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 Gameguru Mania News - Aug,21 2004 -  
J.E. Sawyer on Mod Making - briefly
(hx) 03:43 PM CEST - Aug,21 2004 - Post a comment
Ex-Black Islander Josh Sawyer made an interesting and very long post on the Obsidian forums on the art of mod-making. Here is an excerpt:
Hello. My name is Josh Sawyer. I am a game developer, formerly of Black Isle Studios, currently working for Midway San Diego. I'm not necessarily an expert on the game development process, but I have worked with quite a few producers and had the opportunity to see many different styles of project management and mismanagement. I see a lot of ambitious people set out to make mods, 90%+ of which are never completed. I don't think it's because the ideas aren't sound or because the people involved are a bunch of idiots. I think it's because the projects are a) poorly planned B) poorly scheduled and c) poorly managed in general.

It's not common for projects to be successful in spite of mismanagement. You can certainly develop a game or mod without tight management, but you might as well wish, click your heels together, and hope that things will come together. Management takes time and is neither fun nor glamorous, but it is of vital importance to the success of a team endeavor. I'd like to suggest a process and some general tips on how to organize a mod project. These suggestions aren't necessarily the best in the world. You may even think they are bad ideas, but they seem to work from my perspective. These suggestions assume that you, the initiator of the mod-making process, are the team leader/producer/god emperor. Don't get too caught up on titles; only ego-tripping retards really give a damn anyway. If you're the one coordinating things and getting the ball rolling, this post's for you.

Before I begin with a phase breakdown, I'd like to suggest some general stuff:

* Set up a web forum, IRC channel, mailing list, bug database and FTP site for your mod. There are a lot of free web forums. http://www.ezboard.com/ is a decent one. Finding an IRC server to host your random channel isn't necessarily that difficult, but may take time and require jumping through hoops. However, real-time discussion on a weekly basis is pretty important for team communication, camaraderie, and general cohesion. Mailing lists are a good way to prick the ears of people who may not read the boards every day or who were effectively put on a waiting list to joint the mod team. Just don't abuse it. http://www.bugzilla.org/ is a pretty damned good open license bug tracking software package. The FTP site may be hard to swing for some people, but it's really useful for organizing assets. Just give uploading privileges to people, organize the folder structure as you see fit, and it will make things much easier for everyone.
* Don't let people (or the entire team) drift. Keep people focused on the tasks at hand. A lot of people who volunteer for a mod just want to do the high-level fun stuff. A lot of the stuff in game development is not fun. However, if you can keep people focused on the milestone tasks (even the un-fun ones), the milestone build should show enough progress to really get people pumped. Un-fun tasks are rewarding when the payoff exceeds the drudgery.
* If possible, use something like http://www.wikimedia.org for your master documents. Always keep backups of the source files, but it is best if the entire team has access to one version of documents. It helps prevent confusion when changes are made. Of course, always inform your team members when documents have changed, and let them know what has changed and where they can see what has changed.
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