Modding: Avoid making the same mistakes that I did #1


Although these days I spent most of my time writing code and being concerned with the automation of testing, it was once not so.  Prior to joining Realtime Worlds as a Software Test Engineer (a programming discipline), I spent a lot of my time creating levels for the Half-Life (goldsrc) and Half-Life 2 (source) game engines.  In fact, at one point I fully intended to try and forge a career as a level designer rather than a programmer.

Anyway, the reason I mention I’m bringing this up is that I spent three+ years working on a mod called Fortress Forever (hereafter referred to as FF).  During the development of FF, we learned as we went along.  Almost none of us had ever made a mod before.  As the years rolled by, we made a lot of mistakes.  A lot.  Countless errors, big and small.  I was one of the modders who took it upon themselves to try and organise and direct the way we were working, so I had a good view of what was going on.  Oh, and I also had the chance to balls-up plenty of things myself.

What I’m going to cover

During this series of posts, I’m going to catalogue the problems we encountered, the mistakes we made and some suggestions on how to either solve or mitigate the problem.  Do not for one moment consider everything I say to be taken as ‘truth’.  Each point is related to the way *I* perceived a particular situation.  Also, depending on your team members’ experience levels, personalities and your relationship with them, my suggestions may be not so useful –or even counter-productive– to you!

Nevertheless, I still think many of these tips are good as a rule of thumb.

Intended Audience

As you might expect, this series of posts is intended for modders.  It’s mainly aimed at the people who have to try and organise things, but it should be useful for anyone who is thinking of working on a mod, starting up their own mod or changing the way their existing mod team works.  Furthermore, a lot of this mod stuff has parallels in the ‘real’ world — after all, a lot of the tips are to do with handling personality clashes, differences of opinion and that sort of thing.  You find these problems in all walks of life — this is part of the reason why I think modding is a hugely valuable thing to do for personal development, particularly if you’re trying to break into the games industry.  You learn things that can only be learned when collaboratively building something.  Compromise and teamwork do not exist when working on something in isolation.

  1. Good Morning Vietnam - trackback on March 24, 2009 at 7:31 am

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