For the next day of Mod Sentry’s Zombie Panic: Source Week we have an interview with the Project Lead Tatsur0. Tatsur0 was kind enough to answer some questions for us so with out further ado:
1. How did you get into game modding?
I started out modding during Doom/Quake1 days about 15 years ago as a texture artist. I was already designing websites and doing advertising so I thought I might fix up what I saw wrong in the games back then. Not long after I was introduced to at the time a very small group of modders and picked up level design in Worldcraft (Now hammer) and Quark. I think what really got me going was Quake Team Fortress mod. I loved developing levels and one of my favorites is still TheRock and our Clan’s Canyon map which was a huge hit on Q:TF. I played around in Unreal and then got more serious with Half-Life 1. When HL2 Beta (CS:S Beta) was out I was making tutorials and then started development on Zombie Panic: Source. Because we lacked developers and those that came often disappeared with unfinished work so I picked up on Animation, Environmental Artist, etc. I can now speak with each developer and not only understand what is being said but work on that portion of the project as well. Modding was a great way to be creative and make the games I wanted to play.
2. What advice would you give to people interested in making mods?
As a mod lead stay on the ball. If you let your developers wander they’ll lose interest and flake most of the time. As a developer, keep yourself motivated and remember the hardest part is just starting the work, as soon as you begin it’s (for those of us that should stick to it) hard to stop. Time management is vital as we all have lives (or should) and one of the biggest issues is losing interesting and/or burning out.
3. Did you ever consider/try applying for a game company prior to going Indie?
Actually I was picked up prior to starting Monochrome LLC and still now work on other projects under contract. NDA
4. Where did you learn the skills you used to make the mod?
All self-taught, but of course I had mentors and definitely worth mentioning would be PushBAK (who I work with on NeoTokyo) but it’s also really helpful when you have fellow artists to work with. Finn (Ivy), Garrador, Swolf, and others have all helped me improve my abilities as a developer.
5. What do you recommend to other Source Modders on building a dedicated fanbase like ZPS has?
It’s important to listen to your fans, produce updates every couple of months to keep eyes on your mod and fans happy (if you offer updates every week it gets somewhat tiresome and minor updates just don’t really appeal to most players but on the other hand huge updates that take forever may be ignored as well). Public Relations is important but unless you have a dedicated PR guy then it hurts development to stop working on the project to inform the community so balance and time management. Stay motivated and communicate with your fans, but also just as important remember that you can please everyone so don’t try to add every idea and suggestion but if you can explain why.
Zombie Panic: Source
1. Any news on the ZPS achievements that were teased a while back?
We’re still currently working on achievements but can’t stress enough our priority is to fix the game before adding in new content but think we can do a bit of both.
2. What future plans, if any, do you have for ZPS?
We’ve hinted at some. Optimizing existing maps and content as well as features. Adding new maps and other content and as answered above working on achievements.
3. Did you experience any particularly bad roadblocks on the road to creating ZPS?
Numerous. When I took over Zombie Panic: Source we had no developers, teasers that showed unfinished work that would not make it in game, a group of raging fans who were quite displeased with the lack of attention and updates. I was lucky though as Frikazoyd had offered to work on the project as a programmer and after a bit was persuaded in becoming my co-founder and helping me lead the team. Couldn’t have done it without him. Next it was just hire developer after developer, most of which would either complete a single asset or half of one and disappear so from 2005-Present I’ve had to constantly hire new developers. 2007 was a good year with a handful of developers sticking around and when those handful move on a new handful shows up and I’ve been grateful for that. There was the initial release that was buggy and a crashfest/exploitfest. Steam release which we couldn’t talk about, couldn’t release a our patch, and was delayed even longer after Synergy leaked. There was an attempt by some to take over the mod that had to be stomped immediately. There was a rumor being spread that we we’re going to be selling ZPS 2.1 which surprisingly managed some decent momentum before I could squash it. Of course there are many others but I think the above covers enough heh.
4. Is there anything you would do differently if you were to redo Zombie Panic: Source?
Knowing what I know now from my experience in modding over the last 15 years, last 2 years of industry experience, and my corporation Monochrome LLC I’d definitely have to say yes to this question. We were disorganized, flailing half the time, and not at all confident that we could pull it off. I now know where to find the right people to fit the positions, understand the value of time management and a greater appreciation for public relations. That said, I’m lucky to have gone through the experience of developing ZP:S and keeping it one of the most enjoyed mods even today. I met a lot of great people who have gone off to do great things at some of the top game studios out there and wish them the best of luck. The hobbyists and the fans have brought a lot of joy to the experience. I’ve claimed numerous times to close friends that I plan to quit modding (back in 2007 – present) and the fans keep me coming back for more. Love you guys.
5. What is your favourite ZPS map, offical or otherwise?
Well it’s a difficult question with all the game modes but i’d say ZPO_Biotec or ZPO_Harvest as i’m a sucker for the Objective gamemode. I’m really enjoying the new maps zpo_murksville, zps_thrillvile, and zps_underground as well. Too many to choose from.