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Speaking With the Devs Behind a 7-Year Game Mod Project 100

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-don't-even-remember-where-i-lived-7-years-ago dept.
Gamasutra has an interview with members of Off Topic Productions, the team behind the recent completion of The Nameless Mod, a Deus Ex modification that was in development for seven years. They talk about how they stayed interested in such a lengthy, unpaid project, and also how their vision for the mod shifted over the years as a result of experience and feedback. "We estimate that we recreated everything we did during the first 2 or so years because we got better. The plot went through 4 revisions in the first year and was continually tweaked, expanded, and revised. Most of it also simply came about as we experimented with the game and the engine and grew familiar with what we could do — originally we were planning something even more open and free-form than we ended up with, but when we realized how fundamentally the game was built for a completely different type of structure, we reigned ourselves in and adjusted our design. ... Also, I don't know if you ever go back and read what you wrote 6-7 years ago, but in my experience that's a great way to embarrass yourself — I spent a lot of time rewriting old dialogue to be less embarrassing."
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Speaking With the Devs Behind a 7-Year Game Mod Project

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  • Marathon Too (Score:5, Informative)

    by adavies42 (746183) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @09:33PM (#27811729)
    There have been a couple Marathon mods that took about that long--Eternal comes to mind.
    • by adavies42 (746183)
      Ooops, typo'd the link code: Marathon Eternal [bungie.org].
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 03, 2009 @10:57PM (#27812245)
      So it's not just a clever name?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Daimanta (1140543)

      Don't forget the people of http://tamriel-rebuilt.org/ [tamriel-rebuilt.org] . They have been working on their project for the last 7 years and looking at the schedule I can safely say that this project will take some more years before for example the Morrowind mod is finished. But the team is persistent and I am patient.

      Cheers for the tamriel-rebuilt guys!

    • by icebrain (944107)

      Take a look at Falcon 4 sometime. There are still community modification projects running, over ten years after commercial release. The graphics are dated, and the physics model is substandard, but nothing else has come out with the combination of high fidelity and dynamic campaigns that Falcon offers.

      Unfortunately, the market for such high-realism stuff is very limited. Most people would rather play "Online Guild Wars 5" or "First-Person Shooter XLVII" :-/

    • by DarkFall (14299)

      Yup, it took us just over 7 years to "finish" Marathon:Resurrection [bungie.org]. I say finish in quotes because these sorts of things are never really finished, but after 7 years we actually managed to finish up all the levels, monsters and story, so it was done. We still want to polish it some more, but life happens...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 03, 2009 @09:40PM (#27811779)

    I plan to release it seven years after it's been released, which will be in... Oh damn, Slashdot comments aren't long enough to fit in the year, but it'll be a while.

  • by sootman (158191) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @09:41PM (#27811793) Homepage Journal

    ... they can move over to the DNF team. Though these guys might be a little fast-paced for that crew...

    • There will be no Duke Nukem Forever - 3D Realms has abandonned the project a long time ago, but keeps releasing teasers as a form of viral marketing to keep themselves in the mainstream media awareness long enough not to go bankrupt until Max Payne 3 is released.

  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Sunday May 03, 2009 @09:43PM (#27811807)

    Moss grows fat on a rolling stone, but that's not how it used to be.

    Think about this. Demolition Man [imdb.com] was released 16 years ago. As much as I liked the movie, and as much as it remains as topical and entertaining as ever, in the meantime so many other good movies were produced that to simply focus on one good movie over the years is to miss out on everything else.

    Bye bye, Miss American Pie.

  • Congrats to The Nameless Mod team, the mod (well, now a full retail game in development) I'm really looking forward to is Alien Swarm: Infested - been in development since 2005 - http://www.blackcatgames.com/swarm/ [blackcatgames.com] - I played the UT2004 total conversion mod back in the day and it was AWESOME.

    Bring it on! (also DNF)

  • Ditto (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thedrx (1139811) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @10:01PM (#27811923)
    Also, I don't know if you ever go back and read what you wrote 6-7 years ago, but in my experience that's a great way to embarrass yourself â" I spent a lot of time rewriting old dialogue to be less embarrassing

    This is very true for me. Whenever I come back to very old code, writings, forum/newsgroup posts, emails or the like, I always can't help but feel bad. Sometimes I'll happen upon a piece of code, think to myself 'what was this idiot thinking' and then discovering it's my own code :P

    It's good I guess, means I'm changing over time (here's hoping it's change for the better).
    • Re:Ditto (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hedwards (940851) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @10:34PM (#27812113)

      Yes, but unless you're maintaining the code you really shouldn't be thinking about a current project that way. There are some projects where it's legitimate to still be coding on it after years, but if you have to rewrite the project from scratch more than once, you've botched something and really ought to sit down and plan it out.

      A project conceived and executed in that fashion is going to be a serious pain in the ass to maintain later on, assuming that it does get finished. And further assuming that anybody still cares about it at that point. There's something to be said for somewhat less than perfect featurewise but finished.

      • by thedrx (1139811)
        Oh yes, definitely. Nothing worse than having complex project and some guy who sits down and has the brilliant idea of rewriting the whole thing every so often.

        Then again, really good code (even better if it's based on really good planning) tends to look good even after decades.
      • Re:Ditto (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted@slashd[ ]org ['ot.' in gap]> on Sunday May 03, 2009 @11:25PM (#27812401)

        [B]ut if you have to rewrite the project from scratch more than once, you've botched something and really ought to sit down and plan it out.

        Not if it's by design. I found it to be the only way that makes sense, to work trough prototyping. Especially for games and other large projects. I define the things I want to clarify, and then build a throwaway-prototype to answer as many of them with as little work as possible. Then I repeat this process, until I am happy with it.
        Over a specific project size, top-down-modeling and bottom-up-coding alone do not do it anymore. And in creative processes it's sometimes even impossible.

        • [B]ut if you have to rewrite the project from scratch more than once, you've botched something and really ought to sit down and plan it out.

          Not if it's by design. I found it to be the only way that makes sense, to work trough prototyping. Especially for games and other large projects. I define the things I want to clarify, and then build a throwaway-prototype...

          Have you ever shown these prototypes to the "powers that be"? I have found that doing stuff like that leads to expectation warps in management's brains - they start to expect that you can make miracles in a week or two and begin to plan how to use this.... their later collisions with reality aren't pretty.

          • by Rycross (836649)

            Never show a prototype that looks nice and works well to management. Make the UI look like trash and throw in a couple of bugs. That sets the expectation that this is not a final product and still requires work.

          • I am my own boss, and have sworn to never work for someone else again. Ever.

            By the way: The first and most important thing you have to know, is to let them hear a clear and precise "No".
            If you start caving at any time (especially in the beginning), you will be their bitch.
            The same as they would be your bitch, as soon as they started to cave.

            It's just that they learned to expect not to cave themselves. And you got told to obey, your entire life. (As most of us have.)

            Fact is: You are having a deal with equal

    • by gringer (252588)

      Sometimes I'll happen upon a piece of code, think to myself 'what was this idiot thinking' and then discovering it's my own code :P

      Sometimes I go back to my old code, think to myself, "that's odd, how does that work?", get sidetracked on other things for a few hours, then think, "Hey, that's pretty neat. I might use that for what I'm doing now."

      Rare occasions, but it's nice when it happens.

      • by ggy (773554)
        It's also a pleasing experience when you go back t o extend functionality, think to yourself "Now why didn't the developer provide this API functionality?" and soon after discover that he not only did, but also provided the functionality you were working on. Even nicer when it happens over a 5 year timespan.
    • by 4D6963 (933028)
      Happens to me all the time when I search through newsgroups I used to post too. Then I read a post and think "Holy shit, this moron needs a fucking clue" then look at the author and "Oh shit that was me in 2005!".
  • by syousef (465911) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @10:15PM (#27811993) Journal

    ....to release version 1 rather than ditch it and start all over, then go for another game with their improved idea? Reading between the lines I'm guessing they realized the engine wouldn't let them do version 1 properly, so they had to rework it.

    It really sounds to me like a case of being scattered at the start, not designing well, then realizing that you can't do what you intended waaaay later than they should have. That's fine. They're doing it for free after all, but it should not be hailed as a triumph when a talented team only produces one thing in 7 years due to having to rework things.

    Anyway don't know if I'll ever play it but thanks for the game - we could use more and more good mods. It's one thing that makes PC gaming so much richer than consoles. (Yes I know consoles can have mods but it's no where near as easy).

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Some people are purists. Some people are inexperienced. Some people just want it to be right down to the smallest detail so that when you look back your code is tight and fast and solid.

      Who knows what actually happened, but these people are in it for the art and I understand that. I applaud their intellectual honesty and coding integrity, and just plain old down home hacking through the unknown.

      • by KDR_11k (778916)

        Some people were still in the learning process when their mod started and feel like they could do much better with their more developed grasp on the tools and everything...

    • by zaffir (546764)

      If you create something and it isn't as good as you think you are capable of, you don't want to release it. Why would they release something they aren't happy with if they don't have a publisher ready to fire them all?

      • by syousef (465911) on Monday May 04, 2009 @02:04AM (#27813049) Journal

        If you create something and it isn't as good as you think you are capable of, you don't want to release it. Why would they release something they aren't happy with if they don't have a publisher ready to fire them all?

        Perhaps because nothing you create will ever be perfect and if you release early your work isn't wasted if you're hit by a bus? Not saying you should release garbage, but if you managed to make something knowing you could do better, sitting on it doesn't benefit anyone. In the years it takes you to make version 2, even if nothing bad happens to you, the platform may have died, the style of game may have gone out of vogue etc.

        • Hey it's not like Axl Roses career suffered or went out of vogue from polishing Chinese Democracy for 10+ years. Well at least he didn't get hit by a bus.
    • by Koiu Lpoi (632570)
      I'm not going to lie. I read the summary, I watched the trailer. This mod looks stupid. I'm sure it's very "deep" and whatnot, but it looks to be not worth my time in the least. It may have taken 7 years, but that doesn't mean you produced anything of worthwhile quality. If you've got 7 years to make a trailer to hook me (a lover of Deus Ex) into playing it, and you've failed, doesn't that say something?
      • by jotok (728554)

        Yes.

        It reiterates the principle that every time anyone produces something like this, for every 1 person who enjoys it--you know, the target audience--there are 100 people who don't like it and just sit around bashing the project, despite never having gotten one off before.

        • by Koiu Lpoi (632570)

          there are 100 people who don't like it and just sit around bashing the project, despite never having gotten one off before.

          Knowing what is quality and producing something that is quality are completely unrelated skills.

          • by jotok (728554)

            Well, having an opinion and having any creative ability are surely divorced, in any case.

        • by elrous0 (869638) *
          I've never made a motion picture before, but I still feel qualified to give my opinion that the Hannah Montana movie sucks ass.
          • by jotok (728554)

            That's silly. It's created and marketed for a specific audience. It has things that audience likes. If you don't like the Hannah Montana movie, and you're not a preteen American girl, then what does your opinion matter? If you go on and on about how much you dislike it and why, then you sound like an idiot because the simple answer is: Don't watch it.

            The OP I was responding to didn't play the mod, but felt like he could pass judgement on it. Maybe he feels he deserves something in this mod he's not ge

  • by VGPowerlord (621254) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @10:42PM (#27812143)

    I've heard of other game mods that have taken that long. For instance, I'm fairly sure my copy of Half-Life: Game of the Year Edition came with an advertisement for the then-in-development Team Fortress 2 (and a copy of Team Fortress Classic in the box). In 1999.

    The same Team Fortress 2 that came out using a different game engine (Source) and art style in 2007.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Deus Ex is a great game, probably one of the best games ever made, but this mod looks really stupid. It doesn't seem to be rooted in the Deus Ex universe and it doesn't look to create a compelling universe of its own. A mod based on the "social" interactions between forum users? That just seems too esoteric and trite for anyone to be interested in.

  • Black Mesa? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by oljanx (1318801)
    Maybe not seven years, but it's been in development for a while now. That's what I thought this article was about at first.
    • Exactly what I was thinking.

      The sad thing is, by the time these long-term total conversions are done, the hype has moved on, and the engine is usually so outdated that hardly anyone cares. Black Mesa Source does have an out in this case, since the Source engine is constantly receiving updates, but even with this the result will be outdated before it is released.

      I was excited about Black Mesa Source for a couple years after the release of HL2, but now that SIX years have passed, I just don't care anymore.

    • by Duggeek (1015705)

      Y'know... me too. I couldn't remember if Black Mesa was going on for six or seven years, but it could have been either for this thread. It's pretty much the same idea.

      Updates for Black Mesa are few and far in between, but they are still working on it. As an aside, Black Mesa recently had a server crash and the old forums died; they are working like slaves to get it working again.

      Whether for Deus Ex or for Source, I have to believe that making a game for the sake of the game is the best motivation there is

  • The Doom mod Mordeth [wikia.com] has been in development for over 12 years.

    • These guys actually finished though and gave an interview.

      Join the Mordeth team if you're not on it, finish it, release it, and give an interview about it, THEN that will top this.

      But you're right, that is interesting. Is it still being actively worked on or is it more likely a mod that is dead? I could say I've had a marathon mod in development for about that long, but really all I did was open the map editor up once about 12 years ago.

      • by fredrikj (629833)

        I did work on another project, Plutonia 2 [wikia.com], that was released a few months ago. My first contribution was in mid-2001, IIRC, which makes 7.5 years.

        In fact, I did join the Mordeth team a couple of years ago, but quit...

  • They talk about how they stayed interested in such a lengthy, unpaid project

    Really? I would have thought they would want to maintain interest, rather than trying to stop it. I also love the question the interviewer asks about half-way through TFA: -

    Now that the game is released, do you feel vilified?

    Seems like an odd thing to ask the poor guys after seven years of work. Perhaps he meant vindicated?

    • by Ragzouken (943900)
      It says staying interested not staying interest, which should be your first clue that your pedantic interpretation is wrong.
  • Way to Go! (Score:4, Funny)

    by micromuncher (171881) on Monday May 04, 2009 @11:38AM (#27817205) Homepage

    Sounds like an Agile success story.

  • Wow.. that truly does take some genuine interest to continue going on this long.. I write music and sometimes I look back on things I've written 2 years ago and i'm extremely embarrassed. Way to go! :)
  • "Yeah let's all judge this by its cover as being some lame forum 'meme' bull. Even though it has a 9.9 Moddb average(of 58 votes), many favorable reviews (Even one in a mainstream magazine http://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee81/Luther_Crom/TheNameless4.jpg [photobucket.com] , and offers a rather long gaming experience for free." (I know the "free" argument is a tired argument, but I needed a third.)

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the demigodic party. -- Dennis Ritchie

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