ModDB Awards Interview - Renegade X
On February 26th 2002, Westwood Studios released an innovative hybrid game called "Command & Conquer: Renegade". This game combined the dynamic battlefield of a Real Time Strategy (RTS) game with the first-person-shooter perspective. Unfortunately the game was released to mixed reviews… if the game was in school and was given a report card for its parents it would have in very large letters the phrase "it has potential" scrawled across the page.
Most publications and review sites gave the game a score between 65 and 75% sighting an out-dated engine due to delays, bugs, and a linear uninspired campaign as the faults… and yet most articles conceded that the "long-time fans will probably be having too much fun to notice".
Yet bean-counters know in order for a 'commercially' successful game you need to attract first-time players to the franchise. I think it's interesting to consider the stiff competition Renegade faced. In 2001, "Return to Castle Wolfenstein", "Max Payne", "Aliens v Predator 2", "Tribes" and "Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon" were firmly etched into gamers expectations of what a FPS game should be like.
And then to compound the problem, 2002 was a banner year for the FPS genre. One month before Renegade, EA released "Medal of Honour: Allied Assault" and then in September the world was hit by "Battlefield 1942". Although unrelated, May saw "Grand Theft Auto 3" and July saw "Warcraft 3". Stiff competition for any game.
Despite the cries for attention from excellent offerings, Renegade's unique Multiplayer game mode fascinated players, despite it's obvious drawbacks. It should come as no surprise that a group of technically minded people would come together and ask the proverbial "what if" … what if we could translate the core gameplay experience in an updated engine removing obvious bugs and adding some standard gameplay elements. With that question in mind Renegade X was born.
[NE]Fobby[Gen] (aka Fobby) is the team leader for a group of 8 core individuals and 10 regular contributors known collectively as Totem Arts. It is this group who have asked the question: "How good would this game be on a more modern engine?" The answer is "very good indeed!"
"The idea for Renegade X came up sometime December 2005, and we started looking for teammates in March 2006. It took a while to build up our team, but I would say that we had started real work on the mod sometime in late 2006. We officially announced the mod under the name "Renegade 2007" (it used to be called "Unreal Tournament 2007") at the end of January in 2007, with a semi-assembled team and a few art assets finished.
Mind you, Unreal Tournament 3 came out in November 2007, so we were not really able to start real editing, coding, rigging, and map work until it was released. So in total, I would say 2 and 1/2 years of serious work, and about another year or so for concept, planning, and basic art phases. But of course, we have been a released mod for almost eight months now, and we are constantly improving what we have.
The main goal for the Renegade X team is to recreate that gameplay experience - namely, its unique multiplayer. Although the original had its glitches, lack of support, sub-par single player, cheats, behind other games graphically, and did not sell as much as expected, it had still maintained a very strong, vibrant fanbase.
It is by far the strongest and longest lasting C&C community, with dozens of servers and thousands of players almost eight years later. Not bad for a "failed" game. The reason for this is because of its ultra unique multiplayer mode - Command & Conquer mode.
Although Westwood had originally planned many other modes, C&C mode was Renegade's diamond in the rough. It took concepts like Deathmatch and Capture the Flag, and made them obsolete. C&C mode had the perfect mixture of teamwork and individual play, complexity and simplicity, skill and ease, and tactical gameplay and mere bloodbath.
The base system is brilliant - I'd much rather defend and attack structures than some flag, and the fact that bases can be attacked in literally hundreds of unique ways keeps the game fresh and all matches different. The game wasn't just limited to running and gunning, but also repairing allied buildings & vehicles, planting & defending nuclear strike beacons, planting & disarming C4 explosives, using your credits wisely, and elaborate plans involving exotic tanks and weapons. Many mods are now using the C&C mode concept (or one inspired by it), and these mods tend to be the most popular in the world.
Now of course, Renegade X doesn't just want to stick with what the original game did, but also go beyond. We hope to introduce a few new game modes in future releases, inspired by C&C mode, like "Command & Capture" (a C&C/CTF hybrid), a C&C Assault mode that is still in its concept stages, an interesting co-op mode, etc."
Ren-X has been self-promoting itself at moddb.com since it was announced in 2007. It has captured the fans interest by reaching the top 100 three times, and achieving the "#3 up and coming mod in 2008". In line with 2009/2010 mod of the year awards, a fourth major patch for the public beta was released. Fobby considers this patch about 50% of the way towards their final major release, but I expect they will probably spend almost as much time on the last 5% as they did on the first 95%... perfection is a demanding taskmaster.
Right now we are simply in the process of remaking what's missing from the original, and then we will move onto expanding the concept with the new game modes and features.
Releasing four updates since the first public release, each adding additional content, and adjusting the balance. How well does the original Renegade balance translate into the Unreal engine. Are there any notable changes from the original game? Any notable and outstanding bugs or gameplay balances that need to be addressed in next patch?
Right now, our main fanbase is playing for a few hours per day, and a few players here and there at other parts of the day. Which is good, but sometimes you want to play a big game late at night or early in the morning. (An obvious)… goal would to have a constant playerbase throughout all parts of the day...
In 12 months, I hope to see this mod standalone, and either fully complete or almost complete. There is no guarantee of course, as we only make release dates when we are sure of it, but I think Renegade X will be in a great position in 2011. I think as soon as Renegade X becomes standalone, that playerbase will skyrocket.
Still the greatest achievement for Renegade X would be getting this far. Normally when starting a mod, a leader must hope for the best, but also prepare for the worst.
If you've got a small team, or if you've been in development for several years without getting anywhere, it's difficult to picture the mod as one that will reach all of its planned successes. In other words, when initially starting a mod, you kind of have to know that there is a good chance that your mod will fail.
Renegade X, however, has always had a great team, both in skill and charm. We've worked really hard and really fast, especially in the last two years, and the fact that we've released this mod and have gotten much recognition and appreciation for it, has really made this team proud.
0.5 is definitely the most complete and comprehensive version we've done so far, and the closest to the original game. It features all structures, all ground vehicles, 7 infantry per side (all of Renegade's core infantry in our opinion), 7 maps, and if you include the mutators on the MP-Gaming server, most of the features the original game had.
The biggest glitch right now is involving the Stealth Black Hands, which seem to unstealth at random. We plan to patch 0.5 in the future using our autopatcher program to fix problems like this one, as well as add some new things into the mod.
As for balance changes, I would say that the biggest balance change in Renegade X involves soldiers and MRLS. In the original game, GDI soldier autorifles would do 7 damage, while Nod's would do 5. This allegedly was in order to give GDI an upper hand at the beginning of the game, since the Nod artillery was more powerful than the GDI MRLS. Instead, the Renegade X team simply balanced the two rifles to do the same damage, and gave the MRLS a rotatable turret to balance with the artillery.
We also created our own points system, rather than using C&C Renegade's stock point system or the community "pointsfix" system. Another notable difference is use of the physics engine - this one produces obvious changes, as explosions can push people and such. Once we are done recreating C&C Renegade's stock elements, we will be adding things like new game modes to the mix.
I was curious about one thing with Ren-X is this just a Hollywood blockbuster - with all the wrong emphasis on the eye-candy and jaw dropping explosions but lacking substance and satisfaction? Not everyone has the latest rig with ludicrously expensive hardware... so what is the appeal of Ren-X on a low-end machine?
Eye candy is definitely a big part of Renegade X, but it's not the only thing that will be different. The exciting new game modes I had mentioned earlier (C&C/CTF, Assault, Co-op, etc.) are definitely going to be a blast, as well as many new server-side options, features, support, and much more.
A couple of downsides currently is that you need to own a copy of Unreal Tournament 3 to play this mod. This has probably contributed to the low player count in off-peak US/Europe timezones which leads me to the obvious questions about how the mod plans to expand it's player base?
Renegade X will be an expansion of C&C Renegade in every way you can imagine.
We are trying our best to spread the news of our mod to C&C, UT, and Modding communities, as well as organize several cool events in the near future. You'll be hearing more about all of this soon.
We've also released Renegade X modding tools, which will allow anyone to make mods and mutators for Renegade X.
I spotted another option the team are exploring while reading through their F.A.Q - which is artificially bumping up the player numbers with AI bots.
(We do) plan to add AI suitable for C&C mode gameplay.
Those who have played C&C Renegade know that its bots were as dumb as a rock, but Unreal already has some very good AI and it will be very easy to set up our characters to work with it.
They will be programmed to do things like attack and repair structures, buy their own weapons and vehicles, etc. This would definitely be a treat for those living in an inconvenient timezone or work schedule in quieter times.
In fact a server admin will be able to set up a system where bots fill empty spots on both teams until real people join, then they'll take one of the bots' places. This way servers can stay full or have small matches at their discretion. Also players can give orders to Unreal's bots so we might enable command of a bot or 2 to follow you around and give support.
We are still unsure as to how this will affect scoring and ranking.
Having a permanently "full" server seems like a great idea, even if the scripted AI can only perform basic operations. Although I can just hear a whole new chorus of "Defend the refinery!" coming, as players order their bots around. But I assume other hard core players are after more important features like aircraft. Will Orcas behave any differently in Ren-X?
There will be some natural differences and progression between Renegade X's aircraft physics and aircraft in the original game. As we know, C&C Renegade was released in 2002, and aircraft physics have evolved since then.
Generally, the community's response to your mod has been fantastic. Have you received any strong criticism about a particular aspect of the mod? Do you have any controversial aspects of your game? or aspects that are creating a polarising opinion?
The Orcas, Chinooks, and Apaches will ultimately fly similarly to the aircraft in UT3, but the basics (cost, speed, weapons, etc.) will be the same as the original game.
Probably the biggest difference will be that the Chinook will no longer be a flying coffin. Instead of an expensive, attention-grabbing weaponless transport, we will be adding a chaingun on each side of the helicopter, available for passenger use.
We would also like to introduce things like airstrikes by A-10s and other aircraft in other gamemodes in the future.
The response from the C&C community has been outstanding, but of course, anything that garners a great deal of support and expectations will meet criticism.
So at end of this year's MOTY awards, Ren-X was named "5th Best Released Mod" and "Runner Up Best MP Mod". Reactions?
I would say that our core community trusts our decisions and lets us progress the mod in the direction we choose; however, some in the C&C community expect a full 100% recreation of Renegade and nothing more (including its bugs!), while others want something completely different.
We've stated that Renegade X will feature the same units, structures, prices, and features as the original game (with minor differences), but with visual, audio, and gameplay improvements added on top of the remake.
Our team was quite honoured and humbled by our second Mod of the Year award in two years.
With our loyal fanbase, the team was expecting to at least hit the top 10 (as we won 3rd the year before), so 5th was definitely a pleasant conclusion to the year.
The team is very happy with the MP-Gaming community, which has taken time to create all kinds of neat new mutators and features for Renegade X including a ranking/server stat system.
With the current ranking system, players can keep track of their total score, kills, deaths, k/d ratio, total games played, monthly and collective stats, etc. The server stats are definitely a great way to keep competition in the game, as players try their best in all games to maintain or gain a good rank.
As of April 10th, we currently have over 450 players in the ranking. Since January 10th, we've had over 12,000 downloads for Renegade X version 0.5, and I only expect that to grow once Renegade X is standalone… then we compete for Best Indie Game next year on ModDB!
So what has the team focused on since the awards?
The awards were announced soon after the release of our Renegade X 0.5 for Unreal Tournament 3. It is the latest version of the Renegade X beta.
How are the technical aspects of incorporating the Unreal UDK going?
Since then, we've announced that the team will be working on porting Renegade X to the Unreal Development Kit, which would successfully make Renegade X a free standalone indie game.
More recently, the team announced Renegade X: Operation Black Dawn. Black Dawn is a singleplayer demo, which will be available soon, that the team decided to make during the porting process.
Bringing RenX to the UDK requires the recreation of much of our code, static meshes, as well as a grand visual and audio improvement to the experience. Because of this, we thought it would be great to create and release Black Dawn as a sort of preliminary demonstration of what to expect in the future.
Although it may seem like a detour to some, most of what is being made for Black Dawn will be incorporated into the full multiplayer release of Renegade X.
Porting Renegade X to the UDK is, in some ways, like starting anew. A few aspects of the mod are being redone completely for the next version, while other aspects simply require a smooth transition.
For example, many static meshes (props, textures, etc.) were used from UT3 are nonexistent in the UDK, which requires us to recreate them. Part of what must also be redone is the code - we've created a much more organized coding structure this time around for the coming multiplayer release, and have concluded that it would be easier to redo parts of the code instead of transferring, fixing, and reorganizing old code. Both basic and complex features are being recoded.
All in all, I believe we are on track, and now that some of our core members are done with university and college for the year (or finishing up school soon), I expect the team to power through the summer with fascinating results. Just you wait.
Based on your fan feedback, what features/units/gameplay aspects are highest priority for future releases?
At the moment, Black Dawn is the team's highest priority, as it will give us that step-up towards the long-awaited UDK multiplayer release.
When you finish your Ren-X mod completely, and with the experience and skills that you've gathered, how enticing is the prospect of working on an entirely new IP with the Unreal engine?
We will then aim to go above and beyond what was featured in Renegade X 0.5.
I think after Renegade X, some members will go their separate ways, while other members will be working on a new IP indie game with the UDK. There isn't much to say about this topic considering it is premature, but for the time being, Renegade X is the main priority for this team. Some ideas are floating around internally for projects after Renegade X, but there's nothing final or substantive.
In terms of other mod teams and/or mod projects out there (including non C&C universe), which ones inspire your team? Which ones make you look over your shoulder and make you think we can't rest on our laurels? Which mods are you following and looking forward to trying?
We are big fans and supporters of our fellow C&C FPS mods like Reborn, A Path Beyond, and Apocalypse Rising for the W3D engine. We are also following mods like The Forgotten, Mideast Crisis 2, and Tiberian Dawn.
Thanks to Fobby for taking the time to answer my questions and share some detailed insight into the progress of their mod. Any errors in this document are most probably mine, lost in translation.
The Command & Conquer community has always been creative and innovative, and always in "quieter" periods in Command & Conquer history, fellow mods have broken the silence.
We hope they all meet their success, as now is the perfect time.
We hope to continue this semi-regular series of mod features here at CNCNZ.com, but don't forget you can always post your latest updates in the community section of our website.
And even though you might see me online next time you play C&C, you can relax... I'm mostly harmless.
Experience Renegade X for yourself right now and download it from:
(Requires Unreal Tournament 3)
Date: Thursday, 20 May 2010 | Author: gben