The mod developers of QuakeCon get together to discuss the state of the community.
By - Sal "Sluggo" Accardo
OK, so there was no actual table. Sue me.
One of my favorite memories from last year's QuakeCon -- by far -- was the mod developer roundtable. Somehow, the session found itself without a moderator, at which point PlanetQuake's Hellchick and I somehow wound up running the show.
I immediately had fears that the workshop would turn into a complete disaster: "HEADLINE TEXAS: 40 AMATEUR GAME DEVELOPERS SPONTANEOUSLY COMBUST INTO FLAMES AFTER POOR MODERATION."
Or something like that.
Thankfully, the session turned into 2+ hours of spirited discussion ... ending with id Software's own John Carmack surprising the crowd and joining in for the last half hour. Afterward, there were a lot of mod authors happy that they'd had a chance to sit and ask the esteemed Mr. Carmack some questions about modding in general.
WIth that in mind, I was pretty excited when I found out I'd be moderating this year's sequel. We only had an hour this time around, and a larger group, so we quickly did some introductions and got down to business. A number of notable mod teams were on hand, including the developers behind Weapons Factory Arena, Urban Terror, Quake 3 Fortress, Jailbreak, and Combat.
I asked the group for suggestions of major events within the mod community the last year. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when a number of people said "Counter-Strike going retail."
There were mixed feelings on Counter-Strike's move to a retail product. Many people thought it was great to see mod authors compensated for their work, while others didn't see much value in having a retail product that was already available for free.
On the other side of the coin was Gunman Chronicles, a retail game that started life as a Half-Life mod but eventually was released as a fully standalone game like Counter-Strike. The only difference -- Gunman was never available for free.
Another topic of discussion was the need for a central resource for mod authors to refer to. While a few places like Code3Arena and IRC channels were mentioned, a number of developers expressed frustration at not knowing where to turn for answers outside of mailing id Software.
A few members of Team Reaction.
A few authors mentioned something that had worked for them in the past -- contacting each other. Since most of the modders working within the same engine, many of them encounter the same problems -- and should share solutions with each other.
I also asked the group (which was made up predominantly of Quake 3 mod authors) what engine they were planning to use for future projects. Almost everyone said Quake 3, due to both familiarity and the engine's ever-growing popularity as a licensed product, ensuring that there would be people working with (and familiar with the workings of) the engine code for quite some time to come.
A Patchwork Situation
One of the most heated topics of discussion concerned the recent release of beta patches for Quake 3. A few of the point releases have "broken" some mods, and a few developers expressed the wish that they could have a "final" version of the code and not have to worry about compatibility issues with future patches.
Around this time, id Software's Robert Duffy -- one of the people doing the most work on the point releases -- happened to walk in, and was kind enough to field a number of questions for everyone. Robert also had some news of interest -- they were shooting to have a 1.3 "final" Quake 3 point release soon, which would give developers a solid platform to continue working on.
To Be Continued
While it was a great 45 minutes with the group, it was over way too soon and we had to vacate the room for the id Software press conference. There's good news, however -- we'll be continuing this with a second session Saturday afternoon at 4:30 (CST). Stay tuned!