I am very pleased to say that I finally managed to finish the mod and therefore conclude the interview.
I am sure there were a lot more questions I could have asked but I didn’t want to press my luck.
Allow me to thank MyoHyo for responding so quickly to the questions.
No, MyoHyo isn’t her real name. No, I don’t know what it is.
You can find her YouTube channel here which contains plenty of music and even some G-String gameplay teasers.
In addition, you can find the G-String Wiki here if you want to learn more about the mod.
This interview is split into two sections: my questions and selected readers’ questions.
WOW. What a great piece of work. I know that’s not a question but I couldn’t start without saying it.
So, let’s start at the beginning. Who are you?
Just another modder who wants to create an interesting experience for players.
That’s very vague. Is there nothing you can tell us that would help relate to you?
I’ll let the work speak. That’s who I am.
Why have I never heard of you before?
I suppose this is because I haven’t released anything of importance mod/gaming wise. I didn’t want to go public with G String until I was fairly certain I can finish it which was about half a year ago. In retrospect I don’t know if that was a good idea. Showing the project earlier might have been better as far as exposure and feedback goes. I just didn’t want to promise a lot then not deliver.
I agree that going public too early would have been a mistake, especially for somebody without a proven track record. But it begs the question why start with something that is so ambitious?
Yes, in retrospect it was too ambitious. Everyone I asked if something of this length can be done alone said no. And there were a few times I wanted to give up. Heck, when I first wanted to try out mapping I couldn’t even sort out the proper file directory paths for Hammer. During the five years I followed my gut a lot of times. I spent a month doing texturing, a month doing music then back to texturing then a month modelling… Whenever I was inspired to do something I did it, It didn’t matter that logically there were more “important” things laying around waiting to be done. I just did what felt right at the moment and hoped it’ll fit together in the end. It takes the same amount of effort to disbelieve or believe something. I chose to believe I can finish this.
How long have you been modding?
About 5 years. I started seriously looking at the Source Engine towards the end of 2007.
Have you released anything beside G String?
And that reminds me. What’s with the name?
I get that a lot… Well I want everyone to believe whatever they want to believe regarding the title. Of course it has a meaning to me but it might not be the same to the player. One thing’s for sure: it has nothing to do with clothing.
Sorry but I think that is avoiding responsibility. Yes, all titles can mean different things to different people, but since you gave it the title there must be a meaning that relates to the end product. Can you tell us what it means to you?
Sorry, it’s like Eraserhead for David Lynch, I’m not telling what it means to me. If this will be about responsibility then it’s everyone’s responsibility to make of it whatever they want. It’s how it works- people get out what they put it. I know minds, especially Western minds find comfort in concrete, clean cut explanations but this time that won’t happen. In fact that never happens, we just ascribe meaning to things, and when we all agree on a certain meaning it feels good, we all feel normal then, but it’s just smoke and mirrors- like this title.
Did you have any help making the mod?
Aside from the play-testers and the people who make Source SDK tutorials/videos no. However, in v2.0 I have someone helping me with shader authoring and coding.
Now you have mentioned play-testers, lets follow that thought. Many readers will know I have worked hard to get more mods play tested properly. My Beta Testers Collective group has tested quite a few mods. But there seems to be a few specific points that should have been addressed by the testers. Most specifically, the paths. It’s quite hard to figure out where to go sometimes. So, onto some questions. How many testers did you have?
Unfortunately I didn’t know about your tester group, maybe they can test the patched game before it going to the public? There were about ten testers, I found them by posting a request on my moddb page for beta testers. Yes the path was an issue and in the beta they have tested the situation was worse. I have improved gameplay in the early maps a lot since then but obviously not enough…
What were their skill range
Well, some are fellow developers, others have played many source mods. I think they did a good job, the mod would would have been far more tedious without their input. Few finished is which saddens me because once you get past the wasteland maps it gets easier to navigate.
Did they report the difficulty of finding where to go? Was that one of your design philosophies?
Yes they did report that the path was too difficult at times. And yes it was a bit intentional on my part. In most cases I have build gameplay around functionality and that was sort of a mistake, or it wasn’t executed well enough. I wanted very realistic environments. I, myself have never found the paths to be that difficult, they make sense to me… in fact I was afraid it will be too linear in places! Was I wrong! Hard to be objective when you spend years on some maps. And I still maintain that with patience you can finish the game without noclipping. But I realize this is about having fun first. The subject matter is depressing enough; no need to frustrate the player further. I hope the patch will improve the pathway a lot.
What other changes did they suggest?
Same thing the public wants-”put in ironsights, remove (or make optional) the black bars, more action in the first maps, etc…” In the beta the first 10 or so maps were almost entirely about exploration and no combat at all.
Did they all finish the mod?
No, not all.
I hear you are making a patch available. What feedback prompted this? Will the patch be beta tested?
Yes, the patch is coming mainly because of the obscure pathway issue. At first I didn’t consider betatesting it but I am making so many changes that it might be necessary. In retrospect I know the mod wasn’t 100%. Nothing ever is but you know what I mean… I just felt this pressure to get it out there.
I see from your YouTube channel that you make music. Of course, you included that in the mod, but were you creating music before G String?
Yes, been making music for years before I got involved with game creation.
Why did you set the mod in Asia, with an young girl?
It’s not set in Asia, it’s set in North America. Many parts of Asia had sunk due to climate change so many Asians had fled to the North American Union, hence the heavy oriental influence.
The protagonist is the feminine energy which resists and reacts to the rampaging masculine. I don’t mean gender here! Just attributes we generally perceive as “masculine” or “feminine”. Like aggressivity, competitiveness are usually “manly” while tenderness, submissiveness are mostly seen as “womanly.” Just didn’t make any sense to me to make her a guy. I was fairly sure it’ll be a female protagonist early on.
Ah, gender reminds me: I am not against transgendered people. Just because I brought the issue up in my mod with a few signs and billboards it doesn’t mean I am for or against it. I am simply showing a very probable future for humanity if we stay on the course we are on. Gender bending and exploring new ways to express sexuality is just part of the future. We are leaving behind all the norms and that includes gender and sexuality related norms. It is not good or bad. It is what it is. There are some things in the mod I am clearly against, but transgendered people are not one of them.
I might remove transgender related posters from v2.0 but in the meantime I want people to know: I am not against transgendered people or homosexuals or what have you. Some seem to think that is what I am trying to say. No.
Were you inspired by Blade Runner? In fact, what were your main inspirations
Yes there is some Blade Runner in there, I love that movie. Other influences include Akira, David Lynch’s work, 2001 Space Odyssey, Matrix, Ghost in the Shell and a tiny dash of the (old) Star Wars.
I recently wrote an article about how I felt G String was the first “protest” mod, comparing it to music in the 70s (Dylan etc). Was this something that you wanted to do or was it more of an accident?
You clearly have a lot of creativity. Once you have finished the patch, what’s next for you? Another mod?
I don’t know actually. A big part of me feels like I have done what I came to do… I got no clue what’s next if anything. I’ll make more music I guess.
Have you had offers from game developers or mod teams?
Nothing worth mentioning.
Is that something that interests you?
To be honest I’m not sure. Making this mod for me was more than just getting a foot in the industry or learning skills or something like that. Nothing wrong with those aims of course but for me this was something else. I really tried to talk about things that sadden me. I wanted to make people think. We really have no clue why we are here, what is going on and what is unfolding. If you look at “reality” it’s a very funny thing.
And also I was funny for trying to make people think “with a half life 2 mod” but hey… someone has to do it I guess; right? If there is a world 20 years from now games could be like movies, they can become deep. Movies were very silly affairs when they were invented and look at them now. They can change lives. Games will be that. Only it won’t take 100 years to reach that level of sophistication and it will be far more immersive than movies could ever be. Maybe I could see myself working on something like that, some virtual reality project, very realistic stuff. But that can be dangerous.
Who did the two main voice parts?
Many sounds are just heavily processed text reader voices, I am sure everyone can spot those, and that was intentional as many announcements are just automated robotic sounds in the story. As for the “human” voices: the female one is me and the guy ones are some guy I know, not sure he wants any publicity…
What relation were the two parts to the playing character?
If you could go back 5 years, what would you do differently?
I’d release earlier to get more feedback. Probably a year earlier. A very rough alpha version just to see what people say.
What are you most proud of in the mod?
If I can make people think and question their beliefs.
What is your least favourite part?
Some of the levels prior to the last three. They feel pointless. Hopefully with v2.0 that will be improved though.
What other mods have you played?
Quite a few but I am horrible with titles and names so I can’t remember… Dayhard, Minerva, Peaces like us, Sweet Half Life, Mistake of Pythagoras, The Citizen one and two, Dear Esther and many more.
I had the ending bug, but I watched a video on YouTube. That was a great piece of work. How long did it take you write it?
Took about a month to sort out those ending maps and obviously they still have bugs…
You mentioned that you made whatever you felt motivated to do, did you make the levels in order?
When you first started making the mod, did you have it more or less planned out in your head?
No, it developed as my skills developed. For a very long time I just built geometry and boy does that show in the early levels. Some of that early geometry survived until release and although it looks fine it plays bad… That’s because back then I hardly did any entity work. It was all about brushes. I knew from the start I want an abandoned city, to show the future where everything that can will go wrong. Not over the top stuff but realistic and disturbing.
These ideas were there from the beginning. But nothing concrete. The story as it is was fleshed out only about two years ago. Until then you were just a lost soul trying to find your way out of a toxic, depressing maze of a city. No back story no superpowers, none of that.
In fact, did you go through any formal planning process?
No, not really. I didn’t plan on what I will do because I wasn’t sure I can acquire the skills to do it. When I figured out basic mapping I started building maps and started toying with ideas I can implement, different environments, etc… Then I learned texture creation so I made textures and figured out what was possible, then modelling was next, sound work and so on. My plan grew as my skills developed. That is why I didn’t release anything until so many years into development. I simply wasn’t sure I can deliver something I am happy with. When I figured out how to replace the npc models and ragdolls, that was the last cog in the machine, that’s when I thought “OK, I can probably do this, time to go public” so I registered a moddb account. Then I started planning things more seriously.
Below are some questions I choose from my readers. They are not all native speakers, and I have left the questions exactly as they typed them.
lj4linux: First of all: THANKS FOR YOUR WORK! After crossing the acid river I saw some graffiti on the wall of a skyscrapper: THE MONEY IS DEAD but written also in Romanian and Hungarian. I am Romanian so… where from the idea?.
I have Hungarian and Romanian roots. Ez van, asta e…
Rikersbeard: Thanks for the gift of such an amazing body of work. I was wondering where the visual style idea came from. It seems to add a surrealist look to a bleak, but realistic landscape. Like a digital simulation of the world! Great music too.
Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, the old Star Wars… I always had a soft spot for gritty, realistic scifi. Not the sleek, shiny stuff they churn out these days. So I got some of my art direction from those movies, then I was always fascinated with tall buildings, they disturb and overwhelm me… like the “vertical” design of Hong Kong. It’s incredible but I’d never live there. It’s polluted, crowded… A disaster in the making. And it’s not just Hong Kong but many large cities, especially in the Asia, then there is Dubai… fine example. So unnatural, forced upon the environment; enormous monuments to ego built by slave labor basically. These metropolises are like H. R. Giger pictures, so wrong but you can’t keep your eyes and mind off them..
s.anchev: I was wondering if you could explain the plot a little better than the mod actually do or if this was just an allegorical view on end of the world and humanity…
A few decades from now you are born into the Koreas, then parts of Asia are flooded and your family flees to the NAU where corporate fascism is in control. You, and a few other people develop weird powers because your DNA is changing. No one knows why or how so they hunt you, capture you, experiment on you and then, when you become too powerful, want to kill you. Other “multistrand” people with altered DNA help you on your quest. That’s it pretty much.
While this is happening the whole system falls apart, and the old world collapses. Singularity happens. What that means- the finest minds can’t tell you. It’s like the end of 2001 Space Odyssey. The world and all in it are transformed. All information converges into a point and perhaps a new reality is created. A new big bang. You become the world. Just like when you dream you create reality as you see it fit. Like the Matrix, you wake up and see this reality for what it is, an illusion. Why was the Matrix such a hit? Cool fight scenes? No, not just that, we all know on some level something is wrong with the picture we are presented with. The idea of waking up resonates with all of us. We are sleepwalkers.
This is the last thing they want you to know: your beliefs create reality. It’s all a bunch of conditionings and mind programming. Culture is not your friend as Mckenna puts it so well. So take your power back, then restructure reality, remake it into your own image. What do you want your experience to be? You don’t have to die to go to Heaven.
This stuff is nearly impossible to convey in any art form, it’s very subjective and experiential… Also doesn’t help that the last map is bugged and the “ascension ride” won’t even start for many players. I have fixed that in v 2.0. Also with a new intro map and tutorial level the whole “voices in the head” stuff will be clearer as well.
Armageddon: Are you a depressed person, sorry, I just feel that coming out in your work, or do you actually believe this world will turn into the world in G-String?
No, I am not depressed, just frustrated that everyone seems to know we’re headed into oblivion yet no one cares.
I think some people will experience a world very close to G String. Maybe not the whole planet but some parts.
We are sacrificing our future for a few decades worth of shopping sprees. I am angry that people exploit each other and that they have made the monetary system and (mainstream) science their new religion. We condemn the ancients for worshipping silly goods and the sun and fire while we refuse to see that we are worshipping coins and paper the same way. So I am not depressed just frustrated but I am letting go slowly. Everyone will do what they want. The visionaries and prophets have spoken. I don’t claim to be one, plain logic will tell you the world I have depicted isn’t that far from fruition. We’ll see what’s next. Whatever it is the way time is speeding up it’ll unfold faster than anyone dares believe.
bobdog: One thing I noted in my own review of G-String was the apparent lack of “direction”, which left it up to the player to explore each level fully to continue further. However, Valve and most other HL2 authors have generally used some sort of “direction” to guide players to the next area, including tools such as lighting, closed pathways, voice cues, notes, etc.
Did the author leave these cues out because of her inexperience in developing a mod, or was it an intentional focus to instead force the player to explore each level more deeply?
A mixture of all of the above. I was inexperienced when I started and also I wanted to make the levels deliberately confusing and realistic. I did want people to explore every area and soak up the atmosphere. I knew full well that this is not going to appeal to some people. My aim wasn’t to simply entertain. I see now that I should have made the path clearer. Having watched some playthroughs I see how the story wants to be told but the flow is constantly broken by lack of direction. I think v2.0 will have a much smoother flow to it.