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    PlanetQuake | Features | Articles | Mods 101: Your Guide To Modification Creation
   

Mods 101: Your Guide To Modification Creation
You've got a great idea for a new mod, but you have no idea how to get started. The process can be daunting, but with the right preparation and abiding by some advice, you can see your project through to the end.
  — by Lee'Mon


During my time here at PlanetQuake, I've seen the same story over and over again. Some people think that PQ will host any site that asks, but in truth, we have to turn down a good fifty sites for every one we accept. There IS a selective process, and a good number of projects have to be rejected. I've seen these projects, forced to remain at their Geocities accounts. The web page, totally lacking in any content, is often the same, announcing the mod as "the best Total Conversion ever" and lists off the mod's features: "New Maps! New Textures! New Sounds! New Weapons! New Classes!" and so on. And of course, there's the massive Help Wanted page pleading for people to begin the project, with the promise that this will this will be the best game of all time.

The sad part is, once I leave these pages, I know that I'll often never hear of this project ever again. I'm not out to discourage mod designers, because great modifications are one of the best things about the Quake series. But I've seen many a project get shut down, cancelled, or all but abandoned, simply because its leaders were unable to keep the ball rolling. Consequently, I hope to be able to provide some insight on how to begin a mod project, and give some tips that will be valuable to first-time mod creators. Please take the following to heart as you begin your quest to create the ultimate Quake III Arena addon.


Starting the Project

Many people have written PlanetQuake (and me personally, for that matter), saying that they have a great idea for a Q3A TC and wanted to know how to begin making it. Unfortunately, it's usually not that easy. One cannot go from zero to TC in 8.6 seconds. Before beginning your own project (particularly anything resembling a total conversion), you have to learn some of the important rules of the Quake mod community.

#1: You will sacrifice. The professional game industry is composed of people that code, map, and model sixty, even eighty hours a week. More importantly, they get paid to do it. Take this into consideration. If you're attempting to create a "professional" looking mod, it's going to take a LOT of your time. You are essentially going to have to fit two lifetimes into your daily schedule.

Creating any involving mod is a HUGE commitment to your time. If you're a high school student, expect your parents to become fairly frustrated at the amount of time your project requires. If you're in college, you'll likely have to give up those wild parties on the weekends, and it's a near certainty that your grades are going to drop. If you have a job, you had best love your Quake mod work, because you're going to have to come home from work and go straight into several hours of mod work to see any results. Regardless of who you are, you will have to sacrifice. You may sacrifice your television viewing time, or sleep time, or even time you would just spend relaxing. But something's going to have to give.

Along with sacrifice comes dedication. Sure, your project is going to start out fun, but down the road you will run into troubles. You'll come across a good share of aggravating problems and plain old Hard Work(tm) before you start seeing results.

None of this is meant to stop you from beginning, but you should be aware of what your project is going to take. You must be ready and willing to give up most of your recreational time, and you'll have to suffer through a lot of hard times. Most of all, you must keep yourself from becoming discouraged when things get hard. You have to know what you're getting into. When you commit yourself to mod work, you have to commit to stay with the project or not commit at all.

#2:Offer something valuable. It's unfortunate, but nobody gets anywhere in the profession game industry or the amateur mod community by being an "idea person". Cool ideas for a game or mod are truly a dime a dozen. You may have the greatest mod idea on the planet, but you will never find a team to begin your project if you have nothing but your idea to contribute. That means that before you begin making your first mod, you're going to have to become good at some aspect of mod making. Perhaps you're a good mapper. Maybe you're a great artist, and can create some fantastic textures or superb skins. Perhaps you can code your ideas into reality. At any rate, if people see that you have your own talents, they'll be far more likely to support your project, and will probably be more inclined to join you.

#3:Start small. Like I said before, I HIGHLY recommend that before you begin your own large project, you help with someone else's mod. In order to persuade someone else that they should let you help, however, you're going to have to show them some previous work. Either way, the very first step is to do your own dabbling. Try some new ideas, and do things just to see how they work. You'll gain some invaluable experience, and you'll have a miniature "portfolio" of work to show off.

If you do begin your own project, don't start with a total conversion. A TC is a TREMENDOUSLY huge step. In fact, I did not consider beginning a TC until my third project, something I would consider to be a bare minimum for how long to wait. Start with a small idea, and develop it step by step. Even if you think big, start small. Start with a single element of your mod, and develop that one element.

For example, let's say you're a coder (the easiest example.) Don't try to write the entire mod from scratch. Start by coding, say, one of the weapons you'd like to see. If you've never coded a weapon before, check out one of the Q3A Flamethrower tutorials that are out there. (One note: I don't recommend showing off a flamethrower weapon mod, though, unless it's something truly unique. It's been done several times already. It's not a very original idea and in fact, it was in Q3A already at one point, but it makes for good experience.)

This is an important testing phase of your project. Don't get distracted. Just work on one simple thing, plan it out, test it, debug it, etc. Once that one thing is completed, either release it on the 'net (if it's noteworthy) or send it to some people you'd like to work with. For example, try sending your weapon mod to a modeller you've come in contact with. Ask, "Take a look at the code for this weapon...do you think you could help me create a model for it?"

By getting something small accomplished, you'll achieve several goals. You'll have contributed something to the Quake mod community, regardless of its importance. You'll begin to establish your name as someone talented who gets their projects done. You'll begin to make those important contacts with other talented people. Most of all, you'll have practiced your skills, and you'll begin to understand the true scope of what you're trying to accomplish overall.

Please don't dismiss this step and dive headfirst into a project. Start small! This step can't be stressed enough. If more people took a top-down approach to their projects, everyone would hear far less overhype, and everyone would have far more cool mods to play with.

Next: Assembling the team


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