History of Jailbreak

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The concept of jailbreak as a gametype for first-person shooters has been around for some time. It's been passed around between different game platforms and mod teams, and its history is somewhat convoluted. Here's our attempt at setting the record straight.

From Quake to Unreal Tournament

Jailbreak was originally developed by Team Reaction for id software's popular shooter game Quake 2. They began a version for Epic's Unreal Tournament version in late 1999 but this was abandoned in May 2000. The work done so far was released as a public beta, for other modders to take on and continue. Several coders from the UT community picked it up: Mongo of Rocket Arena fame, Matt "Mugsy" Boone (now of HalfLife) and then Daikiki in September. They joined forces to work together, renewing the effort to bring this unique mod to Unreal Tournament.

The first version of UT Jailbreak was released in the summer of 2000. It was quickly accepted by the Unreal modding scene and sparked the growth of the fiercely loyal and rapidly expanding UT Jailbreak community. A subsequent patch, version 101, contains the first implementation of Jailbreak's popular llama hunt feature, that prevents cheating by disconnecting from the server when in jail and reconnecting in freedom.

Mid-March 2001, Daikiki released the second version of UT Jailbreak, this time including a much wider range of bundled custom maps and much better single-player support than ever before. A new HUD included the Stance Bar, from which players could control the overall way in which their team's bots played. The arena, first introduced as a feature for a single map, Daikiki's conversion of the CTF map LavaGiant, was included in this release. With this feature that is now an essential component of every Jailbreak map, it could be said that UT Jailbreak was becoming an original creation, with a separate evolution from its Quake 2 roots.

Together with Mychaeel and ElBundee, two other Unreal community coders, Daikiki released an update to this version in April, UT Jailbreak 205. ModSquad and other big Unreal mod review sites gave Jailbreak very favorable ratings that were backed by community acceptance. An increasing number of coders saw the potential of the gametype and released mutators for Jailbreak, such as JBMadmen and JBFatboy. Likewise, many mappers turned their skills to the gametype, adding to the growing number of Jailbreak maps that featured both originals and conversions of firm favourites from other gametypes. This abundance of third-party extra content contributed to UT Jailbreak becoming a high-profile mod.

Going Gold

In September 2001, the team consisting of Daikiki, Mychaeel and ElBundee started work on next generation of UT Jailbreak, Jailbreak III, undertaking a thorough overhaul of the code base. A number of features that had been introduced as plug-in mutators were brought into the core code, such as respawning pickups between rounds, and release protection (known then as JBCampkill).

When Jailbreak III was released in March 2002, it introduced many new features: human ladders, real ducking for escape routes, jailfights, the arena camera, the celebration screen, global player stats, and the distinctive voice of UnrealGrrl as Jailbreak's announcer. Most of the visuals were updated too, with new effects for release protection and the llama hunt, a new HUD, a new jail compass, and a skinnable user interface. It also included the first release of Mychaeel's Screen component, which allows dynamically rendered textures showing scores and player location maps.

Jailbreak III came with an entirely new suite of bundled maps, but players were even more spoiled for choice when just a few months later, Jailbreak III Gold was released, sporting yet another new suite of maps. This September 2002 release featured minor improvements and fixes, and was to be the final version of Jailbreak for the Unreal Tournament platform. Over the following year, Jailbreak's team of mappers went on to release five map packs, keeping UT Jailbreak fresh for its fans.

Other Worlds

Meanwhile, the jailbreak concept was still going strong on other platforms. Team Reaction had updated the original Jailbreak to Quake 3, and another mod team, Black Knight Productions had made their own version of the concept for the same game, called Prisoners of War. Both mods had different strengths, but were splitting the Quake 3 community, and so in June 2001 the two teams decided to combine the mods into one, named Jailbreak:Prisoners of War. This used Team Reaction's open sourced code base, with a few changes and maps from both original mods.

In 2002, it seemed possible that Jailbreak would again cross over different game engines: Black Knight Productions were considering the possibilities of producing a version of their take on Jailbreak for the Unreal engine. For a while, it looked as if there might be two Jailbreak mods for the next Unreal game, or that perhaps Black Knight Productions and the UT Jailbreak team would join forces, but neither took place, and BKP continue to work on their mod on the Quake engine platform. Meanwhile, there is also a Jailbreak for Half-Life and for Tribes 2, proving the concept is popular whatever the FPS platform.

New Generation

UT Jailbreak was done, a new game from Epic was on the horizon: Unreal Tournament 2003. For the team that had worked on Jailbreak III, there was no question about it: Jailbreak would be carried on to this new platform of the Unreal Engine.

In the summer of 2002, even before Epic's release of UT2003, Mychaeel began work on a design document for the next generation of Jailbreak: Jailbreak 2003. As new features have been added over the years, the lively Jailbreak community has taken them to heart, and now regards them as essentials to Jailbreak gameplay: so the llama hunt, release protection, roving arena cam, celebration screen, jail fights and have all been included, albeit in fresh new guises. In an interesting twist, features that began as mutators and were then brought into core code for Jailbreak III were now moved back out of the core Jailbreak code, and into a new type of dedicated Jailbreak mutator, the Jailbreak Add-on. However, while from a coder's perspective this greatly simplifies the internal structure of Jailbreak, for the player these will all be part of the default installation, bundled seamlessly with the rest of Jailbreak.

The new generation of Jailbreak, now known as Jailbreak 200x to account for its presence on both Unreal Tournament 2003 and Unreal Tournament 2004, includes such new features as the Jailbreak theme music, by Pablo "Guybrush" Delgado, that plays in the game selection menu, a selection of voice annoucements, the ability for maps to have any combination of multiple jails and multiple switches, and sweeping, rotating, and tracking surveillance cameras. As usual, Jailbreak has full bot support and integration into the default game installation.

A new approach to code structure gives mappers unprecedented flexibility. At the same time, we've created a standard release switch, to give a consistent look across maps &mdash though mappers are free to deviate from this if they wish. What a new generation of coders and mappers make of this, and what new content they create for Jailbreak 200x once it is released, remains to be seen.

May 2004


You can find all the old versions of UT Jailbreak, from the very first version 100, on our download archive page.