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  • 12 December 2016

    Interview with Insane Mind Games - creators of "Breaking Wheel"

    Over the past couple of months, we have introduced a 'Sunday discussion' that I'm pleased to see has gone down well with our community. We have had a steady mix of internal mod authors and external talent, all of whom have provided interesting and insightful interviews. 

    This Sunday went by without even a sniff of a discussion, but that's not to say we didn't do one. Just, it was a bit delayed. We spoke to the Insane Mind Games development team that is head up by the notorious, Marmite-like, DDProductions83.

    Darren has put together a talented and passionate team of modders from around Nexus Mods (including our own TerrorFox1234) to create a game from scratch, using an engine they hadn't used before, and the result that has come out of it all is 'Breaking Wheel', a game that lives up to the developers name - Insane...  

    We recorded an interview with the team the other night, which you can listen to below, or can read the edited (to make certain parts clearer) interview below. The choice is yours. 



    The game is now available on Steam through 'Early Access' and I wish the team great success.

    Links to their Discord, Website and various other pages can be found at the bottom of the interview.

    BlindJudge:
    Hello everybody. Welcome to the Sunday discussion with the Insane Mind Games Development Team. I have to admit this is the second attempt at this interview as the first was several weeks ago and things have changed a little bit. The team was successfully 'Greenlit', and the game is now available through 'Early Access'. At the end of this interview, I implore you all to go and check it out.

    To begin with, let's introduce the team and their roles within Insane Mind Games.


    Darren:
    I might as well take that one first. My name is Darren; I am the lead idiot in charge, and I make everyone's life a living, flipping hell.

    Auja:
    Okay so my name is Auja, I am a sound designer and a composer in the game. I work with Darren and also with Jim (TerrorFox123)

    BigBizkit:
    All right so, on the Nexus I go by BigBizkit. The people on the Nexus probably know me best from my most popular Skyrim mod ‘Pirates of Skyrim’. I also did the quest mods ‘Become a Skooma Drug Lord’, ‘Witch Doctor’, and I made one of the realms on the mod ‘Molag Bal's Inferno’.

    On this project, I do many things, level designing and blueprinting, game mechanics, I did the NPCs, and on top of that I direct the workflow for the audio guys, set the priorities, work with them and make sure that all of the sounds are implemented into the game.

    Darren:
    His resume is huge.

    Darth:
    Yeah hi, I am Darth, and I am doing ... Wait, what the fuck am I doing? I am doing menu design; I am doing all the C++ and all of the more programming related things and some basic game mechanics and that kind of stuff.

    etienneh99:
    I am Etienne, and I am the only 3D artist at Insane Mind Games. I create all the skins and some of the other assets needed for levels. I also do some of the blueprints and scripting for the skins but not much.

    gandr1318:
    Hey, I am Justin, and I do pretty much anything I can to let everyone else just focus on the game, so it is wildly different from day to day. So sometimes it is Twitter, Facebook, all the social media stuff, checking any forms people submitted on the site, checking our website's forums, monitoring the Discord, checking Indiegogo. Other general things just to raise the awareness and get the game out.

    Ryan:
    So I am Ryan, my primary job is levels. I make levels, design levels, draw levels, look at Darren's levels to make sure they look nice. Just generally anything aesthetically related.

    I am also currently working on making the main menu and, by the by, me and Darren are also working on a promotional Skyrim quest mod that will be a Christmas themed quest mod that will, surprisingly, come out before Christmas.

    TerrorFox:
    I am TerrorFox, and I work with Auja on the audio. I primarily do the mixing and editing where she kind of creates the sounds, records them and does some of that stuff. I essentially make sure that it's all equalised and levelled to the point where it’s the final sound that will be in the game.

    BlindJudge:
    Awesome. So, the development team is called Insane Mind Games. I have an idea where that's come from but can you just expand and let us know who came up with that and why?


    Darren:
    It's a Terry Pratchett reference for the logo has five exclamation mark points as well, and if you do not know that then just read some Terry Pratchett

    BlindJudge:
    Everyone on the Nexus probably already knows Darren, but Darren openly admits to having quite a non-personable personality and some people would rather be dragged across skateboard grip tape than deal with him, how are you all finding it?


    Ryan:
    Well, I guess you could say it is like working for Darth Vader. He is excellent at what he does, and he is a really good leader and helps us all learn together and make a great product, sometimes he is just on the dark side of the Force and can be a bit unstomachable to other people.

    He is a good guy with really good intentions deep down inside, and I think with him at the helm we are making a great product and everyone is getting something superb out of it.

    TerrorFox:
    I don't have to talk to Darren much, so that is nice.

    BigBizkit:
    Yeah not anymore, now that I coordinate the soundtrack.

    Right, if you only read what he says, he occasionally comes across as vituperative and even hostile at times, but when you speak to him in voice, you learn that he is just a regular dick head. It's nothing serious. He's harmless, just likes to be a bit edgy. It's not always easy with him, but if everybody in this world were nice guys, it would be very boring. So, handling Darren is sometimes a bit of a task, but it's manageable, he is not that bad.

    Darren:
    Well, thanks. You know what, you guys make me sound not terrible.



    BlindJudge:
    Darren, what about the switch side? How is it working with other people?


    Darren:
    I don't know. It's been fun. The Germans (in the team) always make it sound like every little problem is World War III, which is hilarious when they argue with each other. It may be a little thing, and they both think each other is being super serious.

    Darth:
    Be glad there's a big ocean between us.

    Darren:
    I don't know; it's been interesting. Obviously, the people that I would attract to work with me are self-motivators as well. I'm terrible at actually beating motivation into somebody. I don't want to have to ride somebody to get them to do their work. I mean, we're all in this together, we're either all going to make money together, or we're all going to fail together. It's a team project. We've had our head-butting, everybody's got different opinions on things and I obviously am very opinionated.

    I think discourse and diversity breeds a better team and gameplay as well, so it's been fun. I mean, we saw that with 'Molag Bal's Inferno' too. Everybody (working on the mod) had their slice of the pie, and they were allowed to do with their slice of the pie what they wanted, even having final say in it! In this one, nobody has final say, even myself.

    It just makes for a better product, in the end, if just one person did it, then you'd never see the flaws and we all can point out each other's flaws. Which we do, mercilessly. So I think it is kind of fun.

    BlindJudge:
    How are you organising the work, are you using Trello boards? How are you dishing out the work?


    Darren:
    Oh God, it was terrible at first. I'm still going to state that I will never do it this way again, but I think it was the right way to do it. It was just, smash our faces into it! Now we've got a Kanboard up and we've got a workflow going. But the first five months was literally like we were just modding and trying to work together, you know? It lent for speedier learning because all of us were trying to learn the engine.

    I think it was better to be creative and learn as we smashed our heads into it, but never again, not now we've learnt the engine. We will have a workflow; we will have boards and charts and pipelines set up from now on for any other game we do.

    BlindJudge:
    Talking about the engine, before we get into (talking about) the game, what engine did you choose? Most of you worked on Bethesda games beforehand in the Creation Kit, so the shift must be quite interesting?


    Darren:
    We're working in Unreal Engine 4, and Ryan has now been the only one to go back into the Gamebryo Engine for Skyrim for an extended period, how is that treating you, Ryan?

    Ryan:
    It is really interesting. You can pretty much imagine the Creation Kit is your 'Barbie bike' with its training wheels still on it; it's a great piece of kit that you get with your game. It does a great job; it has tonnes of excellent free assets. It's simple in good and bad ways.

    The Unreal Engine is just a whole new world. This is your BMX with your brand spanking new features everywhere. It can do anything you can imagine and a lot more.

    I like the Creation Kit; it's a good introduction (to modding), but the Unreal Engine is just worlds better and worlds different.

    It does have a bit of a learning curve. Not too much if you're experienced with the Creation Kit, and you have a good workflow, but I enjoy the Unreal Engine. I think it's a great step-up. You can get very nice lighting going; you can get very nice effects going. You can do very diverse scripting, blueprinting, enemy set-up. You don't need just to work off the things that the Creation Kit has.

    They're both nice applications. The Creation Kit is a nice lead into being able to use the Unreal Engine.

    BigBizkit:
    I think the Creation Kit is very accessible. It's very easy to get into it. The entry barrier is lower, but so is the ceiling of limitations so to speak.

    What I find very nice about Unreal is that the barrier between your idea and the realisation of said idea is a lot lower because there are fewer limitations.

    I came up with a tank, for instance, put it together in a blueprint, did the animation blueprinting, coding work and it just works. It's that easy to do once you get the hang of it, but if you don't have any experience modding or doing any coding work whatsoever, Unreal is probably a bit overbearing at first.

    That's not to say the Creation Kit doesn't have it's good points as well. After all, without the Creation Kit, getting us into modding we wouldn't be in this position right now.

    Ryan:
    Plus additionally. I thought it would be a good comparison seeing as how I'm doing higher national in games development at college; we use Unity. When you use Unity, it's a very bare-bones initial engine and any features you need, have to be programmed in yourself. As a comparison the Unreal has this nice little feature where you take a mesh, you click one button, and it turns it into a destructible mesh, which when you hit it, it will break apart realistically. If you wanted to do that in something like Unity, then you'd either need to programme it yourself in C#, which is very time-consuming and extensive or pay $60 to someone who has already programmed it and put it on the asset store.

    Darren:
    I want to chime in on this one too, because the more and more I use Unreal, I (begin to) hate the Creation Kit for the sole purpose of the limitations. I like what Big said, the cap for your creativity in Unreal is logistically not there if you have the right team because they allow you to make modifications to the base engine and release your engine for the game. So there is nothing you can't do with it if you take the time and effort. What you can do with it in its base form is phenomenal.

    I think I was fearful of getting into making my own game. What's the learning cap? What are we going to have to jump through? I think we just blew it out of the park! Whereas some people might see this as a simple game, you know, a side scroller. The things we've done in it are amazing in such a short period. The learning curve with Unreal is phenomenally easy. If you've got Google you can teach yourself everything there is to know about Unreal Engine. That's whats amazing, even if you use Google, you'll still be spending six and a half days trying to figure out how to make a follower in the Creation Kit, and I think that's where the difference in information is another big step. Unreal actively supplies information to everybody non-stop.

    Modding is mostly guess work because there's no back-up from the actual creators and you don't have the source code. Like we did when we started modding, we were guessing. I mean we did that too with Unreal, but it quickly turned from guessing into "we know exactly what we're doing and can look for information and make X happen anytime we want". It's no longer an option of can we do this; it's how do we do this?



    BlindJudge:
    I just literally dipped my toe in the water when it comes to the Creation Kit, and I am finding it quite overwhelming at the moment trying to piece it all together. Who knows, in a couple of years down the line, I might be joining your team with the Unreal Engine.


    Darren:
    Dude, I'm going to beat you to the question probably, but early access is launching literally when this goes up on Nexus, so if you guys hear/read this, early access is out and there will be a link somewhere. Fully moddable! We're releasing the full source code, the full engine code.

    It's a separate download. All you need to do to mod our game is download Unreal, download our files, go and mod the game.

    We've put a lot of effort into making it so the vast majority of it is drag and drop and it will get people into seeing how easy Unreal is. I think the biggest difference for people coming from the Gamebryo or Unity is just the UI. I mean, the UI is set up different, it's a different engine, but it does everything that your other engines do and then some. I mean, no matter what you're coming from, Cry Engine, Unity, Gamebryo, RPG Maker, I don't know. I mean, a UI is a UI, they just set it up different.

    We've tried to make it as simple as possible, but on that same note, it's as powerful as you want it to be because there are no limits. We're including everything, every bloody thing, to anybody who buys the game.

    BlindJudge:
    Okay, so that leads us to the question about the game, Breaking Wheel. It's going to be on Steam Early Access right now. Can you give us a quick rundown of what the game is and what we can expect from it?


    Ryan:
    What do you expect from Breaking Wheel? What started out as a simple side scrolling platform, evolved into a 3-D side scrolling platform where you can switch your dimensions, then from there it just kept expanding. We've managed to build some insane level mechanics in, thanks to Big. I'll let him explain all that. We've got some fantastic NPCs. We have levels where you're rolling around shooting desert eagle pistols. We have levels where you're rolling around a spider web and slaying spiders with a sword.

    It's just, what started out as a simple, side-scrolling game has become incredibly diverse - it has multiple games built into a game. You have Tower Defence, you have pinball, you even have a very Tron-Esq style puzzle game. It's diverse, and I think you get a lot of value for money, with the different levels, the different bonus levels and replayability with the different modes.

    We have kid mode, where you can play only normal levels, hardcore levels won't be available. You also won't be able to die, no matter how much damage you take.

    We have the normal mode, where if you have accumulated coffee and coins you can get hit and only lose coffee and coins (Similar to Sonic and the gold rings). As soon as you get to zero coffee or coins, then you die.

    We have hardcore, where one hit kills you. There's something there for everybody. You can also do speed runs if you want. Every level has a timer and a par time that you need to beat to get the maximum score.

    We also have little unlockables; we have chickens hidden in every level. If you can pick up a chicken and take it to the end of a level without getting hit, you get a huge score bonus. If you do get hit with this chicken, then the chicken gets destroyed, and you'll need to replay the level.

    We also offer a lot of replayability if you want to ace the time, coins, coffee and chicken on every level. Which with over 50 levels, and if you play our hardcore, you could be sitting at Breaking Wheel for years and still have tonnes of enjoyment with the various game playing mechanics.

    Darren:
    I'm going to cut in too because he missed the baseline of the mechanics. It started off as a wheel that collects coffee because we were making a joke about Elianora and her coffee addiction. We decided to add the mechanic that for every coffee you pick up the wheel gets a little more hyper. Coffee increases your max speed, your acceleration and your jump height which allows us to actually make diverse levels. We can make it so you can finish any normal levels with zero coffees, but we can hide stuff so if you don't have enough coffees you can't get to it, items can be put just out of reach because we control the mechanics.

    The cool thing about it is it's kind of just how it evolved. I mean, another thing about it is the wheel has momentum. Watching people who played the alpha and stuff, it's one of the things I noticed the most is that people are not used to having that on a platformer. They're used to when they stop moving, their character stops moving. It's not a tonne of momentum, but it's just enough that it's more realistic. The faster you move, the more that momentum is going to come into play. It allows us to really shift the levels to make them harder the more coffees you get.

    Nothing's out of reach, the entire premise of making this is because nothing was barred. If you want to do something, do it. Our creativity has made us way too fucking psychotic. Some of the levels are crazy, some of the levels you have boss fights … It's just nuts. I mean, we've got tonnes of customizable skins. Our skins are fully customizable with hue saturation, lightness, opacity maps. We've taken it to a direction that added a couple of months to the time needed to make the game, which is perfectly fine because it makes the game more awesome.

    BigBizkit:
    Right, let me just add one thing that sometimes people ask us, "What does the wheel do with coffee?" Justin put it very nicely. We just wanted to be a bit silly like the games we love. I mean, what does a plumber do with a tanooki suit? Turn into a statue of course. Yeah, that's why the wheel collects coffee. I make sure that none of my levels are like the other. We have boss fights, like Darren mentioned. Also, we have the bonus levels which are completely different, which break the formula, which aren't side-scrolling at all. Some of them for instance, we have a tower defence level. A level where you drop bombs on enemies, on waves of enemies to score points, etc.. If you want to experience something apart from the side-scrolling with all the traps, all the enemies, you know dual wielding desert eagles. If you ever get tired of that, play a bonus level. We've got that going content wise as well.



    BlindJudge:
    I played an early version of the game and there was a 'flappy bird' level. Is that still in there?


    Darren:
    Oh yeah.

    BlindJudge:
    Good.


    Darren:
    Now with better lighting. Anybody who played the demo without post processing on was probably blinded and went into an epileptic seizure. We have since fixed the lighting issues on everything.

    BlindJudge:
    You touched on the coffee, what about the chicken? Where did the chicken come from?


    Darren:
    You know what, people will know ...

    ... If they know any modders. It was a joke and that's part of her name. That's all we're going to say.

    BlindJudge:
    Oh, mystery.


    Darren:
    Yeah, they'll get it.

    BlindJudge:
    Locations are all over the place. It seems like you just had a lot of fun with this game. You haven't really followed a set path.... With Mario for instance, you get the hills and then you get the dungeons. In this, every level seems to be completely different. How did you come up with that? Why (did you do it this way)?


    Darren:
    Mostly it’s due to the fact we're using the Infinity Blade Asset pack from Epic, which is a free massive pack of just awesome assets that doesn't look like anybody's utilised in a good game. That's probably going to be mean to say to some people who have utilised it, but it doesn't look like there's any really good cohesive game made with it. I don't know why because it's an amazing set of assets... We've just gone from there. I don't even know how to describe it, I mean, I wake up in the middle of the night sometimes and have to go jot down an idea or even start up a level. Like my ice climb. I wanted to make a stupid level where you had to jump from wall to wall.

    I just wanted to make it really brutal, but also make normal levels as I didn't want people to get stuck on it. Just stuff like that. It's just kind of wake up, go crazy. It's kind of cool to diversify it as well. I'm bad at clutter, I've always been bad at clutter. It's tedious to me and I don't think I have a good design implement, but as far as making a level layout, I can do it really well and then Ryan can step in and clutter the living hell out of it and make my level look different than I had originally thought in my mind but better. Then I came back in with the lighting and change it up even more. It was a big step too for everybody because we're all modders. We work by ourselves. You know, "Fuck everybody else. This is our kingdom, we can do whatever the hell we want." that type of mindset. Then going into something for the commercial aspect where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, so to speak. It really is.

    BlindJudge:
    You talked about the levels and that Ryan can clutter stuff up and I'm guessing you just pull assets from the Unreal store, to do that. What about the ...


    Darren:
    Well no, it's the Infinity Blade Asset pack, it's a tonne of assets for game expansions they never release. It's like three million dollars worth of assets that we get to use freely... Any assets we need that are extra, we have etienneh make. We don't pull anything because we're going to release everything. If we pay for content outside of ourselves, we cannot release it. We then turn into Bethesda, which is the reason they don't release all of they're access to the creation engine.



    BlindJudge:
    Okay, what about the sound? Do they have to be made or are they pulled from the asset pack?


    Darren
    Every sound is made from scratch in this. I think, except for the explosion sound. I think it came with an explosion sound that we'd been using pretty liberally.

    BlindJudge:
    Auja and Jim, they must hate you guys, because the levels are so different.


    Darren:
    You should have seen the workflow before Big got on it, Terror wanted to stab me repeatedly.

    TerrorFox:
    Yeah, it was pretty rough. It's not bad now that things are organised and I have someone on the Dev team to communicate with. Before it kind of felt like you guys were over there building the game and audio was kind of like stuck in this closet over here. It was just "make sounds and do whatever". It was "okay", but now that things are set up it's really not that bad. The variety in the levels, it's ... I mean ...

    BlindJudge:
    Surely every level has to have different sounds, which is going to be a pain.


    TerrorFox:
    Yeah, but it's not like it's hundreds or even a hundred sounds per level. There's some stuff that gets crossed over and usually when there's a new level, we're looking at most, I'd say 20 sounds, 20 new sounds average.

    Darren:
    That's the thing with Unreal, there's a lot of fluctuations you can do in the sounds too. You can blueprint sounds and make them change pitch, timing, everything.

    TerrorFox:
    Right.

    Auja:
    Yes.

    TerrorFox:
    As far as them churning out a whole bunch of hugely varied levels, it's really not that bad... I mean, if every level needed 100 sounds of it's own then that would be entirely overwhelming. It's pretty manageable right now.

    TerrorFox:
    We're catching up at a steady pace on the audio. We got a bit of a late start because of the organisation stuff. I'd say we're making pretty steady progress now, we're catching up to where everyone else is at.

    BlindJudge:
    Does Auja actually make the sounds herself and then pass them to you to equalise them?


    TerrorFox:
    She does primarily, yeah.

    Auja:
    I really did a lot of sounds outside. I did 40 sounds or so, at home. Yeah, mainly that and I helped to do some sound effect also.

    BlindJudge:
    What have been the actual biggest challenges that you've come across?


    BigBizkit:
    Well, apart from handling Darren, you know. I'd say for me personally, right now, is handling the volume of the work because I have a lot of stuff on my plate. We need to get 50 levels done, I'm trying to pump them out but keeping diversity, you know, keeping everything fresh. Also do, like I said, the coding work for all the events in my levels for the NPCs. I try to organise the sounds etc. and apart from that, whenever there is some text we need to write, for either Steam, Greenlight or the website, I occasionally do that. Handling a lot of responsibilities on the project is a big challenge, but it's a fantastic learning experience and I like doing it.

    Darren:
    I think the biggest thing is deadlines. We had a deadline for our Greenlight and that was chaos for the two weeks leading up to it and we have a deadline for early access, mostly for this interview too. It helps to glom onto it.

    I think after early access, so after this interview airs, we're probably all going to be taking a little bit of a breather, because at that point it's when we get the game done and we'll just update it every five levels on early access for people.



    BlindJudge:
    Have you got a site which is detailing all of the development, the developer diaries?


    gandr1318:
    Oh yeah, we are trying to maintain a very active dev blog and give regular updates. There's general ones where we just kind of talk about the game, but then we're also doing individual ones with developers from their perspective.

    BigBizkit:
    Right and recently we started doing a few interviews of each of the team members so that people can get to know us a little bit better aside from our modding personas.

    gandr1318:
    Yeah, we have another team member, Sparks, who has been doing all of these interviews and getting them up and has pretty much taken over the dev blog. I'm actually kind of a little bit out of the loop on the Dev Blog because I've given that completely over.

    Ryan:
    Yeah, I'm the one that edits and makes sure that everything that goes up on the website is okay. Recently it's just been interviews getting to know the team members on a non-work basis. Like, what's your favourite game? How did you meet Darren? Just literally getting to know the people behind your game, making it more personal, showing that Insane Mind Games is not some kind of corporation with a community base, but rather just a game maker who has a community.

    Darren:
    I mean the Insane Mind Games' YouTube, I just do whatever I can stick up my butt. I try to do one a week, but it gets really weird at points when we're working on things and I forget, but I try to do a video showcasing and showing things happening in the game and they get erratic, but they're kind of fun. I just like freelancing them, you know, just boot it up and play with it.

    gandr1318:
    The initial idea was that I like what Discord are doing to actively update their community by doing these rapid succession dev blogs and we basically got that model going and we've been maintaining it pretty actively. There is a bunch to go through if anyone wants to read through the dev blogs and see the progression. Everything from level progression to etienneh doing some really good ones where he starts off with just a crude drawing or idea of what he wants to make into a skin and then just shows the skin every hour from conception to completion. Those are really good as well, those are my favourites.

    Darren:
    Anybody's welcome to join us on Discord too. It's up publicly on our website. We'll probably even put something of a blurb in the game for Early Access or at least on the Steam page because the easiest feedback is in real time if people want to hit us up. Emails and everything work too and we have our forum.

    BlindJudge:
    That's awesome. Yeah, we'll definitely share some of those on the Nexus as well. It's going to be hard to quantify, but how many hours do you reckon you all have invested into this?


    BigBizkit:
    Today, around 12. If that answers the question.

    BlindJudge:
    That's today, when did it start?


    Darren:
    July and people picked up for the next month, so it started July, end of June, something like that. There's a couple of us who's probably put in 1,000 plus easy on this. It's just a lot.

    BlindJudge:
    How'd you find it with the time differences between everybody?


    Darren:
    Slightly annoying and destructive to my overall health.

    gandr1318:
    Really, I think it's kind of interesting because we almost did a bit of a corporate model that Discovery or a lot of these big companies do, where you have people located in the US, people located in England and just different places, so pretty much 24 hours a day there's someone usually on Discord or someone working on the project. All we're missing is just a couple of Australians. Then we'll have the complete enterprise 24 hour, go, go, go pitch.

    BlindJudge:
    After this you're going to take a break or you're going to try to work on something else?


    Darren:
    It depends on what happens with this. If we sell decently, I'll throw money from the company back in and do modding contests. The overall goal is to make another game and finding some people who are fluent with Unreal through the modding scene would actually be amazing too. If we make enough money, go in-house and make another game. Definitely another game, it's the drive for all of us, I think, is creativity.

    That's why we started being modders, that's why we do video games. It's an art form, no matter who wants to tell you it's not.

    It's an artistic mindset that needs to do it, it's a need to create something and I'll keep doing it… Even if I have to make really stupid games with no 3D assets for the rest of my life, I'll keep making games. It's fun, it's great. It'll be nice to do the next one without any set timelines if we're successful with this one, or we do a good Kickstart or something. Hopefully not down the Star Citizen path where you're working for the next 24 years because you've got so much money that you can keep working forever. I like to finish products, I like to finish mods when I do them because it's a good feeling to get something done and actually create something.

    gandr1318:
    I feel like a lot of games, the bane of their existence is feature creep. In this one, just the absolute freedom of them being able to add whatever kind of stuff we wanted has actually not hurt the game, but added a lot to it. To the game and the timeline as well, but it's coming out really nice.



    BlindJudge:
    You touched on it earlier about the modding. When it goes live on early access, will the modding be available straight away?


    Darren:
    Yep, 100%. It's all loose files, there's no packing yet. I think Malt's looking at it, but I don't think we're going to be able to do it. If we can, that'd be great, but I think it's all just loose file overwrites and I believe TerrorFox was talking with whoever from NMM, so we can probably do a test with Nexus Mod Manager sometime early next week to make sure everything works with that as well, so it will just be straight integration and we'll even have day one mods up and tutorial videos showing you how to set up.

    BlindJudge:
    Are the tutorial videos stuff that you're doing, and going to share with us?


    Darren:
    Yeah, I'll be doing them. That's going to be my goal for the end of next week, just do tutorial videos. They're going to be included too, it's two separate downloads because we don't want to overload people's hard drives. We suffer from the same thing I think X-Com did where their modding package was like 40% bigger than their actual game because you had to download a full separate set to mod, as Unreal cooks the assets and they're not usable in the engine. It's a separate download if people want to mod it and inside of that will be a zip file including the video, so they don't even have to go to YouTube, there'll be an MP4 format of me showing them what to do step-by-step to set up. Once they're set up, freedom.

    BlindJudge:
    That's awesome, looking forward to trying it out. We can make our own wheels, I presume.


    Darren:
    Yeah, we have our own kind of plug-in metadata blueprints that Malt made that our code reads at runtime when you load up the levels. We'll have an example mod in the actual game itself and in the files, so you can actually look at it and see how it's set up. It's a blueprint where you basically just select your levels, the preview image and if you have a skin blueprint, you select it too. Then the code will read it and throw it in right with all of our stuff.

    The modded levels show up in their own modded section. Anything else assets wise, besides levels and ... I mean, Unreal basically operates off levels and blueprints, but levels for the most part for when you're playing the game. That dynamic read/write there covers a level. Everything else you do, if you make a level and make your own folder structure inside of mod/your name, the game will automatically read that inside of our content folder. Once your level's plugged in you could have all original of your own content, use none of ours if you wanted to and it'll just flipping read it right on up.

    BlindJudge:
    That sounds awesome, going to definitely give it a try. With Steam are you please with how it's gone? Did you find it easy dealing with them?


    Darren:
    You don't deal with anybody, you deal with computers. I think somebody hand selects the Greenlight, but so far it's just been an automated process, so it's not too terrible. I'm not a fan of no UI command line tools to upload, so that tweaked me out a little bit, but so far not too terrible. I uploaded 20 gigs relatively fast, like two hours to them. Everything else there's documentation on up the ass, so it's just a matter of looking for it. You don't really have to deal with anything. Once we launch the game, I know they have speciality things and you can work with an advertiser, somebody works with Steam to help advertise your game, you know put it on front page randomly, etc. We'll see how that goes when we get to it.

    BlindJudge:
    What's the actual process?


    Darren:
    Pay 100 bucks, put it up on Greenlight, pimp yourself out to every YouTuber around the planet and go crying to get people to vote for you.

    Ryan:
    The good thing about Steam was that you could feel out how the community base would be and get good initial feedback from the community who watched your trailers, and maybe went and download the demo and stuff. It was a great initial feeler for the reception of Breaking Wheel.

    Darren:
    I think the cool thing about it too is, I was expecting a lot of hate in the asset flip department because that's a big thing! Indie games people hate asset flips. Generally, like Jim Sterling etc., they do a lot of videos where they show off the games where people just take assets and then literally that's all that's in their game. It's like 5% them, 95% the assets. I was fearing that because ours is, at it's core, all assets with 90% assets we didn't make.

    I think the reception was good in that one that we didn't even ... I mean, one person pointed it out and then said that it was a really amazing use of the assets. Which we were trying to do them justice, make our own game just using assets. We could have done it with geometry pieces with a checkerboard pattern, but it's nice to actually have those assets in there which I think is a huge draw for modders especially because, not a lot of people are 3D designers. It's one of the harder things, I think, to get into because you have to have a specific creative flair to be able to do that.

    BlindJudge:
    It's on early access and what price range are we looking at?


    Darren:
    6.99

    BlindJudge:
    Dollars or pounds? Dollars I would presume.


    Darren:
    Yeah, I think it put it at £4.99. It auto did it, when I put it in for US, it converted it to every currency down the line, which was really cool. I just hit okay. It was like "Verify the currency", I'm like "no", I'm not going to be going Google Currency checker, I'm just going to assume that you guys are good with this." If somebody sees a currency that's not right up on there, just let me know and we can change it, but I didn't think of doing conversation in real time for 80 different currencies.

    For anybody who likes the audio, Terrorfox and Auja are getting a smaller percent cut from the revenue share from the actual game than most of us are, that's more of a time issue of people who put in more. Them and Skinny Tech Voice, some of you might know, have done the music for the game and that will be available as an MP3 and Wave downloads for 99 cents. Any music they add into the game, all the way up until full release will keep getting added to that pack. If people like the music and they want to support them, they actually get a lion share of that revenue share from just their music. That's where we're hoping they make some of the money back that they're going to miss out on on the revenue share for the game itself.

    BigBizkit:
    Right, I just wanted to mention that in euros, I think it's €6.25, last I checked. If you look at it, what you get for it - you get 50 levels like we said, the bonus levels, you get a very diverse side scroller with a lot of action elements. It's really out of the box and I really cannot image anybody who wants a good, fun side scroller, who gets this game and thinks that this was too expensive for the content you're getting.

    Basically, you get the support, us who came together via the Nexus community. We're all a bunch of modders, self-taught people, we picked out the creation kit, taught ourselves how to code, how to design games and then we came together, got Unreal, got into Unreal, learned the engine. We managed to make this amazing project, which has come very far now and is going into Early Access as we speak, basically. If you want to support us, this is, I think, a good way of doing it because you're really getting your monies worth and I think it's a very fun game. If you have some money over from Christmas and you like side scrollers, check us out.

    BlindJudge:
    Nice sales pitch there Big.


    BigBizkit:
    Yeah, thanks.



    BlindJudge:
    How about DLC, are you going to offer DLC or is it pay DLC. You said about the OST.


    Darren:
    Well, it depends on how well it goes. If we move 10-20 thousand copies. We'll definitely do a DLC with official levels, but even apart from that, we plan to have day one mods. We'll probably throw up stupid levels afterwards as mods. Likely you will see all of us doing something in the mod category to add things to it after release even if we don't do DLC. We're all modders, we all create ...

    Any levels that we don't get to or don't finish off, we'll probably mod in. I can't see us dropping the hat right after it's over, even if we sell 50 copies, we'll probably still use it as a learning experience and throw up mods, you know.

    BigBizkit:
    You guys who are listening or reading this interview on the Nexus, you know how much mods can add in terms of content. How much fun and how much gameplay time you can really add by a mod. Us being modders, it was very important to us that this game would be moddable.

    Darren:
    I want to add to that too. Something that I was always thinking about. We've put a lot of stress into the initial start-up. The most annoying thing about modding Breaking Wheel is downloading a second pack, downloading the Unreal engine, registering it, because you know, Unreal requires you to actually have a log-in, then downloading Visual Studio. That is the most annoying things about modding Breaking Wheel.

    We've tried to make it so simple. The biggest excuse you always see when people are asking for a mod is "I'm too dumb to mod. I don't know how to mod. I don't have the skill to mod." We've thrown that out the window. The next time I'm up visiting my sister, I will get my five-year-old niece to make a Breaking Wheel level and I will record it and that will just kill anybody who asks for a mod for Breaking Wheel, that they don't have the skills to make a level because it's that easy. The drag and drop, the snapping, that's all you've got to do. We've created templates for traps, we've got our level end, our blueprint set-up, the entire tutorial.

    The only thing stopping you from making a mod is your personal will to do it and learn.

    BlindJudge:
    Yeah, I'm trying to learn to mod at the moment and I'm going to record a series so I'll let you know how that goes. Yes, is there anything else that you guys want to say to the people here at Nexus?


    gandr1318:
    Besides the fact that Nexus is the targeted platform for our mod community, it's going to be based off of Nexus. I guess that's about it.

    Darren:
    We are looking at consoles. If we make money to do it, because obviously releasing for Steam cost us $100 and then whatever else we've put into this. I mean it hasn't been terrible because we have a lot of free time and we're a bunch of losers, but the going to console and going to the app store thing, those take a little bit of work and some cash flow which is ... I mean, we plan to do it, but I don't think we'll hit Sony because I think theirs is pretty annoying to get into.

    BlindJudge:
    You just mentioned consoles, would the game be controller-friendly on the PC?


    Darren:
    Oh yeah, 100%. Early access ... It plays really great with a controller.

    Ryan:
    Yeah, I've only ever played it with a controller from day one since I've been playing it and it feels great.

    Darren:
    I don't think you get the same twitch control that you do with a keyboard, but I prefer playing with a controller by far.

    BigBizkit:
    Yeah, let me just add one more thing. Earlier Darren said that a lot of people say they don't know how to mod. Just think about it, all of us here on this project at one point in time didn't know how to mod. Then we started and we learnt. Eventually I, for instance, ended up making Pirates of Skyrim and I got to meet other mod authors, I got to connect and it is the reason why I'm now on this project, working on a commercial release on a real game that's definitely going to be released. We are in Early Access as we speak. A lot can come if you just do it. You know, if you just motivate yourself, if you just believe and spread your wings you can learn to fly.

    gandr1318:
    I'd like to add to that though. I really do think that getting involved with modding in a Nexus community is a direct gateway into getting involved with game development, because if you look at our project, then there's another group of modders with Druid Game Works that are doing Witanlore.

    I think that it's going to become more of a trend. You're going to see more and more indie game companies, just coming out of clusters of modders who did mods together and then decided to do individual projects. To people who haven't even touched modding yet, who want to get into game development. I feel like the steps are now being laid and it is becoming a direct process. You get involved with modding, you get involved with community, you will find an avenue to actually work on a game.

    BlindJudge:
    What's the biggest record (score wise) that you guys have set (on the tutorial level)?


    Darren:
    Probably me, but I have no idea. It's my levels, the first one we ever made so I played it so many times, I can almost perfect it blindfolded.

    BlindJudge:
    I want to have that score and put it on the site. See if anyone can actually beat it.


    Darren:
    Twitch recognises it as a streaming thing now, you can type in Breaking Wheel and you'll find some ...

    gandr1318:
    Yeah.

    Darren:
    You'll find some terrible videos of my Australian friends playing it where I make fun of them relentlessly for sucking. It recognises that, so we'll probably definitely be streaming at some point. We'll be like, "Watch the Devs, make fun of them or beat their times", stuff like that because we suck at our own game. I play Big's levels and I want to cut my face off. I'm never going to play without God mode on, because I'm terrible at this crap. I think it's the best part about the game is that it's challenging but when you screw up, when you get killed, when you die, when you hit a trap ... The second time around, some of them we sneak in there, we make things that you're not going to see the first time you play a level, you explore it.

    Once you start making the mistake again and again, it's your fault. A lot of things we see when people play it, they actually don't get mad at the game, they get mad at themselves for being bad at the game because it's relatively simple. We've gone away from relatively simple games and we play with aim assists on most games now with the progressive targeting. We think we're better because we're head-shotting people, no scope, but you're actually getting a slight help from the game engine because nobody's going to be doing that, right, with a controller or even a mouse and keyboard for the most part. I think we've dumb down games from a skill level a little bit with some of the stuff we do.

    gandr1318:
    Back to the scores thing. If you want, we can get you some scores set by the team and then we'd love to see any video of someone beating our internal high leader board.

    BlindJudge:
    Right, so to conclude I just want you to let us know where people can follow the game. Can you give us the web address and ...


    Darren:
    Insanemindgames.com

    BlindJudge:
    Awesome.


    BigBizkit:
    Let me just say that on the website, you find the Dev Blogs, like we mentioned before and I'm looking to get a site going where you can learn more about the game like in-depth descriptions of the mechanics of some of the traps and NPCs and maybe a little bit of tongue and cheek back story of the game.

    gandr1318:
    We actually really would like to push our Discord pretty heavily for people to come and hang out with us, because we do really enjoy talking to people as they play the game and just ...

    BlindJudge:
    The thing I really love about Discord is that you can join multiple Discord servers and have them all in your browser, all in the application at the same time. You can just flip between stuff.


    Darren:
    Yeah and if people ... If you're a YouTuber out there, with I don't know how many subscribers, we'll throw you a free copy and also mod authors. By the way, crap I forgot to mention that. Hopefully, we'll get Terrorfox to put something up on the mod author forum. Any mod author who wants a key, talk to Terrorfox and we'll get you a key for the game on Early Access. You can do with it what you want. You can bloody resell the one key we give you if you feel like it. You can use it for the game. I don't want any established mod author to have to pay for this, so we're handing them out to them for free.

    BlindJudge:
    Wow. That is generous, generous. Well, thanks ever so much.


    Darren:
    Generous, but it's also in our self-interest.

    BlindJudge:
    Yeah, it'd be brilliant if we have a load of mods appear on the site for this.


    gandr1318:
    And yours right? Your mod Judge, you're going to make?

    BlindJudge:
    Yeah, yeah. Damn right, damn right I will. I'll try and bang out a level. I think I've got the Unreal engine downloaded anyway because you need it for the new Unreal tournament, don't you?


    Darren:
    Yeah, but you have to download a previous version too. They're at 4 .13, our game works on 4.12. Unreal has a drop down box that lets you just select what engine you want to run.

    BlindJudge:
    Awesome, I'll go and grab that then. Well, thanks ever so much for talking and I wish you all the best with the game.


    Darren:
    Thank you.

    TerrorFox:
    Thanks.

    Ryan:
    Thanks.

    Auja:
    Thank you.

    So there you have it, if you like what you've heard then go check out the game now on Early Access.

    You can also follow the team at any of the links below: 

    IMG Discord: https://discord.gg/Q4VrbRJ

    Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/insanemindgames

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/insanemindgame


  • 11 December 2016

    Making of a modder (part 1)

    posted by BlindJudge Feature
    Recently I posted an article on the site explaining my journey from complete modding virgin to modding beginner. It was a great experience as I navigated mods, tweaked different settings and waded through the various problems to get certain mods to work, which is where the communities knowledge really came in useful.

    But now, I'm going to take it one step further; I'm going to go through the process of making a mod!

    Naturally, I'll start small and not aim to code the next Enderal or single-handedly make a new land within Tamriel, but with the help of the vast interwebs and various community members, I am going to work through a list of mods that I would like to create and post the results here.

    Hopefully, you'll join me on this journey.

    So the rough idea is that I'm going to aim at a different mod and then document what I'm doing and how I'm doing it as a tutorial series. Yes it will be like the blind leading the blind, and no doubt I'll run into numerous issues, but we can learn together. As the week's progress I will release the mods (to critical acclaim!), and you can see what we've made and maybe even add it to your game to mock, criticise, explore and even kill.



    The (very) rough plan is as follows:

    A) NPC - We are going to create a character to roam the world aimlessly. The aim of this section will be to assist us in getting to grips with how to style, equip and place your character through the Creation Kit.

    B) A follower - We'll create a character that you will be able to ask to join you on your quests and be your forever friend if you so allow them.
    The aim of this is to create relationships between characters and ensure that they have a nice balance of skills and traits to assist you in your questing.

    C) A dungeon/building* - Yep, it's going to be a medium size area complete with enemies, loot and areas to explore.
    The aim of this section will be to create a space that you can explore within the game. It will probably be a large segment of the tutorials as I can't imagine this is going to be easy, it may involve planning out on paper first before taking it to the Creation Kit.
    * Do you still call these dungeons if they are within Fallout? Maybe Vault would be better; I don't know, but you get the gist.

    D) A quest - I have no idea what it's going to involve, but this is the overall final aim, and I hope that this is something we get around to creating.

    If you have *ANY* suggestions on how to get started, where I should be looking for inspiration/tutorials/videos/wikis then please drop me an email at community@nexusmods.com with the subject [Mod Tutorial Help], and I'll take a look.

    So, without further ado, I'm going to go and do a bit of research - wish me luck!
  • 07 December 2016

    Staff Picks - 07 Dec 2016

    posted by BlindJudge Feature


    Back again with another Staff Picks, the regular feature where we spotlight some of the amazing work that is found on Nexus Mods. These mods may be old or new, popular or unknown, serious or silly - anything goes!

    For the first time, Dark0ne has submitted a pick, and I have to say it's a real gem. Can definitely see this one being add to my 'necessary mods for Fallout 4' list.

    Just remember that other mods on the site may do roughly the same thing, so keep your eyes peeled and understand that these are just our personal picks. That said, hopefully, you'll find something you may not have seen before and who knows, maybe we'll even learn a little about each other along the way. ;)

    Dark0ne

    Mod: Push Away Companions
    Game: Fallout 4
    Author: cdante

    Personally I think the way NPC followers are done in most games is just plain crap. They're wooden, dull, mostly useless and more often than not get in the way rather than help. Fallout 4 is no exception, so I was happy to spend the points on the "Lone Wanderer" perk in my first play through and simply go without the hassle of having one of these walking liabilities follow me everywhere I go.

    "Push Away Companions" by CDante does exactly what you'd expect it to. Perhaps even more than you'd expect it to considering your companions get more "hurled" than they do pushed. The pushing animation adds a fun, practically comical take on the concept which is particularly nice for someone like me, who'd be more than happy to give "helpful" pushes to followers when walking over bridges and other high locations. You know, to get your own back on the fact they'd stood in front of your mini-nuke launcher in the last fight, or heck, just for the pure sadistic fun of it.

    This mod provides a nice twist on an otherwise game-breaking vanilla companion issue for me.

    BlindJudge

    Mod: Banished PLUS
    Game: Banished
    Author: Zenchina

    There is something I enjoy about games where you create, expand and provide upkeep to villages, maybe it's because I hold little-pixelated villager lives in my hand, or it could be because I just like to create beautiful looking scenes - who knows?

    What I do know is that I love this time-sink of a game. The premise is simple, you've been banished and have moved to regions unknown, now you need to create a community and keep them alive, it's like a survival game and a strategy game had a love child.

    The visuals are brilliant and give life to the homesteads that you create, subtle details like chimney smoke, seasons and weather increase the immersion and make the game a joy to play.

    This mod can make things a little easier through changes like storage barns and yards having more capacity, more locations to build and increased yield from fishing and hunting. It also adds the ability to build half into mountains which may not be to everyone's taste, but like all mods, they're subjective. For me, it aids in being able to play a far more relaxed game just to chill out with.


    SirSalami

    Mod: Dwemer Hacker (Skyrim)
    Mod: Dwemer Hacker (Skyrim Special Edition)
    Game: Skyrim
    Game: Skyrim Special Edition
    Author: Lofgren

    The Dwemer are an ancient race shrouded in mechanical secrecy, but with enough skill, this mod will allow you to unlock some of those mysteries, quite literally. Rather than being a strictly passive skill, Dwemer Hacker allows your lock-picking skill to become an active part of your arsenal. By successfully lock-picking an unsuspecting Dwemer Construct, you are given access to its control gem which, upon removal, will handily dispatch it. A perfect addition to any clever characters who may prefer brains over brawn.

    This is a new mod from a long-time contributor, Lofgren. Self-described as a "simple" mod, I find it to be quite intuitive and well implemented nonetheless. Providing more varied opportunities to interact with the game world is something I always enjoy seeing in a mod, and this certainly is no exception. It's available for both Skyrim and Skyrim Special Edition.


    TerrorFox1234

    Mod: More Items
    Game: Delver
    Author: TeslaCuil

    I just recently picked this game up and started playing it as I was doing a bit of research into new games with modding support. It’s a fun little dungeon diver, and while I normally stay away from Early Access, I see a lot of potential in this game.

    Being that the game is still in Early Access, it is still a pretty bare bones game. Picking up the same items over and over gets a bit... dull. I’m sure the developer will be adding more content over time, but in the meantime, TeslaCuil has got the ball rolling with More Items!

    Right now the mod simply adds a handful of new weapons, a few new armors, a couple of new rings and an amulet which is enough to add some nice variety to looting and exploring. I look forward to watching the mod grow with the game.


    (Guest submission)Vikhenzo

    Mod: Rise of the White Wolf Enhanced Edition
    Game: The Witcher
    Author: rustine

    After finishing the awesome game that is The Witcher 3, I just wanted more and more content from its universe. Starting with the original Witcher game, I was promptly stopped by how much it has aged. Even though we all know graphics aren’t everything, it certainly took away from the experience, especially after playing The Witcher 3 which itself was a graphical masterpiece. But this mod, while not perfect, makes the gameplay experience in general much more bearable. While it doesn’t fix the dreaded combat system, it’s still a major upgrade.

    Sprucing up the textures, completely remaking the UI and retouching some cutscenes isn’t even everything. If anyone has wanted to start the story of the White Wolf from the beginning, this might just be your chance.

    btw: The combat gets better in the second game!


    Every week, we feature a few mods that have caught our staff’s attention, as well as some that were submitted by you, the Nexus Mods community. If there is a mod you’d like to see on this list, send the name of the mod, your site username and a brief (less than 200 words) description of why you like it to community@nexusmods.com, and we’ll consider adding it to the list.

    If you haven’t already, feel free to follow us on our social media channels where we'll keep you up to date with the latest site news, articles and much more.

      

    Thanks, and have fun modding!
  • 03 December 2016

    The Sunday Discussion - Caliente - Author of "Caliente's Beautiful Bodies Edition -CBBE-"


    * please note: the links in this article take you to Calientes mod pages which contain nude images which are NSFW

    Today we chat to Caliente, the author of one of the most downloaded mods on Nexus Mods, CBBE (Calientes Beautiful Bodies Edition), which has reached nearly 10 million downloads and is now in the process of being ported across to Skyrim Special Edition. We catch up and discuss gaming history, inspiration and what Caliente likes to do to chill out and relax.

    Firstly I would like to thank you for the time you are giving up to speak to me; it’s most appreciated. To begin with would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself?

    I’m in my 30s, live in the tremendously thrilling Midwest U.S., and do software engineering as my day job. I’ve loved video games since I was young, and shortly after learning that humans make games, I wanted to be one of those people. I taught myself computer programming (mainly C++), and continued an even older hobby of art, slowly trying to pick up all the skills one might need to create games. After getting a degree in computer engineering, I was faced with the reality that companies that make games exist as far away as possible from where I lived, so I joined the forces of business and security software makers.



    Before we get into the modding side of things, would you mind telling us all a little bit about your gaming history?

    My first real game system was a Nintendo Entertainment System, which saw uncounted hours of use, and many a sibling battle over whose turn it was. Those unable to claim the Nintendo MMA championship were forced to fire up the rickety 386 and brave the tremendous array of bargain bin Apogee and Sierra games. I remember it feeling like an exotic frontier of experimental gaming, and over time grew to love the platform’s diversity. There were always more games to play, and such a terrific variety, that I was endlessly entertained. My preferences ranged from platforming games like Mario or Duke Nukem, through RPG games like Ultima and adventure games like King's Quest, and to the original FPS games like Wolfenstein 3D and DOOM. Since then, I’ve always maintained a fairly updated console ownership, and my PC games library fills with games and MMO’s I don’t have time to play.

    If you had to try and choose a favourite game, or at least the one you have the fondest memories of, what would it be and why?

    My classically favourite game is Ultima 7. It was the game that first opened me up to the sort of open-world RPG concept, with what seemed to be endless content, places to explore, and secrets to discover. I hadn’t played any of the other Ultima games at the time and paused my first play through so that I could go and play all the previous Ultimas, I loved every one. I can still practically recite the Guardian’s taunting speech from the introduction, and the in-game song “Stones” gets stuck in my head constantly. It’s the game that made me fall in love with RPGs and keeps me buying games like Skyrim.

    What about other hobbies, what do you tend to do if you’re not modding a game?

    I have a pretty big list of things that I like to do, and I cycle through them in phases. Mostly, I tend to gravitate toward creative things; digital art and programming are two big hobbies of mine, but also writing and music. The phases move into more passive forms when the creative energy burns out, and those include reading, movies/tv, or simply getting hooked on an MMO or video game.

    I do a lot of things, but nothing expertly, because I shift between them too often. In some ways, I’m jealous of people who have that one big thing that they absolutely love and are passionate about… it gives them a ‘happy place’ and something they’re extremely good at and proud of.



    I think I already know the answer, but can you let us know where the handle ‘Caliente’ comes from?

    Doubt it! It actually comes from an old tabletop roleplaying game character I made years ago. It was a mob enforcer style character, and ‘Caliente’ was intended very much to mean “heat”, as in “packing heat” the idiom for carrying a weapon. Of course, it also had a double meaning, but that second meaning was always ‘spicy’, like jalapenos. Somehow, it didn’t occur to me until after I made the mod using that handle that it has a connotation of ‘sexy’ to native Spanish speakers. The choice was sort of accidentally on the nose :)

    Did you know that a music artist by the name of Jay Santos has created you your own dance track - ‘Caliente’? What do you think? :D

    Haha, I’ve always wanted a theme song! Unfortunately, I doubt Senor Santos has ever heard of Skyrim, Fallout, me, or my mod, so I don’t think I can take credit for any inspiration there. I really like dance music, and this is a fun song, esta buena!



    What first attracted you to begin modding? Did you have any previous experience?

    Apart from making a few DOOM levels, my first modding attempt was creating animations for Oblivion and Fallout 3. Perhaps strangely, for me, things like bad art or unnatural animations for the character I’m playing greatly saps my ability to enjoy the game. In both of those games, I was rather dissatisfied with the idle and walking/running animations, so I set about replacing them with my own. I could never quite get the animations to sync properly in Oblivion, but the Fallout 3 ones worked, and I used them for a long time in my own game. I never thought to release what I made at the time.

    My first “real” mod was CBBE for Skyrim. In that case, I was exceedingly bored by the “Wrapped In Tapestry” look of all the robes and clothing, so wanted to make more sleek and interesting adventuring clothes. Also, while not terrible, the vanilla body artwork wasn’t terrific, and I knew that as soon as a new body came out all the good clothes would be made for that body, and there would be a good chance I wouldn’t like that body either. In order to avoid having to redo an outfit for someone else’s body, I made the body instead and released it. It took off fast, and I never got a chance to go back and do what I originally planned. It was my first real modding attempt, and I think it was pretty clear from the quality of my initial offering.

    To further your modding, you must have to learn new skills all the time. What would you say is the best resource to do this?

    I have, over the years, picked up a lot of the general skills it’s taken to put together the content of my mods. As far as actually producing a mod, I had a lot to learn about formats and getting things working together.

    For me, the best way to learn is just to start doing it. I find I get distracted or bored with actual study, so the traditional learning resources tend not to be much help.

    For art, it’s about observation and practice, learning to remove the shortcuts and filter that your mind puts on things and try to understand what’s there. Then, practice to be able to take what you can see and put it back down as you want. Then more practice. The tools you use are largely immaterial, and it’s mostly about finding something that gets out of your way and doesn’t hinder you. For all of this, watching videos of artists working their magic is a great way to see the process and figure out how to approach various challenges.

    Tutorials are generally unhelpful for me, but snippets and books that show an artist's method of construction and simplifying can be extremely helpful when complexity makes you try to do too much at once.

    For programming, I have even less helpful advice. There are lots of great resources out there, I’m sure, but I don’t know enough to recommend any. Here, again, just jumping in and trying things, simplifying problems and tackling them one step at a time is the process that works best for me.



    Do you have anyone that you can turn to if you ever get stuck with any aspect of a mod?

    In the Skyrim days, as far as powering through problems if I were stuck, I was largely on my own. Either I was trying to do something nobody else had done before, or by the time I understood my problem well enough to articulate it, I was able to solve it. Also, some of my less charming personality traits are stubbornness, and an unwillingness to ask for and accept, help. More recently, however, in the Fallout 4 world, I was able to get a lot of help with puzzling things out from Ousnius and the folks from the NifTools group.

    So do you check out other mod authors to either compare or learn from?

    I certainly look at, use, and admire the work of lots of other mod authors. The bulk of my efforts have been during times where what I was doing hadn’t yet been done, but once other similar mods are out there, I use them as points of reference for things to improve in mine. My work is never the best possible, and keeping an eye on how other people work through similar problems helps me try and make my stuff better.

    You've said that you admire lots of mod authors, are there any in particular that you look up to or inspire you?

    In every field, and every niche, there’s someone out there doing something that looks like magic, and making it look easy. Sometimes they inspire me to learn about what they’re doing; sometimes they inspire me to work harder at being better at what I already do. I look up to anyone who devotes time and hard work into a skill, and who has the passion and dedication to put it to use. The modding community is full of people like that, which is one of the great things about it.



    Do you work in a team of modders? If so, how do you divide the work and how do you communicate with one another?

    Yes, I’d say I’m part of a somewhat informal modding team comprised of myself, Jeir, and Ousnius. Both of them were passionate devotees to the original CBBE and selflessly started devoting enormous amounts of time supporting my mod as it grew in popularity. My available time waxes and wanes considerably, and it would have been impossible for me to keep up with things without their help. I’m forever grateful to them and the numerous others who’ve been so helpful.

    We seem to naturally split up tasks, and communicate about what’s needed primarily over Steam instant messaging. Ousnius has become quite a leader with pushing Bodyslide forward and keeping updates rolling, even when I go AWOL for whatever reason. Jeir has been an incredibly valuable help with testing, suggestions, and doing any number of onerous community management tasks that are, sadly, the first things that fall off my plate. In many ways, my mods are as much their work as mine.

    Your most downloaded mod by far is CBBE for Skyrim, what first put you onto the idea of the mod?

    My main goal, at the heart of it all, was to be able to make and have prettier clothing for my character. Beneath the clothing was a body that I wasn’t happy with, either, for the character I wanted to play -- too barrel-chested, too masculine. I set out, initially, to create a body that I could use as a base for reshaping and remaking clothing. Additionally, I was aware that body mods are used as a foundation for other mod author’s custom outfits, and I wanted to get a shape out there I was happy with for them to use. Things like nudity and shape exaggeration were at least partly done to increase potential popularity -- the more people using a body shape, the more likely it is that an outfit will be made for it.

    All that makes it sound a bit more premeditated than it actually was. Mostly it was along the lines of “All the robes are ugly. I bet I could make one I like better… but I’d better tend to that body first.”

    What were some of the core design decisions that you had to make when developing the mod?

    I did almost no planning whatsoever. One minute I was grumping about the clothing options for my Skyrim character, the next I was sculpting a new body in ZBrush. Many of the design decisions were made on the fly, which led to some questionable results, and which were better avoided during the Fallout 4 transition.

    I knew I would need two body sizes for low and high weight, and I knew I wanted a particular body shape (eg, wider appearing hips). So I planned to create two sizes with the shape I wanted somewhere in the middle. Knowing that texture stretching would be an issue, I began with the largest exaggerated shape. Once I started seeing success in getting my modified body into the game, I started sharing the results, which locked in the expectation of exaggerated proportions.

    Almost as soon as the initial version was out, requests for variations on the available shapes started coming in. Happy to have people interested in what I was doing, I tried to accommodate the requests, which swiftly began taking lots of time.

    To make the variations less onerous on my time, I worked to create the first version of Bodyslide for my own use. Thinking others would find it useful as well, I released it, along with several new sliders, and set in place the real cornerstone of my modding efforts -- customizability.

    With body customizability came a real issue with outfit compatibility, so I rushed to improve Bodyslide to help address that, first with “Slidermaker” which later gave way to Outfit Studio.

    In short, I accidentally lashed my arm to a horse that started galloping away, and then tried my best to make the ride less bumpy for everyone.



    Did you expect the mod to become as popular as it did?

    No, I definitely didn’t expect the success I got. I hoped I’d get enough popularity that some people would make some outfits for the body I made, but generally I expected that someone would shortly release a better body and everyone would start using that.

    I mainly attribute the success to simply being first, and then working to be helpful and accommodating after that. The popularity I got was humbling and amazing, and I’m sure I didn’t truly deserve it, but mostly I’m really happy so many people chose to use and enjoy what I made.

    How hard was it to port the Skyrim CBBE over to Fallout 4?

    It took far more hard work to get things working for Fallout 4 than Skyrim. Once again I was at the front of the charge to get custom meshes into the game, and even with code in Outfit Studio at my disposal, it took a lot of work to decode the new formats. The new files are better in many ways, but a departure from how things have traditionally been handled in Bethesda games, and very tricky to puzzle out. I was fortunate this time to be able to work with folks in the NifTools IRC chat while we hacked through the hexadecimal forest.

    Once the formats were understood well enough, updating CBBE And getting it into Fallout was fairly easy with the use of Outfit Studio.

    Bethesda would make things a lot easier in the future if they’d just publish a document covering the format of their asset files at release time :)

    Bodyslide also became a huge success, opening up the ability for regular users to create body shapes and transfer clothing between characters without the need to go into a program such as Blender. 

    What made you create the mod and did you find it difficult to develop?

    Bodyslide was initially intended as a tool to help me manage the variation requests coming in from early CBBE days. Before that I was manually editing and exporting nif files from Blender using a file with all the possible shapes in it. Once I had it in hand, releasing it made sense, and has since become an incredibly important part of my mod offering. I’m very proud of the tool, and extremely happy people are able to use it to create outfits and morph between bodies.

    As is typical with software, 80% of the development wasn’t much of a challenge. The last 20% contained some difficult challenges that took a while to overcome. The bulk of the work was creating a tool that would create valid nif files (mesh files) when some of the important data was unknown. I put in a bunch of little hacks that only recently got ironed out as we discovered more about the format.

    Another area of difficulty was making reasonable guesses at a user’s intent, and making it usable -- the people Bodyslide is meant for are people who don’t want to care about the internals of a .nif file, and aren’t likely to understand why a reference skeleton is required by the program, or why UV seams often cause vertex counts to differ between source data and nif data. Hiding all that so you can drag and drop mesh files from your hard drive, click to conform, and in a few minutes have a brand new outfit in Fallout 4 is where the real magic is.



    Do you worry about mod compatibility when you develop?

    Yes. Compatibility is very important to me. Unfortunately, because of the type of mod it is (asset replacement), it is by nature exclusive to other similar mods. It’s one of the biggest reasons for creating Outfit Studio, and providing ways to convert outfits between bodies. I am personally all for as much variety and choice as possible, so providing ways for outfits made for a different body to work with CBBE, as well as vice versa, is something I’m very interested in.

    Also due to the type of mod it is, it has a limited “footprint” with respect to working with other mods. Generally, there are few compatibility issues between them. Any time there are problems, I try to correct them as best as I can, of course. 

    How do you take criticism from users? Do you find it useful or frustrating?


    Criticism is very important to me. I don’t have any reason to believe that what I’ve created is anywhere near perfect, and as the person staring at it for hours, it can be very difficult to realize what’s gone wrong. It’s also great to help steer the project in the right direction, or get new ideas that I hadn’t considered. The comments, suggestions, and requests did, in a large part, drive the bulk of what made the mod what it is today.

    It can definitely be frustrating, especially when the comments are pointing out well-known mistakes that are on the list for correction, can’t be corrected at all, or are even something that can be understood by simply reading the mod description. But, generally, I realize that for the people commenting it seems like a new issue, and try to not let it bother me.

    I also find it frustrating when people are discussing the mod in other forums, many times spreading false information that fosters some negativity. I’d much rather they bring their criticism to me so I can either make the mod better, or help provide a better experience for that person.

    There are also a very small number of people who like to troll or lash out with hateful remarks.
    Fortunately, there are a very limited number of these, so it’s fairly easy to ignore. And for the hateful folks, I’ve found a reasoned discussion of the points they’re trying to raise seems to go a long way toward cooling them off.

    In general though, I’ve found the community to be extremely positive and helpful, and I’m extremely appreciative of everyone who’s left comments, both positive and negative. Without them, the mod would likely never have gotten much further than the very basic initial version!

    Do you ever get hate from people who just don’t like the idea of a naked body in a game?

    I did early on, but not as much recently. A few people would send me angry or chastising messages, and there’s always a level of disdain for the content that bubbles up on various forums. Whenever I’ve been confronted directly, I’ve tried to politely explain why I did what I did. Usually, they cool down or simply go away, and I’ve never really been bothered by it. To me, it seems strange to be offended by nudity while at the same time being completely fine with, say, dismembering corpses for fun.

    Any plans to begin creating specifically for Skyrim Special Edition or converting any of your existing mods?

    Yep, the Skyrim Special Edition version is on its way, along with a few enhancements to Bodyslide. The new version will be more similar to the Fallout 4 version in terms of mesh density and default shape, but should still be able to fit everyone’s old skyrim preferences. The enhancements are still in the works, but I’m hoping to offer a normal map generation function (better lighting no matter what shape is made) and a UV slider, which might provide compatibility with texture mods created for other meshes.

    Outfit conversions to the new body will hopefully be coming too, but I’m notoriously bad about getting those done. The tools to enable others to port content over is a bigger priority for me.



    You mention that art is an old hobby for you. In what regard? Are there any particular styles, artists, or pieces that continue to inspire you?

    I enjoyed drawing since I was very young… I used to try and draw scenes from books I was reading or characters I imagined. I would draw using pencils and paper, often times when I was supposed to be doing things like homework. As I got older and got interested in making video games, I returned to art, now using digital methods, to create graphics for the things I was making. I bounced between art and programming, improving both, and learning whatever digital art tools I could get my hands on.

    Generally, I much prefer representational art. My favorite pieces tend to be portraiture, character, or concept art, though nearly any style can catch my eye. I often spend hours on Deviantart or Pinterest or Zbrushcentral browsing works of digital art, saving anything that I really like to an inspiration folder on my hard drive. I have a big selection of 2d and 3d art that I periodically admire or set to my desktop wallpaper, and use as inspiration when working on something of my own.

    While there’s no one artist that I specifically call out as a favorite, there are a ton of artists that I love every single thing they create, and constantly wish I had their skill. The old grandmasters are a given, but also various artists well known for novel covers, comic book art, and amazing game concept art are filling my inspiration folder.

    As a software developer / mod author, what sort of tools / software do you consider indispensable to your workflow?

    For software development, I typically use Microsoft’s Visual Studio when working on Windows software. The IDE is very well put together and extremely familiar to me. I also find notepad++ indispensable, as well as 010 hex editor, and system tools like Process Hacker.

    If you could offer any advice to our users who want to get into modding what would it be?

    First of all, make the mod for yourself. If it isn’t something you’re really interested in using, you’re not going to enjoy putting in all the work and time to support it, and the quality will suffer. Make something you really want, and you’ll likely find other people who really want it too.

    Second, listen to feedback, be friendly and professional in communication, and take seriously opportunities to improve your work. People who are rude or stubborn, or even insulting others who make suggestions, have a much harder road to success than those who are willing to let the community participate. Being a mod author has a large customer service component, and being rude doesn’t make you any friends.

    Finally, don’t try to remake the world. Tackle a small-ish task that you already have the skills to accomplish, or can learn quickly. Build on that. It’s easy to have huge grandiose ideas, but when you get down to implementing them, you’ll get frustrated and give up long before you can get anything released. A small, successful start can attract interest faster, helping motivate you to do more, and possibly even attract other people who are interested in helping.

    Many thanks for taking the time out to chat with us today.

    You’re very welcome, thank you for the opportunity!
  • 29 November 2016

    Staff picks - 30 Nov 2016

    posted by BlindJudge Feature


    We're back again with another "Staff Picks", the regular feature where we will spotlight some of the amazing work that can be found on Nexus Mods. These mods may be old or new, popular or unknown, serious or silly - anything goes!

    Just remember that there are other mods on the site that may do roughly the same thing, so keep your eyes peeled and understand that these are just our own personal picks. That said, hopefully you'll find something you may not have seen before and who knows, maybe we'll even learn a little about each other along the way. ;)

    We'd love to hear some of your mod picks, it's great to find something we haven't tried before and give it a whirl. If you have some ideas drop us an email at the address listed at the bottom of this post and we'll look to get it into a future article.

    BlindJudge

    Game: Borderlands 1&2
    Mod: Borderlands Ultimate Mod
    Author: CrunchyCat1

    Borderlands is a series that brings back some very fond memories for me. The cell shading was a stroke of genius and gave the game real character and an unmistakable look that was one of the big reasons attributed to its success, team play and that incredible loot also increased the allure and longevity of the title.

    I played co-op for many hours with friends of mine and it gave me a permanent smile each and every time I played it. Both Borderlands 1 and 2 had a story that was interesting to follow, comedic, full of funny and well thought out NPCs and just kept you and your team engrossed from start to end. I have the 'Pre-Sequel', but am yet to play it, though that is now most certainly on my list.

    This ‘Borderlands Ultimate Mod’ does a few things to minimise distractions in the game, firstly it removes the annoying start-up logos (a pet peeve) allowing you to jump straight into the game. It also opens up a few console commands to allow you to play in third-person mode, play with the hud switched off (though picking up items doesn’t really work this way) and a lot more.


    TerrorFox1234

    Game: Dark Souls
    Mod: Dark Souls Flora Overhaul
    Author: Vurt

    As much as I had fun with DS2 and DS3, there was something fresh and new about the first that absolutely captivated me. Perhaps I’m wearing nostalgia tinted glasses, but there is something about DS1 that its successors just didn’t capture in the same way.

    That being said, when going back to Lordran after some time away, it quickly becomes apparent how dated the visuals feel. While there are a ton of retextures that exist for the game, it was exciting to see one of my favourite modders, Vurt, had made the crossover. No more pixelated leaves and paper cutout shrubs!

    Seriously though, go look at the comparison shots.


    SirSalami

    Game: Witcher 3
    Mod: Open menu during dialogues and cutscenes
    Author: Fluffy82

    The Witcher 3 is a masterpiece by almost all accounts and much of that is attributed to the amazingly written dialogue and cinematic in-game cutscenes. To help ensure that you miss as little of this amazing experience as possible, this mod allows the menu to be raised during dialogue and in-game cutscenes, effectively pausing the game in case you are distracted. Obviously, this also grants access to other features of the main menu such as graphics options as well, allowing you to make quick quality comparisons during in-game cutscenes (though they will restart from the beginning after the graphics changes are applied). Pre-rendered movies unfortunately cannot be paused but thankfully the menu is indeed made available during playback.

    By default, this is intuitively accomplished by pressing 'ESC' but if you're a gamepad user like me (*gasp!*), be sure to read "Step 2" in the mod's description for notes on proper configuration.

    A simple and elegant solution to an annoying problem that's easily installed and available for all current versions of the game. Lovely stuff!


    Guest submission - Thandal

    Game: Dragon Age
    Mod: FtG Quickbar - Center and Multi Rows
    Author: Fluffy82

    The "FtG Quickbar", by FollowtheGourd, is one of several excellent improvements to the DAO user interface from this author. To quote from the mod Description, this provides "A quickbar modification that allows you to use up to all fifty quickslots at once, while also providing options to center the quickbar. It also fixes the game where the quickbar broke when expanded too far on very wide displays."

    As someone who thoroughly enjoys the entire DA-series, (most recent save in over 20 DAO playthroughs was this September, not bad for an 8-year-old game) this is one of my must-have mods. It removes an extremely annoying aspect of the vanilla UI; having abilities but not being able to trigger them directly from the screen.

    When playing as a Mage, who at the higher levels might have dozens of spells, having to pause the action and search through the lists for the specific one needed at the moment when a single mouse-click should be possible is... incredibly frustrating! With this mod, problem solved!

    Thanks, FtG!


    Every week, we feature a few mods that have caught our staff’s attention, as well as some that were submitted by you, the Nexus Mods community. If there is a mod you’d like to see on this list, send the name of the mod along with a brief (less than 200 words) description of why you like it to community@nexusmods.com and we’ll consider adding it to the list.

    If you haven’t already, feel free to follow us on our social media channels where we'll keep you up to date with the latest site news, articles and much more.

      

    Thanks, and have fun modding!
  • 27 November 2016

    The Sunday discussion - Duncan Harris, screenshot artist and owner of DeadEndThrills.com



    Here on Nexus Mods we have a very vibrant, busy and incredibly talented screen-capture community. I'm going to be spending time getting to know our artists and introduce them into this series to showcase some of their work, find out what makes them tick, what tools they use and if they have any tips for others.

    Though to begin, I reached out to someone outside the community who I also hold in very high regard, the very humble and often elusive professional screen-capture artist Duncan Harris from ‘Dead End Thrills’.

    His specialty is capturing beautiful images for not only his personal satisfaction but also for publishers/developers the world over. What started in life as a hobby for him has deservedly bloomed into a full-time career.

    I first came to witness the work from Dead End Thrills when I was browsing one of the gaming publications that I subscribe to. The images I saw, though taken from a computer game, were worthy of space on a gallery wall. Truly pieces of art and I was in awe. I spent a good few hours browsing his website, after which I was determined to find the man behind them. Like I say, he is quite elusive.

    I hope that you all enjoy this interview and give Duncan some Nexus Mods love.

    Trying to find your name on your site is virtually impossible, and you don’t have any watermarks on any of your images. Though it seems you appreciate anonymity, would you mind letting us know a little bit about yourself and as to why your name doesn’t appear?

    I don't plaster my name all over the site because I'm strong believer that the story should be the games, the art belongs to the developers, and that someone covering those in a vaguely journalistic capacity should be as invisible as possible. (Says the man currently doing an interview.) Few things get my back up like people who get that backwards, who make themselves part of the discussion. This does backfire a bit when people assume the site is run by some shadowy enclave of Flickr users, but I'd sooner that than spend any more words on the site than it needs. Gaming has more than enough of those already.

    Can you disclose some of the titles you have worked on?

    Horizon: Zero Dawn, Hitman, Adr1ft, Rise Of The Tomb Raider, Dishonored 2 and PlayStation VR Worlds are some recent ones that come to mind - the ones I can talk about, at least.

    Have you always grown up with games, be it either in the form of consoles or computers?

    Definitely. I was lucky enough to grow up alongside Britsoft during the ‘80s and ‘90s, owning computers from the Oric 1 to the C64, ST, Amiga, etc. My dad managed a Currys, so I doubly lucked out in that respect. Programming and hacking were inseparable from gaming back then, so it’s probably no wonder I’ve ended up with such a weird job/hobby. That was a time when you not only felt you owned every byte of the games you bought but were encouraged to mess with around with them.



    Where did the name DeadEndThrills originate?

    I think it was the title of an essay someone wrote about JG Ballard, though we’re talking almost a decade ago now. I was pretty desperate for a blog title and ended up on Google. Probably too late to change it now. The band Cubicolor just used it for one of their new tracks, which has completely messed up my vanity searches (which were rubbish anyway).

    Although you say you’re not a photographer, there are examples of composition theories such as the golden ratio and the rule of thirds, did you ever get any form of training or research composition?

    I certainly know of them, as they’ll often crop up in conversations with art directors and the like. I’ve never knowingly used one, though, in the sense of arbitrarily using one to try and make something work. That said, aesthetics is a science to some degree, so most of what looks good conform to one theory or another.

    What first got you into screen-shotting games? How did that transition into a career?

    I used to work in magazines, back when screenshots of games were seen as a vital companion to the text. Days would often be spent trying to find what looked best on the page, which is as much about the arrangement and choice of shots as their individual merits. Bear in mind we were doing this just with the game camera on things like PS2. Dead End Thrills came about around 2007 as a personal blog featuring (bad) shots of Oblivion, Prey, and later Wipeout HD. The idea was to at least try and improve the quality of screenshots used in the press, though it was just a lark in truth.

    A publisher asked for some community stuff done, and it snowballed from there. I had a prior background in software engineering and graphic design so that mix of problem-solving, technical know-how, and working around the game industry for so long made it possible to speak the languages of both marketing and development, which I think was something of a rarity.



    Is your niche in the industry tightly knit? Do you know other professional screen-capture artists?
    Are there other artists out there whom you look up to and admire?


    There are lots of professional screen-capture artists, and most are a whole lot better than I am. I don’t think people quite appreciate how many professionals there are who simply do this anonymously without ever seeking public approval or an outlet. You’ve got agencies building shots from scratch; marketing artists hired specifically to ‘pretty up’ shots based on WIP assets, game artists moonlighting when needed … a whole industry.

    When does your work begin during the development cycle? Are you often working with titles well before they are released?

    It varies. I’ve worked on games where billboard scenery from PS2 was still being used as the placeholder; where the bloom was so bad it looked like someone was dropping nukes inside the characters; where the enemies had no hair, no skin… every quirk and fuck-up you can imagine. To varying degrees, editors and workstations never work. Some of the circumstances are dire, to be honest, but that’s development. There has to be a certain body of assets there to work with, though. I suppose ‘alpha’ is the earliest stage I’d come in, for what that term’s worth.



    When you receive a build of a game from a developer, what kind of process do you go through to get the shots you are after? Do you work from a brief at all?

    Yeah, there’s always a brief. The reason so little of my professional stuff ends up on the site is that the brief is often quite different to what I’d do for fun. You’re making the best of a bad situation with most promo shots, whereas I try and make the best of the best situation on the site. The process with publishers (it’s usually publishers rather than developers) begins with a lot of ‘umm’ and ‘you realise that’ and ‘oh for f-’ until you figure out what’s possible in the time you’ve got. The trick is doing all that in such a way that you cost the publisher as little as possible. To be brutally honest, I’m not proud of the stuff I’ve done professionally. That’s not really how it works.

    Like modding, I imagine you need certain tools to get the shots that you’re looking for. Do developers provide you with any support to that end?

    I do a lot of hacking nowadays. Debug builds of games aren’t ‘screenshot builds’, and there’s a lot that still needs to be done before you have all the tools you need. If you look at the Street Fighter V or No Man’s Sky shots on the site, I had to pretty much dismantle those games to do those. You can never really know enough in that regard, so I can spend dozens of hours on a game I never end up doing anything with, but it never feels like a waste of time. It’s homework. You have to bear in mind that the last thing a developer has time to do is help the screenshot monkey do something there isn’t a feature for, so that’s on you, really.

    Some of the screenshots you have taken are often from fast-paced games (such as the Streetfighter series), yet the image is pixel-perfect timing. How are these achieved?

    Okay, So for something like Street Fighter V. I break the game in such a way that when I hit pause, none of the pause menu shows up - it’s frozen. I’ve hooked the camera - two cameras, actually - so I can move that around by modifying the coordinates in memory. I’ve hooked DirectX so I can track and move the individual characters while the game’s paused, including rotating them. I’ve hooked PhysX so I can run and manipulate the physics simulation while the game is paused, avoid clipping. I’ve hooked the depth of field component of Unreal Engine 4, and the animation timescales for the individual characters so I can find complimentary poses. I’ve disabled the game’s opacity stencil technique, which is what effectively renders the 3D characters in 2D to avoid mesh clipping; that means I can have proper interaction between limbs, etc. I’ve disabled the hit FX and the glow shader on the characters. I think that’s it - unless you include all the usual modding to access unreleased characters, etc.



    You have said that you can get screenshots upwards of 8K in resolution. Do you need a beefy computer setup to get these? How are they created?

    Let’s stick with Street Fighter. Unreal will render at whatever size the window is. Using SRWE, which Skyrim modders might know already, you can tell it to render at HUGE resolutions for just the seconds it takes to grab the image. I’m doing Fallout 4 at the moment, though, and you don’t get that luxury there. Then there’s something like Quantum Break where I’m still trying to figure out how to render at over 4K.

    With the release of Overwatch, the developers gave the player the ability to take 8k screenshots, though limited in where the camera is, what kind of tools would you like to see developers implementing into their games?

    I’d like to see tools which the developers would use themselves. Though I appreciate the sentiment, I don’t like tools which are more like toys - where there are weird limits placed on things like camera movement and rotation because the developer’s vanity has suddenly kicked in post-release, or for some other strange reason. I don’t like it when console games are promoted with downsampled shots the public ‘photo modes’ can’t do. The last one is more of a technical issue, admittedly - games can trade performance for certain debug features during development - but I certainly wouldn’t waste my time taking 1080p shots of anything.

    What are your thoughts on Ansel, the new screenshot tech recently released by Nvidia?


    I helped with that to a small degree during development, and I think it’s a worthwhile venture. There're ways it can improve in terms of UI and user experience, but they seem to have found their audience for it.

    Some of your images can evoke strong emotion, such as pity or sadness (for example some of the Tomb Raider series), suspense and horror (such as some of the Alien Isolation series) or awe (such as some of the Skyrim series). Do you intend to make an emotional response within the viewer?

    I think it’s only natural to do that with any image. Why else would you bother? I suppose a lot of screenshots are taken just to show off a game’s technical fidelity - bragging rights and all that - but those are here today, gone tomorrow. The interest for me is in knowing that there’s a gap between how a game wants to feel and how it does, and that’s often necessitated by gameplay. When you take the gameplay out, just how far can you go?

    One of my favourite shots is from your ‘Rise of the Tomb Raider’ series and is called ‘Rooftop Paradise alt’ (though I also love the standard ‘Rooftop Paradise’), do you have any favourite shots or ones you are most proud of?

    Yeah, well, don’t get me started on the ‘alt’ business. I try and limit the number of shots published to avoid repetition, as just the slightest bit of that creates fatigue in someone browsing them. There’s also an argument to say that if you’re torn between two shots of the same thing, you just haven’t taken the right one yet. Or maybe that’s self-defeating. So yes, the alts are kind of a compromise there. My problem is that I often end up liking the alts more than the originals, to the point where I delete the original and confuse everyone.

    There are a lot of shots I’d consider my favourites. I treat the site like a garden in a respect, and like walking through it from time to time. Ideally, they’d all be my favourites, as they don’t have to be far off for me to delete them. Any shot which is essentially perfect - where the composition works, where the fidelity is consistent, where there is atmosphere and drama - is a favourite. But there has to be a fair amount of creativity at my end for it to be worthwhile. That could be hacking, finding the right pose or lighting, or the multitude of things that go into a Bethesda RPG shot. In that sense, the shot you mentioned is okay, but it’s really just me snapshotting the developer’s work.



    Do you ever get negative feedback or comments from people? How do you deal with this?

    They’re not made directly, though. People sometimes repost the stuff on Reddit for whatever reason, which being a cauldron of negativity often responds by claiming the stuff’s Photoshopped or whatever. But that’s what happens when you put people into that kind of echo chamber environment. There’s no actual thought or reasoning behind those statements, so it’s not hard to ignore them. I do sometimes respond to them, though, if only to drop some facts into the equation.

    When you play a game for casual fun, do you ever stop and think that a particular moment would be a good place to capture or are you able to ‘turn your work brain off’?

    This is casual fun for me. I could literally count the number of games I’ve played traditionally on the one hand. Arkham Knight (which, internet be damned, I loved), and right now Thumper. I’m struggling already! I did try and play Fallout 4 properly until a quest bug destroyed my whole campaign, but I’m enjoying it more for the mods and shots. Then there are the games my kids play, but that’s more a case of me moaning the whole time about how cynically they’re emptying my wallet.

    What would you say is your favourite genre of game to play? What is your favourite genre to capture?


    Easy. Bethesda RPGs. I love the worlds. I love the modding scenes. I love that those games are, despite the occasional hiccup with patches, etc., open to modding by default. I love that it’s almost impossible to play these games on PC without sharing them in ways that reflect your tastes and peculiarities. I don’t begrudge people complaining about Bethesda’s (and indeed Valve’s) genuine screw-ups because I think it’s everyone’s job to ensure they stay true to what they’ve started. That said, it did make me laugh when Skyrim came out, and people complained that Creation Engine was ‘just Gamebryo again’. Did they not think how catastrophic the alternative might a have been: a closed, unmoddable, sleek and thoroughly boring new technology? Screw that. Gamebryo for life, baby.

    Have you ever come across a game that is truly beautiful from start to finish? Where every moment you think to yourself, this would make an awesome screen?

    Rise Of The Tomb Raider. Maybe GTA V. Probably Bloodborne. Blur, the racing game by Bizarre Creations, is one I often bring up. Thumper’s just come out, and that’s a basically a masterpiece in terms of focus and execution, not just in terms of visuals. I’m not saying all these games are beauty ‘from start to finish’ because in a game like GTA or Tomb Raider that’s impossible, but the technology and ambition of those games is overwhelming.



    Are there any games coming up that you’re are really looking forward to getting hold of?

    Tekken! Can’t wait for that to finally come to PC, especially as it’s Unreal Engine 4. I *suppose* I’m looking forward to the new Mass Effect, even if their cinematic vocabulary seems limited to the exact same shit they’ve always done. The cutscenes in that latest gameplay footage, in terms of what actually happens, could be from ten years ago. I’m actually quite keen to see what they’re adding to No Man’s Sky, as I believe it’s more than people are expecting. That game needed to offend just about everyone so it could shrink down to the Early Access title it always should have been, and I think it could be quite comfortable there. Just a shame it wasted to so much of people’s time and money in the process.

    We have a very active and passionate screenshot community, if you could give any advice on how to pursue this as a career what would it be?

    I honestly don’t know what to say! Bear in mind that there isn’t even enough work there for me to make a living out of - I shore it up with writing books, doing consultancy and the like - so I’m not even sure there is a career as such. If it wasn’t for the fact my wife is a doctor who puts up with a whole tonne of shit for a living, I doubt I’d be speaking to you right now. This continues to be a hobby that’s got out of control for me. It’s also worth restating that the professional side is almost completely different to the hobby side, and I’m not sure I’d call it fun unless you like problem-solving under strict and thankless conditions. I guess the recommendation would to go the journalistic route, and treat this as a way of appreciating and discussing games. Make it part of something complementary, as you’re far more likely to enjoy it that way, and you might even afford to eat something.

    Finally, it’s been a pleasure to view your work, and I’d highly recommend to any of our community members that are reading this to go and check out www.deadendthrills.com, it’s truly beautiful!
  • 23 November 2016

    Staff picks - 23 Nov 2016

    posted by BlindJudge Feature


    We're back again with another "Staff Picks", the regular feature where we spotlight some of the amazing work that can be found on Nexus Mods. These mods may be old or new, popular or unknown, serious or silly - anything goes!

    Just remember that other mods on the site may do roughly the same thing, so keep your eyes peeled and understand that these are just our personal picks. That said, hopefully you'll find something you may not have seen before and who knows, maybe we'll even learn a little more about each other along the way. ;)


    BlindJudge

    Game: Far Cry 4
    Mod: Far Cry 4 Open World Mod v1.10
    Author: jvarnes

    I've always been a huge fan of the Far Cry series; I love the open worlds that they create and the feeling of freedom as you choose your way around the maps. So when I saw this mod allowing me to jump into the North Island at game start, I thought I would download it and give it a whirl. It certainly doesn't disappoint.

    The beauty of this mod is it does far more than the name suggests. It allows you to buy any weapon without having to go through the rigmarole of unlocking them. Access to the various skills and traits are available from the start, and it also skips the annoying intro videos so that you get into the game that much faster.

    Now I can go and explore right from the get go, and I love it.


    TerrorFox1234

    Game: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
    Mod: Infinite Heaven
    Author: Tinmantex

    Just in case you didn't have enough reasons to keep playing and replaying this marvellous game, here's a few hundred more. Infinite Heaven adds several hundred configurable options to MGSV:TPP with the intent on extending gameplay. These settings include being able to adjust enemy behaviours, loadout options, invasion conditions, and hundreds more. If you love the MGS series as much as I do, and are looking for an excuse to play more TPP... let this be that excuse.

    The only thing to be cautious of, when using any gameplay changing mod for MGS, is making sure that you are offline while using this. Similar to GTAV, using mods while online may result in a ban from the MGS servers. I never really got into the whole MGS online thing so, for me, this is a perfect way to add plenty of replayability to the single player game.

    You can find a full YouTube playlist going over the wealth of Infinite Heaven options here

    This was also suggested by our community member morbidslinky, they said "I would like to recommend tinmantex's Infinite Heaven for Metal Gear Solid V as a mod for your Staff Picks feature. Infinite Heaven is a staple for modding MGSV. The mod author has updated the mod regularly for the past year as he, and a small group of modders, unravel more information from the game's source code. The mod is nearing it's 200th update, and I want to show appreciation to tinmantex for all his effort."


    SirSalami

    Game: Skyrim
    Mod: Dine with Followers
    Author: wgstein

    Meals are always best when shared with company and for those of us about to celebrate Thanksgiving, this mod may be especially appropriate. Dine with followers allows you to, well, dine with your followers! This mod adds a lot of meal-related interaction and functionality to your companions, most of which is customizable via MCM. Mix in a few other appropriate mods (such as Luka Pumpkins by ElioraArin) and you'll have yourself a recipe for a good time... *rimshot*

    While there is some tentative SSE support, Share Your Meal by flexcreator is an alternative but similar mod, built specifically for SSE, for those who may be interested.


    Zaldiir(Guest submission)

    Game: Morrowind
    Mod: Rise of House Telvanni
    Author: bhl

    Ever since I first started getting lost in Morrowind I've been a fan of the Dunmer, especially Dunmer Sorcerers. So naturally, I went with House Telvanni when I played Morrowind. While the Telvanni questline is great in and of itself, Rise of House Telvanni just takes it to a whole new level. It basically expands everything Telvanni and makes it so much more interesting and intriguing. Together with 'Uvirith's Legacy' (which is unfortunately not available on Nexus Mods at this time), the entire Telvanni experience is elevated to a new level of awesomeness!


    Every week, we feature a few mods that have caught our staff's attention, as well as some that were submitted by you, the Nexus Mods community. If there is a mod you'd like to see on this list, please send the name of the mod along with a brief (less than 200 words) description of why you like it to community@nexusmods.com and we'll consider posting it. Thanks, and have fun modding!
  • 20 November 2016

    The Sunday discussion - Cavou - Author of the Texture Improvement Project for Dark Souls II



    This week we move to the critically acclaimed Dark Souls series and chat to a young modder who goes by the name Cavou. Fed up with the tiling of the textures in the vanilla game, he set out to replace each offending texture to give a more immersive experience.


    Hey Cavou, thanks for chatting to me today, it’s most appreciated. Jumping straight in, would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself?


    I’m currently 21 years old, though I was 19 at the time of making The Texture Improvement Project. I got into modding when I got my first decent PC back when I was 12. I’ve lived in British Columbia, Canada my whole life. My biggest passions in life are video games, art, creativity and imagination. I have a younger brother who is two and a half years younger than me and is an avid gamer as well, although he doesn’t do nearly as much modding as I do.



    Do you have any hobbies outside of the gaming world?


    I enjoy writing, I’ve even been working on a novel for the last few years on and off. I’m working on a different creative project entirely at the moment though - it’s in RPG Maker and has been my main focus for the last few years. Other than that, I like reading and going on walks and occasionally watching movies, but video games are by far my biggest hobby.


    Before we get into the modding side of things, would you mind telling us all a little bit about your gaming history?


    I first got into gaming because of my father, who bought a Nintendo 64 game console when I was less than a year old. He told me that I would watch him play games like Banjo-Kazooie, until around the age of 3, when I was finally able to play with his assistance.


    I got into the ‘Legend of Zelda’ series after I played ‘Ocarina of Time’ round my cousins house. He had been playing for a bit with me watching before handing me the controller while he was in the ‘Temple of Time’, I ended up wandering into ‘Destroyed Castle Town’ only to get so scared by the ReDeads there (when one attacked me) that I jumped off the couch and turned off the console. My cousin thought that it was so funny that he lent me the game, which he has let me keep to this day.


    I played various other games on my Nintendo 64 such as the Star Wars games - Shadows of the Empire and Rogue Squadron. My parents later got me a Gamecube and DS, and many years later a PC, PS3, Xbox 360, and 3DS.


    My brother and I earned and saved enough money to get a WiiU, PS4 and more recently an Xbox One. While I grew up loving Nintendo and still consider many of their old games to be masterpieces, I have recently been very disappointed in their games and their treatment of series such as Zelda and Metroid (among others). I have stuck with PC gaming for many years now as my primary gaming platform.


    If you had to try and choose a favourite game from throughout your gaming history, which does seem pretty vast, what would it be and why?


    My favourite game would probably be “The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask”. I played it when I was perhaps 5 or 6 years old and it was the first game I played without any assistance from my father, and with him only seldom watching. I was terrified by the dark, surreal atmosphere of the game and I played it over the course of years, slowly unravelling its mysteries and learning how to play all on my own, it was quite a journey.


    I had a young fascination with fear and the emotions it could evoke, I loved anything with a “spooky” atmosphere and at the time it was limited to tame Halloween episodes of kids TV shows. But, I remember vividly how I felt the first time in Majora’s Mask when the moon crashed into the world, that pure sense of dread as I watched the world get obliterated by the giant falling moon. After having been familiar with the mostly lighthearted world of Banjo-Kazooie, Majora’s Mask was a morbidly fascinating change of tone that helped me mature as a person from a very young age, it no doubt inspired my love of Dark Souls over a decade later.



    So if you had a love for Nintendo, you must have seen the release trailer for the Nintendo Switch, how do you feel about a console that attempts to be everything from a handheld to a fully fledged system? Is it enough to tempt you back to Nintendo?


    From my perspective, it looks like Nintendo is going to repeat all the mistakes of the Wii U with the Switch. The portable nature will hold back its potential performance as a current-gen console, and from all indications, the games will be very lacking, especially at launch. This is not helped by their needless hush-hush attitude on the Switch as if they see it as some amazing secret that will change the world, this will only amplify the problem people had with the WiiU of not understanding the function and intent of the console.


    The only confirmed launch titles for the switch are a Mario game and a port of Splatoon from the WiiU with arbitrary console-exclusive content that will result in a split in the player population. Reportedly “Zelda: Breath of the Wild” will not come out at launch, and there are no other known games coming to it.


    3rd party support doesn’t mean a lot to me as I own every other console that is currently on the market and a powerful enough PC to run any game at nearly maximum settings at 60fps and above; in comparison, reportedly “Breath of the Wild” struggles to maintain 30fps on Wii U, and Nintendo stated there will be no difference between the WiiU and Switch versions - which doesn’t bode well as the Switch probably won’t be much more powerful than the WiiU, if at all, due to its portable nature.


    And besides, due to “Breath of the Wild’s” overly-large world with a focus on system-based gameplay, attacking enemy outposts and its unstructured sandbox gameplay instead of narrative, it is more like Far Cry than what I valued so much about Zelda in Majora’s Mask or Ocarina of Time, and interests me far less as a result.


    As for Mario, while I loved Mario games growing up, especially Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario 64 DS, the Mario and Luigi RPGs on the GBA and DS (especially Superstar Saga and Partners in Time), Paper Mario 64, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, and to a lesser extent Super Mario Galaxy, I haven’t had much interest or enjoyment in modern Mario games. I played and finished New Super Mario 3D Land and Paper Mario Sticker Star back in high school, I have played a bit of the New Super Mario Bros. U on the Wii U, and I also played a bit of Mario and Luigi Dream Team, only to find myself not liking really anything about any of those games.


    Mario platformers play it incredibly safe and come across as very sterile products without any real personality or creative spark. They're just platforms over bottomless pits with the same cycle of generic environments that try to be creative by changing small details to fit a very loose theme that doesn’t affect gameplay, and even playing New Super Mario Bros. U in co-op with my brother in multiple sessions to give the game a fair chance wasn’t enough for me to really enjoy it, and my brother agreed with my sentiment about the game. I really don’t expect Mario Switch to be any better in this regard.


    So, unless I hear truly good things about Nintendo’s games for the Switch, I likely won’t have any interest in playing what games they release. I do not want this to be the case, I want to find reasons to like Nintendo, but I simply cannot at this point. I also do not appreciate Nintendo’s heavy-handed approach to taking down Youtube videos with Nintendo footage or taking down fan projects, which simply compounds my issues with them. I hope something with them will change for the better, perhaps all the negative feedback snapping them out of their complacent stupor, but I won’t hold my breath.



    What first attracted you to begin modding? Did you have any previous experience?


    I first got into modding when I was around 12 or 13 after playing Half-Life 2 and Garry’s Mod for the first time. I loved the feeling of freedom and the seemingly endless possibilities that it gave you. I had always wondered if it was possible to add new things to the game since I never wanted any of my favourite games to end. I like to think that I’m a creative person and I always want to express myself, so I learnt how to install mods for Garry’s Mod - which I have to say resulted in various degrees of frustration whenever something conflicted, had missing textures or crashed my game. Crashes and conflicts were a lot more common and installations were very easy to mess up, especially for an inexperienced 13-year-old.


    I have so much gratitude for the existence of Nexus Mods and Nexus Mod Manager since it not only makes it more convenient for me and prevents me suffering those frustrations and easily-avoidable user errors, but also makes modding so much more accessible for a new generation of modders.


    I also got involved with a few mods for Half-Life 2 such as a horror mod “Black Flames” as a writer, and more recently a mod for Portal 2 “Combined Technologies” as a voice actor. Sadly, neither project saw completion, but such is the nature of modding and game development.


    So how did you actually gain the skills necessary to create mods?


    I mostly relied on the advice of other modders and Youtube tutorials while learning what I needed to do to make mods. I also had a friend who was familiar with Paint.net to give me some pointers.


    You’re known for your Dark Souls II texture mod - Texture Improvement Project which gives the game enhanced textures, how come you chose the Dark Souls series to mod?


    I immediately fell in love with the Dark Souls series. A high school friend recommended Dark Souls 1 to me and told me to install DSFix, which led me to discover the small but tight-knit Dark Souls modding community.


    A lot of other series such as Skyrim or Fallout have incredible modding communities - which I had plenty of experience with, I spent 733 hours in Fallout New Vegas, 170 hours in Fallout 3, and 448 hours in Skyrim - but the Dark Souls modding community looked like it could use some more contributors compared to the large amount of attention given to Bethesda RPG modding.


    When Dark Souls 2 came out I got hooked instantly and played it from day one on PC all through the DLC releases, so I was familiar enough to feel comfortable modding it. I ended up spending a total of 542 hours in Dark Souls 2, nearly 300 in Dark Souls 1, and many more hours in Demons’ Souls, Scholar of the First Sin, Bloodborne, and most recently Dark Souls 3. I think that is good enough evidence of how much the series means to me.



    You’re only 21 and created the Texture Improvement Project a few years ago, do you think modding is a good way for young people to get into game development?


    Yes, modding is a great way to get familiar with game development and learn how to dissect games, it helps you find out how they work internally with a first-hand experience.


    I am currently also working on an RPG Maker game which I will hopefully release on Steam, which I have been gradually working on since I was around 16 years old.


    When you created your mod, where did you gather your textures from?


    I modified the textures I extracted using GeDoSaTo by Durante, then modified them to eliminate the obvious tiling effect of the vanilla textures using Paint.net. As a result, I had to remove a lot of the high-contrast lines on them and other distinctive marks by “smudging” and blurring them. It wasn’t a perfect solution, but it is all I could do given how the textures had been poorly applied to the environmental geometry within the game.


    Durante is very well known for his DSfix, it also assists with things like texture modding and resolution. Did you chat with Durante at all during the creation period of the Texture Enhancement Project?


    No, actually. I figured he’s probably a very busy guy, and I never found it necessary to ask him for help as I never really struggled with any aspect of my mod. To be honest, I never really needed any technical help after I received those few initial pointers from a friend of mine about the basics of using Paint.net, but a few different users of my mod did help me with certain parts of the project.


    It must have required a lot of planning to ensure that each texture is accounted for, how did you manage it?


    I kept a journal of each and every texture I found while playing that needed fixing, even in the DLC.
    The basic way I would work is play the game until I spot a texture that needed modifying, then exit the game near the texture’s location, open GeDoSaTo and then go back in the game so the loaded textures would be extracted.


    Then I just needed to fish out the textures with the tiling issue out of the folder of extracted textures (this could be quite a few if the texture was in a large area), modify it and install it in the folder for replaced textures. I would tweak it over and over by entering and exiting the game and making small incremental changes each time until I was more or less satisfied with what I had done.


    What would you say your go to suite of software is?


    GeDoSaTo and Paint.net were the only two programs I had to use, and both did a great job at allowing me to do what I wanted to do.


    Are there any Mod Authors that you look up to or who inspire you?


    EvilDeadAsh34 was a very devoted Dark Souls 2 modder who created plenty of mods, he stuck with the game until its community dissipated with the release of “Scholar of the First Sin”, this was tragically unmoddable and as a result the mods for Dark Souls 2 became irrelevant.


    Other modders for other games such as Puce Moose inspired me with his incredible quest mod for Fallout New Vegas, that mod has stuck with me in my memory to this day.



    How do you take criticism from users? Do you find it useful or frustrating?


    I find criticism very helpful, and I never mind helping people who have problems as long as they are mature about it - I like constructive criticism. Occasionally someone would have a crash which I’d be unable to replicate that they’d attribute to my mod, I would check them out, but they were never large-scale complaints and usually panned out to be down to something else. I’d also occasionally get comments saying that the original textures are better, which never bothered me since I only really made my mod for people like myself who were bothered by the repeating textures.


    After completing my mod, I even did a request from a mod user who wanted me to make icons match armour and weapons reskins in other mods, which I have happily helped with.


    I’m guessing that there aren't any real compatibility issues when you create textures?


    Mod compatibility isn’t really a problem with Dark Souls texture modding, since any texture replaced would just be overwritten if another mod tried to change the same thing, which I never saw happen even after using almost every mod available for Dark Souls 2.


    Finally, If you could offer any advice to our users that want to get into modding what would it be?


    The best advice I could give is to simply focus on something you feel passionately about, don’t rush yourself, but keep yourself motivated. Set your expectations low and don’t start with something too elaborate. A texture mod is a great place to start out because of how simple but effective it can be!


    Thank you for your time today Cavou, it’s been a pleasure talking to you.
  • 17 November 2016

    Staff Picks - 16 Nov 2016

    posted by BlindJudge Feature


    Welcome to the new "Staff Picks", a new regular feature where we will spotlight some of the amazing work found on Nexus Mods. These mods may be old or new, popular or unknown, serious or silly... anything goes! Hopefully you'll find something you may not have seen before, and who knows, maybe we'll even learn a little about ourselves along the way. ;)

    BlindJudge’s pick:

    Game: Dying Light
    Mod: Timepiece
    Author: Impus

    I’ve always been into the whole ‘Zombie’ genre, right from the original Dawn of the Dead movie, so was beside myself when I saw the first trailers for the game Dying Light - I mean, it was Dead Island, but GOOD. So when it was released I jumped on it like the undead craving brain and absolutely loved what I found.

    Luckily for me, the development team of Techland also opened the game up for modding and a slew of decent mods have been released.

    Timepiece is a small, but for me, quite essential mod that allows the player to look at their wristwatch when they are outside of a safe zone. This is essential as the zombie horde become faster, stronger and generally a lot harder to kill come darkness. Now I can keep track of time on the go and make sure I make it back to safety in time.


    SirSalami’s Pick:

    Game: Fallout 4
    Mod: Remove Ugly Flat Trash
    Author: inawe

    Ever wonder why floors stay filthy even though NPCs are sweeping all of the time? Well someone did, and author inawe has started cleaning the streets quite literally with a clever little mod that removes most of the trash and clutter from a few commonly used floor textures in Fallout 4. This can result in a slightly more ‘lived-in’ feel for many of the places you visit in the wasteland, indoor and out. While some may say this creates a slightly less immersive experience, after what feels like a lifetime in the filthy wasteland, I think a little tidyness can definitely be appreciated.

    I’m a sucker for simple mods that make a noticeable impact on an entire game and this one is a great example.


    TerrorFox's Pick

    Game: The Witcher 3
    Mod: HUD Positioning and Scaling
    Author: FPSRazR

    One of the first things I look at, with every single game I play, is the user interface (UI) and heads up display (HUD). It’s one of those things I think most people don’t think about too much, but can make such a huge difference in the way a game feels. As such, I always tend to look for HUD/UI mods first, as there is almost always something I think could be done better. Specifically, I tend to look for mods that let me customize my HUD by moving things around, resizing, hiding, and so on.

    Enter “HUD Positioning and Scaling”. This mod allows you to resize and reposition pretty much every HUD element. Simple as that. No more oversized and poorly positioned HUD encroaching on your screen space!

    I highly recommend combining this with Friendly HUD by wghost81 for the ultimate HUD tweaking experience. (Yeah I just snuck a second mod into my staff pick. What of it?)


    (Guest submission) DuskDwellers Pick
    Game: Skyrim
    Mod: Alternate Start - Live Another Life
    Author: Arthmoor

    This mod is great for a number of reasons - it's perfect for people who enjoy creating several characters and not having to sit and wait through all of the lengthy introduction sequence each time. It allows you to start in different and interesting locations, with a character who has a totally different background to the main game which in itself increases the game longevity hugely.

    But one of the best reasons for me, a Nexus Mod Manager developer, is that it has saved me countless hours in testing time as it throws me directly into the game - for that, I thank you Arthmoor!

    Every week, we feature a few mods that have caught our staff’s attention, as well as some that were submitted by you, the Nexus Mods community. If there is a mod you’d like to see on this list, send the name of the mod along with a brief (less than 200 words) description of why you like it to community@nexusmods.com and we’ll consider posting it up. Thanks, and have fun modding!
  • 12 November 2016

    The Sunday Discussion - Druid Gameworks, developers of Witanlore: Dreamtime

    A team of like-minded modders, coders and creative individuals, an idea, and a strong desire to deliver a story they are passionate about to the gaming world. Oh, and of course, humanoid bears with swords, shields, and mystical totems!



    Witanlore: Dreamtime isn’t just a game; it's a love affair. Following two failed Kickstarter attempts for their game “Unwritten: Echoes of Twilight,” the Druid Gameworlds team scaled back their idea to concentrate on just one race - the Ursines. Now, following a successful Kickstarter campaign, lots of time, effort and dedication, the team is ready to release their first demo.

    I got to spend some time with them today to have a chat about the game and how they have found the development process.

    • Cole MacLean - Senior Project Manager
    • Herb Ospina - Lead Level Designer
    • Matt Bone - Quest Designer


    Hi guys and welcome to Nexus Mods, would you mind giving us a quick rundown of who you are and what your role is within Druid Gameworks?


    Herb: Hi there, I’m Herb Ospina, lead level Designer on Witanlore - I graduated from Full Sail with a Bachelors degree in game Design.

    Matt: Hi, I’m Matt Bone, Writer & Game Designer.

    Cole: Hi, I’m Cole MacLean, Lead Game Designer and Project Manager. I do what needs doing :)

    Herb: He is indeed, “the man of many hats.”

    Where did the name Druid Gameworks come from and how did you all meet / get involved in the project?

    Cole: The name Druid Gameworks was sort of dual meaning, most of us have Celtic heritage and it was also a way of tipping our hats to the idea of old school game development. The company started out from my Oblivion Expansion project Reclaiming Sancre Tor, it was on that project that I met co-founder James Ford and several of our current team mates.

    The folks who have been on the project the longest were all modders first, people whom we met through sites such as Nexus Mods. After they were on board we recruited and filled seats from freelance and student pools.



    So if you were modders first, I presume you have been on the Nexus a while?


    Cole: I think all of us have been Nexus community members a long time, I think we first met up on the official Bethsoft forums but Nexus is the go to for good mod hosting so many of our handles are probably familiar to Nexus users.

    I’m Darkryder, we also have Zaldir, Arthmoor, jjc17, IonistheBear or Ionis, lilith, joshezzell and WindmillTilter. Between us we have created a number of mods that I hope are enjoyed by the community. 



    Your first game Witanlore: Dreamtime has just been successfully Kickstarted, making twice what you were after. Did you expect such a positive response?


    Cole: I would say no, that was unexpected. We knew we had put together a strong campaign and the game Witanlore: Dreamtime resonates with a lot of folks, but I don't think we considered it would do that well so kept the goal fairly short.

    Can you give us the premise of the game?


    The premise is that Witanlore is a story-based RPG set on an island populated by humanoid bear tribes. We take a lot of influence from Native American tribes in their design, whilst throwing in a lot of our own flavour. As for the main story, you start the game as an ursine about to undergo the Chut'que, or Dreaming - a coming of age ritual, in which you travel to the Dreamworld to meet the Great Mother, goddess of the ursine, to learn of your destiny. Without giving away too much, I'll say that like all good stories, it doesn't go quite as expected.

    Matt, the studio has obviously written all their own backstory and lore for the game, what were your inspirations and how have you found the process?


    Matt: Fortunately for me, a lot of the world lore and the story specific to this game was in place when I came on board. But I have helped to flesh a lot out since, it made things a lot easier when it came to writing the dialogue and quests.

    I noticed in the demo that there are a lot of books scattered around, many of which are readable, is there a team in place to write these?

    Matt: I've written all the books currently in episode 1, though we definitely want to add a lot more, so will likely enlist a few others to contribute. And yes, that means I'm to blame for "Urg's poetry".

    Herb: I love Urgs experiments.

    Matt: He loves a bit of science!

    Herb, the game world already seems large and very open. How big will the game be upon initial release and how are you going to deal with expansion through each episode?

    Herb: The game world is roughly 11 x 10km, episode 1 will be a fraction of that. Each episode unlocks a portion of the continent and lets you progress through the story. Off hand their are roughly 3 or 4 large dungeons/caves to explore in EP1 along with other smaller adventuring areas. There are also points of interest to find.

    With the game being episodic, a lot of areas will be bounded off until we release that episode. However, once all episodes are complete and the full saga released the game will be fully open world, to explore as you please.



    How are you stopping the player from venturing into the next part of the game world, will it be invisible walls or is there some kind of blockage in the way (fallen tree etc.)?

    We’re using invisible walls, though the fallen tree thing is a good idea for some smaller areas in the future ;)

    I have read that the game will feature a lot of chaos theory/butterfly effect moments, make one choice and it affects something down the line. I played the demo earlier and in a conversation with Tuala (the female Ursine you meet at the beginning), I noticed questions leading in many different directions. Is this hard to plan out? I can imagine that the game is like a tree with a huge amount of branches the player can take!

    Matt: Hah, it can be a nightmare when it comes to writing dialogue and quest outcomes. You end up with a final dialogue tree that has to account for a hell of a lot of variations. But I think it's incredibly important to do that. It makes the player truly feel like their decisions and dialogue responses matter.

    Also, the voice actors hate me.

    The female Ursine in the demo (Tuala) is actually a good example. There's some seemingly incidental responses in that dialogue that can lead to some big changes in the quest - and the choices she makes as a character - down the line.

    Am I right in saying that your character could end up being ‘Evil’?

    Cole: Yes that's definitely possible

    What made you choose bears to be the basis of your Ursine race?


    Cole: Dreamtime started as an alt start questline from our original Witanlore title Echoes of Twilight. the bear race, Ursines, were one of 6 playable races for that game. We felt their culture was unique and diverse enough to be central to a standalone spin off.



    I love the character design sketches that have adorned your Steam Greenlight page, they look incredible. I noticed that there seems to be a number of different classes - will these be available for the player to choose at the beginning or do they become these through the choices they make?

    Cole: The player can choose their character's class at the start of a new game, they can also piece together a custom class if they want specific traits.

    Each class comes with a totem animal assigned, so if they want to pick what their totem is they will need to choose custom class and make the choices they prefer.

    The totems look a really nice feature, do they act like a companion? How are they activated and utilized by the player?

    Cole: Totems come in several incarnations that they cycle through as the player levels them up. At first they are a charm on the player's HUD, this represents the internal connection of player and totem. The charm glows when hidden items are near, when enemies are tracking them, or when a quest is close by. Reacting to these cues, for example talking to a quest giver the totem alerted you to, levels up the totem. When the totem levels up enough, and the player unlocks their connection to magic, the totem can manifest an ethereal spirit form. This spirit can be summoned but is somewhat limited. The final incarnation of the totem is a physical spirit guide, this works more like a companion traveling beside the player, following and dismissing at the player's whim.

    Magic doesn't unlock until Episode 2 by design so in Episode 1, the totem animals are charm forms.

    There are actually 14 totems in total and each has different buffs and bonuses. Wolf, Fox, Bison, Horse, Otter, Dragon, Hawk, Owl, Snake, Rabbit, Snowcat, Wolverine, Rat, and Bear.



    You’ve said that most of you have come from a modders background, would you say any of your inspiration has come from mods you’ve used or worked on in the past?


    Cole: I would say our time in the modding community gave us a good frame of what sort of extras gamers would like to see as part of the core game, like survival needs [hunger, thirst, etc] or role playing elements for example.

    So have there been any games that provided you or your team with inspiration?

    Cole: We definitely took some of our inspiration from the Elder Scrolls series, we are big fans of those games since at least Daggerfall, as well as games like Dragon Age Origins and the Witcher series. That said though, our approach has always been "This is what they did, what can we do differently or improve on?"

    Matt: Inspiration-wise for me, it's pretty much any good, story-driven RPG. Witcher 3 is an obvious one, as it really represents a high point of the genre. Though on a more indie scale, games like 80 Days show how far great writing can take you.

    Herb: I’ve been playing Elder Scrolls since Daggerfall and any other major RPG. My inspiration comes mostly from those games. I’ve always liked how Bethesda changes up the flow, in dungeons, to break up the linearity.

    You’re introducing something you’ve named the RP menu, can you tell us a little bit more about this nifty feature? Will it be expandable / modifiable in the future?

    Cole: The RP menu was my brain child and it actually almost didn't make the game because it was a really last minute addition. Basically, while playing other RPG games, it bothered me that I couldn’t sit down whenever I wanted. So I thought, what if we gave players the ability to call certain behaviors on the fly? It started with sitting anywhere, building a campfire, smoking a peace pipe, summoning companions. Working closely with programmer Filipe Tessaro we expanded the idea to include things like fishing, and building an actual tent, as well as adding buffs for performing these behaviors.

    There were other behaviors that didn’t make the cut so I think some intrepid modder could certainly build on the idea :D



    So the game is going to be moddable? Will you be providing tools?


    Cole: We're using Unreal Engine 4 for development and Epic has opened a pipeline to make moddable games possible. We'll be following their guidelines for sure. We also have a toolkit of our own that we'd like to finish developing and roll out for our modding communities to use specifically for our games. At the moment the toolkit is on hold but once the core programming is finished for Dreamtime the programmers plan to revisit the toolkit and get it on its feet for distribution.

    That’s brilliant to hear, I’m sure the community at Nexus Mods are going to have a field day expanding and modding the game! You must have come from working with the Creation Kit, how did you find the move over to the Unreal Engine?

    Cole: There really isn’t a comparison between the CK and UE4, it's just a different animal. We spent the first 5-6 months learning the engine before any significant development even started and to date, there's still something new to learn with every engine update.

    Herb: I personally jumped into the creation kit for about 5 minutes during my time in school for research purposes. Both engines are so different that if you work with one it’s hard to pick up the other, The workflow is so different.

    In terms of the entire process, what would you say have been the highs and the lows? Did the Steam Greenlight process go smoothly?

    Cole: There are definitely highs around every milestone, like meeting our kickstarter goal, greenlighting, showcasing the first time, etc It's been really good for the team to hit those marks along the way. We had a solid plan going into greenlight but I would say it went better than we could have imagined. We were in the top 100 in the first 3 days and had just a really positive and gracious reception from the Steam community.

    Matt: Although I wasn't there, showing the game for the first time at Orlando IX recently was a definite high for me, as I think it was for a lot of the developers. Seeing the photos and getting constant feedback from our team there was a blast, and made our game suddenly feel a whole lot more real. I remember Herb telling me how a guy was poring over every single dialogue choice, which definitely made my day (and reassured me that there were other people who played rpgs like I do...)

    Cole: That's not to say we haven't had lows, our team has hit all of the usual hurdles, budget gaps, employee turnover, we've been ripped off a couple times where freelancers required upfront payments and walked or didn’t complete the task as contracted. A lot of people will try to prey on an indie startup, we've learned some hard lessons about vetting the people we hire or work with and about sticking together to move forward after any set back.

    Herb: Indie development is hard. You have so many different people from so many different places working on their own thing. Sometimes people get crazy because of deadlines. With everyone working remotely it can be hard to interpret the tone of what people are trying to communicate with you.

    The biggest high for me was releasing the demo. It really hit home with me that it was finally out and available to EVERYONE to finally play. I left my day job to work on this full time, needless to say i got a lot of skeptical looks about it. But it's finally paying off.



    You’ve been updating Steam Greenlight with your progress. I noticed that the Character models were proving difficult to nail down and your Kickstarter funding is going largely towards character artists. How problematic were these and do you have any other characters (such as enemies) that have had similar issues?

    Characters have been a huge challenge, we've been through 8 or 9 different artists now, and several thousand dollars from concept art to game version and the player characters still aren't finished. When we enter Early Access only the Blackclaw tribe will be playable because we actually have to sell units to raise funds to finish the other tribes.

    Our in house artists have done a great job picking up the mantle for things like creatures which saved us from facing the same challenge with our fauna, but the enemy wolven model is still in the pipeline as well. Fortunately, the wolven don't appear until Episode 2 so we have some leeway there.

    So you need some money thrown at you to assist in the process. Can you give us details of your pricing structure, where we can pre-order/support the game and what your release schedule is please?

    Cole: In Early Access, each episode will retail for $6.99 if purchased as they release. Alternately, Players will be able to purchase the full game for $34.95 which includes all 5 episodes as they release PLUS all future DLCs FREE for buying the full game early!

    After Early Access, when all the Episodes are complete the full game will retail for $39.99 with DLCs priced separately based on their content.

    You won’t ever see a Druid Gameworks game priced at $60, ever.

    Ha ha ha, can I quote you on that!?! :D

    Yes, yes you can LOL :D :D. I just think that price model industry wide is a little steep. Fair pricing and quality content are two of our major business models.

    So where can people go to follow the development of Witanlore: Dreamtime?


    The best place to follow development is on our Steam Greenlight page.

    We also have an FAQ for some of the most common questions folks may have.

    I also tweet quite a bit if folks want to most up to date news, following our twitter feed is the way to go.

    We have a great article coming out on greenlight soon detailing Early Access and specific goals and release dates so that's one to watch for.



    Awesome, thank you ever so much for your time, it’s been great chatting with you all. Is there anything you would like to say to the Nexus community before we sign off?

    Cole: As modders the Nexus community was always behind us giving us support, feedback, cheers, etc. We need them now more than ever as there are a lot of naysayers who think modders just can't make games. We aim to show them what modders can do :D

    Matt: Also, keep making backpack mods. Our composer is weirdly obsessed by them…

    Cole: Haha quite.

    Herb: ROFL

    Thank you to all you guys for giving us your time tonight, it’s been hugely appreciated and we wish you all the success with the game.

    Herb: Thanks Paul!

    Matt: Thanks Paul!

    Cole: Thank you for chatting with us, it was fun! :D

    If you missed the link earlier, you can now try out the demo of the game
    So there you have it, hope you enjoyed the second of our Sunday Discussions. We have plenty more lined up for you with mod authors, respected people in the industry and much, much more.
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