September 2009 (Pilot): Spotlight

Welcome to the Spotlight! In this article, we will be shining the light on two of our projects or mods hosted by Revora and give them a showcase to tell us what they are all about!

In this month, we have the words from Creator, who has recently released Contra 007 for Command & Conquer Generals: Zero Hour, talking about his mods and plans for it. And we also have an interview that our staff Athos has conducted with GothmogtheOrc, who released King of the West 1.1 for Battle for Middle Earth 1.

My real name is Andrey and I'm 29 now. I live in Moscow. I graduated university some years ago and work in Russian Space Agency as an engineer since that time. My basic job at work is programming and a bit of net administration. I like programming in general, and my favorite kind of computer games is strategies. Thus, it becomes clear why strategy games modding became my hobby. I started modding in 1990s and my first "victim" was Red Alert-1. I did not have internet connection that time. I modified RA for my own pleasure and did not upload it anywhere. Many years past since that time. Many things were changed.

The idea to modify Generals Zero Hour came to my head right after I bought this game. I did not like it and wanted to improve game play. I started ZH modding in 2003 and changed things without any aim. I practiced a lot, learned how to code, how to model and realized one day that I need to make all sides the most different from each other. It was the beginning of Contra.

Very first Contra had been released approximately in autumn of 2004. It was not hosted anywhere and I just uploaded it to Sleipnir Stuff forum. It was my favorite modding forum that time. Mod size was not higher than 10 Mb. People liked it, made their suggestions. I implemented them and released next versions. I had got hosted at, released Contra 002 and 003 there. But that hosting was not stable. It was offline often enough. So, I moved to Revora. Modding process remained the same - modding without aim. People made suggestions, I chosen the ones I liked and implemented them. Slowly, step by step I came to Contra 007.

I worked alone for many time and did all kinds of jobs - wrote code, created and skinned models, recorded sounds and etc. But I've got familiar with Woody then. He is very good artist. It was him who skinned B-52, Luna and many other beautiful models. I worked with him for many time and learned how to skin from him. After Contra 006 had been released, another players got interested in it. They helped me in balancing and debugging a lot. I would like to mention Ilya, Kur-zaz and Zmey Gorynych, who did really amazing job. They organized all-round testing, involved dozens of players in this process and suggested very valuable changes connected with balance. I must be grateful to them for better balance in Contra 007.

What is new in Contra 007? It is easier to answer the question "What is old remained on Contra 007?". The mod has been fully redesigned. Many old models, sounds and units remained, but all balance and game play are new. I directed the most of my efforts to balancing and debugging. More than 2 hundreds of bugs were found and fixed and approximately the same number of balance changes were implemented.

But you will also find a number of new models, graphic effects as well as new original ideas implemented. In particular, stealth detection system has been redesigned. There are units which detect stealth aircrafts only, there are units which detect stealth ground vehicles only, there are units which detect mines only and etc. The most of detectors are specialized. Flame general tanks can spill fuel on the ground and go away. These fuel pools can be set on fire when needed. Stealth general's Rebel is invisible and armed with a shotgun. He has to come very close to its target, but he makes one kill with one shot then. Assault general has got Recycling ability. It resurrects destroyed vehicles. You can loss an army and revive it right on battlefield. It is not the full list of new ideas of course. You can see all of them playing the mod.

What is the future of Contra? Future is simply continuation of the past. I will listen to players as always, choose suggestions I like and implement them. An of course, I'll continue to fix errors.

Athos: When did you begin work on KotW?

GothmogtheOrc: Well I first started thinking about doing another mod shortly after I released my Shadows of Evil mod. My prior mods only changed the evil factions and I wanted to make a mod that helped the good guys out too. I also wanted to make a mod that combined all my prior mods. So I guess you could say that that was the beginning of the mod. I think that was about three years ago now. So the mod has been in the works for quite awhile. It probably wasn't until about two years ago that I realized how big the mod would ultimately be. So that would be another major mile marker in the mod's development.

Athos: What inspired you to create this modification?
GothmogtheOrc: Well, in addition to wanting to make a larger mod, I really felt that many of the little aspects of the game could be tweaked to make it much more like the books, movies, and ultimately, more fun. Some examples of this: I wanted to make sieges a much more vital part of the game and much more interesting and fun for both sides. I also wanted to move Aragorn to Gondor, and therefore also Gimli and Legolas. This meant that I had to completely rebalance the good factions and provide Rohan with many new heroes. So fairly quickly I realized that my small and simple changes would result in a brand new, huge mod. But I'd definitely say that it was the small things like that that all added up together that inspired me to create the mod.

Athos: How did you feel working pre-release?
GothmogtheOrc: It was really frustrating at times. I tried to keep this very quiet but I actually stopped playing Battle for Middle-earth for fun almost at the same time that I started work on the mod. So I was ultimately modding just for the fun of it, not because I ever expected to play the mod. But we got a lot done in the first year or so of work and thus when I went off to college I decided that I did not want to let all the hard work done to that point go to waste. So in what little free time I had, usually just during the summer, I worked on the mod as much as possible in an effort to get it done. By last summer I had actually lost the interest and desire to even mod, but again I felt that I could not let down the mod team or my loyal fans by simply stopping and quitting. So I kept going and despite my apathy towards the mod and game, I tried my best to complete the mod. I had to make sacrifieces along the way, dropping some cool features that I originally wanted to include in the mod, but ultimately I felt it was important to get the mod released. So yeah, it was tough going and without the fantastic, loyal fans who have supported the mod, I probably would have quit years ago.

Athos: How do you feel now that this is released?
GothmogtheOrc: It feels amazing. Fantastic even. It really is a burden lifted, something I never really expected to feel. Just thinking about it now is making me smile! I really cannot believe that we did it and that it has gotten such good reviews in the short time it has been released. I'm also very happy that all of my fans are finally able to play the mod and enjoy it. It makes up for the difficult times during the years we worked on the mod and allows me to vicariously enjoy the mod.

Athos: Did you enjoy working on the mod, or did it feel a great deal like work?
GothmogtheOrc: It was definitely a great deal of work. Obviously any project that one works on for three years is going to have quite a bit of effort put into it, but there were definitely moments that were very enjoyable. I remember being really happy when I put in some of my first hand made skins for the new heroes, Theodred in particular stands out, and just thinking how cool it was to see something new that I had made in the game. My specialty has always been coding and unfortunately us coders rarely get that much satisfaction when we create new things. Usually because they are not stuff you can easily see; so while another coder may be able to look at the code behind something and be impressed, the casual gamer often doesn't see that. But with new artwork you really get a lot of satisfaction seeing it working the way you want. I guess it comes down to the fact that I got to see my artistic vision become reality in the new artwork. Minas Morgul was another part of the mod that was very, very hard to make work properly. But when it did, it was a really great feeling. There also were plenty of moments when I was able to beat a bug or make something totally new work that were very enjoyable. So while the big picture seemed tedious and hard, there were many small items that were very enjoyable to work on.

Athos: Please describe the KotW mod as you see it.
GothmogtheOrc: The Kings of the West mod adds many new heroes, units, buildings, powers, spells, maps, and even AI to the Battle for Middle-earth. It also features the new fortress Minas Morgul which will be both a new map as well as an upgrade for the Mordor Skirmish base.

  • New heroes will include Shagrat, Gorbag, the Mouth of Sauron, Gothmog, Erkenbrand, Theodred, Elfhelm, Grima Wormtongue, Sharku, Ugluk, Madril, Mablung, Beregond, the Blue Wizards, and many more. Existing heroes will get new powers and mounts and the heroes each side gets has been changed: Gondor now receives the 3 hunters as well as several new heroes, while Rohan gets a host of new Westfold heroes led by Theodred. Gandalf and the Blue Wizards replace the Army of the Dead as the super summons for Gondor and Rohan respectively, while Sauron replaces the Balrog for Mordor.
  • New units include Citadel Guards, new Tower Guards, new Rangers, and Spearmen for Gondor; Uruk scouts and Crow spies for Isengard; Royal Guards and Men of the Westfold for Rohan; Morgul Orcs and Rhun Swordsmen for Mordor to name a few.
  • New Maps include Minas Morgul, Minas Tirith, Isengard, Lothlorien, the Path of the Dead, Amon Hen, and a new snow map.
  • The mod also includes AI which is much stronger than the default AI and it will build all the new units and heroes and use the new spells and powers.
  • The overall goal for the mod is to make bfme feel more like the movies and books by adding in new units while keeping the fun and the "what if this happened?" feel. The mod will also try to recapture the unique-ness of the sides and restore the focus on siege warfare.

Athos: What's your favorite part about KotW?
GothmogtheOrc: Oh, were do I begin... I suppose I have to admit that I really get a kick out of attacking the Gondorian townspeople with a huge horde of orcs; that's always good for a laugh as they run around the castle. That would probably be my favorite part about the mod when playing. Obviously Minas Morgul is one of my favorite parts of the mod. I also am really proud of the new heroes and units that I made artwork for: Theodred, Erkenbrand, the Men of the Westfold, the Soldiers of Rhun, and the Haradrim to name a few. So I guess after saying that, the new artwork would be my favorite part of the mod.

Athos: Do you have anything further to say concerning KotW?
GothmogtheOrc: One thing that has really impressed me that relates to the mod is how much it has taught me about programming and how computers 'think', for lack of a better word. It has showed me that I really enjoy working with computers and that has led me to my college and my major: Computer Science. It was also hugely helpful my first year of college when I learned about basic programming, particular object oriented programming, and to already have a basic understanding from working on the mod was fantastic and gave me a boost. So I guess you could say it has had a huge impact on my life and what I will probably end up doing in life.

Athos: Do you have any further plans for KotW or for any other mods?
Gothmog: No, as I mentioned earlier, I struggled at times finding the desire to mod while I was working on KotW and at this point I am finding that life does not stand still and thus I will not be making any more mods. I also am not planning to make any big changes to KotW. I'm fairly happy with where it's at and I feel that it would not be a good use of my time to continue modding at this point. Sometimes I wish I could do more, but it simply isn't feasible for me anymore.