A while ago a mod was released called Riot Act and it was warmly received. I contacted the author and requested an interview. Like all people who are good at something he was quite busy and we only recently found the time to chat about the mod and some other stuff.
Firstly, tell us a little about yourself, how long you’ve been mapping, you first game, that kind of stuff.
My name is Germano Guerrini, I’m a 31 years old gamer. I started mapping almost 10 years ago with Heretic 2 from Raven Software. I made 2 (unreleased) deathmatch maps which, luckily, I’ve lost?
Then I made some experiment with Quake 2, because Heretic 2 was a Third Person Shooter and I was more interested in designing a real FPS environment. After that I moved to Half-Life, and it was my first serious attempt to create something I can “safely” release. The result was “The Long Night”, a single player map pack counting 10 levels.
For the rest of the story, you just might want to visit my site.
Was Riot Act you first serious mod?
It’s the first serious mod I released. A few years ago I started “The Falling star”, an ambitious single player mod for Return To Castle Wolfenstein. Sadly, it never saw the day of light.
How did the whole idea first begin to take shape?
Oh at the beginning “Riot Act” was a completely different mod. It spawned across three chapter, with a new vehicle (some sort of Combine jet ski), new weapons and environment… just like many other starting mods. I and Flavio Mauri (the guy who helped me with the design) made documents, sketches; I even created a Gantt chart. The lack of manpower changed it as you might have seen yourself. We retreated to a smaller and more manageable project. Cutting out features was not nice, but in the end it helped us to get focused on smaller details.
What were your design objectives?
Well, I’d simply say: “Create something you would like to play”.
Did you aim for gameplay or environment when making the mod?
I try to reach a balance between the two. In fact, you start with a nice action bubble or puzzle idea, or you have a view about a nice vista. If you start to iterate on those concepts when you are still at a designing stage, they suddenly become two faces of the same medal. After all, balance is not a goal just for game design, you know…
How many hours would you say the mod was beta tested before release?
We had like 6/7 people playing it, and they tested the mod more than once during the development, at different stages. Their job has been fundamental, not only to debug the mod, but to dramatically improve gameplay, both on a large scale level and on a smaller one. We iterated through this process until we felt it played smooth enough. Of course, if you really want to have some advantages from a beta testing, you have to be ready to cut out or completely redesign parts of your maps if they don’t play well. Nothing should be set in stone.
What, in your opinion, is the best part of the mod?
It really depends on your taste. A lot of people liked the last level, and it really makes me happy because I spent endless hours on it. I made the bridge model in two weeks and I never used XSI before. But, in a lot of way, the best part of it is the second level to me, because it’s huge, it’s dense, it’s fun to play and it’s visually consistent. It even was the level where the collaboration with Flavio on the design reached the top, and, in a way, it ended the era of the “lonely wolf” designer.
What have you learnt from making it?
Keeping things coordinated for such a long time has been a great challenge. In the end, the greatest lesson has been how to dose your efforts and measure your possibilities in order to complete a project setting the bar as high as possible, no more and no less.
What advice would you give to other modders, who are either thinking about making and mod or have already started?
I’m quite reluctant to give advices, it makes me feel pretty old 🙂 , but in short I’d say: create a beta testers team and listen their advices.
Never underestimate the power of good dialectic.
A lot of the mod is set in the prison, was this because you enjoyed playing Nova Prospekt when playing Half-Life 2?
That was for sure one of my favorite part, I always liked close quarter combats: to me it’s at heart of the FPS genre. Moreover, I was thinking about a prison map since Max Payne 2, even if I hadn’t the time to learn its level editor. Another important thing is that with Nova Prospekt we were able to reuse VALVe assets. We are a VERY small team, we all have a job, and creating hundreds of new textures or models probably would have been disastrous. My first objective with Riot Act was to create AND release the mod.
If you could improve one thing about the mod what would it be?
I’d make it longer and more various, and I’d expand the original Half-Life 2 universe with new locations. Also, I think we only scratch the surface with voice acting possibilities and narration. Again, you need a lot of man power if you really want to make original stuff.
Nearly all of the comments on PlanetPhillip have been positive regarding the mod. Is this the same for other websites?
I’d say so.
What was the biggest negative point raised about the mod.
The classic “more of the same” comments 🙂 . Honestly, I partially agree, but we were restricted by technical limitations.
What would you highlight as the weakest part of the mod?
Again, the lack of custom content.
Did you have a particular routine when making the mod or did you just spend time on it when you had the chance?
The second one 🙂 During the development I left my previous job, I moved to a new home, I got graduated, I got another job, I got married and some other things?. That’s why I say Riot Act is really the result of inexhaustible passion.
As a mapper, what are your strengths and your weakness regarding mapping?
Leaving the judgement of my strengths to someone else, I’d say my biggest weakness is probably the lack of “wild thinking”. I’m working on it, though.
What about the team. Did you work with them before or were they assembled specifically for the mod.
I know most of them since almost ten years now. Flavio Mauri is an old ICQ friend. You can really think of him as a co-author of Riot Act. Marco Capone, the hands modeler, is a pretty old colleague. We worked together at Multiplayer.it since 1999. And Michele De Luca, the musician, is Filippo’s brother, the author of “The Specialists” mod for Half-Life. The only “outsider” is Daniel Rodrigues, the voice actor, a guy from London who popped out all of a sudden saying: Hey, can I help you? A real bless 🙂
How do you feel about the final mod? If you had the change would you change much?
In the end, I’m pretty satisfied. Getting it done has been a great achievement. Obviously, everything is perfectible.
Approximately how many downloads has the mod received from all the different mirrors?
We recently surpassed 100.000 downloads, not counting it has been featured on a couple of DVD included in game magazines.
Which HL2 SP mods are you most impressed with? What’s your favorite, besides Riot Act, of course!
Not surprisingly, I think Minerva is the most polished to date. I was really looking forward to Nightfall and even Rogue Threat, which I shortly worked for, but they both got cancelled.
Could there be a sequel in the works?
It looks like our real lives were eagerly waiting for us just behind the corner after the release, so it’s a hard decision. We had enough feedback from the community to know exactly what aspects we have to improve. We just have to decide if we will be able (and have time) to do it. We have a lot of ideas on the table, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
What’s your favorite FPS game?
I don’t have a favorite one, because they all have different style, and I like variations. And I’m not really interested in judging too 🙂 I prefer to have sheer fun.
All time favourite Gaming moment?
The first time I finished Double Dragon with a friend of mine. We were in a bar and I was like 10 (dang it! 20 years ago!), we had a crowd of — other — children behind our backs looking for our “performance”, spurring us, screaming like they were in a stadium. Amazing.
Well, that’s it. Thanks for taking the time to chat with me and good luck with your future projects.