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» Starting a Renegade Mod

The number of mods out for Red Alert 2 and / or Yuri's Revenge is simply staggering, and I'm personally a great fan of them. While " John Doe's l337 ini Mod" isn't exactly my cup of tea, the well-produced and designed mods (There are a few out there :-o) show real skill and talent behind them.

Modding an First Person Shooter however, is a whole new ball game. (That's the first of many clichés to come - You have been warned) Renegade is coming soon, and with it, comes it's SDK (Software Development Kit). This should ultimately lead to some extremely good, and some utter pish mods being released. That is, unless it goes the way of the Deus Ex SDK.

Red Alert 2 was a comparatively easy game to mod for, and I'm quite prepared to get spammed for that statement. All you needed was a copy of the .ini files and away you go. The majority of these projects were done by one person development teams, and many, I suspect, without any rigid plan or goal. DeeZire is a prime example - With every release comes an organic flow of new units and bug tweaks. A Mod for Generic Shooter 3 (© PC Gamer UK) just doesn't work like that. As a self confessed veteran of failed FPS mods including some, more or fewer from Half-Life, Unreal Tournament and Deus Ex, I know just how hard it is to get a mod up and running.

I will not stand by twiddling my thumbs as the same fate befalls Renegade. Which brings us to the main point of this over-lengthened feature: How to get a Mod for Renegade up and running. But Jim, Renegade isn't out and neither are it's design tools. Quiet at the back! I know that! I'm merely trying to point out the basics of starting up a Mod for Renegade, not telling you how to mod Renegade.

1. Draw Up a Design Document

Here comes the first major difference between modding Renegade and modding Red Alert 2 - The Design Doc. What is a Design Doc I here you cry! This is the single most important piece of kit you will have during your mod. It will be the Bible of your team. (Or should that be Torah or Qu'ran in these politically correct days?)

Your Design Document will contain everything about the mod, it's Name, it's story, it's game-play changes, any new models you plan to make, how you want the maps to look, any new weapons…..bleh…bleh…bleh… You get the idea. It is absolutely imperative that every minute detail is included. You might think the best things grow organically (Take Kelly Brook for example), but in the land of mod, no pun intended, The best things are planned to the rigid structure of their design document. This document can change as things progress or retract, but at the start at least, it is purely a reference document.

2. Recruitment Drive!!

The key component to any mod, after a design doc, is the grunts that will work with you on it. Your staff is utterly essential to your project. Unlike Red Alert 2, Renegade mods will need a team, this game you cannot modify on your own. If we go by your average "Generic Shooter 3" game, there are several types of people you may need to recruit.

  • Mappers
  • 3D Modellers
  • Coders
  • Artists
  • Depending on how Renegade's mod tools are produced, more or less staff may be needed. Don't fall into the trap of recruiting every sorry SOB that asks to join your team - A staff bigger than about 6 or 7 just becomes a pain in the ass to handle, that is, unless you have somebody who's job it is to make sure every is doing there job. "Human Resource Management" they call it, those with GCSE Business studies will know what I mean.

    If somebody isn't working - Sack 'em!. This is one of the other causes of strife in mod teams: "I'm not working, 'cos he's not working". If somebody isn't pulling their weight, then kick them out ASAP. It doesn't matter if they're the best at "Doing X" in the world - All it takes is one rogue staffer to bring down a project. Ensure your staff have a basic knowledge of what they're doing - There's no point in someone saying "I'm a brilliant Quake III mapper" if they have no proof to back it up. Always ask for a sample if they apply, if they admit to not having any, at least you know they're honest.

    There are a few ways to go about recruiting staff, but generally accepted to be the best is posting on:

  • The Official Renegade Forums
  • Fansite's Forums
  • Once you have at least one other person in your mod staff, it's time to start about the next phase:
    3. Getting a Website up

    This is the key to getting your mod off the ground, bringing in visitors and spreading publicity. In the beginning, set a site up on the dreaded Geocities, or on some other free host. DO NOT put up your site on some host which bombards you with pop-ups - This ultimately ends up in scaring people away.

    If you're not an HTML god then ask around for somebody to do your website for you. There are plenty of people looking to extend their design folios, don't be afraid to ask around. Once you have at least the germ of a site up and running, it's time to find yourself a decent host - Something which isn't really to difficult. A few options are listed below:

  • Planet CNC always have room for more mods, and currently host some top RA2 / TS mods. A Gamespy network site, Planet CNC boast unlimited web space and a "phat" bandwidth. Be careful though, because all Tech support is done through Gamespy also, you can expect to wait your turn before being served.
  • The Mod Factory is a little known free mod hosting service, which provides all the bells and knobs for some up and coming mods. Free forums and rapid Tech support is all part of the package, but remember this is "off the beaten trail" so with every update you make, you'll be sending a lot of emails.
  • Sector 31 currently hosts Raden, as well as a whole "host" of other Command and Conquer websites. I've personally never used this service, but I believe the quality of the sites on it are an indication of how good it is. They do have quite a few C&C related sites hosted, so it could be a no go area soon. :-(
  • If you want to be a bit more radical, why not ask around the fansites of the Renegade community? Most webmasters, our Rob included, would be glad to host an "exclusive" mod. This also gives you the benefit of face to face contact with the community - As well as an executive launch visible to traffic of the site. Don't be afraid to ask around, but do be prepared to get rejected.
  • Got your hosting sorted? - Time to move on!
    4. Getting Publicity

    If you are releasing a mod, you want to people to play it. So what's the best way to get people to play it? - What do the professionals do?. The massive software houses that develop the games we play spend the gross domestic product of several small countries each year purely on marketing. Take the December issue of PC Gamer UK, complete with a full back page advert for "Empire Earth". While most mod team can only dream of such publicity, again Counterstrike being the exception, there are many ways you can get your mod noticed.

  • Post updates on your mod every few weeks
  • Write off to webmasters when you update
  • Get community feedback through a Message Board or Contact section on your site.
  • Remember that all of these people will come to your site, so make sure it's a good one! Don't overload the good visitors with irrelevant posts about how you rescued a echidna in the snow, don't include Nirvana mp3s playing in the background, and "fer fooks sake!" make sure your pictures are in .jpg format! - Such things tend to annoy people. Unless they are a Nirvana loving echidna saver with a T3 connection.

    I hope that's enlightened you delinquents in how to setup a mod. Remember, if you don't follow the Thoughts of Chairman Jim, your mod will go to Hell! Modders of the world, please don't let us down…

    » Jim

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