April 4th marks the 3 year anniversary, we will be hanging out on mumble and IRC playing babel and other game modes this weekend. Stop by and hang out with us. Sign up for the badge by posting in this topic. This topic will stay open for few days, the exact date is to be determined.
Below is a brief history of Ace of Spades from my perspective. Bonus points if your post includes the point in the story you joined the community.
Also, the badge still needs to be designed. If you have and ideas or concepts post those too.
The Text Message
Ben, aka bcoolface, sent me a text April 4th, 2011 while I was at work. “Hey, I made a game you should check it out”. I asked him a bunch of questions while I was at work and eagerly waited to try it out when I got back to my apartment.
I downloaded and installed the game and couldn’t get the client to run. I was doubleclicking it from the Ace of Spades folder. I couldn’t figure it out so I called Ben. He told me I had to go to the play page and click the only server listed, and then he gave me a quick tutorial on what to do in game.
I still remember the first time I joined a game. I ran over a hill and saw a fort alongside a pond and some guy, which was probably bcoolface, making another fort in the distance. I went to the fort and leveled it. I immediately called another friend and said you have to check this out.
For the first few days anyone playing was a person either Ben or I knew personally. One server six people max. But by Saturday morning that changed, the web server was swamped with traffic and Ben had to put up the iconic basic white background server-list page. It literally went from one server that was never full to a 30 minute wait, if you were lucky, to play the game with multiple servers that you could join.
Before the Purchase
There were roughly two months between the release of Ace of Spades and Jagex purchasing it. During that time frame we saw a lot of quick updates and bug fixes. The community established a culture of modding everything. At first modding was limited to kv6’s, the file format for the in-game models. Over the course of a few updates, the community was making maps, gun sights, and a little project called Pyspades was started by Mat^2. Pyspades was an open source server implementation for Ace of Spades. It allowed people to hook into any game function and override it via python scripts. It opened the door for some very creative gamemodes and server-side features.
Seeing everything the community was creating, Ben wanted a way to keep working on the game and pay his bills. Jagex offered to buy the game and let Ben keep developing it. They had another project they were working on in NYC and they wanted Ben to join that team so they could help finish the game. Ben’s first day of work at that office was the same day the server-list was exploited and had links and images to very inappropriate material.
Jagex didn’t want the community to know they owned the rights to the game. They felt it would ruin the indie image of the game. However, they wanted to hire people to help finish Ace of Spades and they needed a name for the letterhead apparently. The New York office was in Soca, “South of Canal Street”, and it seems like the perfect name for the studio.
Over the course of a few months, they hired a handful of people both within and outside of the community. Finally mid October 2011, they officially announced that Soca Studios would help finish the game. Overall the reception from the community was great; the announcement reassured everyone that the game was going to be finished. People were genuinely happy knowing Ben got the help he needs to finish his magnum opus.
Pulling the Plug
Two of the big wigs from the New York Office flew to the UK to visit Jagex’s HQ in Cambridge the weekend before Thanksgiving. The Friday after Thanksgiving, Ben called to let me know that Jagex was shutting down all operations in the USA and everyone’s job was on the line and the CEO wanted to meet with him to discuss moving to the UK to finish the game. Jagex quickly shut down the New York and California studios before Christmas.
0.75 And the OpenGL Client
Ben continued working on updates and new features for Ace of Spades. 0.75 added sprinting and click and drag building to the game.
While Ben was working on 0.75, Mat^2 also began working on an OpenGL implementation of the client. It was so beautiful that Ben declared the OpenGL client would now be the primary focus and it would be what distinguishes 1.0 from the older versions of the game. We would have the same gameplay and the same customizability we were used too but with better graphics and a handful of new weapons. The older versions wouldn’t be shut down and would act as a demo for new players.
The Beginning of Jagex’s Heavy Oversight
There were telltale signs that bcoolface was losing creative control of the game. A quick minor update to 0.75 existed but was never officially endorsed; Ben couldn’t get the higher ups to sign off on the update. Why didn’t they sign off on 0.76 to officially replace 0.75 and why Ben needed sign offs anyway is anyone’s guess.
In July 2012, Ben made an attempt to quit. He was frustrated because he wanted to hire more people to help finish the game. Jagex responded by saying his contract did not allow him to quit on the spot without a penalty. Ben and Jagex reached an agreement, he would stay and they would hire key talent from within the community. Many people were initially contacted but none were employed.
The Admins and Moderators Meet Sally the Butcher and Sniped
Before I dive into what happened in our first few conversations with them, let me point out that the community had been managed by volunteers for well over a year at the time of meeting them. Those volunteers came from the community with no corporate oversight. The Ace of Spades community ran itself; Ben merely paid the hosting cost. In that time frame, a lot of content was generated, 1000’s of maps, 1000’s of kv6 models, new gamemodes, countless threads troubleshooting problems within all aspects of the game; a treasure trove of information.
The first meeting was supposed to be a two way discussion on how volunteers could work hand and hand with Jagex employees to create a synergy between community and developers. Instead we were told in a week they would wipe the forums and all of us would be stripped of all our previous decision making and authority and we had the choice of becoming a Community Ambassador. By becoming Community Ambassadors, the greater community would see familiar faces accepting the new way of doing things and in turn they would accept it too. Some people seemed to be ok with it and others were adamantly against it. Arguments broke out, Sally and Sniped arrogantly reassured everyone they get paid to run communities. The counter argument was Jagex was absent from the community for well over a year and they didn’t know the nuances of the community and not taking the time to do so would be extremely detrimental. We asked very specific questions and we were met with very general answers like “Jagex has specialists for that” and “Jagex has being doing this for x years”.
In the end, Sally the Butcher and Sniped decided not to immediately wipe the forums. However, instead of spending that time to learn about the community, they continued to argue with the volunteer staff of ace-spades.com for the next few months.
A Player Ran Alternative
Stack, izzy, and I began talking about the implications of the tone and wording used by both Sally and Sniped. It felt as if Jagex’s vision of the game would not stay true to the original and their ultimate goal was to cover up the original’s existence. Having no official record of the game’s history would allow them to rebrand as they saw fit. We wanted to preserve the old game and community.
We didn’t know what to call it. We wanted a name that showed we were no longer associated with Jagex but also we wanted a name that stayed true to Ace of Spades and anyone who ever played or heard of the game would instantly know what it meant. We ended using the very ubiquitous sounding “Build and Shoot”.
Ben told us he put in his 3 month notice and would be leaving Jagex. We knew with Ben no longer being actively part of the game, we had to be ready to launch Build and Shoot as soon as possible. We set a date, originally November 1st, but after talking to Chim he suggested November 5th, Guy Fawkes Day in the UK. He rewrote the gun powder treason poem to parody Ace of Spades. It was genius, we had to use it.
Chim wrote:Remember, RememberNovember – The Clash
The fifth of November,
The alternative community plot.
I know of no reason
Why the Ace of Spades community
Should ever be forgot.
A lot of information was revealed to the community after they relaunched the site in November.
- No map making.
No kv6 modding.
No player ran game servers.
No admin commands.
4 classes that didn't fit the feel and aesthetics of the old game.
No classic gen
No master server for the pre 1.0 versions
The Master Server, the Serverlist, and the Launcher
Knowing that the master server was going to be shut down before the release of the Steam version, we made it a priority to create our own. Thankfully Stack cracked the master server code just in time, and finished it days before Jagex shut down their master server. We updated pyspades so each server would point to our master server instead of the old one. Stack also created the serverlist used on the site. Initially both the master server and serverlist were limited to 0.75 but now both support all versions of the original Voxlap AoS client.
We didn't initially know if we were going to support multiple versions of Voxlap. There were people who wanted to switch to 0.76 and there were people who wanted to stay on 0.75 and there were people who wanted to play even older versions. Who are we to decide who plays what? We decided to instead provide the infrastructure to let server owners host the server of their choice and provide a launcher to let players play multiple versions without needing to constantly install and uninstall and re-install again.
An Alternative Client
The Voxlap version of the client isn’t easy to add new features to and essentially limits the community to swapping out existing default assets to custom ones. To have the ability to add extra items like a side arm, for example, we needed something else. The community knew we needed something else. Several projects were started to create an open source client and some initially got traction and were playable. Eventually, the community was introduced to OpenSpades, an open source Opengl client created as a Mac port for 0.75, made by yvt. Out of the box anyone interested in testing it out could join a populated server and see for themselves how OpenSpades looked and felt. Subsequent updates were made improving the feel of OpenSpades and patching little bugs here and there. We still haven’t seen a sidearm added to any fork of OpenSpades but we do have hit beep indicators in TopoSpades. And people are actively working to expand OpenSpades.
What are Our Future Plans with Build and Shoot?
Our overall goal is to continue to provide and improve the infrastructure to allow the community to be creative and inventive and contribute how they see fit. We have quite a few projects we are working on which will improve the in-game experience and the forum experience.