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Lingwe talks to some modders about modding

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Lingwe talks to some modders about modding

Interview - posted by DarkUnderlord on Mon 2 March 2009, 02:46:53


Lingwe interviewed 10 modders about their work. Use the index below to jump to the modder you're interested in or start scrolling down to read the lot.

  1. Killap - Fallout 2
  2. Quarn - Oblivion / Fallout 3
  3. Agetian -Temple of Elemental Evil
  4. Shiningted - Temple of Elemental Evil
  5. Gaear - Temple of Elemental Evil
  6. Vaernus - The Witcher
  7. Camdawg - Baldur's Gate / Infinity Engine
  8. theacefes - Baldur's Gate / Infinity Engine
  9. Wesp -Vampire: Bloodlines
  10. Adam Miller - Neverwinter Nights

 

 

1. Killap - Fallout 2

 

Unofficial Fallout 2 Patch

 

1. For starters, give us a short introduction about who you are, your modding interests and experience. Have you done this type of thing before or is this your first time? How many games have you modded?

I am 22 years old and currently am studying at the university to be a software engineer. Game modding has always piqued my interest. Back when games were worth playing, I would seek out unofficial mods, patches, etc to further enhance my gaming experience. Though I have created some simple modifications/tweaks over the years, Fallout 2 was the first game I sat down and actually created something worth mentioning.

2. Why did you decide to get into modding, what was your motivation?

I was always impressed with how devoted modders were, spending hours of their free time adding and modifying content. More recently, modders are picking up older games such as Baldur's Gate, Arcanum, Planescape, etc and polishing them to their full potential. To me, this is unbelievable since these games are over 10 years old and not only are people still playing them, but people are still willing to make them even better.

2005 was the year I started modding Fallout 2. I honestly don’t recall what truly pushed me to modify the game, but I do remember having a craving to play Fallout 2 again at that time. I remember coming across an unofficial Fallout 2 patch by a modder named Seraph. He had fixed quite a number of bugs in the game and was still actively working on it. It was at this time that I also came across the amazing Nearly Ultimate Fallout 2 Guide by Per Jorner. Not only did this guide list everything that one could possibly do in the game, but it also had quite an extensive list of unfixed bugs. Seeing that these bugs were still not fixed in the unofficial patch by Seraph, I decided to sit down and have a go at it. Programming was something that always interested me and seeing an opportunity to put it to some practical use, I began to create my own unofficial patch. And thus began my quest to make Fallout 2 into the game it should have been from the very beginning.

3. Speaking about your latest mod, what did you think of the original game? Do you think that the developers did a good enough job with the original game given the time they had, or were there problems in it that drove you to modding?

The fact that Fallout 1 and 2 are still being played to this day (2009) speaks volumes of just how good they are. RPGs are extremely ambitious projects and deadlines always play a crucial factor in how they turn out. More often than not you will see developers get over ambitious and end up creating a game that has a bit of everything, yet no true substance. This seems to be a common trend in recent RPGs. Another nasty consequence of RPGs being of such large scale is bugs, lots and lots of bugs. Games always have bugs, but RPGs seems to be the ones hit the hardest and gamers have grown used to seeing them. Fallout 1 and Fallout 2 are no exceptions. It is because of the bugs that you see old RPGs having unofficial patches created for them. It is now up to the players to revive the classics and make them more enjoyable than ever. This is what I set out to do for Fallout 2, and 4 years later I ended up fixing over 1,000 bugs in the game and adding 20+ hours of additional content. I still applaud the work of the original developers. They created a masterpiece in the time they had and if they had more time, I am sure my work would never have been needed. If only there was no such thing as deadlines and there was infinite funding to go around…

4. Modding for games that have development tools is relatively easy, but for games that have no tools it can be quite difficult. How did this affect your decision to mod? Were there any particularly challenging bugs that you fixed or any features that you are particularly proud of modding into the game?

It is true that modding games with no official modding tools greatly limits what one can do. In the end though, someone will always come along and make some tools himself. I was fortunate enough to start modding Fallout 2 after a large set of tools had already been created. The only official tool released was a map editor and everything else, such as scripting tools, unpackers, etc, were created by the fans. There was definitely a bit of a learning curve before I got into the groove of things. Since these were unofficial tools, there was still a bit of self exploration/interpreting that needed to occur before the tools could be fully utilized. In my eyes, proper modding tools are crucial to extend the life of a game. Developers need to realize this and take the time to release them officially. Many gamers not only enjoy playing the game but they also have the desire to create. If tools are easy enough to use them, you will see less people put off by them, which is sadly often the case with third party tools. Don’t get me wrong though, many third party tools are often 10x better than the official ones. In my opinion, having an official tool just builds a friendlier modding environment.

5. Following on from the question above, were there times when you tried to do something but couldn't? Did the limitations of your tools or access to source code prevent you from doing what you wanted to? If so, how did you work around it or how much time did you spend before deciding it couldn't be done?

There were definitely a few times when I wished I had access to the source code. Because the goal of my unofficial patch for Fallout 2 was to fix every known bug with it, there were several occasions where I discovered the bug lay not within a script but within the game engine and was thus basically out of the scope of what I was willing to do. Luckily, a user by the name of Timeslip came along and was able to produce several nice engine hacks which not only addressed the engine bugs I found, but also made it easier to mod the game. Hats off to him for all his work. Alas, not all modding projects are fortunate enough to have people willing to hack the game engine. When it happens though, great things come about.


6. Do you end up spending more time modding the games you play or is modding something you do on the side or once you have finished playing the game? How many hours have you spent modding versus playing the actual game?

Since I started modding in large scale, I have found myself more interested in creating than actually playing. Looking at Fallout 2, I definitely spent more time modding than actually playing the game. I know the ins and outs of every script in the game so well that I am physically unable to sit down and play through the entire game again. I know exactly when X will happen and what is required to make Y happen. I think many modders feel the same way towards the games they mod. Once you spend too much time creating something, you don’t really want to play with it. The fun occurred while you were creating it and the rest of the joy comes from watching others have fun playing with what you created.

7. Do you think your mod is required to play the game or is it just a little bit of extra fun? Are you happy with what you've done?

I consider my unofficial patch for Fallout 2 a definite must. It is a strictly bug fix patch and does not make arbitrary changes which detract from the original feel of the game. Though some might say that for first timers to Fallout 2 (or any game for that matter) it is better to play through without any unofficial mods/patches, I still suggest playing with my patch. I am not being biased here either (well maybe a little); just ask around and others will agree that this is a must have patch.

My Restoration Project for Fallout 2 is a different story. I personally feel that it is also a must have and would even suggest it for first time players of Fallout 2. This mod adds in about an additional 20 hours of game play by restoring all the content that was supposed to appear in the game but were left out for whatever reasons. If you are not willing to give it a go on your initial playthrough, it is a definite must for a second, third, etc time through the game.

8. What's the level of community feedback and support been like both during and after? Did you originally undertake the task with the idea that it would be treated like beer at a university party, or were you prepared to accept the idea that it might not be downloaded so much after all?

I never was concerned with how popular my work might be. I’m a pretty laid back guy and as long as I had fun doing it, that is good enough for me. Hell, when I started modding Fallout 2 in 2005 it was 7 years since the game had been out. I didn’t know what to expect and boy was I surprised when I found out that tons of people were still playing and talking about the game. Again, this just goes to show what an impact the Fallout series has had in the gaming world.

Support and feedback for my work has been awesome though. I have received tons of happy e-mails praising me for taking the time to patch up the game and add even more content. This alone is satisfaction enough for me. Nothing makes someone happier than seeing something he/she created being enjoyed by thousands.

9. How does it feel when you know people have downloaded and are using your work? Do you get all warm and fuzzy inside, does it go to your head or is it just business as usual?

As I said above, nothing makes someone happier than seeing something he/she created being used and talked about. For me, I feel content knowing that I took a game people love and cherish and made it even better for them. This was the first time I have ever created something that has actually been used on a large scale. While it does make me feel important, I never let it get to my head – I am not that kind of guy. I am just happy that I was able to squeeze even more out of the great Fallout series.

10. What were your expectations going into the project? What did you actually set out to achieve? Did you meet your expectations?

The goal of my unofficial patch was to fix every known fixable bug in the game. Note the words “known” and “fixable”. By known, I mean that the bug has been reported and confirmed by more than one person. I am not going to go out of my way to test every single line of code in each script in the hopes of finding a bug. Ironically, in the end I have basically read every single line of code found in the 1,500 scripts in the game. By fixable I mean fixable by me. This means that any engine bugs (ie those not found in a script file) will be left unless someone is willing to create an engine hack. As I mentioned before, I was lucky enough to find someone willing to do this. In the end, I feel that I met the goal of the patch. Reports have slowed/basically stopped and after 1,000+ bug fixes, I think it was a job well done.

The goal of my Restoration Project (RP) was to add back in to the game any content that was intended, but left out for whatever reasons. Note that the focus is on content intended by the original developers and not just content I feel would be cool to add to the game. I am still actively working on this project (to some degree I am still working on the unofficial patch as well, but I consider that project complete) and getting close to accomplishing its goal. Version 1.3 of the RP is the upcoming release and it will add even more new things to experience. After this release, there is only one more big content addition that is left. Due to what is involved to add this last bit of content in, it is debatable whether it will see the light of day. I hope it does though, for the sake of completeness alone. All in all, I feel the RP was a great success and the vast positive reception it has received confirms this.


11. Tell us about the modding experience: What are some of the non-technical trials and tribulations you had during modding? Were there any internal team problems you had to deal with? Any DRAMA? Just how difficult and enjoyable was the entire process? How hard was it to see the mod through? Was it fun through-out or did it become more like work?

My unofficial patch for Fallout 2 was essentially a one man project. Several individuals, however, did provide me with valuable information which made things much easier. For starters, Per is the author of the “Nearly Ultimate Fallout 2 Guide” and this guide is what to some extent initially influenced me to start making a patch for Fallout 2. His extensive notes on bugs encountered in the game were extremely useful in the initial stages. Next, Haenlomal created updated official Mapper scripts which were an immense help in setting a solid base to build my patch off of. Seraph is also another person I wish to mention, as much of my initial work was based off of his unofficial patch. I was not the only one willing to create a patch for the game and credit goes to him (and others) for their time spent on fixing bugs.

The Restoration Project was also essentially a one man project but due to how much needed to be added to the game, others were also involved. The list of people involved is more extensive, and is left to the readme which comes with the mod. The vast majority of help I received for this project was map work, dialogue, and graphics. I am extremely satisfied with the help I received.

All in all, there was essentially no DRAMA in either of my projects. It does seem that a great number of modding groups are plagued with this, but luckily for me, I was not affected. Fallout modders seem to be more of the independent type, willing to lend a helping hand from time to time and then returning to their own projects. It is always sad to see a project die because of internal bickering, and I was fortunate enough to not have to be bothered with such things.

My experience modding was definitely an enjoyable one. Towards the end it did seem to be more like work and this is something modders need to watch out for. Pace yourself and make sure the project does not consume you. Modding is supposed to be something done for fun and if it becomes a chore, then something went wrong.

12. Knowing what you know now, would you go through it all again? Is the end result worth all that time and effort? If you had to do it all again, what would you do differently?

Knowing what I know now, I would still go through with it again. Seeing people play something I created brings about a great feeling and the fact that I was able to squeeze more out of Fallout 2, a game everyone wants more of, is an added bonus.

One thing I would do differently is to plan out releases better. In each release I always try to cram as much as possible into it and this results in releases dates getting pushed back and late nights trying to get everything done. This is hobby not a job, so there is no reason to do that. It is just the way I am I suppose…

13. What would you recommend to others who are thinking about modding? Any words of advice?

Have patience. Modding isn’t a trivial task and if the tools to mod the game are limited then even more fortitude is needed. You also need to start out with small goals. Don’t start out hoping to add 50+ hours of new content to the game – this is a recipe for disaster. Work on a small map and then add substance to it. Before you know it you will have expanded that map into multiple maps and you got yourself a mod. Another common mistake I see with modders is that they will make a post on a forum talking about all their desires to create the most amazing mod ever. While there is nothing wrong with getting your ideas out into the public, the problem is that fans are skeptical and while your idea might be cool, more often than not it will never see the light of day (it is a sad truth). Wait until you have something to show before you post your ideas. People like to see progress and when you actually have something to show for, you will find greater support and interest among the users. This enthusiasm will fuel you further to finish the work. Don’t stifle your efforts early on.

14. Are there any other games that you plan on modding or are you looking forward to taking a break and playing games, rather than modding them?

No new modding plans at the moment. It seems that all of the other classic RPGs are already accounted for. After all that I have done, I definitely want to actually sit down and play some games, but good ones are hard to come by these days. There are a few older games that I still have not gotten around to yet. Perhaps it is time to pull them out.

 

 

2. Quarn - Oblivion/Fallout 3

 

Unofficial Oblivion Patch; Unofficial Fallout 3 Patch

 

1. For starters, give us a short introduction about who you are, your modding interests and experience. Have you done this type of thing before or is this your first time? How many games have you modded?

I'm a 23 year old Australian, I'm mainly interested in improving the original gameplay of the game and adding things that should of been there in the first place, I think I've been modding for about 4 years now.

I've modded 4 games so far: Starcraft, Morrowind, Oblivion and Fallout 3.

2. Why did you decide to get into modding, what was your motiviation?

I got into it for the fun of creating something (and learning something new!) and the joy of giving something back to the community.

3. Speaking about your latest mod, what did you think of the original game? Do you think that the developers did a good enough job with the original game given the time they had, or were there problems in it that drove you to modding?

Bethesda games are pretty notorious for being buggy, the amount of bugs is average or so considering the massiveness of their games but what really annoies me is they usually only release a patch or 2 fixing a handfull of bugs and thats it! no more!

What really drove me to do an Unofficial Fallout 3 Patch was this little quote from Jeff Gardiner, one of the Besthesda DLC developers: We take pride in fixing issues that are found by our fans and posted in our forums.

After reading that and falling out of my chair laughing I was determinded to do a patch for Fallout 3.

4. Modding for games that have development tools is relatively easy, but for games that have no tools it can be quite difficult. How did this affect your decision to mod? Were there any particularly challenging bugs that you fixed or any features that you are particularly proud of modding into the game?

Modding for Bethesda's game is usually pretty easy since they provide a nice construction setGECK and a wiki which has nearly all the information you could need. The hardest thing is working with the nif model format, since it is a propirity format people have had to reverse engineer it which has lead to things going wonky and some things are just not support.

My proudest? I'd have to say accidently breaking "ArchiveInvalidation" while working on the Unofficial Shivering Isles Patch, it lead me to the creation of "ArchiveInvalidation Invalidated!" which is a simple little mod that allows you to bypass the ArchiveInvalidation in OblivionFallout 3 allowing all replacement textures to work without the need of adding EVERY replaced texture to the ArchiveInvalidation.txt file to get it working.

5. Following on from the question above, were there times when you tried to do something but couldn't? Did the limitations of your tools or access to source code prevent you from doing what you wanted to? If so, how did you work around it or how much time did you spend before deciding it couldn't be done?

With the use of the construction set (GECK) and the wonderfull modding community reverse engineering various formats the majority of the game is easily moddable, only thing that is closed off to us is the executable (but hey the game would need to be open source to get that anyway) but there is a little program (Oblivion Script ExtenderFallout Script Extender) that memory patches the game to expand the scripting functionality.

6. Do you end up spending more time modding the games you play or is modding something you do on the side or once you have finished playing the game? How many hours have you spent modding versus playing the actual game?

Yeah I spend alot more time moddingtesting mods then actually playing the game, I usually play through the game once or so I get a basic knowledge of the place.

7. Do you think your mod is required to play the game or is it just a little bit of extra fun? Are you happy with what you've done?

Ah no mod is required, the game is perfectly playable in its "current" state but never hurts to have all these bugsissues fixed, never know when you'll stumble into one...

8. What's the level of community feedback and support been like both during and after? Did you originally undertake the task with the idea that it would be treated like beer at a university party, or were you prepared to accept the idea that it might not be downloaded so much after all?

The community has been great! and they provide invalubale information allowing me to fix alot of bugs. Ah downloads don't worry me at all... after all it is the Unofficial Patch! there was one for Morrowind, Oblivion and now Fallout 3, they sort of go hand in hand with each other.

9. How does it feel when you know people have downloaded and are using your work? Do you get all warm and fuzzy inside, does it go to your head or is it just business as usual?

Makes me more motivated to work hardermod better.

10. What were your expectations going into the project? What did you actually set out to achieve? Did you meet your expectations?

I expected to fix a mountain of bugs and boy did I! Who ever takes up the "torch" of the Unofficial Patch will never meet their expectations... after 10+ major releases of the Unofficial Oblivion Patch there are still bugs lurking around...

11. Tell us about the modding experience: What are some of the non-technical trials and tribulations you had during modding? Were there any internal team problems you had to deal with? Any DRAMA? Just how difficult and enjoyable was the entire process? How hard was it to see the mod through? Was it fun through-out or did it become more like work?

I'd have to say the quirks with the game are the most annoying to deal with... you do something, it should work but instead the game craps out. Like one time in Oblivion... the Unofficial Oblivion Patch caused all local map icons to vanish in-game, we tracked the problem down to changing cell 3,3 (boy who would of thought something so simple would caused such a weird problem?).

I like working in small team, the whole project isn't weighing on one person then and a different set of eyes is always great in tackling some issues.

12. Knowing what you know now, would you go through it all again? Is the end result worth all that time and effort? If you had to do it all again, what would you do differently?

Definatly worth doing it again! and everyting turned out pretty well so I don't think I would change a thing.

13. What would you recommend to others who are thinking about modding? Any words of advice?

Start small, don't be afaid to ask for help and don't join a "massive" modding team project until you can bring alot to the table.

14. Are there any other games that you plan on modding or are you looking forward to taking a break and playing games, rather than modding them?

Nope not modding any other games for the time being, I find it hard to mod multiple games at once... just find it easiermore enjoyable to "focus" on 1 game at a time (and that is currently Fallout 3).

After a few hours of modding I usually like to play a game or two of Left 4 Dead to restunwind.

 

 

3. Agetian - Temple of Elemental Evil

 

Circle of Eight

 

1. For starters, give us a short introduction about who you are, your modding interests and experience. Have you done this type of thing before or is this your first time? How many games have you modded?

 

I'm 25 years old, Russian. Professional linguist and programmer, PhD in linguistics. Programming experience, among other things, includes C, C++, C#, x86 assembler, Python. Modding experience includes writing various tools for X-Wing Alliance (the nVidia resolution fix), Thief: Deadly Shadows (the dialog editor), beta-testing IETME for the Infinity Engine games, and (my biggest modding experience to date) the creation of the ToEE community toolset. In real life my job is teaching English, Latin, and cross-cultural communication at the local state university. Currently I'm the administrator of the Circle of Eight community boards and the main coder of the Co8 team, I'm writing and updating the community toolset for Troika's Temple of Elemental Evil as a part of the Circle of Eight team.

 

2. Why did you decide to get into modding, what was your motivation?

 

The biggest motivation for me was seeing that the Temple of Elemental Evil lacked the proper toolset and that limited the possibilities of a very creative and talented team of modders and prevented them from creating better mods.

 

3. Speaking about your latest mod, what did you think of the original game? Do you think that the developers did a good enough job with the original game given the time they had, or were there problems in it that drove you to modding?

 

First of all, the developers made a wonderful job of translating the 3rd edition of D&D to a computer game - it's arguably the best D&D engine ever made to this day that has the feel of the actual good ol' pen-and-paper D&D games. The game was released in a rather unstable and unfinished state, but it wasn't the developer's fault that the game was released that way - if Troika were given more time to work on ToEE, things could have been much better as far as bugs and stability are concerned. But anyway, the unfinished state of the game only encouraged me to mod the game and create the modding tools for it, so I guess there's a positive aspect to everything.

 

4. Modding for games that have development tools is relatively easy, but for games that have no tools it can be quite difficult. How did this affect your decision to mod? Were there any particularly challenging bugs that you fixed or any features that you are particularly proud of modding into the game?

 

Well, the absence of the official toolset was exactly something that motivated me to start working on the community tools. My main contribution to the ToEE mod scene is the creation of various major and minor tools for the game that allowed to change the aspects of the game that were either very hard or impossible to modify manually. The major utilities I created are ToEE World Builder, a comprehensive world modification tool, and ToEE Front-End, the game launcher that allows to set up multiple modules on a single game installation). I'm glad to see that ToEE World Builder and ToEE Front-End were successful and actually helped the modders create such wonderful and complex game modifications.

 

5. Following on from the question above, were there times when you tried to do something but couldn't? Did the limitations of your tools or access to source code prevent you from doing what you wanted to? If so, how did you work around it or how much time did you spend before deciding it couldn't be done?

 

Yes, creating the toolset was a very difficult task, considering the complexity of the game engine and no access to any of the official tools or the source code. Some of the earlier tools (for instance, ToEE Mod Studio that predated ToEE World Builder) failed in the end and I had to start over again, practically from scratch, and I kept struggling for days, months, and years. The most difficult thing for me was the research of the sector visibility blocking in ToEE engine - the seemingly straightforward and easy file format turned out to be rather convoluted in fact, and it took me several months to break it down properly and implement sector visibility blocking as a part of ToEE World Builder.

 

6. Do you end up spending more time modding the games you play or is modding something you do on the side or once you have finished playing the game? How many hours have you spent modding versus playing the actual game?

 

I beat ToEE a couple times before I started to write tools for it. Then, I beat every major release of the Circle of Eight Mod (3.0.4, 4.0.0, and 5.0.0, for memory - I still have 5.5.0 to beat though). Modding and playing are different things, and I enjoy doing both when I feel like it and when the time permits.

 

7. Do you think your mod is required to play the game or is it just a little bit of extra fun? Are you happy with what you've done?

 

In my opinion, the main Circle of Eight Mod contains so many bug fixes and content improvements that I don't really see myself playing barebone Temple of Elemental Evil anymore. Of course, opinions tend to differ on this point, but I highly recommend playing the game with the Circle of Eight Mod since it makes the game more interesting, detailed, and less frustrating and buggy.

 

8. What's the level of community feedback and support been like both during and after? Did you originally undertake the task with the idea that it would be treated like beer at a university party, or were you prepared to accept the idea that it might not be downloaded so much after all?

 

The Circle of Eight community is very positive and the critical feedback we have at our forums is often very helpful and constructive. I'd say that I wrote the toolset mostly for the others, not for my own satisfaction - I'm definitely not the best content creator, so I decided to leave 'modding' as such (if you define modding as creating or modifying game content) to the others who are much more creative than I am in that respect. Therefore, I wrote the tools hoping that other modders will use them in order to create mods, and I'm happy to see that my dream came true.

 

9. How does it feel when you know people have downloaded and are using your work? Do you get all warm and fuzzy inside, does it go to your head or is it just business as usual?

 

I always feel happy when I give something to the outside world and I see that I made someone else happy. I love making other people happy - much more than making myself happy. Therefore, as long as our mods and our tools are used and as long as people are mostly happy with them, I'll have that happy feeling, too.

 

10. What were your expectations going into the project? What did you actually set out to achieve? Did you meet your expectations?

 

Well, my expectations were that I'll be able to help the Circle of Eight with tools and the Circle of Eight modders will be able to create some good new content for the Temple of Elemental Evil. I can say that whatever I planned so far turned out to work as desired.

 

11. Tell us about the modding experience: What are some of the non-technical trials and tribulations you had during modding? Were there any internal team problems you had to deal with? Any DRAMA? Just how difficult and enjoyable was the entire process? How hard was it to see the mod through? Was it fun through-out or did it become more like work?

 

The Circle of Eight team members were always very helpful and very responsive. We were and we are a team indeed. Of course, we had people leaving us and coming back sometimes (and sometimes not), but personally I can't say that I blame anyone for any decision he or she has made in the past - we all have our 'real life', and as such each person is free to come or leave when he feels like coming or leaving. The whole process of not only working on the tools and mods, but simply of working *with the Circle of Eight modders* has always been very enjoyable. I love working with our modding team.

 

12. Knowing what you know now, would you go through it all again? Is the end result worth all that time and effort? If you had to do it all again, what would you do differently?

 

Sure, I'd definitely do it again, and if I were to do it again, I'd try to allocate even more time to proper and careful research of the game engine and the used file formats.

 

13. What would you recommend to others who are thinking about modding? Any words of advice?

 

I'd recommend everyone to consider their abilities and possibilities before embarking on any community project. I advise everyone who would like to become a part of any modding team to carefully examine what has been done with the game before and what needs doing, and then realize what exactly your contribution can be. Be realistic - don't set any huge plans and goals for yourself unless you're sure you'll be able to live up to them. Start with something smaller, learn the game you're about to mod, learn the available tools, learn the intrinsics of the game engine, and see what exactly you'll be able to do with the game in a relatively short time span. Shoot for something small yet useful - maybe a little bug fix or a little extra side quest. Then, once that's done, build up on that and try to come up with something bigger, and so on. Remember that if you're going to be a member of a larger team, it'll be important for you to contribute not only to your own individual plans, but mainly to the team efforts. That's why careful planning is extremely necessary - you want to be constructive and helpful when working with other people on one and the same mod.

 

14. Are there any other games that you plan on modding or are you looking forward to taking a break and playing games, rather than modding them?

 

No, not at the moment. I feel like there's still much for me to do with the Temple of Elemental Evil, and in case the Circle of Eight team needs my help with something, I want to make sure that I'm available for that (and I definitely don't see myself working on two different toolset or mod projects at the same time - it's too time consuming). In the distant future - well, who knows, time will tell.

 

 

4. Shiningted - Temple of Elemental Evil

 

Circle of Eight

 

1. For starters, give us a short introduction about who you are, your modding interests and experience. Have you done this type of thing before or is this your first time? How many games have you modded?

Who am I? 37yo Australian, husband, father, Catholic, long history of playing with computers and amatuer programming attempts going back to the z-80 and 6502 in my teenage years. I was familiar with modding before this, having spent many moons at the Massassi Temple site (a Jedi Knight modding forum). This was the first time I got my hands dirty and actually did anything myself though.

Currently I'm the project leader on 'Keep on the Borderlands' and my answers will mainly be about that, rather than wider Co8 modding, if I don't otherwise specify.

2. Why did you decide to get into modding, what was your motiviation?

Just fell into it when I got to Co8: there was work to be done! There was never a great intent to do anything big: my first serious mod 'Desperate Housewives', was only ever meant to be a little bit of silliness as an aside to the main Co8 patch, but things sorta snowballed.

3. Speaking about your latest mod, what did you think of the original game? Do you think that the developers did a good enough job with the original game given the time they had, or were there problems in it that drove you to modding?

Yes, and yes. I think the developers did an amazing job bringing the D&D system to life, though more time would have improved things on many levels. There is certainly an 'unfinished' feel to much of the engine which obviously encourages modding.

4. Modding for games that have development tools is relatively easy, but for games that have no tools it can be quite difficult. How did this affect your decision to mod? Were there any particularly challenging bugs that you fixed or any features that you are particularly proud of modding into the game?

Hmmm... to be honest, I am very much standing on the shoulders of giants. Most of the scripting I've used (95%+) was discovered by the earlier generations of Co8ers, and those early times must have been frustrating indeed: plus the basic tools (such as ProtoEd) were around when I arrived. I did get to see our main modder-produced tool, Agetian's ToEE World Builder, come into being in my time though, and I can honestly say we could not have achieved anything (beyond the continued hacking of the original game) without it. 'Desperate Housewives' was partially designed to push every limit of the game - add new quests, characters, items, soundtracks, graphics etc, no matter how silly - and the limits I finally hit allow me to say conclusively we would not have been able to attempt a new module without World Builder.

I guess the things I am personally most proud of are the recent fix of the san_resurrection bug (that used a scripting trick I don't believe was ever used before), and the introduction of new feats and skills I was able to do using Spellslinger's tools: particularly the Far Shot feat which is all scripting but runs seamlessly. That, and the new voices I hacked in when I first started (long since improved by others).

5. Following on from the question above, were there times when you tried to do something but couldn't? Did the limitations of your tools or access to source code prevent you from doing what you wanted to? If so, how did you work around it or how much time did you spend before deciding it couldn't be done?

I have spent many, many, many fruitless hours trying to do things that had to be abandoned as impossible. My first modding challenge, to get the unused NPC voices working, was like that - weeks of trial-&-error that ultimately produced nothing (though I did get much of it going later using scripting work-arounds) - not because I couldn't fix the bug, but because there was no bug: it turned out that section of the engine was never written, despite the voice actors recording their parts (this was later confirmed by a member of the Toika team). There have certainly been times when I got very frustrated knowing I was spending long hours attempting things that could have been done in moments with access to the source code: thats half the reason I started a blog, to rant about such things.

6. Do you end up spending more time modding the games you play or is modding something you do on the side or once you have finished playing the game? How many hours have you spent modding versus playing the actual game?

This goes against what many of the other modders say, but in all honesty I rarley get to just play: its all modding and testing. Testing is fun too though.

7. Do you think your mod is required to play the game or is it just a little bit of extra fun? Are you happy with what you've done?

I think the Co8 mod is essential to play the original game: 'Keep on the Borderlands' is very much something additional. And yes, I am very happy with it.

8. What's the level of community feedback and support been like both during and after? Did you originally undertake the task with the idea that it would be treated like beer at a university party, or were you prepared to accept the idea that it might not be downloaded so much after all?

Ultimately I did it for my own satisfaction, though I always hoped it would be popular and enjoyable to others. As more people got involved there was also a sense of doing justice to the efforts of others. I do love the positive feedback though, and the sense of community around here is great: this is a genuinely positive forum. A bit different to the Codex, dare I say...?

9. How does it feel when you know people have downloaded and are using your work? Do you get all warm and fuzzy inside, does it go to your head or is it just business as usual?

It feels pretty darn good.

10. What were your expectations going into the project? What did you actually set out to achieve? Did you meet your expectations?

The expectation was that 'Keep on the Borderlands' was to be the first of many modules: something to cut our teeth on. Unfortunately it grew considerably (mainly due to my desire to push the limits in every conceivable direction) so that expectation is still unmet.

11. Tell us about the modding experience: What are some of the non-technical trials and tribulations you had during modding? Were there any internal team problems you had to deal with? Any DRAMA? Just how difficult and enjoyable was the entire process? How hard was it to see the mod through? Was it fun through-out or did it become more like work?

Very little drama in the sense of personality clashes: people have been amazingly giving of their time and efforts. Each of the things that makes Keep on the Borderlands unique can be contributed to a different person, and every one is essential: Agetian's tools, Edwin's plot, Screeg's maps, Gaear's soundtrack, Cuchulainn's livery of the guards (and his opening titles), the portraits by Half-Knight, Icy Edge and Daadamo, Sheriff's Worldmap, Livonya's AI, Maggit's items - each of these took the mod one more step from being 'generic NPCs and quests' to being its own world: and there are still folks like BigLittleBoy getting on board and making major contributions. The team effort really does astound me. (Also, a shout-out to VampiricPuppy, Ax Thrower, Allyx, Cujo, Lord Spike and everyone else!)

That being said - is it more like work now? Yes, and yes, and yes.

12. Knowing what you know now, would you go through it all again? Is the end result worth all that time and effort? If you had to do it all again, what would you do differently?

Yes, I would do it again. With regard to KotB, its hard to say what I would do differently: certainly I can see the flaws made along the way. Two major ones:

- not enough work delegated
- not enough 'meat-and-potatoes' efforts

How I would do it differently though - I don't know. Its an unfortunate fact that many of the mainstay modders at Co8 had to curtail their efforts just as Keep on the Borderlands got going. I won't rattle off their names but several of the main guys made commitments that real life then intervened - sometimes in quite extreme ways - to prevent them from keeping. And I totally understand that: having had a family during the course of this thing, I am the first to admit, there are far more important things in life than modding. But as to what management decisions I could have made differently to compensate, I really don't know. Just been more of a hard-ass, maybe Wink

As for the meat-and-potatoes stuff: well, if the mod was just

write quest
place monster
write quest
place monster

it would have been done long ago. But I never wanted to create something like that, I really wanted to push the limits: NPCs with believable responses and routines, far more animations, multiple ways of doing things, better AI, easter eggs, side quests, interactive items and locales, variety. At the end of the day, its seeing these things work that gives me the most personal satisfaction, and thats what keeps me going.

13. What would you recommend to others who are thinking about modding? Any words of advice?

Jump in! But don't commit to a big project (like a TC) lightly - it will be more work than you realise.

14. Are there any other games that you plan on modding or are you looking forward to taking a break and playing games, rather than modding them?

I have a million modding ideas and urges to keep me going, but I am not planning on modding any other games specifically, no. I am looking forward to playing the Ultima 6: Archon project, and Iron Tower's Cyclopean, of course.

 

 

5. Gaear - Temple of Elemental Evil

 

Circle of Eight

 

1. For starters, give us a short introduction about who you are, your modding interests and experience. Have you done this type of thing before or is this your first time? How many games have you modded?

 

Toee is the first and only game I've modded. I started mainly as a sound engineer, doing audio-related things, and then branched into other areas of modding from there.

 

2. Why did you decide to get into modding, what was your motivation?

 

I got into modding after joining Co8 and seeing both the potential the game had and the need for it to be improved.

 

3. Speaking about your latest mod, what did you think of the original game? Do you think that the developers did a good enough job with the original game given the time they had, or were there problems in it that drove you to modding?


There were definitely problems. I think the original game was playable, but there was much more that could be done there, so yes, that was an inspiration to get into modding.

 

4. Modding for games that have development tools is relatively easy, but for games that have no tools it can be quite difficult. How did this affect your decision to mod? Were there any particularly challenging bugs that you fixed or any features that you are particularly proud of modding into the game?


I never used the NWN toolset or anything like that, so I guess I never knew what I was missing. I've never been too much of a bug fixer as far as technical problems go -- Co8 has had far more skilled modders for that than me -- but I'm fairly pleased with some of the fleshing out of the game I've contributed to, such as graphics and dialogue enhancements. ToEE was pretty weak in the dialogue department for the most part.

 

5. Following on from the question above, were there times when you tried to do something but couldn't? Did the limitations of your tools or access to source code prevent you from doing what you wanted to? If so, how did you work around it or how much time did you spend before deciding it couldn't be done?

 

Yeah, there were definitely failures. Agetian's Worldbuilder bridged the gap for us as far as tools go, but the ToEE game engine is very unpredictable and doesn't always like to cooperate.

 

6. Do you end up spending more time modding the games you play or is modding something you do on the side or once you have finished playing the game? How many hours have you spent modding versus playing the actual game?


I almost never actually play the game. I just mod it and test it.

 

7. Do you think your mod is required to play the game or is it just a little bit of extra fun? Are you happy with what you've done?

 

I don't think the Co8 mod is required to play ToEE, but I'd consider it more than just a little fun. A great many people have contributed to it over the years, and the cumulative effort has made it a fairly significant patch in my opinion.

 

8. What's the level of community feedback and support been like both during and after? Did you originally undertake the task with the idea that it would be treated like beer at a university party, or were you prepared to accept the idea that it might not be downloaded so much after all?

 

The Co8 mod has always been very popular, as near as I can tell, based on the number of downloads. And we always get quite a bit of feedback, both on our forums and elsewhere.

 

9. How does it feel when you know people have downloaded and are using your work? Do you get all warm and fuzzy inside, does it go to your head or is it just business as usual?


It can be rather satisfying, but I never lose sight of the reality that it's just a video game mod. I suppose I'd keep modding it regardless of how many people download it.

 

10. What were your expectations going into the project? What did you actually set out to achieve? Did you meet your expectations?


The Co8 mod has always been a rather tag-along sort of thing given the breadth of years it's been worked on, so there was never any real clear ultimate goal other than to fix the game up. I suppose I've met some of my goals, but there are always more to go after.

 

11. Tell us about the modding experience: What are some of the non-technical trials and tribulations you had during modding? Were there any internal team problems you had to deal with? Any DRAMA? Just how difficult and enjoyable was the entire process? How hard was it to see the mod through? Was it fun through-out or did it become more like work?

 

Working on the mod is always limited by whatever you've got going on in real life, so it tends to have it's ups and downs as far as progress goes. We tend to be somewhat drama-free here at Co8, though like any endeavor of this kind we've had our moments. People don't always agree on everything, but I think that's par for the course. We get beyond it. I'd say the process can be quite difficult, but achieving the results is always satisfying, if a little wearisome at times in the execution.

 

12. Knowing what you know now, would you go through it all again? Is the end result worth all that time and effort? If you had to do it all again, what would you do differently?


I'm sure I would do it all again. It's the 'doing' part that's really satisfying, after all, not so much admiring the end result. I don't know that I'd do anything differently other than try to make a better job of it.

 

13. What would you recommend to others who are thinking about modding? Any words of advice?


Know what you're getting into and aim low, at least intially. I don't mean low quality, but a limited scope. Don't bite off more than you can chew. That tends to defeat a lot of people who think there going to do TCs of Baldur's Gate and that sort of thing.

 

14. Are there any other games that you plan on modding or are you looking forward to taking a break and playing games, rather than modding them?

 

I don't have any plans to mod any other games, but I'm not planning on any breaks from ToEE either at the moment. I never seem to be able to find much time to play other games, but I think I'll make time for Black Mesa: Source when it comes out. Other than that it'll be business as usual.

 

 

6. Vaernus - The Witcher

 

Deception

 

1. For starters, give us a short introduction about who you are, your modding interests and experience. Have you done this type of thing before or is this your first time? How many games have you modded?

 

My name is William Phelps and I am the CEO of RiSE. I have been off and on in the gaming industry since 2002, and only recently started modding last year for The Witcher. Previously, I had a team that had been working on an MMORPG (currently on hold), and we had been working on the preliminaries of a gaming network called NEOn, which has now evolved into the RiSE network (http://www.risegaming.com). With The Witcher, this was the first time I've modded (though honestly I consider any game development as modding if you're using a proprietary game engine).

2. Why did you decide to get into modding, what was your motivation?

 

A strong interest in The Witcher. It was a very well-realized game from a well-realized series of books, and I wanted to continue the saga. We got a team together, including translators from Poland, to create a story that was canon to the game itself.

 

3. Speaking about your latest mod, what did you think of the original game? Do you think that the developers did a good enough job with the original game given the time they had, or were there problems in it that drove you to modding?

 

The original game was great. It put a darker and mature environment into an RPG that really hasn't been seen yet. The atmosphere pulled you in moreso than any other game I've played. So much that it led me to want to continue the story after beating the game.

 

4. Modding for games that have development tools is relatively easy, but for games that have no tools it can be quite difficult. How did this affect your decision to mod? Were there any particularly challenging bugs that you fixed or any features that you are particularly proud of modding into the game?

 

With the Djinni toolset, the tool can do quite a bit (beyond an importer for 3D content), but it wasn't documented. When we got the tool, we literally started building the documentation for the community. We also received original documents directly from the CD Projekt RED team that we had to translate to English and use as well. It was a very difficult process and if we had the information we have now, our first mod would've been leaps and bounds better than what it was.

 

5. Following on from the question above, were there times when you tried to do something but couldn't? Did the limitations of your tools or access to source code prevent you from doing what you wanted to? If so, how did you work around it or how much time did you spend before deciding it couldn't be done?


Not too often. Considering the engine is a derivative of Aurora, there were many limitations (such as no z-axis, therefore no jumping, climbing, etc.), but in terms of our aim for the mod, it did what we needed to do.

 

6. Do you end up spending more time modding the games you play or is modding something you do on the side or once you have finished playing the game? How many hours have you spent modding versus playing the actual game?


We only worked on the mods for The Witcher, originally as a means to expand into a game development studio. We have since moved on to completing the RiSE network, and then moving into the realm of commercial games. Since The Witcher, we have not modded.

 

7. Do you think your mod is required to play the game or is it just a little bit of extra fun? Are you happy with what you've done?


It is just a bit of extra fun. While we wanted it to be much better, overall we're happy with the effort put into it. From voice overs, to custom content in a time when exporting was extremely difficult, we accomplished some great things.

 

8. What's the level of community feedback and support been like both during and after? Did you originally undertake the task with the idea that it would be treated like beer at a university party, or were you prepared to accept the idea that it might not be downloaded so much after all?


We had a team of 400 community beta testers for three months and without them, the mod wouldn't have been nearly as good as it was. After launch, it has been greeted with mixed results. Some people have loved it, while others have hated it. We had accepted that the mod could've been much better near the end when we finally had all the information about the toolset, and the response could've been negative. We were very happy that people saw through some of the flaws and enjoyed the game play and story.

 

9. How does it feel when you know people have downloaded and are using your work? Do you get all warm and fuzzy inside, does it go to your head or is it just business as usual?


Being able to walk into a store and see a product that was simply just an idea in someone's head is something I personally aim for. The satisfaction that you were able to take that idea and formulate it into art. Same for downloading and seeing the mod on different mirrors, and talked about on forums. It's a very good feeling.

 

10. What were your expectations going into the project? What did you actually set out to achieve? Did you meet your expectations?


The expectation was a prototype for CD Projekt RED showing the full capabilities of both our team, and the limits of what the engine could do. We had gone in looking to build features like throwing knives, jumping, climbing, going around or through the limitations of the engine. We had gotten throwing knives mostly working, while moving jumping and climbing to the next mod. Overall, we felt the mod had been good at the end, especially considering the limitations we were faced with.

 

11. Tell us about the modding experience: What are some of the non-technical trials and tribulations you had during modding? Were there any internal team problems you had to deal with? Any DRAMA? Just how difficult and enjoyable was the entire process? How hard was it to see the mod through? Was it fun through-out or did it become more like work?


Considering you couldn't use SVN very effectively for the mod, we had to have only one person having access to the mod during development. This severely limited our progress. We had to basically pass a 400-500mb file around through an FTP to the next person, and lock it down. It was very stressful. On top of this, our voice team disappeared for weeks at a time. Considering voice overs were a major part of the mod, this put us at a standstill until they returned. Otherwise the team got along well, and there was very little drama. It was a very enlightening experience. To be honest, the same team from a year ago is still here today working on RiSE.

 

12. Knowing what you know now, would you go through it all again? Is the end result worth all that time and effort? If you had to do it all again, what would you do differently?


Particularly in regards to the Djinni toolset, probably not. It has many limitations. However, once we finish RiSE, we are planning an untitled RPG using the GameBryo engine. While it's not modding a set game, we feel most of game development itself is "modding" and therefore will be going through the same pitfalls as before. Only this time, we have much more insight.

 

13. What would you recommend to others who are thinking about modding? Any words of advice?


Plan ahead. Modding is not much different than game development, if at all. If you have a strong design document on what the mod is, start to finish, then it gives you and your team much more direction and focus. It all heavily reduces feature creep, the wonderful process of many independent minds throwing out those "cool" ideas that should be in the mod. Otherwise, stay focused to your game idea and you'll see it through.

 

14. Are there any other games that you plan on modding or are you looking forward to taking a break and playing games, rather than modding them?

 

We will be starting the untitled RPG around April/May. The aim right now is basing it in the Death Gate world created by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, provided we get access to the license. More to come once the RiSE network launches.

 

 

7. CamDawg - Baldur's Gate/Infinity Engine series

 

BG2 FixPack; BG2 TweakPack; Divine Remix; Icewind Dale TweakPack; Icewind Dale 2 TweakPack; Planescape: Torment TweakPack;

 

1. For starters, give us a short introduction about who you are, your modding interests and experience. Have you done this type of thing before or is this your first time? How many games have you modded?

I've never been a modder before. I started with Baldur's Gate II and then moved into other games using the same engine (Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale). I had played other mods, thought it looked fun, hung out on the forums, and decided I'd try to contribute.

2. Why did you decide to get into modding, what was your motiviation?

Honestly, I came into a fairly well-developed modding community. There was a pretty good cross-section of mods, and I felt I had gotten enjoyment from the community and their mods and I wanted to give back.

My first efforts were minor contributions to the mods of others, until I eventually hooked up with Alec (aka Idobek). He had a tweak pack, I started one, they eventually merged and became BG2 Tweaks, and that's probably been my longest-running and most well-known mod.

3. Speaking about your latest mod, what did you think of the original game? Do you think that the developers did a good enough job with the original game given the time they had, or were there problems in it that drove you to modding?

I've never viewed modding as an attempt to address perceived mistakes or shortcomings of developers. After all, if I felt the game was poor I never would have kept playing it and enjoying it to the point of modding! Most of my early efforts could really be grouped under the aegis of "D&D house rules".

The BG2 and IWD Fixpacks are a slightly different story as they are, by definition, intended to fix bugs left over after the release and official patches. Even so I still think it's important to distinguish between technical issues--where the Fixpack really makes its living--against storytelling, character development, atmosphere, etc. They're the reason why BG2 is consistently mentioned as a top CRPG game. There are only a handful of nasty leftover bugs; for the most part a lot of the stuff we address simply fixes minor dialogue issues, or a spell not quite working the way it should, and so on and so forth. They're still bugs, but the real quality of the game comes from well beyond what we're addressing.

4. Modding for games that have development tools is relatively easy, but for games that have no tools it can be quite difficult. How did this affect your decision to mod? Were there any particularly challenging bugs that you fixed or any features that you are particularly proud of modding into the game?

By the time I started modding, there were already some pretty good tools and resources available. I've always loved teaching and I've written a fair number of tutorials as a result, and they've been pretty well received. Even prior to the Fixpack my mods have been on the fairly technical side, and in that regard I've been one of the folks able to push for some very technical (though ultimately pretty powerful) features in modding tools. In the context of the Fixpack itself, with the help of many others I've written a debugging tool that helped automate the identification of common bugs and flag possible issues. It ultimately got released, as many of the checks it performed could be used to debug mod content just as easily.

There have been some very challenging bugs to crack, but for the most part I've been aided by people even better versed in Infinity Engine arcana, like devSin, Nythrun, igi, and many others too numerous to name. Credit for the really impressive (and the minor stuff, too) can, and should, go to the team who made it possible. I'm simply one part of that.

5. Following on from the question above, were there times when you tried to do something but couldn't? Did the limitations of your tools or access to source code prevent you from doing what you wanted to? If so, how did you work around it or how much time did you spend before deciding it couldn't be done?

There are some bugs that are siply hardcoded and can not be fixed. In some cases we can work around them, in other cases we can minimize them, but ultimately there are some that--short of source code--can not be addressed. The good news is that we generally have so much to investigate, test, discuss, etc. that we never got hung up on it and just kept plugging at the possible.

6. Do you end up spending more time modding the games you play or is modding something you do on the side or once you have finished playing the game? How many hours have you spent modding versus playing the actual game?

I can not attach an hourly figure, but perhaps an example would help. At any given time I generally had anywhere from 10-15 installations of BG2 on my computer, only one of which was reserved for playing. I love playing the game as it's simply a great story. I love modding the game for different reasons--interacting with the community, the technical challenges, artistic expression, among many others.

7. Do you think your mod is required to play the game or is it just a little bit of extra fun? Are you happy with what you've done?

I'm not sure you could describe a Fixpack as "fun", but I do think it makes for a cleaner experience and there's a lot to be said for that. It's certainly not necessary and I encourage everyone to check out alternatives and decide what (if anything) they want to use.

As for the second part of your question, I'm incredibly proud of the Fxpack. Not necessarily because of what I think it's accomplished, but more because of how we've done it. I'll expand a bit more on ths below.

8. What's the level of community feedback and support been like both during and after? Did you originally undertake the task with the idea that it would be treated like beer at a university party, or were you prepared to accept the idea that it might not be downloaded so much after all?

I had envisioned the Fixpack as a comunity project from the start, as I really felt the only way it would be useful was to have a large group of talented people working on it and an engaged player community picking it apart. I am fortunate to have built a pretty good rep as someone who tries (not always successfully Smile ) to focus on modding and ignore the extraneous stuff, and this made it easy to reach out to a lot of people about the project and bring them onboard. Parallel to that, I tried to foster a good environment where we could solicit a lot of feedback and have vigorous back-and-forth discussions. They were lofty goals that placed a heavy bet on good behavior in the community, but in the end it paid off.

As to downloads and popularity, this is not something I've ever really focused on. I try to focus on useful mods that I enjoy creating, so if no one ever downloaded them I would still be satisfied.

9. How does it feel when you know people have downloaded and are using your work? Do you get all warm and fuzzy inside, does it go to your head or is it just business as usual?

As above, I derive satisfaction by making something useful to the community as it feeds my sense of giving back. Many of the skills I use along the way are applicable to other things in my life and career. I think folks who are looking for validation through positive feedback and download counts are ultimately going to end up frustrated and unhappy, as eventually--maybe not now, but at some future point--you'll be disappointed on one or both of those points. Positive feedback is just gravy to a job well done.

10. What were your expectations going into the project? What did you actually set out to achieve? Did you meet your expectations?

The community as a whole has had previous episodes of acrimony, infighting, and drama--can't be the Internet without drama!--and I gambled on finding modders and players who simply wanted to make mods and play them. This is more or less how G3 got started, and the best manifestation of this attitude was the Fixpack. As mentioned above, I gambled on the better angels of the community and it succeeded.

11. Tell us about the modding experience: What are some of the non-technical trials and tribulations you had during modding? Were there any internal team problems you had to deal with? Any DRAMA? Just how difficult and enjoyable was the entire process? How hard was it to see the mod through? Was it fun through-out or did it become more like work?

While I certainly had some key people I wanted to get onto the team from the start, it's really been a pretty self-selecting group. Two of the people to whom I credit a lot of the Fixpack's success--devSin and Nythrun--were folks that (to me) came out of nowhere. Ultimately everyone wanted the same end goal. Even though we had some epic fights over the best way to get there, the drama was largely superficial.

A lot of times we'd have to determine developer intent, and we'd have all sorts of free-ranging, thoughtful, and insightful discussions. One of the reasons why we we did everything on a public forum was to encourage this interaction, and to never let anything go unchallenged. It was simultaneously the most difficult and most interesting aspect of the process.

12. Knowing what you know now, would you go through it all again? Is the end result worth all that time and effort? If you had to do it all again, what would you do differently?

I'd jump at the chance for more feedback and an even larger list of contributors, but overall I think the project went pretty well.

13. What would you recommend to others who are thinking about modding? Any words of advice?

Have fun making the mod. I've seen too many modders who get defensive and hurt when their mod doesn't get the feedback or download counts they think it should, and ultimately they quit without being able to fully express and explore their talent. Understand ahead of time that people will like and download your mod, or not, and that your enjoyment mainly needs to come from elsewhere.

Read tutorials, don't get discouraged, and don't be afraid to ask questions--one of the things I enjoyed even more than modding was writing tutorials and helping new modders, even though I didn't spend nearly enough time doing it. I was there at some point, and remembered how much I loved (and still do) discovering new and better ways to code, write, draw, etc.

14. Are there any other games that you plan on modding or are you looking forward to taking a break and playing games, rather than modding them?

I never thought I'd do so much BG2 modding--it was a happy coincidence of events that got me into it, and into it heavily--and I'd welcome such an occurrence again. As to whether or not it *will* happen again, I have no idea. Smile

 

 

8. theacefes - Baldur's Gate/Infinity Engine series

 

Auren Aseph NPC; Sarah NPC; Banana NPC; Skooter NPC;

 

1. For starters, give us a short introduction about who you are, your modding interests and experience. Have you done this type of thing before or is this your first time? How many games have you modded?

My name is Kat Bella but I typically go by “theacefes” in the modding community. I’ve been modding the Infinity Engine (Baldur’s Gate II to be exact) and the Aurora/Electron Engines (Neverwinter Nights 1 and 2) for a little over four years now. I enjoy writing dialogue, but scripting new quests and encounters into the games is a favorite pastime of mine. I’m probably best known in the Infinity Engine (IE) modding community for contributing custom musical soundtracks to my own mods and other people’s mods. Currently I am one of the administrators of The Gibberlings 3 modding site but I help out at the Chosen of Mystra modding site as well.

2. Why did you decide to get into modding, what was your motiviation?

I’ve always been a big fan of computers and computer games, especially the Baldur’s Gate series. While looking online one day for strategy tips, I came across the modding community and tried out some of the tweaks and NPC mods. Some of the NPC mods I wanted to play were still being worked on, so in my impatience, I decided to learn how to code and make an NPC mod on my own.

3. Speaking about your latest mod, what did you think of the original game? Do you think that the developers did a good enough job with the original game given the time they had, or were there problems in it that drove you to modding?

At the moment I’m working with a friend on a rather large project that will hopefully result with a “sequel” of sorts to BG2: Throne of Bhaal, but I’ve made a couple NPC mods in the past, as well as a mod that offers a partial alternate soundtrack to the game. This newest project is going to be cool though; it will give players the opportunity to start out at level 1 again and remember the good old days when a gibberling could tear you in half. Many Baldur’s Gate players feel that the Throne of Bhaal expansion was a disappointing finale to such an acclaimed series. I think that given the time they had and the technology at the time, the developers did an amazing job, but it is easy to tell that the final expansion was rushed. I see modding not as repairing the original game, but making a great game even better.

4. Modding for games that have development tools is relatively easy, but for games that have no tools it can be quite difficult. How did this affect your decision to mod? Were there any particularly challenging bugs that you fixed or any features that you are particularly proud of modding into the game?

Oh, yes I was disappointed at first when I found out that the IE didn’t have a neat little toolset like NWN did. The good thing about the tool the IE modders mainly use (WeiDU) is that there are so many tutorials out there that it’s difficult not to learn it quickly. Not to mention that once you finish a mod, you get this attitude of “I’m a programmer now”. Even if you’re not a professional, it’s that attitude that helps keep the modding community alive. As for me, I think I was just proud of myself for finishing two NPC mods. There are so many good ideas out there for NPC mods (these are by far the most popular mods by the way) but unfortunately due to real life stuff, lack of commitment, or just not maintaining interest in modding, these ideas are never turned into working mods and they just get cast off as “just another good idea.” I did an “In Progress” forum with Auren, my first NPC, and that took me about 5 months, (some mods have taken years!) but with Sarah, my second NPC, I didn’t say anything until I announced she was available, and that took me about 2 months, which is something I am proud of since it includes a romance subplot.

5. Following on from the question above, were there times when you tried to do something but couldn't? Did the limitations of your tools or access to source code prevent you from doing what you wanted to? If so, how did you work around it or how much time did you spend before deciding it couldn't be done?

There are so many things that are hard coded into the engine that even a tool as powerful as WeiDU can’t work around (can’t have more than 5 companions + you in your party for example). When working on the ToB (Throne of Bhaal) portion of the Auren mod for example, I wanted for one of the characters, Nalia, to get “kidnapped”, go to a different area, and rejoin the party once they get to that area. It wouldn’t work. I worked on that bug for months before finally having to change part of the plot. I never knew why, but the game didn’t like me messing around with that.

6. Do you end up spending more time modding the games you play or is modding something you do on the side or once you have finished playing the game? How many hours have you spent modding versus playing the actual game?

I’ve tried to play the games I mod, I really have! But once I started modding and after so much test runs involved in it, it didn’t really make me happy or entertained to just play through the game anymore. I couldn’t count hours, but I know that I’ve modded way more than actually playing the game. Most of the newer games coming out today don’t have a toolset or a utility you can use to mod the game as easily as you can with the IE, and they are usually big on graphics. I play those games more often but continue to mod the IE in the background. It never gets old for me.

7. Do you think your mod is required to play the game or is it just a little bit of extra fun? Are you happy with what you've done?

It’s usually recommended to first time BG players to not use mods, so that on their second or third run, they can appreciate the mods more. I am hoping that once my newest mod is released, everyone will want to play it, because even though it’s not an official sequel, it’s new material that players can at least try out for the sake of trying something new. Plus, the music rocks.

8. What's the level of community feedback and support been like both during and after? Did you originally undertake the task with the idea that it would be treated like beer at a university party, or were you prepared to accept the idea that it might not be downloaded so much after all?

While I was working on my first mod, I certainly had support of people who seemed to look forward to a new NPC in the game. I just wanted to get my own character in the game. To be honest I didn’t really think much about how many downloads the mod would get, so I was pleasantly surprised when my Auren mod got as many downloads as it did.

9. How does it feel when you know people have downloaded and are using your work? Do you get all warm and fuzzy inside, does it go to your head or is it just business as usual?

I think it’s a bit of both. I love getting comments like “Thank you for making this mod for us to play”. Those always make me feel like I’ve done something worthwhile.

10. What were your expectations going into the project? What did you actually set out to achieve? Did you meet your expectations?

I’ve found that the final product isn’t always as extravagant and great as the original idea makes it out to be. With the Auren and Sarah NPCs, I had to learn what my limits were, and how much work I wanted to realistically put into the projects. Now that I know my limits, it’s been easier for me to accurately outline and plan this new project. It helps to have a partner working with you too, so you can exchange ideas.

11. Tell us about the modding experience: What are some of the non-technical trials and tribulations you had during modding? Were there any internal team problems you had to deal with? Any DRAMA? Just how difficult and enjoyable was the entire process? How hard was it to see the mod through? Was it fun through-out or did it become more like work?

Since I worked on my own, I didn’t have to go by anyone else’s deadlines or rules. Sure, there are going to be people who think your idea is stupid or silly but if making the mod is important enough to you, you’ll learn to either take what others say as constructive feedback or ignore them and do what you want to do.

12. Knowing what you know now, would you go through it all again? Is the end result worth all that time and effort? If you had to do it all again, what would you do differently?


I think I would. I would probably go about it a bit differently; ask different questions, research more before asking for help; those kinds of things. The final result is definitely worth the effort, though. I’d probably rewrite all of my NPC mods, since in my opinion, I’ve become a better writer (and coder) since making those mods.

13. What would you recommend to others who are thinking about modding? Any words of advice?

Be prepared to do work. Modding is a hobby but it’s not exactly a walk in the park. Expect people to shoot down your ideas or ignore you period. And read read read the tutorials! They really do help. If making a mod is that important to you, you will make it because you want to, not because others do or don’t. Ask for help, but don’t be afraid of criticism.

14. Are there any other games that you plan on modding or are you looking forward to taking a break and playing games, rather than modding them?

Well, I just finished building a really sweet PC, so I’m hoping to use it this year when the latest games are released. I’m a programming student, so any time I get to actually play games instead of learning to make them is fun in my book.

 

 

9. Wesp - Vampire: Bloodlines

 

Unofficial Vampire Bloodlines Patch

 

1. For starters, give us a short introduction about who you are, your modding interests and experience. Have you done this type of thing before or is this your first time? How many games have you modded?

My name is Werner Spahl and I go by the nick Wesp5. I'm a chemist working at the university of Munich and my favorite games are FPS since I discovered Doom. I already made a very complex mod for Doom at the time which I called the "Theme Doom Patch" and in which you fought against Aliens, Predators and Terminators. The next game I really loved was Half-Life and I created a mod in which you played as an alien grunt from Xen. Besides those I made some smaller mods for several games like ones to include the demo levels of Half-Life and Gunman Chronicles into the full games or one restoring unused models into Opposing Force.

2. Why did you decide to get into modding, what was your motivation?

My overall motivation would be to do something creative in comparison to only passively playing a game. But for each game there were specific reasons like fixing bugs, restoring content or adding new features.

3. Speaking about your latest mod, what did you think of the original game? Do you think that the developers did a good enough job with the original game given the time they had, or were there problems in it that drove you to modding?

In my opinion Bloodlines is the best game I ever played because of it's unique combination of FPS and RPG elements with a clever story and brilliant writing! That is valid even for the game in it's original state, but I know about the difficulties concerning the release which are connected to the infamous HL2 delay which in my theory had a big part in killing Troika off and leaving the game in the buggy state it was released in.

As to what drove me specifically to do the unofficial Bloodlines patches, I used the one from Dan Upright at the time and it broke my game! I send him a PM on Planet Vampire, but he replied he wasn't going to work on Bloodlines anymore and I should go ahead and fix the issue myself. He then gave me first instructions on how to do this and then agreed on "passing the torch" like he called it happy ! Since then I have been busy.

4. Modding for games that have development tools is relatively easy, but for games that have no tools it can be quite difficult. How did this affect your decision to mod? Were there any particularly challenging bugs that you fixed or any features that you are particularly proud of modding into the game?

As I said, I didn't really intended to mod Bloodlines, I began with fixing the issue that made the game unplayable for me and then it just went on and on. From the start I had the great VPKTool utility which is able to do a lot with the game files and many files are plain text and thus easy to edit. Learning by doing was what I did wink . I can't remember any particularly challenging bugs because there were so many, but I'm particularly proud of restoring a lot of the unfinished or unused content into the game. Dan Upright started this with the sniper rifle and I continued with the Blood Heal discipline, several new occult items, new models, new objects, new sounds, new dialogue lines and even completely new sequences and quests!

5. Following on from the question above, were there times when you tried to do something but couldn't? Did the limitations of your tools or access to source code prevent you from doing what you wanted to? If so, how did you work around it or how much time did you spend before deciding it couldn't be done?

There are some things I just can't fix because they are hard-coded into the dlls. For the most serious ones I was lucky to find cool people who could hack into them to made e.g. widescreen resolutions available or fix the issues that were common when the computer running Bloodlines had too much memory installed.

6. Do you end up spending more time modding the games you play or is modding something you do on the side or once you have finished playing the game? How many hours have you spent modding versus playing the actual game?

I spend much more time doing the unofficial patches than I ever played the game! In fact I played it only once as a Toreador and from then on only the specific sections that were necessary to test the fixes or restorations I did.

7. Do you think your mod is required to play the game or is it just a little bit of extra fun? Are you happy with what you've done?

I'm very happy with what I've done and I always recommend to start with the 1.2 official patch or the basic patch if someone plans to play it several times anyway, just so they can see how much has been fixed and added. If someone plans to only play it once they should go ahead and get the full experience with the plus patch happy !

8. What's the level of community feedback and support been like both during and after? Did you originally undertake the task with the idea that it would be treated like beer at a university party, or were you prepared to accept the idea that it might not be downloaded so much after all?

I was actually quite surprised by the huge feedback of the community because my earlier mods were downloaded and used, but I never got many comments on them. With Bloodlines the community feedback is actually what keeps the project alive, because while I never had the time to replay the game again, several other people do so with every new patch and report all issues they still find so we can get closer and closer to a perfect game. Without the community feedback I would have stopped patching long ago!

9. How does it feel when you know people have downloaded and are using your work? Do you get all warm and fuzzy inside, does it go to your head or is it just business as usual?

Great question wink . Yes, I am a little bit proud of the patch, but as I said, it's not my work alone and I always credit all those other people that helped by fixing stuff I couldn't fix myself.

10. What were your expectations going into the project? What did you actually set out to achieve? Did you meet your expectations?

I just set out trying to fix the bugs and looking back I would never have thought that I could restore so much unused content. That clearly exceeded my expectations!

11. Tell us about the modding experience: What are some of the non-technical trials and tribulations you had during modding? Were there any internal team problems you had to deal with? Any DRAMA? Just how difficult and enjoyable was the entire process? How hard was it to see the mod through? Was it fun through-out or did it become more like work?

It's a bit like work all the time until I find the problem or until I am able to restore the hidden content. Then it's fun to test the new stuff! I never had any problems with the people helping me, but as for DRAMA, the saddest issue surrounding the Bloodlines patches was when some other modders decided to use my patch without permission or giving proper credit to create their own stripped down version while at the same time attacking myself and my work on several forums and even in the form of an insulting texture included in their patch. But this conflict has been over for some time and we better shouldn't restart it wink .

12. Knowing what you know now, would you go through it all again? Is the end result worth all that time and effort? If you had to do it all again, what would you do differently?

I would do it all over again and the result is worth the effort! I have a lot of fun doing the patch and obviously a lot of people have fun using my patch and it keeps a very old game alive or maybe, more fitting, undead wink ! Looking back I would probably have created a basic and plus version right from the start to avoid any of the conflict that arouse because of the patch/mod issue, if I only had known that people had it in the first place.

13. What would you recommend to others who are thinking about modding? Any words of advice?

Work together with the community as much as you can, at least if you are into fixing bugs and stuff!

14. Are there any other games that you plan on modding or are you looking forward to taking a break and playing games, rather than modding them?

I play games alongside all the time, but I haven't yet found another game that is as good as Bloodlines or that I would feel a need to mod. Also I don't think the work on Bloodlines has been finished yet happy !

 


10. Adam Miller - Neverwinter Nights series

 

Neverwinter Nights Downloads, Neverwinter Nights 2 Downloads

 

1. For starters, give us a short introduction about who you are, your modding interests and experience. Have you done this type of thing before or is this your first time? How many games have you modded?

During the day, I’m a mild-mannered web application developer for a healthcare organization, a husband, and father of two. I’ve been making computer games since I was eight using BASIC, and later played with adventure building games on the Commodore 64. Other than tinkering with Unreal and Half-Life, I didn’t get seriously into modding until I worked with Neverwinter Nights. After that, I moved into Neverwinter Nights 2, which was similar enough that modding for that game was pretty straightforward.

2. Why did you decide to get into modding, what was your motiviation?

I wrote up a lengthy article for Bioware titled “Why We Fight” (http://blog.bioware.com/2009/02/04/why-we-fight/) that gets into some of my initial motivations and why I continue to mod computer games. I love telling stories and am probably overly dramatic at times (my kids really bring it out of me). Though I didn’t go into medicine or become a scientist, I like to think that I’m making the world a happier place in my own small way.

3. Speaking about your latest mod, what did you think of the original game? Do you think that the developers did a good enough job with the original game given the time they had, or were there problems in it that drove you to modding?

I thought both NWN1 and NWN2’s official campaigns were fine, though perhaps not outstanding. I have a tendency to do weird things with the game engine that the developers of the game might not have been brave enough to do (usually for good reason). I ended up doing crazy things like Lute Hero for NWN2, which was only barely possible. For NWN1, there was a dragon riding scene that was done with smoke and mirrors, but really stood out in people’s minds. Both Neverwinter Nights games had the same issue of having to develop a full campaign as the game was being developed, so they usually played things safe.

4. Modding for games that have development tools is relatively easy, but for games that have no tools it can be quite difficult. How did this affect your decision to mod? Were there any particularly challenging bugs that you fixed or any features that you are particularly proud of modding into the game?

Both Neverwinter Nights games had pretty good development tools, and I wouldn’t have tried modding without them. There were various systems and tools that I ended up making for NWN2 that turned out quite well. I developed a process that took sound files and formatted them properly for the game, along with lipsynch animations. In terms of in-game systems, I ended up making a lot of mini-games including Lute Hero, Pirate Cards, High Seas (a ship combat, trading, and sailing system), Alphabet Assault, Sanity Defense, and others.

5. Following on from the question above, were there times when you tried to do something but couldn't? Did the limitations of your tools or access to source code prevent you from doing what you wanted to? If so, how did you work around it or how much time did you spend before deciding it couldn't be done?

Probably my biggest frustration is when I get crash bugs with no obvious cause or means to diagnose the issue. In another case, parts of the High Seas system are somewhat fragile and break under certain circumstances. That being said, I struggled hard with the precise timing needed for Lute Hero and finally got it working properly.

6. Do you end up spending more time modding the games you play or is modding something you do on the side or once you have finished playing the game? How many hours have you spent modding versus playing the actual game?

I almost never play other people’s mods these days, as with work and family, my free time has all but vanished. I actually start planning a campaign before games are released, so playing through the game tends to be something I try to work in between modding time.

7. Do you think your mod is required to play the game or is it just a little bit of extra fun? Are you happy with what you've done?

It’s certainly not required to play through my campaign in order to enjoy the game, though I’ve kindly had some people say they liked it more than the official campaign. I’m quite happy with how everything has turned out, and proud of all the people who have helped make the campaign over the years.

8. What's the level of community feedback and support been like both during and after? Did you originally undertake the task with the idea that it would be treated like beer at a university party, or were you prepared to accept the idea that it might not be downloaded so much after all?

When NWN came out, I’m not sure anyone knew how big the community would get, so it was a pleasant surprise that it was downloaded so much. The community hasn’t been as big with NWN2, but the campaign has still be well received.

9. How does it feel when you know people have downloaded and are using your work? Do you get all warm and fuzzy inside, does it go to your head or is it just business as usual?

There was certainly an initial thrill that came with fame, though that quickly faded after having to answer multiple e-mails each day. These days I tend to be pretty focused on the task at hand and hope that enough people enjoy it to make it worthwhile.

10. What were your expectations going into the project? What did you actually set out to achieve? Did you meet your expectations?

Dark Waters was well planned out before NWN2 came out, using NWN1 as a prototyping engine. I think most of our goals were met, though I wasn’t entirely happy with the High Seas system. The final act in the campaign is currently going through alpha testing and it includes some really great moments. Hopefully it will be a satisfying ending to the campaign.

11. Tell us about the modding experience: What are some of the non-technical trials and tribulations you had during modding? Were there any internal team problems you had to deal with? Any DRAMA? Just how difficult and enjoyable was the entire process? How hard was it to see the mod through? Was it fun through-out or did it become more like work?

Working with large teams is always challenging, as I felt I never had enough time to give everyone the time they deserved. Eventually I switched to a different style of communication where I’d ask for help on specific things, but they’d graciously assist. That being said, I’m honored to have worked with some really great people. Razvan was a modeling maniac, cranking out ships and flintlocks at a rapid pace. Sunjammer helped with coding and pointing out issues with my code. PJJ has been through it all, an invaluable tester and sounding board for ideas. Then there are the voice actors, such as Chris Serani, Eshinee Veith, Derek Achoy, Guy Incognito, and many others that made a huge difference in the quality of the module.

12. Knowing what you know now, would you go through it all again? Is the end result worth all that time and effort? If you had to do it all again, what would you do differently?

Apparently I either still enjoy it or didn’t learn my lesson, as I’m planning another campaign for Bioware’s upcoming Dragon Age.

13. What would you recommend to others who are thinking about modding? Any words of advice?

Probably the best thing is to start small and play to your talents. Being overly ambitious is the downfall of many a modder, including myself. My plan for my next project is to keep things smaller and more focused. Annual releases are pretty grueling and you don’t get much feedback from players in between.

14. Are there any other games that you plan on modding or are you looking forward to taking a break and playing games, rather than modding them?

Dragon Age is likely the next one for me. Bioware was generous enough to fly me to Edmonton and show off their toolset. Hopefully I can have something fun for people to play soon after the game comes out.


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