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    PQ | Features | Mailbag | May 10, 2002
   

PQ Mailbag

Intro, etc

Greetings once more, folks. A few delays here and there last week, mostly involving the acquisition and contact of a new mailbag sidekick. I'm running out, actually - just one more left and then it's time to take some new applications. So if you're interested in the job, let me know.

So, sidekick this week is one Fatneck-X, occasional Quake 1 coder and all-around loon. In his own words: "Greetings, I'm Fatneck-X. Yes, that's right 'X' Why 'X?' Because there's beginning to be far to many people using my name out there."

Too many fat necks in the world, apparently. But enough, as they say, of the chit-chat. On with the show!


We've got questions, you've got answers

Not a whole lot of feedback on "what makes a good mod," but what we got was detailed.


From: Phoenix
Subject: Question of the week: What do you think makes a good mod?

One word: Generations!

Ok, shameless plug over. What makes a good mod? I would boil it down to one word: FUN. If the mod isn't fun, why play it? It's the same with any game. A mod has to add some element to the game you can't otherwise get from playing the game itself. Sometimes this can be something extremely simple (instagib comes to mind) or other times it can be some radical change to the gameplay. We all know the current cliche's of "realism" mods, "movie/cartoon/tv show" themed mods, etc, looking back at Quake 2 we all know the ever popular mods like Rocket Arena and OSP are the "big names", but remember the "other" mods? Remember Chaos? Remember the OLD versions of Weapons of Destruction? A lot of fun there. Some of the most fun I've had was using the Lithium mod to make an insta-gib blaster game with a friend of mine. Simple but hilarious especially if you haven't slept for 3 nights straight. Ahh, those were the days...

That's where a lot of people are missing the target when it comes to mod making. I think there is far too much emphasis in being "professional" with gaming these days. I don't mean being professional in how you MAKE the mod, but I mean as to who you're trying to "cater" to. I see the net flooded with "competition" type mods where you can hop through 100 servers with the same ping and same maps and same mod and never worry about ever getting a full server, where some really good mods end up taking a back seat or have 1 server that you ping 650 to. You know the ones I mean. The "fun" mods that don't get enough attention. The ones that are a blast to play but people seem to ignore. I don't think good popularity when it comes to modding at all, and I've seen a lot of good mods without them ever having servers to host them. One might argue that if they were good they'd get hosted, but if they're not hosted in the first place how can you ever know if they're "good"? Kind of like the chicken and the egg argument, but let's not go there.

A lot of what makes a mod "good" is subjective and is going to ultimately depend on what you like. From my own experience working on Generations Arena I've seen the developer's side of it as well as the player's side. Players and fans expect a fun game, and they want it NOW. Which is understandable, who doesn't? With a small mod it's easy, just make a few tweaks and you're done. A lot of the bigger mods run into serious technical issues (16 wepaon limit comes to mind...), legal issues (in our case that's a VERY important concern), and team issues, not to mention that making a mod takes a lot of work. It's well past the old DehackEd days of Doom when you could tweak a few numbers and have some insane variation of of the game. Making mods now is just about as much work as a full fledged game, except you have to do it in your "off" time and don't get paid for it. Mod makers are becoming more scarce, mods are taking longer to make, the existing mod makers are burning out or moving on as the work factor increases as the community demands better graphics/models/gameplay. I've seen a lot of mods suffer stagnation and fizzle out because of this, and some other really fun mods like Hunt have just somehow slipped under the radar even though they are a blast to play. It's all a bit of a gamble, takes work, and after all that you could still end up with nobody ever playing it once the next big game is released. After all, why bother to make it if you're going to get ignored?

To the contrary I think the opposite is true, that if you pour your heart and soul into the mod, take the time and effort to make it work despite the odds, and pimp it like mad at the right time it will get noticed and people will play it. I wonder how many potentially good mods have failed just because the coder/modeler/whatever got lazy. I think the best mods are the ones the mod team takes the time to "put their soul" into and listen to feedback from the fans but also don't lose sight of the original vision under the potentially crushing weight of public opinion and put the most effort into "keeping it fun". That DOES include making an effort to keep it playable even for us modem llamas. Fun to me is always going to be the major key alongside dedication/support on the part of the mod team. For a single player game I want a gripping story line (unless it's obviously a Doom-ish mindless shooter, which is ok too), intense action, good weapons and monsters, and breathtaking environments. But for a multiplayer mod I would much rather play something that makes me cackle hysterically, nearly have a heart attack from excitement, or after having played it stop and stare at the screen and say "THIS is damn cool" than play "yet-another-tournament-mod" with all the "pro" wannabes. Good mods are fun, and we need more fun mods.

- Phoenix, Wirehead Studios

http://www.planetquake.com/wirehead

a madman:: This week, as you can see, we kicked it off in the usual manner with the responses to "last week's" mailbag. Hopefully we haven't already lost half of our readers after this first letter. So for those of you who managed to read this far we'll jump right in.

Ok... so what makes a mod good is... being fun. Right, thanks chief. Could you be a little more vague, please? How about "a good mod is a mod that isn't bad," instead? And, of course, what letter would be complete without a bit of pimping? Whoever didn't see that first line coming, go stand in the back. You want to tackle this one for a sec, Fatneck? I'm just getting warmed up here.

Fatneck-X:: Pimping huh? I could tell you a bit about that, but there's a few things you wouldn't want to find out have been going on around your house.

Anyway, if I may do a little "pimping" of my own about my OWN mod. I wasn't after a fun factor for mine. I just wanted to take all the cool things I'd seen that had been half-assed and, if I may say so, make them quote/unquote "perfect." Fun just seemed to be a side effect of everything I put in the bag.

a madman:: Hell, while we're on the subject of pimping I could easily go on for hours about Bazooka Quake 3. You see, the way I see it there are a few simple rules to making a good mod. All it really takes is a near-maniacal focus on removing all the elements from the game that aren't fun (like getting sniped or being killed by a lucky headshot), and then improving all the things that are fun (like using the rocket launcher). It's a simple formula. If it doesn't make the game play better, take it out. Weigh each addition carefully, keep things balanced. Unfortunately, I don't have the stomach to devote myself to becoming a publicity machine like some people.

a madman:: Speaking of Phoenix, I know I've seen him around here before...

*searches*

Oh, that's right! He made a guest appearance in the QuakeScopes a few months back. I think it was the icon entitled "birdporn.jpg" that really stuck in my brain, shattering my illusions about humanity and haunting my dreams with horrible nightmare visions...

So... moving right along... Obviously, popularity isn't what makes a good mod. Phoenix, bird-lover though he may be, managed to get that right in his meandering reply. I have to say, though, that I've been a fan of the Hunt mod he mentioned ever since I learned about it from the mod of the week feature. The "Save the Universe" mode was a stroke of genius. Fatneck knows, as he has played many a game with me.

Fatneck-X:: Don't forget the -X to my name.

a madman:: Right, right, Fatneck-X. Sorry, I'm just used to Fatnecks of the normal variety. Too many other people using your name? Who the hell else would want to be called 'Fatneck?'

Fatneck-X:: You'd be surprised the number of "Fatnecks" you can find on ICQ alone, nowadays. Used to be just me and this chick, now everyone and their monkey-mother want's to be a Fatneck. I guess when you're good you're good. But *I* need to stand out. I'm the ORIGINAL Fat-neck.

a madman:: Of that, I have no doubt...

From: Ph8
Subject: what makes a good mod

A mod needs to bring something new to the game. A mod needs to re-invent the game, so that when you are playing it, you no longer think "I'm playing Quake right now" - you think you're playing perhaps "Trophy Buck Railgun Hunting" or "Fragsketball" or what-have you.

I haven't played too many mods in my years of gaming, but a few do come to mind. For Quake 2, there was Quake 2 Basketball. It was pretty fun, load some bots and shoot hoops. I've not yet tried Quake Rally, but I always thought that was an interesting concept. Same with Air Quake. I've always dreamed of there being a flight sim using the Quake engine, because simply put, Quake runs well on this 6 year old pc. Now obviously Air Quake is no flight sim by any means, but you see my point. Re-inventing a game and changing the face of it is what really makes a mod. When you take it from first-person-shooter to racing or action or flight, etc, and you've executed it very well, I think you've made a damn successful mod.

This is what mod developers need to keep in mind. Don't repeat the game, twist, manipulate and change it. Who knows, you might strike a nerve and invent a whole new genre of gaming.

=====

>> Justin/Ph8

http://phait.likeamofo.com

a madman:: Ok. So... to make a good mod, your mod has to be a different genre than the game you're modifying? That doesn't even make any sense! In theory, then, if I were to somehow create a first-person shooter modification for Baldur's Gate it would be a good mod. Likewise, making Quake 3 into a turkey hunting game would suddenly make the genre of hunting sims into playable games.

Fatneck-X:: Would I be correct in assuming, then, that you'll be downloading Q3:WMA as soon as it's released publicly? In case you didn't know, that's Quake III: Whack-a-Mole Arena. Honestly, a good mod is a mod that has to change gameplay entirely? I think that's what we generally refer to as a TC, or a, quote/unquote, "Total Conversion." Which usually implies that there's hardly anything recognizable from the original game. I think that's the po' man's way of getting around the $150k liscensing fee Id software charges for you to use their engine for your own purposes. Not that TCs are bad - I'm just too fat and lazy.

a madman:: Let's face it, an FPS engine was made to run an FPS. Anything else is pretty much a mutant hack that's interesting from a technological standpoint but generally pretty flaky on the gameplay. There's only so much you can do with a mod, after all, and the good collision detection necessary for a fighting game or the control scheme necessary for a good flight sim just can't be done smoothly or particularly well. This isn't to say that I don't respect those who have tried such things - I, myself, have fairly detailed plans for both a "Quakemon Snap" game and and a true RTS using an unmodified Quake 1 engine. But such things ARE amateur projects, done with insufficient tools, and so they're always going to have a more "arcade" feel than a game built from the ground up to do the same thing. They're interesting, and a fun change of pace, but are they the best mods? Personally, I'd say no.

So quit being cheap and just go buy Tony Hawk 3 instead of waiting for someone to make it for Quake 3.

Fatneck-X:: Are you saying that Super Quake felt "arcadelike" to you? What exactly does that mean? Do you WANT a piece of me?

a madman:: Nah, but I'm ready for some Whack-a-Mole arena. Time for the next page.

Fatneck-X:: Hold up. That URL at the bottom says likeamofo.com.

What the hell is that?

a madman:: Apparently, his broken homepage.

Fatneck-X:: Apparently. Onward!

Next: PQ readers do some ranting!


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