The Concept is Born
The UnrealSP.Org story begins on 12th May 2001 with a thread posted by Hellscrag on the BeyondUnreal Forums, or what must then still have been the original PlanetUnreal Forums prior to the split. At this point, Smirftsch's excellent OldUnreal.com was already operational, but it focused on the deathmatch element. A topic of conversation at the time had been the shrinkage of the Unreal single player community and its relative homelessness since the release of Unreal Tournament, which now dominated the Unreal fan sites. Part of the credit for the site's foundation must go to Drevlin, who had posted some very serious thoughts on the issue, but it was Hellscrag who, at 2:21 PM, got the ball rolling with the thread, entitled "Looking for ppl knowledgable about single player Unreal". The thread, or at least the edited highlights of it, went roughly as follows:
HELLSCRAG: Hey everyone
Drevlin's thoughts recently about the shrinking single player Unreal community have given me an idea.
I thought I might create a web site (I have registered the domain https://www.unrealsp.org although of course there's nothing up yet) where those people who still follow the single player mapping community can... gather? :).
The site could, as well as providing tips and walkthroughs for the original game (such material is already sorted - on my own site), review all known custom Unreal/Na Pali/UT SINGLE PLAYER maps that are worth their disk space, going right back to the beginning, as well as advertising known forthcoming projects such as Operation Na Pali, Offensive Retreat, Kenophobia etc. There can be forums for people to talk about single player, ask each other how to complete levels, and advertise their own work. However, I would not want to be responsible for maintaining this site entirely by myself, I would want to work with a couple or a few other reviewers.
Such reviewers would need to know Unreal well, and we should collaborate to make sure our reviews are balanced relative to each other.
Anyone interested in helping me build https://www.unrealsp.org ? I was thinking it might be a good teammate to Smirftsch's excellent http://www.oldunreal.com which covers a lot of the more technical side of things.
TECHNOARCHER: I have played a lot of custom Unreal maps, so I know I have the expertise, at least I have it gamewise.
The problems are:
1. Starting in June, I will be commuting to my college to take 7 hours of summer courses. I might also be getting a part-time job if my money runs tight. This will really eat up my free time once it starts.
2. I have set my computer back up since moving home, but the lines through my town are really bad! I might not be able to spend very much time online because of my transition to a modem connection.
If you can get past these handicaps that I now have, I would be glad to help out.
HELLSCRAG: You'd be welcome as a part time reviewer. We'd be reviewing the old a lot at first, because I want to cover the best SP released like Illhaven, Shrakith'a etc... and less classic ones (but prolly nothing that got less than a 7 to 8 on Nali City)
TECHNOARCHER: If this idea gets enough attention, it could also be expanded to include forums and tips for single player mapping (and links to other such sites). For example, I was certainly surprised to find a bunch of SP map packs that had one or more Queens in them, but didn't take advantage of QueenDests.
Also, I believe I have most if not all of the really good SP packs from Nali City, including a few for UT (and New Alcatraz from Unreal Center), so that isn't a problem at all.
NAVEED: The whole idea you got going there is awesome Hellscrag. I would be willing to help out to the best I can which would probably be as I part time reviewer. I probably wouldn't be able to start for a while though becuse I'm practicing my guitar playing a lot, but I'm definetly interested in helping.
HELLSCRAG: Thanks guys
Both your ideas and help will be appreciated.
NAVEED: Hey you're welcome and like I said in my earlier post it's a great idea plus I think there needs to be a website focused on SP in Unreal. DM and all forms it comes in shouldn't be the only forms of play to get publicity. I prefer a good SP or CO-OP game to a DM or CTF anyday. Thats why I'm willing to help out.
HELLSCRAG: Great, Drevlin has also volunteered his services by e-mail. :)
I'll get an under construction page up as soon as the provider's FTP stops playing silly buggers with me (I've contacted technical support). In the mean time, any ideas for the site?
NAVEED: I have an idea. My friend and I while playing co-op will often take screenshots of each other and add humorous captions that fit the shot. Maybe a section dedicated to things like that. Just humorous screenshots and captions. Also your avrage shot of the week thing.
HELLSCRAG: Walkthroughs for Unreal and Return to Na Pali, plus the armoury, creatures and inventory pages, are already written on my own site and have been for some time. They just need porting. But maybe we should offer walkthroughs of the best custom maps submitted by site team members? What do you think?
TECHNOARCHER: I like this idea, and I also think that the most obvious choices for first dibs on walkthroughs go to the authors of the maps themselves.
Also, something else came into my head (because of a mental comparison and contrast between Single Player and computer RPG's). What if we divided the walkthroughs into "partial" and "complete," where partials are really more like Hints lists than actual walkthroughs? I remember that whenever I played an RPG without the hintbook, I always had more fun, because I really enjoyed finding out everything for myself, instead of finding it printed in the hintbook.
HELLSCRAG: Techno, I doubt designers who built their levels some time a go will want to go back and walk through them now. Can you imagine DavidM doing a walkthrough of Strange World (which he claims to hate)? Or Grayson Edge walking through Hexephet (he's kinda busy building Unreal 2 )?
Nah we do the walkthroughs. But the hints idea sounds good. Tell me more...
TECHNOARCHER: By "authors walking through their own maps," I meant that if they contact you about contributing walkthroughs for their own maps, then they should have priority over other people that want to make walkthroughs of those maps. For example (not a good example, but a relevant one), I don't think that anyone is going to make a walkthrough for Tashara's Cove unless you specifically say that you're not going to.
As for the Hints section, I'm thinking that it should focus more on foreshadowing than on explaining. It would probably be along the lines of suggesting tactics and preparation methods, without telling people exactly what they're going to face. For example, if I was going to create a Hints list for Illhaven, I might include the suggestion that the player pick up as much stuff in the first map as possible, because there won't be a lot to pick up in the second. Other ideas for hints would be like mentioning the existence of an item, but not telling exactly where it is.
A Hints section should be intentionally unelaborate so that the gamer is able to experience more of the thrill of figuring it out for himself. It should be vague enough that it could be called something like "Walkthroughs for people that don't want to know everything."
HELLSCRAG: Techno, I really like that idea.
Who's gonna review Tashara's Cove? There's a job...
For the reviews, I'll probably define a schema like Nali City's, but more tuned towards single player.
NAVEED: I really like that idea of setting the review system up like Nali City's. It's one of the best review systems I've seen.
TECHNOARCHER: The reviewing of Tashara's Cove...that job might turn out to be a little controversial. You might need to wait until there are plenty of reviewers on the team, and then choose one at random to do the review. :D
Oh, another thought just popped into my head. I'm assuming that for the custom map reviews and walkthroughs you are planning to have download links for them, right? For people that are looking for specific map packs, it will really help out if they can link directly to the download sites, like at File Planet (or wherever the map is from).
One more thing I was wondering about...are you also looking to talk about Total Conversions, like Legacy? If you are, I think that you might find this to be quite a hot topic. (Along these lines, let's also keep our ears open about Nali Chronicles; this one looks really cool from what I've seen on the site.)
HELLSCRAG: Tashara's Cove Review: Whoever is willing to bear my wrath if they criticise me! :)
Download links: Yes
TCs: Don't see why not. I'm on a team that's building one and I'd have to see it excluded
DREVLIN: You know ill help in any way i can :)
ZOMBIE: I guess this is what I get for taking time off the comp.
I'll be glad to contribute anything I can.
Particularly operating coop servers
That was an attempt to help new admins understand how to better the coop experience.
A DoItYourself chart with console commands and thier effects could be helpful to let users create thier own files.
HELLSCRAG: Hey Zombie I wondered when you'd show up
Tell me more about the DIY chart.
To everyone else on the team: I'll be wanting reviews soon enough. I'm porting and updating the game guide from my own site right now.
Why don't you start short-listing some levels and packs you'd like reviewed? Also any upcoming maps / packs / conversions. The kind of conversions I am willing to cover are ones that have something in common with the original... if it's the creatures, or the overall look and feel or the guns, or whatever.
My list...feel free to add yours or suggest removals
The Invasion (Xerania 2)
Research Facility - DNSPU3
The Beginning of the End - DNSPU4
Shinigami Level Pack 1
DNSPU5 - Temple of Rashig
The Liberation of Na Pali
Rescue of PaNunu
Tower of Shrakith'a
Valley of Alshar
Nali City database down at the moment... packs that spring to mind are
I know I've forgotten more. Sorry...
Operation Na Pali
NAVEED: I can get around to doing some reviews in the next couple days. I'll most likely be reviewing Tower of Shrakith'a first.
I have a question to. In sbegin2 when I try starting it it says I'm missing a file. is there anywhere I could get it?I've played sbegin1 and want to continue on, but can't with out the file.
HELLSCRAG: Copy all your Unreal music files into your UT music folder
Damn, I wanted to review Shrakith'a :). Actually, it's not a problem, because I think other reviewers should be allowed a "second opinion" paragraph or two.
Try to make the reviews quite detailed, like maybe Shambler's reviews on Nali City... for now how harsh you are is your discretion, we can compare notes afterwards, email em to [email protected] when you're done.
Seeing as you're ready to review, here's a schema. Each mark is out of ten - the final score is the mean average value, rounded to the nearest .5 (.25 or .75 round up).
Architecture - Detail and build quality
Textures - Keeping a consistent theme while providing good variety, GOOD TEXTURE CHOICE (not panel textures on the floor!)
Lighting - Use of colour and light levels, lensflares where appropriate etc
Sound - Use of ambient sounds and music (IMO essential in SP maps) - bonus for changing music mood appropriately
Story - Continuity of story and elaboration through the translator
Overall effect - Overall atmospheric effect of all the above, and execution of the theme (you don't always need high detail for good atmosphere)
Items and combat - Good use of weapons and creatures? Sufficient ammo?
Technical Execution - Playable framerates, not too many visual glitches
TECHNOARCHER: It sounds good to me. I am mainly looking into reviewing for the purpose of improving my objectivity. Also, something else that might fit well into this schema is the alteration of the maps for difficulty levels. Again, I will have no problem e-mailing my reviews, but if things get really bad, someone else might need to take screenshots for me. I have visited lagless.com and picked up some information, and I hope it helps.
Well, I would post more, but I really have to go. A storm is coming into my town and I have to get my computer turned off!
HELLSCRAG: Just gonna drop you all a mail...
The Site Goes Live
UnrealSP.Org goes live on the 21st June 2001, on expensive hosting provided by Freedom2Surf, with content including:
- The team page and Mission Statement (the latter having remained largely unchanged ever since);
- "What is Unreal", a guide to the different titles released and upcoming in the Unreal franchise;
- Guides to Unreal's weapons, creatures and inventory items, originally written for S2S: Hellscrag's Computer Games Website;
- Very detailed walkthroughs to Unreal and Return to Na Pali, also written for the above;
- An excellent guide to running an Unreal coop server, courtesy of zynthetic (a.k.a. Zombie);
- A Level Design section consisting of "Making a Single Player Map", an article by Drevlin and eVOLVE;
- Tips for the Tower of Shrakith'a, prepared by Techno JF (a.k.a. TechnoArcher);
- A small selection of reviews, including Hexephet, Hollow, Tower of Shrakith'a, Nak'halinra Peak, One Day and Panic 2;
- A featured article on Coop Etiquette by Naveed;
- A list of major upcoming projects, including Operation Na Pali, Nali Chronicles and Kenophobia; and
- Simple but effective forums hosted by EZBoard.
The slogan of the site: "Unreal Single Player Lives"
It isn't long before more content rolls in, including a review of Liberation of Na Pali by zynthetic, and a thorough set of tips for Legacy by Techno JF.
The First Couple of Months
A fresh-faced MMAN UGITU joins the forums in July, promoting his upcoming project The Journey, being built to run under Legacy. Reviews continue to flood in over the month, including Valley of Eelhandra, Temple of Eelhandra, Peril on Mars, Zombie Dawn, The Beginning of the End, Tashara's Cove and the Illhaven Saga (along with a set of tips for the latter). Manwhile, UnrealSP.Org is publicised by Smirftsch at OldUnreal.com, and the site receives further visits. News first comes to light of Willis' upcoming project Na Pali: Broken.
Later in July, the unstoppable Waffnuffly signs onto the forums to promote his upcoming map pack Attacked!. MMAN UGITU abandons his first attempt at The Journey, providing the seeds for the first phrase "MMAN UGITUed" to describe the abandonment of a project. The month ends with Hellscrag announcing the completion of the first map of his next single player campaign, The Landing (a pack to be created following the mapper's departure from the team working on Kenophobia.
June and July 2001 had been a busy couple of months for the new UnrealSP.Org team.
At the beginning of August, UnrealSP.Org gains its second featured article, a preview of Willis' upcoming project Na Pali: Broken based on a "sneak peek" at a beta map.
The Site Gains a Reputation
August 2001 - UnrealSP.Org continues to report progress on upcoming projects, namely Nali Chronicles, Attacked!, The Journey and The Landing; more reviews are published, including Strange World.
Meanwhile, the site is beginning to carve out its reputation in the Unreal community. It gains its first screenshot exclusive, with three images of the upcoming Kenophobia. At this point, Karmadude joins the team with a bright idea: that UnrealSP.Org should branch out into reviewing Unreal fan fiction. His first article is a review of Kran's Fall: Kira's Struggle by Noailiat.
The Unreal SP community experiences its first major loss of a project since UnrealSP.Org opened: Offensive Retreat, abandoned by Drevlin due to his recruitment by Nexs Interactive.
The site's coverage of featured articles is expanded with a track-by-track review of the score from Unreal and Return to Na Pali.
Disaster Strikes America
September 2001 gets off to a good start with the release of the long-awaited Operation Na Pali demo on the 7th, although MMAN UGITU has MMAN UGITUed The Journey for a second time following a computer crash. News from Waffnuffly is more promising, with the announcement that Attacked! is nearing completion.
However, the workings of the Unreal community are brought to a crashing halt with the events of 9/11. UnrealSP.Org, although a British-run site, expresses its deepest sympathy for everyone involved. Many people pick themselves up, dust themselves down and carry on; none of the American UnrealSP staff are directly affected; but for other members of the community, their lives are changed forever. Promising fan fiction author Joeman, for example, is last seen on ICQ telling Hellscrag that all he really wants to do is get down to New York and help any way he can. Thereafter, he disappears from the Unreal community.
It's not until the end of the month that things start to get back to normal, with updates on Operation Na Pali, Nali Chronicles and MMAN UGITU's new project The Beginning. But somewhere along the line, The Landing gets cancelled, with its creator perhaps more shaken up by the events of 9/11 than he himself realised.
The End of the Year
October to December 2001 see life in the Unreal community returning to its full level of activity, reporting screenshots and other mapping news, and of course reviewing maps. In October the site switches forums to hosting with UnrealTournament.org, who successfully import the old EZBoard database into their vBulletin system.
Meanwhile, UnrealSP.Org sees its first map release since the site was opened: The Landing Unfinished is released by Hellscrag on the 21st October. Meanwhile, new projects are announced exclusively to UnrealSP.Org, including Skull by newbie mapper TheChief7, who would later release the project as The Odyssey under the alias of SarevoK, and Kenophobia metomorphoses into Spatial Fear.
Karmadude goes missing from the site in October having written only one fan fiction review, but at the end of the month MMAN UGITU makes his debut as a reviewer for the site, with a guest review of The Rescue of PaNunu. His early reviews overrate maps even compared to UnrealSP's generous (and much criticised by DavidM & co.) scoring techniques, but these distorted ratings quickly calm down and are more than made up for by MMAN UGITU's enthusiasm.
November sees the deletion of the old Nali City archive of Unreal single player maps from the old PlanetUnreal hosting. For a while UnrealSP.Org's download links are left broken until they are switched temporarily to unpopular Fileplanet downloads, but Daniel Norton's Thrall Village pack vanishes into the ether. The month also sees UnrealSP.Org's first interview, with Willis and Hellscrag, and the first change to the site's visual design since it opened - a backdrop image of Bluff Eversmoking.
UnrealSP.Org sees its second map release in late November: Hourences' Ortican.
December sees more of the same. Overall it has been a good first six months of the site, and remains the most active content-producing period in the site's history (with the exception of September). UnrealSP.Org enters 2002 with its position established as the premier Unreal single player site.
2002 - A New Look for the Site
On 3rd January, MMAN UGITU MMAN UGITUes The Beginning to start afresh on The Journey. January is generally quiet but also sees the release, exclusive to UnrealSP.Org, of Noailiat's second story Avenging Angel. It is reviewed a week later by a returning Karmadude, writing his second and final fan fiction review for the site. Meanwhile Nali City, temporarily at least, makes its archive of Unreal maps available for download once again.
Naveed leaves the team in February, having written three map reviews and one featured article; his own maps remain unfinished. His departure represents UnrealSP.Org's first loss of a major team member.
On 24th February, UnrealSP.Org is relaunched with its present "framed" and yellow-bordered look and feel. Feedback is mixed, but the design is retained. Xidia is announced in March, slipping in under the Operation Na Pali radar with a slew of appetising-looking screenshots. In April, Karmadude officially departs from the site, leaving his work as fan fiction reviewer unfinished.
Over the week of the 12th to the 19th of April, UnrealSP.Org migrates from Freedom2surf to cheaper hosting with Supanames.co.uk. A significant financial burden is lifted from the site, but the domain is now unable to store files of over 1MB in size, and must look elsewhere for such hosting. Enigma joins the team as the new fan fiction reviewer on the day the site reopens, and prepares for his comprehensive re-review of Noailiat's first story.
Meanwhile, Xidia is released, stealing a march on Operation Na Pali, and swiftly raises the bar on what to expect from high-tech mapping, no longer the domain of drab, generic facilities. The pack is reviewed five days later.
Waffnuffly's Attacked! is released in May, and whilst much delayed, it represents the first large map pack to be conceived, announced and released entirely under the watchful eye of UnrealSP.Org. Mid-month, the site gains a new PHP news system and, briefly at least, zynthetic and Techno JF are able to update the news page themselves.
4th June finally sees the release of Operation Na Pali, which quietly revolutionises single player mapping. From now on DavidM's new natural lighting style will be seen in many releases for both single player and multiplayer gametypes. The review, despite some concerns, gives the pack the site's first and only perfect ten.
As UnrealSP.Org approaches its first anniversary, the forums migrate to Bombardiers.Org and Enigma delivers his first fan fiction review, a very thorough examination of Kran's Fall: Kira's Struggle - another bar is raised. But the anniversary itself passes without a fanfare.
The Second Year Begins
July begins with the publication of Enigma's second fan fiction review, of Avenging Angel by Noailiat; Karmadude's work is now entirely replaced. Team Phalanx also announce Xidia: The Escape, their follow-up to the original Xidia saga (later to become part of Xidia Gold), and it looks even more promising than the original. The mapping scene is generally quiet at this juncture, but UnrealSP.Org continues to turn out content, including an Operation Na Pali speedrun guide by MMAN UGITU. In August MMAN UGITU attempts to initiate an UnrealSP.Org collaborative map pack, but it doesn't go ahead. The Custom Map Reviews page is overhauled to something resembling its present layout, and the first Second Opinions are added to the reviews themselves. Mister prophet joins the UnrealSP.Org team to provide further second opinions of reviewed map packs.
September 2002 sees a number of things: firstly, there's an overhaul of the tips page to match the reviews page. Then UnrealSP.Org scores an interview with Hourences and Mister Prophet of Team Phalanx, and two days later the demo of Unreal Tournament 2003 is released. In the face of this significant news for the broader Unreal community, it's business as usual for UnrealSP.Org: Hellscrag publishes a lengthy map-by-map critique of Operation Na Pali, and Team Phalanx's Xidia Gold makes it to release.
The release of Unreal Tournament 2003 has failed to dent the enthusiasm of the hardcore Unreal single player community, and the major projects rumble on over the coming months. Nali Chronicles re-awakens from a long slumber and begins progressing again, along with SarevoK's The Odyssey. At the end of November, a release date is finally announced for Spatial Fear.
December 2002 sees the unfortunate UnrealSP.Org forum community messed about with for the fifth time. Rather than cooperate with the existing forum hosts, Hellscrag launches a phpBB forum on UnrealSP.Org's very own server, now with the opportunity to host forums for other people. This forum will continue to function until an unfortunate database incident in May 2003. Meanwhile, Spatial Fear slips its release date by a day, but eventually emerges to a lukewarm reception. A damning review is produced by Drevlin and eVOLVE, later retracted because the review was written before the reviewers had completed the map pack. A new review with a more forgiving score; the Spatial Fear team promise to rectify the gameplay complaints.
Xidia Gold is reviewed by guest reviewer SarevoK, and Enigma produces his third and final (to date) fan fiction review, of Tobler1's Survive It!
The bonus pack for Unreal Tournament 2003 promises a gametype featuring Unreal monsters, but there is still no real support for single player mods.
2003 And the Genesis of Deja Vu
January 2003 is a quiet month in the Unreal SP community. Unreal II: The Awakening goes gold and UnrealSP.Org begins a long overdue transition to cascading style sheet (CSS) formatting; this transition remains incomplete in the Walkthroughs area to this day. Spatial Fear is patched for the first time in February, and an article assessing the newly released Unreal 2 as a sequel to Unreal is promised but never delivered. There is short-lived interest among the community in mapping for Unreal II, but this quickly subsides; Nali City, unfortunately, finally pulls its archive of Unreal maps off the life support machine, and UnrealSP.Org is forced to link its reviews to Fileplanet once again in February.
Fan fiction is experiencing a popular phase through March and April, with stories being turned out by the chapter by Waffnuffly and Eightball Maniac, and the release of Noailiat's fourth story, Luca's Awakening. Unfortunately, there is no active fan fiction reviewer to address these titles.
At the end of March, the PHP news system dies, still awaiting replacement to this day.
April and May are quiet months overall, but in mid-May there is the genesis of an idea on the forums: that the UnrealSP.Org forum community should band together to create a collaborative map pack in time for the site's second anniversary in June. This time the project is successful; Hellscrag tests the waters by suggesting a few map themes, and with an eye on different mappers' talents (plus existing maps donated or completed for the project by Waffnuffly and Jaunie), an outline of fourteen playable maps is proposed. The team has four weeks in which to do the work, and everybody hunkers down to work on their contribution.
Unfortunately, the phpBB forum database dies on the 21st May without a functioning backup. A new forum is swiftly opened over on the domain Hellscrag.net, which has the advantage of unlimited webspace. That forum functions to this day.
Teaser shots for the mysterious collaborative map pack are released on 29th May.
The Release of Deja Vu v1.0
After three very quiet weeks on the news page, Deja Vu - Gryphon Revisited v1.0 arrives with a "crash". Pieced together in a hurry, it is riddled with bugs and full of misaligned textures and incomplete maps, but none the less is a remarkable achievement for a four week development cycle. After a quick 1.01 patch to fix a show-stopping release bug, Drevlin and eVOLVE return to lacerate the map pack in a harsh but fair review. The team promise to fix the pack up to release v1.10 over the coming weeks.
With Deja Vu finally arrives a solution to the hosting problem since the loss of Nali City's support for its Unreal map archive: zynthetic launches UnrealSPVault.Org! The companion site to UnrealSP.Org itself begins to host the classic Unreal map packs of varying quality that many had though lost (despite Lightning Hunter's best attempts to list them all on his own Unreal reviews site).
Deja Vu v1.10 fails to materialise through July and August, although some of the improvements being made are publicised. The following months are quiet overall, but there seems to have been a renewed interest in single player mapping, and Drevlin announces a new project whilst other small map packs are released. Unexpectedly, the first half of Nali Chronicles is released in August, along with the 1995 technology demo of Unreal as discovered by a member of the BeyondUnreal forums. Meanwhile, UnrealSPVault.Org strengthens its role as UnrealSP.Org's custom map reviews begin linking to it for downloads.
Mister Prophet releases a new map, Na Pali Haven: Redux, and for the first time a map is reviewed on UnrealSP.Org before it is released! Meanwhile, TheEmperorStalwartUK joins the forums with the promise of a major new project entitled Unreal: Return to Mars, but drops it straight away and threatens to usurp MMAN UGITU as the word for "TESUKed" projects.
The UnrealSP.Org forumers who worked on Deja Vu begin discussing the possibility of a collaborative sequel to Unreal.
The Unreal Sequel and Seven Bullets
September is a quiet month on the news page, but only because the community is extremely busy behind the scenes. The sequel discussions have expanded into an entire forum, as the team grows and the threads multiply. By October the sequel map outline has been dropped and restarted from scratch, with consolidation of the team and the development forum "going private". However, the mapping bug is contagious, and other projects are seeping in on the sidelines. TheEmperorStalwartUK, after a brief stint on the UnrealSP.Org sequel team, returns to work on Unreal: Return to Mars and drops largely out of contact with the site for a while after a period of widespread disputes on the forums.
November sees the announcement of an exciting new project: 7 Bullets, a successor to Xidia Gold, which will return to the planet of the Nali for the first time. Quite a few new projects seem to be going on in the background at this time, and a batch of Deja Vu v2.0 teaser shots, including new maps by Drevlin and Hellscrag, are published on the 23rd.
Christmas 2003 sees the unexpected release for Spatial Fear v1.2, a year after the pack's original release. A few things change as Drevlin drops his third solo project since the site opened, followed by the release of EXU, "An Incredibly Screwed-Up Mod by Waffnuffly".
Although the community is experiencing a very high level activity, the UnrealSP.Org news page is very quiet during this time. The Team UnrealSP site (as it is now known) officially opens its doors in March, making the UnrealSP.Org sequel "official" as a project. Unreal Tournament 2004 is released, and kicks its predecessor Unreal Tournament 2003's arse right out the window, but still fails to offer great resources for single player mappers; the focus for single player mapping therefore remains on Unreal and Unreal Tournament.
A New Period of Activity
April 2004 sees a resucitation of life to the UnrealSP.Org news page and the arrival of a couple of new projects, and the Unreal Sequel, Unreal: Battle for Na Pali, gains its proper title. Development is now underway on the sequel, with many of the discussions out of the way, and new projects are springing up all over the place elsewhere. Unreal: Return to Mars also gains its own web site.
Over the course of the month of May, work really begins in earnest to build Deja Vu v2.0 in time for the site's third anniversary.
The Third Anniversary Season
UnrealSP.Org's third anniversary arrives on 21st June 2004, and with it the announcement that Deja Vu v2.0 has been delayed... but only for a week. With it, UnrealSPVault.Org also reaches its first anniversary, having already served the Unreal single player community admirably for a year. At the same time, news comes from SarevoK that he is ready to resume work on The Odyssey and finish the map pack.
As part of the third anniversary season, a full Level Design section is added to UnrealSP.Org and significantly expanded to include a collection of tips culled from the forums. Deja Vu v2.0 is finally released, only nine days after its release was originally planned, and much improved (with four completely new maps as part of the package and several drastically overhauled and extended). Much like v1.0, v2.0 is rapidly patched to v2.01 as a problem is discovered with the difficulty settings.
July sees the Deja Vu v2.01 hype machine continuing, with the publication of an FAQ, the "Critic's Choice Awards" and a comprehensive guest review by ZBREAKER2001 and ThickAsABrick. At the same time, projects appear from various quarters including Skaarj Tower by Drew and the latest story from Noailiat.
August 2004 to Present Day
August 2004 sees a few loose ends tied up, including the release of SarevoK's The Odyssey, and some new beginnings including the arrival of Dead Cow Studios with the upcoming project The Chosen One, the publication of UnrealSP.Org's leading article on "Conceptual Grandness", and the commencement of a series of "Map of the Week" discussions on the forums. Drew's Skaarj Tower - Shadow and Fire is released, but has to wait an unfairly long time for a review.
During this time, it is finally decided that the old UnrealSP.Org map review schema is out of date, and the new, harsher schema, which incorporates Conceptual Grandness, is rolled out with the reviews of The Odyssey and The Tower of Zi'ki. A programme of rewrites for old reviews is initiated, beginning with Hollow, Hexephet and Gramercy. During this time a fix for the long-broken map pack Valley of Alshar is made available, and the latter map pack is also given a major review overhaul.
September sees further growth in upcoming projects, with the arrival of N-Team and the ambitious The Sundered Realms. The 7 Bullets hype machine rolls into gear, with the publication of an exclusive interview with Mister Prophet regarding the mod.
UnrealSPVault.Org v2.0 goes live in late October, providing a "leet" new service for Unreal single player fans. More upcoming projects are announced, bringing on an unprecedented level of activity in the SP mapping community, until the next big news: the release of 7 Bullets at the end of November, to much fanfare and a very positive review some five days later.
7 Bullets provokes further interest in SP mapping, and projects continue to flood in over the early months of 2005.
The intervening period has shown few major releases (apart from the recent arrival of the full version of Nali Chronicles), but a consistent supply of news and new projects, and continued activity on the forums. Some formerly active members of the community have drifted away, but the new crowd is keeping the Unreal SP community alive admirably, with some exciting new projects underway, particularly Team Red Nemesis' latest undertaking Residual Decay.
It is hoped that, following its fourth anniversary, UnrealSP.Org will continue to be a thriving and popular hub for the activities of the Unreal single player community!