tangos climb up a drain pipe today was a good memory jogger ^_^.

Almost everything I had worked on was complete, except for the question of what to do with the terminal buildings now accessible roof. I need to redo a lot of the maps original layout there, because of how the fake backdrops were done (creating distant scenery for unreachable areas). The amount of work all that represents, means I need to decide whether or not to make the second tarmac area and associated grounds accessible to the player. Well, technically it is accessible since you can walk through a fake backdrop but the HOM effect isn’t welcome lol. I’ve also modified a few things to reward an inquisitive player, rather than making it as obvious as first planned.

I’ve added a set of rooms on the terminals roof, meant to simulate a small office like environment that is rather missing from the stock maps architecture. Minor tweaks to the backdropping there, extra spawns, and some finishing touches in the administrators office, then my map is basically RC ready.

Today I also had a rather interesting idea: while adding that office space, it occurred to me that it would be practical to put a small catwalkesque bridge over to the air traffic control tower would be a nice idea. The ATC of course, is just a big static mesh, which is fairly normal (modern) practice for such scenery – but surprising for raven shields level designers. That means there is no way to make a habitable ATC without building one from scratch. Since the fake backdrops in the area are associated to the ones near the new offices, there is a fair bit of work to be done in that area anyway. The only problem with building a proper ATC however, is the fact that I’ve never had to climb one before lol.

A humourous 100th

After throwing the covers off my head and looking over my laptops LCD, I noticed the sun was finally up. So i moved my laptop over to the table I’ve put up next to my desk… thinking I’ll just put my bottle of water on the desk next to me.

Then I had to stop and think for a moment, seeing my Raven Shield disk sitting in that spot: do I really want to use this CD-ROM as a coaster?

RvS+Linux !

Installed and patched it easily, I’ve got 1.0-1.60 uber patches saved for every language I could find. Only hitch was the DX setup flunked, but it wouldn’t matter much anyway (there is no real DirectX on Linux).

As far as I can tell, the client works properly, but I can’t actually use it. My desktop panels overlap the window, and being as RvS forcefully sets the resolution down to 640×480 whenever it hits the menus, thus creating about 1″ blocks where the mouse leaves the games focus. Luckly fixing that after a ‘quit’ in the console, is a simple xrandr invocation. Odds are, I could just setup a quick bare bones fvwm session. GR has similar issues but is actually playable, not surprising as it was a much more professional quality bit of handy work than Raven Shield.

The second test however, was using the Dedicated Server setup — which worked perfectly! How much the performance is impacted by WINE and how much by the heavy network utilisation I’ve got going, is beyond my calculation though, lol.

You know RvS is brain damaged ….

when you’ve got three tangos shoulder to shoulder and shotgun aimed shells do nothing at point blank, except hit the snow directly behind them!

when you’re running like a bat out of hell and can still snipe a tango 30m away with a snapped buckshot

when tangos can dance around a load of buck like Michael Jackson on stage

when hand guns are better short range weapons then a shotgun

when tangos are better dancers then shooters, are worse shooters then noobs, and more accurate then Hathcock, while sliding down a staircase backwards!

I could go on and on, but I’ll just say Raven Shield demonstrates much brain damage.

RvS -= 1; SWAT4 += 1

I spent part of the playing around with Raven Shield and SWAT 4: TSS. Although to the best of my knowledge, Unreal Engine 2 did have support for joysticks, both these games shipped with that support half-assedly disabled 8=). In short, the games basically ignore all joystick input.

Never being one easily daunted, the three obvious solutions occurred: A/ configure the games for keyboard only operation and the joystick to emulate keyboard input; B/ use AHK; and C/ write a small toy to emulate a mouse by way of joystick input. I have already done A, and plan to test out B tomorrow (eh, today), if need be, perhaps play with C at some later date just for fun.

Under the Unreal Engine, or at least UE2: movement is a fairly simple thing. Basically you apply a positive or negative “Speed” factor to a given axis, resulting in some kind of movement: such as translating the players pawn(?) or moving the cursor. It’s kind of simple, +/- base X and Y axises are more or less your walk. Where as the aBaseX and aBaseY axises correspond to the mouse. For SWAT, the task is basically as simple as binding a group of keys to apply +/- Speed to those axises. The bigger the speed, the more reaction you get per key press. In Raven Shield however, despite several methods tried, only positive and negative X (left/right) movement was fully working. Irregardless of change, only upward Y movement was possible in RvS o/. After 6 years of it, I am often the first to call Raven Shield a pile of crap. Tuning my retired joystick to trigger those keys, is fairly simple: although the profiler lacks mapping JS to mouse aixses, sadly.

While it is possible to configure SWAT 4 for keyboard only operation, and thus JS based aiming; it creates somewhat of a problem. It’s virtually impossible to both be able to turn/maneuver around obstacles and to aim and fire at targets. The reason for this is somewhat Unreals fault, that and the fact that “Keyboard acceleration” is not quite, eh, the same as mouse acceleration. In testing with my stick, I found values of +/- 3.75 to 4 tended to work good for aiming, where as +/- 5 to 8 work better for turning. Since a joystick should garner a form of movement more acline to that of mouse acceleration, rather than a keyboards uniformity, it causes a conflict of interest. Mouse acceleration works on the indea, of increasing the speed of mouse movement in proportion to the distance you move it, e.g. it gets faster as the further you move it; where as accelerated it always moves at a steady rate. Perhaps a good if incomplete explanation, for anyone whose played a Playstation with an analog controller: mouse = stick, keyboard = d-pad; thus mapping js to keyboard = d-pad != analog stick. Obviously to play an FPS with a joystick, you don’t want it to behave like a sluggish ‘d-pad’. One way to solve this, would be to dynamically modify the Speed= value used by the key, incrementing/decrementing it by some stepping per use; while not as elegant as it might sound to some, is also impossible. UE2s console and command system could only handle the ++ and — operations by writing out the increment steppings using the pipe(|) operator, and following it up with an OnRelease operator to reset it back.

A better solution, obviously is just playing a ficken game with joystick support ^/.

As for the aforementioned method B, wouldn’t you happen to know that it’s already there. It would be the best solution, and AutoHotKey is a fine bit of software; one I’ve always wanted to find a good use for in games. Depending on how well it can be made to work at converting a JS into a mouse compatible HID, in particular with games in general, I might actually give up using the mouse for regular desktop usage. Thanks to my laptop and having encountered a fair bit of hardware in life’s travels, I have no special attachment to PC mice: only hatred for ones without tails. Than again, I don’t like wireless hardware for much, period.

The third method (C), well, is one that I would only consider worth the effort, because of the learning about Windows specifics that it would involve. I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft had it as a sample app somewhere either. The libraries I rely on for input backends (e.g. in Stargella) have their own portable handling of joysticks as is, so I’ve no real reason to care lol.

A technical and pseudo psychological peek into Raven Shields AI

In putting the last touches on Private Airport (kai), I’ve been spending some more time to study how the games Artificial Intelligence works, special thanks to [SAS]_Maj_WIZ for pointing out a more thorough list of developer diagnostics ;). Since this is the closest look I’ve taken at Rainbows AI in about 5 years, and an even closer study of Terrorist and Hostage behaviour, I think it’s only fair to make a journal entry about it.

Here is a summery of my findings, and annotations about theories I’ve maintained for years:

The laser eyebrow problem

From the standing position, the source of each pawns aim is directly behind the skull, roughly where the head would be if the pawns stood erectly (like a tango). The point of aim, passes directly though eye level. When crouched the point is roughly near to behind the collar bone, and passes through the lower nasal cavity. In prone, it is much the same.

In real life (and any decent shooting game), that aim point should be chained to the weapon in the players hands.

How Tangos Fire Out Their Ass

Experiments with ShowFOV and GunDirection, demonstrate that there is no real connection between pawn animations, where the AI is looking, and where the AI is actually aiming; or as I have been saying for years, What You See Is Not Always What You Get. The most humerus moment in my testing, occurred with the Rear Guard “Facing” the rear but covering the elements front. My research shows that even if Rainbow is aiming at the target, they fail to engage terrorists outside their point of view. I.e. in the case of that rear guard, if a tango had walked up behind the element: it would’ve taken a moment for his aim point to realign with his field of view, resulting in the death of 2/3 the Rainbow AI element!

In short, this means that the AI walks around much like a Tank with an independent turret, only the artificial intelligence is riding in the drivers seat, not the gunners. Coincidentally, this is why the game has no real concept of muzzle clearance (as I have also been saying for years).

This may explain some of the more rolling on the floor laughing moments that often occur, when a “How close can you go” opportunity crops up in game. To prove a point, I cornered a tango in a corner and had him empty his magazine into me. Side stepping away and deactivating GOD mode, he was able to fire several rounds point blank into my pawn, before his aim point rotated to my new position – I died once the aim point got to me, not when the animations showed him shooting me.

Also it seems that hostages always seem to aim directly at Rainbow, but luckily the terrorist AI doesn’t notice that (or they would always see us comming).

So far, these tests satisfactory seem to prove that my ~6 years old hypothesis, about the “Tango firing out of his arse” problem being is indeed codified into Raven Shield by design. Between network latency, the (usual) use of unreliable UDP communication methods for multiplayer game play, and the systems divergent means of rendering and applying these actions (seeing, aiming, firing, hitting), suggest that there is no way to solve the aforementioned (annoying) problem without fundamental changes to the way Raven Shield works. Since that is not viable, one can only look at working around the problem; even with more processing power then a Cray XT5 super computer, you also need a very high throughput network link between clients and server, likely to an extend that is unobtainable over the modern internet.

In laymen’s terms, this means no matter how good your computer hardware or internet connection is,  the computer will always be able to cheat you. Should that change, most likely it will be so far in the future, we will be dead by then.

On the upside, I do believe that why the game is like this, was probably done in order to give the player more ‘time’ to shoot first (yes, some tangos have very slow reaction times: this appears why). It also appears to explain many of the discrepancies between common online play, single player, and LAN parties. However it is also worth noting, that this may have instead occurred due to limitations of the Unreal Engine (2) or Raven Shields own design and implementation.

Interesting Note: Now that an illegal RvS 1.60 SDK is available on the internet, it may be possible for cheaters to develop a method to take advantage of these problems. Imagine walking up on some one in Adversarial because you think they are looking away, then they shoot you out their arse ;). Luckily the engine has some respectable counter messures to such becoming (more) common.

Looking at the AIs skills

One of the very few things, that I have ever been able to praise Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield for, is that the Rainbow AI often “Appears” to be covering their sectors, even if they totally suck at room clearing. In fact, their room clearing behaviour suggests that either the AI engine is extremely limited, or the game was made by people who know as much about CQB as the average RvS player, that is: absolutely nothing.

Since there is no connection (see above) between where the character on screen is looking (seeing), and where they are aiming (pointing), this means What You See Is Really Not What You Get. Have you ever seen in Single Player, where Rainbow is looking straight at a tango and gets owned without a shot? This is why. It is also why we can do the same to tangos online.

Terrorist movement is closer to What You See Is What You Get, then Rainbows; IMHO the movement for Rainbow was done to ‘look’ more realistic then it actually is (or the AI programmer sucked even worse then everything thinks). They also seem to have a tendency to remain fixed on hostages with their aimpoint, even while walking around a fair distance away. Ever got first sight on a tango, shot him trice, only to curse at him “Magically” shooting the hostage with barely a twitch? Yeah baby… he had that gun pointed at the hostage, all the while he was looking into your eyes.

Every type of AI in the game, demonstrates very poor skills at getting around the maps. I remember when I first started learning about pathing in Unreal Engines, I couldn’t help but think, “We’re still living in a dark age”… and that’s all I will say on that lol.

Hostage behaviour, well, what can I say… what you see is exactly what you get: a stupid slug. On the upside, the terrorists do not show any signs of being aware to hostages; this is why for example, if a Rainbow goes down while escorting, and the hostage becomes a prisoner again, the terrorist may continue walking past. All the fancy stuff about the tangos shooting the hostage, is a mixture of the games rudimentary AI, and things that map designer has programmed.

Since I don’t believe in taking advantage of the map design, or exploiting things I shouldn’t know in real life about the missions, I will not make a closer study of that kind of stuff, nor will I tell others much about it. If you want to figure out how to take even that (ugly) edge over the game, you can go learn how RvS works for yourself. Beat it punk.

I just study the mechanics and psychology of the games AI, you know, the whole know your enemy thing. In actual ops with SAS, I tend to employ more knowledge of human psychological behaviour then how the game was designed. That is both by intention

A Random Bullet Test

A tango surrendered and I fired a shot into his head, the round should have impacted his hand (placed on his head). There was a blood puff and a bullet hole in the wall directly behind his head, however the tango survived. Weapon used was an M16A2 at approximately 350-450 unreal units.

This suggests that terrorists have no brains, since the angle means the bullet must have penetrated his skull, and his hand (I pray) being all that slowed the high velocity FMJ round down enough to prevent a kill. Suggesting that any hit box modifiers applied, were for a ‘hand’ (arm) shot rather then a head shot.

N.B. other tests I have done over the years suggest this kind of problem and the ballistics model used, is why sniper rifles may incur a two-shot requirement on tango kills, and the exaggerated effects of JHP/FMJ selection on SWAT 4.

Anyone still awake and scratching their heads?

All this is based on roughly 6+ years of playing the game, much more then trivial knowledge of such matters, and being a very, highly observant individual.

Private Airport (kai) going RC

After much abuse and perhaps a weeks kicking, or two thirds of a week in man hours, the first map in my RvS map pack is almost complete. The first one, as one might infer from the title above, is a custom version of the Private Airport. In having to find something reasonable to prefix or suffix the maps with, I chose the simple suffix of ‘(kai)’ for each map, why? Just blame it on an Endless Waltz.

The map has been optimized for Co-Op Mission and Team Adversarial play, but should function as expected in most game types; there is also a tweak for Bomb mode. You would still recognize it as the Private Airport, and I have tried not to destroy the maps excellent flow, merely augment it and revivify the game play. Several areas are in my humble opinion, more realistic, while still reflecting the intended feel of the map. Since there is virtually no one left alive, who is playing Raven Shield off a 32MB or 64MB AGP card, I have also taken the liberty of “Fixing” the portaling a bit, trading the frame rate on your toaster oven, in the hopes of reducing some of the floating guns a wee bit (in so far, as that is actually doable in this fucked up game). I also seem to have fixed one of the most annoying rooms in all of RvS, in that process ;). See, I do know what I have been cussin’ at for all these years :-P. My changes shouldn’t impact anyone who has a computer that could play RvS without extreme abuse in the first place (Yes, it is time to give up on your 4MB 3dfx card and buy a new computer), and shouldn’t effect performance for 96-98% of players.

In architecting the changes for mission mode, the thought that kept running through my mind is “This map is gonna be pure evil”, and if you enjoy doing things Ninja style as much as I do, on top of forceful dynamic fare, one will no doubt enjoy playing the coop mission on ROE: RED and saving the day like a sneaky son of a gun, hehehe. Things have been engineered to offer a more tactical experience to both coop and advers. mode, and I think my Private Airport (kai) will be much better suited for Force on Force Training, not to mention bounding drills.

The changes are numerous, tallying over 25 completed tasks on my RTM, and countless dozens of on-the-fly changes that occurred to my twisted mind during editing phase. Being a methodical type about getting my plans carried out, of course corrections and issue tracking was pushed into my RTM list as needed, instant triage.

I will likely make the map available to a select few for closed door testing, once I’ve finished a bit more private testing on the airport. After that, I would say the map is essentially good to go out the door. There is still an unfinished portion of the map, that is non essential, but to complete it properly, would entail triple the work and completing a subsequently desired feature set. There is also a few other features I would like to add, such as maximizing the sniping opportunities even further, but that can wait until later. The next iteration of the map, will likely contain such changes.

For now, I’m content to move onto the last leg of testing the map, and to get started on my ‘next’ one, mauhauhauahauhauha!!!!!

The glory of Raven Shield / Unreal Engine 2….

OS: Windows XP 5.1 (Build: 2600)
CPU: GenuineIntel Unknown processor @ 3003 MHz with 2045MB RAM
Video: NVIDIA GeForce 8400 GS (8250)

Assertion failed: Actor->ColLocation == Actor->ColLocation [File:.UnOctree.cpp] [Line: 1703]

History: FCollisionOctree::RemoveActor <- ULevel::MoveActor <- NormalSubUzi37 <- UObject::ProcessEvent <- (R6TMilitant04 Alpines.R6TMilitant31, Function R6Engine.R6Pawn.SpawnRagDoll) <- AR6Pawn::UpdateMovementAnimation <- AActor::Tick <- TickAllActors <- ULevel::Tick <- (NetMode=3) <- TickLevel <- UGameEngine::Tick <- UpdateWorld <- MainLoop

Both Raven Shield and SWAT 4 display crash messages like these, so perhaps it is an Unreal Engine 2 thing rather then specific to RvS/S4, but if it is, I would assume there is a way to turn it off. My feelings: This is good stuff to see if you are one of the games developers or testers—but should _never_ be seen by retail customers! Not only is it Martian to regular people, since we can’t go edit and recompile code ourselves, all it does is display information that we didn’t need to know. If I was going to do something like that for crash handling in a *release* product, I would probably make it said “Programmer fuck up, please sue the company for idiocy” 🙂 This seems to remind me, of one time I was on the website of a large north-american company, when for doing nothing at all but routine, their website gave me the most interesting error messages…. telling me enough data to find out several server side paths, there otherwise hidden implementation language, and enough data to clue in on what “stuffs” were being used to make the whole show go. I nearly died laughing lol. Maybe I’m a freak, but I don’t think user should be allowed to see developer information in a closed product like that.

post script: this was my 1500th journal entry

Personal Training Cycle, 2009-10-02

Map 0: Meat Packing Plan 1, RvS Mission
Kit: Medium vest, MP5SD5+Scp, P228+HCM, 3 Bangs, 3 Gas
Results: Bullcrapped twice during clearing but aced it on the third go. Snuck in covertly until I was forced to cap a sentry through a window; no alarms were raised. Proceeded to secure the building room by room, penetrating into the upstairs ands ecuring my backdoor. Normally in server, we usually take the easy hostage first with bangs then go for the hard ones; for me, not so! I’m sorry, but I just don’t feel it is realistic to bang the downstairs kitchen, then creep into position upstairs ^_^. I setup an ambush on the catwalk; downed the guards with my H&K before they could raise an alarm – pick and choose your angles carefully. Moved the catwalk hostage into the hall for safe keeping, then I hit the gas pedal—full dynamic mode: blew through the next office with a flashbang, snatched the hostage, then moved them both to the next assaulting point. Dropped them off, plunked a pair of aces in the next hole, then stormed through with my H&K leaving nothing but the third hostage alive. Collected all three hostages, then moved out for egress by a different route then my ingress; taking it cautiously but expidetiously through the facility. Extracted the two hostages, then went and capped the last tango who was wondering around trying to follow me lol.

Map 1: Penthouse, RvS Mission
Kit: Medium vest, MP5SD+Scp, P228+HCm, 3 Bangs, 3 Gas
Results: Failed the first run do to being a moron, got spotted on the second go when the office door jammed on me. Third run was like clock work… Solid Snake couldn’t be more of a sneaky son of a bitch. A lot of people use Heart Beat Sensors and Smoke grenades to clear the Penthouse mission in RvS, me… I don’t believe in it for training purposes, it should be hard ^_^. I went in using no tactical aids, just two eyes and a beady little brain to sneak through undetected.

Map 2: (MP) Presideo, RvS Terrorist Hunt
Kit: Medium vest, MP5A4, P228, 6 Bangs
Results: Crept into a suitable place to light the fireworks, then moved swiftly at a controlled pace, securing the entire building. Got shot in the right shoulder, after getting “Overly zealous” on a dynamic entry but the poor tangos were too unprepaired to stand a chance. Had to track down the last terroristm, who was probably on my heals the entire map but just to slow to keep pace; hit’em with a flash bang and a semi-auto shot to the head.

All engagements were done fully automatic with the H&Ks, except for the very last tango which had to strong cover to warrent the chance at that distance (I had no scope).

If dinner wasn’t ready, I’d go for the SWAT 4 portion of my cycle, but it will have to wait until tomorrow :-(.