Just over a week ago I wrote a blog post regarding the current prevalence of Kickstarter funding for video games and how they’re helping to promote the fostering of modding communities. I wanted to get my thoughts out on the matter in preparation for the announcement of three separate sites we have lined up to release that are currently in development, rather than finished, which marks a shift in how we’ve done things. Up until now, we’ve only released a Nexus site for games that are finished and publicly available, but with the aforementioned rise in crowd funding I wanted to adapt to the changes in the industry and throw my backing and ability to raise awareness behind those games and developers/publishers who have come to me, excited to work with the Nexus community to make their games as modable as possible. Frankly, if people want to work with us, and utilize the many, many talents of this community then I’ll be excited to do whatever I can to ensure their work is a success.
It’s with great pleasure that I announce the launch of War for the Overworld Nexus. Straight from the developer’s mouths, “In War for the Overworld you have the power to create vast dungeons filled with hordes of evil minions who share a common goal: to crush the bones of the goodly heroes that dare to enter your unhallowed halls. You will command mighty armies, create vicious traps and cast dastardly spells to overcome the pitifully gallant armies that defend foolish principles such as "honour" and "righteousness" — it's going to be more fun than taking candy from a baby...
We've fused together the best components from the RTS and god game genres to create War for the Overworld; here you will find familiar elements from Dungeon Keeper, Overlord, StarCraft and Evil Genius. Your domain lies beneath the surface of this realm, and it is here that you will begin to build your sinful empire. The forces of good in this land will do everything in their power to stop you.”
Basically if you liked Dungeon Keeper, you’re going to like this.
War for the Overworld is currently 4 days in to its Kickstarter campaign where the developers are asking for £150,000 to help them realize the game’s full potential, and you can nab the game, due for a beta release in March, for a steal at £10 (around $16) and in-turn, help them out. In my blog post I expressed dismay at how Kickstarter was being exploited by “big names” in the industry looking to fund their ideas without them having put much work in to it at all. War for the Overworld is not one of those games. They’ve got a great introductory video, narrated by Richard Riding’s himself (from the original Dungeon Keeper games) that will show you exactly what the game is all about and you’ll see that it’s in a very well polished state already.
Because War for the Overworld isn’t due out for a little while yet we’ve created a stripped down version of the Nexus sites that simply contains the news, image share and forum aspects of a Nexus site. Obviously there’s no point having a file database if the game isn’t out yet, and we don’t want to confuse you with an empty database. We’ll be using this stripped-down version for all Nexus sites launched for unreleased games, and we hope to keep it updated with new images and news updates straight from the developers themselves, who will be given news writing privileges here to keep us all updated on their progress. Once the game is released, we’ll open up the file database and everything else.
This site launch is even more exciting, however, because many of the developers of the game are Nexus mod authors themselves, with names that you’re quite likely to recognize. With so much design influence coming from prominent modders of the Nexus community it’s extremely clear that not only do Subterranean Games, the developers, want to make the game modable, but they want to make it as modder-friendly as possible using their experience while modding Fallout 3, New Vegas, Skyrim and other games to ensure that their game, and their modding tool, “Dungeoneer”, is both accessible to newcomers and extremely deep for veterans.
It’s going to be extremely interesting to see Dungeoneer in action. While other developers will release tools for their game without truly understanding their modding community, as they aren’t modders themselves (obviously there’s a big difference between a mod author and a game developer), Dungeoneer is, in essence, a modding tool by modders-turned-game-developers, for modders.
Because of the amazing situation we find ourselves in, with prominent Nexus mod authors working on a full-fledged game, Subterranean Games have made a YouTube video to introduce some of the modders working on War for the Overworld and explain the Dungeoneer tool, and I’ve also conducted a rather long interview with them for your reading pleasure. Interviewing the developers is something I plan to do with each new site we launch in this manner, and I’m trying to ask pertinent questions related to modding within the game, and modding within the industry at large because frankly, if you want an interview with the developer about the game itself then you’ll be sure to find lots of that already, but how many publications ask questions specific to modding? Not many.
Lets begin by asking who you are, what modding experience you have (if any) and what area of expertise you bring to War for the Overworld.
Alendor - My name is Patrick DiLillo, and I’m the lead animator for WFTO. I have been modding and animating since the Half-Life 1 days, most heavily working with Quake 3.
AnOneTwo - Hi, I'm Andrey Bushkov (aka AnOneTwo), I’m 23 years old and I live in Moscow. 2 Years ago I made my first mod for Fallout 3 and it was actually my first Photoshop experience. The reason why I started modding is a guy Baelkin, who made a very cool mesh of Kerberos armor but never finished textures for it. Many folks liked my work so I decided to continue modding and learn 3D as well. After that I released some mods for Fallout New Vegas. Airforce T-57 power armor was my very first model that I made from scratch and then I worked on Murdelizer, Thor and Vault-Tec power armor. While modding, I met many good and talented artists like Weijiesen and CaBal120 and I’m really glad we’re still in touch and working together. All my mods didn't have "pro" quality but I've put a piece of my soul into each. So they got popular on Nexus and I was invited to join the "RiSE" team. Since then I didn't actually have time to mod. I’ve been working with the “Rise” team for more than a year and I’ve vastly improved my 3D skills and brought it to the "War for the Overworld" project.
Crawlius - G'day! I go by Crawlius, and I've been involved with various kinds of modding for over a decade now. I started out in map making with games like Tiberian Sun and Unreal Tournament but, since about 2001, I've been burying myself in sound design and, more recently, music and voice acting. My last modding project was CRL9000 for Fallout: New Vegas, something I've promised to finish one day... Along with Dan Atkins, I make up half of the sound design department.
Simburgur – Hey I am Josh Bishop, lead designer and PR manager for Subterranean Games and War for the Overworld.
Vaernus – Howdy. My name is William Phelps and I am the lead programmer for War for the Overworld. You might remember me briefly as spearheading the nVamp project for Fallout: New Vegas but I am not nearly as well known as the modding greats in this interview. They are the real geniuses here.
Weijiesen - An interview? How exciting! Many of you around this Nex'iverse know me as Weijiesen, creator of EVE (Energy Visuals Enhanced), and uh, EVE (Essential Visual Enhancement), and a handful of others. I'm Jack and I hail from Hong Kong. If you are familiar with my mods -or read the previous sentence- you can probably guess I'll be running the 'FX' portion of WFTO. From magic spells to bonfires, from weather to gore, and everything in between, your eyeballs will feel as though they just got a backrub from an orgasm.
Is this your first attempt at game development or do you have prior experience? What has been the biggest change or culture shock moving from a modding environment to a game development environment?
Alendor - I have prior experience in game development, beginning with work on the 360/PS3 game, Darkest of Days. I have been doing freelance and contract professional work ever since, as well as modding work primarily for Fallout 3. So, fortunately I was able to transition rather well to working on WFTO along with bringing experience and knowledge to the team.
AnOneTwo - The biggest shock for me were time limits in game development. In modding, environment artists work to please themselves, doing what they love and when they have time. In game development (especially indie) you need to work fast and assets quality should always be at high standards.
Crawlius - This is the first time I've been involved with full game development, and the biggest change has been integrating with such a large group of developers. This team is packed with talented and creative people, and working in this sort of environment is more motivating than I could've imagined. The stakes are higher, your responsibility is greater, and you get to see everyone's efforts congeal into an actual game.
Weijiesen - I've not directly had a hand in game development, but after spending a year and a half with RiSE and the better half of 2012 with Subterranean Games it certainly *feels* like it! Gotta start somewhere. I think for many modders the biggest adjustment to make between "modding" to "game development" environments would be working as a team, due to the fact modders usually fly solo. During my time on Nexus I've delved into a lot of 'team' modding projects CNR, ADAM, AWOW, Gnome Wrangler, etc. <-- that last one isn't a mod acronym, so I'd have to say the hurdle for me was deadlines. Modders usually work on their own time, when they please, but in the game dev environment hitting the deadline is key!
Chesko - This is my first attempt. I would say the biggest difference is working in a collaborative, pre-existing codebase. Thankfully, our tools have made this entire process relatively easy.
I know you're all really keen to make War for the Overworld as modder friendly as possible. Can you explain why modding is so important to you?
Alendor - Modding I find to be vastly important to a game, especially when you don’t have the environment to spend millions on development and post release support. Modding both allows users to add content and extend the life of the title, along with allowing people to customize the game play to their liking. However, the most important advantage of modding is it helps grow and cultivate new generations of game developers, who in the future can help create new IPs and advance the industry as a whole.
AnOneTwo - Modding is a key for gamers to make their favorite games better and bigger. Also it helps people to reveal their talents, and do real art, not only a game.
Crawlius - Modding is a way for curious people to grapple with game design. It's a way to explore the art, code and sound that comprise these experiences, and infuse games with the fruits of your own creativity. Modding is the place where risks can be taken, and experiments run, without worrying about profit margins, ratings or approachability. It's often the first leap towards a career in the industry, or the basis of a new genre. Many of the games being made today wouldn't exist as they are without the things modders have done, and it's our responsibility to leave that avenue of experimentation open.
Simburgur – The ability of games like Half-Life and Warcraft 3 to have modding capabilities have led to games such Counter Strike, Team Fortress Classic, and League of Legends. To us, modding is equivalent to game design and if the tools support it, and we work with the community, mod authors can do anything.
Vaernus – Dungeoneer, the toolkit we are building, is not only something that will be available for mods, but also the same toolkit we are directly using for development of WFTO. As such, it needs to be powerful, but intuitive for anyone to just load it up and be able to mod. We feel that is a primary focus in making these tools as user friendly as possible. At the same time, modding keeps a game alive. It offers new ideas from brilliant minds around the world that may otherwise be overlooked by our team. We want to cultivate that, including work directly with the community to let creativity run wild.
Weijiesen - Indeed WFTO will be modder-friendly to the point you could consider it a "by us, for us" kind of thing, in that the community can and will (and has) effected the game itself. For years I've read comments about how “so-and-so company ignores us after slapping shoddy tools in our hands'' but those days are over. If you think a feature should be implemented in our wonderfully versatile "Dungeoneer" toolkit, then by all means suggest it, and you'll likely find it built in soon enough! We are not just 'considering' the mod community, we are using Nexus to bridge the gap and create a direct link.
Chesko - Several reasons. First, it gives games a much longer lifespan than they ordinarily would have by ensuring that the game has new content available as long as folks are still interested in the game, which keeps things fresh. Secondly, I think it's very important for our fans to have a way to creatively express themselves within our game. I think too many game companies attempt to lock down the entire player experience, and in doing so, they lose out on the wonderful set of talent present here on the Nexus and other modding communities. If our biggest fans want to make our game even better, why not give them all of the tools they need to generate great content? Everyone wins.
What are you hoping to do, or release, to make modding more open and friendly to the average person? Are you planning to release modding tools with the game? When can we expect to see them? What will they allow modders to do? How open will modding be? Are we just talking new maps or are we talking full-blown overhauls?
Alendor - From an animation standpoint, this particular field of development is typically very under-supported, even for games that tout modding tools as a feature. In my experience there are rarely tools released to help in the creation and implementation of animations into a game. The most recent example is Fallout 3 and their GECK tools. Fallout 3, as many Nexus fans know, is a very mod friendly game, supporting a lot of tools. However, there were virtually no tools to support the creation and implementation of animations. When I was making the Fallout 3 Re-Animated mod, I had to pretty much reverse engineer and create the process to get new animations into the game from scratch. This process led me to using 2-3 different programs (including an exporter tool made for Civilization 3, which only worked on a 3 year old copy of 3D Max), writing .bat files, manually type in blending stats and info, and pretty much cobbling together the animations with a very non-user friendly process. With WFTO and our Dungeoneer toolset, we are going to include the same tools that we will be using to implement animations directly from the development side. Including easy access to export tools, easy straightforward linking of animations, and user friendly tools for blending control.
AnOneTwo - Speaking of my area of work, 3d and 2d is pretty friendly to modders. FBX files can export and import almost any 3d app. And TGA format is generic for 2d apps too so there should be no roadblocks. And I suppose there should be modding will be very open.
Vaernus – Dungeoneer is made to be as simple as possible. Rather than requiring different tools, or even requiring the community to build fan tools just to accomplish whatever creative goals everyone has, Dungeoneer handles everything. Whether adding/changing data (creatures, maps, traps, etc.), or assets (meshes, textures, animations, etc.), everything is typically a one button process. Find the source file and load it. That’s it, it’s ready to be used in the game. From there, anything is possible. From building new maps and adding creature packs to completely overhauling the meshes and textures and everything in between. In the future we also plan on allowing direct changes to core functionality to push the game in completely new directions. Want to turn WFTO into a dungeon-themed FPS or a puzzle-based adventure game? Go right ahead.
Weijiesen - Having seen the 'Dungeoneer' toolkit and its previous versions in action, I can say with confidence to all you modders out there -and people who'd like to try their hand at it- that when you try our toolkit you'll feel as though you went from using a rotary phone to using an iPhone.
Chesko - In terms of making it easy to use, I think this has everything to do with taking a hard look at the overall toolchain: how many steps does it take to get from an idea, to a finished mod? This is an area I care a lot about: the entire flow from start to finish, making sure that the whole process is smooth. Our set of modding tools is called Dungeoneer, and it's shaping up to be a great set of tools to give modders everything they need to build new maps, import new textures and meshes, create new creatures... the list goes on. We are trying to open the doors as wide as we can with Dungeoneer. With options for creating new factions, dialogue, and so on, it would be reasonable to say that entire new campaigns could be created with Dungeoneer. And with Dungeoneer's script editor... it will be exciting to see what people create with the tools we provide :)
Why did you want to work with the Nexus modding community as opposed to other modding distribution platforms, or making your own distribution platform?
AnOneTwo - Nexus was my "home" for a while, has MANY registered members, and many talented people. So it would be very cool to have WFTO on Nexus.
Vaernus – Nexus has established itself as the premier marketplace for the best mods across many high quality games. Having one central area makes it easier for the end user to find mods, and the platform is very intuitive. We would rather continue to support this process than to compete with another system or generate our own. To us, this just splits the mod community and confuses the gamers looking for an easy process to find great content for their game experience.
Weijiesen - There are a lot of good reasons we chose the Nexus community, but for a handful of us on the team, Nexus is how we met up and got to know each other. Crawlius helped me with some sound FX over the years with my mods, and AnOneTwo and I collaborated on mods (Murdelizer, Thor) long before we were on board with WFTO. Nexus is more than just a collection of user-names!
Chesko - I think a big reason is that the Nexus has attracted the most amazing and talented set of modders found anywhere, many of whom are happy to share their time and knowledge with others, which I am personally grateful for in my own modding work. Another major reason is that, for the player, the Nexus makes the entire experience very easy; the Nexus Mod Manager makes installing and using mods a quick and simple affair. We intend to fully support the Nexus Mod Manager for installing and managing mods for WFTO.
What do you think about DLC? Do you have any plans, or niggling ideas in your heads in regards to expansions or DLC?
Simburgur - As long as we are able to fund ourselves from people backing on Kickstarter and buying the game, we will always be releasing content for free. Beyond that, we will never release DLC that splits the player base. There have been many complications in terms of expansions making mod creation a difficult prospect as the author needs to support multiple combinations of game installations. With one clear path that everyone has, we guarantee that mods will always work if the user has the latest patch.
Is there anything you'd like to say to the Nexus community?
Alendor - I would like to thank the Nexus community for the support they gave all the members of this team when they were working on their mods for various games like Fallout 3 Oblivion etc. Without that support we as a team may never have gotten together and this project may not have been possible. Hopefully with your help we can make WFTO a great success and our development studio can go on making more titles and help bring modding more into the mainstream instead of just a niche hobby.
AnOneTwo - I'd like to say that I'm sorry to Fallout community for "magnum rifle" never being released. It was impossible for me and few other modders to make animation work, so yeah folks... I'm sorry.
Crawlius - Whether it's Wolfenstein 3D or Skyrim, keep trying to make games better. The industry is always in need of an injection of talent and good ideas.
Vaernus – With our push into Kickstarter for funding the project, and Dungeoneer as our tool to produce it, we are giving the community full control over not only what we produce with War for the Overworld, but how we are producing it. We invite the Nexus community to work with us at these early stages of Dungeoneer to build it into a powerful toolkit. If something is missing, we will develop it. We also see this as a great way for the community to see their ideas ending up into the final game.
Weijiesen - A few final notes I'd like to say to everyone. Never be afraid to follow tutorials. There are documents and videos out there that can help you go from n00b to pro! Never ignore your clock. Be aware of the time and that thing...uh.. real-life! Modding is a hobby not a priority. Lastly, don't be afraid to try working on a team, it may just lead to greater things!
Chesko - Thank you for reading, thank you for supporting my personal modding efforts, and THANK YOU for your interest in War for the Overworld! Everyone at Subterranean Games is working hard to make sure that WFTO far exceeds your expectations. If you have questions about the game, we're an easy bunch to get in touch with; drop by our forums sometime!
So there you have it guys. Hopefully you can share in my excitement for how cool all of this sounds; not just because a Dungeon Keeper inspired game is in the works, and looking great, but also because it’s being made by a lot of home-brew talent from the Nexus sites themselves. Awesome.