• 5 March 2017 19:21:55

    The Sunday Discussion - CDante

    posted by BlindJudge Interviews
    This week I am pleased to bring you a modder that I have been following over the past few months, CDante, the author of the incredible 'Push Away Companions', a mod that our own Dark0ne liked so much he added as his Staff Pick. This week we find out what got him started in modding, what he is working on at the moment and what we can expect in the future.

    Hi CDante, and welcome to the Sunday discussion. Firstly would you mind letting us know a little bit about you?

    Hello Paul, and thank you for this amazing opportunity. My real name is Daniel, I’m a 35-year-old web developer from Budapest, Hungary. I have a masters in electrical engineering but I majored in applied informatics and computer architectures. I've been working in IT for the last 12 years, mostly in online media and bank informatics. Besides the obvious love for video games, I also spent more than a decade collecting, playing and popularizing tabletop miniature games such as Warhammer 40k. Some of my other hobbies include playing the bass, playing basketball and the occasional games of airsoft.

    What first got you into gaming and what console/computer did you start with?

    My grandfather is an electrical engineer like myself and he managed to get a Commodore 64 in the early ‘80s. He was the one who taught me how to list, load, run games on the C64 and even made me a floppy disk with my favorite games on it. I was 4.

    I’ve been a gamer ever since.

    In the early '90s, I fell in love with the Amiga so much that my first PC only came in the Pentium 1 era. I have always had my own gaming PC ever since, and the first one was the only one I haven't built myself. Besides the PC, I also had a SEGA Master System in the '90s and now I own an XBox 360 as well just for party games like Rock Band and such.

    Did you have any favourite games while you were growing up?

    Oh so many. I most fondly remember classic point & click adventures from LucasArts like Day of the Tentacle, the Monkey Island series, Full Throttle and similar games from Revolution Software like Beneath a Steel Sky or the Broken Sword series. But I also remember playing months on end of strategy games like the original X-Com and Terror from the Deep, the good old Settlers games, Dungeon Keeper 1 & 2, the Heroes of Might and Magic series and the first Red Alert game and RPGs like the Baldur's Gate and the Icewind Dale series and of course Fallout 1 & 2.

    I could go on but if I look back, growing up as an only child I guess my favorite games were always the ones that granted a long single player experience with a great story and lovable, interesting characters. Not unlike reading a great book. So guess that's why my favorites were always adventure games and RPGs.

    In terms of modding, you have hit the limelight recently with a series of releases for Fallout 4 that have grabbed the attention of not only our ‘Dark0ne’ but also PCGamer. What made you decide to mod Fallout 4 and did you have any previous experience?

    I'm so glad you didn't mention the Kotaku article haha.

    I never had any modding experience before Fallout 4 although I always played previous Bethesda games, and was constantly altering and fixing things via console commands. So it kinda started with playing Fallout 4 for 300 hours in the first 30 days after its release... I know. Guess I can't say I hate Fallout 4 haha. Then I started to test out mods and wanted a full MultiCam camo outfit for my character because that was our pattern of choice in our airsoft team. While there were a lot of camo retextures for outfits even back then, that wasn't enough, I wanted to add our team badge to the shoulder and the beret as well, so I quickly figured out how to edit texture files. That feeling right there, when I actually did something that changed the game, and the result was exactly the way I wanted it, that feeling I won't ever forget.

    So I didn't stop there - one thing led to another and in February 2016 I released my first mod ever that added more than 200 standalone camo retextures for 7 different vanilla items. That was ‘All Camo Uniforms.’

    When I started to receive more and more positive feedback about something I made for the game, and hundreds of users were downloading and enjoying my very first mod, I knew I found the best hobby ever.

    Well, you’ve mentioned it now - so I’m going to ask! What about the Kotaku article?

    There’s a technical issue in Fallout 4 with inactive radio stations. Let’s take Diamond City Radio for example. If the player turns off the Pip-Boy radio or is listening to another station, and there are no other radio receivers playing DCR nearby, the radio station will continue and finish playing the track the player was last listening to, then it will just stop playing tracks in the background, and starts rapidly skipping from one track to the next as if the songs were 0 seconds long. When the player tunes back into Diamond City, it will start playing the next song it reached during its inactive state.
    While this is not a very noticeable problem with vanilla radios as they all play songs randomly anyway, it is a huge problem with radio mods like Old World Radio where most stations have a specific order of tracks. Which is especially important when it comes to episodic radio dramas.

    So last summer I came up with the idea of spawning a completely muted and invisible actor near the player for 3 seconds that acts like a settlement radio, preventing the inactive station from rapidly skipping tracks when a song would end.

    While the idea worked in theory, I made a big mistake thinking it would be a good idea to use the smallest actor in the vanilla game as a blank radio receiver: a cat. People started reporting issues with sneaking, or sometimes hearing dying, screaming, drowning cats in the background while playing the game. Then I was pointed to the right direction by fellow mod authors that the best way to use this technique is not with a cat but with a simple X marker. The bug was fixed within one or two days.
    Now half a year later enters Kotaku exposing my mistake thanks to a Twitter post and making an article about it. Frankly, it wasn’t spiteful, the main message of the article was that modders sometimes come up with the weirdest solutions to make something work. Just like the game’s developers themselves.

    The Kotaku Article

    "Push Away Companions" was a stroke of genius and not only very funny but genuinely useful to have in the collection. What made you decide to make this mod and how long did it take you?

    I remember the exact moment. I was watching a Nuka-World gameplay by Gopher and he got stuck multiple times in a maze because Codsworth was constantly in his way. I remembered Papyrus having a function called PushActorAway and that was it. It was one of my quickest mods to make. Even with adding player dialogue and making a video for the mod it took me around a week. I quickly showed it to Gopher and I was so happy he even covered it in a Mod Vault video. He really seemed to enjoy the mod a lot. These are the moments that motivate me the most.

    It’s these moments when you wonder why it wasn’t thought of by the developers themselves, easy to implement and infinitely useful. Do you have any pet hates in the game? Things that really grind your gears?

    Basically, I’m a completionist. Especially when it comes to huge open-world games. So because of that, what really bothers me the most when I can’t finish a quest, recruit a unique settler, loot a certain legendary item or reach maximum level in a skill just because of the many minor bugs throughout the game. Thank god there are console commands! And of course starting to mod the game helped too.

    Do you have any ideas for future releases? Can you give us a sneak peek into what you have in store?

    By the time this interview goes out Transfer Settlements should be released finally. I’ve been working on that mod for 2 months now and it’s by far my most anticipated mod to date. It gives you the possibility to export settlement data into external files, and import them back to any savegames of any characters, or publish these blueprint data files on Nexus pretty much the same way as LooksMenu or BodySlide presets. I will also release a Win32 tool that will allow you to convert exported blueprints to standalone mods that do not require Transfer Settlements or F4SE. These generated plugins will have the single feature of only importing that blueprint, adding the settlement to your game. That way these generated mods can be uploaded as XB1 mods to as well.

    Another long-awaited project of mine is the real-time hair and beard growing mod. It doesn’t require much explanation, it will work pretty much like the beard growing mechanism in The Witcher 3 except it will add hair growing as well for both male and female characters. I’m planning to finish up that mod after Transfer Settlements.

    Those who follow me on social media might have noticed that I was also working together with the ShoddyCast for months on an interactive Storyteller radio and lore database. This is a huge and very exciting project, and the basic idea is to create a radio station with all 75 Storyteller episodes, around 100 lore-friendly commercials as well as lore-friendly cooking recipes and archive historical footage that teaches the player about different parts of the Boston area. The radio will always dynamically react to player actions: enemies encountered, looted items, active quests, locations, NPCs, etc - always trying to play relevant ST episodes, commercials or educational stuff. Some of the radio content will be locked by default to not give away spoilers and can be unlocked by progressing through the game, thus building a lore database in a holotape form as a result where the player can initiate the playback of any unlocked content from the radio. The ShoddyCast’s Psycho episodes will also be included as Easter Eggs that can be unlocked by finding various items throughout the Commonwealth. 

    Another radio-related project is the Pip-Man 3000, a complete Pip-Boy radio overhaul that features volume controls and the possibility to play any songs or even schedule or discard multiple tracks in a radio. This should be compatible with all vanilla radios as well as the most popular radio mods on Nexus.

    I also had plans such as a working Mad Max 2-style gyrocopter as a vehicle mod, an immersion mod that adds scars and bruises to the player’s face dynamically during combat, and a weapon mod that adds a Batman-style grappling hook.

    A lot of your mods are based on companions and followers, is this particular type of mod something that takes your interest?

    Actually the largest portion of my mods are radios which is easy to miss if you check my profile on Nexus since none of those are uploaded by me haha. I made Kooky Radio with Skinnytecboy, GTKYMA Radio with Darren (DDProductions83) and I became tech lead in Brandoman's Old World Radio - Boston project when it had around 10 radio stations. Now we have 30. I also helped Casey with the first iteration of WRVR.

    But yeah, I’m certainly not denying I love companions, one of the few things I believe Fallout 4 did better than earlier Bethesda titles are followers, their backstories, and the affinity system. One of the reasons I got so addicted to Fallout 4 is that I wanted to reach maximum affinity with all of them. Constantly checking their current affinity in console made me realize I need this fixed, so I learned how to decompile, modify and recompile Papyrus scripts and Visible Companion Affinity was born. Couldn't believe my eyes when I saw how quickly my second mod became a hot file.
    Then 8 months later I made a mod to shove them to the clouds haha.

    Have you created all your mods yourself or do you have to call on fellow mod authors or friends to help you out?

    Lately, as I was struggling with the implementation of my very first F4SE plugin I got huge amounts of help from Expired6978 and registrator2000. I’m also very lucky that last year I was accepted in a small group chat of some of the most talented and helpful mod authors. I want to mention ousnius, jonwd7 and Skinnytecboy, they helped me with a lot of issues since I had the pleasure to get to know them.

    I’m always open for collaborations with other mod authors, the radio mods I mentioned are good examples, but I have plenty of projects to finish on my own as well.

    What software suites do you use to create your mods?

    I almost never use the Creation Kit for the kind of mods I make. I don’t really need to change celldata, put objects in the game world with the editor or create complicated dialogue trees. I completely understand why the CK is important, I just don’t need it for my mods. I’m much more comfortable using xEdit to create plugins, not to mention how important xEdit’s scripting possibilities are for me. There were many times I had to edit hundreds if not thousands of game records and I simply can’t imagine doing that without xEdit scripts.

    For Papyrus scripting I’m using Notepad++ with Papyrus script extensions. I usually compile my codes with Caprica or sometimes with the Creation Kit’s command line compiler. Occasionally I use Python scripts with Notepad++ on my Papyrus scripts if more complicated text replacements are needed.
    I use NifSkope and Outfit Studio if I need to alter meshes, 3ds Max if I need to create new things, Photoshop for texture work, Adobe Flash for creating new sprite animations like new HUD elements and a lot of Visual Studio 2012 lately for C++ and F4SE stuff.

    Have you ever modded for Skyrim or Skyrim SE as all your mods on Nexus Mods are based around Fallout 4?

    No, I haven’t. When SSE came out last year I felt like this is my chance to finally mod Skyrim as well. But, by that time I had so many ongoing FO4 projects, I still haven’t got to modding Skyrim. Lately, I’m more hyped to try modding The Witcher 3, but that doesn’t mean I’ve given up modding Skyrim.

    Actually, I got multiple requests to port over my Push Away mod. Even though Skyrim obviously has Fus Ro Dah it seems people still want this “harmless” way of shoving NPCs on Skyrim as well. I also believe there’s no reason for the real-time hair growing to be a FO4 exclusive either.

    Do you have any mod authors who inspire you? Have you seen any mods recently where you have said “I wish I had thought of that?”

    Pretty much everything by fadingsignal. I’m not at all envious I just think he has amazing mod ideas.

    But in the very beginning, I was most inspired by Darren (DDProductions83) which is funny cause I believe we have absolute opposite personalities. But his mods were great, very unique and much needed, always showed a high level of skills, and his idea of creating the “Get To Know Your Mod Author (GTKYMA)” podcast series was spot-on. I remember always listening to the latest episodes while modding and wishing that maybe someday I will be one of those mod authors who he would consider having an interview with. (So you can imagine how I feel about this interview right now as well.) So “I got to know my mod authors” through Darren’s podcast and I became a big admirer of the amazing quality and presentation of Elianora’s and fadingsignal’s mods.

    Later, while still having time to actually play the game, some of registrator2000’s mods became essential to my game such as the Outfit Switcher. His mods are always so innovative and inspiring, not to mention he always uploads his source codes so others can learn by studying them.

    Much like reg2k’s mods, everything Expired6978 does are also game changers. He is an extremely talented and very smart mod author also working on F4SE, so I’m always looking forward to the innovative mods he comes up with.

    Last but not least I’m also a huge fan of Skinnytecboy’s hilarious companion mods.

    Talking of FadingSignal, I’m having a chat with him at the moment - is there anything you would like to ask him?

    Actually, he was the one who invited me to that group chat I mentioned. We last spoke yesterday. He helped me with explosions, I helped him with radios.

    Your mods have always been well received, but have you had to deal with any negative criticism?

    Not really, no. The rudest comments always come from people offended by some radio content. Like jokes about a president named ‘Drumpt’ in West Vault Radio. Or the term ‘gopnik’ in Gopnik Radio’s title being a social slur in Russian. I don’t really get these types of offensive comments. I mean people can be offended by almost anything, I get that part, but they’re always welcome to not use a mod in a video game.

    Is there any feature you would like to see implemented on Nexus Mods that you feel would benefit our community?

    I can think of two things right now.

    The first one actually came from Gopher if I remember correctly. There was this huge thread not long ago about YouTube reviews and mod authors who don’t like their mods being reviewed by others who make money off of their work. And the idea was to add a feature that allows you to flag your mod pages whether you like your mods being reviewed or not. Me personally, I don’t mind YouTube reviews at all. I think of it as a symbiosis between mod authors and YouTube reviewers. Modders get more exposure in exchange for the free content they provide for video content creators.

    But I can understand the viewpoint of others who don’t think of this the same way and with a feature like this, they could notify YouTubers that they don’t want their mods being used in this fashion. And as a result, YouTubers could do their mod searches with a filter and only review mods made by authors who are happy with this concept.

    Another cool feature, in my opinion, would be an early access type of user right to certain mod pages. Mod authors would be able to grant access to certain users before releasing their mods thus inviting whoever they want to test their mods in earlier stages before releasing it to the public. This way testers would be able to see the mod page with all the essential instructions and use the Bugs section or the comments to help mod authors fixing issues before the initial release.

    If you could only install 10 mods to your Fallout 4 installation what would they be?

    If you could offer any advice to up and coming mod authors what would they be?

    Have a LOT of patience. Prepare for a huge amount of trial and fails. 90% of the time you spend on modding is about that. That’s why it’s very time-consuming. And that’s why it requires an extreme amount of dedication.

    Know the game, play the game for at least 100 hours before trying to mod something. Don’t start modding without having a good idea about what you want to mod. After playing the game for awhile, you will know exactly what you want to change, fix or add to the game, and if you feel you have enough dedication, you are ready to find out how to do it.

    Try learning as much as you can on your own. Only ask others if you feel you tried everything and still don’t make progress. There are a good amount of great tutorials out there by modders like Eli, fading, also Kris Takahashi started his Mod SCKool series recently. Everything you need in order to start modding is out there, all you need is the ability to find things on the internet. At least for the basics.
    Mod authors are much more helpful if they see you did your homework, found out everything you could on your own and only need someone to point you in the right direction. You should never expect a mod author to spoon-feed you with information that a google search can give you in the form of a video tutorial.

    Once you’ve learned the basics I believe there are three main pillars for a mod to be successful, and they are equally important in my opinion: a good idea, the quality of implementation and the quality of presentation.

    If you did a great job implementing your mod and your mod page looks awesome but the mod has been done by dozens before you no one will care.

    If you have a great idea and great presentation, a lot will download your mod but if it’s not tested thoroughly, people will be disappointed and you will spend the next couple of weeks fixing bugs.
    And if your mod is a solid, original idea, and your implementation is spotless but your mod description consists of three sentences, no one will notice your work.

    So to sum up: patience, dedication, patience, learning as much as you can on your own, patience, good ideas, patience, quality of implementation and presentation. And did I mention patience?

    Thank you ever so much for talking to me, I wish you all the best in your future mods.

    Thank you, Paul! I really appreciate this opportunity and looking forward to the next interviews in this awesome series.

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