Build And Shoot: How The Community Is Rebuilding Ace Of Spades After Jagex Took Over

Ace Of Spades

There’s long been a stigma surrounding PC gaming and its apparent inaccessibility, which is purportedly due to the high cost of maintaining a rig that has the latest hardware so that you can run the most recent releases on the highest settings possible. There’s a truth in this, but only if you want to play specific games and to a particularly high quality as standard. For those who aren’t as fussed about all of that, you can participate in the world of PC gaming by seeking out less demanding games. Hence, one of the draws of playing indie games is that quite a lot of them can probably run on your grandmother’s toaster.

One such game that has drawn a community due to its very low system requirements, amongst many other things, was Ace of Spades. The “was” in that last sentence being of note as the game’s most recent release has alienated those with older and less capable PCs. But why would the developer do such a thing to their own community, one that is supposedly 2.5 million strong nonetheless? Simple. It’s not the same developer.

Ben Aksoy released Ace of Spades back in April of 2011 to nothing more than a whisper from people who had heard about it and started to play in its servers. It was a simple game, one that could be best described as Minecraft meets Team Fortress, or any online multiplayer FPS really. Therefore it tapped into two popular and community-focused game blueprints and did a neat job at bringing the best of both of these worlds together. Most important of the game’s design was that it was simple through and through. From the graphics, to the gameplay and how the community were able to interact with the game – adding their own content and hosting their own servers – Ace of Spades was friendly to pretty much all. On top of that, it was completely free, so what’s not to love?

Ace Of Spades



“The game itself has a low learning curve, just a quick install and you’re ready to join a server. No registrations, no confirmations, you just play the game. While that design has its disadvantages in some aspects, it’s a great selling point.”


Naturally, word about the game started to spread and at no cost to the developer; this was completely organic growth with not a single dime spent on marketing. Not like that was an option anyway. Ben was unemployed when he released Ace of Spades and continued to remain in a tight spot, financially speaking, for many months after. As interest in the game grew, not only did players see the potential, but so did a large company – Jagex, to be precise. So when Jagex approached him with a monetary offer, it didn’t take much to lure him in.

A little refresher for those who need it: Jagex created and still maintain Runescape which is the world’s largest free MMORPG and the most updated game there is. You’d think that as this development and publishing company has built their own success on the same tenets that made Ace of Spades popular – mostly a game that is free, enjoyable, accessible and very community focused – that they’d have their interests in the right place and know what they were doing with a game such as this. Whether or not they’ve succeeded financially, the community that built up around Ace of Spades since its initial release feel like they have been ignored and are ultimately left completely dissatisfied with how Jagex have handled the game and their treatment of them as its dedicated community.

Way Back in ’75…

“Jagex’s procedures for managing a community probably need a thorough review and audit”, Nathan Shoffner, one of the developers and moderators behind Build And Shoot, tells me.

Ace Of SpadesBuild And Shoot is essentially the 0.75 beta version of Ace of Spades, which is the last version to include procedurally generated battlefields, support for custom maps, a map editor, the modifying of models and sounds and the distribution and integration of community-made packs. Since then, the changes made to the game have been dictated by Jagex in the interest of their vision for the game, which turned out to be a more GPU demanding game released on Steam with an entry fee of $9.99. Build And Shoot is the game that originally brought people together and the community and developers behind it continue to build on it so it serves their interests.

“We are a community that aims to provide a safe harbor for the Voxlap version of Ace of Spades,” Nathan explained when I asked what Build And Shoot was all about. “All while giving users a place to be creative, voice their opinions, and of course, enjoy the game that brought them all together. We hope to take it to another level by expanding things both technically and socially as time progresses.”

Nathan first heard of Ace of Spades just a few days after its initial release, and was reluctant to try it out but after a friend of his wouldn’t stop nagging he did so and from there on was hooked to the game. What he found great about Ace of Spades from the very start was its low learning curve and quick install – it was easy to set-up with no registrations or confirmations to encounter so you could jump right on in and start having fun. He soon became an integral part of the game’s development and was very active in building up the game’s community as one of the admins.

“When I first joined, there wasn’t much of a community, at least not in a structured sense,” Nathan reveals. “It was quite loose knit. There were some basic forums in place, but not much else. Danhezee was the other admin at the time and as we started talking a bit more, we began trying to shape the community. We started doing things like events with matches and map/mod competitions to help get people involved.”

So it was due to individuals like Nathan that such a strong community was active within Ace of Spades, putting in the effort so Ben could continue to improve the game based on the feedback they gave him. So when Jagex were introduced into the equation, you’d think that it would be very wise of them to listen very closely to these moderators in the community so that they could help improve the game as it was and towards what the community wanted it to be. As we know, the community existed because Ace of Spades was fun, free and accessible while providing plenty of customization options and community made extras.

“Initially, the original Ace of Spades staff tried to help steer Jagex’s community managers in the right direction, one that would help ease the transition for both themselves and the existing community,” Nathan told me. “Sadly, they didn’t take our advice – instead they did the complete opposite and the community is the one that is suffering because of it. They are quite trigger happy with banning whenever anybody raises any concerns that puts them in a negative light.”

Ace Of Spades Bans Ace Of Spades Banning

“We would have liked for them to take the community’s feedback into consideration while developing the Steam version, which includes slower-paced gameplay balances, modding, and privately managed servers to name a few hot topics. We also would have liked for the original community managers to continue maintaining the relationship we had developed with the community over a year’s worth of time, or at the very least been given the “stamp of approval” by Jagex.”

So things started spiralling when the Jagex community managers decided to go against the wishes of the original community and take the game where they thought it would serve them best. Perhaps it was the release on Steam that drove them in this direction, as they figured that the majority of players using this service would want better graphics for starters. In many ways, taking away the customization and making the game more similar to other mutliplayer FPS experiences with only a selection of maps and other options available probably does appeal to the mainstream player. But this was not what Ace of Spades was about – it didn’t exist to serve that community, but Jagex seemed determined to ensure that it did.



“The judgement of the community managers has been clouded by pre-existing differences between the old Ace of Spades staff and themselves. Even mentioning buildandshoot.com on the “official” forums has resulted in many people being banned.”


The original developer, Ben, couldn’t be relied on either as the deal he struck with Jagex “apparently wasn’t that good”, according to Nathan. “We know of two occasions when bcoolface [Ben] tried to buy the rights back,” Nathan continued, “And finally he just had enough and quit leading up to the 1.0 release.” So, at this point, the idea for Build and Shoot started to form.

“It was easy to see Jagex had no intentions in steering this game in a direction that would thrive or satisfy its existing userbase. While seeing this, danhezee, izzy, and myself (StackOverflow) decided to create a new community called Build and Shoot. We kept it secretive at first, mainly to resolve some legalities. By the time Jagex was ready to drop the free version, we were ready with our community.”

When One Become Two

Ace of Spades

It’s a pretty simple tale overall, and one that doesn’t paint Jagex in a particularly good tone. They’ve completely distanced themselves from the original community surrounding Ace of Spades and, in truth, there doesn’t seem to be much logic in this. Surely the intelligent thing to do would be to work with the community to build a better game from the one that they were already playing. At the very least you’d expect them to do what they’ve done for Runescape and that is to provide a “Classic” version of the game, which is essentially the beta version and is still free for anyone who wants to jump in. But no, Jagex didn’t do that. Instead they went off on their own accord and left the pretty huge player base quite unhappy. Then, when they start to ask them why they were doing it or making suggestions of how to handle the community they abandoned, they decide to issue bans. All in all, it seems to be an appalling way to handle a fan base.

As to the game they finally ended up releasing, the entire staff behind Build And Shoot agree that it’s “watered down” and exists as “more of a “spray and pray” game rather than a tactical one”. Nathan tells me that there were early versions of the OpenGL client that were tested a few months back and that these were more in-line with how they wanted Jagex to approach the development of the game. He says that they had the same feel as the beta versions but came with improved OpenGL rendering and capabilities. That’s all in the past now, though.

So the question is: now that Ace of Spades 1.0 has been released on Steam, how is Build And Shoot faring? The answer shouldn’t surprise you all that much.

“The response has been great so far. Traffic has been steadily increasing since our launch and we’ve experienced a boost since Jagex officially launched their game on Steam. It’s not uncommon for our player count to exceed that of the Steam version. Sadly, the same can’t be said on the Jagex front. The judgement of the community managers has been clouded by pre-existing differences between the old Ace of Spades staff and themselves. Even mentioning buildandshoot.com on the “official” forums has resulted in many people being banned. That doesn’t stop people from sharing it via other means though. If anything, them trying to censor the site has only made it more popular through some sort of “Voldemort effect.”

Ace Of SpadesSo generally things have been quite victorious for the original community, which is continuing to grow even now, and the great thing is that both versions of the game remain available. Jagex seem to be sticking with the same approach, and judging by their planned updates, there’s going to be no further effort to serve the beta community, most likely because they view them as not being a source of income. It may be the right thing to do as a business, but I have to say once again that not even considering to solve concerns amongst the original community is so foolish, and then to ban anyone who even mentions Build And Shoot is just outright ridiculous. I’d even entertain using the word ‘disgusting’ regarding that, actually.

To end on a more positive note, Build And Shoot is being built per the suggestions by the community as the focus is on improving the game experience without modifying the client. Objectives planned and already reached were to create an independent community, master server and game server. With that out of the way, the Build And Shoot team are working on “Ace Servers” which come with added functionality and protection. In the near future they’ll be releasing versions which contain better ways to interact with friends with a “friend system”, have new game modes and in-game functionality, and they’ll of course be continuing to host their official and user-driven events that made Ace of Spades so popular in the first place. They do all this while being aware of intellectual property rights and are trying their best to respect them.

Meanwhile, Jagex is trying to work their community on Steam by improving performance issues and adding new servers. They also reveal in this update that they’re acknowledging the call out for the more tactical gameplay of the beta versions of Ace of Spades and will be adding larger maps in January. This might be the first time they’ve actually spoken about the way the game used to be and making an effort to bring back some of its appeal. Hopefully the two games and player bases can continue to exist separately, which would make everyone happy, it would seem.

  • http://buildandshoot.com jdrew

    Hello I am a fellow member of build and shoot and talk with the owners daily, I was happy that you guys gave an article all about us and will tell the other members about this too.

    happy gaming,
    J drew

  • http://BuildandShoot.com Danhezee

    Thanks for taking the time to write this up. I really appreciate it and I know stack and izzy do as well.

    • http://buildandshoot.com izzy

      Appreciated indeed. I’m happy to see these details emerge in a lengthy post like this on Indie Statik.

      • AvariceBlade

        I am very happy to meet one of the memebers of the Beta staff! And honored :D but I hope I will not annoy with my question: I got the beta version first and wanted to join a server but most of the were empty. Can you recommend me populated servers?

    • Eros Slave

      I played AoS, probably before most people knew about it. Back when I played it, it was only rifles. Its kind of shit, what Jagex has done to this game. I really appreciate this post though.

      • Bleekicker

        I was also one of the initial players. Got it as soon as it came out. I had a break in AoS in the summer of 2012. Just got one the website yesterday and was appalled at the fact that our well loved game was ruined by Jagex. Thank god for buildandshoot.com.

  • http://www.buildandshoot.com Mariokillu

    Hello, I am a fellow member of Build and Shoot, and I make graphics for the owners. The current logo that is being used is not mine, however, on the account that the logo I make don’t look like shit…. And I approve of this message.

    Love,
    Mariokillu

  • http://electronsoup.net Tim Bennett

    Would have been nice to seek comment from Jagex for this story, even if they refused.

    • Wallet

      I agree. This article just rewrites things that are constantly discussed by the same persons on the forums anyway.
      It would have been an interesting article if there would also have been some input from Jagex staff.

  • Buffet_of_Lies

    You said what needed to be said. Thank you.

  • LASTofS

    I used to write the old newsletters for Ace of Spades, and I’ve planned to write something exactly like this. Thanks for writing this amazing article; twas very well written.

    Retweeted, as well!

  • Garrett

    Oh good I like old ace of spades getting head shot from across the map was quite fun.

  • Kodiak

    Yeah, I don’t understand what Jagex’s trying to do here. Even after all of the drama surrounding the transition, both the Build and Shoot and Jagex communities can still co-exist, but they don’t seem to like that idea, and I don’t get why. I even made a rather long forum post explaining my feelings. It garnered quite a bit of attention from the Build and Shoot community but almost none from Jagex, until it was finally deleted sans response. Luckily I had the foresight to take a screenshot beforehand, which can be found here: http://puu.sh/1BoYt

    You might find it interesting, who knows.

  • http://buildandshoot.com Nate Shoffner

    Just wanted to say thanks again for this awesome article/interview. Very well put together. If you ever want any updates, feel free to drop us a line!

  • Batmans Dad

    Jagex is poison.

  • http://youtube.com/AoSGamePolska Sample

    I wanna eat myself.

  • BossGalaga

    Oh hey…another Jagex is evil article that talks about how Jagex is dividing the community and ends by saying, let’s keep the community divided. Instead of sitting in opposite corners of the room glaring at each other, there needs to be a concerted effort from both sides to come together in a positive way. One good way to start that process, would for people who have already been banned from the AoS forums to stop creating new accounts then spamming the forums with crap like, “FUCK JAGEX! BUILDANDSHOOT.COM!”. That DOES NOT help the B&S community further it’s goals and the kind of immature people who post garbage like that aren’t the kind of people B&S wants advocating it. Also, B&S isn’t some big secret Jagex doesn’t want anyone to know about. agex & B&S can coexist. Hell, there are download links to B&S and the free download of classic AoS stickied on Jagex’s AoS forums!

  • TB

    Thanks a lot for writing this. It’s very nice to see someone explaining the situation this well.

  • http://www.freedomfighters.tk PABH

    I’ve read this three times now, good job.

  • http://Abbeville.bg Turner

    Very nice to read this. It means a lot to our community

    Turner

  • BossGalaga

    It’s not a bad article but I’m just saying if we work together, the community can help get some major improvements in the new AoS by providing some decent feedback. I know there was a lot of initial drama, but we’re past that at this point I think.

  • alec

    i think the main thing that jagex did to this game was make it more like team fortress and less like red orchestra, they upped the health and movement speed and gave 1/2 of the classes immunity to headshots, takes it all away

  • Captin

    Thank you for putting this into an independent review, its nice to see someone look beyond the Jagex dominated 1.0 and see what they truly sacrificed and destroyed in the process.

    Thank you

    ~Captin@Sw~

  • Sponge

    Sad how we used to all be united. After Jagex came along, the entire community split in half and has been at war.

  • AnrgyGrenades

    Good article.

  • Dzhoel

    This is a really good review, very professionally done with a non biased point of view. I got banned from Jagex. I’m really dissapointed how Ben couldn’t keep the game let alone continue developing the Beta when 1.0 got released. Its a damn shame. But i am glad to know that i can still play the Beta.

  • TheOperator

    I just hope a lot of people can see this and get BnS more traffic.

  • BR

    GreaseMonkey and several other community members are creating an open-sourced clone of Ace of Spades, called Iceball. It is still in very early development, but is fun already, and promises much more in the future than the 0.75 client, which often requires open-sourced fan-made servers to work around its lack of flexibility.

    To track the development of the project, you can check our BuildAndShoot.com forum post (http://buildandshoot.com/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=60), check the code out (http://github.com/iamgreaser/buldthensnip), or ask in IRC (#buildandshoot or #aos or #aos.development on irc.quakenet.org, or #iceball on irc.outs.in).

  • Tigershield

    Glad that Build and shoot is doing good. I miss the old days.

    i had a break of AOS in the summer of 2012 to. So i come back and see how aos got ruined.

    Talking on IRC and trying new builds, really miss that.

  • ikmalmn

    This article made me very happy and also alomost made me cry because of it ;)

    Congrats to all of you people who actually played before the rise of Jagex

    May the community lives on like on Valve games