State of the Art - ET and its current problems
Since there has been so many problems in ET community lately, with a shrinking playerbase, i decided to write a brief “state of the art” on ET, describing the problems it is currently facing, and why you, probably as a new player, have to overcome so many hurds in order to play the actual game. It also should give you, as a newbie, some great insights on how much playground you are given with this game, beeing able to modify nearly every part of it, from creating maps until creating small addon mods.
Disclaimer: there could be some subtle faults in the following description. Do not take everything i say here for absolutely granted, and in fact many descriptions are kept easy, in order to not go too much into detail, to let a newbie be able to follow more easily. Also i am not a native english speaker, so some grammatical faults might be inside this text, somewhere.
Things you can enjoy in the W:ET environment:
Not only can you play the game as a normal player, enjoying the nice teamgame experience, or simply frag away, there are some more subtle things you can do for ET. These things regard creating items for ET, mapping/modding/editing.
Since ET is a child of id software, it follows a great tradition of beeing modifyable from within the source code. So if you are an aspirant, you should know that there is a ETSDK and a ETGPL source code package beeing freely available. From both source code basis you can go ahead and dive deep into id3tech and wolfet.
With Radiant you also have the chance to create maps. The main place where you can ask questions is here, at Splash Damage Forums.
As a result of the mapping efforts by many nice people, you can download many mapitems to the game, which come in addition to the 6 standard maps. Make sure to take a visit at wolffiles.de to see whats out there. But normally, you do not have to install any of these to your game installation directory since it will be done automatically for you when you are attempting to play one of these maps on a server, which got it in his maprotation.
Modding/Small Addons for the game:
Many small mods are also existing for the game, like simple texture replacements, up to more advanced stuff, like different models etc.
Most problems already start when you try to install the game: see here for a an excellent guide on how to install it manually on Windows 7. However, even after the correct installation of your game, you are still facing Punkbuster issues. To overcome, and to place it in this paragraph, you can use Harlekings ET installer, the problems will be explained in the following paragraphs. In short: the ET installer fixes issues you might have with Punkbuster.
Punkbuster was once the cheat protection support for ET. The core unit installs itself automatically with the game, some additional services can be configured by a server admin. Unfortunately PB dropped support. At the time it was still an integral and supported part of WET, you had to do nothing but update your PB client in order to play on updated servers as well. Since you cannot update your PB anymore, and PB does not offer any “latest up to date” packages for download and update to the latest version, you are forced to either play on non PB servers, which do not kick you for certain PB related issues, or you will have to download yourself an ET installer, which also solves the lack of etkey generation and the “missing and updated pb files” problem, so that you can play on servers, which have PB turned on by default.
The etkey problem:
Back in the days you could find an etkey file in your et installation. It mainly was a unique identifier, beeing handed out to you by the pb master server. This little file, nowadays, will not be created for you anymore, since PB simply dropped supporting it. The file at that time served Punkbuster as identifying players and assign bans to certain guids beeing created by the etkey.
Why would you care about that file ? Well easy. Most servers still run the most recent Punkbuster version on their servers, in order to be not totally exposed to all the cheats. It might have some subtle advantages as well, i am no server admin. Since they run a server with Punkbuster code still working, it relies on certain functionality, which must be present at the client. One of this functionality it relies on is the presence of an etkey. If it does not find any, you will be kicked from servers with PB on. Therefore you need to create one yourself by going to etkey.org, or enjoy the creation of it automatically by some community made installers, which some of them, also connect to etkey.org to download yourself a key. However, this solution is currently an emergency solution, and you can get an etkey from etkey.org, as long as it is supported.
So if you somehow managed to get the latest pb client files and join a server with pb enabled, you will most likely get kicked for not having an etkey on your installation directory.
The latest PB files:
Since PB does not offer them, and you want to play on servers with PB enabled, you have to get them by community made installers or from somewhere else, maybe a friend (as said above already).
Again about etkey:
Another problem with no etkey in your install dir, is that most mods rely on it for special features they offer. One example, and the most important you will probably consider, is the feature of xpsave. When you leave a server, and come back to it some days, plain et would make you start from 0 xp again. Some mods however, make you continue with your old xp, storing it somewhere on the server in a database. This storing information must be assigned to you as a player, so you must get identified somehow. This is what the etkey file was used for in most of the mods. So simple spoken: even when you join a mod with xpsave feature, it will not get saved to you, when you do not have an etkey file, because the server, running one of these mods, does not recognize you anymore.
It could happen someday that the masterseverlist is down. In that case, you can always browse the excellent splatterladdersite, as they do not seem to rely on the masterserver (disclaimer: i could be wrong here).
However, even when it is up, you might want to browse these sites and join a server via the ingame /connect command via the console. The reason is: the masterserverlist is full of fake server and redirects. Mostly it is dishonest server admins trying to get their servers full, by faking serverinfo compononents, making it appear that there are many players on the server from the ingame browser, while in fact, there are only 2 or 3 people playing on it. It could also be some redirect to malicious servers, i heard of this (rumors ? i heard of shaders and overflows, therefore it should be safe to use 2.6b patch (however this information is very vague, because it is not derived from my technical understanding, and only reading from some ominous sites). As the sites described above do filter these fake servers, it is saver to browse their server list, instead of the unreliable masterserverlist, which is victim of malicous and stupid server admins.
If you like this post, make sure to thump me up, so that i can finally get out of the red. I hereby apologize for all the bad (but mostly justified) complain threads i did in the past. ET is still a dirty place. Have fun!!