In this discussion, CNCNZ.com spoke with two members of the BlueHell Productions team in regards to the recent acquisition of Tiberian Sun: Reborn under the BlueHell Productions name. We also asked them several other questions about their work at BlueHell Productions in general
- Chronojam: Lead Producer of BlueHell Productions
- Wallywood: Sound artist for BlueHell Productions/Lead producer for Tiberian Sun: Reborn
Who’s idea was the merger?
We both independently came up with the idea around April. Chronojam noticed that Reborn wasn’t really moving anywhere, checking in on forums on a regular basis and such. It turns out Wallywood was talking to others and had the idea himself, so when he approached CJ about it, CJ sort of took off with the idea. They’d always wanted to sort of work in the Tiberian sun era, but being based in the Red Alert universe, they couldn’t really do much.
Wallywood: Chronojam approached the guys from reborn and offered the idea of working together, and the first public proposal was in May of 2011.
How hard was the negotiations for the merger?
At first, Darkangel and Renardin seemed to be on board, but when it was brought to most of the staff, most of them had some major concerns in terms of the management. Initially, the negotiation actually failed because of some mis-communications, and the fact that the Bluehell Team wanted to make sure that APB 2.1 was released first.
Which members joined BHP from Reborn to continue the mod?
Renardin is still a team member, but he’s a little busy. Most of the other team members stuck around, but most of the leadership is on the side of Bluehell productions. Wallywood and Chronojam are mainly in charge. Most those from Reborn honestly dropped off, Darkangel has been around doing a lot of level, mapping, and modelling work. Volkov has come over and has been churning out models pretty quickly. He’s made a mobile EMP, a limpet drone, a GDI upgrade center, a nod stealth generator in like four weeks. A few of our long-timers have been around but busy. TeamWolf has been running some PM for Apocalypse Rising. He was already around but he’s helping out a lot with Reborn. MightyBOB was another one who came over.
What is the release schedule with all three mods in terms of priority, based on who is working on each project?
As for now, they’re really focusing on getting the next APB out the door, and Wallywood is trying to get some assets out of the Reborn team. He’s having trouble retrieving a lot of the files, making a lot of the stuff work on his computer. One example was things that are blatantly needed for game balancing. One example is the GDI service depot. It was never implemented in game, despite being created. So that’s essentially his priority, playing “Asset tag,” and to be honest, it’s been going really well, just collecting.
Apocalypse Rising is testing their first beta with the team, it’s still being tweaked, but hopefully now that they’ve got a beta test out, they can get a beta out for Reborn soon. They’re considering pushing forward with Reborn, so they can do a release in the actual order, such as that of Red Alert, Tiberian Sun, and Red Alert 2. Reborn isn’t really lacking anything huge, other than what they need to add themselves, whereas AR is lacking on some resources, so Reborn is technically ahead a little bit.
The idea is to fix all the bugs with APB, then push forward with Reborn, and then AR. They want to jump forward with all three games, then do bug fixing afterwards. Hopefully they can get a good release of reborn this year. Then possibly AR as well.
Are all BlueHell team members working on all mods, are there any specialists working on just one mod?
There are definitely team members tied to one mod. They usually don’t stray too far from each individual mod, but sometimes they’ll share map ideas, sometimes textures. Renardin himself, for instance actually did the texture for the Gap Generator, even if it was a long time ago. Wallywood is the sound guy for all three mods. A lot of people stick to their own roots, but recently, they’ve seen a lot of teamwork all around, in some cases, people are just offering to help any team, and they’re directed to whoever needs it. It’s kind of cool to see how everybody is giving each other a hand now.
How do you manage work for three mods, when most teams struggle to get just one out the door You have a lot more advanced work to do, and yet you still get more mods out?
Chronojam: We basically spend a lot of time playing what we make. We’re all a bunch of good guys, there’s always people around, there’s always staff on IRC, the forums, in game, and we get to see people always playing our stuff, like our stuff. We get votes all around for our mods on moddb, and that generally helps. We see the support and say “Okay, let’s keep doing this.”
Wallywood: I have to agree with CJ. We play games together all the time. We play C&C games together, we play other games as friends. We’re always in touch in that way, so it’s easy to communicate. Communication and patience are definitely strong points for our team.
How many staff members would you say you have working on these games besides just standard testers working on each project at any given time?
About 60-100 members have contributed. We have a lot. Some people come and go and just drop off just one thing or another for us to use, some stick around for the long haul. Taking a look at our contributing members in the forums, we have about 60 people on active list as of right now. Keep in mind, there’s still people who have come and gone, but they contributed a lot while they were here. It’s more than just the staff designing the game though, it’s also the people helping run servers, moderators, community managers, web hosts, a lot of these people help us.
Westy543 for example does a lot of work on promotional videos and such, technically this isn’t part of the mod in itself, but it’s still a very helpful thing. It still contributes directly to the outcome of the game.
Estimate the state of the mod before BH took over – how much work needs to be done to get it public release state?
Reborn thought they were done. They wanted to keep it like Renegade. One of their biggest fears during the takeover is they didn’t want a clone of APB. A lot of their assets were finished in their point of view. From the BP point of view, they werent. They were taking it closer to Renegade, rather than closer to Tiberian sun, which was fine, it was their initiative, but the way we want to go is in the direction of Tiberian Sun. At the same time though, they had a lot done. In the way of their previous game plans, they were about 90% done. They had good infantry models, they had a lot of good direction.
Do you think you’ll ever be able to say that you’re done with APB, or will it essentially just go indefinitely?
APB will go on forever until interest basically evaporates all together. There’s things we couldn’t do years ago that we can do now, things we figure out with the engine. There’s certain things we’d still like to see put in, but we haven’t been able to yet, but really, I’d like to be able to say we’re done some day, but I really don’t see that happening soon, if ever.
Kodiaks? Yes or no?
Bringing in a Kodiak is indeed a possibility. One thing I hate is seeing wasted assets, and it turns out, I found a Kodiak asset while searching through. I’m hoping that we can turn it into a fun protection mission, where maybe we can have GDI protect the Kodiak from Nod. I don’t like to see wasted assets, someone put care and work into it, and I want to see it used, even if it’s an easter egg of some kind.
Will you try incremental beta/demo releases – IE add vehicles quickly or delay and go for a ‘fuller’ release?
We’re going to aim for a fuller release. We’re not supporting the infantry beta anymore. We have so many new things modelled, we just have to texture them and rig them into the game, which would be a lot better in the public eye. We might release something that has a decent balance of units and such in the future, and possibly patch new stuff in, but we’re aiming for a full release.
What is your vision for this incarnation of Tiberian Sun as a FPS?
Chronojam: Doing things that are not done before. Ion storms and such, to add better environment and themes from Tiberian sun. We want the atmosphere of Tiberian Sun.
Wallywood: One idea I had was trying to make a sort of infection type play: Whenever you spawn, you’re all on the same team, you try to kill AI mutants. If you die, you respawn as mutant. The game is to see who can stay alive the longest, and who can kill the most mutants. It would be sort of like fighting a third team, only not really. The overall point of this is to sort of do something different than APB and AR.
What is your approach to unit inclusion/exclusion?
We’re going to try to include every unit while still making smaller units fun. That’s one of the things we’ve had to deal with. How do you make it so a light tank is fun despite having medium tanks? The idea is that we’ll add in veteran units and elite units, so maybe you’ll want to keep using a wolverine, even if you can get a disruptor.
Does this mod have unique gameplay features/modes compared to other BH mods?
There’s actually many things wanted to try in APB AR that just wouldn’t fit the setting. This is a new avenue. For example, one of the things about an engineer in APB is that you either successfully damage a building or not. We want to try something new with Reborn. Engineers will do more damage in different ways, so to speak, in term of either attacking a computer or a defense. Different ways of attack will affect the enemy with different forms of damage.
Describe the differences in gameplay between all the mods? What makes the games more than three detailed skin jobs?
Wallywood: I started out as a tester, and I can tell you, there’s a big difference between the three games:
APB -Is more of a rush and spam attack defense attack defense game. Most of the time, a lot of teamwork is required. Sure, there are spies, but they still are only a support unit, and there’s not too much else in the way of stealth. There’s main hero units, and there’s only one weakpoint, which has to be hit hard.
AR – There’s way more strategic and more independent acting. There will be things such as two weak points, and one main weak point. So teamwork can be used to hit a hard point, or independent action can take out a small weak point. There’s also a lot more in the way of capturing civilian buildings.
Reborn – It’s a mix of sorts, but the big difference is that the atmosphere will be very different with ion storms and meteor strikes, and we’re going to be implementing the idea of moving around underground.
How has the community greeted the merger news?
At first it was a little panicky. They want to make it play differently than APB. They don’t want Reborn to become APB. We don’t either. We want it to be a first person Tiberian Sun. There will be some things we have to do similarly, but it’s the embellishments that make it a first person shooter. We’re making this game different. People were historically worried about that, but we feel we’ve calmed some of those fears. The big selling point to the merger was explaining that our goal is to make each game different. Playing different, running different, it shouldn’t feel exactly the same in each game.
What level of skepticism/antagonism/disbelief have the original reborn fans expressed?
Cloning and such, as we described above. Rivalry was also a big deal. It’s almost like it was written in stone that the teams would hate each other. Initial questions were to the effect of whether the original Reborn team was was being treated fairly. It’s sort of blended rather well, quite honestly. A lot of people who said they wouldn’t come over to BHP wound up coming over and becoming a part of the team without a problem. It was a little hostile at first, but it’s smoothed out fairly quickly, to be honest.
What is the level of community feeling to the mod in terms of “just get it out already?” compared to “ok lets give these guys time to do this right?”
A few people are impatient, waiting for a release. It’s acceptable, I mean, to be honest, all of us have secretly been wanting to play a version of Reborn with vehicles, even if it was a horrible game, we wanted to see it done. But, after hearing all the plans, most of the impatient people can see why we want to take our time. We don’t want to release something we’re not proud of, we want to release something that is fun to play. APB servers have been running for a long time and people are still playing to today. We want to see the same for Reborn, and even Apocalypse Rising. To help, we’ve keyed the community in on what we’re doing, so they’re not waiting without any information. It’ll take time, but most people seem to be understanding of the fact that we want to get a lot of good assets and models into this game.
I know you won’t answer this, but how long do you think the community should give you to get the mod to a reasonable level and make a public release?
Wallywood: Give me a year. If I’m not even close to having it done, stone me. If it’s not out, it’ll be damn close.
Have you encountered/experienced any difference in absorbing an existing mod with history compared to announcing and starting a mod from scratch?
Instead of building from scratch, it’s like “Here’s all your stuff, run with it.” Walking tanks are a big deal, for instance. They’re not meant for this engine, they’re very hard to script, so we’re lucky it’s already done. It definitely saved YEARS of work that we would have had to do with those. If we didn’t have as many assets as we already, this would be like beating a dead horse. We’re very thankful to have as much as we have done, otherwise it would have taken us years to get this done. Tracking down models and textures were the hardest thing I could ever do, but I’m thankful that the models I could find were already done.
Both of your current mods are in the Red Alert Universe – how will you approach the Tiberian universe?
Chronojam: Green! Everything is green!
Who or What is the inspiration for your vision?
Wallywood: Tiberian Sun.
Honestly, the first time I played a path beyond blew wallywood away. Even though Red Alert was not my favorite C&C, I was still very impressed to see this done. I didn’t know something like this was possible. Then when I heard about Reborn, I was looking forward to it, as I love Tiberian Sun. But when I finally got in and played the early version of Reborn, I noticed right away it was too much like renegade. I was disappointed. Why is this repair gun able to repair everything? What’s the point of this mobile repair vehicle? Where’s the service depot? Why does everything have C4? They shunned me out of the community because I was trying to make it like Tiberian Sun. I was disappointed, but now I have my chance to make it like Tiberian Sun. And now, I even have some staff from the old Reborn team tell me that they want it less like Renegade and more like Tiberian Sun.
Fans are also great. They’re very helpful and they give great feedback. A lot of my vision is based on their vision too.
Can you play vanilla Renegade any more and still find it fun?
Wallywood: I recently played it the other day, got his ass kicked. Snipers everywhere. To me, after playing APB, playing 1v1 is easy. I decimate, and it’s probably because I’m not used to having so many bullets, and the heads are a lot larger in Renegade than they are in APB. Give me a Raveshaw gun and I’m killing left and right. But walking around a corner and getting sniped reminds me of why I stopped playing in the first place. A sniper rifle taking down a helicopter doesn’t make too much sense.
Chronojam: I played it a lot at first, at this point, it lost a certain something, crazy stuff became too obvious. A lot of the server mods got a little crazy, and a lot of the game play was way too repetitive. Things just got really stale and nothing really changed. There’s not really a place for Renegade for me any more.
Wallywood: Yeah, little things like certain mods and weapon drops and stupid things like people stealing enemy tanks and parking them to steal a build slot. Sticky proxy mines were just ridiculous.
Do you ever forget your game is based on Renegade?
Chronojam: I think so.
Wallywood: Yeah, all the time. The evolution of the game has been so much since Renegade. Watching it go from RenAlert to the gamma is just such a huge difference. It’s hard to believe we’re using such an old engine.
Chronojam: And we can fix all our issues, whereas Renegade is always in a state of rubble and bugs that will never be fixed.
Wallywood: Sometimes I’ll test Reborn or APB and I’ll forget everything about Renegade. AR for instance still uses Renegade assets, like the gun and hands and such. That was the big wakeup, seeing that, and remembering that the whole setup is based on Renegade. You do forget sometimes because our games look way better and have such improved artwork and talent. Renegade sort of looks like a Cartoon now, whereas our game is more realistic.
For more about Tiberian Sun: Reborn and BlueHell Productions, visit the official site at www.bluehellproductions.com.