don't let BZFlag die

News and info about current and upcoming releases of the game client and server.
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zaphod
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don't let BZFlag die

Post by zaphod » Mon May 24, 2010 9:13 am

sorry ::: sounds pessimistic but general player activity goes really downhill ...!
and i believe a soon release of version 3.0 could help BZFlag to regain popularity!
i have been testing and running servers for the upcoming version and with all the new features it looks promising and works so far "smoothly"!
especially the luascript implementation offers so many new possibilities to the game!
i got a hand on a luascript made by trepan and it shows only the tip of the iceberg with all the endless new features to make this a whole "new" game.
for example trepans script makes shots only "deadly" if they ricochet off a building, pyramid or through a teleporter. in other words you cannot shoot an opponent directly ::: only with a rico and its real fun to play! (see for yourselfs with a version 2.99 client at 001.bzflag.fr:5198 (THX trepan!).
anyway what i wanted to say is that the hard working dev's should get out soon the first version 3.0 release (or post in this forum some compiled "beta-tester-clients") helping this great game to improve, survive and even attract new players in the hard competition against all the free online games out there.
thx for listening!



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Re: don't let BZFlag die

Post by tobylane » Tue May 25, 2010 9:51 pm

Maybe some big event like a geno free weekend on all big servers would be something fun and different, possibly even bringing in people who didn't like the game in the past.

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Re: don't let BZFlag die

Post by Strakowski » Thu May 27, 2010 5:58 am

Now, I haven't been a part of the community for very long, certainly not long enough to know whether BZFlag is growing or shrinking, nor do I know anything in regard to marketing or business theory (beyond "The Tipping Point" ;)), but I am fairly confident that it would take more than an event to help BZFlag back on it's feet again*. The word of such things rarely circulates outside of the existing community. The truth of the matter is: it can be difficult to expand to any new audiences without paid advertising (However, it is by no means necessary, and I certainly don't want anyone to think that I'm suggesting we've reached an ultimatum of finances.) I myself found BZFlag through the "Third Party Downloads" section of Apple.com, but personal experience aside, I am led to believe that BZFlag's strongest method of expansion is probably person-to-person. BZFlag does not seek out new players by itself; promotion is mostly voluntary. What I'm really trying to say is: If there is a problem and it is severe, I do not think that outdatedness (<- can you believe that is a word?) nor boredom is at the source.

*though I do believe that 3.0 will indeed help rekindle/retain infrequent players, you have a valid point, zaphod

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Re: don't let BZFlag die

Post by D-FENS » Thu May 27, 2010 10:09 am

zaphod wrote:sorry ::: sounds pessimistic but general player activity goes really downhill ...!
haven't been around more than some players here, maybe 10+ years...

But I could tell you one thing, force everybody to register and make them have to sign in to play with the registered callsign.

Maybe then the immature brats out there making it miserable to play would eventually be worked out of the equation.

Seems to be alot of them out there lately, including ppl who register callsigns just so they can join a server and ban everybody off.

Wasting my time with this suggestion, it won't happen.

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Re: don't let BZFlag die

Post by Yrogirg » Thu May 27, 2010 12:51 pm

btw, I wonder if there is statistics for player activity for the last five years (2005 - 2010). Average number of players online.

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Re: don't let BZFlag die

Post by blast » Thu May 27, 2010 3:47 pm

This one here gives a year's worth of information:
http://list.bzflag.org/bzflag.html
(Time goes from right to left on the chart)
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Re: don't let BZFlag die

Post by trepan » Thu May 27, 2010 4:06 pm

Do you know if the player counts include observers?

Currently, I'm counting 78 players and 42 observers.

Of those 42 observers, it looks like the greater part
is composed of "non-active" clients (administrative
or logging observer clients, probably using bzadmin).

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Re: don't let BZFlag die

Post by Yrogirg » Sun May 30, 2010 2:51 pm

I hope BZRobots will allow to create bots as good as humans on certain maps, e.g. laser camping bot om MW2. So we could possibly replace human players by bots on some maps and solve popularity problem --- you don't need popularity if you don't need real people.

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Re: don't let BZFlag die

Post by zaphod » Sun May 30, 2010 4:56 pm

sorry but the topic got a bit off track ::: i hope a soon release of version 3 is possible to get BZFlag back on its tracks ;-)
could it be possible to get some 2.99 compiled clients ready to do a bit testing and getting a taste of what is coming?




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Re: don't let BZFlag die

Post by ts » Mon May 31, 2010 10:03 am

I'd really love to see the new version comming out soon. Text finally look like standard text on my system and the lua scripts look very promising in particular. Global chat and unicode support also come in very handy. There are many changes…too much to name them all. Being on all the software update websites could help gaining new players as well, e.g. I found BZFlag on macupdate.

In my opionion BZFlag's player base is also very divided: "sit around and shoot with superflags" and league players. The latter plays on private league servers where new players can neither communicate nor spawn and it's a game so people aren't very willing to read the welcome message of servers. Maybe league players should play more on the public servers.


While testing the recent svn checkouts I found some rather strange bugs however. Note that bugs are not uncommon during development processes.

Whenever I shoot jitter goes up and it's risky to drive forward and to shoot. It looks like this effect can be removed by raising _updateThrottleRate and lowering _angleTolerance. With lower FPS like constant 50 FPS (-echo causes that) the risk of selfkills raise. Lag and jitter are generally much higher..the lag thing is partly a side effect of limiting at 200FPS.

I'd imagine that GU league would want "-a 0 0" back..I couldn't find a switch to do that. One might call that a design decision but some people will be really unhappy about the acceleration limiting.

Overall the tanks feel like being way too skinny. It's clear with normal bullets but shockwaves are really astonishing on screenshots. Sadly I lost one very obvious screenshot but it looks like the shockwave has to hit the exact mid of the tank.

Touching a teleporter has some strange side effects…look at the attached screenshot.
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Re: don't let BZFlag die

Post by Ragnarok » Mon May 31, 2010 11:31 am

ttfkad wrote:
zaphod wrote:sorry ::: sounds pessimistic but general player activity goes really downhill ...!
haven't been around more than some players here, maybe 10+ years...

But I could tell you one thing, force everybody to register and make them have to sign in to play with the registered callsign.

Maybe then the immature brats out there making it miserable to play would eventually be worked out of the equation.

Seems to be alot of them out there lately, including ppl who register callsigns just so they can join a server and ban everybody off.

Wasting my time with this suggestion, it won't happen.
That will definitely not happen. People here are trying to raise the popularity. That will dramatically lower it. If we do do that, then so many people will not play it and we would lose hundreds if players. Some of those players are really good, but they might not be able to register, so we are losing good players as well.
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Re: don't let BZFlag die

Post by trepan » Mon May 31, 2010 1:34 pm

@ ts

<-a 0 0> can probably be achieved by setting the _inertiaAngular and _inertiaLinear variables to 0.

Tank hit dimensions can be adjusted using the _tankShotProximity variable. The current default
value is "0.25 0.35 0.25 0.0" (xPadding yPadding posZPadding negZPadding).

Shockwaves have always had to hit the center of the tank, no?

The teleporter effect that you're showing is the result of the drawing order. It's always been an
issue with the way that tanks are rendered, but the tread rendering change may have made it
more pronounced.

The self-hit / jitter problem might be worth looking into ;)

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Re: don't let BZFlag die

Post by macsforme » Tue Jun 01, 2010 8:26 am

Regarding requiring global registration, that has been the eventual goal for a long time. However, right now the registration process is foreign to new players, and is not easy to understand. Think of how hard it is to explain to people to visit "http://my.bzflag.org/bb" (not an easy address to remember), register, and then use the same username and password in the game client. I can't think of another game that requires you to register at a forum in order to create an in-game account. If this registration process was built-in to the client (which I believe is a feature of BZFlag 3.0, or some branch based on it), it would be easier for new players to do and the goal of requiring global registration could be realized.

Regarding 3.0, there has actually been a lot of progress made recently. I believe alpha 2 was just tagged (a pre-release snapshot of the code). We may actually see it sometime during our lifetimes. :)

Regarding popularity, I agree player levels have been somewhat down lately. One large contributing reason to this in my opinion is the lack of new material. The game itself has not changed much lately, and I have seen very few new maps that are fun to play for both few players and many players. Missile War 2 has been the #1 map for nearly two years, now. That is a tribute to the map, but players tire of old material eventually.

BZFlag 3.0 will bring a whole lot of new possibilities for map makers. The new mapping possibilities and the Lua scripting is a huge step forward. I would also love to see people get creative again with maps. I think it's time for something new.

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Re: don't let BZFlag die

Post by ts » Tue Jun 01, 2010 3:25 pm

trepan wrote:<-a 0 0> can probably be achieved by setting the _inertiaAngular and _inertiaLinear variables to 0.
Ah yes that works but I noticed in windowed mode my fonts show up really big (not set to auto) and the text I typed is overlapped by the radar and chat box. Font size auto renders the font totally unreadable small.
trepan wrote:Shockwaves have always had to hit the center of the tank, no?
Could be, I only took attention after I noticed the much smaller default hitzone.

Regarding requiring global login for public servers: It has been tried once and my impression was not only that the enforcing servers were less crowded but also that many players were gone. These unregistered players are needed. Remember almost all started as unregistered tankers. :turtle:
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Re: don't let BZFlag die

Post by Triumph of the Soul » Thu Jun 17, 2010 5:49 am

I fail to see how a slightly diminished average player count is a bad thing. If I understand correctly, BZFlag started out as a small scale game, suitable only for private servers on LANs. I don't think there were any massive marketing campaigns on the part of the developers early on to spur growth in player counts (not that the developers didn't try to propagate the game at all, but just that the effort doesn't seem to have been very extensive), so I think it'd be safe to say the growth of the public BZFlag community has been largely organic. I think this is still the case nowadays.

Having said that, I think mandatory global registration and login is a good idea, but I don't think it should be made easier than it already is. In doing so, you inevitably move beyond targeting people who would actually care enough about the game to take the time and register out of their own initiative, and you begin pandering to off-and-on, or non-committal players, who wouldn't add much of value to the community anyway. So, if anything, the registration process should be made more difficult.

I know the previous points may seem a little cold-hearted or exclusionary, but allow me to explain. When I first started playing BZFlag, one of the most appealing things about the game was what I perceived to be a relatively coherent and static player community: many, if not most players seemed to have found niches on certain servers (usually highly influenced by the geographical location of the server, but also because of the characteristics of a given map) and in connecting to any particular server one could expect to see many familiar faces. In effect, each server felt like a family, and playing in that kind of environment was what made me want to come back, and what eventually made me want to register.

Of course, people inevitably come and go (as do servers), but one of the reasons I've been somewhat inactive for the past year (besides being preoccupied with school) was that I could no longer keep track of most of the people I had played with early on, and many of my favorite servers/maps from the past had lost popularity--I felt like a bit of an outsider. I'm confident there are many players who have come before me and had similar experiences (and many who just don't care either way), and this is probably just a natural part of online gaming in general, but it is nonetheless disconcerting to me. Mandatory registration and login could go a ways to slow this process. A massive and rapidly growing player community is not necessarily desirable, unless you're solely concerned about average monthly/daily player counts. Coincidentally, more players necessitates more bandwidth, more hosting capacity, and more time/money invested. If I were hosting a server, I'd feel better if I were at least somewhat acquainted with each and every player who frequented it (though this is an unrealistic goal, I suspect). And while I agree whole-heartedly with ttfkad, run-ins with immature brats aren't the only thing that can dissuade someone from playing at some servers; simply not knowing anyone can also be a discouraging factor.

Good to be to back, though.
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Re: don't let BZFlag die

Post by hutty » Thu Jun 24, 2010 2:14 am

That is a very good point there, I have kind have found a family of my own here to. I am, however opposed to forced registration.

1 I know several people who would not play the game if they were required to register (even though they are good mature players)
2 Some people (like my little brother) are not old enough to register. And there is no point in him trying to have my parents sign some form because they would pass it off as pointless.
3 If you want forced registration just make a server that only allows registered players.

As I look around it looks like more than half of our players are not registered, and would probably drop the game if they were forced to.
which I believe is opposite of the goal of this discussion.
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Re: don't let BZFlag die

Post by macsforme » Thu Jul 01, 2010 11:27 pm

1. Why? It is not really a game-killing issue. You do it once and you're done. Registration ensures your identity is protected, that no one else uses your callsign, and facilitates communication with you in case of a problem.
2. Again, why? Your parents would probably understand the legal ramifications facing the BZFlag global registration admins if they were educated in them. I believe the form can be sent in via email. Not that difficult.
3. The problem is bigger than that. Some servers have gone registered-only (or used nagware)... some were successful, some were not. The real issue is that global registration is difficult to figure out for first-time players.
4 (or last point). I think that is not a valid assumption. I imagine the number of unregistered users is more due to an ignorance about the registration process or a difficulty completing it than having convictions against it. What makes you think they wouldn't play if they were forced to register to do so (as long as they were educated in the process, and perhaps it was made easier)?

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Re: don't let BZFlag die

Post by jinx » Fri Jul 02, 2010 4:43 am

I agree in part with Constitution. Forced registration, in my opinion, would probably reduce the player numbers a bit, but not significantly. But I think the question is how to *increase* registration - you have to make it something people *want* to do, that they get a benefit from doing so. Being able to chat on a server would be one - but that would eliminate any help new players could get - so that's not going to help. However, restricting superflags to registered players *would* be a huge incentive. Just make it a server setting - the server owner can decide who gets superflags, and the clients check that setting. Along with the "reg players only" server settings if wanted.

I also agree the current registration process is an obstacle course. It would help if there was a screen brought up when you first start up BZF asking if you want to register, and either a link taking you to your browser and to the forum to do so, or button dismissing registration. Along with a check-box to dismiss it entirely, otherwise it pops up the next time the app is started.

Also - the sheer number of unregistered players is not an accurate census of the number of players. I have several unregistered names (as I'm sure a few of us have who were admins) and I regularly play using them. Any accounting of players doesn't take that into consideration.
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Re: don't let BZFlag die

Post by blast » Fri Jul 02, 2010 11:48 am

If someone couldn't grab any flags just because they weren't registered, I think that would just drive them away from the game...

As for the registration process - yes, it sucks. It's not intuitive to sign up on a forum to have an in-game account.
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Re: don't let BZFlag die

Post by Cobra_Fast » Fri Jul 02, 2010 11:54 am

You could put a "Register Callsign" button on the bzflag.org front page which would then be pointing to the initial bb-registration site.

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Re: don't let BZFlag die

Post by diing for the team » Fri Jul 02, 2010 1:00 pm

I did not register until I went to boxy wars and you couldn't speak unless you were registered.
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Re: don't let BZFlag die

Post by Cobra_Fast » Fri Jul 02, 2010 1:01 pm

diing for the team wrote:I did not register until I went to boxy wars and you couldn't speak unless you were registered.
exact same thing happened to me.

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Re: don't let BZFlag die

Post by Dr Robotnik » Wed Aug 11, 2010 6:02 pm

From what I see, people are put off by the "complexity" of the game. So many people appear to be confused on how to register, how to vote in polls, it is as if the entire game uses Esperanto as a language. I think that is a part of the problem. People dont read the "manual", then they suck at the game, and then go back to whatever else they play. Another thing is bandwidth intensity. Lots of people use wifi with very bad latency, making the game unpleasant for them and us in turn. I hope V3 is less demanding on quality of service.
And last but not least is how it is almost always the same maps. "Missile War 2 has been the #1 map for nearly two years, now." A perfect example. There are a few maps that get constant attention and it never dies out, esp missile war. Some maps are new, get huge attention for about 2 months and then drop off the face of the earth, and then there are over 200 maps that are (mostly) ignored. Something must be done to make new map discovery easier for the user. Perhaps a map of the week system? Innovation is a good thing. Maps shoud evolve, not stay the same for years on end. v3 aparently allows for more creativity when it comes to maps-this will possibly solve the problem.

Oh, and one more idea: Advertiseing. This game does not get enough attention. We could easily achieve over 500 players a day. 250 on average seems low. Substract the automated bots/loggers/observers and the actual player ammount will be tiny! Youtube, Facebook, all kinds of social media could spread this game. Perhaps manage to get featured on some gaming sites so more people can find the game. A clearer front page and wiki that is less technical, and more foucused on gameplay would help. Most people dont care about the server side or client side of things. They want to click on the icon and play the game. They want to know the general rules and what makes this game stand out from the dozens of others out there. And there are things that set BZFlag apart. Our community, selection of gameplay style, different levels of challenge, flag system, are just some of the things that set this game apart from others. (Not to mention the clear and easy to understand score system). :o

I dont think the community will die, I have heard how hard the 1x to 2x transition was, and how it did away with a lot of the maps and people, and 3x will most likely do the same thing, but a map purge is beneficial. Out with the old and in with the new. There will allways at least be a small community of people here, this project has gotten enough momentum to survive. 3x in its final form does seem like vaporware, but once it is released in Beta form precompiled on all the main platforms (Win, Mac, Linux) with many people testing, it will have a sucessful release. Is there a plan to force people to upgrade? A fragmented 2x/3x community would be very bad.
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Re: don't let BZFlag die

Post by blast » Wed Aug 11, 2010 6:48 pm

We never force people to upgrade. (Heck, even 1.7 servers can still be hosted) There is always a long transition period where people may run both versions for a while. It is the easiest for Windows and OSX users to upgrade to new versions, as Linux users generally have to compile the new client on their own, wait for their package maintainer to update the package, or wait for a new major release of their distro.

As for advertising, I think we need to make the game and the sites look more organized before we do that.
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Re: don't let BZFlag die

Post by Jacko H » Thu Sep 16, 2010 1:32 pm

tobylane wrote:Maybe some big event like a geno free weekend on all big servers would be something fun and different, possibly even bringing in people who didn't like the game in the past.
Yeah that is gona save bzf B-)
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