Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Active again?

Wow, it's been a long time since I posted anything here. At the moment I am active again and updating some old Oblivion mods. Feels good. :-)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Cloud Gaming?

It will be very interesting to see what comes of the recent announcement for the OnLive "games on demand" service. If it does actually manage to work as advertised, it could potentially disrupt the entire video game industry.

That's a big "if" since OnLive's claims are still unproven, but it's still scary. It seems that many game publishers, and probably a lot of casual gamers, would be very happy if it does work. The obvious big losers would of course be game pirates and hardware vendors (PC and console makers alike). Perhaps less obvious is that hardcore gamers, and especially modders, would be big losers, too.

Then again, maybe OnLive will inspire some strange new alliances. Could it force console makers to consider opening up to modders? Unlikely, but you never know. One thing is fairly certain: if OnLive does work, all bets are off.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Modders United

This is repeated from my post in a fun BGS thread that Elys started late last year, called Modders United:

What is the first unreleased (personal use) mod you ever made, for what game, and what was its purpose?

I definitely think my start came from the old PNP (pen & paper) days making up adventures for white box D&D, AD&D, Traveler, Gamma World, Space Opera, Wizards, Melee, Champions, GURPS and probably some others. In addition to crafting new stories and dungeons, I wrote a lot of new rule systems to expand and improve those games for myself and my friends. Eventually, I worked on several different complete RPG rule systems, none of which ever got completely finished.

I also attempted to write several text-based CRPGs, but I didn't really devote enough time to it. Way too much work starting from scratch with limited tools (BASIC on the Sinclair ZX80).

More than 20 years later, I got hooked on Morrowind. I first doodled with the CS just out of curiosity, but gradually started figuring out how to resolve bugs and incompatibilities between various mods I wanted to play together (all those terrible overlaps in Balmora!), making some houses for myself, etc. Later, I started a large project to make a new island with a town, NPCs, a large castle and some quests using a ton of great resources released to the community. I also put a lot of work into a Fighter-Thief gear mod. I never finished any of these because Oblivion came out ...

What is the first mod you ever released, for what game and what was its purpose?

I got involved early in helping out with a lot of big projects for Oblivion, such as Oscuro's Overhaul and Qarl's Textures, as well as writing guides and FAQs, etc. Aside from those huge projects, my only actual releases were small tweaks and patches here and there, like Skingrad Roof Textures for QTP2.

What is the game on which you loved or still love creating mod because of its "moddability"?

Morrowind and Oblivion. Despite many flaws and frustrations, modding these games is a lot of fun. The extent of what's already been done and what's possible for the future is truly amazing.

What is your first motivation for creating a mod?
[X] For my personal use
[X] For others to enjoy
[X] Just for fun of it
[X] Other reason: specify...

All of the above. I love playing mods other people have made as well as making them myself. I'm fascinated by almost every aspect of modding, from the gritty code details all the way up to community dynamics.

What is the kind of mod you create?

I'm not sure I can easily answer that. Most of my released work is very heavily dominated by compatibility patches so far, but I also very much enjoy working on textures and I'm getting to be fairly good with Blender lately. Eventually, I hope to make some complete quests, but who knows when that will actually happen.

Do your modding skills come from your education or occupation, or comes from a hobby ?

Almost entirely from this strange hobby. However, my background as a programmer helps a lot. I've also done a lot of professional work with Photoshop, which helps too.

Are you involved in the Gaming Industry ?

Not exactly. In the past I have done a few things on the periphery. When I was a teenager (many ages ago), I self-published a simple strategy board game based on the characters and map of Scarborough Ren Fest. I also volunteered for a while with Steve Jackson Games as a playtester and got to know a bunch of great folks there. Years later I started a small indy comic book company with some friends, which led to some work (with a lot of old SJG folks) in the mid-90s writing and publishing a comic book that was packaged with Cybermage by Origin Systems shortly before they got acquired by EA.


Follow-up discussions and funny connections

Elys: I never expected someone who would talk about modding a game in the whole meaning of the "game" word, and not just about videogames. But nonetheless it's interesting and also modding.

dev_akm: I know. It's a strange thing, this industry and this hobby. A lot of the pen-and-paper folks ended up in video games. Warren Spector was one of the guys I met at Steve Jackson Games when we were playtesting his first game, called Toon. He's now head of video games for Disney. Crazy, eh?

Fillythebish: Is that the same Steve Jackson that worked with Ian Livingstone on Fighting Fantasy game books? In my youth I loved Fighting Fantasy game books, it was my first step into RPG games.

dev_akm: No, it's not the same person. Those are indeed some truly classic adventures, though. I was a bit old for them, but my wife loved them as a kid (she's younger than me) and my daughter loves them, too. I loved the Morrowind mods by Patrograd based on several of the books (see Annastia). The Steve Jackson you're thinking of lives in UK and co-founded Games Workshop with Ian Livingstone. The Steve Jackson I know lives here in Austin, TX, but he has also been a huge influence on the games industry, creating many classic RPG and strategy games, such as The Fantasy Trip, GURPS, Car Wars, Illuminati, etc. An amazing guy.

Interesting factoid: Fallout was originally based on GURPS rules until Steve saw how gory it was and pulled out of the deal. However, a lot of GURPS definitely survived in the game unofficially, and some of this influence is still present in Fallout 3 (the Perks, for example).

Another really strange connection to SJG is that I knew Loyd Blankenship from college, where we had been on the same fencing team. Loyd later went to work for SJG and wrote GURPS Cyberpunk, the game that the U.S. Secret Service mistakenly believed was a "handbook for computer crime", prompting a raid that almost detroyed SJG and eventually led to the formation of the Electronic Frontiers Foundation. See Steve Jackson Games, Inc. v. United States Secret Service.

Ah, life is strange sometimes, no?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Recent Events, etc.

Well, my blog posts are officially a rare thing by now -- mostly because I spend so much time posting in the official Elder Scrolls mod forum -- so here's a brief update on what's been happening lately.

GStaff at Bethesda Softworks recently posted a modder interview with me, which was fun. There's some great information and fun reading to be found in this excellent interview series. By all means check them out if you haven't already. The interviews are a great service to the Elder Scrolls modding community because they give some recognition to all the amazing mod work done by Oblivion and Morrowind fans.

The interview actually became significant a bittersweet moment for me because it appeared only a few days before Gary Gygax passed beyond the vale. Like a lot of old pen-and-paper RPG geeks, this news had a surprisingly profound impact on me, prompting a lot of reminiscing about good times long past and renewed thought about what I like and dislike in RPGs and gaming in general. Perhaps all those loose thoughts will congeal into a future article (and maybe even a mod or two) at some point. In any case, Gary will be sorely missed.

In recent months I've released a bunch of new mod stuff, mostly updates to Oscuro's Oblivion Overhaul and FCOM. I've also worked extensively with Corepc on recent upgrades to Martigen's Monster Mod and started a Wiki page for FCOM/OMOBS Compatibility guidelines at UESP (thanks to suggestions from several fans in the FCOM support threads).

I'm now hard at work on finalizing the 1.0 release of FCOM and the 1.34 release of OOO. I'm probably attempting to do too much again, but hopefully it will turn out to be worth all the hard work. I'll try to remember to post something here about these releases when they are ready.

One question I get asked from time to time is "what the heck does 'dev_akm' mean"? Not that it really matters, of course, but I figure if I answer it here then I may be able to avoid the question in the future. The "akm" part is pretty easy to explain (my initials). Most people reasonably assume the "dev" part refers to my work as a software developer, but the history of my handle is actually a bit more convoluted than that.

I first started using the handle "dev_akm" as a Unix geek joke (although probably not a very good joke). After running a lot of Unix/Linux/BSD systems for many years, I began to feel a bit like just another Unix "device", which are all usually found under /dev/. One of these devices in particular is very, very useful: /dev/null. That's actually the handle I wanted to use, but on several different forums the name was already taken (perhaps because there was a cartoon character named Dev Null created around the same time, though I had no idea until a few minutes ago that such a character ever existed). Anyway, I eventually settled for /dev/akm (myself as a Unix device), simplified to dev_akm since forums don't generally like / in a username. If you're a Unix geek, this will all make some sense. If not, it probably sounds like I'm speaking some foreign language or something, which probably isn't so far from the truth. In any case, there you have it. Pretty dull, eh?

Monday, October 08, 2007

What's up?

Wow, I can't believe it's been so long since my last update. I guess I've been rather busy. :)

Lately I've been making some huge progress on the FCOM: Convergence project, as well as working steadily on a final release of Oscuro's Oblivion Overhaul 1.32 and the Martigen's Monster Mod add-on for OOO. Hopefully I'll be able to get all of this stuff done and released over the next month or so.

The recent death of TESSource forced a major rush of activity updating The Oblivion Texture Overhaul and The Oblivion Quest List with new links to the reborn TESNexus service, but significant new additions to these guides have temporarily been stalled until I can finish my FCOM/OOO/MMM work. I have continued to make small tweaks here and there, of course, including quite a few updates to the Oblivion Mods FAQ. Oh yeah, I also published some new fixes and tweaks you can find on my mod list.

Anyway, I guess that's about it. Whew!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Update at long last!

It's been a while since the last update here, mostly because I've been so busy working on the main dev/akm website. It's coming along nicely, I think.

I guess it must be headed in the right direction since Game Informer magazine published a small article about the site earlier this month.

The article is GI's regular Mod World column on page 110 of the March issue. It provides a nice, brief summary of my site, focusing on the TOTO and TOQL guides. The article puts a lot of emphasis (and 2 out of 3 screenshots) on Qarl's Texture Pack, which makes good sense (and was good timing since the article went to press just before the release of QTP3). The TOQL part mentions The Legacy by Simyaz, Danger Sense by Addiktive, Kvatch Aftermath, and has a screenshot of Bjornheim!

You should be able to get a copy if you have a GameStop wherever you live.

Congrats to Qarl, Simyaz, Addiktive and all the other great modders whose work is featured on the site -- and especially to everyone who has contributed suggestions and ideas for the web site.

You rock!