Elite Force 1.37 Patch: In Depth Review

I’ve been using the 1.37 patch for about 3 weeks now, and there has been some dispute about it. I imagine the dispute stems from a variety of things. One, being that the previous versions of the IOEF patch have had it’s share of problems and should have been considered beta, 2) EF hasn’t had an update in years and people aren’t willing to deal with new tweaks, or new bugs.

Overall I’m pretty happy with the results of 1.37. Some of the old tweaks that many of us are used to using to get the game up to par are unnecessary now.

Earlier versions had some terrible sound issues. Some people would lag out completely. The OpenAL implementation in 1.37 seems to work perfectly. And the sound is noticeably better. I particularly notice a difference with the tetrion, and the photon. It almost sounds like whole new sounds have been added to the game.

I haven’t had a chance to try out the windows server. I had issues with previous versions on windows when it came to mods. I assume these issues are gone as the Linux version seems to run fine. I *have* updated the Beer Garden servers with the Linux version of the server. The first problem I encountered was the server would hang on startup. This was due to the ban list being too large. I had the ban list stored in a file and would reload it every time the server started. Interestingly, I know that the ban list in EF is pretty worthless and doesn’t hold many bans, but instead of letting the error slide like 1.2 would, the new version kicked it out with an error letting me know what was going on. After getting rid of some 3 and 4 year old bans, I didn’t have much problem getting most mods to run.

The cpu power the server uses is a bit more on par with quake 3 now, EF is typically pretty easy on system resources and it was pretty easy to run a server on older processors without any problems. It is still as easy but there is a noticeable increase in CPU utilization.

I’m pretty impressed with the server overall. I had been starting to worry about the mounting security exploits being found in the q3 engine. While ID Software released the 1.32c update to address a lot of these, it is highly unlikely that Raven will ever address them in an official capacity given the fact they don’t even sell the game anymore. ID had no choice with quake 3 as there is still a large player base and the punkbuster code is proprietary and was never released under the GPL.

A lot of the bugs us long time EF players have grown accustomed to have disappeared. Here are a few of them I noticed.

– Bots on a password protected server no longer crash the server.
– Invalid PK3 Files Referenced error that happens when you connect during a map change… seems as if this is worked out.
– Invisible Player Bug… This is actually a combination of a few bugs, but I haven’t seen this yet either.

Trench Jumping Controversy
In early versions of the Quake 3 engine including Elite Force, there was a ‘bug’ that allowed certain magical fps settings to give a player an advantage of higher jumping and moving quicker than normal across the map. Later on this was ‘fixed’ in Quake 3. The problem was how certain vectors were rounded. The correct way is to ignore fractions and round to 0. So 5.6 would equal 5, however early versions of quake 3 (and ef) would take 5.6 and make it equal 6. The full technical explanation is here.
http://www.beer-garden.n5net.com/bg2/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=2 (no longer valid link)

This behavior had to be recreated in the 1.37 patch. Because of this you have to have the pak9x.pk3 file installed.

Now there seems to be some confusion and debate as to the fact if you can trench jump. The truth is, yes you can.

Patched Server + Patched Client = Yes Trench Jumping Fine
Unpatched Server + Patched Client = Yes Trench Jumping Fine
Unpatched Client + Patched Server = only if both have pak9x.pk3

If you have the pak9x.pk3 file anyone can play on a patched server and trench jump. Since this pak file doesn’t affect much else, you’ll also be able to play on unpatched servers without a problem.

The pak9x file needs to be present on the patched server as well — otherwise you wont be able to trench jump, *period*. A few servers have made the mistake of not including this file on the server causing trench jumping not to work. This seems to have also caused more apprehension about the patch.

You will run into problems with some mods, as mods will need to update the vector math code to emulate the rounding error. All my mods should be updated shortly.

Pros:
As a server admin and a modder who is constantly entering stuff into the console, I find the persistent console history awesome. Even after you shutdown and restart the game now stores that last things you entered into the console. This is a welcome addition in my eyes.

In-game downloads via http is another plus in my book. Too many players are too lazy to go download a custom map, assuming they know where to find it, and downloading in-game brings back nightmares of the 56k modem days, Before, download speeds where capped at the sv_maxrate set on the server. The 1.37 patch allows you to set a web URL where downloads can come from, meaning you can download as fast as your connection (or the web server) allows for. An in-game download that would have taken over an hour can now be downloaded in game in seconds. Most of my EF Mods where server side only because of the fact that in-game downloads where way too slow and most people are too lazy to download something to try out a mod they may or may not like.

I’m not noticing a huge difference in the video, It does look crisper, but I wouldn’t put it as a selling point, at least not on windows.

MAC users can finally see their photons when they shoot em with this patch. I don’t know how mac users managed to play EF without being able to see their photons, that would throw me off way too much. I’m happy to see they don’t have to live with this disadvantage anymore.

Cons:
Some of the things I don’t like are pretty major to me. The main thing is that screenshots, downloaded maps, and your hmconfig.cfg now get stored in the Application Data folder of the current user on windows system.

While this makes perfect sense and enables each user on a machine to have their own configuration and screenshots. The fact that the Application Data folder by default is a hidden folder on windows systems is a problem. The other problem with this is that maps that are downloaded are also stored in this folder, meaning if one user does an in-game download of a map, that map is only available to that user, and cannot be used by another user on the same machine without re-downloading. This is great if someone else likes the TOS weapon pack and you hate it, as it won’t be shared and screw up your game. But I don’t care for the potential of excessive disk space usage by having multiple copies of the same map — that is, one copy for each user on the machine. I see the potential for problems and confusion with this. I would like to see this new behavior as option that defaults to off, and if enabled the maps should still be downloaded to a ‘shared’ baseEF.

I do like the idea of not having someone else using your computer screwing up your settings. But the auto downloaded maps being stored there is a problem.

gameadmins.com have done a few reports on the widespread exploits of some of the recently found holes in Quake 3, EF 1.2 remains vulnerable to these and some of these are quite nasty. I’m glad, especially as a server admin, to see that someone has taken the time to address these.

I think it’s fair to point out that I’m very for this patch. I think highly of the IOQ3 engine and have been working with it for the last year for Trepidation (http://www.planettrepidation.com). I think the folks who are putting work into the IOQ3 engine are some of the most talented people out there. I also am very much for the patch due to knowing exactly what some of the security problems with EF are. Being one who plays a lot of quake 3, I’ve seen what these exploits are capable of.

Grab the patch here (WINDOWS):
http://www.beer-garden.n5net.com/downloads/?lid=84

All others:
http://thilo.kickchat.com/efport-progress/

Also See: Interview: Thilo Schulz, EF 1.37 Patch Author, IOQ3 Maintainer:
http://www.beer-garden.n5net.com/bg2/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=131

I’d be interested in hearing some additional comments about their experiences with the patch.. Post em in the comments.

About Shafe

Brian Shaffer is a veteran programmer, programming professionally since 1991. His first gaming computer was a Commodore Vic-20 in the 80s. Shafe founded The Beer Garden on October 23, 2004 and continues to run and maintain it along with several members of the gaming community.