Why did your mod fail?

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Why did your mod fail?

Postby The GoldFish » Fri Jul 25, 2008 4:40 pm

Hi everyone,

edit - Please everyone, do post your views on Darwinia and modding! You don't need to discuss stuff, I'm just intereted in everyone's views! Even people who never used the modding system...

There's a few questions that I'm interested in the answers to, that I can't really answer by myself. You may have noticed that mods for Darwinia never really, well, worked out shall we say. The Darwinia community is, basically, dead. A popular statistic I've heard from Icepick is that, modlink (his mod site for Uplink) gets many times the traffic that TNG gets, *even now*.

Look at the modlist that Hitman still runs - how many of those mods are in a reasonable state? Only a small fraction. In fact, this mods forum has nearly 400 topics, and I'd estimate that there have been about 10-15 reasonably playable mods created by the community. And in those 10-15 mods, you can see a certain few names crop up several times.

So there's a few questions I'm actually fairly interested in people's answers to - although obviously there is one rather large flaw, that people who's mods never got off the ground are no longer hanging around this forum to answer.

Regardless, here's a few questions, I'd like to hear anyone's answer to any of them, whether you had a 'successful' mod, a failed mod, just played mods, never played mods, anything - all information should be interesting.

A) To those who tried to make a mod, but stopped working on it: Why do you think your mod failed? What was it about the mod system that made you stop working on it?

B) To those who tried to make a mod, and finished it off and made it nice and shiny: Why did you bother slogging through the mod system? What opinions do you have about it, what were your modding experiences like - would you do it all again if you got a new idea for another mod?

C) To anyone who's ever USED the mod system: I know we all sort of take the mod system for granted, but think about it - Someone coded the mod system into the game, they spent time trying to make it work. Do you think this ever shone through? How do you feel about the modibility of Darwinia? What mistakes do you think were made?

D) To anyone who's ever played a mod: Was it worth it? Most of the high end mods had a lot of work go in to them. Did this come across? Just how "good" do you think these high end mods even were? Feel free to be harsh and brutal - I would say that most of my mods were actually pretty 'bad' in terms of story writing and editing, and even sometimes gameplay. Were there some mods you really enjoyed and some mods you really hated?

E) To anyone who's never really played mods: Why not? Just not interested?

F) To anyone who had an idea for a mod, never posted about it and never really tried to make it: How come? Take one look at the editor and modding guides and think 'no chance', and ditched the idea on the spot? I really wouldn't blame you, but I'd love to hear your reasons.

G) To anyone, really: Do you think anyone still cares any more? If a new mod came out tomorrow, that was either 1) using the existing modding system or 2) With all new spangly effects and some different gameplay, would you even bother looking into it, or is the time for Darwinia been and gone? Do you think that the imminent multiwinia release might inspire interest in Darwinia again, or do you think the kind of people it will attract will be mostly uninterested in Darwinia.
Last edited by The GoldFish on Fri Jul 25, 2008 11:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby hitm4n » Fri Jul 25, 2008 4:50 pm

Personally i enjoyed playing every and all mods out there. Even if it was a simple small single level battle or a full blown story with multiple levels and many enhancements and new art etc. I looked at making a level once, and played with terrain but thats as far as i got. I'm no coder so the scripting part of it was just too daunting. I'm too old now (and don't have the time or inclination) to learn a new scripting system. I think i could... Just don't want to.

Would i play new mods now? Hell yes. A beginners mod, a beta, anything that comes. Darwinia is a great game and any way to stretch its lifespan is fine by me.

So yes Goldfish, release that secret mod you have up your sleeve !! :)
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Re: Why did your mod fail?

Postby xander » Fri Jul 25, 2008 5:25 pm

The GoldFish wrote:B) To those who tried to make a mod, and finished it off and made it nice and shiny: Why did you bother slogging through the mod system? What opinions do you have about it, what were your modding experiences like - would you do it all again if you got a new idea for another mod?

With regards to slogging through the first one, I was in a job I didn't like, and had a lot of free time. That, and I am somewhat obsessive compulsive, and had to finish it. I have had another couple of ideas for mods, but the modding system is so arcane, and I have not used it in so long, that I don't really feel like going back and trying to figure it out again. So, no, I probably wouldn't do it all over again.

The GoldFish wrote:C) To anyone who's ever USED the mod system: I know we all sort of take the mod system for granted, but think about it - Someone coded the mod system into the game, they spent time trying to make it work. Do you think this ever shone through? How do you feel about the modibility of Darwinia? What mistakes do you think were made?

The mod system always felt tacked on to me. It was clear that IV wrote Darwinia to be the way they wanted it to be, complete with funky hardcoded arcana (like getting power systems to work across levels, or the odd behaviour of SpawnPointMasters). The mod system almost felt like an afterthought. In order to make a mod, I used the editor to make maps. Everything else was done with a text editor. For a few committed souls, this works, but most people want to be able to do everything with the mod editor. There are several little things that would have been nice, as well as a bunch of big things. For instance, the editor is really, really crash prone. Linked a building incorrectly? Crash. Forget to set the InUnit flag? Crash. Used the wrong building (say, a TrackJunction rather than a TrackEnd)? Crash. It would have been nice if these things had been handled gracefully.

Other improvements might have included a drag-and-drop script editor. While I am perfectly happy to muck about with text editors, there are not that many commands for Darwinia scripting, and a drag-and-drop editor could have been created. This probably would have helped newbs quite a bit.

To me, these seem like minor things. They may actually have required quite a bit of work to implement, but they would also have demonstrated some love for modders. In the current state, the editor really seems slapped on. This is, perhaps, understandable, as IV were in desperate need of releasing something, and an editor is not crucial, but it is sad, none the less.

The GoldFish wrote:G) To anyone, really: Do you think anyone still cares any more? If a new mod came out tomorrow, that was either 1) using the existing modding system or 2) With all new spangly effects and some different gameplay, would you even bother looking into it, or is the time for Darwinia been and gone? Do you think that the imminent multiwinia release might inspire interest in Darwinia again, or do you think the kind of people it will attract will be mostly uninterested in Darwinia.

I have downloaded and played (or attempted to play) every mod that has been announced here. Some of them were really good (I enjoyed Stricken Souls quite a bit, and had a lot of fun with trickfred's mods). Some were not (I don't think I need to mention any names here). The mods that were good were those where people had clearly made an effort to understand the modding system relatively deeply -- they could write scripts, edit maps by hand, &c. One shouldn't have to do that to make a good mod. Someone with a good idea ought to be able to pick up the editor, and, without too much difficulty, put something together.

As to whether or not anyone still cares, I get the impression that Darwinia was something of a flop in the grand scheme of things. It may be that there aren't very many people who care simply because there aren't that many people that ever played Darwinia in the first place. I mean, I still get the occasional email or PM regarding Insurrection, so there must still be people playing the game, but they are few and far between.

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Postby The GoldFish » Fri Jul 25, 2008 5:53 pm

Sadly, I don't have a 'secret mod' to release - if I did I could release it and count how many people actually downloaded it. I do have 2 mods that I would like to make but probably never will - Retrowinia and Stricken 2. I of course, do have my versions of answers to my own questions, so I guess I might as well jot them down:

A) Why have Stricken 2 and Retrowinia 'not happened'? It's simple really: I can't make a new mod without it being the same mod as all the other mods. There's basically no more aspects of gameplay left to explore, and these mods were thought out based on the principals of things that I knew in advance couldn't be done.

B) With Stricken, I made it because (as people from beta will remember) I always really wanted to explore the gameplay of having one squaddie against everything. Other people explored this but never took it anywhere (example, Darwinian Commando). I still enjoy playing Stricken more than I ever did playing the original Darwinia, simply because it's more challenging - while it's obvious what you have to do, it doesn't feel like a chore, where as playing Darwinia often makes me feel like I can see exactly what to do, and I know how to do it, and it will take X time, but I just can't be bothered to do it. Droughtwinia and Commiewinia were never serious mods. Really, they were to see just how much was possible, and what the limitations were. I think I probably pioneered a lot of meaningless methods that no one ever noticed in Droughtwinia. I guess really I just wanted people to be interested in modding, and I was trying to simplify my methods so as to help other people get their mods off of the ground. It actually worked with Droughtwinia, for a little while, I think - there were more posts than normal and ideas floating around.

C) In my opinion, there seems to have been one fatal flaw with the mod system - it wasn't designed by the mind of someone trying to make a mod. There wasn't even an example mod with the game (which would have really helped people, I think) - it seems as though the people who made the modding system never actually tried to make an interesting mod with it. If they had, I can only believe they would reach the same conclusion that most of us reached, that the only mod you can make for Darwinia is Darwinia all over again. Very few mods were able to to eek out any new sort of gameplay. Mostly it was creating artificial difficulty by limiting access, to squads or weapons and such like. Enemy Within did this quite a lot I think, Stricken was based almost 100% on it. Insurrection, honestly I don't remember if it did or it didn't, but it also messed about with the limiting of weapons and making people think a tiny bit outside the box. The problem is, all these mods were on the lunatic fringe of what was remotely possible with the editor and engine.

I genuinely think the main failure of the modding system is that people really couldn't make anything but Darwinia, but in order to even get that far, they needed to navigate a very unforgiving edtitor and scripting language. It seems like a lot of people did come up with ideas of what to do, got about 3 levels in, and stopped. Why did they stop? I can only assume because it was too complicated to carry on, or the story they wanted to tell required something that was basically impossible. I know that that is what has stopped me with my 2 remaining mods.

D) To be honest, no, not really - it's nice that they put the time and effort in, and it gave me people to talk to about modding, but that's all really. The only mod I've ever really genuinely enjoyed playing was Stricken. It was a mod I made for myself, almost. At first I believed the last boss might be completely impossible, and I proved myself wrong - the whole game was basically made in that style. Take what I can make in the editor, but only see to be impossible in terms of playability, and try to kick its ass. That was something most mods never seemed to have, or at least it never came across for me (it was more often, find the right tool, rather than 'suck less'). I find it hard to believe that many people have ever bothered to complete Stricken, and in some ways that also puts me off modding in general. I'd love to go back and revise stricken and iron out all the lumps and clumsy story telling and such, but I can't bring myself to do so because it means going back to the same reason I stopped trying to make it better in the first place (mostly, that I couldn't).

E) Doesn't really apply to me

F) Doesn't really apply, again - I posted pretty much all my ideas for mods, then never did anything with them and stopped, then eventually picked them up again. Which is interesting really - I don't know why I came back to Stricken after avoiding it for over a month.

G) Honestly? I'm really beginning to believe that no one cares any more. I don't think we'll ever see a new mod for Darwinia, of either type. I had an idea the other day for making Retrowinia without actually USING Darwinia at all, and just making it an isometic shooter in a similar graphic style to the game via other means. And that's sad really - it says that I still want to make Retro and S2, but, I've really pretty much given up on the idea that they'll ever be made with Darwinia unless things change. I guess I have no idea any more - hence this post.

Thanks for the responces so far (from people I unfortunately completely expected to post, though) - I'm gonna link here from the lounge I guess and see how things work out. (go go crossposting COUGH BAN COUGH)
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Postby briceman2 » Fri Jul 25, 2008 9:13 pm

TGF!!! and trickfred not long ago!!! /*faints*/ The Golden Age of Darwinia is returning! (sorry, didn't mean to pun there) :)

The GoldFish wrote:I don't think we'll ever see a new mod for Darwinia, of either type.

Actually trickfred recently said he's picking up EW4 again. And I have a long & very complex mod that needs stitching and stuffing, but the pieces have all been cut and proven -- the fruits of 2+ years on & off tinkering with and bending the 1.4.x engine. There's a LOT of functionality that no one has ever tapped before.

I think modding definitely will pick up and become relevant again since IV are sorta re-releasing with Darwinia+. Does anyone know if mods run on the 360 ports?

I have a lot of thoughts on this subject, and will post more later after I gather them and organize, but here's a few to start.

First, the mod system is NOT tacked on. Period. What we call the mod system was what Chris wrote to help them craft the first Darwinia. It was their in-house tool for making the game. And *that's* why it seems to require inside knowledge and special expertise to use... because it does. Chris made it for Chris to use.

The problem is that they never polished it for general consumption. Even worse, they didn't bother documenting it's quirky ways to help the poor brave [crazy, obsessive] modders figure out what the hell to do. All of the more complex mods were made by people who invested A LOT of time into figuring out how the damn mod system actually works. If you don't understand rudimentary debugging and reverse-engineering techniques, you need not apply, because you will never make a mod more complex than or significantly different from the original game without serious digging.

That is the first and highest barrier to new modders. Even with the Guides and the forums, you must think like a programmer in order to even tackle a big mod. Not accessible. There are thousands of great mod ideas out there -- there WAS interest galore! -- but the mod system is not designed for people with only ideas. It requires you to be obsessive and commited to figuring out how to implement your ideas. The mod system is way too much like a puzzle -- a very complex puzzle -- which you must *FIRST* figure out before you can make your mod ideas come to life. That's just the wrong way to invite people into your house for a party -- a tricky riddle at the door.

I could ramble on a lot about accessibility -- like the need for text editors to to some things, and the inability to fix some errors / bugs without text editors -- but I'd like to shift gears to consider the problems mod players face.

To load a mod requires some above average familiarity with your host OS. I'm not saying that making a few directories yourself is a big deal... but it is! If the game could acually load mods from downloaded zip files and place all the shit in the right places, how many more downloads do you think we'd have? 2x? 5x? 10x? I'd venture that almost every purchaser of the game would try a mod or two if they didn't have to exit the game to get it to work. I mean download from a browser, load the game, point it at the file and click a button. It should be that simple. And it would be sooooo easy to code that functionality into the game.

But they didn't. Why not? I'm not trying to be hard on Chris & IV about the mod system -- it genuinely sucks -- but in their defense I think they just didn't have the time and money to do it right. Like I wrote elsewhere in a recent post, I think they were looking at eating two day old toast and American processed cheese (ewwww!) if they didn't release and make some sales asap. They never made enough money to get ahead until Defcon, and by then Darwinia was fading fast. So it probably never made financial sense to go back and polish the mod system.

Hopefully they have put more effort into it for Multiwinia.
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Postby MrBunsy » Fri Jul 25, 2008 10:09 pm

It seems like a lot of people did come up with ideas of what to do, got about 3 levels in, and stopped. Why did they stop?

Heh, this was more or less exactly my case :) I stopped working on my mod on "06 November 2006" according to the last time the files were edited. There are 8 map files, but I'm sure I only finished 1 playable map, and there were 2 maps for my intro. I might have started another map.

A) It was the same as a lot of projects I start - it wasn't as easy as I'd first though and I lost interest. I think I'd got fed up with having to keep testing things to see if they were even possible, a lot of the stuff I wanted to do simply wouldn't work. Also, around this time I really started getting into making games in javascript. By doing that I could make everything I want happen (more or less) and not have to worry about working with someone else's system - something I've never really liked doing, probably to my detriment.

C) I don't mean to be rude to the guys at IV who wrote Darwinia, but the mod system feels like something I've written. You've finally got to the point where the map editor/whatever works, and you know how to use it, but isn't finished off in a way you'd hand to a randomer to use. A lot of fiddly stuff is hard coded instead of being in a nice tinker-able object which can be reused in a slightly different way - because doing that would be extra work which wouldn't benefit the game, only a future possibility of editing it. Though, this is just the impression I'm left with from only having ever used the mod system for a month at most, 2 years ago.

D) I played Insurrection and loved it, it felt like an extension of Darwinia, but experimenting with new ideas. I seem to remember a certain level with soul destroyers and infinitely spawning darwinians which I particularly enjoyed.

G) If I heard about a new (good) mod, I'd certainly give it a go. Only quite recently I replayed Darwinia and considered looking up other good mods which I didn't get around to playing the first time. Apparently I forgot to do so :P
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Postby The GoldFish » Fri Jul 25, 2008 10:42 pm

Practically speaking, I'm expecting that the modding capacity of Multiwinia will be much more appropriate for the general community - mainly because I'm expecting it to rely almost 100% on the editor (the editor is really quite good), but this is based on the assumption that the majority of mods will simply be new maps to play - there almost definately will be 0 scripting.

Is this better? Well, I think it's much more appropriate.

I think that Darwinia's problem was that there was no context really for people to 'just create a level' and share it around (story context that is) - in fact major aspects of gameplay work against this (eg research etc and the profile system). There were very few unresolved plots or environments to operate in - what happened to Darwinians eaten by soul destroyers was one of the more popular plot points that came up, I think (I know at least I used it). There are VERY FEW single level 'finished' mods or any quality (paperwinia is the only one what springs to mind) - the most popular mods are all campaigns. What was missing was that "short mod" opportunity, combined with the difficulty in taking a half decent level made with the editor and navigating the scripting etc. I think really this is what killed off a lot of mod ideas - being unable to make a decent mod that was remotely playable and drummed up interest from the get go pretty much made people give up.
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Postby xander » Fri Jul 25, 2008 11:40 pm

briceman2 wrote:First, the mod system is NOT tacked on. Period. What we call the mod system was what Chris wrote to help them craft the first Darwinia. It was their in-house tool for making the game. And *that's* why it seems to require inside knowledge and special expertise to use... because it does. Chris made it for Chris to use.

It may not be tacked on, but it feels tacked on, probably exactly for the reasons you describe. Last semester, I took an introductory level class in C/C++. Our final project in that class was to create a "game" (I use the term loosely). It was supposed to be a sort of snake/pacman game, and we were to include several levels. I could have written all of the levels by hand, editing an ASCII text file. However, it was easier for me to write a quick and dirty little level editor. It didn't have a lot of features, and it was not user friendly, but it got the job done for me.

The editor in Darwinia is exactly that -- or, at least, it feels that way. It feels like a quick and dirty editor that the boys at IV put together in order to automate some aspects of level creation. Because it is their game, and they know the quirks of the engine, they are comfortable using it, but it is not (or doesn't feel like) a tool that had an end user in mind. It feels like a tool for developers/programmers.

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Postby Rkiver » Sat Jul 26, 2008 6:15 pm

A) N/A

B) N/A

C) I tried a bit, failed, gave up.

D) Haven't played on....really should.

E) Not interested or busy with other stuff I guess.

F) I had an idea, just monkied about, failed, wasn't all that great a one as I've forgotten it.

G) Never hurts to try and make a new mod for an old game, it can have good affects on the game overall and revive interest in it, plus with Multiwinia coming soon interest should be high.
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Postby rus|Mike » Tue Jul 29, 2008 12:26 am

Ufff... I think you're way too much excited about mods in general. As I see it, 99% of mods are just something to play with ~20 mins. I've never encountered any mods for any games I actually played the game with, with some really outstanding exceptions like mod "In the Wake of Gods" for Heroes of Might and Magic 3 and Bert's Radar Range mod for Defcon.

Creating a mod usually takes loads of time from a middle-skill guy but because of the fact he's not a professional, his mod usually sucks. I can't talk about Darwinia/it's modding system because I never liked Darwinia, never even finished it :oops: but let's take Defcon for example. SatCon mod is a mod which almost surely makes you say "WOW!!" the first time you see it. But after you've played with it few minutes you find out that it _badly_ corresponds with unit's colours and you can't see your units, that your eyes may even heart from it's colour scheme after a while. And you most likely will turn it off, still saving good memories from it.

The main problem with mods as I see it is that most of them can never reach the level of original game :( the work of the fans is really great but as I've said, your atitude and expectations towards mods are too good. 10 mins of fun- that's what you can expect from a good mod- not more.

That's my personal attitude and I won't be surprised in case there are many who don't share it, heh. Anyway, hope I was helpfull :)
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Re: Why did your mod fail?

Postby martin » Tue Jul 29, 2008 12:28 am

I wasn't sure if I should bother posting, may as well. TBM (EDIT:: and indeed my other mods, I just did a quick count - there are 10 with my name next to them) weren't the best mods ever but I enjoyed them and I think it's a shame that all the mod projects have died :(

A) To those who tried to make a mod, but stopped working on it: Why do you think your mod failed? What was it about the mod system that made you stop working on it?

I stopped making several mods through either time constraints or the modding system. The incomplete nature of the modding system makes it difficult to use as we all know and it was just very frustrating.

B) To those who tried to make a mod, and finished it off and made it nice and shiny: Why did you bother slogging through the mod system? What opinions do you have about it, what were your modding experiences like - would you do it all again if you got a new idea for another mod?

Well, not exactly nice and shiny, but I did release a lot of mods. I mostly did it because I made these mods I enjoyed and thought other people might like to play, the original "The deserts" mod had no scripting because I made the mod for myself as a continuation of the darwinia storyline and when playing it myself it needed no scripting - I just did it myself ;)

C) To anyone who's ever USED the mod system: I know we all sort of take the mod system for granted, but think about it - Someone coded the mod system into the game, they spent time trying to make it work. Do you think this ever shone through? How do you feel about the modibility of Darwinia? What mistakes do you think were made?

I think the mod system was tacked on at the end, a bit of a "well we've made it, may as well release it" kinda thing. And *that* is what shines through to me :/

D) To anyone who's ever played a mod: Was it worth it? Most of the high end mods had a lot of work go in to them. Did this come across? Just how "good" do you think these high end mods even were? Feel free to be harsh and brutal - I would say that most of my mods were actually pretty 'bad' in terms of story writing and editing, and even sometimes gameplay. Were there some mods you really enjoyed and some mods you really hated?

I enjoyed almost all the mods I played, the ones I enjoyed the least were the single levels - all single levels in darwinia are pretty constrained as to what you can do that's new, what makes it exciting for me is the storyline tying it together even if it is a fairly weak one.

E) To anyone who's never really played mods: Why not? Just not interested?

Obviously not applicable :P

F) To anyone who had an idea for a mod, never posted about it and never really tried to make it: How come? Take one look at the editor and modding guides and think 'no chance', and ditched the idea on the spot? I really wouldn't blame you, but I'd love to hear your reasons.

Well I have several mod ideas which I never posted about, there are more episodes of TBM all planned out, I have FTP basically made but not scripted and a couple of really epic demo levels made for revolutions - but I just never got around to completing them. there is too much scripting and not enough time for me to complete FTP properly, and there just isn't enough interest to warrant that much work - maybe when multiwinia is released I'll put some effort in, who knows? As for revolution the level got corrupted, no idea what caused it but now I cannot run my epic demo level, which is a shame because it was pretty much the most ambitious level I've ever seen in darwinia - all carefully tailored to be massive and epic while not making your computer implode.

G) To anyone, really: Do you think anyone still cares any more? If a new mod came out tomorrow, that was either 1) using the existing modding system or 2) With all new spangly effects and some different gameplay, would you even bother looking into it, or is the time for Darwinia been and gone? Do you think that the imminent multiwinia release might inspire interest in Darwinia again, or do you think the kind of people it will attract will be mostly uninterested in Darwinia.

No, not really :(
However, I think if the new modding system by Icepick got finished, and multiwinia gets released we might see a resurgence in modding darwinia - it depends on a few factors I guess:
-if icepick makes the new mod system so we have new content to play with
-if multiwinia is significantly moddable, if it is I guess we'll see MW instead of DW mods
-if darwinia mods work on darwinia+ on the xbox, if so we'll have a lot of new interest in mods.
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Postby trickfred » Wed Jul 30, 2008 6:19 pm

xander and brice, along with the few other contributors here, have pretty much covered everything I would be able to contribute to this thread; a result of me only checking the DG boards periodically these days.

I slugged it out with the editor initially because I was out of work and needed something to do besides dishes and housework. It was a pain in the rear, and I did manage to make it do (a very few, not trying to pat myself on the back here) things that (as of the last time I played) noone else had done at the time. But again, as has been said, it was hard and frustrating sometimes, and quite a few ideas were scrapped because they couldn't be implemented - and several that were implemented didn't work as planned, or simply weren't as good as I had hoped. Personally, I think most of my mods were pretty lousy, which is why noone's ever seen most of them. I actually liked tinkering directly with text files and such, but that's my slightly nerdy side showing, I guess, but then again I have near-infinite patience with things I like.

Stricken Souls was fun. Insurrection was challenging. Colour had emotional impact at the end. Good things can come out of the editor, for sure. In a perfect world, Darwinia would have had 6 more months breathing room to be finished, with a proper editor, maybe a few more official game mechanics/levels added, but it is what it is. I would love to start up EW4 again (and was kicking the idea around not too long ago, it bothers me the story was never finished), but the lack of new modding features when IV can obviously now afford the time (or to pay someone else to do the heavy lifting) and the fact that windows has a different version than mac (which is again different than linux) and various unfixed bugs means I have to make the mod for the lowest common denominator; stuff it full of half-assed workarounds, no 1.5x features - and unlike brice (much respect!), I don't have the time (with 2 kids now) and/or the patience to squeeze the editor for whatever unintentional quirks it may have left in it. Also, as TGF said, I don't want to make another mod the same as my last mods, or the same as someone else's mods.

But if any of that changes any time soon...

(Excuse the obscene use of ellipses, I seldom think in a straight line. :) )
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Postby Dover » Thu Jul 31, 2008 2:51 pm

rus|Mike wrote:The main problem with mods as I see it is that most of them can never reach the level of original game :( the work of the fans is really great but as I've said, your atitude and expectations towards mods are too good. 10 mins of fun- that's what you can expect from a good mod- not more.


i have a different opinion there: i think xanders insurrection could almost have been sold as an expansion pack. i haven't really played most of the other mods yet so that's why i don't mention them, no offense. i actually wanted to save this for later, because i actually haven't found the time to finish it yet, but at this point i have to say: thank you, xander, for all the hard work that brought a nice gaming experience to us!

also, mike, have you ever played some of the warcraft3 mods? of course, they don't have the complexity of the original game, but many of them bring so much fun, especially to lanparties, that they could easily be sold as a standalone game. tower defense, for instance, was first invented as a mod for broodwar and later on there were many great versions for wc3/tft. today this gameplay- principle can be found in countless browsergames and has even been released as a standalone game. but, of course, that's also thanks to the great editor, blizzard always delivers. so let's hope, that multiwinia will have a good modding system.

greets

dover.
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Postby The GoldFish » Thu Jul 31, 2008 6:28 pm

I agree with you, Dover, that Darwinia is in no way about the short 10 minute fun mod. Maybe it should be - it might have made mods more popular. But 10 minute mods don't really work for Darwinia - they're too much effort and too messy to go through the rigamarols of setting up research, creating your user (in older versions), restarting, etc, which can easily take up an extra half of your playtime.

Games can benefit from mods of both types; NWN has had a massive following for years, and people created immencely long campaigns for that - a very large chunk of which are of which are at an incredibly high standard. While gameplay is almost as completely limited as it was in the original campaign, there was always immence variety, and a massive world or lore to draw on, as well as nearly no barriers to story telling. One main reason why modders can't make a better game than the original is that the best game you can make with the system IS the original, and they want to create something new, so quality tends to suffer.

Darwinia has nearly no unused gameplay variety, nearly every single loose string of plot is tied off and 90% of non directly plot driven conversation is Dr Sepulveda telling you about Darwinia, so that mechanic is pretty spent after the original campaign. If you intend to use it (I didn't!) Whoever your single conversable avatar is, they need to manage your research (which is actually a big story barrier). There is so little scope for variety made available to your average user, I'm not really that surprised things have gone the way they have.

As good as any of the "best" mods are, all I can see is how with a couple more options and facets for story telling, they could have been at least twice as good.

That said, I would say that Darwinia's modding system would be nearly *perfect* for multiwinia. I really don't expect to see any major changes.
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Postby briceman2 » Thu Jul 31, 2008 10:57 pm

The GoldFish wrote:Darwinia has nearly no unused gameplay variety, nearly every single loose string of plot is tied off and 90% of non directly plot driven conversation is Dr Sepulveda telling you about Darwinia, so that mechanic is pretty spent after the original campaign. If you intend to use it (I didn't!) Whoever your single conversable avatar is, they need to manage your research (which is actually a big story barrier). There is so little scope for variety made available to your average user, I'm not really that surprised things have gone the way they have.

Much as I respect you and your knowhow, TGF, I hope to prove you completely wrong on this. I am trying to pull together enough time to string together the test levels I have created over the past two years. There are LOTS of things that haven't been tapped yet, and many of them don't require much in the way of technical skills to implement. There are also lots of neat things that can be done with altered building shape files, but that obviously requires more skill and dedication.

The research system can be completely bypassed. Simply set the current count for each weapon to a very large negative number in the original game.txt.

But I know that's not what you're talking about. The avatar thing IS really a pain, but there are storyline ways around it. In my mod one group of Ants has captured much of the infrastructure. Their Queen has all the research from the original Squad Massacres (the Ants remember!) locked up in storage vaults. The avatar is a representative from their empire. Whenever the Queen "grants" you new research, the avatar tells you how blessed you are to recieve such a gift from so exalted a monarch... and lays it on thick with court talk. Problem solved.

Chris put a tremendous amount of work into the behaviors of all the entities. For example, Darwinians are braver fighting downhill than those fighting uphill, and thus the real-world dynamic of holding the highlands is reproduced in-game. More to the point, the non-player entities all interact in unique ways, no matter how you pair them off. Virii are 2D creatures, and they don't seem to know that the 3rd dimension exists. They can attack Jellyfish and Soul Destroyers *from the ground*! They only leave the ground to attack Tripods.

To take advantage of these kinds of interactions the storyline must, of course, ally the player with some entity group(s). In my mod the player is allied with one group of Ants against another group of Ants. The Ants have gained control over many of the other entities, so it is easy to deploy them in the story. In my mod, sometimes SDs battle for you, and sometimes against you.

You might complain, "but all the entities are the same color no matter their team!" There are storyline ways around this too. My avatar is an Ant, and in the opening scenes of the mod the avatar will mock the player because we are color blind to his world. This Ant avatar will claim that the difference between a Red Ant, a Green Ant, and a Golden Ant is plain as daylight to everyone on the other side of the screen. The player's color blindness becomes a new mechanic in itself -- you can't ever tell from afar if an entity is friendly or hostile.

One neat example would be two engineers fighting for a critical Control Tower. Your squad needs to take one of them out with rockets. But how do you tell which one? I won't give away the answer here (I may not even use this in the final mod) but it relies again on the detailed behaviors Chris gave to each entity. There is a simple non-destructive way to discern whether an engineer is friend or foe. Once you figure that out, the Control Tower problem is easy. (And if you have set all the Research points to huge negative numbers, then it doesn't matter that the engineers constantly give you Research Points as they swap the team of the tower = 20pts every few seconds. The Queen rules the research.)

I have also found a way to command *RED* DGs to march in single file in any of the eight cardinal directions until they hit either the enemy, the edge of the world, or an obsticle. It's a bug in the Building Port code I think -- DG ports -- but a very simple Building Shape File can cause it to happen quite reliably. So spawned or instant Red DGs can be "ordered" to march into battle. This can be triggered or be spontaneous at level start. I can even control how far they march before turning around and marching back to their start locations -- they respond to rough, uneven terrain or buildings in their way. But this trick "costs" one Building type.

There are also many "tricks" that can be pulled off without modifying anything. For example, DGs are naturally terrified of enemy Triffid Eggs flying overhead -- they shoot their lasers and even throw grenades sometimes. This behavior can be twisted into a nasty nasty defense system for a group of DGs holding a high plateau. It takes some patience to place things just right, but the end result is that the highland DGs lob HUGE volleys of grenades onto anyone below, every time an Egg launches. It can litterally rain grenades. The key is to place an enemy Triffid behind the highland DGs and point it such that the Egg fires slow and low over the edge of the cliff. Somehow the DGs think the Egg has touched ground when it goes below the height of the cliff, and when DGs see an enemy Egg on the ground... they lob grenades. And when DGs are uphill of their enemy... they are braver and more of them lob more grenades! It's great fun! and you have to pity the poor DGs trying capture the hill.

[TECH NOTE: But you have to be careful the Egg doesn't fly too high overhead or the DGs will all fire their lasers up into the air... and that is one thing that can drop your FPS to single digits on mid-range machines (1.6GHz Athlon, Nvidia 6600GS). Lots of lasers in the air seems to be an unoptimized case in the graphics engine -- the more DGs and the more lasers, the slower things get.]

Lastly, I can't understand how you can claim "nearly every single loose string of plot is tied off," with such certainty. What about the future of the Darwinia universe? I haven't yet decided if my mod will take place on the original Darwinia planet/server, or on one of the other servers in the starry internet sky above. Maybe the Ants have conquered other servers and move on to greener pastures? But I am certain that my mod starts many terracycles in the future of Darwinia. Maybe petacycles, but that sounds so much like pederasty! :( or crazy animal rights activits (who would most definitely hate the story in my mod!) Terra, peta, exa, zatta, yotta... one of them.

-brice

P.S. I liked all your mods. They weren't crap. They were fun! I'm even thinking of stealing your "wus caves" for a few of the harder levels in my mod. There are a couple of levels I know you will like -- I was thinking of your style when I made them. One is a commando run, and the other is you against SDs with a twist.

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