The bulk of hands-on time at QuakeCon took place on day one, with a full slate of interviews, panels and a look at the future of gaming with John Carmack on day two, leaving the third day as, well, one for the punters, really. There was only one panel of interest on offer on day three of QuakeCon but, arguably, it was one of the most important ones to attend.
Entitled ‘Celebrating id Modding’, the panel of modders turned professional developers was comprised of three unique perspectives. First up was Jonathan Wright from id Software, next was JP LeBreton from Double Fine Games and last but not least was Brendon Chung of Blendo Games. Their introductions were a crucial part of the panel as they talked about their humble beginnings and how it led to where they are now. As with the other panels, here’s a bullet-point list of some of the more memorable moments.
Celebrating id Modding
- Jonathan Wright has been at id for nine years but started out creating the Zeus and Kujo bots for Quake. He also worked on Daikatana at Ion Storm and, more recently, was the lead AI and animation programmer for Rage. His modding work was what got him into the industry.
- JP LeBreton is currently working on The Cave at Double Fine, but started out making Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Quake and Half-Life maps. He also worked on BioShock and BioShock 2.
- Brendon Chung had a similar start as LeBreton, creating mods for Wolf 3D, Doom, Quake and Half-Life. He worked at Pandemic and started his own independent dev company after Pandemic shut down.
- According to Chung, mods teach budding developers the practicality of making videogames and how to work with constraints.
- He also added that modding forces you to push yourself so far that you can mod across different genres with transferrable skills.
- LeBreton credits mods as being the reason he’s in the industry today, and credited id and Valve for releasing the tools that allowed him to develop his skills.
- He also claimed that mods democratised the playing field.
- Apparently, all the Doom and Quake maps he made are terrible… and possibly still available for download. Conversely, LeBreton made a ‘demake’ of his Arcadia level from BioShock in the Doom 2 engine that was well received.
- The Quake 3 engine reportedly has cool tools that are very easy to code with.
- Computer science bored Wright to death.
- Wright released his Zeus bot at the same time as the infamous Reaper bot, and he was doing landscaping at the time he got a call from John Romero to come work for him. Modding provided him with the “necessary visibility” to break into the games industry.
- Wright also pointed out that it was the community that made modding happen with the user-created Wolfenstein 3D map editor.
- Because of this, “id realised what was happening and made it easier and easier to mod.”
- Adding to John Carmack’s sentiments from his keynote, Wright admitted, “Possibly we lost some momentum with the last project.”
- Chung loves the Doom 3 engine for iteration time, but misses the simplicity of the Doom and Doom 2 engines.
- LeBreton advised that modders make something small and familiar and go from there. He also added that high-fidelity mods are a great way for artists to showcase their skills.
- He also stated, “The reason modding is still valid, potentially, is because you’re working from a finished game.”
- Wright advised that modders limit their scope and don’t try to remake an entire game.
- Chung added to this sentiment with, “People feel compelled to make mods that can compete with AAA titles.” He then went on to praise the simplicity of certain Skyrim mods. “They gave top hats to crabs. That’s something I want to see more of.”
- LeBreton would love to see Steam Workshop supporting classic Doom mods and added, “It’s a great time to be an indie and it’s a great time to be a modder.”
- When discussing the potential of mods for console or smartphone games, LeBreton said this, “PC has the advantage of creating and consuming on the same platform.” He added that mods are particularly fantastic because they broaden the appeal of a core game, as evidenced in DayZ.
- Wright added that, “The PC still offers us things that we can’t do elsewhere.” And also went on to say, “Diablo III has shown that you can still sell a lot of things on PC.”
- Back to Rage, Wright admitted that there was definitely a focus on console for developing the multiplatform FPS. Apparently ,id wanted code uniformity between platforms and had to normalise from the limitations of the size of two DVDs for the 360.
- Despite the lack of Rage mod tools, to date, there are currently internal discussions at id for a greater emphasis on mod support.
- Wright personally believes that, “It would be awesome to ship the next product with mods on day one.” In fact, he’s going to push for that on PC, with next-gen support only if possible.
- When asked for what advice the trio could give to modders, Chung said, “Just make the actual game.”
- LeBreton’s advice was, “You have to be able to enjoy what you’re making to stick it out.” He also added, “Share your work in progress with the community.”
- Wright felt that, “People often underestimate the value of a finished mod.” He also advised that modders, “Contact mod authors and ask them how they did what they did.” He even advised contacting the developers themselves, and said that he responds to requests for advice when he has time.
- LeBreton pointed out that modders need to, “Hone up on your Google skills, basically.” Find the places where modders are talking and hanging out, and join in on the discussion.
- Wright advised that modders should, “Figure out what has been done by the developers.”
- His final thoughts were on the challenges of DLC and why id doesn’t lean towards it. “DLC makes it harder on the developers because we have more to do [after a product ships].”
As with the other days, there’s a gallery associated with this article for a closer look at the panel and some of the enthusiastic lines for the QuakeCon panels.